first footing

by uzwi

Here’s a little bit from the new novel–

Wet days, he stayed inside, listening to the rain on the river. He watched Netflix, or scrolled through his emails, among which he would often find one from Victoria Nyman. Victoria had made good her threat to leave London. “Well, it’s done,” she wrote. “Goodbye Dalston. I took only what I could get into the little car. Everything else went into storage. As you can imagine, it was goodbye to the priceless antique carpets and family silver.” Or, sent from her phone: “Help! Lost in the Midlands again!” She approached the whole business as obliquely as the rest of her life. But she was making friends, she said: she was enjoying herself at last. She was cleaning two old chairs with white spirit and “linseed oil the colour of Lagavulin”. It was a running commentary. Shaw looked forward to each new installment, but always felt he had missed a pivotal message. Where had she actually gone? What was she doing now?

“Anyway,” she wrote, “Like all the other losers, I cashed out for the provinces. Lots of love. Hope you are enjoying your fish, and that, just as importantly, the fish is enjoying you.”

In fact, he had decided to give it to his mother.

The reasons for this he would have found difficult to explain. If you picked the fish up and encouraged the streetlight to angle off its hand-etched scales, it seemed more Deco than Peru, more 1930s than nineteenth century; to confuse matters further, the hallmarks were Spanish. A tiny bashed pentagram indicated, so Google advised him, silver of .915 purity. These failures of alignment between the facts of the fish and Victoria’s narrative of it only seemed to echo a deeper cultural disconnect. There was a curious, halting feel to its aesthetic–as if the artist, in the attempt to kitschify the ethnic product of one culture, had stumbled on evidence of a completely different culture hidden inside it. Under the lamplight the movements of its cleverly-articulated body fell just short of sinuous.

It was too like a fish. Its rubbery lips and accusing blue eyes dismayed him, especially when he woke in the night, disoriented by the noise from the room next door.

–happy New Year.