Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

The Pleasure of Piracy

October 11th, 2013 No comments

In a Granta article from 2009, Peruvian author Daniel Alarcón discussed the rampant state of book piracy in Peru. If you think the present day electronic copying of ebooks is a problem, this is nothing to the large scale copying of physical books in Peru: a new book by bestselling author Paul Coelho was widely available on street corners before it was even in the shops.

Alarcón, a newly published author at the time, lamented the loss of royalties when he found his book had been pirated. But at the same time he acknowledged that piracy was also a badge of honour – an author whose new book was not pirated had somehow failed.

It made me think how I would feel if my (as yet unpublished) books were pirated. And I concluded: I would be delighted. I’d be happy that someone had taken notice, that they’d felt the book was worth pirating. I don’t want to be a full-time writer, to need to make a living from writing – I’m happy trying to find a balance between working for money and the writing work that I do for myself for pleasure (which is pretty much the theme of The Tyranny of Careers in a nutshell.)

Of course in order for a book to be pirated, it must be published in the first place. It is the publisher that has lost the most – it is their decision that your book is worth publishing that encourages the piracy. Philip Pullman recently complained about the loss of earnings for full-time writers, and the unfairness of some readers taking for free what others have to pay for.

These are valid complaints. But even so I want to take Alarcón’s ambiguous view of the Peruvian book pirates as a guide for good writing. I do not want to view any kind of creative work in the same way as work to earn money. As I wrote in a previous post, I think a healthy society is one where art/creative work is a part-time activity undertaken by as many people as possible. I don’t want to write with the expectation of money – if it became a grind I would give it up. If I am never able to earn money to live on from writing perhaps I will only produce a book only once every five years say, rather than every year. This is fine. An every-five-years book will hopefully be more considered and therefore better than an every-year book. It is not like there is a shortage of books in the world to read.

In fact I would go further: if I am not happy for any work I produce to be pirated, if I am not happy to do the work but make no money from it, then it is not work worth doing.

Success, DIY, and the avoidance of fame

July 28th, 2013 No comments

If you’re going somewhere, where are you trying to get to? […] First it’s just getting a gig, then it’s supporting someone big, then it’s being someone big in your own right, and then what? Eventually, surely, the ultimate prize becomes not being famous, becomes regaining some of the dignity and privacy you so happily shed all those years ago. – Miranda Ward

F**k the Radio, We’ve Got Apple Juice is Miranda Ward’s account of the rise and self-propelled fall of UK band Little Fish at the end of the 2000’s, written in collaboration with the band. Little Fish found a kind of fame when spotted during a gig by Linda Perry from 4 Non Blondes, and went on to support Courtney Love and Blondie on tours around the world before recording an album in LA – only to follow this up by moving back to Oxford and recording their next album in their garage. But the book is less a biography of the band than an honest, insightful analysis of what exactly the band wanted from music, and what exactly they regard as success. Alongside this Miranda Ward examines her own motives for wanting to be a writer, and what that even means in an era of wall-to-wall blogging and self-publishing.

What was so refreshing to read here was what felt like sincere honesty in the band and the author’s desire to avoid fame. Whereas it is common to hear musicians and authors say they do not want to be part of the mainstream music or publishing industries, you still always have a nagging feeling that were they to have a hit single or novel they would lap it up and jump straight in to the fame machine. But it feels like a revelation when Little Fish recall that their most enjoyable gigs were the ones they played in Oxford venues to small audiences of appreciative fans – and when keyboard player Ben Walker describes what he now thinks of as success: as simply ‘being able to do interesting things with my time’.  Miranda Ward herself describes being surprised by a perfect day, of spending seven or eight hours writing, going for a swim then having an evening with her boyfriend, and what this means to her:

I don’t want to be a famous author for the fame; I want to be a famous author so that I can structure all of – or as many as can be considered reasonable – days like this. Because this […] is what makes me happy.

