This is the micro-fiction (very short story) I entered for the Stirling Prize. I was really pleased to get third place and to be included in the anthology coming at the end of the year. I was also delighted with the judge, novelist Lesley Glaister‘s comments:
“Some beautifully observed detail in this story which really captures a particular character at a particular moment, yet is suggestive of so much more.”
Nothing to do in August
Boys have that look, don’t they? Of bored indifference. He has it, that studied neutrality. He sits in the August sun, brown skin smooth, his faded t-shirt thrown over a shoulder. He rests on a low wall. Legs straight and crossed at the ankle, his back rounded for balance. He looks bored. He squints a little in the high, hot sun.
A few metres away is a bus stop. What this? This bus stop? No, coincidence, for sure. I’m just sitting here mate. Got nothing to do. His longish hair falls into his eyes, he gazes beneath it at the worn strip of verge between the wall and black tarmac of the pavement. Little clumps of tired, dull grass survive in the dusty brown. They trap the debris. Flecks of ancient sweet wrapper and cigarette butts. A crisp packet too robust to break down. It will probably exist longer than he does. The red and blue plastic catches glints of sun. The silver interior winks as the empty pack rocks gently in the breeze.
A bus comes down the road. He watches, turns away. Couldn’t care less. He watches. Three people get off, the bus pulls away. He stands and stretches, nearly leaves. Might as well sit down again. No reason. Nothing else to do, is there?
He inspects a bite on his shoulder, squeezes his flesh, leaving a red mark. He stares ahead, unfocused. Another bus arrives. He turns, watches as people get off. Seven or eight people. And there she is. He watches while she is shielded by the small crowd. She walks in his direction. A drop like a fairground ride in his belly, a beat like alarm, like a thrill in his heart. He turns away. He’s just sitting there.
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Enjoyed this. Really well-rounded little piece!
Thank you Matthew
Superb, Alison, and so right about the pavement and the elevator-stomach!