Steve Danby of Melrose, Wellington takes the runner up prize with Aisle Altar Hymn at the express Short Fiction Writing Contest – awarded at Alternative Binding’s Review Revue event at this year’s Auckland Pride. Steve said: “…as former editor of the long-defunct Pink Triangle magazine, I’d like to really congratulate express for SURVIVING.  I’d like to acknowledge two gay Auckland writers who mean a lot to  me:
lovely David Lyndon Brown who’s funnier than I’ll ever be, and that eccentric old bloke with the goatee who used to have the big vege garden in Esmonde Road…”

Aisle Altar Hymn

It always sucks when the lovely Xeon demands we get together for a coffee. “Getting together for a coffee” means yet another long monologue about Xeon’s lovelife. But Xeon’s a power bottom; resistance is futile. Wearing his usual “Freedom” t-shirt, he arrived an hour late, commandeered the seat facing the mirror, and began laying down the law.


“Eww, you can’t eat that, it’s got KALE in it. No one in Sydney eats kale any more, this place is so homophobic.”

And then he was away: celebrants and pre-nups, flatware and florists. And Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm.

We were in Dorothy’s when Xeon picked Malcolm up. Malcolm was a big buff lout with an army haircut and a Chiefs shirt and he looked totally lost. Catnip to Xeon, who loves a bit of rough. Then some Indian troll started circling for the kill. Well, Xeon’s a purebred Shore girl, no way he’d tolerate that. He modified his Facebook status to “engaged”, and stood up.

“I’m doing an intervention.” Curry-muncher bowled for a duck; within a week, Xeon had taken command at Malcolm’s flat.

Hence, “we should get together for a coffee”, and an hour-long rave about “the one” Just back from touring Afghanistan, Malcolm. Totally reveling in the freedom to finally be himself. Wanting to do yuckies all the time and the calluses on his hands drove Xeon crazy. Crippled with internalized homophobia: no skincare regime whatsoever. But Xeon was slowly sorting him. Only problem was Malcolm’s dog. Not a teacup Chihuahua or a terrier, but a revolting Staffy who ate the new throw cushions. Despite Xeon’s most ruthless tears, Malcolm utterly refused to have the dog put down. Xeon said this was practically a form of rape.

Actually, once he’d been waxed and with his eyebrows shaped and a new wardrobe, Malcolm was quite presentable. But how did Xeon put up with him? Malcolm had no conversation whatsoever. Try him on product; try him on celebrities; salons, gyms, feshunn, cafes, divas, any aspect of gay culture, Malcolm didn’t know and he didn’t care. Gay art was totally wasted on him. Came the lesbian and gay film festival. For the third successive night, the poignant story of a teen boy’s sexual awakening. The usual discreet nudity and implied underage yuckies, but this time in war-torn Andalusia.

Afterwards, Malcolm said “it’s all just softcore kiddie porn, isn’t it.”

Xeon exploded. “It’s art! It has photography! And fat chicks in headscarves! You are so homophobic!” No yuckies for Malcolm for ten days after that.

Poor Malcolm did try. I was secretly doing yuckies with a hot Indian guy, and I nearly got sprung when I bumped into Malcolm at the sauna. Was he finally getting with the programme? Some chance. Xeon had told him that he couldn’t go home until he’d done yuckies with five total strangers, to prove he wasn’t homophobic. I helped Malcolm reach his target and he actually shook hands afterwards and said thanks very much. I never saw him at the sauna again. I started suspecting that Malcolm was a lost cause.

Days later, 2 a.m., Xeon on the doorstep in tears. Malcolm wouldn’t obey his skincare regime. Malcolm actually suggested skipping day three of the Smith and Caughey’s sale to stay home and do yuckies. Malcolm just thought he could do whatever he wanted. Malcolm was a homophobic bitch.

They made up, but the inevitable end came on Malcolm’s birthday. Xeon did an intervention and had Malcolm’s dog put down, and presented him with an adorable bichon puppy. Malcolm just lost it. Nearly punched him and threw him out of the house. When Xeon showed up at 2 a.m., my Indian buddy Sanjay swore that this was the last bloody time he was climbing out my bedroom window; cheers, Xeon! The boy himself was totally incandescent with rage. Got it out of his system, though. Within a fortnight, he’d moved in with an Indian refugee from Fiji. Got Prakash right to the altar, dumped him on the day, and fucked his residency completely. Pure class, and Xeon’s still not nineteen.

And Malcolm? I’m sure he found himself eventually. A year or so later, I’d swear I saw him on the TV when they showed the marching boys in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade. All marching in perfect step in their little gold shorts, and they were gone in a flash; and maybe it wasn’t him at all.

Really, they all looked so much alike, it was impossible to tell.


The winning story will be published tonight at on

 Photo |