This feels exactly right to me. I’d like people to read what I write, because even though I take pleasure from writing itself there seems something missing if no one reads it. But in the end I just want to have the opportunity to go on writing about the things I consider important. This is the kind of life I aspire to in The Tyranny of Careers.

In this manner a fulfilling life is one that is focussed on what Miranda Ward calls ‘sustainable creativity’ – where the purpose of writing or making music or whatever is not necessarily to produce a book or an album, but simply to find a way to fund the continuation of making stuff. And whilst this means making do with less, and creating in a DIY fashion, these were the aspects of creating that made Little Fish feel more successful, rather than less. (In line with the DIY ethos of the book, it was published by Unbound, who raise the money needed to publish by collecting money from subscribers beforehand.)

This is a successful life for me: one of continued sustainable creativity. Highly recommend.


Coming soon: The Tyranny of Careers (and the Joy of Valuable Work) as a book

June 4th, 2013 No comments

Firstly, apologies to those people who have been following my blog and have not received any updates for a number of months. I’ve been spending the time working on a book that came out of the posts for Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties, have been caught up in that and neglected the blog.

In the course of researching the book I came across a talk by US artist Austin Kleon, discussing the benefits of sharing your research and progress in writing (or whatever art form you are into) before you actually arrive at the finished artifact. It made me realise that sharing the process of your work was the best way for art to be created in the internet age – because I get so much out of reading about other people’s creative processes, both good and bad (especially bad) and so I shouldn’t be shy of sharing my own.

So I have given this website a makeover, and there is now a page detailing my research for the forthcoming book, The Tyranny of Careers. These posts will be in place of any blog posts for a while, until the book is published – you can sign up to receive the tumblr posts via email, or follow the same posts on Facebook. These posts will also detail the (most likely self-)publishing of the book.

A Gangster Smile – short story by Ethan Crane

November 3rd, 2011 No comments

[first published in an anthology for Earlyworks Press, 2009]

The first time I see Archie, waiting in the playground, I hate him. Of course I hate him. He is fat with the weight of regular restaurant dinners. He has tight, dyed blond curls, and a complementary perma-tan. City boy, almost certainly. And he smiles, all the time – the joke’s on the rest of the world.

I’ve never spoken to Archie before, but I know who he is. Who they are. Archie and Talia. I’m not going to talk to him now, but I’m watching him. Through the classroom window the children are fetching their coats – I can see his reflection. I’m watching those constant smiles. What’s there to smile about? We’re waiting for our children to come out of school.

‘Hi,’ I say. I’ve walked over to Archie. ‘Which one’s yours here then?’ I’m a friendly guy, I could have picked anyone to talk to. Archie tells me he’s Maxine’s father – he uses the word ‘father’ – and, after a moment’s hesitation, deigns to introduce Talia. I shake hands with her as though we haven’t already met, though we have. And I know who his daughter Maxine is – she’s the one wearing ridiculously fancy suede boots, even though she’s six, same as Lily.

‘Haven’t seen you at collecting time before,’ I say.

‘No, I’m usually working,’ Archie replies.

‘I’m here most days. My girlfriend and I, we kind of share the childcare.’

Why am I talking like this?

Archie just grins at me. I silently curse myself.

‘Why are you so bothered about him?’ asks Andrea, when Lily is in bed. She is almost laughing, but makes a show of listening so as not to annoy me. I reiterate my distaste for City boys, for suits. My well-worn rant bores even myself, and I trail off into silence.

‘I don’t think he does work in the City,’ says Andrea. I can sense a certain satisfaction at this deflation of my argument. ‘I’m almost sure of it. Talia talks about him often being at home in the day.’

‘Works from home, then. Deals in third world currencies on the internet or something.’

‘Or maybe not.’

‘Well what does he do then?’ I sulk, quietly.

‘Talia won’t say,’ Andrea says, turning from the table to clear her plate.

‘Well isn’t that odd? Isn’t that a bit strange?

Andrea raises her eyebrows.

