Christopher Jackson-Ash is a Melbourne-based writer of main-stream science fantasy. He came out just before the age of fifty. He is enjoying his new lifestyle.
|A TASTE FOR BILLY|
(This story appeared in the June 2011 edition of the e-zine of Gay Flash Fiction)
(c) Christopher Jackson-Ash
Let’s get this clear right from the outset; I’m an atheist. I do not believe in God. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have morals or ethics. When I’m lying on my death bed, I’m sure that I’ll be doing the balance thing – weighing up the good and bad stuff I’ve done in my life and seeing which way it tilts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll not be expecting heaven or hell, just nothingness when the lights finally go out. I hope the balance will be fairly level – too much of either one can’t be good for you. I’ve never killed a man, though some would say that my oral skills have come pretty close to being lethal. I’ve never saved a man either, unless you count Billy Slater. I often wonder what happened to Billy. I never did see him again after his wedding day. He was pretty dirty on me and I suppose he had the right. I let my mouth go right off that day, though in my defence it was still full of his man seed at the time.
I’d been his bottom boy since junior high school, in secret of course. The folks round our way didn’t take too kindly to that homo stuff. Poor Stevie Carter was dealt with so bad when it came out that he was queer that he ended up throwing himself off the town bridge. I had to keep my lack of love for both God and women secret until I left for the big smoke. That would have been Billy’s wedding day. Ain’t never been home since and don’t expect to. They have long memories there and even my papa wanted to lock me up. I don’t suppose he ever lived down the disgrace of it all. He died the next winter and mama wrote me that I’d killed him. That was the last time I heard from her. I believe she died the very next year.
Billy and me were always careful, though we did nearly get caught down by the school yard one time. He just got his cock back in his pants in time and I pretended that I’d dropped something. I ain’t never tasted anything in my life sweeter than Billy’s man seed. I tell you, I’ve lost count of the number of men I’ve sucked off since I left home but none of them can compare to Billy’s sweet nectar. It near broke my heart when he told me he was getting married. His folks had arranged a suitable match. I reckon they had a few suspicions and wanted to nip it in the bud. That last week, I sucked him off every night – well, I was the best man. After his stag party, even though he could barely get it up because of the drink, he fucked me for the last time. I sucked him off as I helped him dress for the ceremony – I told him it would relax him. His bride was a little late getting to the church, so I sucked him off in the vestry to relax him some more. He didn’t want to come because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to get it up on his wedding night, but he could never resist my mouth for long. I zipped him up just as the organist struck up ‘Here Comes the Bride’ and got into a fit of giggles because the groom had just come first. I didn’t want to swallow, because it might be the last time I would taste his sweet seed. I ushered him to the altar with dribbles of come running down my chin.
I don’t know what came over me then. I remember the ceremony as if it were taking place in a thick fog. The sounds were muffled and I could barely make out the bride, which was probably just as well because she looked more like a man than I did. I’m not saying she was ugly, but she had a job at the local dairy as a milk curdler. Was it my own jealousy or could I not let Billy commit himself to a life of purgatory with a yoghurt maker? I suppose it was a bit of both. When the priest asked whether anyone knew just cause why they shouldn’t be joined, I should have forever held my peace, instead of thinking about Billy’s piece. To the shock and amazement of the congregation and the utter horror of the wedding party, I shouted out, ‘I do!’
My mouth was still full at this time and the unfortunate priest was on the receiving end of a gob full of spit and come. He was momentarily nonplussed by these two never-before-experienced events. He wiped his cassock with his free hand with a look of disdain and in a loud voice said, ‘Speak, my son, or forever hold your peace!’ The emphasis was on the last three syllables. This was my last chance to redeem myself, but I failed to take it. Billy looked at me with his mouth agape and shook his head, before holding it in both hands. The words I spoke have been repeated in my nightmares ever since.
“Billy can’t marry her! She’s a lesbian!”
The bride screamed and fainted. The church erupted in chaos, the bride’s father said some things that are not repeatable and came at me to kill me. The priest stepped between us. I took the opportunity to leg it out of the back door and jump on a timely passing bus to anywhere.
