fernando sdrigotti

Shitstorm

Shitstorm is the first in a series of novelettes from Open Pen. A hilarious and perceptive work from Argentinian writer Fernando Sdrigotti, the novelette follows Dr Walter Turner, a wealth nobody until he accidentally slays a protected lion on the plains of Africa. This niche fallout spirals out of control when global news agencies latch onto the story and celebrity outcry coupled with public uproar cultivates the perfect social media shitstorm.

Will Dr Walter Turner ride this one out? Will he face a public execution? Will tomorrow’s fresh shitstorm save his pants? 

One thing’s certain: no one is coming out of this clean.

Buy Shitstorm

Buy Shitstorm as part of a five book novelette bundle for £20

Launching a Shitstorm

Open Pen Novelette ≠1

is Shitstorm by Fernando Sdrigotti.

This fierce little book hits bookshops in November. We initiate this Shitstorm at Brick Lane Books on Thursday, November 8. Sdrigotti will read from his Shitstorm that very evening, following a short Q&A with Influx Press head Kit Caless.

The book is priced at £4.99 and when you see it, you’re gonna freak at how attractive it is.

To RSVP and for full details: https://www.facebook.com/events/2067842883259186/

More on our novelette series. and Shitstorm.

Novel ideas that aren’t novels

They’re novelettes. According to one of the first links suggested by Google, a novelette is:

What Is a Novelette?
7,500 – 17,000 Words

A novelette is also a narrative fictional prose. Back in the day, the term “novelette” referred to a story that was romantic or sentimental in character. To be honest, in modern times, the term is rarely used, and novelettes are rarely published singly.

A novelette is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novella. The word count is usually between 7,500 words to 17,500 words.

Well it’s not back in the day anymore. In fact, it’s the day, and here we are, Open Pen, announcing a series of novelettes. Beautiful little paperbacks for just £4.99 that you can fit in your (larger) pockets. We have five novelettes coming up in quick succession. You can buy them as a bundle here for just £20. The first three to be released:

Shitstorm – Fernando Sdrigotti

PRE-ORDER NOW

Dr Walter Turner is a wealthy nobody until he accidentally slays a protected lion on the plains of Africa. This niche fallout spirals out of control when global news agencies latch onto the story and celebrity outcry coupled with public uproar cultivates the perfect social media shitstorm.

Will Dr Walter Turner ride this one out? Will he face a public execution? Will tomorrow’s fresh shitstorm save his pants? 

One thing’s certain: no one is coming out of this clean.

One Thing – Xanthi Barker

PRE-ORDER NOW

The one thing Len wants back is his wife, but today is her funeral, they divorced decades ago, and besides, he’s not invited. So equipped with a screwdriver, bad memories and a fixing of desperation, Len sets about reclaiming the one part of her that’s still his. It won’t be easy. But then nothing has been easy for Len.

One Thing is a novelette and working class tale of regret, loss, and the hope of redemption.

The Prick – Mazin Saleem

Holidaying with his girlfriend, Will has the fortunate misfortune of having his life saved by Roland, a giant prick. Falling into a friendship with his rescuer, Will is consumed by how irritating he finds Roland. At the cost of everything else, perhaps, Will is hellbent on working out exactly what makes Roland not just a giant prick, but The Prick.

 

#4 and #5 in the series to be announced soon.

Summer Party 2

IF USA oF AMERICA was in LIMEHOUSE-CUM-WHITECHAPEL.

Readings from novelette debutants Fernando Sdrigotti, Xanthi Barker, Mazin Saleem, as well as Clare Fisher, Owen Booth, Max Sydney Smith.

Open Pen Summer Party 2 is an all day party featuring live fiction, music, and comedy from Open Pen. Kicking off at a family-friendly (yeah we’ve got kids now) midday, closing with the pub at around midnight, you can come and go as you please with an early bird ticket £4.78.

BUY EARLY BIRD TICKET

The George Tavern boasts an outdoors area, as well as an excellent range of drinks, including non-alcoholic options. Pizza is available all day, as well as bar snacks.

