October 14, 2007

'Elephant in the corner' prose snippet

This is the first snippet of prose I’ve produced as a result of the ICW class. Read on!


‘What are you doing here?’

Bitterness gummed her tongue, though the question had long left. It hung between them. She marvelled as the harried snap of her voice became like rain on the sea’s surface; wordlessly absorbed into the whole. If she had reached up and tapped a fingernail to her cheekbone, like she so often did in bathroom mirror tiles, would she have recoiled?

‘Oh, Darren told me. You know Darren. He’s come with Eri – Eri Jhan – he’s come a few times.’

Hair flipped around Tamar’s face, punctuating what her bag-laden arms could not. She wished she would look down and meet her presence at least, if not her eyes. Her eyes seemed everywhere else but on her, but perhaps the bulb light was misleading. She could see the outline of a camera case, the suggestion of a notebook, in amongst her baggage.

‘Really? Well it’s a great space isn’t it,’ she blurted, leaning her shoulder to the wall, arms braced against the banister. ‘Shadow in spades. And at the right time, the damp’s nothing!’

She found her voice increasing to a shout. Even this was not enough to hold the other’s attention.

‘I quite like the damp,’ Tamar replied. ‘I like the texture of it, though it’s difficult to capture. See here.’ She advanced a step and gestured to a flourish of florid grey-green.

Her stomach lurched, forcing her body into a sort of sideways leap. The battered floorboard whined as she shifted. Why was she so nervous?

‘Can’t… I can’t say I agree with you.’ It took effort to speak.

‘That doesn’t surprise me.’ Plastic grumbled under various strains as Tamar rearranged her burdens. ‘Uh, may I get by? I take it you’re finished…’ she murmured delicately. There was a trace of amusement in her voice.

‘Certainly! Of course!’ She advanced a step or two, almost at a run. Tamar started at the movement, which contained all the vigour of a fencer’s parry.

‘You should go down first.’

‘No, no, there’ll be space! I’ve done this before!’

The hollow echo of her words rolled up and down the dank stairway.

‘Have you?’ she returned. Her tone was insinuating, as was her needle-dark gaze as it finally, lazily, lingered over her.

She flushed, regretting wearing the green hat today – its brim squeezed her temples like murder. And she knew it looked ill in harsh light. She reached up and plucked it from her head, shoots of soft hair spraying from underneath.

‘Let’s go, shall we? I’ve got an appointment.’


The women began to move, one ascending, one heading downwards. Tamar swung herself and her bags lightly to the left, forcing the other’s cheek and chin to the wall. Several seconds’ of jostling ensued, plastics and fabrics rustling for release, brittle floorboards shrilling. Their hipbones jarred.

Finally, thankfully, they were past. Mounting the stairs two at a time, appropriating lungfuls of sweeter upper air, she welcomed escape. The door was ajar, admitting a milky light at that suffused its surface with paleness. There was greenness in the gap, the gleam of a passing car, a sign the colour of hornets busy with arrows.

‘Bye,’ Tamar’s voice wafted to her ears.

‘See you,’ she agreed, approaching the door. The air possessed a cold snap akin to the clack of dog’s teeth. What a difference a few metres’ depth made! She placed the hat back on her head and tossed a look downward, detecting the sweep of heels and a mustard-coloured coat hem rounding the corner and passing from sight. Picking a particle of brick grit from the edge of her eye, she made her way out.


My thoughts? I regret making it so creepy. Especially since in last week’s class we had to give our work to somebody else, who had to then make judgements of the author based on the writing alone. Last time I checked I wasn’t _all _ that psychologically suspect… but maybe I’m biased.

Neither am I entirely satisfied with the way I ended it. For most of the way I felt I was building up to some grand revelation, but then I bottled it. Perhaps this was due to laziness, or lack of ideas. To be honest, the constraints of the exercise were tricky to deal with – I ended up pretending that this was a fragment of some bigger story, and I’m not sure how good an approach that was. It’s turned out somewhat vague.

It’s awfully serious too. I should lighten up.

I find myself obliged to end on a positive: I am pleased with the location. You can do a lot with stairs. They are a suggestive place. Dangerous too. I fell down the stairs in our house the other day. You can’t really trust stairs.

Hmm. Anybody else got any comments? You can even be mean if you want, I don’t mind.

Gemma xxx

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