Barstool Stories: Fame, by Russell Smith

barstool stories

We all have one. A story we tell, over and over, that always gets better—exaggerated, embellished, fleshed out—with a beer or two, and with every successive tipsy retelling. It’s not a long story, or even a true one. Does it have a moral? Not always. Is it fun? Yes, always. The barstool story is a literary genre in and of itself—or at least it should be. That’s why we bought beer for five of our favourite Canadian writers and had them jot down their own. So grab a cold one, grab a stool and enjoy.


This happened a long time ago. I was like around 30. I had to go give a reading at a university in a small town. I had to stay in one of those claustrophobic bed-and-breakfasts where the toilet is on the landing.

There were students at my reading and then there was a party at someone’s house afterwards. I had my eye on the one girl who had, I think, organized the whole event: she was kind of gothy and had glasses and 14-hole Docs. Her hair was very black. We didn’t even talk until almost everyone else had left. It was as if we were both waiting for that. I told her about my creepy bed and breakfast and she said, giggling as if it was a joke, you should stay with me in the women’s residence, my roommate is out of town, there’s a spare bed. We’ll sneak you in.

So we left the party and we walked for miles, right across and out of the little downtown, until I was lost and could never have made my way back to the bed and breakfast anyway.

We get to this concrete building and we go in through a side door and that’s when I start to feel a bit like a creep. What am I doing at my age in a women’s residence?

Her room was full of clothes. We played games on her computer for a bit and then we started to kiss and I started pulling her top off. And then she says, hang on, you don’t know me, so how do I know you like me? You are only after one thing. And I’m like well, yes, what did you think?

Then I have to pee, so I get up and go out in the hallway to find the communal (women’s) washroom. And when I come back to the room, of course the door is locked.

But she’s firm – she’s a Catholic, she says, and she can’t have sex. I can sleep on the roommate’s bed.

So I say Jesus, okay, and because I don’t know where I am, I undress to my underwear and I get in the roommate’s girl-smelling single bed, and I try to sleep, and she starts to snore. I cannot sleep. What I do instead is get mad, mad at her but also at the realization that I am in this god-awful uncomfortable place solely because I am an idiot who was led around a strange town by his penis.

Then I have to pee, so I get up and go out in the hallway to find the communal (women’s) washroom. And when I come back to the room, of course the door is locked. I tap lightly at first and then a little harder, because she is snoring. I try calling her name, but I don’t want to wake up the whole floor.

And just then I notice the poster on my girl’s door: it is the announcement for my reading that night, with my blown-up face. There I am standing in my underwear in the hallway beside my giant photo, under the hospital fluorescent light.

That’s when I hear a far door click, and women’s laughter, and here come a group of girls coming home from the bars. They stop and stare at me, and at my poster, and then they all laugh. And this is why you should never try to write books.