Gen and Percy


Gen opened her eyes. In front of her was the ugly, brown, brick facade of Paradise Heights – just as ugly, brown and brick as it was when she had shut them. This was it. Her new home. She yawned and turned back to the open car boot to re-evaluate its contents. Apart from the furniture, due to be delivered later that day, four cardboard boxes and a few plastic bags contained everything in the world that she now owned.

Happily, Gen’s newfound minimalism coincided well with her newfound positivity towards life. Two days ago, she had been rummaging for used forks in an op shop crate labelled ‘MISC.’, when she’d instead come across the coffee-stained cover of Norman Panchea’s book, ‘Be a Better Human: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Figuring Out Life’.


It was only with Norman’s help (Principle #1: Shed your baggage) that Gen had been able to convince herself while packing yesterday that Those Four Boxes were actually symbols of her current freedom, rather than the result of being poor and alone.

Remembering this, she looked down at her symbols and forced her face into something of a skeletal smile (Principle #4: Smile!).

I was prepared for this, she thought, her teeth clenched. All part of the fresh, new start.

The old Gen was gone, after all. No longer would she sit back and let the waves of life wash over and shift her, like the grains of sand on an ocean shoreline. She was picking herself up. She was going to surf those waves! (Principle #7: Surf those waves!)

She stifled another yawn (Principle #2: Commit to being a Morning Person) and was just leaning over to pick up the first of the symbols, when a car pulled into the driveway and parked next to her own. She recognised the red Suzuki as belonging to her cousin.

‘Frankie!’ she said, as the driver’s side door opened.

A pair of long legs emerged, followed by the rest of a waif-thin man. The figure unfolded himself completely from the car, then turned towards Gen with open arms.

‘Gen!’ he said, grinning. The two embraced. ‘How are you?’

Gen shrugged. ‘Y’know. I’m fine. Good, even. Great!’

The man’s angled face twisted into an expression of concern.

‘Yeah, I heard about all your recent drama. Still… New start and all that.’

He gestured towards the brick wall beside him and waggled his eyebrows with a degree of enthusiasm the building’s aesthetics did not deserve. Gen nodded.

‘Not that I don’t love the surprise visit, but what the hell are you doing here? I haven’t seen you in months. How did you even know where I moved?’

‘I spoke with your mum,’ said Frankie. ‘I’ve come to lend a hand!’

Gen stared at him. She loved her cousin, but had never known him to be generous with favours unless there was some underlying benefit to himself. Then again, maybe he had matured since they’d last met. Her face softened into a smile.

‘That would actually be amazing. I’ve got this -’

‘Hey, by the way,’ said Frankie. ‘Do you remember Percy?’

Gen scoffed. ‘If you mean the hell-demon that almost scratched my eyes out a few Christmases ago…’

‘Oh, please.’ Frankie waved a hand. ‘He was just a kitten then. You can’t hold that against him. He thought your reindeer antlers were a toy.’

‘I still have a scar…’

‘He was upset by the music Mum put on. I told her Mariah was a dicey choice.’

‘There’s a chunk of my hair that has yet to grow back…’

‘I did tell her, you know. I said that to her, I said it’s Buble or it’s claws out. It was a deadly combination, what with the music and the flashing lights and the antlers and the snifter of Bailey’s he’d snuck from Uncle Terry. Things were bound to kick off.’

‘Frankie,’ said Gen slowly. ‘Why are we talking about Percy?’

Frankie cleared his throat and stared at the ground. ‘The point is that you guys never really got a chance to properly know each other.’

From within the vehicle came the muffled yet unmistakable sound of a feline sneeze. Gen took a tentative step forward as Frankie opened the car door. Sitting in a travel cage on the back seat was a black, snub-nosed cat, frowning up at the two humans with as much contempt as is possible for a cat to express. Words teetered on the tip of Gen’s tongue, but did not fall.

‘David organised a surprise weekend away for us, and our neighbour who usually looks after Percy is away.’ Frankie spoke warily, each syllable venturing out from his lips into the cold silence. ‘I thought of you straight away. You live so close now, and… Well… I know how much you like cats.’

‘WudyoufuckinNOwut?NO!NOFrancisJamesLightfootyoucan’tNOHELLDEMON,’ articulated Gen, as the cage was, despite her protests, lifted out from the car and placed gently on the ground. She shuffled backward and forward on the driveway, alternately deciding to escape from the cat and kick its owner.

