Short Story of the Month | ‘The Purging’ by Drew Martyn

Our new Short Story of the Month is ‘The Purging’ by Drew Martyn.

 

‘One cloud and a couple of vapour trails lazed against a heat-paled blue sky and a warm afternoon slid slowly into evening; I was aware of none of it. I was seventeen and cool, she was sixteen and hot: that’s all you can see at that age.’

In the lazy days of summer, two teenagers are forced to grow up quickly as they are thrown into the real world by events beyond their control.

 

Drew and his family live in Wales where he enjoys writing, football, music and real ales. He’s had dark fiction published in a number of print anthologies including Horror Library volume 5 and Fortune: Lost and Found as well as online and in magazines including Isotropic Fiction and Dark Tales. In Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (May 2017) he toyed with sword and sorcery prose-poetry. In the past he’s also contributed articles and conducted interviews for a UK soccer website. If asked about inspiration, he’d witter on forever about Ray Bradbury, William Trevor and especially Georges Perec, so probably best not to…

 

The Purging

This is an extract. Read the full short story for free on the Seren website.

One cloud and a couple of vapour trails lazed against a heat-paled blue sky and a warm afternoon slid slowly into evening; I was aware of none of it. I was seventeen and cool, she was sixteen and hot: that’s all you can see at that age.

Her name was Alison. She had a body to turn heads and a face to turn hearts, and I swallowed hard and said something inane at the first smile she gave me. It was summer holidays, no school, time for fun. Time for growing up into the real world – and I had a lot of growing up to do and not much time to do it in.

She took me home to meet her family.

I’d heard a few things about them, mostly from Alison. That was ok: listen to her stories and her family were okay. But I heard rumours too. And then someone told someone else who told someone who told me… and those rumours I didn’t like one bit.

But, anyway, we were here, walking onto her estate. The people we passed looked surprisingly ok. Normal. They didn’t have two heads, or bite the heads off kittens or carry machetes or grenades. They didn’t snarl or even growl as we walked past. Most of them didn’t even frown.

It was a typical housing estate: a warren of streets, narrow alleys and short cuts, cars half-off half-on the pavement, some tidy front gardens, a few of them anyway, some just rubbish tips for the couldn’t care less brigade.

“My house is just up here,” Alison said as we turned a corner. I slowed the pace.

“It’s ok,” she reassured me, laughing. “Honest.”

We passed a few bedraggled houses, the ubiquitous mattress in one of the front gardens, a rusty pram in another. And then, for no apparent reason, the houses suddenly looked cleaner, more looked-after. It took me a few yards to realise it was because they didn’t have flaking paint on the doors and windows. And the cars were parked properly. And the lawns were mowed. Lawns? I realised these houses here had the first grass and flowers in front of them that I’d seen on the estate.

“Mine,” said Alison, opening a wrought iron gate. It squeaked a bit as we walked through. I suppose it had to give some sort of nod to the neighbourhood. Or a warning to those inside the house.

That thought both scared me and made me realise I was being a snob. Ew no; one didn’t tolerate unoiled hinges where I came from, certainly not.

I can be a prat sometimes, I reminded myself.

On the other hand this house even had coaching lamps, shiny and polished, each side of the front door. Nice. Bit over the top, common maybe, but nice.

I can be judgemental, too. Goes with being a prat.

Shit, she was opening the front door! I hung back but she grabbed my hand and pulled me along like some toy dog. A waft of soap and Brut hit me as we walked in. I was about to meet the family.

 

This is what I knew of them:

Da had a reputation that could scratch diamonds, and fists to match. This town was his town.

Ma loved her own. For everyone else there were razors and bullets, mostly wielded by her tongue. Mostly (apparently).

Big brother Paul took one look at me and said: “Get her pregnant and you marry her, or you’ll never see her again.” This wasn’t a threat, this was a vision.

I didn’t listen. I didn’t care. After all, I reasoned, what’s sight worth, when love itself is blind? Oh yeah, I’m a romantic. Bit of a poet, me.

In other words, an all round total prat.

 

Inside, her house gave no indication of being anything special. It looked sort of nice. Tidy, like. No dead bodies. No suitcases full of money. And definitely no guns.

“Hi Da,” said Alison.