See you there, we hope.

 

GREEN + ORANGE + WHAT

OPEN PEN ISSUE TWENTY-ONE – OUT APRIL 21.

OP21_01

Should be a big year for Open Pen, we’re publishing a poetry collection by Scott Manley Hadley. It’s a real book because it has a spine. Just like Scott’s poetry.

Marshmallow hot choc copywriting aside, this really is a big year for us, we’ve got a few novelettes up our sleeve and we should be able to let you know more about that in the coming months, a Summer party, launches, podcasts, and more copies of Open Pen going to more stockists than ever before. That’s true of Open Pen Issue Twenty-One, which hits our bookshops (and is FREE as always) Saturday, April 21.

In its pages you will find the following fiction by the following writers:

What Happened at the Squash Club on 23 April 1982 – Amanda Quinn
An Act of Faith – Ian Green
Session 3 Homework – Janelle Hardacre
Fumes – Abigail Fish
Promotion – Anthea Morrison
External Audits – Sam Hurcom

And the London Short Story Prize winning

Dead Yard – Maria Thomas

All that fiction is introduced by Fernando Sdrigotti, author of Dysfunctional Males (La Casita Grande Editores) and Issue Seventeen’s cover author. True to form, Sdrigotti finds himself emoting a warmth of feeling for our literary landscape with such lines as:

You could and should be pardoned for thinking literature is dead, that it metamorphosed into a column on an Excel file, or the filling of a sandwich served at the bestest writerly conference, where toilets get clogged on the last day, and literature stinks worse than the final question in every panel, but hey networking!

All that, still free, in your bookshop April 21. Not stocked in your bookshop? Tell them about us. Tell us about them. You’ll also note that you can now subscribe to Open Pen for just £10 for four issues.

Thanks for supporting Open Pen. Read. Write. SUBMIT.

ONLY UP HERE

 

By Fernando Sdrigotti

 

Midday. I’ve been rolling around in bed since I quit last week. It happened out of nowhere: I pulled myself a double Jameson’s during a busy shift and sat on the other side of the bar. What are you doing? I’m quitting. You can’t quit. Yes I can: look. Go have a fag and come back behind the bar. I won’t — it’s too busy behind the bar. You’ve got to give me a week’s notice. Silence. I finished my drink and walked out of the pub with the voice of the Cypriot telling me I was barred. I left with most of my money in my pocket; not that they would ever notice — they could never get the maths right. And then I felt like I owned the world, that I could go anywhere. London was finally smiling at me: no more bars, no more mopping the floor, collecting pints, long shifts serving wankers. The beginning of a new era; then it was the future already and the future of that future was full of promises. The high lasted for a couple of hours. Soon I realised I was unemployed. And I hit the bed. I must have been in bed for five days.

Not exactly five days in bed but five days of leaving it only to go for a piss, grab something to eat, smoke a cigarette, have a drink of water. And the same happened to Leo: he fell into introspection at about the same time — two days before me, actually. My moments of ecstasy and sadness were probably a copycat version of his, after he quit his job at the Bricklayer’s Arms. He had come home hyperventilated, coked-up, speaking about his plans to go back to film school, how we should rent a car on Sunday and drive to Cambridge, Oxford, Kent, Cornwall, whatever, like Thelma and Louise. And then the bed. Just like I would some days later.

Midday all through this side of the studio flat and on Leo’s side too. I’m head-to-the-pillow when the sun comes through the huge window. The smell of feet in the room, burnt cigarette butts, lack of personal and general hygiene, the mess all around us. We ran out of cunting cigarettes too, says Leo. Go get some, I says. Fuck off, he says, and didn’t even raise his head from the pillow. Anyway, it’s only a matter of holding on until tonight. Maybe I’ll even fall asleep and wake up tomorrow.

