I asked the Viscount Andrew to write something for my blog, and he sent me this great review of Simon Sheppard’s erotic short story, 'After the Beep.' Thank you -- your Royal Highness!
After the Beep
I am quite sure that most of us at some point in our lives have fallen in love with a voice at the end of a phone. Many of us in the pre internet dating days may have tried phone dating and conjured up all kinds of fantasy images in our heads and had hoped the voice on the end of the receiver (even the word receiver has connotations in this story) matches the ideal we conjure up for ourselves in our minds.
‘After The Beep’ takes this idea a stage further and in this ‘erotic’ short story by Simon Sheppard, the protagonist is really turned on by a mystery, deeply masculine voice on his answer machine that instructs him in all kinds of oneism that becomes more and more developed and complex as the story progresses. Initially our hero sees the whole thing as a bit of joke, enjoying the moment and then popping a lean cuisine in the microwave. As the days go by he becomes increasingly and madly aroused to the point of wild anticipation. He looks forward to getting home and receiving further instructions from his mystery male caller. Like Pavlov and his doggies our chap begins to get hard when the answer phone message light flashes so imagine how disappointed he is when it’s his mum!
I found this story amusing, it made me titter rather than laugh but I can’t say it turned me on. Men we are told are basically visual creatures needing to see touch and smell the object of their sexual desire whilst women are more cerebral or so they say. I guess this short story challenges that idea a bit as our hero is turned on by a voice and it is indeed the fantasy realm he enters that does the business for him. Our protagonist never meets the caller, he almost does but of course to do so would destroy the fantasy and how dreadful it would be if the caller was old, buck toothed or god forbid disabled! Could this story be hinting at an alternative sexuality where there is never any physical contact with another human being? Is that the way forward in today’s busy, worrisome world, where meeting new people for anything can be tricky?
I remember arranging a date with a guy years ago and we decided to meet in Northampton town centre, his voice on the phone was perfection so I had very high hopes. In my head, the stranger on the phone was dark, manly and natural. Needless to say when I saw him I carried on walking and never spoke to him again. ‘After The Beep’ could illustrate the perfect fantasy where there is no risk, no danger of disappointment and no need ever to cook breakfast!