Da stood in front of a large sideboard mirror shaving with a cutthroat razor, a bowl of soap suds in front of him, his white vest splashed grey with soapy water, his braces hanging to his knees.  A radio in an upstairs room spoke loudly of last year’s moon landing and something about The Beatles disbanding.

As soon as I appeared, Da turned into a statue, the razor blade slicing my reflection, only his eyes moving, following me.

“You Mike?”

“Yessir.”

Even if I wasn’t, I’d have had to say “Yessir” to that voice.

“Don’t call me ‘Sir’. Don’t call nobody ‘Sir’. When you’re with my girl, other people call you ‘Sir’. Understand?”

I almost said “Yessir.” Instead, I said “So they should.”

It was the right thing to say. He chuckled and carried on shaving.

“Thanks Daddy!” Alison said, grinning.

Mam called out “Alison” and Alison led me into the kitchen. Mam wiped her hands on a tea-towel and threw it onto the sink before turning around to face us.

She looked at me for a second, then “Why don’t you sit down, love?” in a way that said, quietly and gently, “Sit down or I’ll rip your throat out.”

So I sat down.

She looked me up and down. Like Alison, she had big blue eyes, but Mam’s were a mother’s eyes, an assessor’s eyes, looking for weapons and chinks in armour.

I looked at Alison.

Mam leaned forward. That meant “Stop looking at her. Look at me, good boy!”

She said “Still in school, love?”

I nearly lied, saying I had a job, maybe that would go down better. Mothers liked that sort of thing: mature young man and all that.

What came out was “Yes, I am.”

Mam’s eyes smiled then and she nodded. “It’s good you didn’t lie to me,” she whispered. I felt like she could see into my soul, and I blushed. Not cool.

Continue reading ‘The Purging’ for free here

Advertisements

Friday Poem – ‘Boom!’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Boom!’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke, the title poem from her collection of the same name, and appears in the anthology Writing Motherhood.

A celebration of parenthood, the poems chronicle all the ups and downs of raising a family, from the rapturous moments, such as ‘Wakening’ where the baby is observed: ‘the seedling eyes stirred by sunlight’. To the tragi-comic ‘Nights’ full of ‘small elbows in the face’ and ‘assailed by colds and colic’ and the darker fears and depressions that can afflict parents.

As we comtemplate the feelings of wonder and love evoked by ‘Boom!’ We dedicate the weekly poem to Seren poets who have recently become new mothers: Kim Moore (May 24th) and Emily Blewitt (May 31st).

 

 

BOOM! is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Writing Motherhood is available on the Seren website: £12.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

Friday Poem – ‘The Glass King of France’ by Sheenagh Pugh

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘The Glass King of France’ by Sheenagh Pugh, from her latest collection Afternoons Go Nowhere.

A fascination for history, both as a source of human drama and a field for artful speculation, characterises this collection of poems by Sheenagh Pugh. In Afternoons Go Nowhere the past seems more relevant to the present than ever, human nature never entirely predictable and often non-sensical, the natural world seeming full of a paradoxical beauty. Complex but with clear themes and lucid, musical language, Sheenagh Pugh’s tenth collection will delight discriminating readers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afternoons Go Nowhere is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Sheenagh also features in our Poems from Cardiff pamphlet available on the Seren website: £5.00

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

Friday Poem – ‘The Owl Husband’ by Deryn Rees-Jones

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘The Owl Husband’ by Deryn Rees-Jones, which appears in her collection Erato.

Named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry, Erato combines documentary-style prose narratives with the passionate lyric poetry for which Rees-Jones is renowned. Here, however, as she experiments with form, particularly the sonnet, Rees-Jones asks questions about the value of the poet and poetry itself. What is the difference, she asks in one poem, between a sigh and a song? Erato’s themes are manifold but particularly focus on personal loss, desire and recovery, in the context of a world in which wars and displacement of people has become a terrifying norm.

 

 

 

 

Erato is available from the Seren website:  £9.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

Friday Poem – ‘Luminosity’ by Rhiannon Hooson

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Luminosity’ by Rhiannon Hooson, which appears in her collection The Other City, and Poems from the Borders pamphlet.

