“This is where our grandmother is buried,” she said. “You will remember it. It will start to come back.”
The explosion had damaged his memory; taken the most precious of their gifts. She showed him where to lie, on the heather beside his grandmother’s grave; his head by the rock that marked the place.
He lay down and looked up at the sky, felt the air brush his skin. It was not yet full night; but the sky already held stars.
“How do you know when it happens?” he said. “What is it like?”
She looked at him, a small smile at the corner of her mouth, her eyes on his eyes but far away at the same time.
After a moment she lay down beside him, on top of the grave, her head beside his, against the rock that was her grandmother’s headstone; her weight on the soft, springy turf of the Cailleach. The Cailleach, the round-backed mountain shaped like the head of an old woman wearing a cowl.
The Plough hung over her head, early on its slow circuit about the axis of the North Star. The great hunter Orion was almost fully risen; Rigel climbing between the mountains, already clear of the mouth of Glen Ogle. Betelgeuse was higher, sharp and bright.
“It’s like light,” she said, “when it comes. Light.”
Transactions with the Fallen
'Transactions with the Fallen' is a book of 17 short stories. The negotiations, losses, disappointments, revelations and mysteries experienced by the characters take place on four continents, in towns and cities, and in the wild.
A boy and his teacher in northern Nigeria love the same girl; a gifted piano player-soldier in Poland bargains for his life; a jilted young man in a street by the Université Libre in Brussels sells another man a car; a Vietnamese translator delivers hope out of tragedy. Each story throws a light on a facet of experience revealed through bitter-sweet understandings and misunderstandings and everyday exchanges of love and friendship, and through the generations.
Not all the stories are between individuals: some engage with the beliefs and rituals that underlie the ordinary; all in one way or another acknowledge the struggle to find meaning within the ruins of the contemporary world.
There are two sections to the book.
The first section is subtitled ‘Night Noises’. Three of the stories are set in West Africa, where I spent part of my early life.
The second section “Transactions with the Fallen”, shows events through the eyes of others, gives insights and revelations—about people, about life. Some of the stories concern war damage, which was part of the environment when I grew up. It was evident in bombed out buildings, but the ruin lay more subtly in the people we knew; uncles, aunts, teachers, friends . . . and parents. The section concludes with a story in three parts; a story rooted in Scotland’s mythology and legend, and the timeless, seasonal circuits that govern the land.
the World of Urban Deer
Askey heard a high whistling noise. It was getting louder; coming closer.
“Step back,” said Askey. There was a note of urgency in her voice.
“What is it?” said Bea as a strange being flashed past on the roadway. It was wearing wheels, and it was dressed all in a shiny, form-fitting black suit. It had a strange, pointy, fore-and-aft head.
“It’s a human,” said Askey. “They’re weird, the ones with the pointy-hats and wheels. And dangerous. They own the road and because of it they don’t stop for other humans. If they’re concentrating they will stop for you though. But they don’t always concentrate.”
“What are they called,” said Bea. Still a little bit frightened by what she had seen.
“They have a word for them,” said Askey. “What is it Rhymer?”
“There was a mirror attached to its hat,” said Bam. “Why does it need to see where it has been Uncle Rhymer? Doesn’t it know where it has been?”
“Don’t know. Know-no, Know-no.”
“Not on top form this morning Rhymer?” Askey chuckled.
“And there were wires attached to its head!” said Bea. “Are they electric?”
“Music-schmoosic. They’re not really participants,” Rhymer added mysteriously.
“What do you mean, they’re not really participants?” said Bea, puzzled.
“He means they wander about in the world, but they’re elsewhere most of the time. The wires are attached to things in their ears. They block out everything in the world for them; the songs of birds, waves on the beach; things like that ”