I’ve been redrafting and editing a short story called ‘Wasps’ for what seems a very long time. It’s now there, or as much there as a short story ever is. It’s morphed from the 1st person, past tense, through the 2nd person ‘you’ to multi-perspectives and finally to the 3rd person, present tense.
The story has also moved setting from my own place of Gower, to France. The process has illuminated that revising a draft is often about revision in the fullest sense of the word: to see again, to see anew. And sometimes to see from afar.
I’m emotionally attached to this story. It’s been through a grilling workshop at one of the fiction clinics run by great Irish writer, Claire Keegan. It’s been discussed in terms of the epiphany at a DACE session at Swansea University and next week, I am delighted that it will be published in edition 8 of The Lonely Crowd. I’m looking forward to giving a short reading from the story at the launch at Noah’s Yard, Swansea on 8th November, and at Little Man, Cardiff on 15th November. An essay on the writing process of ‘Wasps’ is also being published online at The Lonely Crowd. I am grateful to editor, John Lavin, for this opportunity to share print space and physical space with many writers I so admire.
I’m glad I stuck with ‘Wasps’ even though there were times I was going to file it under bin. As Keegan says: “The story’s there in the draft. You only have to look.”
An extract from ‘Wasps’
They let themselves in with the heavy iron key that’s been left for them under the geranium pot in the gravelled courtyard. Out of the intense June light, the shuttered kitchen is dim and cool. They see the wicker welcome basket groaning with produce on the worktop, smell the air thick with pink garlic, ripe peaches and cantaloupe. Two glasses are ready along with a bottle of local Gallaic rouge, which they uncork immediately, a sweet mix of fruit and spice escaping the bottle.
Once they have settled in, they sit on the terrace, at the table with the familiar, red cloth and gorge on strong hard cheese from the Tarn and hunks of bread, and toast the week to come. It is dark by then: rural France dark, though the air still hot and humid. The grating of cicada legs summoning their mates provides the backdrop to their conversation.
“You OK?” he asks.
“Yeah. Fine. Good to be back,” she says.
“And?” he asks.
“Just as it was,” she replies.
They decide the dishes can wait until morning before mounting the twisting stone staircase to the bedroom. He’s thrown open the blue shutters and put them on the hook when he took the luggage up, flung the windows wide, in the hope of letting the outside into the stifle that’s been building up over the day. The cotton voile curtains hang limp in the breathless air.
As she switches on the bedside table lamp, she notices that the white walls behind the bed are flecked black with mosquitoes that have eased their way in. She doesn’t mention the windows to him, but takes a match and ignites the coil at the side of the bed. Immediately, the smoke curls, the smell of phosphorous and formaldehyde filling the room.
“Christ, sorry,” he says, “forgot.”
“Doesn’t matter. Not now,” she says.