Big Time in the Sun

Stef Hulskamp  - 11 november 2023

Fragment uit het eindwerk van de Afstudeerprijswinnaar 🎉

Tijdens Nieuwe Types op vrijdag 10 november werd Stef Hulskamp bekendgemaakt als winnaar van de Afstudeerprijs 2023. Hieronder vind je een fragment uit zijn eindwerk Big Time in the Sun. Lees ook fragmenten uit de eindwerken van de overige genomineerden: Daniël Olivier, Willemijn Bussink, Ettie Edens, Lauren Kleinbussink en Vera Corben.


Big Time in the Sun | Stef Hulskamp


Doctor gave a guy six months to live
The guy couldn’t pay his bills
Gave him another six months

Henny Youngman



I get the heebie-jeebies when I see bald heads.
It gets worse if there are hats involved, or beanies or baseball caps
accompanied by sunglasses that prevent me from spying if the
baldness includes eyebrows and eyelashes. My pulse will start
racing and my palms get all sweaty.
I can’t remember what happened to make me shiver and
perspire with paranoid suspicion at the sight of these bare skinned
surfaces. Maybe it was over a decade ago, during puberty, when my
handsome father with his good head of hair licked his cowboy
cigarette – nudged towards my cap, grinning you know, those things
will make you go bald

Chills down my teenage spine.


If I could – which I can’t – I would like to write a story about a
guy who got killed by this fucking thing years ago and nobody
around him seemed to have realized that the guy died. So
obediently the guy just goes thru all the motions, carrying this
imposter guilt, carrying shame, carrying an iPod with jazz and
country music and a funeral playlist that changes all the time,
carrying miniature perfumes

carrying a rifle and plate-carrier, carrying non-donatable blood in
his veins. He carries fatigue and a reusable cotton grocery bag.
He carries nondonatable blood in his dumb veins and nondonatable
organs in his stupid body.
The guy ends up killing his hospital neighbor. He starts figuring the
statistical likelihood they both don’t make it, figures it’s slim.

My guy’ll kill him. And he’ll be surprised and guilty remembering
what an easy thing it had been to do.

He develops what the army taught me is called a SOP.
He is a child. Our guy is dying six ways til’ Sunday. It’s too much
for him.


The two nurses’ eyes glitter a bit as they tell me how nice my veins
look and I’m next to their starchy white jackets at the same time.

My eyes glittering, too, looking at my pretty veins from behind
one nurse’s shoulder and her hair is blonde and smells like salt
shampoo and it looks good and it’s all literature except it isn’t
literature and it happened to me and still does.

How’d you like to hear about this one time he accidentally
yanked out an IV, his IV, trying to take off his clothes without the
aid of a nurse? He wasn’t a real patient, was there by accident.
Brown blonde hair and twenty-two years of breathing on his way
to adulthood. He was going to shower like healthy twenty-two-
year-olds shower – and he accidentally yanked the IV out of his
pretty purple veins.
After the shower he would shave like a twenty-two-year-old but
he yanked that IV out of his veins. I would tell you how funny he
looked as he stepped out shyly into the hallway. Blushing. In
underwear. Blood trickling slowly from arm to stomach, blushing
some more. Eyes meeting with a guy who would turn out to be
his neighbor whom he would later


I’d like write a story without acts.

The nurses are anonymous, have no face.
It’s all fish-eye lens stuff and everything around this sweaty gray
T-shirt man gets stretched out and the bed wheels are enormous.

The guy says something but he’s dead.

A nurse who’ll later tell my story’s character that he can’t be
treated anymore and will die is my army buddy [Tom].
It doesn’t make sense chronologically but that’s what makes it

My character remembers butter. Disposable cups of butter.

Golden plastic.


I would write him to be stubborn and unrealistic. It’s a nice word

u – n – r – e – a – l – i – s – t – i – c


First time he gets hospital leave he’s given this wristband.

Out in the world again for a day.
And it’s a pretty day.
He forgets the wristband.
He gets to pretend.
He makes this great shot, he thinks.
Like a goddamn commercial.

This great looking photograph of the girl who’s with him on any
normal day out on the beach and it’s all hairs in the wind and
blue skies and he’s waiting for the voice of the TV man to tell
him what a good deal he can make on these sunglasses she’s
wearing but the price you have to pay is never mentioned in the
advertisement and there’s this melon dancing around in his chest.

Here’s a ridiculous image I’d put somewhere in the story:

A bald skeleton awkwardly shuffles in line.

Chemical sweat – detox chills – running shoes.
Awkward little steps.
Physical Aptitude Test.

They’re supposed to lift heavy things do pushups do sit-ups and
march and run. They’re supposed to exercise until failure. This is
weeks after treatment.

They’re supposed to give it their best.

A lot of healthy young bodies. One of the most muscular non-
skeleton bodies is that of a short boy next to him at the urinal.
This makes for a funny contrast between the two. Both peeing
in cups.

I’m here for the marines, he says.


After the cups they get measured, pricked, ticked and made to
do strange bending poses. The skeleton incidentally, has
perfect eyesight, perfect hearing. An army nurse tells him; Hey
you have perfect eyesight, perfect hearing.

He smiles.

He’s told to wait for everybody else.
Everybody waits for everybody else.

All spectators to one angry face entering the waiting area. It’s the
boy wanting to go to the marines. He hasn’t passed hearing. He’s
tried twice.
They let him re-do the test.
So he goes back into the cubicles with its 1990’s headphones and
a button to press for each beep. And he doesn’t pass. So they let
him re-do the test again.
And the boy still doesn’t pass. We all root for him. And two
people in white coats whisper amongst each other. Invite the boy
into their office. And ten minutes later the three of them step out
and the short muscular boy who wants to be in the marines has
passed his hearing and we were all happy because he was going to
go to the marines and he was going to make someone very proud.

I’ll include a dinner three years after. This is before he starts
talking about it. Before words, before his nerves divorce his
mind. Two friends will be there, as well as the love of his sup-
posed life. It’s an Indian place, their regular place. He melts
at this idea. A regular place. The love of his life is a woman in
fur who has a large collection of earrings that calm his nerves
when they jingle around with her laugh. She laughs a lot, sings
too. She was lovely that way.
I would write her to wear heels and loafers all the time. He
would find this pretty and impractical footwear lying about. It
reassured him, [of what?] it calmed his nerves.
The sight of white or yellow snakeskin heels was as innocent
and familiar to him as the smell of cigarettes.
He comes home, shuffles his feet up the stairs – hears this
woman singing to herself in a different language. There is the
smell of fried eggs and two brown leather loafers and a thing
happens to him that he notices has been happening for weeks
now; his eyes turn silently moist.

For you to feel for him, to shape his character, to develop him,
I am giving him an innocently ridiculous habit; sometimes, he will
pretend his eyes work like a photo camera.
He’s going to look now at this pair of loafers, will briefly close
both moist eyelids, will make his mind say click.
He will have had developed this habit during sunny days when he
was dying.

He imagines now a photo album filled with hundreds of
photographs of loafers and heels, feels butterflies, sees his own
fingers flicking pages of this thing he would have made.
He thinks of titles for this supposed photo album;

Quality of Life
Shoelaces are for Suckers
Silver Earrings and Sweet Memories
Fried eggs is Good Food
Elvis lives

Or just,

Heels and Loafers

I think now that this fur-coated woman suspected him. That
she was trying to give him support. Once or twice in their time
together, they would lie in bed and she would turn the lights
off and say to him in a soft voice: Hey, how’d you like to tell me
about – ?

Now back at the dinner she winks to him when his fingers hold
the dinner menu. He imagines creamy curry. He is thinking
of the peas again. He tries to imagine vomiting. He notices his
brain has stopped working. He smells disinfectant and fireworks.

He doesn’t panic.
Her earrings are silver and he is twenty-six years old.

One hospital night somewhere in the first two weeks of
Some Maglite wakes him up.
And he’s scared.
And a blacked out face asks him if he has trouble sleeping.
And he doesn’t know the right answer.
And this nurse gives him these pills.
And he dreams funky druggy dreams.
He dreams it does not matter he is only twenty-three years old at death.
There is no only.

He dreams there is no such thing as a young death. And that he
is a butterfly. In his dream he figures some guys –

well they’ve been dying.
And he is conscious of being this butterfly.
Dying is like one of those old-timey rituals.
Dying as a ritual to adulthood.
He’s as much entitled to dying as the next butterfly.
And it would not make a damn bit of difference
if the sentient organism was seven, or seventy years old.
Death would be equal in time –
would happen only in the present.

And when the sleepy-time drugs lose their effect, and the
Creator of the Universe claps her wrinkly hands to begin the
show again; he doesn’t wake up to ponder if he is a butterfly
dreaming to be a [cancer]patient in a hospital, or a [cancer]
patient in a hospital dreaming he was a butterfly. For he won’t
remember any of this fucking stuff.
And he will live anyway maybe, and butterflies will go extinct
in his extended lifetime.






















projected on the insides of his eyelids.


pfc M’s asleep in our fighting position
there’s insects crawling on my rifle
my watch
this childhood smell
of forest
light gray
fresh rain
on skin damaged cheeks
insects in my uniform
insects in uniform
hand getting mechanically ready to kill
some poor old


pfc M wakes up what you doing
squinted sleepy eyes
pfc M’s angelic
little sleepy eyes
man i don’t think I can
can what
ant there crawling
i don’t think i can kill it
fuck you talking about
i think it would
break my tiny

He can’t tell the good news from the bad news. In the beginning
he turned to the Creator of the Universe for narrative guidance,
but she doesn’t watch TV, she says. He tries to put things on
paper and they all end up vague and unreal and not what he
In the hospital they had separate toilets because their pee was
so toxic from the bags of treatment that were inserted in their
veins, it could contaminate others. Again I feel like doing this;
c – o – n – t – a – m – i – n – a – t – e .

He tries to remember now if he ever looked down to see if it
looked toxic.
I try and remember if my pee looked toxic, back then. And I see
now a toilet with gasoline and now a toilet with a sort of

liquid but this is not memories but made-up.





You hear the dead people talking?



