Mammals, I Think We Are Called
Number 2 of the eighteen stories in my debut short story collection, Mammals, I Think We Are Called.
A writing retreat deteriorates into a confused reality when a sinister writing tutor goes to war with a hare.
Read an excerpt:
I have been sitting at this table forever, staring through the front window at the hare, its eyes two holes in the mask of its face: concentrated circles, deep wishes crowding behind them. The twilight perseveres, a pale blue coating. All I can do is shift my gaze towards the crest of the hill, but it feels as if it too is staring back – small animals live in those rocks, small animals arranged in neat compartments in a box, waiting for a breath of words to wake them up. That’s what the writing tutor said.
There were twelve of us sitting round the big table that first afternoon. It seems smaller now, filled as it is with imaginary fur and fuzz, hide and scales.
“To write well, you must loose yourself from your moorings, forget who you are,” said the tutor.
Cliché! I rolled my eyes and looked out at the lawn, already feeling oppressed.
The hare sat outside, its silhouette distorted, massive against the endless blue.
The tutor saw it too. “Hares, animals, let’s use them,” he said.
It seemed a safe enough writing topic; thank God, he wasn’t about to launch into metaphysics. Now I wish so much that he’d suggested something else: newspaper headlines, weather, even my parents. Anything else.
The tutor told us he’d found a box on the hill. He’d opened the lid and it was full of miniature, squashed animals – a lion, a bee, a mandrill, lizards. Some were dead.
“You must feed the animals,” he said, as we began to write. “Add detail! Make them come alive. The animals are starving.” He walked round the table and waved his hand in front of our eyes, as if checking our aliveness. “The animals. Feed them! Help them to grow.”