In the lead up to xx minifest we shall be posting teaser extracts of writing from our artists so that you can see how great they are and remember to buy tickets. Today we have a new short short story from Roshi Fernando. Roshi read at the Small Wonder Festival last month and was commissioned to write a new piece of 500 words. You can read it below:
Listen! Above your heads balloons sing to each other across the sky as you awake. Listen! Can you hear?
Two men are driving. They wear stab proof vests and carry radios. They don’t say anything and play heavy metal, but softly.
The balloons were inflated before dawn. It is a beautiful day.
Claudia and Jaya sleep. Their arms sweat against each other. Her skin is crinkled and pale like the creaminess of a discarded wedding gown on the pale morning of the first day of a married life. Jaya’s body is the shiny blackness of a midnight wave, steady, pulsing, awaiting an early sunrise. They sleep while music is wafting on breezes toward them.
The organ-like notes horn out like parasaurolophuses calling to their young.
The two men stop at a café van in a layby. They order bacon butties, cups of sweet black coffee. The bald one sips too much and burns the roof of his mouth, biting a hole in the polystyrene. It hurts because he holds the coffee in.
‘Spit,’ his friend says, watching. He shakes his head, and tears up. It burns in his stomach. The salt of the bacon stings.
Jaya wakes completely, irrevocably, and his desire for Claudia is uncontrollable, and he rolls onto her and rouses her by pushing himself in, and she opens to his need of her and is shaken: that he would dare, that he takes for granted…that her need was there too, though she was asleep, that when he kisses her she kisses back, and his urgency doesn’t lessen, though they made love throughout the night. It is their first night together.
The balloons float over the neighbouring village, their sleepy notes infiltrating the dreams of men who sit up and think of wars they fought, nights in prison, places without women. And women hug tighter to the duvet and dream of other men, not the strangers they have been married to for years. And the children? They dream nonsense: listen! You can listen and imagine the children’s dreams.
The two men travel toward the light. In the distance, for the first time, they see the hot air balloons – seven bulbous, colourful clouds, drifting pointedly to where they go.
Jaya’s eyes close, and she reaches up and places her hands on his shoulders, and strokes down his arms until he collapses onto her. He holds her close, and kisses her chest and says those things – I love you, I need you, I love you – those things.
They arrive at the address. They know he is there: they’ve been tipped off. They take the handcuffs. They knock, Claudia answers and they run in, wait for him to dress. She screams.
As they walk him to the car, the bald one touches the roof of his mouth with his tongue. The tenderness hurts. Jaya doubles over with the second punch. The balloons above their heads sing sweetness to them. And for a moment Claudia stops wailing and they all look up. Listen.
Roshi Fernando was born and brought up in London. She studied for her first degree at the University of Warwick, and holds a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Wales, Swansea. In 2009 she was awarded the Impress Prize for New Writers, for her composite novel, Homesick, which comprises a series of interlinked short stories about a community of Sri Lankan immigrants in London. Homesick was published in autumn 2010 by Impress books, and has been republished by Bloomsbury (UK and Commonwealth) and Knopf (USA) in 2012. Her story ‘Three Cuts’ is published in the anthology Sing Sorrow Sorrow published by Seren in October 2010. Roshi has also been given a special commendation by the judges of the Manchester Fiction Prize, and has been longlisted for the Bridport Prize 2009. In 2011 her story ‘The Fluorescent Jacket’ was shortlisted for the EFG Sunday Times short story prize. Roshi lives in Gloucestershire with her partner and four children.
7.30pm | CARDIFF LITERARY SALON XX SPECIAL
A special all-female edition of Cardiff Literary Salon takes to the stage for xx. The short story form will be our hot topic with readings and discussion from EFG Short Story Prize shortlisted Roshi Fernandoand Dylan Thomas Prize winner Rachel Trezise. We shall also be showcasing some hot new local talents with readings from Swansea poet Sarah Coles, Cardiff author Alexandra Claire and a story from Hail! The Planes front woman Holly Muller. Hosted by writer, poet and Parthian Books’ editor Susie Wild.