Did I do wrong or did I save my lover from a lifetime of torment? I never meant to hurt the bride’s reputation. I had no reason to think that she was a lesbian and I was sure it would all blow over in time. Mama’s letter also told me that the bride had left town and was now living with a butch girl in the big smoke.
TOO DAMNED EASY
by Christopher Jackson-Ash
(c) Christopher Jackson-Ash
(This story originally appeared in the Gay Flash Fiction e-zine in February 2011)
“You young ones have got it too damn easy these days,” Grandad stated. “In our day, we had to work and save before we got anything. These days you get it and break it before you’ve even paid for it. Computer games? Hah! We had a hoop and a stick and we were happy. We built dams in the brook and roamed the fields all day. We were fit and healthy too. There were no burgers in those days, you know.” He stopped his grumpy old man tirade and looked at me. His grey eyes looked wistful behind his thick spectacles and crinkled face. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his tatty old leather wallet. He had had it as long as I could remember him and that was at least ten of my fifteen years. He pulled out a ten-pound note that looked almost as old and battered as he did. “There you go, Tim, treat yourself to something nice.”
His eyes held mine as I took the gift. “Thanks, Grandad.”
“You know your Grandmother always used to say that you were the sensitive one of the family. ‘Watch him,’ she told me, ‘He’ll need your help one day.’ Those were almost her last words. What do you think she meant, Tim? Is there something you need to talk about? You can tell me, you know. There’s nothing left in the world that can shock me. If you can’t tell your Dad and Mum, you can talk to your old Grandad.”
The emotion welled inside me. I gulped, trying to hold back the tears. How had Grandma known? I hadn’t even known back then. Did Grandad suspect? How would he react? He had always seemed so conservative in his views. I felt like a drowning man must feel. The last two years of my life flashed before my eyes: the teasing and bullying at school, the uncertainty tearing apart my mind, the revulsion at the sexual feelings I had towards other boys, and the regular denouncements by the priest that condemned me to hell. Then the lifeline came and hauled me in. As my tears flowed, Grandad took me in his arms, like he used to do when I was a little kid. He hugged me tight and I smelled that reassuring unique aroma of pipe tobacco, Old Spice, and old man. “It’s not so damn easy after all, is it lad?”
by Christopher Jackson-Ash
(c) Christopher Jackson-Ash
I woke up with a strong desire to see my father. “Shall we go and visit Grandpa?” I asked the twins as they tucked into their breakfast cereal.
The six-year-old boys looked up in unison. “If you like,” William said.
“Cool,” Thomas added.
“OK, I’ll phone up and see if we can get in today. There might be a cancellation.”
In the back of the car, they were whispering and grinning. I wasn’t sure whether they understood the concept of the virtual mausoleum, though I had tried to explain it several times. We were lucky; I had managed to secure thirty minutes, as there had been a cancellation. We were in suite seventeen. It occurred to me that it was ironic how families seemed to visit their dead relatives more often than they had visited them when they were alive.
The suite had a row of comfortable chairs for the visitors. Everything else was holographic. It hadn’t been too expensive to have them visit Dad at home before he died. They had filmed everything, sampled the air, interviewed him, and had him fill out a sixty-two page secret questionnaire.
The virtual room looked exactly as I remembered it, down to his favourite mug filled with weak milky tea on the old table that we’d eaten off for years. The smell brought the memories rushing back – a combination of his aftershave, a faint hint of pipe tobacco and the unique smell of his house – the house that I had grown up in.
“How are you, Dad?”
“Oh, fair to middling son, mustn’t complain, no point complaining anyway,” he grinned at us. We had entered our names into the seats we had taken. The expert system that ran the simulation was quite capable of running multiple conversations. It was like stepping back into the past and being with him again, except that you couldn’t kiss him or hug him or even shake his hand. The lack of physical contact always brought a tear to my eye. The latest newsletter had said that the technology for physical interaction was only a couple of years away. Maybe the twins would eventually get the chance to hug their grandfather.
