Despairing about Brexit? Homework ate your dog? Liven up your morning with a funny scene from my novel Mervyn vs. Dennis:
When I was fourteen, I came out to my dad as a joke. I was testing his love, I suppose, to see his reaction, whether he’d hug me or throw me out. He did neither, in fact. Life is rarely dramatic. One evening after dinner, he was sitting in the kitchen with his biscuits and his paper. The Daily Mail and custard creams: middle-market bigotry and hydrogenated fats. I sat opposite him and pretended to fidget. Without looking up, he dunked a biscuit in his tea, engrossed by an article.
Still reading, he reached out, offering the soggy custard cream.
“Dad, I’m gay.”
He finally looked up, biscuit still extended. “As in happy?”
I sighed. “As in gay. As in I don’t like girls. I always have been gay, I always will be gay. I hope you don’t mind.”
The biscuit fell in half and splatted on the table. “I knew it.”
“Is this why you’re so mad about Schwarzenegger? I thought you were into explosions, not muscles.” He leaned to whisper. “They do it up the bum, you know.”
My mum wandered in, wrapped in her nightie.
“Mervyn’s a bender,” he said.
She frowned. “Like Uri Geller?”
“Not spoons, you bint. He just told me he’s a fudge packer.”
“Oh.” She grabbed some kitchen roll and cleaned up the biscuit. “Is that why he’s so into baking?”
“That’s all you’ve got to say?”
“Well Freddie Mercury was a poofter, and you’ve got all his albums. That’s why I call you Mr Fahrenheit.” She put her hand on my shoulder. “Are you sure about this, Mervyn?” She leaned to whisper. “They do it up the bum, you know.”
“Enough with the bums.”
“Maybe it’s a phase. Have you found a boyfriend? Don’t date a Frenchman, whatever you do.”
“Well if you have,” Dad said, “don’t bring him here. There’ll be no bumming in my house.”
Mum went bright red. “No. Absolutely not.”
“Do you really call him Mr Fahrenheit?” I asked.
My younger brother Cecil strode in. “What’s going on?”
I put my head in my hands. “I’m gay.”
He burst out laughing. “You wish.”
Dad over-dunked a biscuit and it plopped into his tea. “For crying out loud.”
“He’s only saying that because he can’t get a girlfriend.” Ever precocious, my twelve year old brother had already dated half the girls in his class. “Go look at the jazz mags under his bed. There’s not a single todger in them.”
“He’s right,” Dad said. “They’re filthy.”
“I thought I threw those out,” Mum said.
I slammed my fist on the table. “What are you all doing looking under my bed?”
“Does this mean you’re not gay?” Mum said. “I was just warming to the idea.”
“I’m gay,” I said. “I like baking muffins and watching Terminator 2.”
“Nobody’s gay,” Dad said. “I’ve decided. There’s enough going round as it is.”
And that was the day I was forced to come out, by my own family, as a heterosexual.
(Mervyn vs. Dennis is available to buy on Amazon for only £1.99)