By two p.m. I can’t take it anymore and I leave the flat. It’s stupidly sunny while I make my way to George’s Kebab, just around the corner. I walk into his place with my stomach rumbling and don’t even say hi until I’ve ordered my food: a large shish with humus and a can of ginger beer. Hello first, innit? Hello George! Sorry, I’m really hungry. No worries my friend we’ll feed you. Nice to see you; where were you? he asks. I was away, at a training course to join the Royal Marines, I say. I thought you had to be British to join the army, he says. They’ve changed the rules now; they need people from other backgrounds. How did the training go? I passed it! Good on you, son. But I’ve changed my mind, I don’t think the army is for me. Yes, don’t join those cunts on anything. I won’t! Large shish and humus and a can of ginger beer; there you go my friend, he says, and nods towards the back door.

Soon I’m sitting in the back room, watching my team “back home” playing a shitty football game; the commentary is in Turkish — it’s all very strange. Eleven thousand one hundred and forty-six kilometres away, I’m watching twenty two Argentine idiots chase a ball in real time. With three or four seconds delay, perhaps, but live. It’s mind-boggling. From Buenos Aires and across the Atlantic, over the Ural mountains, BANG!, Istanbul, then picked up by a Soviet satellite who-knows-how-many kilometres above the atmosphere and BANG! (again) on the telly before me. I tell an old leather jacket-clad Turk about this uncanny situation. I think he doesn’t understand me — he just smiles blankly and then goes back to his paper. I shut up and eat the kebab.

The other guy is here as well; the guy with the weird little eye, the second-in-command. He calls me “my friend” too. He soon spots me and sits on the table with me. He asks where I have been I tell him I’ve been working overtime, managing the pub isn’t an easy job, you see. Then I tell him they fired me. He seems confused, puzzled, or perhaps just drunk. He says something about these fucking English cunts. I tell him the owners of the place are Cypriots. He says they must be Greek Cypriots. I say I am pretty sure they’re Turkish Cypriots. He doesn’t reply and stops talking to me for a while. Then he says that there are cunts everywhere — he’s absolutely right. He’s drinking Raki and his eye, the funky one, gets smaller with every sip. By the end of the bottle he’ll look like Thom Yorke. But before that happens my team scores a goal and I celebrate by closing my fist and saying yessssss. Little eye celebrates too — he hugs me and gets a bit overexcited and drops his glass on the floor. He curses in Turkish and leaves through the front door. The accident doesn’t seem to bother the rest of the guys in the room — they’re all busy looking at a laptop. Kebab people love gadgets — they are technological people. Little eye comes back and sweeps the floor with a broom. Stumbling and singing something in Turkish.

This incredible universe of brands, shelves, smells, little- and medium- sized tins and cans, unpronounceable names and inedible processed meals.

The off-licence guy asks me where I’ve been. I tell him I was on a meditation retreat on the Isle of Man. I don’t even know how I come up with this. He doesn’t say anything for a while. Then he asks me about my job, did I take a holiday? I say I’ve quit and he frowns. I pay for the beers, the Supermalt and the Jaffa cakes. Thanks. You’re welcome. A frown, a clearly annoyed frown. He says that I have to work now that I’m young so that I can retire well when I’m older. I knew he would come up with some shit like that. I tell him that I’ve got a job interview in the City this week, for Royal Bank of Scotland, and that’s why I quit my job at the bar and went on a meditation retreat. He says I should have quit only after nailing the job. I say I needed time to prepare for the job interview — god, I hate hard-working people. He asks me what sort of meditation I practice. I ask what does he mean with what kind. Vipassana, Zen, Mindfulness? he asks. It’s all the same, I say. No, it isn’t. He seems to know all about it. I say Singing Yoga Meditation. Singing Yoga Meditation? He seems confused. I tell him we do yoga, sing and then meditate. I don’t think he buys it. It’s a sort of New Age thing, very popular in Argentina and Liverpool Street. Never heard of it. It’s a new thing. Then he asks me about “my friend Leo” managing to sound the quotation marks, the homophobe. I tell him that he’s still at the retreat, that he decided to stay a bit longer, he’s getting good at the singing yoga but needs to improve on the meditative side of things. He quit his job too? Yes, he did. He has an interview at Warner Brothers the same day I have mine at Royal Bank of Scotland. You’re doing fine, he says. It was about time, I say. He tells me to remind Leo that he owes him twenty pounds. I say I will. When’s your interview, he asks. On Wednesday, I say. Good luck to you both. I thank him and walk out.

