the name

People always said that men got better with age. More dignified, more stately, but he just looked podgy and wrinkled….”


by joel willans


I slammed my wine down on the table. It splashed over my hand and into my salad. The waiter looked over, the couple next door raised their eyebrows. I stared back and then turned to Marcus and whispered, “Don’t fuck me, fuck the ministry.”

He gave me this big eyed butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth look that made me want to slap him. “I’d never fuck you Lilly, not even if you asked nicely. All I’m asking for is a name. A name that you know, a name that will save you a whole lot of hassle.”

I should have gotten up then. Left him to pay the bill, maybe even thrown what was left of my wine in his face, but the left side of my brain took charge as it often does in situations of stress and I filled my mouth with lettuce.

When I finished eating I asked the question that had been lingering like a poor relative at a wake. “And what will you do to the name if I give it to you?”

“You know Lilly, you’ve been in this game long enough. You know what happens to people who make waves. Just because it’s the ministry that trained this name, just because it’s them that sent him into my company.” He banged his chest at this word like some great ape. “Just because it’s them that want to know my business, doesn’t mean this name is any more deserving of sympathy.”

I put my fork down. “You haven’t answered my question.”

Marcus leaned back in his chair, exposing what was close to a belly. Money had fattened him up, made him look piggy and soft. People always said that men got better with age. More dignified, more stately, but he just looked podgy and wrinkled. I counted off the years in my head that I’d been his insider. Almost a decade. God, how times flies. It made me feel tired.

“I’ll deal with the name in whatever way I deem necessary. It won’t be messy. You know me better than that. You know that messy is not my style.” He leant on the table and took my hand, squeezing it a fraction too hard. “And anyway, what choice do you have?”

I looked him in the eye, didn’t flinch from his gaze. Stared at the scar that ran parallel to his nose. Even then I could see why I’d fallen for him. Boyish with an edge, he could have been a fallen angel. One that had fallen right to the deepest, darkest depths.

I pulled his hand off mine, one finger at a time and grabbed my wine glass. Savoring the aroma, I gulped that sweet, ice cold Pinot down in one then licked my lips. “If you really must know,” I said, enjoying the sudden shot of wanton courage. “The name you are looking for Marcus is mine.”

Originally published:
Issue Fifty-One
January 2008


(collage: troy dockins)

British born, Joel Willans works as a copywriter for a Helsinki ad agency. When not thinking up ingenious new slogans, he writes stories. He’s been published in a variety of magazines and four anthologies. This year, he plans to stop being placed, shortlisted, longlisted and not listed in competitions and actually win something.


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