Clare has read at Story Shop 2014, the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust’s daily showcase at the Edinburgh International Book Festival of up-and-coming writers living and working in Edinburgh today. You can find an extract from the story she read on on Fri 22nd August 2014 below.
Clare Archibald writes across forms including short stories, poems, stand-up and children’s fiction. She is currently writing her first novel, Outwith, and is being mentored to do so by the award winning author Lisa O’Donnell via the Womentoring project. Clare lives in Fife and is based in Edinburgh for work.
The Short Story she read on the day
a short story by Clare Archibald
You all told me that hair cannae go white overnight, but mine’s did. My colour went; I’m not havering, I know I’m not. I’m here as proof, even if you don’t believe it. Well I was here. Och maybe it just seemed like overnight to me. Perhaps I changed really quickly inside but the rest of the world, well ma wee world anyway, only saw me in slow motion.
It keeps happening to me, and I keep on pulling out the white hairs and hiding them in sweetie wrappers, piling them up at the back of the boxbed until I get the chance to bury them in the back green. Digging away with ma trowel like some kind of confused, flapping magpie. Trying to remember the colours of the rainbow and the order they come in. And then I carry on as normal, nobody knows what I’m thinking because I’ve always got a quiet smile and a friendly ear for everyone. This time I was hoping it’d be different but it’s the same except worse. This time though I’m telling you. Did you know I hung down heavy to the floor, my lower half bulging with nature, without nurture. Know that I shuffle around in silence, feeling all the stitches I painstakingly sewed the last time I unravelled? That’s me, Saggy Aggie, Droopy Drawers.
Sit by the fire with me, it can be just like those other times, sewing the rags into my underwear, padding my life out with some soft edges to hide in for a bit. Every now and then we’ll feel the rhythm of Joe spitting onto the coals, and we can all wonder what he thinks. What he thought would be enough; thoughts can count as feelings can they not? That would do for me. Although the hiss on the coals always eventually comes back as:
“Aggie, should you no be getting the weans tea, rather than sewing a bloody quilt or whitever it
is you’re faffing about wi?”
I should. It’s not their fault after all. I look at the big pan on the range wondering where I get the energy to heave it off and sort the tea. I know that he needs me to wear my pinny like always, and just get on with it. I’m pinned in my pinny right enough. I never even had a day in bed this time
“whit’s the use in greetin’ Aggie? it’s life is it no, best just get oan w’i it”
Joe had said, ramming his baccie into his pipe in a way that drew a line under any suffering. Ma grief. I need to make it so that they’re the lucky ones, the ones that never knew what it was to go out to the toilet in the back green in the middle of the night and cry enough to create the gas for the lights that weren’t there, to sob wide open enough to swallow all the spiders that I tried not to think about round my feet, round my feet and in the ground. Ach I cannae think about the ground that’s too much. I spend all day scanning their faces and watching, thinking, wondering what could, what will happen to them? How can we make them lucky? Can you even? A wombful of worries eh?
(c) Clare Archibald, 2014. Abbreviated due to publication.
Other places to find her stories
The Sweetie Wife appears in Hysteria 3. A children’s story by Clare has appeared in The Looking Glass and her first story for adults was published in Push Magazine.