It’s three p.m. and still very sunny. I cross the road and walk towards St. Leonard’s churchyard. When I’m halfway there I feel I need to go for a piss. So I backtrack and head to the public toilets on the corner of Columbia and Hackney roads, some hundred metres up. There aren’t many people around save for some hipsters carrying flowers and plants from the flower market. Perhaps I should go and buy a plant or just walk to the market, see people, maybe bump into someone I know, have a coffee, get some clean air.

A couple of minutes pass and the door remains locked. I look at a couple passing by, a girl and a guy; the girl with skinny legs, flat ass and huge tits, the guy very tall and pale, quite good looking, but he’s wearing flip-flops and has huge bony feet. They stare at me when they pass — it must be my plastic bag. And they’re gone. Some more people carrying plants, the phone booth; I start to get bored. I remember when I called Guido from this phone booth soon after I arrived. I called him crying, paying for the phone call with pound coins, saying that I was freaking out because I was feeling suicidal and was missing Buenos Aires. It was a very expensive phone call. Why do you say that? I don’t really know; it’s just this horrible idea I can’t get out of my head: I think I’ll kill myself. Have you been using drugs? No. Since when do you have this in your head? Since I arrived, I said, London is a shithole. I don’t know why I called him, of all the people back home. I guess I needed to speak to someone and his was the only number I remembered at the time. Suddenly I ran out of coins and the call ended. It must have been a disturbing phone call, because he started emailing me like mad afterward, saying that I was very selfish calling him out of the blue like that, after we had agreed to let things cool down, that he had to ask around to find out if I was still alive, that I should have at least called him back to tell him I hadn’t topped my head. I never replied to his emails but he kept sending them. I thought he would just let it go but he didn’t give up. So I blocked him. He changed his email and I blocked him again and he changed the email address and so on: the whole process went on for a while. Until I tired and changed my email and gave it only to my mother and father. But he got hold of my phone number and started calling me until I changed my number too. I should have never called him that day: he’s insane.

The door finally opens and one of the local crackheads leaves. He bows in a friendly way and I say hi. He’s high as a kite and looks very happy. The door closes behind him and there’s a sound of water; the word “cleaning” starts flashing in red on the door and we both stare at it and it’s fascinating. He gets bored and walks away. When he’s walked some twenty metres he turns around and waves with a broad smile. I wave back at him, just about the same time the word “cleaning” stops flashing. I put 20p in the slot and the door opens and I walk in. It looks pretty clean: no sign of drug paraphernalia, no weird smells, no small pieces of cotton. Perhaps he was really in need of a toilet.

I struggle for a bit first but then manage to piss with my plastic bag in one hand. A nice piss, longer than expected, but a bit dark, perhaps from having my kidneys crushed during my last few days in bed. It feels great to piss in a different toilet — I can see things are beginning to move. When I finish I leave without washing my hands because my dick must be cleaner than the faucet. The door opens and I leave. The door closes behind me and the flushing sound starts once more.

Sunny, so sunny. The traffic as a background mantra and traces of fumes in the air. I’m just sitting on a bench in the middle of the churchyard, checking out the tombstones in the distance and drinking my Supermalt. There are a couple of crackheads — others — loitering about. A guy, around thirty, and a girl, who could be anything from seventeen to forty-five. They’ve been around the yard, picking cigarette butts and putting them in their pockets and scavenging who knows what from the trash bins.