We chatted about inane things and wasted fifteen minutes. The twins were quiet, but grinning at each other throughout. We all sat quietly for a few moments. There was no compulsion to speak, but the silence seemed to build up a pressure in me. We hadn’t really talked in life, but I couldn’t bear the silence now he was dead. “Would you like to ask Grandpa anything?” I asked the boys.
“Grandpa,” William asked in his cheeky voice, “Are you gay?” I almost choked and I expected my father to splutter on his tea.
He didn’t. He smiled and put down his cup. “I’m glad you asked that, lad. After your father was born, well your grandma and me we weren’t intimate anymore. A man needs to satisfy his urges. I had a few special mates, if you understand what I mean.”
I understood, but I doubted that my six-year-olds did. Embarrassed, I said a quick goodbye and ushered them out of the room.
In the back of the car, the boys were quiet. I knew that they were communicating with each other as only twins can.
“Dad,” Thomas eventually asked quietly, “Are you gay?”
The Man With No Memory
by Christopher Jackson-Ash
© Christopher Jackson-Ash
Bright light. It was the first thing he noticed, but he couldn’t describe it. It was the beginning of everything, like a big bang inside his head. Later he would realise it was the sunlight streaming through his window and burning through his closed eyelids. But then, when he opened his eyes for the first time, he had no comprehension of anything. He was like a newborn baby witnessing the world for the first time. Worse than that, for a baby at least has memories of the womb.
No one knew what had happened to him. Yet they all agreed he was a healthy, perfect physical specimen of manhood with his mind wiped clean. No one claimed him. He had been on all of the news bulletins and in the papers. He’d been found almost drowned on the beach, so they assumed he’d fallen off a passing ship.
His empty mind was like blotting paper and knowledge was ink. No one knew what his native language had been so they taught him English. He took to it like an Irishman to Guinness. His thirst was unquenchable. He needed to sleep for only four hours each night. Two teams worked with him for eight hours each during the day. At night he was left to his own devices. He read voraciously, starting with ‘Janet and John’ and working his way up to Shakespeare. He gave up only on James Joyce. He also repeatedly read the Bible. It was a Christian institution that reprogrammed him.
They told him to choose a name, so he chose Paul because he believed he had been converted from a path of wickedness and God had wiped his mind clean to give him a new start.
He couldn’t escape from sex, though they tried to shield him initially. His body worked as well as any man’s and he explored it like a horny teenager. They had to teach him propriety after he embarrassed the old nun who was the night nurse with his self-pleasuring antics. He read the great romantic novels and knew about love and marriage. He understood love intellectually but could not relate to it on an emotional level. Perhaps it was like the way he felt when they served his favourite food. That intrigued him. Why did he enjoy some foods and dislike others? Had he felt the same way before his brain had been washed clean? They introduced him to television and he developed interests in certain sports and types of drama, but not others. Again, he asked himself why. He questioned his Doctor, but he brushed the queries aside. Paul didn’t know it but he had become a great experiment. Was it possible to take a man and program him to be a perfect citizen, free from sin?
Sarah had been on one of his teams. She was a pleasant-looking young woman, with a propensity to talk too much and laugh too loud. She was also incredibly lonely and she fell in love with the man she had helped to create. She sought the Doctor’s permission, who cleared it with the Bishop, before she began her romantic entrapment. The Bishop said they would make a handsome couple and complete the experiment.
Paul’s responses to Sarah’s advances were lukewarm at best. Sarah thought it was because Paul was still too naive to understand the game. Paul knew what the game was from his reading. Unfortunately, he just didn’t fancy her. He didn’t fancy any woman for that matter. Not since the new male night nurse had started working on the team.
Sarah redoubled her efforts and eventually Paul felt obliged to tell her the truth. She was shocked by his sin and reported him to the Bishop. Paul lost his newfound home.
“How can you return to this sinful life, after you have been given a new chance by God?” The doctor asked him sadly as he packed his bags.
“I don’t know what evil I committed in my past life. I know that I must search for love in this one in the only way that is meaningful to me. God should be about love, not discrimination and hate. And God must have made me this way, because I can no more change my sexuality than the fact that I’m still left-handed.” Paul offered the Doctor his hand and then walked away.