‘I’ll bet you he’s into something dodgy. Some people – you can just tell. The way he and his wife smile, it’s – sinister. You can just see they have no consideration for anyone beyond themselves.’

‘And you can tell all this from their smiles, you say?’ says Andrea.

‘Don’t you think he looks like, I don’t know, that kind of drug-dealing type?’

‘And you have been known, at times, to be the drug-taking type.’

‘I’ll bet you he’s dodgy. Something just tells me. He goes around so high and mighty. I bet you it’s through something criminal.’

‘Do remember you just made that up.’

‘Doesn’t mean it’s not possible.’

‘Or that it is.’

‘Low-life criminals still have to send their kids to school, don’t they? Why not to Lily’s school?’

‘Don’t you go spreading scurrilous rumours,’ warns Andrea, and chucks me on the cheek.

‘So what work do you?’ I ask Archie, next time I see him in the playground. I’m being nice as pie. It’s a perfectly everyday question.

The smile stays fixed, but Archie’s eyes flit from side to side. Is he checking to see who’s nearby? Maybe he’s going to tell me a cagey secret, because I look like the kind of guy who could keep one. I feel a ridiculous moment of pride.

‘You know,’ he says. ‘Buying and selling. Import export.’ He’s asking if I’m cool enough, if I can cope with this kind of information. Is that what he’s doing? Well actually yes I can, thank you. But don’t think that puts me on your level, Mr Drug Dealer. Don’t think I’m like you.

‘Right,’ I say causally. Archie turns away to look through the classroom window.

‘Saw this great band on Saturday,’ I say, without even realising I’d started speaking. ‘The Moppets, this local band. They’re amazing. You should see them if you get a chance.’

‘Oh yeah?’ says Archie. Children stream out of the classroom door and he makes a show of looking for Maxine. I’m glad not to have to follow up such ridiculous aggrandising.

Archie eyeballs me. His pupils are tiny.

‘Go out a lot then, do you?’ He doesn’t look away.

‘Well, you know,’ I mutter. ‘Bit more difficult with the kid now. But I still try and keep up with things.’

Where is all this coming from?

‘What about you?’ I mumble.

‘I only really get to my club.’ Now Archie turns away and calls to Maxine. ‘Martino’s. At the marina. You know the place? I’ve got friends who come in by boat and we meet up there.’

Friends with a boat. Right. I’ve got you. Who might be helping out with a bit of import export, eh?

I tell myself to stop being childish. Aren’t we just two fathers talking in a playground? No, because you’re one of those private club people, aren’t you?

‘I’m not really into those places. You know, private clubs. Not my thing.’

I’m going to find Lily and go. I can just avoid him in the future.

‘Oh?’ Archie says. His smile is now a leer.

I’m starting to walk away to grab Lily. ‘They’re just a bit, you know. Divisive.’

Oh, good idea. What are we attempting here, to get him to give up his money with a bit of socialist discourse?

‘Each to their own.’ Now Archie turns his back, as though he can’t be bothered with me any more. ‘Having a bit of a do for my birthday next weekend actually. You wouldn’t be interested in coming?’

‘Oh. Well – ’

He eyeballs me again. ‘Two weekends in a row a bit much for you?’

You cheeky fucker.

‘No, sure. I’d love to. We’d love to. I’ll check – I’ll tell Andrea. We’ll be there.’

‘Great. Martino’s, from nine. Just give my name at the door.’

It’s Saturday. We haven’t managed to find a babysitter, and Andrea has insisted I go because I was the one who was invited and anyway she can’t stand places like that, and now I’m stepping off the bus, on my own, at the marina. I have a suspicion Andrea knows how I got myself into this because she keeps going on about how broadminded it is of me to have made friends with Archie after everything I said.

Inside Martino’s Talia sees me first, she pulls me over to her little group, and kisses me on both cheeks. It would be churlish of me not to mention that she is determinedly sexy. She introduces me to her (all female) friends, some of whom look reasonably normal, and not disgustingly expensively dressed, as Talia herself is. The music, playing to an empty dance floor, is surprisingly good.