Now they’re arguing by the church entrance. I can’t hear what they say, but she shouts louder than him. She moves her hands like a Neapolitan, a lot of hands being thrown into the air in all directions — crack makes people very expressive. Or she must be communicating something very important, or maybe she just talks like that, like a Neapolitan; or maybe she is a Neapolitan. I’ve seen this couple before many times since I moved to Waterson Street. They hang around with the public toilet crackhead, mostly around the churchyard, although I’ve seen them walking up and down Old Street, frantically begging for money and tobacco from the wankers late on Fridays and Saturdays. Crackheads are always in fast forward, always in a rush to get somewhere. Many times I’ve thought I should stop one of them and ask them what’s the rush. So far I’ve never done this and perhaps I’ll never will: you don’t want to stop people when they’re on their way to score.

It’s getting hot and humid now; it’s getting dark: it’ll rain. I light up one of my counterfeit Polish Marlboro. Smoking feels funny: smoke gets denser and the cigarettes smokier. The fag doesn’t taste right, and it smells weird, and I can’t tell whether it’s the humidity or the taste of Eastern Europe.

Back in the off-licence I buy a new lighter, a can of tuna, mozzarella, baked beans and crisps. I ask the guy to swap my cans for cold ones. He agrees but gives me an evil eye and checks the cans haven’t been opened. I know he thinks I’m a lazy fuck and that he doesn’t trust me; I don’t trust him either. He’s always checking the CCTV screen when I walk to the back of the shop and I’m always checking the expiry date on the products. He tells me once more to remind Leo about his twenty pounds. I say I will, and think to myself that he’s bound to live out his days behind the counter of his tiny shop, until he gets his throat cut from ear to ear by one of the churchyard bums. But I don’t tell him that.

Things are better next door. No need for CCTV when you have a large kebab knife behind the counter. I buy three more packs from little eye. Palenie Zabija. Palenia Zabija I say, chcesz papierosa. Eight pounds my friend, he says. Three for eight pounds. Even if they taste like shit: long live the EU, long live Poland and continental cancer.

Soon I get home. I open the door. Leo is still tucked under the sheets. He looks at me when I enter the flat. Morning, I say, I got us food. Morning, he says. It’s four thirty. He doesn’t reply and I’m starting to get tired of his self-pity. I’ll cook some food, I say. More silence.

I walk towards the kitchen area and open a drawer and get the tin opener. I open the can of tuna and empty it into a medium-sized bowl. I open the baked beans and mix the beans with the tuna. I put the mix in the microwave oven, set it for three minutes. While the tuna and the beans are turning I put the beers in the fridge. Then I get the mozzarella out of the pack and lay it on a plate. I watch the bowl turn in the oven and soon the thing beeps a couple of times. I cut the mozzarella in two and then open the oven and get the bowl out and empty some of the tuna and beans from the bowl into the plate; then I put one of the halves of mozzarella in the bowl. There you go, you need to eat something, I say, holding a plate to Leo’s face. I’m not hungry, he says. Eat anyway; I’ve got cigarettes, a lot of them; but no ciggies until you’ve eaten. Which ones? George’s or the cabbies’? George’s. Lights or reds? Lights. I like reds, he says. I don’t, I say. I leave the plate next to Leo’s bed and go to my side of the room. I’m hungry and I eat fast. Before I finish my plate I see Leo grabbing his. He starts eating, slowly.

It’ll rain, I say. Yes, he answers. It’s very muggy out there. Yes, it feels muggy in here too. I got us some beers; I thought we could go to the roof, drink beer, smoke, listen to music. It’ll rain, he says. We can hide under the water tank. I’m not sure I want to go all the way up, he says, sorry. No worries, I say, I’ll go by myself.

I finish eating from my bowl and leave it by the side of the bed. I move my clothes around until I find my small CD player. I press play to see if the batteries are still good — it would seem so, at least the CD seems to be moving: THESUNDAYSTHESUNDAYSTHESUNDAYS. The letters become one large white lump and I press stop. I can feel Leo staring at me but I don’t look back. I get my cigarettes and keys, grab the beers from the fridge and leave. I’ll be on the roof, I say before I close the door.

