Cut Back Flat
Double the rent or half a flat. Your choice. "Cut Back Flat ‘Bit of building work, Miss. George sent us round.’ George is the landlord, and for a moment I entertain some unlikely concepts. Things like upgrade and home improvement run through my mind, pushing darker thoughts down. There are two of them, both men obviously. They troop into my flat in a pile up of battered metal boxes and lengths of sawn timber. One is older, in his 50s, sort of lumpy, not fat but fleshy with exaggerated features. His shoulder length hair is slicked back to the point of recession. The other one could be my age, but is probably younger. He has that gaunt look acquired through serious and dedicated smoking, yellow fingers and teeth to match. They are both in white overalls, though the younger one has somehow rolled his down and is wearing them like hipster jeans, an inch of toned stomach between the waistline and his black tee shirt. He grins lopsided when he catches me looking. They start in the front room with a line drawn down the middle of the bay window. The column of concrete which divides the four panes is struck through in no time, but then the radiator underneath poses a problem, and they are seized by a fit of contemplation. There is a lot of head shaking. Teeth are sucked, pencils gnawed. They unroll a set of plans, consult in mumbles and hisses. More head shaking, loud exhalations through pursed lips. I try to get a look at what’s on the paper, but from my tentative perch on the sofa, the maze of lines bears no resemblance to my mental framing of home..."
A young woman tries to escape her stifling and superstitious community. "Emily hadn’t wanted to come to the memorial service, but Ma Kearney had insisted. It wasn’t easy to refuse, after all William had been her only son. ‘Six daughters before my lad was born but I never really knew what it was to be a mother until I held him in my arms.’ This had always been her introduction to any discussion about William Henry Kearney. There was certainly no great love lost between Ma and her daughters. Emily’s sisters-in-law were respectful enough toward their mother, and one or other of them could always be counted on to do their familial duty in times of need, but the relationships between mother and daughters were cold, they acted at best like polite acquaintances. William Henry senior had died soon after William was born and if Ma ever missed him, she kept it to herself. Courting Will had been a long process. Molly Kearney had a reputation for scaring off any prospective brides she found unsuitable, which was any girl her son had showed an interest in before he met Emily. Rumour had it that more than one poor girl had been chased out of the house by Ma brandishing a broom, and occasionally using it with some force, for simply talking too much, or smiling at or laughing along with him. Even girls who were friends of her daughters were not tolerated often within Ma’s walls. She maintained that there were enough people in the family that any other company was not needed..."
The Night Study
A Danish painter is driven into exile by his father. But he can never escape the chains of the family's dark secrets. "I watched the face of the man who could destroy me and, even then, I remember thinking what a fine composition this room would make. The mighty bookcases indistinct in the darkness, the fire in the grate, illuminating the faces of the two men drinking but clearly having no care or regard for each other. I had never been good enough for my father but I could always trust my younger sister to act as a bridge between him and me. It was to her that I could show my paintings, before my father destroyed them. When my father insisted that I go into the family business, that was when I knew I had to leave. But at regular intervals I would row over the lake to see her when my father was away. When she told me he was making her marry his old business partner I wanted to go and confront him but I did not really have the courage and was too easily persuaded by my sweet sister not to do anything. On the night of the wedding I stayed on the other side of the lake, looking at my old home lit up in festivity. As the music died I rowed over to where I knew my sister would be waiting. That night we said our last farewells, for the next day she would be leaving for Copenhagen. I knew the composition we made was beautiful. Angrily I threw myself into painting, feeding on my melancholy. I tried a palette of blacks and greys but could not cope with these. Instead I painted the summer fields of my childhood, all greens and yellows and a bright blue sky. I despised my weakness. Even more so when I was taken up by the London art market, my bright daubs becoming popular with the bourgeoisie because enough influential critics liked them..."