Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The sculptress

Why do we write stories? And not articles or diaries? So many words have been written about what drives a short story - whose are classical, whose are effective or trendy, whose deliver the most powerful punch. And how hard is it to better the works of Katherine Mansfield, Hemmingway, Chekov, Carver? Why even bother? Why dare to think your works could be valid, or quixotic or admired?

African traditional sculptors work within the parameters given to them by their ancestors. A Baule woman will always have an elongated body, her arms stuck to her sides, her hair divided into bunches, her breasts two prongs. Within this form, the artist will choose a particular grain of wood, will push the sculpture out of this, making a work that differs little from what is known, but it is different.

And what is there of human nature that we do not already know? What have we not yet discovered of the strains of life we all share? What on earth can there be that is not original?

And yet we write, we feel it hammering, we build, we sit back.

I still believe it is worth it.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Tom’s girlfriend Mary sees dots on the mountain flank. We work out they are skiers heading downward in tight S-curves, the ultimate motion, along a lush blue pleat in the snow. The mountain is colossal. Some sort of palpable convection pulverises your thought and sucks you inward, spits you out. I enjoy being so little. We look carefully and see there are still more dots making their ascent. They are staggering vertically toward a sling of whiteness between one outcrop and the first shoulders of the peak. The biggest slide in the park. They can’t make it. They won’t. In twenty minutes and two more espresso to the unnecessary beat of Jamiroquai, they have.

The girls drink coffee, losing interest in the skiers, maintaining their guise of getting along. It’s not working, the Mary-and-Corinne thing. It’s far from the first time. Tom looks tired and I know he’d rather conserve his best energy for the snow, not Mary’s delights on a narrow bunk. Thankfully Corinne’s seasoned sociability is more pliant. I watch her eyes drift over the peaks then back to her nails, to the grain of the wood, to a declaration of love some teenager has carved there. For a crazy second, I think of eating raw fish. It must be the purity of the elements – the zinging air, the grey rucked wood, Corinne’s flesh.

Another story excerpt, currently out looking for a published home. To be included in my fantastic anthology

Friday, 11 June 2010

Pelt, a published short story

Rolfe triggers it. In the way that is the way of all men. In his case a type of athletic bragging ruined by the self-defeat he hangs his hat on. I feel a plock and, with his surprised, involuntary retreat my waters come splashing out, gay and heralding, whereby he bounds back to inspects the folds of his manhood.
My abroni baby will come this day. I roll onto my back and raise my knees in sweet excitement, the baby nestling back even though her head is plugged within my pelvis. Soon after Rolfe is agitating with a towel, peering cautiously at my dark opening. No action there, I laugh. He looks perplexed. Despite his thirty-nine years Rolfe is unfamiliar with the mulch of his own body. A fever sends him into studied ecstasy. The tumbleworm in his butt, whose head and long wrinkled body I inch into the light, is repellent and edifying.
At the apex of his growth curve I suspect I must place myself. This is the man who continues to daub his hands on my sheeny back and breasts. He told me that in Ethiopia, his last posting, they call girls like me ‘slaves’ because of our broad noses and skin a shadow cannot cross.
This is Rolfe’s first child. His wife Karina was barren. I have led Rolfe to believe that this is my first although I had two others before. They are at the village and I send them money. The midwife will no doubt perceive all of this.

This is the first in a series of excellent stories. More to come. It was published in Pretext UK and will soon be part of a marvellous collection. Astrid here.