2nd January


for Jamie Jauncey

What is a story? A writer friend tells me that if he said he went on a train from Perth to Doncaster, changing at Edinburgh, that wouldn’t be a story, but if he said it was only when he got to Doncaster that he realised he’d left his bag in Edinburgh, that would be. Something has to change for it to be a story, my friend the writer said, something has to happen.

A boy goes out to the shop and doesn’t come back.

A boy goes out to the shop and doesn’t come back for seven years.

A boy goes out to the shop and when he comes back seven years later he is a girl.

These are stories, if I am not mistaken.

Here is another.

A boy goes out to the shop for a pint of milk but coming home he turns left instead of right, and walks through the woods. In the woods he finds a strange mound covered in thick, soft, green moss, and he sits down on it, and he falls asleep. And while he sleeps, out from a door in the side of themound come the fairies, who drag him away to their underground world. They beat him and starve him and make him their slave, and put a spell on him so he forgets who he is. After seven years’ hard labour they let him go, and he wakes on the soft green mound with a confused memory of that terrible time. And the pint of milk is there on the ground beside him.

So he hurries home and in through the door, and in tears he tells his mother and father what happened. How sad and worried they must have been all the years he’s been away. They smile at him. That’s a good story, they say, but you’ve only been gone twenty minutes. And he sees that they are no older than they were when he left, and he looks in the mirror and neither is he. But when his mother opens the milk it is shrunken and solid, like cheese, and – according to the stamp on the carton – seven years out of date.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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