Straylord – The Opening Chapter

Here is the opening chapter of my new comedy novel Straylord.

Straylord is about an effeminate guy who meets the girl of his dreams, only to discover that she thinks he’s gay. So he does the only thing he can think of to get close to her – he becomes her gay best friend.Straylord

Straylord – Chapter One

I spent an obscene amount of my first twenty-two years on the planet thinking about her. I can remember as a child, while all the other four-year-old boys thought that girls were icky, smelly creatures, I spent my time pondering when the girl of my dreams would enter my world and what she would look like.

Growing up, I was sensible in my expectations. I knew I would never have a stream of women in my life; I didn’t have the gift of the gab and I was what my parents diplomatically called ‘unconventionally attractive.’ But I always believed that the perfect girl for me was out there somewhere, and I was impatient to meet her.

Aged seventeen, and trapped in a pit of teenage angst dug deep by my excruciating loneliness, I had asked my mother for advice on girls. “It’ll happen when you least expect it,” she had assured me, and from that moment on I always expected it. Sometimes I pretended to forget, just in case that was the way fate worked, but for the most part I lived my life as if my dream girl was waiting around every corner, and I had to be ready, just in case.

Every time I ventured out into the world I went prepared, looking the best I possibly could, in my best clothes, wearing my second-best aftershave. Not my best aftershave, of course, that was far too expensive for everyday use. That was for real special occasions only, like first dates, and it remained unopened in my bathroom cabinet, still in its original packaging.

Then one day I took my eyes off the prize. In all honesty, I had just about given up. Even if my dream girl did exist, she probably lived in some remote part of Iceland or the Ukraine, or maybe she existed in a different moment in time altogether, like in that Sandra Bullock film, The Lake House. That would be just my luck.

I had no room for her in my mind that day, distracted as I was with thoughts of my new fitness class. I was too busy sewing sequins onto my T-shirt, too busy fitting into the incredibly tight, metallic, leopard-print shorts that I had decided were crucial for my look. I was more concerned with last minute touches like adjusting the ridiculous afro wig in the mirrored walls of the dance studio.

Ten minutes into the class, nobody had showed, so I warmed up with some jumping jacks. I soon discovered that tight shorts were not a practical choice for a fitness instructor. I stopped to pick the Lycra out of my butt and that’s when she appeared, precisely when I least expected it.

“Fitball class?”

I jumped and yelped, and this in turn made her jump, too. I pretended I wasn’t fazed, and tried to play it cool. “Yo! Hey, man, welcome to Disco Fitball.” I flashed a peace sign. It was only then that I realized I had no idea what a 1970s disco guy would actually say or do.

I peered over the top of my oversized star-shaped sunglasses as she glided into the studio. She was about my age, enormous brown eyes, a stud in her nose and a whole collection of piercings in one ear.

“Wow, busy night,” she said, motioning to the thirty pink gym balls placed in three neat rows of ten across the studio floor. She was the first and, it turned out, only person to turn up for my class that evening.

My manager, Carl, had asked me to come up with a way to make fitball classes popular again. The gym had spent a lot of money on several dozen gym balls and they took up all the spare room in the storage closet. I chose the theme first, based on the playlist, which was always my favorite part of creating any new class. Then I designed the poster – a disco dude sitting on a gym ball that doubled as a glittering mirrorball. I was real proud of that. A shame, then, that it failed to attract any custom, and that there appeared to have been some kind of mix-up with the emails I sent to all my regulars, and nobody showed.

Except her.

She floated over to a ball in the center of the room, her posture that of a dancer, her figure more rounded, sexy. That’s when it hit me that she could be the one, and I panicked.

I felt the thump, thump of my heart beneath the gold medallion medal hanging on my chest. Sweat dripped down from under my afro wig, which had by now transformed into a hairy oven on my head, cooking my brain.

The problem with living every day expecting to meet my dream woman was that every time a likely candidate emerged, I got terribly nervous and freaked out, thus destroying my chances and sending me back to square one. It hadn’t happened very often for the simple reason that, despite being a very average-looking virgin, I was incredibly picky. I didn’t like girls who were too fat or too thin, I had never cared for blondes or suntans or too much make-up. This significantly narrowed the pool of women I found attractive, and given my complete inability to cope in situations with attractive girls, I had always considered this a very good thing.

The girl in front of me was the most attractive woman I had ever seen.

“Let’s get started, baby,” I said, reaching for the remote. In my head that had sounded much less creepy and wrong.

She imitated my silly voice. “Sure thing, Disco Stu.”

I smiled. She had a sense of humor. I pressed play and the intro to You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Sylvester blasted into the room. I clapped to the beat and she followed.

Act professional, I told myself. She’s just another punter. Just another of the middle-aged women and career moms I deal with day in, day out. She is most definitely not a smoking hot goddess.

I caught my reflection in the mirrored wall, and my confidence level plummeted from low to somewhere south of zero. The unfairness of it all slapped me round the face in that moment. A lifetime of looking my best, and she was busy elsewhere. One evening dressed like a ludicrous buffoon, and here she was, front row center.

“Quick warm up first,” I said, picking up a gym ball with trembling fingers. “Follow me.” It was a standard opening warm up, a step in time with the music, a swing out with the ball. I must have performed it a thousand times. But no matter how hard I tried, I just could not imagine her as a frumpy old woman. She was sexy, she was fun, and she was, I realized, as I felt an overpowering sensation of self-consciousness, watching my every move.

My stomach twisted in knots and my palms were sweaty. I stepped to the side, my timing was out, and I swung the ball in the wrong direction. My coordination had packed up and shipped out. She tried to copy me but I had confused her. This was all going horribly wrong, and I couldn’t see any way back. I swung the ball out the other way, and watched in horrified slow-motion as it flew from my slippery grasp and crashed into a stack of steppers in the corner, sending half of them clattering to the floor.

My heart sank. I dropped my head in shame.

As I looked back up she was still following my lead. She hurled her ball at the steppers, scattering the remainder of the stack. “Strike!” she cried, and screamed with laughter.

What a girl. She dashed over to double high-five me. My palms were so wet I almost wanted to leave her hanging, so I swiftly wiped them down my shorts and gave her some skin.

She continued on an arcing run and booted one of the unattended gym balls into the air, propelling it on a curving trajectory until it ricocheted off the wall and rolled perfectly back onto its spot.

I ran over and kicked a ball against the studio wall. It bounced back and smacked me in the face.

I turned in time to see her belt one of the balls hard against its neighbor, creating a domino effect of balls hitting each other, on down the line. I joined in and together we swung at the balls until they were all in motion. We lobbed them randomly, sending them sailing across the studio and spinning off the walls, the springy smack of thirty gym balls reverberating around the small space.

It was a cacophony of chaos, the greatest warm up I had ever done. And I was in love.

© Nathan Bamford 2013

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Straylord – A Comedy Novel

My new novel Straylord is now available in both paperback and eBook formats from Amazon.

Straylord_FINAL_225x300Eldon, a naturally effeminate guy, meets Lorna, the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, Lorna thinks he bats for the other team. Not only that, she’s way out of his league. And she has a boyfriend.

So Eldon settles for being her gay best friend, and resolves to keep his hetero self in the closet. But he struggles to hide his feelings from her, all the while dealing with Lorna’s attempts to find him a man. Then he discovers that her boyfriend is a figure from his past who knows the awful truth about him…