K Patrick is a writer based on the Isle of Lewis. In 2021 they were shortlisted for both the White Review Poetry and Short Story Prize, and in 2020 were runner-up in the Ivan Juritz Prize and the Laura Kinsella Fellowship. Their debut novel, MRS S, will be published June 2023. Relayed in bodily, impressionistic brushstrokes, Patrick’s novel speaks to their sensibilities as a poet: the writing is sensory and tactile, leaning toward intimation and gesture to convey the protagonist’s longing and want.
Listen to an audio extract from ‘Mrs S’
Once again she wears a white shirt. This time hers, not his. I didn’t know what to wear. In the end I pulled the crumpled shirt, his, from the bottom of my laundry basket. To smooth the creases I stood in the steam of the bathroom. The collar damp against my neck. She is too polite to say she recognises it. Are you excited? Yeh. Good, I think you’ll like it. The car is small, old. Red paint rusted above the tyres’ curves. A crack in the windscreen slowly growing larger. Inside it is spotless.
Her hand on the gearstick. No nail varnish, no bracelet. Earrings, gold studs. I notice a second hole, grown over. She touches her earlobe. Always on my lookout. Ah yes, from my younger days. When you were a painter? She laughs, avoids the question. Nothing is given away easily. She hands me a stout Ordnance Survey, a biro star, her biro star, drawn next to a particular square. OK, you need to read this, you’re the co-pilot. Course, have you been before? Yes, but he drove us, Mr S drove. I let the air hang. Anyway it’s there, you can see, where the river goes through the campsite. It is there, the thickened blue bend, a patch of criss-crossed green. I look again at her earlobe. She turns out of the driveway and onto the road. Goodness, what am I doing, the wrong way already. That sudden vulnerability. I want it to be me, to be my gaze, to be our gazes swapping in and out, one replacing the other. She takes the car up to the sports field. A large car park sits behind. The Girls wander about, holding hockey sticks, gumshields plump behind their lips. She waves to a few. Screeches the tyres in a fast circle. She waves again in the rear-view mirror. They call after her.
You’re so popular with them. Yes, only after a year of trying but never appearing to try. A minibus turns in beside us. The other team. She seems genuinely interested, craning her neck to see the uniforms, to guess the competing school. Did you want to stay and watch? No no. We drive away, past the pub, past the garage. I wind down the window. The tunnel whoosh. I lean out, my eyes watering, the hedgerow whipping close to my ear. We slow down at an enormous bridge. A long line of motorbikes is waiting to pull in. Ah, Devil’s Bridge, have you seen? No. How have you missed so much? She indicates, following the motorbikes. There is no room for another car so she leaves the hazards on, blocking somebody else in. Quick, hurry, before we get in trouble. In the middle of the bridge, the river wide and slow beneath, she shows me two round imprints sunk into the wall. The devil’s hands? The devil’s hands. So tiny. Not if you have hooves. She presses her knuckles into the dents. Stone worn smooth. Is it lucky? Probably not, probably the opposite.
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