Inspiration Monday – The Man With No Name

Steph’s prompts for InMon this week had the exact opposite effect of the Friday Fiction picture. I was almost immediately struck with a fully-formed idea for a story. It’s quite long, for which I hope you will forgive me, and comes with both a MATURE CONTENT and a COARSE LANGUAGE WARNING. Please be advised not to read this story if either is likely to upset you. It’s some way outside my normal remit, so I’d love to here your feedback – good and bad – on how it’s gone.

 

The Man With No Name

 “You brought him home?!” Alice squealed and slid down on the sofa towards me.

“That’s not the worst part.” Louisa loved knowing something about me before my sister. She took another chocolate from the box on the table and sat back.

“There’s nothing worse than that. She brought him home!”

“So you say.”

I watched them, passing my news back and forward between them, waiting until they let me speak again.

“This guy approached her with the most outrageous chat-up line ever and she brought him home!” Alice wasn’t going to let that go in a hurry.

I could see Louisa’s brain moving behind her eyes. She was desperate to ask about the chat-up line, but to do so would be to give away the high ground. She’d been there when we woke up this morning; that was her position of power. But she hadn’t been there when he appeared last night, and Alice had.

I came to her rescue. “It wasn’t the most outrageous chat-up line ever. That would be like ‘Do you want to see my collection of iguanas?’”

They both looked at me with a mixture of pity and condescension that made me want to leave right there and then.

“That wouldn’t be outrageous,” Louisa said, “Just crap.”

“Promise me, if anyone ever opens with that, you’ll pepper spray him,” Alice warned. “I’ve got to take care of my little sister.” She loves that – eighteen minutes and she’ll be rubbing them in forever.

Now they were united, Louisa clearly felt more at ease. She leaned towards us, elbows on knees. “So, come on, what did he say?”

“He said…”

I interrupted her. This was my story. “He said ‘So, are you going to take me home then?’ It wasn’t that outrageous.”

“Do you fuck on first dates?” My sister was squealing again. I gave her the same sign to cool it I’ve been giving since my first hangover, after our sixteenth birthday: I reached over and hit her on the arm.

“Shut up.”

“Will you two stick to the story?”

“OK. So, he said that and obviously I thought he was a cock, so I ignored him.”

“Ignored him,” Alice said, “I’d have slapped him.” She’d dropped maybe three decibels and half an octave. I hit her again.

“I ignored him and went to the bar. But he followed me. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘You’re here because you’re looking for someone to go home with, same as me.’ I didn’t answer. ‘And we could spend the evening bumping and grinding here with all these sweaty bastards, waiting until we’re drunk enough for you not to care that I sound like a bit of an asshole. Or, we could just get on with it and have some fun.’”

Louisa hadn’t moved from her interrogation. “So you agreed? On the back of that flimsy argument?”

“No. What do you take me for?”

“Nothing. But you did end up bringing him home.” Louisa and I have shared flats for nearly four years, and lived in close proximity for three years of university before that. She knows exactly how many notches are … or rather aren’t … on my bedpost.

“So she comes to me and says we should get outta there,” Alice said.

“I did. And my caring supportive sister says…”

“’No way, Jose, there’s too much talent here. Just tell him to go fuck himself.’”

“Fair point,” said Louisa. “Joe’s is a decent joint on a Saturday and you’d paid to get in.”

It’s nice to know who your friends are. “So I head back to the dancefloor, get into the music, try to forget about the guy and about my ever-supportive sister.” I shot her a glare. She’s immune to them and just poked me with coral pink toes.

“And then I end up pulling this cute bloke from the army and that’s the last I see of her,” said Alice. “For the record, by the way, I did not take him home. One of us has to maintain the family’s reputation.”

Louisa caught my eye and we both collapsed at once. Alice pretended to be offended for all of three seconds then joined in. My sister’s bedposts would both be sawdust if she bothered notching them.

“Aw, shut up. Tell me what happened after.”

“All I know is, I get up in the night to take some more painkillers,” began Louisa, who’d cried off last night because of her period, but seemed much better since she’d switched from paracetamol and bed rest to Cadbury’s and me-bashing. “And I find the hallway strewn with clothing like something out of Indecent Proposal.”

“There was, like, one shoe.”

“And a shirt. A man’s shirt.” She raised an eyebrow.

“Hardly makes me Sharon Stone!”

“Who cares?” Alice had let go of the gain control again. “How did you get from ‘Go fuck yourself’ to ‘Come fuck me’?”

“I don’t really know,” I admitted. “He came back and started talking more normally. We just got chatting, and then kissing, and then…” I wanted to make it sound persuasive, but my brain wasn’t playing along.

“And then she brought him home and fucked him!” Louisa’s outburst rivaled any of Alice’s for volume, although she would never match my sister for squeak.

“Can we use another word?”

“No!” They both yelled at once.

“This isn’t Jane fucking Austen!” Louisa added. “And you still haven’t told her the worst part.”

“Tell me the worst part.” Alice was sitting up now, her back against the arm of the sofa and her feet digging even more into my thigh. The thigh that had been wrapped around him just a few hours ago, I realised. It was weird, how distant a memory it felt and yet how fresh at the same time.

