Last Day of Summer | A Short Story by Gareth Hill

Last Day of Summer | A Short Story by Gareth Hill

Short Fiction from Gareth Hill

They’d left England at the start of July, new lovers on a whim of post-graduate liberation.

Ten weeks ago, 29 states ago. It felt longer but not long enough.

“Dialogue moves this story, and there is enough mystery to keep you hooked.”

Eugen

“I loved this. It is haunting and evocative, tense because of the inevitability of what is coming, but never resorting to ‘shock horror.’ This is excellent, an author that can really write.”

Debra

An example of simple genius | from Don Delillo

An example of simple genius | from Don Delillo

“It was the rooftop summer, drinks or dinner, a wedged garden with a wrought iron table that’s spored along its curved legs with oxide blight, and maybe those are old French roses climbing the chimney pot, a color called maiden’s blush, or a long terrace with a slate surface and birch trees in copper tubs and the laughter of a dozen people sounding small and precious in the night, floating over the cold soup towards skylights and domes and water tanks, or a hurry-up lunch, an old friend, beach chairs and takeout Chinese and how the snapdragons smell buttery in the sun.

This was Klara Sax’s summer at the roofline.”

Don DeLillo, Underworld,

A deceptively simple passage that offers so much in so few lines. Stripped away of unnecessary ‘fluff’, no room for those adverbs that pave the way to hell, as Stephen King once opined. DeLillo’s blend of simple description with introspection drops the reader into the scene, a silent witness, viewing and feeling the scene as the narrator sees it. Prose that bears the hallmarks of Joyce, Hemingway, and Woolf, with the added eye for detail and economy that comes from a literary apprenticeship served as copywriter among the Mad Men of 50s NYC. A passage of simple brilliance, a ‘show, don’t tell’ masterclass, hidden within the pages of DeLillo’s Pulitzer nominated American opus.

The ‘rooftop summer’, an immeadiate image, outside, on high, warm. ‘Wedged gardens’ precious, small sanctuaries, high within a crowded city landscape; the elegant quality of wrought iron furniture, its character defined by its rust; well-worn, faded from its former glory, but loved and full of story, perhaps. The heavy metals, the iron and copper, softened by the climbing roses, the ‘maiden’s blush’. It’s an idyll, an image that our narrator may be romanticising, looking back through nostalgic eyes at a time made more glorious through the passing years. ‘Maybe they’re French roses’ (maybe, perhaps, not?). It was lunch, it was night, it was drinking soup, eating Chinese food.The cascade of fractured memory, pieced together to create a beautiful bridge between fiction and truth.

Remembering that time, the warmth, a setting sun on an angular skyline, laughter, the smell of buttery snapdragons.

A time that was over too soon, unreliably, romantically recalled: forever ‘precious in the night, floating…’

A deceptively simple passage that offers so much in so few lines. Stripped away of unnecessary ‘fluff’, no room for those adverbs that pave the way to hell, as Stephen King once opined. DeLillo’s blend of simple description with introspection drops the reader into the scene, a silent witness, viewing and feeling the scene as the narrator sees it.

Prose that bears the hallmarks of Joyce, Hemingway, and Woolf, with the added eye for detail and economy that comes from a literary apprenticeship served as copywriter among the Mad Men of 50s NYC. A passage of simple brilliace, a ‘show, don’t tell’ masterclass, hidden within the pages of DeLillo’s Pulitzer nominated American opus.

The ‘rooftop summer’, an immeadiate image, outside, on high, warm. ‘Wedged gardens’ precious, small sanctuaries, high within a crowded city landscape; the elegant quality of wrought iron furniture, its character defined by its rust; well-worn, faded from its former glory, but loved and full of story, perhaps. The heavy metals, the iron and copper, softened by the climbing roses, the ‘maiden’s blush’.