Rhiannon Hooson is a gifted young poet born in mid-Wales and currently living in the Welsh Marches. The Other City, her debut collection of poems, was shortlisted for the Roland Mathias Prize.

Sharply focused, beautifully resonant, deeply felt,  some poems reference and re-make narratives from classical Greek myth, some rework elements of Welsh history, ancient and modern.

‘Luminosity’ contemplates Alfred Watkins’ moment of inspiration in Herefordshire, when he proposed the existence of ley lines.

 

The Other City is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Poems from the Borders is available from the Seren website: £5.00

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

Friday Poem – ‘Starlings’, Catherine Fisher

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Starlings’ by Catherine Fisher, from The Bramble King.

The Bramble King is full of darkly resonant tales, ingenious parables, curiously haunted rooms and palaces, and beautifully observed images of the natural world. A prolific, popular and prize-winning author of fantasy fiction, Catherine began her career as a poet, and Seren published her early volumes: Immrama, The Unexplored Ocean and Altered StatesThe Bramble King is Fisher’s first collection of poems since 1999.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bramble King is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

Featured Image © Alan Hughes

Friday Poem – ‘Beach Colours’, Faith Ford

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Beach Colours’ by Faith Ford.

Poems from Snowdonia is part of Seren’s pamphlet series celebrating the spirit of place. The dramatic mountain ranges of the Snowdonia National Park take centre stage here, with their craggy peaks and waterfalls, along with the abundant wildlife, particularly birds like the Red Kite, Greenfinch and Chough. There are also poems set in coastal areas, the beaches around the Dyfi estuary, in Gwydyr Forest, on a hill farm near Blaenau Ffestiniog and in a Bethesda quarry painted by Peter Prendergast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poems from Snowdonia is available from the Seren website: £5.00

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

Maria Donovan; Long-lists, first lines and ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’

41POingnfmL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_We’re incredibly pleased to hear that Maria Donovan has been long-listed for the Hall & Woodhouse DLF Local Writing Prize for her book The Chicken Soup Murder. It’s a huge achievement considering this year the DLF received over 70 entries, and we’re all crossing our fingers for the next round!

You can purchase a copy of Donovan’s thrilling and genre-transcendent debut novel here: The Chicken Soup Murder

Donovan has been busy lately, and has recently been interviewed by novelist Shauna Gilligan for her Writer’s Chat Series. To read the two discussing breaking down genres, developing complex and sympathetic characters and to hear about Donovan’s upcoming plans, follow the link here: Donovan’s Interview

 

Jayne Joso on Child Characters and her New Book; ‘From Seven to the Sea’

Jayne Joso author of My Falling Down House

Author Jayne Joso has recently been interviewed about how she creates compelling child characters. Her latest book, From Seven to the Sea, features a complex and beautifully written portrait of a seven-year-old girl, Esther.From Seven to the Sea

Children are amazing, they are so complicated and, at the same time, simple and straightforward in many ways, but what they lack is the vocabulary to describe their lives, particularly their feelings, and so it is easy for these feelings, their inner lives, to be overlooked.

You can read Joso’s full and insightful interview here: http://www.skylightrain.com/how-to-create-compelling-child…/

And purchase the wonderful From Seven to the Sea here:  https://www.serenbooks.com/productdisplay/seven-sea

Later this month, Joso will also be discussing her new novel alongside Deborah Kay Davies, hosted by Dylan Moore, at the Hay Festival 2019. The event, taking place on Wednesday, 29th May, 2.30pm at the Compass Studio is entitled Fiction: Freedoms.

Find out more and book your tickets here: https://hayfestival.com/p-15412-jayne-joso-and-deborah-kay-…

Joso will also be bringing her book to the Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, in July; details to follow, so watch this space…

Friday Poem – ‘Borderland’, Christopher Meredith

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Borderland’ by Christopher Meredith.

Poems from The Borders is part of Seren’s pamphlet series celebrating the spirit of place. Featured poems range from “the spine of the A470”, through Monmouthshire, over the dramatic Brecon Beacons, and also through the Black Mountains towards Hay-on-Wye, towns in Herefordshire and Radnorshire and along rivers, the Wye and Severn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poems from The Borders is available from the Seren website: £5.00

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.