A stone here, a bone there

10 Dec 2007

(This is a preview of Stones and Bones, the short story compilation to be published in December 2007.)

Hidden depths

...Why was he here? What had led him, from a degree in engineering and four years' work for two survey companies, to this godawful Yorkshire... sod, perpetually covered in whirling mists and sheep? He walked desultorily a little further then, looking up, realised he was at roughly the midpoint of the cove, some hundreds of yards distant. A thought formed in his head....

They glow, against the skin

...By the 1880s the company is in some difficulty. Nathaniel Houndsworth is in ailing health, but unwilling to hand the reins to his son Martin. The historian Andrew Gillman discusses Nathaniel Houndsworth's condition in some detail: "racked with pain from arthritis, symptoms of which were especially prominent in the swollen joints of his dominant right hand, Houndsworth could barely handle the jewels, let alone set them with any delicacy of touch." Michael Denning, an apprentice during the end of Houndsworth's running of the company, remembers the older man "bent over his desk like a question mark." He was clearly in terrible pain....

Mortar dream

...They never perceive it directly, but rather catch peripheral glimpses, as though of a sound heard through tinnitus or of a flash seen out of the corner of an eye. Thus forewarned, they sit and wait. Before their eyes, their accommodation is presently augmented with (for example) new castors on their writing-desk; a black, drooping pelmet flutters over the top of their curtains; and the light beside their bed burns fiercely bright. Such are the fates of the respective components of the dream: the pursuit; the fear; the flashing blade....

Stones and bones

...y e t  f a u l t s  n o t  s e e n  a r e  n o t...

O great computer!

...Deep in thought, he marked places from time to time on the map with flattened glass marbles. Often the juxtaposition of two or three or even four such markers led him to put another down in their centre, or on a particular axis of conjunction. Occasionally, with a triumphant flourish, he would take a ruler and pencil from his desk and affirm the arrangement with a permanent line.

In this way Rhys spent the next few hours playing what appeared to be some ancient boardgame against himself, thrilling at his own victories, excited even further by his failures. The day darkened and became evening; his parents came home and called up to him; the television went on, and once or twice the telephone rang; but nothing penetrated Rhys' concentration, as he wondered again and again about the next move he might make....

Sense of place

...He could still picture her now. She had planted herself into the carpet, with the heavy, bulbous writing-desk on her right, drawers and board locked and snapped together, and the dresser looming over her left shoulder, a faded dinner set exhibited on it behind a lattice of vertical dowels, and a collection of family photographs beneath. She was occupying a position of power, an intersection of domestic ley lines, and it looked like there was no budging her this side of doomsday....

A chat with relatives

With head bowed,
He scoops clay out of brick
And ceramic

The parable of the traveller and the innkeeper

..."You are a godsend, my boy," the innkeeper said. "If you perform all these tasks you will certainly earn your keep and more. Though I have very little money to give you to help you on your travels, I will show you something far greater than money. I will show you the way to the most blessed stone cross, high on the nearby hill. It will be the making of you, my boy. It will make you a man...."