Swimming With Books

A writer's reading journal, & sundry other notes.

Stories I’ve written

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The Last Dream  (Sport 29)

I’ll tell you something.

You’ve planned your own death. A quick stab from your heart while you’re pruning the apple trees you planted fourteen years before; the aneurysm at the summit; a blackout after dancing through the night; a last breath in your sleep. Without the terror of prior knowledge, but also at a reasonable time on a day when it doesn’t matter if you leave. At peace with those you care for, your papers in order.

If you don’t believe me, try these alternatives. More

Mrs Methven (Sport 28)

Mrs Methven’s bell jangled, and Phil hauled himself up the stairs while his phone began to beep. A message. Helen, maybe?

The old lady’s head was tilted back on the pillows, her shrivelled chin pointed towards the ceiling.

‘I’ve been ringing the bell for ten minutes. Where is that hopeless girl?’

‘Don’t know.’ He could guess, though. He’d twice found the night nurse, a harried Australian, asleep in the kitchen with her feet up.

Mrs Methven sighed, and the mucus rattled in her chest. ‘I am stranded between rigid sheets. Each day will be the same now until the end.’ More

In the Afternoon Sometimes We Bake (Snorkel 11)

My daughter Flo is tall for her age and muscular. When she barrels into me I have to bend over or I fall. On our way home from school she runs ahead, backpack bouncing, so she can leap out from behind the bus shelter shouting Aaaargh.

I should say here that we don’t actually catch a bus. It’s just that the stop is on our way home.

On the afternoon I’m writing about I looked up from my feet and saw this elderly lady standing to one side of the pavement, holding onto the pole of a streetlamp with both hands while Flo ran up the hill towards her. Maybe I wouldn’t have decided she was shaky if she hadn’t had white hair. It turned out I was right so maybe it doesn’t matter. But I made a lot of assumptions that day and now I don’t know what to think of myself. More

Intersections (Turbine  3)

From the sky, the man was only a small, dark coin moving through the landscape. He trailed a long piece of string behind him, the same greyish brown colour as the bare soil. His pace was steady, but languid, and he looked straight ahead. No onlooker would have been able to tell whether he had any sense of a destination.

The light was not good, and he didn’t see the small hill until he stumbled up it. On the other side, several people were perched on rocks. They ignored him.

A man wearing a bulky hearing aid spoke. ‘I grew up under a flight path,’ he said. ‘When I was twenty, twenty-one, I found a job in another city. A few weeks into my new life I was drinking with some people from work and this woman said to me, ‘You keep disappearing’. She said, ‘You’re with us for five minutes, then you look down at your drink and go all quiet’. More

The Surveyors (Sport 2007)

If we take a particular moment on a particular landscape, we see a group of surveyors. No one was there when they arrived, and they don’t know when or how they came, so all we can say is that they stand with their backs to a hill, clutching compasses and dials, levels stakes and clipboards.

They look blankly at the flat land and the gleam of sea to their right. Practised at estimating distance, they gauge the beach is four hundred metres away, but can’t tell that it runs perpendicular to their line of sight before curving approximately sixty degrees northeast.

In silence they note the steep hill over their right shoulders. There are more hills behind them, and across the flat. ‘I don’t even want to start on those,’ a voice says. More

The Pit (Turbine  1)

“So, where is it these stories are kept?”

“Not so much ‘kept’. That implies a keeper.”

“‘Live’, then.”

“No, not ‘live’, either. That might suggest a self-conscious existence over time. The stories – a loose term, some may fit more neatly under the category of ‘anecdote’ – are in a large, circular pit, the slopes of which fall at a very low gradient. These slopes are covered in rubble, over which is spread various mosses and lichens. The diameter of the pit’s lowest point is negligible: that is, if you were walking across the pit, you would hardly have reached the bottom before you began to rise again. The pit as a whole covers an area of some forty metres square. Not being a geologist, I can’t tell you the exact composition of the stone. Granite and greywacke come to mind. It is grey.” More

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Written by Susan Pearce

April 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm

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