“She doesn’t know his name!” Louisa threw a chocolate into the air. It missed her mouth, bounced on her cheek and hit the floor, ruining her commanding moment.

Alice stared at me with new-found respect, covered by a look of extreme scandal. “Is it true?”

“Because obviously that’s the worst thing here,” I said, feeling my cheeks prickle with heat.

“I expect him to forget your name,” said Alice, “But he’s only like the third guy you’ve ever slept with. You can’t forget his.”

“I haven’t.”

“So what is it?”

“I don’t know. He never said.” I whispered it, wondering why this of all things should be the point I was ashamed of.

“He never said!” Louisa was catching Alice’s habit of echoing things she found extreme.

“He’s probably a Norman,” said Alice, as though that explained it.

“Or a Brian,” Louisa agreed. “I wouldn’t tell people if I was a Brian.”

“What’s wrong with Brian?” Louisa doesn’t know, but Alice’s first boyfriend was called Brian. She’s never quite got over him.

“Nothing,” I said. “I don’t think he’s ashamed of his name. He just didn’t say.”

“So. When you were fucking him…” She caught my eye. “Sorry, when you were making love to him, what were you screaming?”

“I wasn’t…”

“She was.” I can always count on Louisa to back me up. “I can give you a sodding transcript.”

“I don’t think you need to,” I said, glaring at her. She’s immune too. I need to get lasers fitted to my eyes.

There was a moment’s silence: deafening compared to the conversation before it. I tried to think of some way of changing the subject, but this one was too novel for either of them to let it go. I took a handful of chocolates and waited for the next question.

“Did you give him your number?” asked Alice, eventually.

“If he gave you his, you could save it under The Man With No Name!” Louisa shrieked at her own joke. I pulled my phone off the table and stuffed it into my pocket. Later, I changed his entry to “ZZZ”.

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9 Comments

Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

9 responses to “Inspiration Monday – The Man With No Name

  1. Well, you’d said before you had trouble pinning down your genre: this one seems more clear-cut to me, so what genre would you label this as? Since you were wanting to have a go at unleashing your inner romantic, this seems like a step in the right direction! 😉

    I can see how this would have sprung as a fully fledged idea right away: whilst it’s more words than your norm, it all goes together into a really neat, clear mental tableau. I don’t think I’m the target audience but I really enjoyed reading it. The three characters are all well-developed and believable – especially the twins with their quite opposite personalities and behaviour.

    It might help – or perhaps hinder – to know whether the twins are identical or not; I imagine Alice rather like Twist from ‘Spaced’ (if you know it) and naturally photogenic, but Narrator’s behaviour and attitudes suggests she might not have the same level of fashion-mag physical beauty as her twin sister. That could of course be just that they dress and style themselves very differently (and have different moral values, clearly), despite being identical; or they might be non-identical. I imagine Louisa as a more curvy gal, not fashion-mag beautiful and not terribly bothered about how she looks – but probably still gets male attention due to her confidence / attitude etc.

    You communicated a lot about the narrator — how bad she feels about having had a one-night stand at all — in nicely subtle ways. I feel I’ve got to know her character pretty well by the end: well enough that I’d understand and relate to her in totally unconnected scenes, if for example this had been part of something much longer.

    The “notches on the bedpost” thing was almost too blunt a way to say “narrator doesn’t get much action” and perhaps didn’t need to be there – but then again, it opens up the nice joke about Alice’s bedposts being sawdust, and that adds something.

    The only useful criticism I can offer is that I found it hard to know whether Alice or Louisa was speaking in a few places. That’s always hard in dialogue-heavy bits like this and I have the same trouble with loads of published books, so it might be me.

    • Hi Stuart. Thanks for a comment nearly as long as the original piece; I enjoyed your detailed reaction. And yes, pure romance here.
      As far as identifying the speakers goes, I hate when I can’t tell who is speaking (as a reader), so that’s definitely something I’m keen to work on. More research and then a full post on that, methinks. Thanks for highlighting it.

  2. Christopher Shawbell

    I really had fun reading this. I felt like I was privileged to secret women’s sacrament or something — “the morning after” with the BFFs. I had some good chuckles along the way once I got to know them & their relationships.
    I agree with the above regarding specifying speakers. One way to do it with your style rather than “he said/she said” is through giving one of the other speaker a unique voice that is quickly identifiable by the way she talks.
    Again, I had a lot of fun with your story. Great job. I got mine done last night. I’m glad you “showed” me a new flash fiction challenge! Cheers!
    ~Christopher

    • Thanks Christopher – interesting to see this one is lighting up the male readers … I wonder what the girls make of it! And I agree about voice, although that has its own drawbacks. More fuel for Monday’s post – do come back and see if you agree!

  3. Good work, a really natural feeling conversation that sucks you in. I was just saying to myself “can’t they use another word” when your narrator said it, and the Austen response was hilarious!

  4. Pingback: Who Said That? | elmowrites

  5. writingsprint

    This is a fun read with a great ear for dialogue. It’s… it’s kind of like this. It’s an outrageous situation, and most people wouldn’t be comfortable even talking about it. But everyone’s probably thought about it, and thought about what it would be like telling their friends! So what you wrote has a complete ring of authenticity to it. Well done.

  6. Pingback: Inspiration Monday: Door Sweeper - bekindrewrite

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