Dirty Realism

 “Stop looking at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“In that silent spooky-looky sort of way you have. You’re going to write about my affair with that film producer, aren’t you? And all those actresses. You’re going to plunder the stories I’ve told you about my life to turn into fiction.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. Anyway, even if I did put you in a story I doubt you’d recognise yourself or anyone else.”

“Is that so? I think a little modesty, a little eating of humble-pie is called for here. Would it hurt too much to remember which of us is the award-winner? Which of us has lived a long and bruising life with experiences that those who are still wet behind the ears can only dream of? Would it be too humiliating to remember that you have a long way to go before the word ‘writing’ can be applied to those little scribblings I’ve seen? Would it not bring you down a peg or two to remember that the review of my last novel blazed with the banner ‘The King of Dirty Realism’. Do you even understand what that means?”


The child opens the door of the woodshed with its shelves full of shapes, colours, textures, smells. She unlocks old creaky cupboards to peer inside. Turns over forgotten flowerpots to poke at the slimy slugs beneath. Admires the sunlit silver web draped like a delicate lace curtain over the cracked window-pane, finger-tip reaching out to trace the complex structure to its centre. Counts the rainbow-winged husks sticking to the silk. A golden bee, its pollen sacs full, flies straight into the middle. It buzzes furiously, spinning round and round. Out of a dark corner runs the creator. Enormous and black and shiny it rears at the struggling bee. The girl grabs a stone and raises it above her head. The spider covers the bee. The buzzing grows frantic for a second or two, then weaker and weaker. The girl watches, mesmerized, until the vibrations stop and the spider begins to spin.


She sees faces in the trees, mountains and valleys in the clouds, whole forests in the whorls of her mother’s Italian walnut wardrobe. She reads a book that says trees can feel pain and fear and she starts hugging all the trees in her garden. She sits on their branches and listens. Sometimes, at night, she creeps outside in her nightie to dance on the grass and think about what she sees and hears and how it makes her feel. She sees the next-door neighbour peering over the fence watching her dancing and swaying her arms in the wind. She hears the way he breathes and knows he will tell all the other neighbours that she is weird and that they should warn their children not to play with her. She ignores him and keeps on dancing.



Sandra Arnold

Sandra Arnold is an award-winning writer who lives in rural Canterbury, New Zealand. She is the author of five books including The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell, Mākaro Press, NZ, Soul Etchings, Retreat West Books, UK and Sing no Sad Song, Canterbury University Press, NZ. Her short fiction has been widely published and anthologised internationally. She has received nominations for The Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions and The Pushcart Prize.  She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia. Check out her web site at www.sandraarnold.co.nz. Sandra recommends the Cancer Society of New Zealand.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 - 00:49