Monday 22nd August
Ignacio was the tenth reader at Story Shop 2016, the daily Edinburgh International Book Festival showcase of up-and-coming writers living and working in Edinburgh today.
His appearance was on Mon 22nd August 2016 at 3 pm in the Spiegeltent.
Story Shop performances take roughly ten minutes and are free and unticketed.
A short bio
Ignacio B. Peña was raised in Los Angeles, California and is studying Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh.
His fiction has appeared in Headland and in The Harpoon Review, and he is currently working on his first collection of short stories.
He can be found on Twitter as @iggyVstheOnions, because he’s really not fond of onions.
You can hear the author read an extract of the story by clicking the play button on the photo above.
The story he read
Serves You Right
a short story by Ignacio B. Peña
Two boys climb over the junk heap. Eddie clambers up with a thirst to see the city from atop the garbage. When he reaches the peak he sets one leg higher than the other and raises his hand up to his forehead, claiming the pile of junk in his name. Home sweet home. Ollie pulls at a fender sticking out and turns it over, looking for clean bits of copper, before tossing it down the slope. He looks up at the other boy.
“The heck you doin up there?”
Eddie keeps his eyes on the horizon, the sky all burnt orange.
“I’m surveying the land.”
Eddie squints at the flaring sun edging closer to the heads of distant buildings. They seem to shrink away from it as it presses further down.
“Nah, nuthin,” he answers.
He stoops to pick up the plastic casing of a side-view mirror and looks back up to the city. The garbage peak becomes a pitcher’s mound and a batter is swinging his bat low in the distance, giving Eddie the eye, cocky know-it-all. Eddie The Pitcher winds up on one leg, ready to give that batter what’s-what and as his body releases like a spinning coil a baseball shoots out of his hand, faster than a bullet.
The plastic casing floats from his hand in a gentle arc, landing just a few yards away.
Eddie adjusts the blue handkerchief tied around his face.
“Stinks up here.”
“Stinks everywhere,” Ollie answers.
Eddie hunches down and continues to scan around the distant city and then down to Ollie, though he looks like an ant down there. Ant gonna get squashed by a big stompin foot. No sooner he thinks this than he feels unsettled and wishes his head would shut up. If he’s an ant you an ant too he thinks, and now he imagines the both of them as bugs and he tells himself louder in his head still to shut up.
“What kinda bug would you be?”
Ollie keeps digging into the side of garbage mountain, pulling out a grimy looking robot toy. He looks it over, staring at it for a bit before shoving it back in to the pile.
“Eddie why you always askin stupid questions.”
“I got my reasons.”
“Some questions aint got answers to em,” says Ollie.
Eddie looks at Ollie, crawling around the garbage down below like a roving black mark on the surface.
Cockroach then, he thinks.
Eddie treads down soft plastic bags full of god-knows-what and stops to pull at a car radio wedged underneath an amputated bathroom sink. He turns the radio over until he sees the wiring and holds it out for Ollie to see.
Ollie looks up to Eddie and squints out from his brown handkerchief. “Yeah maybe the wiring or somethin. Dump it in the wagon.”
Eddie jumps and runs down the slope, his legs cycling fast and he whoops and rushes past Ollie. He trips on a pipe and tumbles, clattering over garbage until he reaches the bottom of the junk pile. Ollie shakes his head and starts picking his way down to the wagon.
A groan floats out from beneath Eddie’s handkerchief as he picks himself up off the ground.
“Serves you right, stupid,” says Ollie.
Eddie lobs the radio into the rusty wagon. “I got something sticky on my shirt.” Eddie pulls down the handkerchief from his face and pinches the shirt where it’s stained and sniffs it.
Ollie reaches for the handle of the wagon and starts pulling it.
“Let’s go. Should be enough for Earl to have a look at.”
