My Grace

suns-book-burning-xciivDon’t really know what this is. It just fell out of my head. Been reading too much Roald Dahl.

There was a noise outside, a scuffling, scratching sound occasionally interrupted by the shouts of women and the hollow thundering of the dustbins rattling their way down the street. We stopped what we were doing, and looked at each other. Maybe we should step up to the window and look, I thought to myself.

There were four of us, sat around the table; myself, my brother, Mr. Parsons, and you. I remember watching you, seeing how slowly you put down your cards, face up (three jacks, you had. Although little more worth mentioning) and walk through the kitchen to the curtains that swung solemnly above the filthy sink. Your dress was new, I found out later. I hadn’t noticed. You pressed your face up against the window frame, and squinted through the grime, your eyes following the trail of litter and burning paper that fluttered past.

Within a couple of seconds of peering, you rushed outside, leaving the door banging on its hinges and smoke billowed into the room, ruining poker faces and aggravating Mr. Parson’s dry cough. The rest of us continued to stare into each other’s inertia, until we heard your voice shouting above the clattering clamour of breaking glass and brick smashing against concrete. The smoke continued to billow through the splinters in the window, and Mr. Parsons was practically bent double with his hacking and gasping, so I pulled the curtains tight and tucked them into the gap behind the radiator. We all heard the thudding of the radios being thrown against the front door, but after a while we managed to ignore it.

The chanting of the women stopped after eighteen hours.

It was all over a book somebody had written, they said later, as they picked the shards of Tupperware and glass out of the rubble. The news barely mentioned it, though (a few reports on page four the following day, but after that, nothing at all). All this death, all this noise over a book. Mr. Parsons still hasn’t fully caught his breath, and they found small pieces of the vicar strewn across the entire cul-de-sac. It took them almost a week to identify him. The book got banned, of course. I don’t think any men actually read it, anyway.

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About Benjamin Norris

Published writer of short stories, long stories, poems. Well received art critic and cultural commentator for Berlin magazines. Collaborator with operatic societies. Co-writer of fictional historic psycholinguistic journals. Lecturer of architecture and art history at a Budapest University. View all posts by Benjamin Norris

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