This rewrite I’ll break the back of, at the cost of thousands of words of the old version of the book. Probably about 40,000 words. They weren’t, or aren’t, bad words. It’s not their fault, but they don’t work together, not as a whole. The great white whale of the novel is being gutted, with the blubber cut away.
Some of the waste words I’ll put up on this blog now and then, so that they have some kind of after-life. Maybe they’ll turn into stories of their own, part-buy, part-rent. Part old, part new. Part lost part found. And still not enough in the bank.
Here are a few of them:
It’d been at least twenty years since the last time I’d seen Aunty Maggie and dad’s funeral.
I picture her by the graveside, her dyed-red hair pulled back into a ponytail so hard it lifted up her eyebrows. I spotted her between the bounces of light reflecting from my Nigerian aunties’ lip gloss; I caught sight of her between their Hayes head-dresses; Aunty Maggie’s brown eyes set into a face drawn with lack of sleep and a lot of eyeliner. Her lips disappeared into her mouth. Her black cotton blouse still carried its shop creases. Her black skirt was pulling itself apart at its seams. Her legs ending in patent black high heels.
I could smell overturned earth. I could hear traffic going by behind the cemetery’s trees and wooden fence.
Maggie accepted my other relatives’ remembrances of my dad while she destroyed an order of service between two wrung hands.
The baby is nearly thirty months, not truly a baby any more. He can climb stairs, pedal his tricycle, put words together in groups, although only his mother is very good at understanding him. He pronounces words using only half of his mouth, making the sounds fluffy and intimate. Only if you spend a lot of time with him will you understand his way of speaking. His mother likes this. It’s nice for her that they have this almost secret communication. She’s the one who explains the world to him. She knows that soon he’ll get better at speaking, and soon enough he’ll be at pre-school, and he’ll have other people to explain, and he’ll need her less and he won’t want her so much and this soft time they’re sharing will change into something else.
Dancing to Hole’s album with the sea coming to our feet, I became friends with my sister again. With the night stars pinning the sky up above us, we danced off the sharp tequila that had shaken us. We shared headphones and one cassette tape in a cheap walkman. We were still kids then, sort of. We were old enough to drink tequila, but young enough that we didn’t have anyone counting on us. It makes you selfish, being young. It makes you be inside yourself as the centre of your world. It makes looking back from an older age have this filter of wonder, of the strangeness of yourself, of your younger self.
I have taken you to Dr Somerset. He told us there was no more help he could give. I have taken you to Dr Trevellyan. She told us, ‘Could be three months. Could be a year. Some people can continue indefinitely on the medication.’ She told us that you’re not technically suffering. Your pain is deadened by the medication. She said a nurse would come and show me how to soften food and thicken fluids for you. I told her I used to be a nurse and I knew how.
Jolie visits once a week to check on you. She is checking on me. She takes your blood pressure and looks in your eyes. She checks your padding. She inspects your chair to see that it is clean and dry. Continue reading
Maybe you wouldn’t expect so, but Mick remembers breathing. He remembers the little noise his lip made when they’d part, and the rise of his chest, and his lungs filling. He remembers the little temperature change in his nostrils when they’d suck in new air, and the baby-turbulence at the roof of his mouth when he’d breathe out. Continue reading
One day you climb up the scaffolding of a water tower with Oskar. From there you can see across from his compound to yours. ‘Look,’ says Oskar. Goldie, the huge yellow labrador who lives with you, runs across your compound, gaining speed. She reaches the tall wall and, this is unlikely, she clears it. You’ve never seen her do this before. You didn’t know that she could. Continue reading
Boyd managed to get away after tea. Fishfingers, frozen peas and oven chips made a warm lump in his stomach. Johnny and Fraggle were meant to be meeting him on the corner of Main Road and Hill View. Boyd touched the cans of pop he’d stashed in his hoodie’s front pocket. He’d had to walk like a crab to avoid shaking them up. His mam had nearly caught him.
‘Why are you walking like that?’
‘I dunno,’ he’d answered and she just said, ‘I don’t get you kids’ and let it lie. He managed to swipe a packet of rich tea biscuits from the kitchen cupboard before he legged it. Continue reading
Reenie goes downstairs in the muffled silence of the night. She finds that the glass door into the living room is slightly ajar, and that’s how she knows that Mick has been through. He could never stay in bed; it’s no surprise that now he’s dead he’s a restless spirit.
During these days in between the seasons I sprawl on my bed in my sixth-floor two-room apartment in the city that has adopted me, in a country that is not mine. I spend my time eating toast and watching people from the single small window of my apartment. There’s a woman I often see. She looks about thirty, or thirty five, or thirty six. In this weather she wears light strappy summer dresses. She hustles a black hulk of a Victorian pram and a little boy up the street past my building a couple of times a week. She wrestles the pram up and over the street kerbs, it seems improbably weighty. The little boy messes about and gets smacked on his ear for it; on their way back he is usually occupied with a lollipop or packet of crisps. The woman arranges plastic bags around the pram and her floral dress is damp down the middle of her back and sticks to her body. They don’t notice me, I think, leaning on my elbows out of my window.Continue reading