I went up to Dundee a couple of weeks ago to talk to the lovely people at The Beans Podcast (@TheBeansPod) about writing, work and selkies.
You can hear the podcast here: https://soundcloud.com/thebeanspod/guest-becky-carnaffin
And here’s the story I read:
You shouldnae judge someone by their hair. Except that, well, sometimes you can, can’t you? And this is one of those times. Thin, limp… and what even is that colour, brown? She’s tied it back in this tiny purple hair bobble that she’s knotted round a few times. Any other hair would be bursting to get out, but this hair’s quite content in its lilac elastic prison.
Mum’s nudging me.
Don’t stare, she whispers.
I’m not, she says.
I’m no getting into that battle right now. No, not, dinnae, don’t, fuck, off. Obviously, I dinnae say that to her.
Anyway, it wouldnae matter if I was staring. The woman’s in a world of her ain. She was sat here like that when we got here half an hour ago, she hasnae moved the whole time. No an inch, no a centimetre, no a millimetre. Just looking ahead of her, hands on her lap. She maybe even doesnae ken where she even is. God, I hate these seats. They put you right up against other people, which cannae be hygienic, can it? A bit ironic, ken, given the function of the place.
Mum’s got the clipboard. I told her to give me it, but she said, no. I said, how no? And she said, sorry? And I said, you heard me, and she said, I didn’t get that, and I said, you heard me, and she said, Oh, did you mean why not? Obviously, I said. Because you are fifteen years old, she said. When you are sixteen, you can fill in your own forms, but until then I will fill them in for you. I tried to grab the clipboard, but she hung on to it and wouldnae let go. She’s stronger than she looks, my mum. I sneak a look down at it just now but I can’t see what she’s written, her hands are in the way. She’s coming into the appointment with me. It wasnae worth arguing on that one.
God, no lookin at the woman is really difficult. How still she is, like silence, it’s creepy. I try to look at the wall, at the posters, at the clock. But it’s no use. I wish I’d brought a book. I wish they had magazines. I wish there werenae ‘No mobile phones’ signs all over the walls. I try to focus on the hair elastic, the colour of it, that stupid lilac, no look at her face or her hair. But it doesnae work. It doesnae work because there is a slug crawling up the back of her head next to her pony tail. It’s a big one, big, black and shiny. It stops and, I swear, it turns its head to look at me, its feelers raised. The weirdest thing is, she doesnae seem to have noticed it, the woman. How can you no notice a slug crawling up your hair? And up your neck, it must have climbed up her neck to get there, how did she no feel it? I look at my lap, look at the wall, look at the clock. My appointment was supposed to be 3.10 and it’s 3.20 now. Any second now, the consultant is going to appear and call my name. They are. They have to. Any second now. Any second…
I say woman. I say woman like she’s older, like she’s in her fifties or something. But when we came in, I saw her face, and there was something in it that said that she was younger. Twenties. Maybe even early twenties.
I’m glad my mum’s here. I look up at her, expecting her to smile back, make some rubbish joke, but she doesnae. She doesnae because she’s staring at the woman’s head, at the slug. Mouth open. No words to say. No that she needs any. Her look says it all.