My Name is Ian Z. McPhee


TASWG assignment: Write two short stories beginning with the following words. Give one a positive ending and the other a negative one.

‘It was incredible and completely unexpected; the sensations as our fingers touched was electric; my heart skipped a beat and I momentarily forgot to breathe.’

(This, negative ending.)

(627 words) [original publication date April 10th 2016]

It was incredible and completely unexpected; the sensations as our fingers touched was electric; my heart skipped a beat and I momentarily forgot to breathe. Her fingers intertwined with mine and she twitched her lips in that funny way she used to, before kissing me tenderly. I gazed into her dark round eyes and knew it was love – deep, sacred love.
We’d been together for six weeks now, not long, but long enough for me to start to get to know her personality: playful yet pensive, jubilant but shy, magnanimous yet fickle. It was wonderful to have a partner again, after having only male company for the best part of a year, and her silky hair and long limbs drew admiring glances from my friends and colleagues.
I’d scarcely known her before she moved in with me. She appeared out of nowhere one day with just a bagful of possessions: a mirror, toiletries and the like. She was so beautiful though, that I couldn’t turn her away. I’ll always remember that she had a bunch of bananas, which we’d laughed about as it’s my favourite fruit.
I didn’t have a job then so we would spend a lot of time together, sometimes kissing and cuddling like all young lovers, but on other occasions watching the television or simply looking out of the window, watching the world go by. On other occasions, we passed time in quiet, solitary meditation, which we were both schooled in.
I suppose, looking back, that our life together was rather haphazard, existing day to day, making no plans for the future.
I only saw her angry once. A small boy in a red pullover and jeans stood banging at our window, for no apparent reason as far as I could see. His mother stood nearby with younger siblings, paying scant attention. “Stop it Henry!” she would shout from time to time. There was no sign of a father. My beloved went to the window and pounded on it, matching the boy fist for fist. That seemed to enrage him and he started banging harder and faster. She did likewise, emitting a strange animal-like sound, when suddenly the mother pulled him away and cuffed him hard around the ears. Instantly my love became calm and her normal self again, taking an apple from a bowl and smiling at me sheepishly.
Then, one sad, sad day, our relationship ended. A man in a green uniform with a peaked cap and shiny buttons entered our living area, uninvited. I recognised him as a fruit delivery man so held my tongue.
“Sorry Fred,” he said, although that wasn’t actually my name, “Bella’s got to get on a plane, she’s off to Berlin.” That wasn’t actually her name either. Then other men came in, with a cage on wheels. I protested strongly and loudly. You can’t put her in there! I saw her being given an injection. “Just something to calm her down Fred, nothing to worry about.” The cage door was opened and they manhandled her in.
“Let him say goodbye, bless him,” one of the men said. I went to the cage and looked into her dark round sleepy eyes. I put my hands through the bars and our fingers interlaced for the last time. “Goodbye,” I whispered in our own secret language.
They wheeled her out and I never saw her again. I had no photos, just memories of her to keep. Simple memories – eating fruit together, climbing on a big frame outside and swinging on ropes, watching the crowds watching us, searching each other’s coats for fleas…
I didn’t know if or when I’d have another mate but in the meantime I decided to eat a banana.

Featured in the book and audiobook, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories

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19 thoughts on “My Name is Ian Z. McPhee

  1. Your writing is brilliant, this was lovely to read! My favourite kinds of short stories have a little twist at the end like this one, and reading through it a second time it was great to see the little subtle hints all through. Loved it!

    1. Thank you so much! Actually this is one of my ‘faves’. I sat down to write an assignment for a writing group with no idea what I was going to write and the story just kind of wrote itself!

            1. Hi, well I didn’t think it particularly silly, I thought it was witty and really funny in places! I’ve printed it out for future reference and recommend all readers here to check it out!

  2. Going into this seemingly simple romance prompt knowing that the ending would be negative gave me a sense of preparation for the unexpected… but as I sat here, reading, eating a banana… that twist really hit home. The second read-through is even better, picking out the subtle hints like an ape picking the fleas from his lover’s coat.

  3. I chuckled not quite at the end of this story, but close enough. I didn’t realize I would feel surprised that you were actually writing about two primates. Interestingly enough, I’ve had the occasion to share psychic space with several primates recently. Once upon a time, I actually owned two. I wonder what it means. Sitting here in “ponder mode” chomping on fruit of my own. [Found you at the pool; can’t seem to leave any comments there]. Your blog has got potential. Would recommend categorizing your blog posts. Highest and Best!

    1. Hello ‘Sparkyjen’, thanks so much for your feedback! How amazing that you actually owned two primates (apes?) of your own!
      My story kind of wrote itself, I didn’t have any plan for it at all but the first paragraph was a prompt in a writing group (TASWG – see the menu bar). Hope you worked out the title BTW!
      You should be able to leave comments on the pool, not sure why there’d be a problem, but here is maybe better!
      Not sure what you mean, ‘highest’ and ‘best’ unless you mean ‘most liked/viewed’ etc. I’m not really sure which stories are, as the blog is only three weeks old, but maybe I’ll incorporate that in time. Thanks again!

        1. Oh sorry, I misunderstood that bit. The stories are already categorized, that’s what threw me, but I see what you mean now. This was a one-off, a copy of one that is already under the TASWG category. That’s why I didn’t give it a category, so as not to have two copies of the same story under that heading. There it is given with the assignment and the prompt. You can also select that version from the story index in the menu.

          I posted it on facebook yesterday as it’s one of my favourites but with no response! So I just decided to repost it on WordPress on the spur of the moment with a much better result!

          My very best wishes to you too!

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