‘Gossamer’ by David Gaffney

What, more flash fiction? Not quite. I’m being a bit perverse here. I could have chosen almost any story from Gaffney’s Sawn-Off Tales collection, because every one is a gem, especially the barber story, ‘Last to Know’. Also, I think it was the first time I’d ever come across flash in the flesh, so to speak, setting aside the single, paleolithic example in that Graham Greene collection (‘Proof Positive’ is a thousand words long at most).

‘Gossamer’ is actually a full-length story and I like the way it allows Gaffney to stretch out a bit. It’s the story of beta male Damien, a legal consultant, who puts on a disguise to work a second shift in the evening as ‘Kev’, a cleaner at the same firm, in order to spy on his colleague Emma, who he secretly fancies. Inevitably, ‘Kev’ finds out some uncomfortable truths about what Emma really thinks of Damien and he is forced to re-examine his life. So far, this isn’t a particularly original concept, although it’s very nicely handled, but what elevates it into a higher plane is the ending, where we enter pure Gaffney territory and find that Damien may not be the only one who’s leading a double life.

Here’s ‘Kev’ cleaning Damien’s desk:

It was strange to see his desk from a new perspective. It looked dirtier than he’d expected. Why has he left it so untidy? Case files all over, some gaping open, innards disgorged, revealing confidential case information for anyone to read. How was he expected to clean a desk in this state? How thoughtless the daytime Damien was.

First published by East of the Web, included in Aroma Bingo, Salt 2007