The nurse was waiting at the bottom of the drive to take him to his new home.
Excerpt from the Diary of a Sydney Rent Boy
by Christopher Jackson-Ash
The four old queens gathered, in Darlinghurst, every Wednesday afternoon to take tea and fairy cakes. The gossip was always crude and spiteful. They reminded me of the women in “Last of the Summer Wine”. Old Edgar even looked like Norah Batty. I earned twenty bucks serving them naked; no touching. The price went up as soon as they started to grope. I usually came away with more than a ton. The day Winnie wanted special cream in his coffee I came away extra well satisfied.
The four of them switched between their apartments. They all lived close to Oxford Street, so they didn’t have to walk very far. Each of them fussed about tidiness and cleanliness, though Frank was the worst. No sooner was a cup empty, than I had to remove it, wash it, and put it away in its appointed place. The slightest crumb on the floor required me to get down on my hands and knees. I made sure they all got a good view of my smooth cheeks and shaved crack. I knew that Terry could never resist letting his fingers do the walking. I suspect he crumbed on Frank’s carpet on purpose.
I was never allowed to speak, unless spoken to, which suited me fine. We had very little in common. I did have a soft spot for Winnie; he reminded me of my grandfather. Until the coffee incident that is. Their conversation usually concerned who was doing what to whom and how often they were doing it; the outrageous things people were wearing; and who in public life would be outed next. I sometimes wished they would take up bridge or knitting. There was only one time when I couldn’t hold my tongue.
A young couple with a baby had moved in next door to Edgar. “The brat keeps me awake all night.”
“You’d think they’d know better than to move into a gay area,” Frank tutted.
“Perhaps he’s a bisexual,” Winnie said.
“He’s as ugly as sin and she’s no Venus de Milo,” Edgar sighed.
Terry laughed. “Being ugly never stopped you having fun.”
“Having arms like the Venus would soon stop you,” Edgar spat.
“Did you hear that the gay couple in number 27 have commissioned a surrogate child?” Frank asked.
“Even worse, there’s a couple I know who have signed an agreement with a couple of lesbians to produce two babies and each couple will have one.” Winnie’s disapproving tone shocked me.
“It shouldn’t be allowed.” Frank agreed.
“Turkey basters,” Terry said.
“It’s not natural,” Edgar said. “There are two main benefits to being gay – one you don’t have to live with hormonal nagging women and two you don’t have to live with crying shitting babies.”
The others all nodded sagely. I had been drying the cups and saucers, trying not to listen to the old farts, but with my background, it was difficult to ignore it. I dropped a saucer and it smashed into a hundred pieces on the tiled floor. Frank was up faster than a double dose of Viagra. “Get the dustpan and brush from the hall cupboard. Watch your feet; you’ll carry bits onto the carpet. What’s wrong with you? I’ll deduct that from your fee!”
They expected an apology, I suppose. I was angry, though. “If you’d had your way, I wouldn’t be here for you to order around, ogle, and grope. You’re just a mob of old bigoted perverts. My parents are lesbians and a gay man donated the sperm that created me.” I could feel that my face was bright red by now and I wasn’t far away from bursting into tears. “My partner and I want to have a family of our own, but we are not allowed to adopt and there’s no way we can afford surrogacy. It’s not fair.” The tears were flowing now and I picked up a cup and tempestuously smashed it on the floor too.
Frank was apoplectic and could only splutter meaningless sounds.
“You go girl, that’s the best entertainment we’ve had in weeks. I’ll tip in an extra ten bucks,” Terry said laughing.
“I’m happy to be called a bigoted pervert, but less of the old, if you please,” Winnie smiled.
Edgar just shook his head and sighed. “I suppose he’s right enough about one thing Frank; you know you wouldn’t keep a cup without its matching saucer.”
I stormed out of the kitchen, grabbed my clothes and quickly dressed. I was prepared to go without being paid and never come back. As I was leaving, Frank was on his hands and knees cleaning the kitchen floor. He still hadn’t managed a cognisant word. Winnie pressed 300 dollars into my hands and whispered in my ear, “Put this in the surrogacy fund, lad. My place next week. Don’t worry about Frank, he’ll get over it.”