‘He is honestly the least amount of hassle that any pet has ever been,’ said Frankie, who had found he could maintain his momentum if he did not make eye contact with Gen. He plopped a box of cat accessories on the concrete, then squatted down beside Percy’s travel cage.

‘You won’t be any trouble for Auntie Gen-Gen will you, Perce?’ he cooed.

‘Francis,’ hissed Gen. ‘I am not allowed pets here. The landlord doesn’t even know about Mack.’

Frankie turned and, still avoiding Gen’s eye, directed a reassuring smile to the patch of air beside the increasingly red face in his periphery.

‘It’s just until Monday,’ he said. ‘You will adore him, I promise.’ He looked at his wristwatch and jumped. ‘Oh shit, Gen. It’s 7.30 already. So sorry, but I have to head off.’

He slammed the rear car door shut and walked quickly to the driver’s side.

‘I thought you were going to…’ Gen began, but the sound of the car’s ignition drowned her out. Frankie wound down his window.

‘Call me if you need anything. Love yooooooooou…’

Gen watched helplessly as the red Suzuki reversed out of the driveway and disappeared down the road, and her cousin’s last drawn out syllable was swallowed up into the thick, humid air. Apart from the gentle hum of Percy’s wheezing breath, the world was quiet once more.



To be continued… For anyone interested, this is a story that builds on an already-posted set of chapters from the perspective of Brian Killjoy: found here. Both are part of a bigger thing (novel??!?) I’m working on, but may never finish.

The chased

Zak bounced towards the milling throng of fidgety platform-dwellers, all of whom looked up in unison and threw him simultaneous work-weary glares. The nerve of his sparkling energy, in this weather, at this time of day; it was not really on.

And yet, how could Zak possibly feel miserable in the wake of such an escape? When he thought about what could have happened – where he could have ended up right now. By comparison, he considered himself a very fortunate man.

For the third Friday afternoon in a row, he had found himself cornered by Tanya, the new office receptionist. Call her what you like – and Zak frequently did so, using a range of unpleasant descriptors – she was certainly persistent. In an effort to avoid her, Zak had arrived at work an hour earlier than usual and had stayed in his office with the door closed all day. It was therefore quite a blow when, contrary to the intel he’d obtained from one of the other assistants, she was still in the building at close of business, ready to spring out from behind a concrete column in the foyer as he attempted to leave.

As excuses went, his was not terribly imaginative. No (he said to her, in a voice weighed down with deep disappointment), he’d be at the office all night finishing a report that was due by Monday.

I know, I know (he went on). The unfairness of it all. The Man, etc. Take it up with HR? They wouldn’t care. Legal action? Not worth the bother. But yes, very, very frustrating, and of course puts all notions of a Fun Friday night out the bloody window.

Eventually, he had managed to reverse back over the threshold of his own office, but for the rest of the working day he suffered an intermittent neck cramp, brought on by the intensity of his solemn nodding. He also wasted forty-five minutes waiting in his office for Tanya to definitely, absolutely, one-hundred-percent leave, which meant he would go on to miss the last of the direct buses to his house and the first fifteen minutes of his favourite television show.

Still. These were acceptable losses. The important thing was that for another week, he was safe.

It was under the buoyant influence of this freedom that he stepped – almost skipped – towards the bus platform, with nothing but love for the world in his pink, giddy heart.

Until he saw her. Just a few metres away. Already looking at him.


No. No, no, no, no, no. No. No? No!

She waved, then gave him a huge, horse-like grin and wobbled over on unsteady high heels.

‘You escaped after all, then?’ she asked, a little breathless.

Zak managed a shrug and a half-smile.

‘On your way home now?’ she ventured again.

He dug his hands deep into his coat pockets, suddenly feeling the chill in the air. She spoke again before he’d thought of some non-committal response.

‘You don’t catch the 66 too, do you?’ she said. ‘Well, this is priceless!’

As much as he disliked her, Zak could not help but be impressed with the way she ploughed through the dead air with such undammed positivity.

‘This is the first time I’ve caught the bus back home, myself. Nice to know I’ll have a bus buddy going the same way!’

Zak nodded sadly. He might as well accept his fate.

