J gets published, sort of.

This is a short story J had published in The Melbourne Times Issue 23, Wednesday, June 18, 2003.  He wrote it under the name Travis Parton – he explains why he used this pseudonym here.

It’s a done deal


“DEAL again?”

I click “no” and close the solitaire program.

I cast my eye around the office in despair. My application for leave has been knocked back because of how “frantic” we are at the moment. I look over at Kate in the beige corral next to me. She appears to be sniffing the anti-static spray that stops her nylon skirt clinging to her nylon stockings.

“In a time of national crisis, you have to ask yourself, Kate: ‘Am I doing everything I can for my country?'”

Kate turns her attention away from solvent abuse and regards me with suspicion. She folds her arms. I think about my hangover, and wonder if my level of drinking will dip below a life-threatening level before I bump 50. Claire sucks a pen noisily in the next cubicle.

I think a thought: I have to get out of here.

I look into my reflection in the mirror. I scan the bottom gaps on the stall doors. No one about. Leaning forward, pitching myself towards the mirror and getting a nasty close-up of my skin under the strip fluorescents (everyone looks like a corpse in office toilets), I draw a deep breath and say: “I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you.”

It doesn’t feel convincing. But I am willing to try anything, dammit. This office is chock full of happy clappy motiva­tional types, festooning the place with posters of whales and kittens hanging off trees. There must be something in it. It might be a bitter pill now, but taste can be acquired. (Not perhaps a good taste. Russell, king of the guru goons, still wore his T-shirts tucked into jeans worn so high they were a choking hazard.)

“I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you.” Forcefully, this time.

“I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you.” Yep, starting to feel it now. “I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you. I love you and I am excited to be on this journey with you.”

I stop. Abruptly. This is the bit in the movie where someone comes in and springs you, I think, looking over my shoulder. Or it turns out that someone was in one of the bloody stalls all along.

I crouched down and peer further under the stall doors. Nope, no feet. But what if someone was standing on the toilet? Holding in their laughter, fit to burst? I think of asking, “Anyone there?” but if they are there, do I want them ‘to know that I know they know? If I can spot them without being noticed, I can waltz out and pretend not to be embar­rassed in front of them next time. But then again, if they don’t know that I know that they know, they might be less likely to tell others. I am still crouching down peering under the stall doors when Chris walks in.

“Don’t tell me,” he deadpans. “You’ve lost a contact lens?”  I titter nervously, smile thinly, leave quickly.

Deal again? If only.


It's a done deal by Travis Parton



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