Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Here's a few hundred words of a short story...

...if you've got a moment, have a read and let me know what you think. It's a long one, but this is how it kicks off.

The Woman in the Wall

I practice a lot at home. Tonight is no different.

'Tell me where you're from,' asks the woman in the wall and I do. She knows the story well enough now to correct me if I slip up. I know the story well enough not to.

'Just outside Glasgow,' I say.

'I ken Glasgow very well,' she says.

'It's a tiny village,' I say. 'On the outskirts.'

The wall is ordinary. Wallpapered with faded old-people wallpaper, to match the speckled formica kitchenette and pink bathroom suite. When I moved in I thought I might do something with the cottage, make it into a home, but it doesn't bother me that much. It's not like I've ever lived anywhere nice. There will be time for that.

For now I just like the fact that when I lie on the floor on my back and look up out of the cottage windows I can see the air, real air that's invisible all the way up to the sky. Not second-hand city breath, but air as clean as a sheet on the line and smelling just as fresh. For that alone, the cottage is worth the long bus trip in to work in Edinburgh.

'I ken most of the villages outside of Glasgow too,' says the woman in the wall.

'I went to boarding school down south.'

'Och, I loved hockey!'

'Last time you said lacrosse,' I say.

'I like to keep you on your toes,' says the woman in the wall.

'I was more of a bookworm,' I say. 'And I loved maths.'

'An accountant from an early age!' says the woman in the wall and I smile. 'You're showing too many teeth,' she says and I press my lips together, hiding the black scars of cheap fillings, put in too late. The price of a childhood of jeely pieces and gobstoppers.

The afternoon light is fading, adding blotchy grey shadows to the pale roses and creeping vines of the wallpaper. Usually I'm not home until after dark, even in summer, and it stays light most of the night in summer. The woman in the wall says I work too many hours, but I tell her it's my life. She says that's daft and life should mean a social life. I tell her she's my social life and then she'll stop talking, but I know she's pleased.

I start to cough. I've been coughing for a few days, hacking coughs that stoke a fire in my chest that burns constantly now, even when I'm just breathing. Stuart sent me home early today; told me to see a doctor, but I stay away from doctors, because the last thing I want to do is discuss my family history. 'And what did your mother die of?'

5 comments:

sylvia said...

I love this. I desperately want to read more. Please? :)

Sarah Laurenson said...

Not sure what you'd like, McK. I can give you a tighter version. At least for the first part. But I don't know if that's what you're asking for here.

It's intriguing. I'd love to read more. I think the 'practice' line is throwing me though as it doesn't seem to fit with what follows.

Here's my tighter version:

I practice a lot at home. Tonight is no different.

'Tell me where you're from.' The woman in the wall knows the story well enough to correct me if I slip up. I know the story well enough not to.

'Just outside Glasgow,' I say. 'It's a tiny village.'

'I ken Glasgow very well,' she says.

Faded old-people wallpaper matches the speckled formica kitchenette and pink bathroom suite. When I moved in I thought I might do something with the cottage, but it’s not like I've lived anywhere nice.

I like that when I lie on the floor and look up out of the windows I can see real air. Not second-hand city breath, but air as clean as a sheet on the line and smelling just as fresh. For that alone, the cottage is worth the long bus trip in to work in Edinburgh.

'I ken most of the villages outside of Glasgow, too,' says the woman in the wall.

'I went to boarding school down south.'

'Och, I loved hockey!'

'Last time you said lacrosse,' I say.

'I like to keep you on your toes.’

'I was more of a bookworm,' I say. 'And I loved math.'

'An accountant from an early age!' she says and I smile. 'You're showing too many teeth.'

I press my lips together, hiding the black scars of cheap fillings, put in too late. The price of a childhood of jelly pieces and gobstoppers.

Aerin said...

I'm not sure about all of sarah's edits - I love the line "invisible all the way up to the sky" - but I think I agree with her general idea - it may be a bit flabby. But I say that not having read the rest, which, like sylvia, I desperately want to read!

jjdebenedictis said...

I really like this. Your hook is in the last few lines, and I might have wanted to get to that part faster (speed junkie, moi?) but it's beautifully written and I don't think other people would have my hang-up about the pacing.

I agree about the line describing the air being invisible all the way up to the sky. Definitely keep that, and the bit about second-hand city breath; they're great.

McKoala said...

Thank you all. I'm just interested to gather some opinions on this. It could probably be tighter, I agree Sarah. It's a first draft. How about I tighten and then post a bit more...