Unless… There was another bus in fifteen minutes. He could wait around for that, couldn’t he? It was only another fifteen minutes. Surely that was still an acceptable loss? It would mean missing his TV show entirely. And he’d get home too late to cook anything more than a quick, simple dinner.

But that was okay! Save the steak for tomorrow night. No big deal.

‘I’m actually on my way to the hospital,’ Zak lied. ‘Realised I left a few files there that I’m going to need for Monday’s report.’

‘Oh, you poor thing,’ said Tanya, with a look of fresh devastation. She pointed to the next platform. ‘You’d better hurry, then! That’s your bus, isn’t it?’

Zak shook his head.

‘No. No, I don’t think so.’

‘Course it is. The 97. It says Billingham Hospital on the front, see?’

Zak stared at her bulging eyes. Hating her. Hating himself.

‘Oh yes,’ he said through gritted teeth. ‘So it is.’

What was the alternative? He said he was going to the fucking hospital, and there – RIGHT FUCKING THERE – was the fucking bus to the fucking hospital.

‘Well, have a good one,’ he said, and dragged his feet from her wretched farewell smile.

Was this really happening? Was he now knowingly taking a bus that would travel in the opposite direction of his house? Was this fine? Another acceptable loss?

Sure, he told himself. No big deal. Nothing else for it, really.

Zak’s neck cramp twinged as he settled himself into a seat on the bus. The discovery that Tanya would be catching the 66 from now on was certainly interesting. She must live in the same area.

He contemplated the idea for a moment, then came to a decision. He’d have to move house. Obviously. Nothing else for it.

What’s it like?

Well, it’s like there’s a disco ball in your head. A funkless, shiny disco ball.

Fleeting, inexplicable thoughts shoot in all directions, bouncing against the walls of your skull, slowing down enough to be readable for just a second – for just as long as it takes for you to think that you must get a pen so you don’t lose the trail of the mist of the glimpse of the thought, which is a musing that of course replaces the original thought, leaving you buzzy and angry and holding a pen for god knows what reason.

And then you suddenly notice that everyone around you is smirking. Probably because of the way you’re walking. Is this the way you’ve always walked? What a terrible way to walk. How did you not notice before that you’ve been walking in such a weird, terrible way?

But that isn’t important right now, because you’ve just remembered that you’re a bad person. Your friend texted you earlier and you haven’t replied. She’s going through a much harder time than you, and it’s incredibly rude of you not to have replied. Write on your hand a reminder to text back.

Honestly, it’s probably too late. She doesn’t like you. Why would she? You’re terrible with people. Remember this morning when you didn’t say good morning to the bus driver? And you still haven’t emailed your supervisor back. Also, why are you holding a pen?

Refresh your email. Refresh your Twitter. Refresh your Facebook. Oh god, it’s his birthday today?! You truly are the worst friend in the world. Wait, that means it’s Tuesday. It’s already Tuesday and the thing you said you’d finish by Tuesday isn’t finished. And it’s Tuesday. Isn’t it?! Write the thing down on your hand.

Write. Hm. Yup. You haven’t done that in a while, and your last blog post was literally the worst thing on the internet, which is saying something because there are some pretty bad things on the internet. Like racism. God, the world is a mess isn’t it.

So anyway, yeah, that’s what anxiety is like for me. Now, why am I holding a pen?

Evidence #42837 (description: notebook in front L pocket of John Doe)

A compilation of writing tips

Show, don’t tell
In other words: don’t be too waffly, but also don’t leave out any important details, but don’t give too many details, but don’t confuse the reader by being vague, but be concise, while also descriptive, and use figurative language, but avoid clichés. It’s just that simple. Show the reader what’s going on, but don’t you dare try to fucking tell them. If you can’t get that right, you don’t deserve to be a writer. Get out of my class.

Set up a routine
How much do you sleep? Whatever you just said is too fucking much. If you’re asleep, you’re not writing. STAY AWAKE. Purchase stimulants in bulk, and if you get the jitters, find a balance using slow-me-downs like gin. Hemingway drank gin. Be like Hemingway. Your routine should involve staying awake. I’ll know if you sleep. Stay awake.

