Marianne Moore may have wanted imaginary gardens with real toads in them, but what’s even better is imaginary friends who earn you real money. “Julian’s Yearbook”, a chapter from one of my two novels-in-progress, has won first prize of 2,500 pounds in the Chapter One Promotions International Short Story Competition. In this episode, Julian grapples with first love and homophobia at his Southern high school, while taking steps to launch his career as a fashion photographer. Here’s the beginning:
Desire smells like acid in the dark. Its face is a hundred faces, rising out of the stop bath, materializing on grey paper like ghosts. Your ghosts and mine; you knew them too. The football heroes joshing in a group shot, a chorus line of manly awkwardness. There’s the clown, the golden boy, the dull and violent sidekick. You’ve got to remember that snub-nosed blonde with too much school spirit, whose mascara you almost forgot to clean off the backseat of your daddy’s car. Memory kisses her lips back to pink, repaints these black-and-white yearbook photos in the streaked denim and poison green we wore when Reagan had his finger on the big red button.
Everything’s digital now. Hollywood no longer needs a thousand sweating extras to watch a gladiator die. It’s amazing that clients still fly me to Milan or Los Angeles to photograph an actual shoe on someone’s foot. I’m a Southern boy so perhaps I romanticize inefficiency. But I miss the days when you put something more than your eyesight at risk for a picture. I wonder how many of us went mad as hatters from the darkness, the fumes, acid seeping under our rubber gloves, the tension of this hurried intimacy with a masterpiece we had only one chance to perfect or spoil.
The story will be published in Chapter One Promotions’ 2008 anthology, which you can order here.