Extract from Bill & Coo by Ronald Frame
The author lets us glimpse an extract of his work ahead of his reading as part of LGBT History Month
Shit awful name. Bill & Coo. But that’s what came with the franchise, in twirly lettering on the shop front. Bill & Coo ™, to be accurate.
Kerry, being Australian, had known about the company. She also knew they were looking to expand their UK operations to Scotland, so she got in touch with her first ever squeeze Toni in Brisbane, who did the rest.
They stocked greetings cards, and wrapping paper, and every novelty you might want for a party (within reason, that is, and legally permissible). The shop was at the quiet, windy end of Briggait – let’s face it, they told each other, Bill & Coo was made for covered malls – but people were always coming in nevertheless, and they made a decent-ish living.
‘Hi,’ Kerry would say to pals, ‘I’m Bill.’
‘And sometimes,’ Hayley would chime in on cue, ‘I‘m a right coo.’
Kerry was embarrassed about the trading name, and it took a lot to embarrass the worldly Kerry. Hayley, whom their friends presumed was the femme of the pair, told Kerry in the privacy of their home, never mind, whenever we refer to the shop, we’ll call it not ‘Bill & Coo’ but … What? ‘Slap and Tickle!’ they both called out at the very same instant: as if they’d always been of one mind, telepathic, as if they’d been born joined at the hip, etc.
In fact they had met at someone’s 40th in Edinburgh. Four years later, here they were, not so much Darby as ‘Debbie and Joan’, Kerry with her Bondi Beach permatan (courtesy of the stand-up halogen booths at Rae’s Rays) and Hayley, at Kerry’s prompting, with new blonde highlights in her hair. Some of their friends came up from Edinburgh to Carnbeg to visit: gay to a man, woman or trannie. Nothing too outrageous, to spook the horses. After all, Carnbeg had needed time to me to get used to them: Rome, or Carnbeg Babylon, wasn’t built in a day. ‘Festina lente,’ said Hayley, remembering school Latin, while Kerry thought it must be a Greek ouzo she was talking about, or possibly that gay cruise ship she’d read about, which she was trying to get Hayley to agree they should sample for themselves.
Ronald Frame received a Stonewall award (Barbara Gittings Prize) from the American Library Association for his Scottish-set and Booker long-listed novel, The Lantern Bearers. He is the author of sixteen books – novels, short story collections, and a prize-winning TV play. His latest publication, a novel called Havisham, was published by Faber in November 2012.