After a while I see where all the men are – seated in large leather booths around the edge of the room. Archie will be embedded in one of these male cliques, no doubt. I stay talking to Talia and her friends, I make them laugh – I’m the only man amongst the women. I’m rather enjoying myself. Finally Archie comes over, says nothing to any of the women, and leads me off to a booth I hadn’t noticed, hidden further away in the club’s shadows. He chats to me as we walk, the usual nervous host things about not knowing how many people are going to turn up. I’m feeling victorious. Maybe Archie will even have some drugs going.

The booth Archie leads me to is populated by the meanest bunch of hardnuts I have ever seen in the flesh. He indicates the spare chair next to him.

Archie introduces me to all seven of them. ‘Marco and Juan are over from Spain,’ he says of the two men to my right. Theirs are the only names I catch. Why did they leave a spare seat for me? My mind formulates scenarios wildly. Is this a gang? Are they planning something here? Does Archie – does he think I’m in for a cut of whatever they’re up to, or something?

Archie introduces me. ‘Ed’s an editor.’

‘Good name then,’ says one of them. They all laugh in a low rumble.

‘Copy-editor,’ I say, to fill the silence. ‘It’s – a bit different.’

No one says anything to that. No one says anything much at all. The only social activity appears to be drinking. Everyone has an identical glass of iced golden liquid in front of them. In the middle of the table are two bottles of Scotch and a decanter of soda water, which seems quite moderate until I realise that every time one of the whisky bottles is emptied a waiter suddenly appears, unprompted, and replaces it with a full one.

I sip at my drink, trying to look interested in the scant conversation.

‘Don’t you like Scotch, Ed?’ Archie asks. ‘I can sort you something else out if you’d like.’

I make a plan to sit this out until midnight, and to foreshadow my exit by looking progressively bored, thus indicating the dullness of Archie’s parties. Because this is quite dull, whatever kind of edgy lives these guys might lead, or pretend to lead. I no longer care about Archie, I’d just quite like to be back on the sofa with Andrea and that bottle of wine she opened when I left.

Archie reaches into his pocket and brings out a huge bag of coke.

‘Aha,’ says the man opposite me, whom I later note is called Stan. ‘The goods.’

I look at Archie, who gives no indication of worry that I’ve heard this.

Right, I think. I’m going to get names, registration numbers, boat numbers the lot, and then I’m going to shop you all before I’m in bed. Even if I do like a bit of coke myself every now and then.

‘Got yourself a largish personal supply there, eh Archie?’ I’m being goaded by the Scotch.

‘This cool with you, Ed?’ asks Archie, and he seems serious for a moment. I cannot tell if he’s asking if I’m cool with the drug-taking or that they’re a gang of drug dealers. It hasn’t yet registered that I might be in any personal danger.

Archie snorts a fat line, then pushes a mirror containing two more fat lines in front of me. He passes over a twenty pound note.

‘Not for me, thanks,’ I say. I don’t want to now. I know I’ll just end up gabbling and asking Marco or Juan or someone to tell me just what it’s like being a drug dealer.


‘Just not my kind of drug.’

You stupid arse. Next thing I know there’s a sizeable bag of E’s on the table in front of me. I can’t refuse.

I casually throw one in my mouth and slip it under my tongue so I can spit it out later.

By now the bag of coke has done the round of the table.

‘So what’s it like, being an editor?’ Marco suddenly turns to me. ‘I’ve done a bit of writing in my time.’ He signals Archie to pass the mirror his way again, and tells me he’s got a drawer full of stories but never had any of them published. That figures, I think to myself, seeing as you’re a drug dealer, and then immediately reprimand myself for such intellectual snobbery. What’s to stop a drug dealer being a writer? Plus you still don’t actually know that they’re drug dealers. I need to reciprocate Marco’s interest in me, so I ask him whereabouts in Spain he’s from, noting it for later, for the police. I tell myself once more that they’re most likely not drug dealers, and ask Marco what his stories are about. He describes one of them to me and it’s funny. In fact it’s very funny.