My grandfather told me to eat two cans of tomato paste a day in summer.
Supposedly this is good for the skin.
Helps against getting things like burns and cancers.
It’s a hell of a tasty medicine.

My guy says he knows nothing of freezing and infertility and so on.
And the doctor will ask him if nobody told him and the character
will reply in the negative.

It’s all very uncomfortable to him, the building’s too big.
He’s lost he thinks, he doesn’t want to ask. There are only
twenty-something year old pretty girls to ask.
So he doesn’t ask.

When he finally finds the place it’s also a twenty-something year
old who hands him a cup and so on and so on. Inside the little
room these dumb tears come to him again and he has to wait
and wipe them off before going out. He puts the cup on the
counter, signs the form without reading – but the girl says he
has to stay.
So he stays.

And after half of a humiliating hour this same girl walks into the
waiting room. Her pupils are dilated.

This lower head tilted smile of mischief. And it’s contagious.
And she says:

You might have this [cancer] thing but you sure as hell don’t have
any Chlamydia!

Ha ha ha

This happened to the guy in my story, it happened to him three
years ago. A lot like never. I’m here on the beach again now with
Jil. I wish I could tell this to Jil. I wish I could share.

The trouble with writing a sad or frustrating [cancer] story is sun
and very ripe fruits. I smile and sit and enjoy actionless action
and my eyes squint and Jil looks at me lovingly and

Peas make him vomit during treatment.
Out of nowhere.
There’s the guy, eating peas.
Next – vomit.
But he is poor and knows he needs vegetables.

So he eats more peas.

His eyelashes grow back. And he’s happy. And he counts them.
And he doesn’t know eyelashes naturally fall off every five or six

And then regrow.
But do so at
different times.
So a non-patient
does not notice.

Only his regrow simultaneously. And two weeks later fall out
again at the same time. And it will take a few months to get
them to

Here’s a funny thing; I realise now my character never loses his
hair. He does on paper but I don’t see it.. I think I couldn’t bear
seeing him wear a hat of any sort. The treatment and the military
ruined any type of head cover for me.

Now my guy put his chair in the upright position. Waited politely.
And the bags came in their plastic boxes with big bright warning
stickers on them.
And the liquid rolled thru his veins.
And it took a few minutes.
And it hammered at his brain.

Oh and then
And then
And then and then and then

He overheard a woman next to him complain to the nurse of
nausea, complain that she didn’t like food and therefore hadn’t
eaten dinner. She understood the need for calories like the
hospital leaflet said. So she said she had eaten two bags of
crisps and a bag of candy.
And my guy looked at her.
And my guy couldn’t believe this adult wouldn’t
comprehend some form of responsibility.
And my guy thought this woman deserved to die.
And my guy felt guilty at having this thought.
Felt all torn up seeing how absurdly banal the whole thing
Coca-Cola and cake.

They were fighting for their lives
only nausea or spinach was
deemed a step too far. They didn’t
eat vegetables.
They wanted to die.
They wanted convenience or death.
Which is a very good Dead Kennedy’s album, too.


He’ll briefly feel just like he is acting in one of those crime
reconstructions they do on commercial television. But this is
not a crime reconstruction on commercial television and he is
going to die. He looks submissively, childishly to his army
buddy disguised as a nurse.
The chair’s blue plastic sticking coldly to his bare goosebumps.
Asks if it is now over.

Yeah, probably [slow nod] – Sorry man.

That’s O.K.




And the tears start flowing from his dumb closed eyes,
drip on the supermarket floor.
And he doesn’t seem to know why.
And when he gets to their home.
There’s the tears again.
And by the time she comes home,
they are still there.
And he still doesn’t know.
Can’t stop.
And for days and days it’s just tears tears.
And this lovely woman,
who he figured on spending
a life with.
Who he started feeling,
he was getting alive with.
It’s too much for her.
As it’s too much for me.
And he can’t seem to tell her why.
And she tries harder than him.
And she told him once he always talked about it but
never talked about it.
And he pretended not to know
what that meant.
And you can’t blame her.

He thought maybe,
When he’d get done.
There’d be less worry.
He thought maybe,
his vita could be dolce.
Or at least pas mal.
And he had found
that the pounding of all those chemicals,
and the vomit and the pain.
Had been the easiest
of the whole thing.


That man he killed just had bad luck I guess. The guy in my
story didn’t mean to kill him. He was just scared. He wanted
to live. Bla bla




Jil wears lipstick and pays.




Dad, I remember your turquoise espadrilles and you
would have never guessed what has happened to me. I
remember you saying just be happy and healthy. Neither
happened but they will.

Your son.



Voor de negende keer op rij reikt Wintertuin de Afstudeerprijs uit aan de student met het beste afstudeerproject. Met deze prijs geeft de organisatie aandacht aan een nieuwe lichting schrijvers en makers. Studenten van de schrijfopleidingen van RITCSGerrit Rietveld Academie, Koninklijk Conservatorium AntwerpenHogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht en ArtEZ University of the Arts konden tot 9 juli hun werk insturen.


Stef Hulskamp is levend en wel. Maakt fotoseries – soms met tekst en soms zonder foto's.