I had been wrong about Winnie; he was like my grandfather. I opened a special bank account that day. It’s been growing steadily ever since. Whenever a client upsets me and I want to say something nasty, I bite my tongue and think about my surrogacy fund and what it might buy us one day.
Obituary by Christopher Jackson-Ash
The London Times 24 June 2007
Sir William (Bill) Straightman has died aged seventy-nine. He achieved greatness in his life, reaching the pinnacle of his chosen profession. Sir William received his knighthood from Her Majesty the Queen in 1988 for services to accountancy. He was a committed family man. He leaves his wife, Mabel, of fifty-five years, five children, nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Bill wrote the following obituary himself and insisted, in his will, that it be published in its unadulterated form.
I lived an empty life and did not achieve happiness. I lived the last fourteen years of my life in an anguished state of deep regret, which I hid from my family. In death, I hope finally to be honest.
I was an only child and grew up in a privileged family, wanting for nothing. I attended Eton School and Kings College Cambridge, where I graduated with First Class Honours. At school, I excelled in sport, representing the first fifteen in rugby and captaining the first eleven at cricket. I went on to be capped for the Combined Universities and played in seven first class fixtures where I scored 653 runs at 109 with a top score of 243 not out against Leicestershire at Grace Road in 1950. I hated sport. I only played so that I could share the changing rooms with a group of naked men.
At school, I regret to say that I was in the group that taunted and bullied those boys whom we suspected of being homosexual. They didn’t have to be openly gay. If they weren’t good at sports, were quiet and shy, or just didn’t fit in we made them suffer horrendously. It pains me deeply that one boy, whom I won’t name, committed suicide as a result of his treatment. His death haunted me all of my life.
At University, I envied the group of openly queer students, while taking every opportunity to publicly vilify their behaviour and lifestyle. I managed to avoid girlfriends, citing my workload and sporting commitments, although women chased me incessantly because of my rugged good looks. Inevitably, though the word gaydar had not been invented in those days, I was propositioned by many young men. I regret not giving in to the temptation. I regret even more the retribution that I and my so-called friends brought down on them. It is only because the law turned a blind eye to such attacks that I avoided family dishonour and prison.
My family arranged my marriage. I deeply regret that I subjected Mabel to a loveless and almost sexless life. It is a wonder to me that we had five children. My children brought me the only joy in my life and yet I suffer because I could never be completely honest with them.
My business career, while immensely successful, was the most dreadful bore. If only, I’d had the courage to be adventurous and do what I wanted. I wanted to be an artist, but my parents and later my wife actively discouraged me from pursuing my interest. If only I’d had the courage to admit my sexuality and pursue the chance for love. Only once did I succumb to temptation and visit a London beat. For the only time in my life, I enjoyed the marvellous experience of a male member in my mouth (he was a Member of Parliament). Fortunately, the policeman who arrested us recognised him and let us off with a stern warning. I was too afraid to transgress again.
In my dotage, I had unlimited leisure time to review my life. I now understand that one does not die regretting what one has done, only what one has not done. I have lived a life without love, without ever knowing how it feels to hold a lover in my arms. Please forgive an old man his vulgarity, but all of the success in the world is not worth a pinch of shit without love. Please learn from my mistake. Be proud of who you are; chase your dreams; and, if you are that way inclined, chase your men.
Coming Home by Christopher Jackson-Ash
Stuart left the schoolyard with his mind in turmoil. A few kids were still kicking around, waiting for lifts or hanging with nothing better to do than share a smoke. He ignored them, and they didn’t bother him. He had made his decision. Today, he would share his secret.