The wagon squeaks as Ollie pulls and Eddie follows behind, picking up any loose bits that fall off the small mound of junk resting inside the wagon. You just a trashpicker he thinks as he keeps an eye on the load. The wagon bumps on something and the radio jostles off, and Eddie stoops to collect it when he sees a crushed tv remote off to the side.
Looks like the remote in the living room, he thinks. Eddie picks up the remote lying on the ground and starts pushing the soft buttons like he’s dialing a telephone number. He puts it up to his ear.
“Trashpickers Inc, you got trash? We want it.”
“How many times I tell you Eddie, we aint trashpickers. We leavin the trash, aint we?”
“Yeah. Well you a nosepicker anyway.”
“There worse things, y’know.”
Worse things by worse people, he thinks.
“What’s the worst thing you ever done in your life?”
The wagon squeaks to fill the time it takes for Ollie to search around for the worst thing he’s ever done in his life.
“Killed a cat once,” he says.
“The hell you did.”
“Swear to god. I killed that cat and then I wrapped it in a box and left it on the porch of Mister Grinsley.”
The two boys fall quiet and the wagon continues to squeak to itself.
Eddie looks down at the remote in his hands. He tosses it aside and speaks.
“You don’t sound sorry about it.”
“Hell nah. Why should I.”
“Well I asked what’s the worst thing you ever done in your life.”
“Yeah. And that’s it I think.”
“But you aint sorry about it.”
“No way. Mister Grinsley had it coming.”
Eddie stays quiet a moment.
“The cat didn’t.”
“Yeah, well Mr. Grinsley did,” says Ollie. “Can’t tell me otherwise.”
“Yeah. Guess so.”
The two boys stop talking and the wagon trundles along. Ollie points to a busted monitor lying a few feet ahead of them. “Go check on that one, see if there’s any wiring we can strip off that.”
Eddie walks on ahead and turns the monitor on the side, popping open the plastic casing with a flathead screwdriver he carries in his pocket.
“Aint you gonna ask me?” Eddie asks.
Eddie stops. “Why not?”
“Cuz you first done the askin. Figure you’d tell me about it one way or another.”
Eddie looks back into the open casing of the monitor and stares at the wiring inside. His hands rove around, pulling at them, but after a moment or two he leaves the wires inside the monitor and stands, trailing behind the wagon a bit further than before.
He sinks his hands into his jean pockets.
“I ran into the house one night before my brother and hid behind the couch.”
Eddie pauses. Ollie looks over his shoulder to him, slowing the wagon down.
“My parents came in first and saw me hiding there, and I put my finger to my mouth so they’d be quiet about it. They went in and then my brother did too. He was callin for me and I just stayed quiet for a long time. He asked my Mom and Dad where I was and they just said they didn’t know, I must be gone or something. He kept lookin and after a while he just started crying.”
Ollie stops pulling the wagon, waiting for him to go on.
“What, that it?”
“You shoulda heard it Ollie, the way he got to crying. I got so scared, it was like he thought I died.”
“Jesus christ Eddie, that aint nothin.”
“I still think about it.”
“So what. You just feelin guilty over something aint no reason feelin guilty for.”
“Yeah but I still think about it.”
“Don’t mean it’s wrong.”
Eddie kicks at nothing by the back wheel of the wagon.
“You know I didn’t come out when he started crying. He stopped at some point and I was still back there. I think I was back there for like half an hour.” Eddie stops, keeping his eyes low. “It felt like everyone forgot about me alluva sudden. Everyone kept going like I just wasn’t there anymore.”
Eddie and Ollie stand still on opposite sides of the wagon, both looking at the pile of junk in between them.
“I still think about it,” Eddie says.
“What your brother do?”
“He hit me.”
Ollie resumes pulling the wagon and the squeaking picks up.
“Yeah well. Serves you right.”
(c) Ignacio B. Peña, 2016
Part of Story Shop at the Edinburgh International Book Festival
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Ignacio Peña reads Serves You Right on 22 August 2016 at Story Shop during the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
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