Smoking With Simon Barker

by Nancy Stebbins Read the Story September 24, 2012

This is a very busy house, with three (?) people already living there before Lesley moves in. I like to imagine how it might feel in the house before and after.

Three people is correct. Before Lesley there was Beatrice who, though equally young and attractive, could never manage an entire boyfriend to herself. Inhibited by a Catholic upbringing she was slightly afraid of cats. And after Lesley came Michelangelo—tubby, balding by 20, flamboyantly gay, rarely at home and hell bent on becoming a party boss on the progressive side of politics. He repainted the interior walls black.

Speaking of the narrator, the POV is so interesting here. At times (with the “ours” and “we’s”) it feels like first person plural, and at times it feels like first person singular relating the story to someone who already knows it well. I think it works with this story, underscoring that the narrator can’t seem to decide whether to align with Lesley or not. Was this intentional?

Intentional? That would’ve been very clever of me. But in fact it’s just how it came out. Maybe you should try to imagine that the narrator is telling the story to a bunch of people at a Croatian restaurant one Friday night—some of them don’t know any of the details, others (particularly “you”) know them at first hand, but might have partly forgotten, so the POV chops and changes as the narrator turns from one person at the table to the other. And, yes, the narrator is chronically indecisive. Chronically. Can you even imagine him with Lesley? She’d liquidize him.

The title, “Two Boyfriends,” is also interesting in its understatement of Leslie’s avoidance of anything boring. What would the character Lesley think of the title? My fantasy is that she’d find it boring.

Lesley would say, Oh, this story’s about me, I like that, why don’t you write some more stories about me. But then she’d leave the next story unread on the kitchen table, having gone out clubbing.

What are you writing now?

A longish short story (10,000+ words) about a campaign by university students to establish a Sex Room on campus. Same chronically indecisive narrator, a few years younger, only this time it’s a case of two girlfriends. With very unhappy consequences.

So… cat man or a dog man?

Cat. No offence to dogs, but they’re a bit too dependent for me. The aloofness of cats is appealing. And if only we had American Shorthairs in Australia. Their fur! Oooh.

About the Author:

Simon Barker is an Australian living in Sydney, though for a number of years he lived in the Bay Area of California. His writing has appeared in Eclectica, Word Riot, Storyglossia and elsewhere and will appear soon in Birkensnake. His 2009 story, "Tarzan of the Danube," was nominated by decomP for a Pushcart Prize.

About the Interviewer:

Nancy Stebbins is a former editor at SmokeLong Quarterly.