December 7, 2010

'A Bachelor's Fridge' --- short story

I had another 20 Melbourne Writers meeting last night. The image/challenge for this month was simply: "The Fridge," which I found lovely and vague and really difficult to write about. The story I ended up with works as a kind of companion piece to 'The Piggery', my last 20mw piece, but this time showing everything from the point of view of one of the horrible guys.

A Bachelor's Fridge

Caitlin always did the cooking. I helped out a bit, cut up vegies or grated cheese or whatever, but she was the wizard in the kitchen. I’m not a misogynist or anything, I’m just hopeless. Left to my own devices I’ve still got the tastebuds of a twelve-year-old, and the skills to match. If I don’t eat out, or don’t have cash left to order in, I’ll usually end up having Doritos for dinner, or something like that. If I’m feeling really virtuous I might bung in a microwave pizza or something. That’s about as good as it gets.

When Marieke woke up this morning and checked out the fridge, she laughed her head off. There was nothing in there but a half-empty tub of Meadow Lea and some mayonnaise that’s about four years old. So we went out for breakfast instead.


I was at Toff last night with my mates Brendan and Phil. First Saturday night I’d gone out in a while. I was thinking of piking, but Phil knows me too well: he rocked up at my apartment with a bottle of Jameson’s and bullied me into getting ready. I was feeling a bit more up-for-it with a few shots in me.

The fucker even picked out my clothes for me, wouldn’t let me wear the nice black and purple shirt that Caitlin brought back from Holland for me. He said it made me look like a pussy. Then he played Xbox while I showered and shaved.

We got into the city about midnight. Normally a bunch of guys with no chicks would never get into Toff that late, but Brendan’s cousin Jenna came down with a couple of her friends and helped us past the bouncers. Once we were inside, Phil decided straight away that Jenna’s friends didn’t cut it, and dragged us away. ‘They’ll still be there at the end of the night,’ he said. ‘They can be the backup plan, for if we strike out.’

And that was all the action we got for about three hours. Phil tried to buy a drink for a cute little Asian chick, but she was the DJs girlfriend. Every girl that caught my eye had a boyfriend bag hanging from her arm. The only single chicks were the fucking eighteen-year-olds, wobbling about on the heels they don’t know how to wear yet, having three drinks and passing out. As Phil said, any one of them was probably a sure thing, but I’ve still got some standards.

‘What about that one?’ he asked, pointing to a redhead wearing a bad-fitting op-shop dress and a bright green cardigan.

‘I don’t want to go to jail,’ I replied. Just looking at her made me feel old. I’m not sure when it happened, but now I’m always one of the oldest people in the bars I go to. Next thing you know I’ll be having afternoon naps. Brendan and Phil’s master plan to make me feel better wasn’t exactly working.

Then the Germans arrived. Three of them for three of us, all of them skinny and blonde, it was perfect. In tatty denim skirts and t-shirts, they were obviously backpackers, and lining up for Cowboys the instant they arrived, they were obviously out for a good time.

It was hilarious, watching the attention of every unattached guy in the place zero in on them. Hell, even the boyfriends in the room were shooting glances at them. Elsa, the one with the long hair, leaned way over to tell the bartender a joke and the whole place stopped to stare at her arse. Course we did: it was a fucking good arse.

Now, there are times when having a mate like Phil is about as much fun as being shot out of a cannon into a net made of glass. But there are times when he’s a magician, and this was one of those times. ‘I’m not fussed, you guys pick your favourites,’ he said, then got up and strolled over to the laughing girls.

‘Is he … ?’ Brendan muttered under his breath. ‘Oh fuck, he is.’

Phil walked straight up to the long-haired one and pulled out his wallet and told her to put her money away. She looked him up and down. Phil’s not the best-looking bloke in the world, but he goes to the gym and that, and he dresses well, and he obviously passed the test. The girl smiled and laughed and leaned in to his ear to say something. Phil handed the bartender a fifty, and I doubt he got much change back from it.

Then he pointed us out to the girls. Brendan and me probably looked ridiculous, just gaping at them like slack-jawed morons. ‘You got a preference?’ Brendan said to me in an undertone as Phil herded the girls back to our table.

‘What? Nah, you choose,’ I said.

‘Leave it up to the gods then …’

I stood up and cajoled a chair away from the guys at the table next to us. They tried not to look jealous of our luck, but jesus, they failed miserably. I think they left pretty soon after that, with their tails between their legs.

Anyway, it’s way too loud in that kind of bar to have a group conversation, so the six of us just naturally turned into couples.

I was pretty happy: Marieke was the cutest of the three girls in my book. Smaller than the other two, who were total glamazons, Marieke had her hair cut short into a neat little bob, she was wearing glasses with thick black frames, and her t-shirt read ‘Weyland-Yutani Corp’ which got me on side straight away. She was stoked that I recognised it and we spent about half an hour debating which was better out of Alien and Aliens, and bitching about the crappy fourth one with Winona Ryder. And fuck me, we drank a lot. German girls can seriously party.

Phil pulled first. Of course. He escorted Elsa out to the balcony for a cigarette, even though he’s never smoked in his life, and they never came back. The four of us who were left all got texts at the same time. Phil’s message to me and Brendan read: “If we dont get a cab soon im fucking her in th street!!!” I dunno what Elsa wrote to her friends, but they fell off their chairs laughing at it.

