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Two Boyfriends

Story by Simon Barker (Read author interview) September 25, 2012

art by Richard Black

One was good looking. He’d hang about our rented house after Lesley had left for work, finally cooking breakfast in the afternoon, sitting in the sun, our sun, drinking the coffee, our coffee, getting opinions out of OUR newspapers. We fumed. “Hippie” was a bit too dignified for him. “Hippie” meant some sort of commitment.

Boyfriend #2 was older and uglier. He had bad hair—hair like a white guy playing Othello. But he didn’t accept his ugliness. He booked dinner, bought tickets to expensive comeback shows, arrived with champagne and shot the cork out the window into the darkness. He made sure to leave before boyfriend #1 ever turned up. He smoked, like Lesley did. When he smiled it was through the smoke of bitterness. Lesley was blonde, tall, slim. You could see the thought bubble above #2’s bad hair saying, Okay, fine, I have to work my arse off just to get a slice of this while it’s brought to the other guy on a plate, life is fucked. He told Lesley she looked like a cover girl on a Roxy Music album. She liked that. She liked that he said it in front of us. #1 wouldn’t have come up with that in a million years. Lesley could appreciate that.

Then there was the girlfriend. Massive, and she had a five-year-old with curls. She smoked dope and drank vodka. When the girlfriend was in bed with Lesley, the five-year-old would tear round the house like she’d never seen stairs. She’d peep in our doorways and ask little kid questions. We knew fuck all about little kids then.

You were always on night shift in Emergency. I’d be waiting up for you with a book. All out of boyfriends and girlfriends and cigarettes Lesley would come to my room and talk, bored. I started daydreaming about her. About the three of us. I didn’t know if she was your type. Or even my type. But weren’t we supposed to try this kind of stuff?

Finally there was the cat. Persian—great ball of grey fluff with owl eyes. Like its tail had stuck into a socket. Lesley was upfront about the cat. Fur on bare skin. Boyfriend #1 used to make it dance on its hinders. Leave it alone, she’d tell him. He’d giggle. Ugly #2 despised it, silently. A dog man, I think. Yes, definitely, bulldog. On a heavy chain.

How did she arrive? Can’t remember. Tenants came and went in that house. We had to pay rent. Probably she saw our number on a noticeboard, next to “Vacancy. Macrobiotic, vegetarian fuckwits welcome.”

It ended like this. Her: “All you do is work.” She meant you being in Emergency and me being at my desk and John being at the library. We bored her. And so she left. That threw me. Like a slap. Short, unexpected, sharp slap across the bare cheek. But we’re cool! No. You always work. It was true, I realised. Three against one, but we were losers.

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 Artist

Richard Black was born in Australia. Predominantly a sculptor, he has been making collage since he was able to handle scissors. He sculpts largely using found objects and is influenced by Man Ray, Joan Miró and Robert Rauschenberg. Now he exhibits solo approximately bi-annually at GiG Gallery, Sydney, Australia, and previously at Side On Gallery. His works have been variously included in metropolitan sculpture exhibitions including the Sulman Prize.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Seven

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