Leave my wife alone I said. No he said I will not leave your wife alone, I love her. And so saying he went from the doorstep and taking a small green tent he set it up in the garden and every morning thereafter I was irritated awake by the smell of his infernal little cookstove and a bit later tortured by that of his squalid fried breakfast. He hired a small boy to bring love letters to the front door 16 times a day, hourly. My wife gave the boy 5p every time; this angered me but as she said it is not the boy’s fault. Besides he is from a poor family. But at 5p x 16 hrs = 80p per diem might I not end up in the poorhouse myself? But it was not the money. It was the situation. And the smell every morning. My wife’s one pronouncement was It is just a phase. But a phase for who? I said And how long? She, lovely, went to the other side of the garden and planted leeks in silence. While she planted the leeks I was left to answer the door and pay the boy the 5p every hour. Can’t you see she’s just over there by the hedge? I said after he had handed me the third letter. He smiled at me mutely. So he was retarded as well as poor! Darling, I love you, I can’t live without you, be mine. Your worshipper. I stopped reading the letters, they were all the same. And the envelopes were all the same, addressed merely to She. In the morning the letters were often stained with cooking fat or some kind of jam. The letters that came at midday were relatively clean (I think he ate only salads for lunch, made from herbs and flowers growing on the cat’s grave by the tent). The evening letters often smelled of whisky or canned beer and potato crisps. I left the letters in a neat pile on my wife’s table.
Top Reads of 2019
Her Left Hand, The Darkness
Alison Smith on the week she spent with Ursula K. Le Guin.
Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova
This surreal tale from Haruki Murakami circles a Charlie Parker album that never existed. Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel.
A monastic community persists after a ‘great chaos and collapse’ in this story by the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate, Olga Tokarczuk. Translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft
Two poems from Rebecca Tamás’ collection WITCH.
On High Heels and Lotus Feet
Summer Brennan on high heels, foot-binding, and our ongoing performances of gender.