I forget all about the police. I feel around the floor of my mouth with my tongue and find there is nothing there but a few grains of powder.

Later I’m in a huddle with Archie, and I tell him: ‘You know what.’ I’m laughing again. ‘You know, Archie, earlier I thought, you know, what with that bag of coke and the pills and the boat from Spain I thought for a bit that maybe you were all a bunch of drug dealers.’

And Archie laughs, and it’s the laugh that goes with the smile from the school playground, the distant one.

Later still I’m in the middle of the dance floor, dancing with Talia. She’s laughing at my dancing. In a good way.

And even later we’re out the back of the club, the side that opens onto the water, and right there moored by the back door is Marco and Juan’s boat, an enormous motorboat, and we get on board and Marco starts the engine and then we’re out in the open sea. Now there’s just Archie and Marco and Juan and me, and these other men stare out at the dark horizon without talking, or maybe they couldn’t talk over the noise of the deafening engine. And we keep going for what seems like hours, and I know this because what with the cold air and the silence and the deep stares of these men the ecstasy seems to be wearing off, and now I’m fully aware what we’re here for, I know for sure that they’re going to dump me overboard in the middle of the English Channel, and no one will ever have any idea what happened to me, and Archie will go to school on Monday same as always and pick up Maxine like nothing has ever happened. I call over to Archie but he doesn’t even turn round.

‘Further out,’ I hear Archie say to Marco. They look back at the lights on the shore. ‘We don’t want to see anything.’

And now I’m feeling really ill, though I can’t tell from what. ‘You all right, Ed?’ says Archie, leaning down to where my head’s between my knees.

‘I’m alright,’ I say, ‘I’m fine,’ and then I vomit into the neck of a life jacket. Archie tells Marco to cut the engine.

‘Well, what are we going to do with him?’ I hear Archie say.

‘Do you want to lean over the side, Ed?’ he says to me.

‘What, so you can tip me over?’ I reply shrilly. ‘No way.’

And I hear Archie tell the others that they’ll have to turn back, and then I’m sick all over Archie’s shoes, and Archie says nothing. And then I’m back on shore and I’m in a cab, and the last thing I remember is Archie leaning over me.

‘Missed out on something special there, Ed,’ he tells me as he shuts the cab door. ‘Floating in silence out on the ocean. Complete blackness. Not even any light pollution. Just you and the stars.’

On Monday, at school, there’s Archie, picking up Maxine.

I go up to him. I have to.

‘Didn’t think you picked her up on Mondays,’ I say, for want of something better.

‘I don’t usually,’ says Archie. ‘Thought I would today.’

I want to punch that smug smile right off his face. I find Lily and go home.

Categories: stories Tags:

Drunk, Polite, Lazy, Scared – short story by Ethan Crane

October 29th, 2011 No comments

[first published in Aesthetica magazine Feb 2007]
[listen to an audio version on MacGuffin]

A boy meets a girl at a party. He is not timid, but like all boys, timid or otherwise, he doesn’t find the seduction of girls an easy task. He has slept with a number of girls before, but that’s not what he wants now. He wants a girlfriend. But if the girls at the party are not what he considers girlfriend material then he’ll settle just for sex, if he can get it. There’ll be plenty of parties and plenty of opportunities to meet the right girl.

The girl wants a boyfriend. Some of her friends have boyfriends, some of them don’t, and the ones with boyfriends are no happier than the ones without – but at least, she thinks, everyone looks up to them. And anyway this girl isn’t going to settle for just any boy as a boyfriend. He needs to be a boy who will treat her well. The girl is not a prude, she’s not waiting around for the perfect boy before she’ll sleep with anyone – that moment has long passed. She doesn’t consider random sex with a boy to be a shameful thing, not if you’re just testing him out, working out if he’s one of the nice ones.