Write what you know
Your friends and family members are all perfect sources of data. Record every interaction that you have, especially those that contain the other person’s innermost thoughts and desires. Who cares if she kicks you out after reading your short story, ‘Put the pen down or I’m kicking you out’. Get a new wife. New kids. Those ones were a bit shit anyway, weren’t they? Always coming home with grubby hands. And the inane questions they’d ask! ‘Daddy, what’s for dinner?’ ‘Daddy, can we get pizza?’ ‘Daddy, why don’t you go to work any more?’ ‘Daddy, why is your mouth foaming?’ ENOUGH ALREADY.

Find your ‘writing zone’
I often have to improvise with this one, as certain uniformed pests enjoy relocating me from my usual writing zone, which is under the bench in the park. On such occasions, I have grown accustomed to boarding a sequence of trains (i.e., ‘commuting’) and simply writing there. You know Harry Potter was written on a train, right? Well. Look how that turned out. You think you’re better than J.K. Rowling? Fuck off.

Observe everything
Look around you and take in what’s going on. I like listening in on the conversations between other train-goers as they whisper references to ‘that bug-eyed man who’s talking to himself and shedding scraps of paper’. Incorporating some of those everyday snippets into your writing will make it all the more realistic.

Get to know your characters
…But don’t let them get to know you. You need to stay in control, especially with Mr. K. Boy, he’s got some strange ideas.

Set up a routine
I’ve said this one already Mr. M, you fucking idiot.

Persist. Perrrrrrr ssssssiiiiiiisssssttttt. Funny word.

P                                                                                              P

P                      P



P              P              P           P P P P ersist.


Etymology, hey?


Finn lay as still as he could. The tip of his nose tickled the webbing of the butterfly net.

It was the wings he liked to look at – not just because of their colours or patterns, but because of their slight, almost imperceptible movements. Back and forth, those wings would slowly, barely flap, always staying within the same minute stretch of air.

It was as if the thing was just waiting to be released – the insect equivalent of a tapping toe, maybe. Finn sensed a similar anticipation in the movement of the grass, and in the gentle breeze that pushed it.

Soon he’d need to go home, or the place they told him to call ‘home’, anyway. Back to the bunk beds and cold soup, where there never seemed to be quite enough space for him to fit.

For now though, while the light remained, he watched, and they waited.

‘Til death


A treacherous drop slid down the base of his neck, as he stared into the hairline of the girl who stood opposite. He didn’t have the strength to pull his gaze towards her eyes. Just to remain upright – unteetering, even – was enough.

They’d written their own vows. Her idea. Wasted on him, of course.

He willed himself to focus on her voice and extract some sort of meaning from the inarticulate buzz that filled the air around him.

‘I promise to stand by you, to fight every battle by your side, to give myself wholly to this partnership, and to bind myself to you through this life and the next.’

He glanced down at his hands. For just an instant, he saw the rope already tied around them.

A long trip


I spotted her sitting by herself at a table outside the cafe. She looked just like the picture, although perhaps with a little more lipstick and a little less patience. I called out, which both drew her attention to me and drew my attention from the uneven ground.

It wasn’t a quick trip, where you stumble a bit, but ultimately end up vertical and a bit pink. No, the thing went on forever, and even as I flailed my arms and grabbed at nothingness, I had time to recognise the futility of my body’s reflexive response.

Around me, the restaurant patrons became increasingly interested. And diagonal. Interested and diagonal. What horrific life choices (they mused) had I made to end up here, as The Ridiculous Tripping Man?

I landed finally, having made some pretty grand decisions about the direction of my life’s course.

First step was to leave the area.

Like, now.

Things Only An (18)90s Kid Will Remember!

Watching Rugrats
As in, constructing your own narratives as you stare at the rats living in spare, dusty rooms under rugs and old furniture. You’re not a proper (18)90s kid if you never watched Rugrats.

Like, fucking EVERYWHERE.


Discovery of the element Argon
I know, I know – this honestly feels like just yesterday. Feeling old yet?

Otherwise known as a girl’s best friend. You could be all, ‘banter, banter, banter’ with some Lord, all ‘yes, sir’, ‘no, sir’, just playing it real nice and low-key, and all the while your pie slice is quietly cooling, stashed up on high amongst the ribbons and curls. They might not admit it, but all (18)90s kids had contraband hidden on their persons at some point, and the bonnet was an A+ venue. (Always important to be on the lookout for bees, though.)

