of the Willesden Herald Competition are in. Alas, alack I did not win. But my story, as one of the shortlisted (from, I am told, a total number of 645 entries) is going to be published in the New Short Stories 3 anthology, which can be ordered here
Some have said it “ably and wryly depicts the sometimes quite contrary nature of the male psyche.” (Authortrek). As a taster, (or perhaps, a warning), this is how it begins:
One night, a few months ago, I went into my flatmate’s room. I put back the pillow and then, without thinking, bent down and pulled out one of the plastic trays that slot under her bed. In the first were trousers, t-shirts and shorts, so I pushed it back in, and pulled out the other. In that one there were bras and pants so I brought a black pair to my nose and slowly, deeply, breathed.
I had taken the pillow because a friend was supposed to be staying. When I’d finally made up the spare bed— the duvet cover was a nightmare —I realised there was no pillow and so earlier that day I’d gone into Amy’s room. I didn’t think she would mind: she was in Romania with her adventurous boyfriend.
I remember listening outside while the floorboards creaked. If she had somehow been inside— having returned from her holiday early after breaking-up with Tim —it would have seemed strange, almost creepy, for me to be stood there so long, as if I was waiting for a hole, or crack, to open in the wood.
I pushed the door with my knuckles. It swung in with an unfortunate groan but no one said Get out. I went in and took a pillow, then paused for a quick look round (although she’d lived there eight months, I’d only been in once before, when I had stood and watched while she wrote me a cheque). I saw that the bookcase was full, that she had a thriving yucca and a Vettriano print. I certainly didn’t think about touching the trays under the bed.
When I returned the pillow later (my friend had inexplicably decided to stay in a Travel Lodge) I was pretty drunk. When I brought her pants to my nose, it was mostly as a joke; there’s something unavoidably comic about sniffing someone’s underwear. My thoughts during the three or four seconds that I smelt the spring freshness of the fabric conditioner, felt the softness of the crotch (which although far from worn, felt too thin to be new) were anything but erotic. I smelt them the way you breathe in a rose on your way to the bus stop. At no point did I imagine Amy taking off these pants, slowly, or with a jerk of eloquent impatience.