The girl and the boy leave the party together. They are both drunk. The boy makes witty comments easily now, he no longer has to think about every line he says to her. She is not the girl of his dreams, but she’s a girl, and right now he wants to get laid.

The girl thinks the boy is most likely not the kind of man she has been looking for. But she’s not absolutely sure, and being drunk makes her certainty less relevant. Maybe his constant attempts to be witty are just nervousness. She knows how nervous boys get. She thinks she might be better able to tell in the morning.

In the late morning when the girl wakes, she knows for sure he is not the man of her dreams. But she likes him well enough and does not want to hurt his feelings. In the bedroom of the boy’s shared house they have sex again, and it is much more enjoyable sex than the night before.

The boy also knows she is not the girl he is looking for, but he likes her and does not want to hurt her feelings. He wonders if they can have sex just a few more times like they had that morning. But right now he just wants her to leave, because now he is not drunk he is finding it difficult to think of things to say to her once again. She makes no immediate move to leave, so he cooks her breakfast. After they have eaten she gathers her things and makes to go. The boy knows he cannot simply make his suggestion about having sex a few more times. He asks her if she’d like to meet the following weekend.

The girl does not really want to meet. But to say no would seem rude after a pleasant morning. She says yes, but decides she will phone him later in the week to decline the invitation.

On Monday the girl sees her friends at college and finds that she has gained new status due to her weekend conquest. She discovers that this boy is much admired by one of her friends, and as a result he goes up in her own estimation. When asked if she is going to see him again she delights her friends by telling them the boy has asked her out. She says nothing about the phone call she is still going to make.

As the weekend approaches the girl finds she has no better plans for going out, and she does not make the phone call. On the appointed evening, she waits for the boy outside the ticket barrier of the station, picking at magazines in the newsagents. When the boy arrives, without a word he hands her a bunch of flowers. He knows from experience how awkward the first words of a first date can be, and thought flowers would overcome this.

The boy takes her to an inexpensive restaurant. He has decided to act as though he is interested in a relationship with the girl, and then after sex has occurred two or maybe three more times he will apologise and declare things are not working out between them. He’ll say they are not really the same kind of people, which is at least partially true. But he does not want to appear calculating, and has resolved not to sleep with her on this occasion, but on their next date.

The restaurant meal they eat is not particularly good, but their conversation never lags. The girl has decided that she will exaggerate the offence in her reaction when the boy tries to sleep with her at the end of the evening, and then not return his calls. With neither of them pressurized by the potential of sex they have a good time together. Outside the restaurant the boy kisses the girl on the cheek and makes to go. The girl is so surprised she accepts his subsequent invitation, to a party for his birthday the following week.

At the birthday party, in the boy’s house, the girl talks to her accompanying friends for most of the night, and hardly sees the boy. She enjoys mixing cocktails with her friends in the kitchen, but is too loud in her delight – she is irritated that the boy pays her little attention, in the main because it makes her stories to her friends about how much this boy likes her seem like exaggerations. By the end of the night the girl and the boy are both quite drunk and have had a number of dabs of MDMA powder. The girl has long forgotten her irritation, and as first light seeps into the house they sleep together beneath a pile of coats. The sex is very good, mostly due to the MDMA.

When a friend phones the next day and asks the girl if her and the boy are now seeing each other she denies it, but the melodramatic manner in which she says so implies she might mean the opposite.

The girl is invited to the wedding of a cousin. It is a big wedding, and she is asked to bring a partner. This is the first time a wedding invitation has asked her to bring a partner, and she likes the feeling of adult status. She asks the boy to come with her, making the occasion sound casual, and not showing him the formal wedding invitation with their names written side-by-side in calligraphic type. She regrets talking about the boy to her cousin. The boy dresses too smartly, and the seating plan sits him with the girl’s parents at dinner. Just after the dancing begins, they have sex in the disabled toilet.