A car horn shocked him back to awareness. He had stepped into the road without looking. He waved an apology and received a one-fingered salute in response. Usually, it would have upset him, but today there were more pressing matters to consider. He knew that he was different. He tried to pinpoint when he had understood. Not when he’d preferred to play with his sister’s dolls rather than his soldiers – he’d barely begun to realise that boys and girls were different. Perhaps, during Saturday swimming with Steve Wilson’s Dad? They’d hung out together by default, after Stuart’s Dad died. He had found the sight of Mr Wilson’s naked body strangely exciting. He hadn’t understood why. No, it was definitely in High School. He had watched his classmates’ developing bodies with enormous interest. Steve had matured so much earlier. He had developed a crush on his best friend. Steve had never known about it. He had been good at hiding his secret. Changing for sports became both an exciting adventure and a nightmare. He loved perving the other boys’ naked bodies, but he was petrified in case he got found out. Fortunately, spontaneous erections were an occupational hazard for a teenager. They might lead to a bit of teasing, but nothing more serious. There was a word for what he was – homosexual. It meant that he was a perversion and would burn in hell for eternity. If his friends found out, he’d be ostracised. Daniel Smith was a homosexual. He had no friends and was always being bullied. Why would Daniel admit it? He seemed to be proud of it. He had joined in with his classmates’ jokes at Daniel’s expense. He had looked at the porn mags behind the bike sheds, albeit focussing more on the men. He had joined in the discussions about the girls’ suitability for shagging. What did that make him? He was a homosexual hypocrite.
Stuart almost had second thoughts as his resolve wavered. It was a warm, sunny day. He had left his bag and jacket at school. He should have felt light, but instead he felt as if a huge weight were bearing down on him. He stopped for a moment and massaged his temples. ‘It’s the stress; it will go as soon as you’ve confessed.’ He was almost home. His mind jumped to why it was so important to come out now. Peter Somerton was the chemistry teacher. He had rarely paid him much attention, as their paths didn’t cross that often. He was in his early thirties, reasonably slim and good looking. He couldn’t remember how they had ended up in the preparation room at the back of the chemistry laboratory, last Wednesday after final period. It had seemed an innocent enough request for help that had got him in there. His cover must have been blown. Peter knew instinctively what he was. He had casually left the gay porn there and used it as an excuse to initiate an intimate conversation. Then it had snowballed, leading to Stuart’s first gay sexual experience. It had been awesome. Just the memory of it gave him an instant erection, which he struggled to hide from Mrs Robinson, pruning the roses in her front yard. From that instant he had known. It was like coming home. He knew who he was. Nothing else in his life came close to that moment, to the absolute clarity of his realisation. He wouldn’t hide any longer. He would tell the truth and be proud of himself.
He took a deep breath and nervously entered the house. It was a picture of normality. This must have been what Hiroshima had been like, moments before the bomb exploded. They would never experience that normality again. Was he really ready to change his world so much? He must, otherwise he would always remain a hypocrite.
David was in front of the computer as usual, school bag and books tossed casually around. Susie was playing with her new kitten, teasing him with a piece of string. A warm welcoming smell of roast chicken and the clattering of cutlery emanated from the kitchen. This was it then, he’d do it at the dinner table.
He washed his hands and took his usual place. The normal pleasantries of the day passed over him like background chatter on a train. He toyed with his food. His chest was constricted. His stomach felt like it was tied in knots. His throat was dry and tight. He took a sip of water and cleared his throat. He’d practiced this speech a thousand times. He wanted to lay out his past, in a logical manner, to explain his ‘condition’ through his life experiences. He needed them to understand what a battle he had fought on their behalf, to be normal.
Three faces watched expectantly. He turned pale and then blushed red. He felt the sweat running down his back. His hands were clammy. All he managed to say was, “I have something important to tell you. I’m gay.”
“Cool, my best friend is a lesbian,” Susie said. “Mum, can I have some new shoes for Kylie’s party?”
“As long as it doesn’t affect me, I couldn’t care less,” David said. “Just don’t spread it all around the school or I’ll have to disown you.”
Stuart’s heart was returning to normal speed. The throbbing in his head was beginning to dissipate. He looked across the table at Sarah. Her face had totally drained of colour. She was trying to say something, but no words were coming out. Eventually, she managed to get control. “You mean, all of these years, I’ve been married to a queer?”