Dawn Gay /
Dawn Gay / My blog

A very short story

July 18, 2013

I’ve just finished an intense ten-week creative written course with Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. The idea was to flex my creative writing muscles, shake off some of the ingrained writing habits of years of formulaic journalism and basically get as much feedback as possible on bits of my first novel. I realise now that it’s very much a work in progress and a total labour of love.

One of the best things about the course, apart from all the constructive feedback from polite strangers, is the fact that I have been able to concoct stories at liberty for ten weeks and make up people and characters. This skill has come worryingly easy to me. I also have found that I err on the side of sadness when I write, which is interesting for me as I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of gal.

So, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and publish one of the (very) short stories I have written on my blog. Any feedback is welcome and, no, you don’t have to like it…

by Dawn Gay

Every morning I slowly help him get dressed before I guide him to his familiar, threadbare armchair. I flick through the TV channels to kill time while he sips his strong morning tea. Sometimes he remembers my name once or twice and we talk about his carefree school days at Westchurch but his memories never go beyond his time in the regiment.

As he drifts with the monotonous chatter on daytime TV, I slip off into my bedroom and get myself ready. I choose some aged coral Mary Quant lipstick, a dusting of rouge and lily of the valley today. The doorbell rings promptly at nine and Jess is barking. Hannah is here on cue.

Jess is panting and wagging her tail furiously as I walk down the dark hallway of the bungalow to the front door. As Hannah bundles in with the shopping bags, she is already making amplified small talk, which sends Jess to a frenzy of circles. I go and fetch her leather lead.

The thick salty air always hits me as I cross the iron railway bridge to the endless Wisleigh Marshes, a contrast to the stuffy, claustrophobic air of house confinement. Jess always drags me over here, she wants to run, cake her legs in mud and chase some cumbersome seagulls.

Then, somewhere along the footpath, I’ll hear the crunch of his heavy walking boots on the broken cockleshells. On a breezy day the strong waft of Gauloises precedes him. Henri appears and walks next to me. I let Jess off her lead and she bolts towards the distant shoreline.

During this hour we speak only in French and never talk of home. He compliments the dowdy floral frock he has seen hundreds of times in the way only a French man can. We laugh about my mischievous dog when the conversation falls silent. Before long I’m in Paris again. I’m ambling along the tree-lined Latin Quarter boulevard to my appartement humming Aznavour, my mouth dry from too many strong cafés and laughter.

As I turn the key in the front door Hannah is already there with her coat. “He’s been a good boy today!” Why do the young speak to us like children? I’m tired of having the same thoughts every day. I tiptoe into the drawing room and he is dozing in the chair. Exhausted Jess curls up and becomes a golden mass of fur sleeps at his feet. I pour myself a heady tipple of cheap sherry.


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