The wedding is a setback for the boy’s intention to end the relationship. He realises that this is what he will be doing now, ending a relationship rather than just telling a girl he does not want to see her any more. When he thinks about the girl, he recognises that he takes pleasure in her company, although there is no part of him which thinks he loves her. He does, however, like the sex, and the prospect of regular sex in the future. He concludes that it will make little difference whether he ends the relationship now or at some point in the near future, after more sex. He will still have to upset the girl at some point, and does not relish the idea.

When the girl thinks about the boy, she recognises that she takes pleasure in his company, although there is no part of her which thinks she loves him. But he treats her well, with far more respect than she expected when she first met him. She judges that, at the moment, nights spent with the boy are more enjoyable than recent nights with her friends, which seem to mostly consist of friends without boyfriends lamenting the fact, or the friends with boyfriends complaining about them. She decides to carry on seeing the boy until this balance of enjoyment tips in the other direction. She does not expect this to take long.

The following year the boy and girl go on holiday together. They spend much of their time sitting in beachfront restaurants, drinking cocktails and not talking much. They do not have sex nearly as much as they used to. Because of the reduction in their conversation the boy’s embraces suggesting sex appear to the girl cold and lacking in seduction, and although she enjoys the sex when it takes place, resents this lack of respect towards her. One night after an expensive meal for which the boy insists on paying, she rebuffs his advances. On the day before the holiday ends they have their first argument that entirely lacks humour.

Back home the girl thinks about ending the relationship. She imagines the feeling of being single again, and it scares her.

The boy thinks about ending the relationship and tries to imagine himself chatting up a new girl after so long of not doing so, and the idea scares him.

Three years later one of the girl’s best friends announces she is getting married. The girl recounts this to the boy over breakfast in the flat they rent together. She does not intend the story of her friend’s marriage to sound like a challenge, but in the customary atmosphere of low-level tension in their household that is the impression her words make. The boy picks an argument on a subject that is nothing to do with the friend’s wedding and leaves for work without saying goodbye.

That day, sitting on a bench eating the lunch the girl made for him, the boy gazes around him at the women he finds more attractive than the girl. He considers his chances of marrying one of these women, and finds it impossible to picture the circumstances under which this might happen. It seems likely to him that his chances of future happiness are greater if he stays with the girl.

The following weekend, to the girl’s horror, the boy presents her with a small velvet box containing a diamond ring, and asks her to marry him. The girl cannot answer, and dashes from their flat without a word. She drives to her mother’s house, seeking comfort. But as soon as she tells her mother that the boy has asked her to marry him, her mother translates the girl’s upset as a commonplace fear of marriage and commitment, and counsels her with a story of how she felt the same way before her marriage to the girl’s father. The girl’s mother goes on to compliment her on what a good partner the boy makes, and the more compliments that the girl is paid, the more awkward she feels about announcing that she does not love the boy and does not want to marry him. Her mother’s detailing of the boy’s qualities cause the girl to doubt her own judgement. And she begins to wonder if perhaps the boy is the best match in marriage she is going to make. Eventually the girl pretends to her mother that her tears are indeed due to a fear of marriage, and she feels considerable relief that she has avoided causing a huge upset in the direction of her life.

Her mother instils her with a burgeoning excitement as she sets in motion plans for the big day. The girl thinks with pleasure the circumstances of announcing the news to her friends. At the same time she mentally rehearses a scenario where she runs out of the church on the wedding day.

The wedding day is set. On the morning, dressing in his morning suit, the boy feels a hollow in the base of his stomach that he puts down to a nervousness at being the day’s centre of attention. The complexity and expense of the wedding arrangements have forestalled him from thinking too much about the circumstances of the engagement.

In her mother’s house, fitting herself into a white dress, the girl feels a hollow in the base of her stomach that she puts down to a nervousness that the day will not proceed according to her detailed plans. The pleasure she has derived from the increased closeness with her mother and bridesmaids during the organisation of the day has prevented the girl from thinking much about the state of her and the boy’s relationship.

At midday, a vicar asks the boy and girl to declare their love for one another, and they become man and wife.

Categories: stories Tags: