Saturday 1 June 2024

Satuday Sample: Spectrum by Christopher Bowles, cold tea


My father passed away just over a day before his seventieth birthday. As children, my brother and I used to refer to him as a ‘Jesus Baby’, because he happened to be born on Christmas Day; and although it didn’t come as any great shock, his death was understandably still a blow. Mostly because I felt like I had never had the opportunity to show him who I really was, and what I was really made of. We weren’t estranged, but we weren’t as close as I would have liked; and as a result, I kept various details of my personal life secret from him, so as not to rock the boat. Although my mother and brother would argue to the contrary, I never really felt that he knew me all that well. 

When I collected his possessions from the hospital, amongst them were copies of the two anthologies I had previously been published in. I know he had read the first, (‘Siren’ from Snowflakes) and had discussed with me afterwards how surprised he was that I was able to inhabit a voice so different from my own. Had he not seen my name attached to the story of a middle-aged housewife he would never have guessed. I never found out whether he read the second – a perhaps ill timed story about the angel of death reaping souls (‘The Sabbath’ from Baubles) printed only a month before he died. 

But when I spoke to his friends who had seen him on his sickbed, they all said how proud he was that I had something in print. That I had followed my childhood dreams of becoming a writer. That I had a theatre company and was flourishing as a playwright. The fact this collection will be published after his death only makes me feel resentment for not trying harder, sooner. My big break comes six months too late, and he will never really know what I was capable of. 

But this isn’t a sob story. This is a way of telling you, the reader who has been thoughtful and curious enough to pick up this book, what this work means to me. When asked by my friends and new acquaintances, ‘what is it about?’ I often referred to SPECTRUM as ‘an odyssey dealing with grief and sodomy.’ Because simply put, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a collection of stories that represent my life as a queer man; as ‘the other.’ An unflinching look at subjects that I, as part of the LGBT community, see every day. It’s the act of two men holding hands. It’s having anal sex in toilet cubicles; or the
moment you might realise your true gender is not the one you were assigned at birth. It’s a magnifying glass over the continually casual misogyny women experience on a daily basis. 

And yet it’s also something I wrote in the gradual prelude to my father’s death, and over the course of his funereal arrangements, and in the immediate grieving aftermath. This book represents my personal journey at the worst time of my life. This book is my biggest achievement superimposed over my biggest failure. 

This isn’t just a book. This isn’t just the musings of a thirty-something-year-old gay man and his rampant imagination. 

This is proof. A legacy. 

It’s a confirmation that if I try and put my mind to it, I most certainly have the talent and drive to achieve something. I can create something of worth, I have something to be proud of. Something my father could get behind, even if he didn’t understand my lifestyle. 

So thank you, dear reader. You’re about to embark upon a collection of one hundred 9 and ten pieces of flash-fiction and poetry. You probably won’t like all of them, and some of them might even disgust you, or make you uncomfortable. But I urge you to stick with it. I urge you to look at overarching themes within each coloured block. Find the puns in certain titles. Research the colours that you’ve never heard of. Try and work out which stories are complete fabrications, which ones contain nuggets of truth, and which ones are my versions of real life events. 

But most of all, I urge you to share my journey. It’s been difficult, and testing and raw; and if I’m perfectly honest, it isn’t over. I’m still grieving, still in the midst of experiencing a whole year of ‘firsts’ without Dad. But writing about it helps. And if you should find solace in one or two of these stories; if you can pull guiding lights from these shadows, then I can rest easy knowing that I have done my job well. 

This is SPECTRUM. This is the beginning, the end, and every shade in between. This is a tribute for Roy Christopher Bowles; a wonderful father, a great teacher, and a pillar of support. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model. 

Thank you for everything. 

10 00. BLACK: 

Strapped down firmly in my chair, I feel like a prisoner. Layers upon layers of hi-tech fabric simply felt like a fancy straight-jacket. I couldn’t even look out of the window; and this tiny detail had completely shattered my fragile nerves. I tried counting back from a hundred whilst the checks were being carried out. It didn’t work. 

I remembered all the times I ever kissed a boy. I remembered all the times I’d ever stayed up watching movies with my mum. I remembered the faces of all the people I ever passed in the street. My neighbour who somehow ended up with all my post. My gynaecologist with the hard face. 

The fuselage began to shake. When this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious— 


The tremors became more violent. A countdown started. And I imagined all the boys I never had the chance to kiss. The men I never quite had the nerve to talk to. The ones who got away. The husband I never married in the dress I never wore. 

The movies I’d never managed to see with Mum. The classics. 

The faces of the people I never got to meet. 


imagined all the tiny humans I was leaving behind. And all the stories they had. 

I imagined all the lives on the planet below.

Find you copy here 

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