It’s an idyll, an image that our narrator may be romanticising, looking back through nostalgic eyes at a time made more glorious through the passing of time. ‘Maybe they’re French roses’ (maybe, perhaps, not?). It was lunch, it was night, it was drinking soup, eating Chinese food.The cascade of fractured memory, pieced together to create a beautiful bridge between fiction and truth.

Remembering that time, the warmth, a setting sun on an angular skyline, laughter, the smell of buttery snapdragons.

A time that was over too soon, unreliably, romantically recalled: forever ‘precious in the night, floating…’

A Nativity Story – Flash Fiction

Pierce sits at the back of the hall, wishing to go unnoticed. A man and a woman sit next to him. They’re of similar age but act younger. The couple smile, share a joke; the man holds an expensive looking digital camcorder and makes a big play about not knowing how it works.

Pierce suspects the man knows exactly how it works.

The rows of seats begin to fill up: expectant, excited parents filing into the assembly hall, the murmur of voices mingling with the jagged screech of metal legs from moulded plastic chairs, scratching across the wooden floor. Fond eyes glancing at the stage, hoping to catch a glimpse of their sons and daughters: adults young enough to remember their own star performances of past nativities. Amazed that they have reached an age to be the audience of their own off-spring.

Pierce scans the room; he spots her two rows from the front. Lora. She’s with a man, vaguely familiar. Navy suit, no tie, his arm resting on the back of her seat.

A piano: Away in a Manger.

Children shuffle onto the stage, emerging from behind cardboard palm trees. The adults shift, sway from left to right, craning necks for a better view. Arms at odd angles, red lights blinking on digi-cams.

He’s there. Pierce spots him immediately; small, fragile body draped in a brown robe, wisps of blonde hair escaping the pink tea-towel on his head. Pierce straightens his back, suppresses the urge to shout, to stand, to wave his arms. He looks towards Lora. She’s waving excitedly at the stage; the boy, seeing his mum, smiling. He’s always been a good natured boy.

The man beside him holds his camera aloft, above bobbing heads. His eyes are glazed, a thin wet streak from an escaped tear running down his cheek. He’s crying. I want to cry too, Piercethinks. He doesn’t. His chest feels tight. He hasn’t seen the boy in six months, since before he went away. He’s grown, he thinks.

The play winds its predictable, cute, way to a climax. Each cast member reciting a line, wringing sentiment out of the receptive crowd. From the stage the boy looks out, across the rows, towards the back. Pierce raises a hand, instinctively, giving a thumbs up sign. The boy raises his in response.

Lora turns; she looks back through the rows of parents. They catch each others stare. Pierce shouldn’t be here. They told him to stay away until he’d proved himself. But how could he stay away? He looks at her, pleading.

The children on stage begin singing: Once in Royal David’s City.

Lucy nods, half smiles, then looks back towards the stage.

Dai’s Dead Now

Dai’s Dead Now

Dai’s dead now
He wasn’t very old
He caught the dreaded lurgy
He thought it was a cold

People cried and mourned him
A popular fellow was Dai
Dai thought this was brilliant
As he looked down from the sky

Because Dai went up to heaven
He was greeted at the gate
St Peter said “you’ve earned your place”
Dai said “cheers mate”

On earth they planned a party
In memory of Dai
They ate a mighty buffet
And drank the local dry

Dai loved it up in heaven
There was peace and love and joy
He met an old school friend
Who arrived there as a boy

Back home they missed him dearly
“What a shame he died so young”
But they needn’t be too sad
For Dai was having fun

The Boy Without Shoes

The Boy Without Shoes

Tied together they dangle from the phone line which stretches between the rows of terraced houses.

Small shoes, black shoes – scuffed toes and well worn soles.

They sway gently on the breeze, an odd hanging ornament over the quiet road, the parked cars.

Along the street the boy stands alone; crying. The socks on his feet are damp and cold and he can’t feel his toes. He sniffs, wipes the snot and blood from his nostrils and starts for home, wondering, again, why they always go for him.

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