9th May

The Session

All your books have a great deal of drink in them,’ the woman’s voice said. She was about four rows back, in the middle. The author shielded his eyes but couldn’t see her face. He smiled, nodded in acknowledgement.

‘This is true,’ he said.

‘In fact there isn’t even a single short story of yours, let alone a novel, in which alcohol isn’t a major feature.’

‘It permeates everything I write, you mean?’ There was a deep, male guffaw from somewhere, and a ripple of knowing laughter went round the tent.

‘Aye, and you’re always making jokes about it like that. As if it’s funny.’

‘Do you have a question or are you just making an observation?’ the chairman said.

‘No, she’s right,’ the author said. ‘You’re right,’ he said, shielding his eyes again. ‘There is a lot of drink taken by my characters. That’s a reflection of reality, though, isn’t it? The reality of our culture. I know it’s a serious matter. I mean, I like a drink, but I can see the damage it does. But people use humour to deflect attention away from the damage. That’s not just about alcohol, though, is it? If we didn’t laugh at the messes our lives are in what else would we do? Weep?’

‘Does that answer your question?’ the chairman said.

‘It wasn’t a question,’ the woman replied. ‘It was like you said, an observation.’

The author sat forward, peering into the dark. He seemed anxious. ‘Morag?’ he said.

‘Who has another question?’ the chairman called. ‘Yes, the gentleman at the back, with the long hair and moustache. If you could just wait for the roving mike.’

‘Is that you, Morag?’ the author said.

‘My question is . . .’ another female voice began.

‘I do apologise, madam, my eyesight’s not what it was,’ the chairman said. More laughter. ‘Do go on, please.’

‘Thank you. My question is, do you think the short story has any future? I write short stories myself, and it is quite impossible to find a publisher –’

‘Morag Milne? Is that you, ya wee bitch?’

A kind of scuffle broke out in the fourth row. ‘Jesus!’ the author said. ‘Get me out of here.’

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Subscribe here for more stories & music