I’m currently working on my new novel, The People Upstairs and am grateful to have the financial support of the Arts Council in this project. For information about their Grants for the Arts scheme please visit their website.
I’ve written a couple of pieces of short fiction to go with the newspaper clippings that should be attached here somewhere:
WOOLLY JUMPERS BAFFLE SHEPHERDS
So, we are all agreed then, said the feathered one, When the hairy ones are otherwise occupied, you woolly ones will look to me for your orders. The woolly ones all baaaad their consensus, all except him upon whose head the feathered one was perched and whose skin was being pierced by the scaly talons.
And sure enough, every day after that, when the hairy ones stopped to sit on the ground to eat, the feathered one would appear from the sky and hop and strut and ruffle around, demanding nothing from the woolly ones but their attention and trust, both of which were naturally given.
On the day in question, the sun had risen over the cliff and the hairy ones sat in their usual circle to chew and make noises. As usual the feathered one kept his promise. Today, he announced, I will teach you to fly. And with that he hopped his strut towards the cliff edge. The woolly ones followed, of course. When they were all gathered, the feathered one made a few short hops and launched himself into the sky, and one by one, the sheep followed.
FISHED OUT BATHER NOT DROWNING BUT SLEEPING
It was warm for September, too warm for the front porch or the back yard and certainly too warm for the house. No air. Humid as a snake pit. I packed my bag and made for the beach. Not the sea beach, that would be miles away on the Jersey shore, overpopulated and noisy as a cobra’s hiss, which you may think is quiet, but believe me, when a cobra hisses close up, it’s all you hear. So not the sea beach, the river beach, the river being the Delaware, the beach being Stephenson’s. A beach of grass, where you’d think I’d be alone on a workday afternoon, and eventually I was, but it took some waiting.
I sat, knees up, facing the water, with Radio Latin America in my left ear and Polish baseball shouts in the right. The lifeguards on their tower blocked my view of the opposite bank. I once heard of a woman whose lover lived on that bank, where I don’t know because from where I sat you see nothing but trees. Three days a week she would wait on the beach for him to swim across to her, gliding through the currents like a garter snake. What they did then was anybody’s guess, but as dusk fell you can be sure he would wade out again into the blackening water and slap slap slap at the river’s surface to bring himself home. The woman would watch his strong white arms flash in the failing light and at the same time still feel them around her and wonder at the separation.
Then everyone around me was gone and at last I heard the river’s gentle ssshh. I picked my way across the few stones at the water’s edge and my toes felt for the silky mud beyond. My legs glowed like firesticks in the murk. I slid myself onto my back, into an amphibian star, which the currents swivelled this way and that, and in the end there was no separation.