After your world ended for the third time, you walked. The gold ring on your right hand heavy and the blue band around your left wrist even heavier. ‘Rip-off fitbits’ was how Intisar had described them three years ago, as the two of you sat on the couch in the living room of your then new apartment, staring down at your clasped black hands.
We were both beckoned to the office, but I had nothing to do with it. I would explain this to Sávio, I decided, as I followed him inside. For once, I would be honest. Sinclair left the door open behind us. We sat in the hard chairs Sávio indicated with a soft wave. I did not look at Sinclair as he crossed his legs beside me. I watched Sávio roost in his big swivel chair. I took out words like stones and turned them over. But before I could arrange them, Sávio turned his monitor to face use, and there […]
The envelope must have been there for days before I found it. It was yellowing at the edges and torn where it had been taped clumsily to the lamppost. When I stopped to peer at it, passers-by cast curious glances at me, then walked on. Two words were scribbled on the front: Free ticket. I stuffed the envelope into my bag and rode home to catch the six o’clock news. When I wheeled my bike through the gate I noticed I had been delivered another envelope. This one was large enough to fit a sheet of paper without folding. I get mail […]
Rebecca was good with houses. Her life had been a series of them—homes, worlds—all remembered with intense fondness, as if the gains she made from those houses never wholly compensated for the loss each time she moved on. Whenever we talked about the past, Rebecca would refer to each house by name, in shorthand for that phase of her life. Northam Road, the semi-detached in Oxford that we shared, meant student days when the world was all before us. Then Hackney, the unrenovated carapace that was Rebecca’s first move into London property, a footing on a ladder that would climb […]
10.00 pm It’s tropics weather. The streets are like hollow stomachs, echoing and ringing from shots. There is a scout group anthem resounding somewhere. A woman is addicted to gardening; she sometimes tastes the flowers. Bright-eyed kids appear in the yellow window of a house and their parents pull them back and then a curtain is closed. 11.00 pm Mongolian ass birth mark. Distilled vodka. The mothers at the pool parties at a nearby house in summer would talk about her mother stamping her lower back and batting her with a rod when she misbehaved. ‘They do that sort […]
I promised my wife that she could throw the first stone. There’s a story called ‘The Lottery’. You might have read it. Carnage, very literary, hell of a twist, which is nothing really, not once you’ve come home late and your wife’s in bed, tears streaming down her face, and she can’t get out, not now, and you think, I know what I need to do.
The boys cackled as Rathu approached, dropping their hoes to watch her run. They spread their legs and squatted down like wrestlers. They lifted imaginary bellies away from imaginary bodies. They howled, performing laughter. The taller one kicked a stone at her as she passed. ‘Budumbudum! Run, Little Elephant, your mother is calling to you!’ Physical exertion has a singular power. The lithe boys, lean and muscled, would usually have intimidated Rathu. But now, her vision red-tinged, she looked at the taunters, at their bodies. Their smooth skin and bright teeth. Full lips and the short hair falling over eyes. The […]
That first night, he reached up into the winter dark. His hand drifted past Sirius, flashing like a huge diamond, a star without equal. He selected Aldebaran and plucked it straight out of the sky. It was effortless the way he pinched the star between his thumb and forefinger, brought it down to Earth and held it dazzling in his palm. The starlight beamed bright between the gaps in his fingers, making us squint as it refracted off the knit of quartz and feldspar in the western granite mountain range. We stood in awe of its beauty. But what to […]
Paulo kept thinking about what would have happened if he hadn’t found the boy in time. He felt morbidly curious about it, even though he knew the boy couldn’t swim, so really it was obvious. The night he’d come home, after the whole rescue drama, he felt like snapping at Tan when she said to Hayley, ‘You know your dad’s a hero, don’t you?’ ‘Daddy’s a hero!’ Hayley said, jiggling around in excitement. ‘What happened, Dad? Was the kid nearly dead?’ Ethan said, cornering Paulo at the back door. ‘For god’s sake, don’t be so bloody stupid!’ he said sharply and Tan’s […]
Seamus once and his mittened cat of Mairead’s second litter: Thomas à Beckett or Beckett or Thompson or Tom. Unlike other housecats inclined to their wry and lissom dignities of the favourite shelf or chairback, Tom à Beckett lay languidly on the coffeetable or beneath it with the dogs like Christ among taxcollectors, his pharaonic chin aloft the ceilingward flank of Baudet the germanshepherd Harriet first fetched home in a box. Tom was a prophet in his own land, but entered the room with a single vespertine miaow and pilgrimmed the occupants of the room where his family had lived: →Mother […]
*Content warning: This piece contains archaic terms that are now considered offensive. It refers to abusive policies from past eras, such as segregation, assimilation and the forced removal of children. 15 October 1918 A R Norman Chief Protector of Aborigines Perth Dear Sir As instructed, I have travelled to Jigalong depot to ascertain the number of native girls currently residing in the vicinity. I was accompanied by Mr Arthur Williams, whose business was to make delivery of livestock to the depot. There has been an influx of vagrants seeking work at the depot. Mostly returned soldiers who are no […]
When you step into the grey boat it bows to the applauding waves and nods to those retreating and then it settles on its stage, poised to break into another round of curtain calls as the wind from the south hurls petals of spray. There are clouds flexing high and grinding so much sleet out of the air—it sparks against your face and tries to fill the boat like a great bowl of water, to be drunk by the ever-thirsty sea. Your mother is wasting in her bed. Her skin is a poor, bedraggled blanket covering her body and her […]