The Beans Podcast, January 2018 – Lilac

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:

Lilac

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.

What?

Don’t stare, she whispers.

I’m no.

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.

Advertisements

The Man an the Lintie

(Written for the #DareToDream day of action on Thursday 27th October, part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival of Dreams 2016.)

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. A man walks up tae the tree. He sees the lintie, an no havin seen a lintie afore, he goes, ‘whit’re you?’ An the lintie says, ‘I’m a lintie’. An the man goes, ‘whit’s a lintie?’ An the lintie says, ‘I sing’. An the man says, ‘but whit’s a lintie?’ An the lintie says ‘I sing.’ ‘Are ye a bird?’, the man says. ‘We’re aw birds’, the lintie says. ‘I’m no’, the man says. The lintie says, ‘whit are you then?’ An the man says, ‘I’m a man’. An the lintie says, ‘whit’s a man?’ An the man takes a shotgun fae affay his shoulder an shoots the lintie deid.

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. A man walks up tae the tree. He sees the lintie, an no havin seen a lintie afore, he goes, ‘whit’re you?’ An the lintie says, ‘I’m a lintie’. An the man goes, ‘whit’s a lintie?’ An the lintie says, ‘I sing’. An the man says, ‘but whit’s a lintie?’ An the lintie says ‘I sing.’ ‘Are ye a bird?’, the man says. ‘We’re aw birds’, the lintie says. ‘I’m no’, the man says. The lintie says, ‘whit are you then?’ An the man says, ‘I’m a man’. An the lintie says, ‘whit’s a man?’ An the man takes a shotgun fae affay his shoulder. An the lintie goes, ‘that wis a joke. I’m a man as weel’. An it pulls oot a gun fae under its wing. Points it at the man, pulls the trigger. But it’s jist a wee gun, wi wee sma bullets nae bigger than seeds, an they wee sma bullets barely break through the man’s jaiket. The man laughs an shoots the lintie deid.

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. A man walks up tae the tree, sees the lintie, goes ‘whit’re you?’ The lintie says ‘I’m a lintie’. The man says, whit’s a lintie? The lintie laughs. ‘That wis a joke’, it says. ‘I’m a man’. An the lintie pulls oot fae under its wing a gun near twice the size o it. An it shoots the man. An the man faws deid. The lintie laughs, an stumbles back aff the branch. An bein a man noo, an no actually a lintie, it cannae fly, so it faws an breaks its neck.

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. It feels something cauld under its wing, diggin in. It brings the cauld thing oot, an wonders at this strange metal contraption, wonders how it came tae be in sic a place as under a lintie’s wing, wonders how it came to be at aw. The lintie doesnae see the man wi the gun below. The man raises his gun an shoots the lintie deid.

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. The lintie sings. A man walks up, raises his gun, shoots the lintie deid.

A lintie sings. A man shoo/

The man stops. He listens. He feels like he kens the sang, like he’s heard it afore. Mibbe when he wis a bairn. Mibbe when he wis in his mammy’s belly. The man sits doon oan the grass an closes his een. The sang’s caught him in a place where he’s no used tae feelin things. He’s no used tae this feeling, this feeling is different. Aw he kens is that he doesnae want the sang tae finish. But it does, the lintie finishes its sang. An it sees the man sittin below wi his een closed. The lintie asks the man, ‘are you okay?’ But the man doesnae answer the lintie’s question. Because there’s a question in his heid that’s louder, a question that wisnae there afore.

Whit are you?

‘I dinnae ken’, the man says. Tae the grass. Tae the lintie. Tae the world. Tae hissel. ‘I dinnae ken’.