Martin Foreman
First and Fiftieth


The Stories
   Kitchen Table
   Night Traffic
   Basement
   Pokhara
   Foucault's Nightmare
   Homophobia, Darling
   Cold Silence
   Los Feliz
   Judy
   Ten Million Years
   The Last Saturday in May
   Angel
   First and Fiftieth
   Ben and Joe's
   Sunset



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Ten Million Years


A man of indeterminate age
opening paragraphs


I have known and loved you for years, for centuries, for millenia. I have known and loved you since before knowledge and love, since before sight, before sound, before touch, before memory. I have known and loved you with every cell that has ever birthed and died in my body. I have known and loved you since you were me and we were one.


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I first remember you as one among many who lazed in the shade of a thousand broad leaves or scampered from tree to tree in search of food, shelter or amusement. You were on the periphery of my vision, as I must have been at the edge of yours, no more than another broad-shouldered young male, posturing aggression or lazing in the sun, slowly and carefully picking nits from his own or another’s hair. To you, I was the same, identifiable only through one unwitting habit or another, scratching a buttock when bored, yelping when a young child tried to steal my food. Unmated, we hovered around the pack, wary of our peers and afraid of our elders, day after day, year after year eating and drinking, excreting, copulating and waiting for a future that neither, none, of us could conceive.

At times we found ourselves confronting each other in anger or in play, and, when we did so, there would be the briefest of moments in which our eyes met and some incomprehensible message flashed between us, a message bearing promise of ineffable knowledge and pleasure, but a message so weak that it died at birth, suffocated by the overwhelming urge to prove ourselves, to strike and to dominate. At other times, in rare moments of silence and tranquillity, we were haunted by desires we could not identify, unrecognisable shadows in a fog of ignorance and inexperience. I would find myself watching you, your shoulders hunched, your eyes darting hither and thither, your hands worrying the thick peel of some fruit, and I would wonder who you were, why I was staring at you and what I wanted from you. And in the eyeblink it took me to leap up and scurry towards you, these thoughts, as vague as they were disturbing, would be swept aside by greed for the food you held and apprehension of the hostility with which you rose to confront me.

Generations lived and died, bodies lengthened and thickened, hair thinned, jaws receded and faces expressed deepening knowledge and emotions. Driven by curiosity, we left the safety and comfort of the known for a world whose brightness both invited and terrified. Infants clinging to mothers, youngsters playing nervously, adults emboldened by each others’ cries, we stepped out into the vast emptiness of the plains. There, despite the protection of petulant parents and grudging cousins, pain and fear multiplied in the terrors that lurked around us, below the horizon, behind the hillock, beneath the water. Many died from the violence of teeth and claws or the surprise of floods and rockfalls; others faltered and fell from no cause that we could discern. When we could, we would stop to stare uncomprehending at their bodies lying still, would wail at their silent, blank faces, would cradle them in our arms, willing our warmth to keep them safe and comfortable until life returned.


Next story: The Last Saturday in May




All Rights Reserved / World Copyright © Martin Foreman 2015




"Sometimes you sit, watch the trains, the sunset, the rain. Sometimes you talk. Tell your story if you've a mind to. Trouble is, memory changes things. Things you want to forget. Things you want to remember that never happened. Happens to everybody. Gets so, nobody's story's true. Not yours, not mine. But it's all we've got."

First and Fiftieth



Background & Comment

The idea seemed to come out of nowhere. The first paragraph wrote itself, then the rest of the story flowed. It is unusual in that it is one of the few pieces that has changed very little from its first draft.

Ten Million Years also appeared in The Mainstream Book of Scottish Gay Writing , ed Joe Mills (2001).



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