I am very proud and grateful that Kate Ferguson is allowing me to me the first to publish her wonderful short story, "The Parish Barbecue" (this story is protected under international copyright law and is the property of the author who retains all rights to the story)
On March 23 I began what I thought would be a seven day event, Emerging Irish Women Writers, during which I would post on the work of Irish women writers who appeared to be at the start of their careers. This turned out to be by far the best blogging idea I have had in the three years plus of The Reading Life. I was stunned by the quality of the stories I found. The very first story I posted on was "The Mouse" by Kate Ferguson. I loved her story and it reminded me of the early work of Katherine Mansfield. I felt it showed tremendous emotional intelligence.
As I began to post on the stories for the event I wrote the authors and told them of my project. Everyone wrote back and soon people began to contact me asking to be included in my series. For the first time in decades of reading I was in contact with writers and I think my understanding of the process of writing was deepened by this. I decided emerging Irish writers would be a permanent part of my blog and I am fully convinced if someone, and I hope they will, does an Irish Short Story Week in 2040 some of these writers will be included as great authors. This project changed forever my blog and really my life. From it I have many Irish contacts and now beyond this to writers all over the world. I now have published short stories by writers from the USA, India, Bangladesh and Ireland.
Kate Ferguson studied English Literature and Psychology at Trinity College, Dublin. While at University, she was editor of the Life Features page of The Record and The University Times and contributed to Icarus, Miscellany and Trinity News. She has written feature articles for the Irish Times and The Vienna Review and spent a week working in London at the Comment is Free section of guardian.co.uk. In the summer of 2009 she received a scholarship to study journalism at The University of Bayreuth in Germany, where she had the privilege of working with student journalists from all over the world. She is currently working as an English teacher and is an aspiring novelist. Additionally on her web page she tells us she now lives in Berlin and is doing an internship at Spiegel Online International
"The Parish Barbecue"
She mumbled something kind and nondescript.
“You knew already because of my card.”
It was undeniable. He had cut out ten pink hearts and stuck them to a sheet of cardboard from a cornflake box. On the top, he had written “Happy Valentine’s Day!” in purple pen.
She nodded and said “Maybe.”
He said, “Do you want to go to the playground?”
And she said “yes” with hollow, guilty brightness.
Their mothers were drinking wine and eating canapés.
She watched them from the swing. His mother had a string of green pearls and hers a neat little hat.
His mother was speaking and hers was nodding. She guessed it was church politics, though she couldn't be sure. Suddenly his mother let out a roar of laughter. As she threw her head back and shook, a little drop of wine splatted on her mother’s dress.
Very gingerly, while she continued to nod and smile, her mother’s free hand dropped to her cotton dress. She folded the area around the stain and tried to flick it away.
“Who’s you favourite superhero?” he asked from the bottom of the slide.
She didn’t have one.
“I’m not sure,” she said and folded her hands on her lap.
He told her at length about video games she hadn’t heard of.
She cursed her fate and wondered why she must always be so tolerant.
It was as if she couldn’t help it.
Dusk was settling. She was thinking about a school project. The teacher had set a challenge: to think up a story about animals in a zoo.
The theme was churning in her mind. She would not be writing a pleasant story about an elephant escape or a monkey fight, like her classmates. Her story would be about a dull visit where nothing occurred. Perhaps she would take on the perspective of a caged animal.
Their mothers had separated. His was still shrieking and hers speaking conspiratorially to a balding man with a fresh face and pin-striped suit.
“Who’s your best friend?” he asked.
The questions trapped her. “Maybe Julia,” she said, picturing the short, pudgy girl with blotchy skin and a temper, whom nobody liked.
“What’s she like?” he asked.
“Funny,” she said. “And tall.”
“Why is she your best friend?” he asked.
A pulse of irritation gushed through her. How surprised he would be by the truth.
“Because nobody else likes her” she said.
She shrugged. The moment had passed.
Finally, their mothers were together again. They were collecting their handbags from the patio steps, where they had been abandoned in a tangled heap.
They hurried over. “My Gosh,” his mother exclaimed in a drawl that had always annoyed her. “Look how cute they are. I bet they’ve kissed.”
“Mum! You're embarrassing me” he said, with affectation he had learned from American films.
“She’s a beautiful little girl,” his mother said to hers.
“Oh yes,” said her mother, fumbling for the car keys and watching her daughter’s brilliant glare fade to relief.
End of Guest Post
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