Well. Honestly, the night gets hazy after that. I remember that the last girl, the one whose name I never caught, ended up sitting on Brendan’s lap. I remember that I finally got drunk enough to get up and dance, Marieke leading me by the hand. I don’t remember making a dick of myself on the dancefloor, but that’s probably what happened.

Then I lost Phil and his chick, then I was pashing Marieke in a dark booth, then we were pashing in a cab, then I was outside my apartment fumbling for my keys. Somewhere in there I must have said the right thing, but I don’t know what it was.

The sex was pretty good, what I remember of it. She didn’t mind being on top; some girls hate it, I don’t know why. She was real different to Caitlin. Rougher, in a weird way. Her bony arse kept slamming down on me, I thought maybe I’d be bruised in the morning. Caitlin liked a slow build, the foreplay and all that – she liked me to undress her. Marieke didn’t even bother taking her clothes off, she was still wearing her skirt and her bra through the whole thing. And everyone’s sex noises are different, obviously, but it was still weird hearing Marieke choofing like a marathon runner when I was so used to Caitlin’s cute little high-pitched yelps.

Still, different can be good. Y’know?


We didn’t go out for breakfast the next day. I lied about that.

I’d gotten used to sleeping in an empty bed, so the heat of her body woke me up earlier than I would’ve liked. I couldn’t get comfortable, and eventually my tossing and turning woke her up as well.

We made out a little bit, in a lazy kind of a way, but we both had shocking breath from the night before, so it wasn’t sexy like it should be. I couldn’t really suggest we both brush our teeth then hop back in bed, could I? Anyway, Marieke didn’t really seem like she was into it.

She got up first, tracking down her clothes and pulling them on roughly. I’d managed to get her skirt off her eventually, but only right before we went to sleep. So she got dressed again, and that was when she went looking for some food.

‘Jesus,’ she called from the kitchen. ‘This is the saddest fridge I’ve ever seen. There’s nothing in here.’

‘Yeah, sorry,’ I yelled back.

‘And … you don’t even have anything stuck to the outside …’

I needed a piss, so I rolled out of bed and into the bathroom.

‘… It’s terrible,’ she was saying through the door. ‘You have all these little silly magnets, but they’re not holding anything up. Did there ever used to be anything?’

Well, fuck. I just wanted her to shut up. I finished pissing, but I didn’t go back out there. I couldn’t. I sat down on the dunny and put my head in my hands. I don’t know how it started, or why, but all of a sudden I was crying. Fucking sobbing actually. For the first time in … in years.

‘Are you okay?’ she asked softly. She’d come right up to the bathroom door. ‘Is it about last night? Don’t be sad, that happens sometimes to every guy, I didn’t mind …’

I wasn’t even really listening to her by then. I was thinking about my fridge. About my sour milk and ancient mayonnaise. And about the empty fridge door. Caitlin had taken all the photos when she left, and for the first time I realised how much I missed them.

Story notes:
  • Writing this story was like birthing a rhinoceros. Anyone who knows me at all well knows that this whole 'nightclubs/booze/random sex' milieu is just not my thing. I got about halfway through the story and found it really difficult to continue, probably because A) I didn't want to reward my narrator's neanderthal-ness by letting him actually pick up a cute German, and B) because I'd always planned that I'd try and win some sympathy for him in the final section, but I personally hate him and his meathead mates so much that I didn't especially want to. That's why (to me, at any rate), the ending where he starts crying and stuff feels really tacked on. I just wanted to end the damn thing.
  • His fridge is modelled on my own. I don't stick shit to the outside of my fridge and, because I only tend to buy food as I need it, there are times when it gets pretty darn empty. Any other similarities between me and him are purely coincidental, I promise.
  • Oh, except I have been known to have Doritos for dinner, on nights when I'm feeling particularly hopeless. (Oh God, I've ... I've revealed too much ... *begins sobbing*) 
  • The issue of my machine-gun approach to profanity raised its head again at the meeting last night. My excuse, of course, is that it's written in the first-person. When I write in the third-person I don't go dropping F-bombs like Slim Pickens. For this guy, though, I'm just trying to keep it real. If anything, I overwrote him: "I'm not a misogynist ..." isn't really a thought I'd consider him capable of having, let alone expressing.
  • I was experimenting with having an unreliable narrator, where what you can read between the lines is just as important as what's actually written. However, given the limits of the short story form, I'd say that's likely to be more successful in a novel, where you've got the room to build the audience's trust in the narrator's voice, then have the revelations of his unreliability come in a more subtle way.
Well, I hope that hasn't ruined anybody's day!

Cheers, JC 

currently reading: The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe
books to go: 116


  1. Good stuff mate - day not ruined at all... though now i have a strange craving for doritos...

    I quite liked your thoughts in regards to what you mentioned at point "a)" and also the "i'm not a misogynist" comment - it's funny cos it's true.

  2. Enjoyed this story a lot.

    Weird real-life tie-in: I actually *was* at the Toff last night! I left before these guys would have got there, though ... and I was there to see music.

    I'm greatly removed from the whole 'nightclubs/booze/random sex' thing as well, but I think maybe I don't actively dislike it as much as you? I think I tend to see people like that as simply existing in a different culture ~ that I don't understand, and that doesn't understand me, but that merits at least a little anthropological equanimity. :P

    The photos (not) on the fridge was a great touch.

  3. Hi John,

    I really enjoyed your story. My fridge has a 'Keep calm and carry on' magnet holding a postcard from Broken Hill on it.