NP award    Janine in Kitchen

Hi, good followers.

Here’s a short-short story that was originally published by Durham University Press in a little experimental journal called ‘Hasty’. Unfortunately, like many great little literary journals, it’s now out of print. So, enjoy.


They call you ‘Clingy Mac’. Because your name is MacDonald. Because you like dancing to ‘Jimmy Mac’. Because since your divorce you’ve latched like cactus onto any man that’s brushed past you. Not tonight. From this place you will take home a one-night stand, a proof to all of your inner strength, your survival.

Your best friend is flirting with a boy you knew at school. A man now. She’s forgotten you, but you are a grown up. You can do this alone. You select a good viewing position by the railings above the dance-floor and pick them out: Number 1, no 2, and a shorter, stockier one with a spiky haircut, no 3. You’ll start with number one and work your way down, though already you’re changing your mind about the order of them. Another pint down, then you’re away.

By half past ten you’re being chatted up by a distant cousin of the Chuckle brothers, even uglier than the one of them that’s badly ugly. He’s in chat up stance; legs apart, pint (constantly flashing past your face) in one hand. His other hand is flat on the wall above your head, hemming you in. He’s well into your face; any closer he’s a zit. Couldn’t be mistaken for a passing friend. By now your status has dropped in this place. He’s been spitting froth your way for at least ten minutes and you haven’t the guts to just tell him to piss off. It’s the sympathy gene kicking in, the one you inherited from your Mother. Your Dad is even uglier than this.

This mans’ idea of flattering you is to slag off every other woman in the place:

‘Look at the gut on that, God almighty- Would you wear a dress that tight with an arse like that eh?’ Your best friend is a good dancer and a good size fourteen, with huge jugs a-bouncing. He tells you ‘she must have caused a small tsunami in Japan by now.’

You shout above the music: You need the ladies.

He shouts louder. ‘Gan for a slash love? Fine by me.’ Still his arm comes away from the wall and you’re free.

He watches you go with that look of a man who’s found heaven in your eyes. Are you that old? That desperate? You’re determined not to be and this place is heaving well enough for you to lose the twat. When you’re out of the ladies you’ll take a wide birth around the dance-floor, find your friend, then no 1, 2, or 3. You no longer care which, or in what order, only that those who know you should see you leave this place with something half decent.

The usual crowd are in the loos. They ask about your kids. They tell you how you’ve had a bad time of the divorce. They put eyeliner on top of eyeliner, lipstick on top of lipstick. They tug and spray at their tangled hair. They ask you if you’ve got a boyfriend yet. You think of numbers 1 to 3 and say ‘maybe’ with a wry smile. When you all walk out together he’s there, in the corridor, waiting only for you, smiling up to his nose through his bog-brush mustache, heaven in his eyes, and all the girls remember that you’re Clingy, and they all know he’s your new boyfriend.

The end.!books/cnec