Corporal punishment
Because if you sneezed or nodded a bit too hard, that apple pie was liable to fall to the goddamn ground, and if Lord Withersby started snitching, you know Mrs. Pettigrew wouldn’t hesitate to come at you with a motherfucking rolling pin.

Thousands of layers of clothing
We all remember those Saturday mornings when mum would be like, ‘Mary, get down these stairs or we will straight up leave for the markets without you,’ and you’d be like ‘I WISH YOU WERE DEAD,’ because you’re still putting together layer four of seven and are yet to even contemplate how you’ll use a brooch the size of a star to pin that shit together. And then you’d feel bad because imminent death is a genuine possibility, given infection, etc.

Layers, right? The worst.

Or ‘vagina-hating symptoms’. The lack of power, forced dependence, and vacuum of societal respect in general was enough to sometimes make an (18)90s girl want to kick themselves in the crotch.

STICKS! REMEMBER THESE? Legit the most versatile toy. You could pick them up, throw them, collect them, prod things with them, and best of all, push a hoop down the street with them. I think my mum still has a few of mine stashed in the attic.

Popularisation of the name Fanny

Talking animals
Remember when rabbits had names, geese wore petticoats, and moles loved adventure? Weird fad.


Some more Qs have been asked of me and I’ve been very slow in getting around to A-ing them. Terribly sorry, Shannon Noel Brady – thank you for sending these my way and for your patience in dealing with slack nominees like myself. I feel honoured to have received a mention from such a skilled writer. I’m also quite happy that you’ve given me more fuel to add to my procrastinatory fire.

Here we go, then:

  1. What’s your earliest memory?

This may not be real, but I do have a memory of struggling to climb stairs as a very tiny person.

  1. What kind of hat best represents your personality? Any kind! Top hat, jester bells, a sombrero… (Even if you would never wear it in real life.)

WOW. I can honestly say I’ve never thought about this before. Good question. I’m going to go with a tin-foil hat, as I tend to attract crazy people and on hot days I can be shiny.

  1. What’s something that other people are fine with but totally bugs you?

I’ve been known to block people from Facebook (/life) for ‘your’ vs. ‘you’re’ errors. I think I’m getting better at dealing with it, but it’s still a pretty top-tier complaint. I also don’t like the cold. Or the hot. There’s like a two-degree window of comfort. Yeah, I’m the worst.

  1. Something that you’re fine with but totally bugs other people?

Pigeons. Fucking love pigeons. Watch a pigeon today and I promise you’ll feel happier.

  1. Favourite dessert?

Nutella, Nutella crepe, Nutella+anything.

  1. What’s the one sentimental item (not a living creature or practical object like a phone, etc) that you would grab from your burning house if you only had time to grab one thing?

Oh no, this is hard. I like all my things! I do have a signed Dylan Moran show programme somewhere in my closet (like, not to brag or anything). It would be worth approximately $0, but I was/am pretty obsessed with that guy and it was from my first ever stand-up show, so it’s a bit special I guess.

  1. Favourite animal when you were 6?

Dog. My first email address as a child was Cringe.

  1. Favourite pastime when you were 16?

Just being a twerp, I think. So much brooding.

  1. You’ve met a stranger. What’s something that would make you immediately like them if they started talking about it? (BESIDES books or writing, that’s too obvious!)

I bond quite well with people that listen to podcasts or have the same TV show tastes (e.g., 30 Rock [hi Shannon :)], Unbreakable, Nathan for You, Arrested Development, Sherlock, Black Books, Parks and Rec, Summer Heights High).

  1. What’s your computer wallpaper?

The default one😦

  1. Invent a superhero persona for yourself!

More of a terse command than a question, but I’ll allow it. ‘Captain Blue Eyes, the Hard-to-get-to-know’. She’d be a pirate with wings.


Captain B.E., out. x

How To Be A Modern-Day Wife

I’ve just had something published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, which I’m very excited about because I love that website. The article’s called How To Be A Modern-Day Wife.

Here’s a bit:

Men in relationships tend to get a bit snippy when their partners don’t notice a new tie or haircut. Do try to keep a look out for these things, and if you like what you see, let him know! Something as simple as a well-timed “you smell nice” will remind him that he’s special.

It’s important that you keep track of the frequency with which you hand out compliments. I personally find an Excel spreadsheet is useful for this.

Read the whole thing here: