October Short Story: GoldenBalls

This story was first published in 31 parts via Twitter during October. It is now reproduced now in a complete form, with a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


GoldenBalls

‘…and that’s the News. Now over to Mandy at the Sports Desk…’

‘Thank you Ellie. Let’s waste no more time and go directly to the Barnsley International Stadium, as the warm up for one of the most hotly anticipated events of the year begins. Can you hear me, Alice Richardson?’

‘Hardly, Mandy, the noise here is unbelievable, that’s no doubt in response to the presence of a local hero inside this stadium. We may not be able to see him yet but his team’s bus arrived just under an hour ago. Owen Chandler’s rightful moment in the sun has finally arrived…’


In the bowels of a building that’s hosted a World Cup and two World Championships, a small, dark room is reassuringly bereft of humanity. Owen sits alone on a hard wooden bench, contemplating next three hours of his life. If all goes to plan? Everything he is will change, forever. He has five minutes before his trainer will arrive, then they will walk to the Preparation Area. A stylist, two make-up artists, costumer plus a twenty-five piece Brass Band have waited for this moment since a now notorious sudden death play-off was won at Newcastle last month.

This event has been anticipated for close to a decade. Hundreds of hours of training, thousands of days where underlying motivation was to arrive here fully prepared. The reality is humbling yet exciting. Owen is ready to win, knows that he can… path to true redemption complete. Looking down to his crotch, it is hard to suppress a grin, which quickly develops into a laugh. Some men might be embarrassed by a genetic quirk, seek surgery to alter their appearance. Not Chandler. After twenty eight years, his enormous balls are finally nothing to joke about.

‘I’m glad you think this is funny.’

His mum stands, dressed in a three piece suit that makes the woman look younger than her years. She’d raised him, taught vital lessons about ignoring bullies, that it was okay being different.

Meg had raised skills to the level of artistry.

As lone parent and now a rookie manager, this was the woman who knew more about bollocks than anyone else: a particular skill in understanding and effectively exploiting the weaknesses of opponents had turned her son, the humble lad from Barnsley, into an international superstar. They walk into the Preparation Area to enthusiastic applause: best mate Sasha is here, with boyfriend and their son, plus Owen’s two younger sisters. Everybody is ready to help out, making sure the evening is as relaxed as possible. Not one person stares or laughs at his crotch.

This ritual had been conducted by his ancestors, by millions of men across the planet for thousands of years. It remained particular rite of passage in over a dozen developing countries, one of whom would be providing his opposition upstairs. It was a dream job, finally accepted. Owen will become the sun, metaphorical representation of that divine light from above that warms the Earth and keeps our planet fruitful and bounteous. His job will be to endure increasing pain and suffering, showing an ability to remain strong, unwavering as a proper concubine.

His balls will be weighed down, increasingly over time, until the pressure is too much and he passes out. The more that is held, greater will be the strength in his seed, an indication to any potential surrogate his sperm will produce a strong and suitable heir for their family. This process was begun nearly ten thousand years ago in Ancient Greece and has remained the number one watched spectator sport ever since. It is the first time a British concubine has reached the final for nearly sixty years, virtually unopposed in competition until semi finals.

That fateful evening had seen the defending European record holder stretchered out of the arena after losing consciousness in sudden death overtime. Both men had endured the same massive weight, but only Owen had managed to stand up and sit down with it attached to his scrotum. A community was divided over whether the whole event should have been declared null and void, with a rematch scheduled, but the World governing body intervened. As last man conscious and standing, Chandler had won, despite competitor’s inability to lift a crucial final weight.

Body paint is complete, on which make-up artists have overlaid the signature, rampant blue dragon holding a trident. The noise of 60,000 strong crowd outside is now too seductive to ignore: they’re chanting his name, over and over, partisan support to intimidate Greek opposition.

This is his moment: all that remains is to win, and well.


‘… yes, I can see Meg Chandler emerging from the Home Team dressing room now, looking immaculate as always and that means that our local hero cannot be far behind. It’s time for Owen to shine as he never has before.’

‘Indeed, and with that it’s time for us to begin coverage of the Concubine World Final. Your summariser is professional Concubine and European Weightlifting champion from 1986 until 1998 Costa Perkov with your commentary lead Paula Anchor, but first up here’s Alice Richardson.’

‘Thank you Mandy. Tonight’s a watershed for legions of semi-professional courtesans who have spent decades in the shadows, reviled and often attacked for the career they’ve chosen to pursue. Tonight, they are given a true hero, inspiration to look up to and emulate going forward. Owen Chandler’s ten years as a welder, into construction straight from school, belied the immense talent hidden beneath his working clothes. Thanks to his mother’s love, persistence, care and sheer determination, he’s become the living epitome of a rags to riches success story.

Tonight he faces Ivan Kerchenko, a man who has wanted for nothing in his entire career, having spent nearly three decades being trained and prepared for this very occasion. His father Yuri remains one of the most significant concubines of the late 20th Century, a true champion. It is estimated that nearly one hundred million people worldwide will be tuning into tonight’s contest which includes millions of ordinary Brits, holding their own special ‘GoldenBalls’ celebrations. We’ve never had a World champion since this contest was relaunched back in 1825.

That noise you can now hear means only one thing: Owen Chandler’s entered the stadium, flanked by his team of medical professionals and stylists… and there’s his family too, all wearing their distinctive blue outfits. Time for talking is over… now we will see who’s strongest.’


When historians looked back on the events of October 23rd, 2018, they did so with an ability to separate facts from fiction. They stared at the official televised footage with disbelief, and then satisfaction that the true winner that evening was fair play and humanity. All those who lost bets on Chandler’s success might feel aggrieved. The fact his competitor’s life was saved using first aid techniques learnt whilst training as a welding apprentice, that CPR was part of a vast arsenal of secondary skills, should really teach an important lesson.

The concubine World Governing Body, the IIA, would eventually declare their bout a tie, marking the last time any man was forced to exhibit their genital strength in public. After thousands of fatalities in the name of virility, finally, rules were changed for the good of all. This event forced a complete redefinition of all the competition structures, moving away from thousands of years worth of sensationalism. Overt trials of strength and prowess were removed; replaced with a more cerebral focus, considering concubines in a completely new light.

This was in response to the revelations that Kerchenko’s heart attack was caused by historical abuse of anabolic steroids. The IIA have, as of January 2020, banned nearly six thousand concubines from any participation in contests or from donating as sires, as testing continues. Owen Chandler does not regret his actions that night. In every interview a determined assertion remains that not being a champion is irrelevant when placed next to saving a man who’d inspired him to personal glory. Kerchenko had been a long time hero right up to his final demise.

As a new decade begins for the IIA, the taint of drugs cheats refuses to go away. More and more women are turning away from the traditional methods of concubine insemination, preferring instead to risk natural conception, despite the many issues such practices ultimately present. It is no surprise therefore that today, Owen Chandler announced his retirement from all forms of participation, before coming out as bisexual and announcing his engagement to personal stylist and long-term companion Malcolm Fisher. His days as a sire and courtesan are now over.


The Final Countdown

I’ve submitted my selection for the National Poetry Competition. Of course, there had to be a mistake:

This, unfortunately, is a consequence of my ASD brain, plus a last minute word change that was missed via spell checker. This stuff happens all the time, and would undoubtedly not hamstring me if the rest of the content works. However, I have no idea if you get that kind of attention in these contests. In fact, as this is only the second time the thing’s been entered for, we’ve reached a significant milestone. This time last year was when the whole desire to write in this form properly manifested.

It’s been a hugely transformative process ever since.

enlightenment

There is now a significant range of work and styles in the collection. Starting next month I’ll be upping the contest entry count even further, because that’s the kind of challenge that is now required. Once I have rejections for various pieces of work they can be considered for my own chapbook, which is the next stage of this process. That can then be sold to recoup the cash spent on contests this year, whilst being forwarded to publishers in the hope I might catch someone’s eye.

grace

It also provides an opportunity to continue my graphical adventures. Designing the weekly layouts to accompany poems has become nearly as enjoyable as the writing process, because it has become further means by which my competence can be measured. It also provides inspirations for projects such as Symphony, which will debut on the Twitter feed starting Thursday.

I really don’t expect to win a major contest any time soon, but that doesn’t stop me wanting to keep trying. In fact, I have another submission to work on tomorrow in-between getting other stuff scheduled for November. Eventually, I might get lucky.

Until then, it is all about doing the best I can.

Occupy Your Mind

Next Thursday is Time to Change Day where, for 24 hours, I can happily remind people that having a mental health issue is no longer the stigma it once was. There are days when I feel this isn’t the case, however, especially on Social media: that advocating tolerance and understanding is sometimes a tough ask. When the rest of the World has grown up not worrying about thinking before it speaks, or understanding why some people feel differently, every single interaction can be a trial. Except… this week, something has happened. Perhaps it is my perception that has altered or just the fact I’m now more aware of what can happen if people don’t think before they affect others’ lives.

Now I have the confidence to stand up and say stuff needs to stop.

The Way Forward

I’m already seeing the effects of this in planning content. I’m beginning to grasp the confidence in the Gym to deal with the unexpected (like faceplanting into the floor when my arms gave out on a push-up and not dying of anxiety or embarrassment.) I’ll still have moments but talking about mental health has benefits far and away from your actual condition. That empowerment of your self-belief might look and sound like technobabble bollocks, but it really isn’t. Getting your shit sorted is not hard, though sometimes it will feel that way.

If you can find the right support network, things get a helluva lot easier.

It is not just a case of standing up for what you are and believe, however. Learning from others is a vital part of the process. It doesn’t have to be formal instruction either: the benefits of simply hanging out with like-minded individuals, watching at a distance and crucially saying nothing at all can all reap benefits for the open-minded. Change is not simply the process of alteration, but adaptation and acceptance. All of these things work together if you are prepared to put in the effort. I am in the most exciting place I have ever existed in terms of creativity, too. Today, I’ve made some significant changes to the two major fiction pieces I’m re-writing, alterations I’d not have been capable of making a year ago.

Knowing when to say No, and being prepared to change are opening creative avenues I did not think would be possible, and it is beyond brilliant.

Blogging For Noobs :: Think

You have a ton of posts all ready to go after the last portion of our Guide, and now you want to publish them all in one hit. This is where I put up the single finger in a kind yet firm manner and say NO, do not do this with your work. The temptation in the early blush of creativity is to share everything immediately. This is perfectly normal and I see it happen all the time: the problem then comes a month later when you’re struggling for stuff to fill your space and creativity appears to have evaporated. That’s why this time around, I’m going to ask you to wait, and start planning ahead. Remember that blank calender I left you with last time? Here’s where the fun of Learning to Organise begins.

schedulea.jpg

I’m going to be rebranding this site next month as the Internet of Words (for those of you paying attention) and that means that I need to do a couple of things before that happens. Once I’ve followed my own previous step and worked out what will qualify as content, I’ll need a week to make sure that I have graphics for everything made and ready, and there are spaces in the web design to accommodate what I’m doing. That’s the 14th to the 19th for me, which is my Pre-Planning and ‘Back End’ phase. In that time I can also write posts in anticipation of my launch (June 1st) but not publish them until I know my redesign is working properly. In your case, it could just be getting yourself comfortable with blogging to begin with, and you have a week of playing with layout and posting until you’re comfortable with both.

typinghanks

I’ve then scheduled a Testing Week, which will basically act as my migration period for all the old content, deleting the stuff I don’t want to keep, and getting everything ready to roll. As you can see, after my launch date I’ve got a load of +1 and +2’s marked: the latter indicate days when I’ll introduce a facet of the site, the others marking down that for the first month, I want to generate a post a day. To do that will require me to organise in advance, to have ideas ready to roll, and once I obtain that early impetus it will be important to ensure I have a plan. That’s why I’m writing on Post It notes, scribbling in a notebook wherever possible, and keeping track of things I think are important or interesting going forward. It is why this weekend will be devoted to thrashing out many of those scribbled notes into fully-formed topics to form part of my site.

planttotheface

The key, of course, is to have a lot of content to go, but there are days when I undoubtedly do my best work from a cold start. Today was a case in point: I didn’t expect to create a logo or start a Twitter account for the redesign but both of those happened. I’d simply planned to day to explore the possibilities of both, but you’ll learn in time how inspiration strikes, and when to make the most of it. This is where organisation truly becomes invaluable, because in those creative-rich days, if you can get words down they can be kept and scheduled for days when you’re out of ideas. It also means you are never totally beholden to your site either, and can take holidays or time off without it appearing you lost interest in the project.

punch1

You will find, as time goes on, that if you set aside a set time each day to write, this will also aid enormously with productivity and creativity. For me, I do my best work on non-fiction before lunchtime, whilst fiction always works better in the evening. That means I’ll be able to balance my time effectively around other stuff and still aim for a set result at the end of each week. You may wish to plan ahead on a spreadsheet programme, and there are plenty of time management tools/apps that can help you out, but for me I am at my best with a Moleskine Diary, pen, pencil and ruler. In fact I’d be utterly lost without them now. My planning for the week is either done Sunday night or Monday morning, and this dictates the entire workflow for the next seven days. Find the system that works for you, and don’t be afraid to mix and match until you’re comfortable with the result.

intothedoor.gif

The biggest trick however is not to panic when you’re out of ideas. That’s why you have a notebook, its why you plan in advance… and its where Social media can save the day. Current events, personal interests, what other people are talking about, the latest complaint/beef in your friends circle… all of these are potential topics to start a blog post. For me, I have a ton of projects in various states of completion to consider, a vast array of topics on the Internet of Words that all have a potential place in my planning: but the trick is not to obsess too much about all the possibilities. I’ll be picking a couple of the best ideas to work with at the start, and we’ll go from there. Once the framework is established and has run for a while, I can look at analytics to see where the interest lies, and work from there.

Organisation really is everything if you want a professional looking site. It also doesn’t all have to happen straight away. Just because I’ll be doing a post a day means it will stay that way. We’ll see how things work, and the trick in these early stages is to listen to other people very carefully. Many will give you feedback, and if it isn’t great, you’ll need to be ready to act accordingly. Next time, we’ll talk about how you keep people interested whilst they read, because that will matter long term just as much as your content.

GSME #4 :: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

This experiment is now a month old, and if you measure success by growth… well, we’re still getting there.

thisweek_march20
What ought to be mentioned at this point is that I’m spending less time on Twitter than I have at any point in probably the last year, especially at weekends. I’m conscious of filling feeds with pointless ranting (which did happen a lot before, it must be said) and as I’ve focussed on quality over quantity, the numbers have dropped. However, undoubtedly this was one of my best weeks of social media for quite some time, because I have learnt all about how devoted my current audience remains, and that there is a willingness to support me as I move my personal endeavours forward. Here, if I needed it, is the assertion that numbers are not what matters in your social media feed, but commitment.

gladiator

The biggest single reason why people press unfollow for me is posting frequency: it is a delicate balancing act to maintain, after all. How much is too much promotion? Of course you want to engage with an audience but there can easily come a point where they get sick of the sound of you, if yours is the only content they’ll see: this is especially true of those who actively curate and don’t necessarily engage actively, but will take an interest if a subject matter stimulates sufficiently. Blogging gives a chance for people to read at their speed and in their own time: tweeting is pretty much about immediacy and quick impact. Getting the two medium to mesh is not impossible, however, as I have discovered this week to my surprise and pleasure.

This was the week I discovered that a graphic can do more for my front facing interests than any number of ranty Tweets will alone. What I should have done here, and will do going forward, is add the Warcraft site’s URL to the Tweet for maximum exposure. I’ll be looking at this as a means to build an audience going forward, but there are other ways to increase exposure. I’ve taken a rather unprecedented step and, for a month I’ll be paying $19.99 to see if I can use somebody else’s software to increase my audience. In the interests of full transparency it makes sense to do this because, as a writer, my subject matter only gets a small showing across the current base of readership I have. If this helps in any way stick me outside of the niche I currently inhabit? Then it is worth the effort. I could have stuck with a free account, but I am reliably informed that now I have a 500,ooo ‘reach’ for my work. It’s all part of the Experiment, after all, so we’ll see how this works going forward.

randomwandexciting.gif

That means I’ll be shifting the personal blog posts off for promotion, plus the weekly Blog Guides, and seeing where that gets me. If there’s any improvement (or otherwise) in my reach, it should show in the next week’s figures.

I look forward to seeing if paying for aggregation is worth my while as a niche content producer.

The Best Kept Secret

These are the dark days for a Depressive’s soul, the long, grey bleh that extends and contracts around freezing temperatures and half-hearted attempts to snow. In the midst of all this, I had a fight with my son, and in one of those moments of stupidity that often happen when you’re a parent, I said with 100% confidence ‘If you do this, I will never get angry ever again.‘ He laughed at me, and suddenly I realised that this is all I’ve been since June, at least when it comes to the moments I’m down and the world exposes my frailties. For all that encouragement and positivism that I spout elsewhere, I am still unbelievably angry at so many things.

Now in the darkness of Winter days where there’s nothing but the next grey morning to look forward to, that’s beginning to interfere with my ability to adequately function as a human being, and I need to find a way to fix it. The question now becomes how I do this and find a way to write creatively again, because I’ve been trying for weeks and nothing has happened. Yeah, I can produce words on a daily basis as the need arises, but my imagination seems to be broken. There’s not even anything forthcoming on the Treadmill either, instead I’m listening to old playlists and happy to lose myself in narratives past.

I know what I need to do, I just can’t find a way to make it happen.

dontevencare.gif

The thing is, of course, I say I don’t care but I do now more than I have at any point in the past. I don’t want to disconnect with this new reality either, I have to know what’s going on around me as a matter of some significance, to understand what the World actually means now rather than losing myself inside largely irrelevant ‘alternate’ realities. Plus I get really very cross at people who don’t seem to grasp how the Planet is potentially going to shit because they’re still largely obsessed with their own petty battles or bugbears. Somewhere, I am now grasping, a quantum shift took place in my psyche. I’ve not felt this depressed for quite some time, and amazingly it’s nothing to do with all the pointless, irrelevant issues that previously caused me to become unhappy.

This is the stuff that I can do nothing about and which is out of my hands: global warming, injustice, racial intolerance and general mindless stupidity. Of course, I can in my own way try and fight all these things, and I am making significant inroads into changing the world around me. I’m also becoming incredibly good at stopping other people’s attempts to mislabel me, or try and draw me into arguments I never started. I am developing communication skills that I never had a year ago, and I am very pleased at my ability now to simply shake my head, get up and walk away from a screen and not come back until I know I can be an adult. However, when the environment turns against me as it did yesterday and I have nowhere else to go?

Today made me realise there is an awful lot of work still needing to be done.

nobodycares4.gif

The key, it now appears to me, is prioritising the significance of what I can change and what needs to be ignored in my Brain. It also involves eliminating a number of sources of stress from the equation and, I suspect, prioritisation of what is important on a day to day basis. I’m getting very good at scheduling, and this needs to be expanded with the short form tasks, and maybe I can go so far as starting to write stuff for the next day the night before. Honestly, it doesn’t matter when a lot of my daily output gets written, just that I keep myself at at pace that means the process of writing is having a positive effect. Then I need to schedule time to write fiction and make it happen, even if I am writing crap. That’s the plan starting on Monday, the hope being this will kick start the way forward.

It also occurs to me that I could do some investigation over why everything is making me so cross, and that this in turn might help me identify means by which I can start enjoying myself again. I hear the Internet is an excellent place to do such research. That’s tonight’s bedtime reading, and before then I’m going to attempt to lose myself in online gaming and making little pixels do stuff that I may not totally enjoy right now, but which certainly counts as relaxation. For the first time in many years, it’s not the gaming that causes the stresses, but everything that isn’t. That’s another realisation that just pushes me to go fix the problem before the grey malaise takes over everything and I end up going backwards with food and exercise. There were hints of this today, and I can’t let it happen.

I’ve come too far now to be poleaxed by my own psyche.