The parking lot and the flats all around. Three blocks in a square of which the fourth side leads to an alley, some more workshops, or the end of the world for all I know. And here four floors of huge windows, reconverted workshops, tall ceilings and cold lofty spaces — places never meant to be lived in. There are traces of fabrics scattered in the lot and some weird cylindrical props. A huge cardboard palm tree lays next the overfilled garbage skip. A flash flares in one of the few flats with curtains. Someone shouting in Italian below me. A girl laughs somewhere. And five cool-looking people are barbecuing something on the roof to my right. People are going about their lives in their flats and the sky is bright yellow. I haven’t opened a can yet, I haven’t lit up yet, I haven’t even pressed play. I’m just sitting here, under the water tank, looking.

Thunder, finally, and Leo’s hand resting on my shoulder. He sits by my side, wrapped inside one of his sheets — a stinking greasy-haired Jesus Christ. I pass him the Polish Marlboros and he lights up. I’m glad you came, I say. It’s breezy up here, he says. Beers are opened — no need for a toast. We drink in silence and smoke. We both look at the sky. It can’t be long before the clouds fall down like sacks of potatoes. But the barbecue people on the other roof don’t seem to care. Perhaps they haven’t even realised or perhaps they’ve reached an ideal state of unawareness of the things around them. Shit, he says, it will rain like in the Bible. Yes, I say. I’ve left the windows open, he says. Don’t worry Leo, we’re only up here. He nods and I press play. We stay there under the water tank, listening to The Sundays.

And then it starts raining.

*           *           *

First published as the Open Pen Issue Seventeen cover story.

Fernando Sdrigotti was born in Rosario, Argentina and has lived in London since the early noughties. He is editor-in-chief of minor literature[s], a contributing editor at 3:AM Magazine and senior editor at large at Numéro Cinq. He is the author of Tríptico (Dunken 2008) and Shetlag, una novela anunciada (Araña editorial, 2014), and has a forthcoming collection of short stories in English, Dysfunctional Males, of which this story is an outtake. Twitter: @f_sd

We spoke to Fernando Sdrigotti for our new podcast. Listen here.

SEVENTEEN

Out in just a couple of weeks, we can now announce that Issue Seventeen is mixed and in the oven.
Ingredients:

Guest ed: Marianne Tatepo tempers the stories within with her guest editorial that focuses on recent events and how they tie into creativity and placelessness.

Cover fiction: But it’s congratulations to Fernando Sdrigotti, whose Only Up Here emblazons the cover of the teal-coloured issue. His pubby, grubby, eastish adventure feels like a real Open Pen piece; a return to our primary intention to publish fiction that is relevant to a mixed, always different, encouragingly bizarre London.

Illust.: Josh Neal of course. He is a magician with a pen. Check out his website. Check out his Instagram. Follow him. Force him to draw you. He can’t say no. He loves to draw.

Other fictions:

Nick Black – Even Dead, I’m Neurotic

AJ Tuppen – Report on the Orange

Katherine Harrison – Please Shower Before Entering The Pool

Sarah W – Mr. E

Jack Sanderson Thwaite – Two Months on a Boat

and of course, our resident fictioneer, the pepper of Open Pen, N Quentin Woolf. His property farce The Gap is as realist as it is [sic]-fi fantasy.

Flash: We’ll have a couple of these for you too. We call it microfiction because we’re desperate to be different.

So, to return to the cooking/baking theme attempted above and not really carried through with any real conviction, if we were a cake, we would be some sort of monstrous looking beetroot cake, seeping with burgundy slime, unconvincingly offered up as “alt-red-velvet”. But I tell you what, it wouldn’t be fucking gluten free.

More news on release to follow. But you can bet that you’ll catch a couple of the Issue Seventeen authors at our live event at the Jamboree, Limehouse, on Wednesday, 28th September. There is a bar there which will soften the bluster of the Open Pen Beat Jazz House Band. If you’ve seen them in action before, you’ll know that you’re in for a treat (one similar to the aforementioned alt-red-velvet cake).

To good writing, happy reading, and fiction with something to say!

READ. WRITE. SUBMIT.

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