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Excerpts from
a pale blue notebook
with silver stars *

Angela FINN 







Winner of the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize 2020






 
Monday, Feast of the Epiphany. House cold. Shivery, damp in bones. Can’t sleep. Ate little all day.

*
R. gone six days. Can’t imagine what will happen now.
Can’t imagine what will happen us.

*

Mouse droppings cooker top—thought/hoped coffee granules. S. hyperglycaemic after Spiderman icing from birthday cake. Ketones in urine.

*
Up early. Mouse flipping on floor. Trap attached. Squealing pitiful. Head caught. Fat little belly, pregnant possibly. Used shovel from M’s companion set. Killed in garden. Threw up in grass. Watery vomit. Grass long, weedy. Will cut in Spring. Got boiler lit before kids woke. Pilot flame yellow. Not good M. says.

*
S. back to school. Tree up still. Lights tangled in branches badly. Fi rang says should cut wires and bin. Said, sure what would new set cost. Like nothing, like ten pounds? Cherry lights wedding present. Fi not sentimental. Not a bit, not at all. H. upset tinfoil star ripped. Could not cope with tears.

*
R. came by after work. Detached, terribly pleased with self. Something cocky in demeanour. Hung coat on newel post like just returning from work. Like nothing going on. Upstairs heavyfooted to read stories. As though hand had own mind took wallet from inside pocket. Pretended was dropping videos back. Drove up hill. Palpitating opened wallet. Photo of me— nowhere. Gone. Her face in place—(not pretty, really, not a bit, not at all). Receipts in bundle. One for Silk Cut, The Sun, eggs, Wrigley’s. Another for wok, spatula. Must be living with. Cinema stubs—good seats. Considered confronting. Could not. Wallet back in pocket before downstairs. Can’t sleep.

*
Took tree down, cut wires. Binned cherry lights. Tree in three sections. Jammed somehow into top shelf of wardrobe. Can’t do attic. E’s things, mice nests, who knows what else?

*
Rang Fi. Says should get myself solicitor. Can’t believe she reads Sun. What is happening? What’s he thinking. Offered to call him. No, I said. No.

*
Bereft, off kilter. Can’t think straight or face much.

*
Pain in sphincter awful all morning. Maybe lack of food. Woke with spasms. Doubled over. R. called evening. Picked up casual clothes, wash bag. Made effort. Black bra, velvet cami under mohair—kohl.

R: can’t say I don’t love you, and then, it might be you. Would not look me in eye.

*
Insomnia. Think about them at it. Someone having party few door down. Counting backwards not helping. Must give up coffee. Will twist lace of shoe around finger. Might help. Uncle B’s trick.

*
Weight of shoe dangling woke me around 5. Finger dead. Will ring M. later.

*
M. came with blackout lining. Smell reminds me of hospital under sheet. Helped sew onto curtains. Made banana bread added raspberries. Ate two pieces.

*
R. took kids to park. Noticed little bald patch at back of head. Maybe alopecia back.

*
Forgot vanilla candle burning on mantle. Heard mirror (deco one) shatter from upstairs. Like tiny explosion. Cursed seven years.

*
H. to start Montessori. New seat for bike fitted to crossbar easily. New helmets too, pink, purple.

*
Can’t deal with boiler. Back to bed after dropping H. Forgot to reset alarm. Montessori called. H. upset. So many silverfish on toilet floor since lino ripped up. Left light on all night.

*
R. texted on way to airport. Something about business trip to Israel. Won’t be seeing kids. Fi says sounds more like holiday. Saturday to Saturday, come on. Might be right. Don’t want to think about. Curious though.

*
Mouse baby—orphan?—in trap, still alive. Possibly attracted by Easter eggs left out. Must refrigerate.

*
Hardware man with missing pinkie recommended Lucifer traps. Bought six. S. wants to tally mark dead bodies on blackboard.

*
Insomnia. Two Valerian, brandy milk before bed. Seemed to wake every ten mins. Boiler completely fucked. Lit for a minute then flame died. Thumb sore from pressing dial.

*
Two more mice. Need more traps. House riddled.

*
Hospital check-up S. Hba1c okay. New glucometer. Bruised thighs. Has grown two centimeters. Prof. says insulin trapped in muscles causing hypos.

*
R. by after dinner to watch Simpsons with S. H. in bed early. Left new coat—nice—black, cashmere 70%—bottom of stairs. Took wallet, drove to park. Receipts for restaurant in Rome. Rang from park. Asked if they had nice time in Italy. Furious. Shouted. Told me to get back ‘immediately.’ Me who should be furious.

Said stopped off in Rome on way to Israel. Geography not great but 110% he is lying.

*
Met solicitor morning. Nervous. Cried. Not sure if nice/creepy. Said: would come over hug you but don’t think that would be ethical. Not sure. Expensive but no choice. Will use emergency fund.

Kids with R. daytime. Drove up mountains till ears popped. Threw Russian wedding band out car window.

*
R. apologised. Admitted lying. Nothing set in stone, he said. Still might be you, he said. Lucky me, I said.

*
Miss twiddling with ring. Keep running thumb over finger. May get replacement.

*
Fi rang. It’s so over, she said. We drank wine while chatting. Said views from new apartment amazing. Church opposite is now wine bar. Must visit. Fi asked if will ever get over. Probably won’t. Ordered starter from Jumbo’s just to get wine. Passed out on sofa. Woke up birds chirping.

*
Etching evening. Fritillaria. Copperplate. R. with kids. Demanded me back—before nine as had date. Be back when I’m back, I said. Defiant. Dipping copperplate in acid when text came to say he’d have her in house if not home soon. Ran lights driving home. Never known such anger. Scratched face. Surprised self. Fully expect solicitor’s letter.

*
Showed M. letter. Let me look at your nails. Pity they weren’t longer, she said. Lioness defending den. Will come to court if it comes to that. Sad long silences. Birdsong loud in chimney.

*
Printed fritillaria. Naphtol-red, phthalo-green. Might frame. Slept little. Sound of mouse/mice scraping in attic.

*
D’s inquest. First time on new tram. Five of us to Coroner’s Court. M. took stand, swore on bible. Pitiful to witness. Summing up coroner asks if any questions. Raised hand. Asked if D. in good health? Would he have lived much longer? Coroner philosophical: sometimes we need to respect right to end life. Went to bakery on Talbot Street after. Cakes, tea in stainless steel pots. Loose lids. Tea leaked soaked paper cover. Exhausted now.

*
Own solicitor annoyed re scratching. Funds dwindling. What to do. May apply for legal aid.

Relentless rain, wind. Stayed home all day. Front gutter broken. Leaking badly. Mould patches spreading like maps in sitting room.

*
R. sent text on way to airport. Away for two weeks. Asked where? No answer. Phone switched off. To have his freedom.

*
Phoned R’s mother. R. holidaying Saint Lucia. Sick about this.

*
With H. at dentist. Cavity baby tooth. Such neglect. No guilt like mother guilt. Not enough money in account. Receptionist annoyed when asked to send bill.

*
Pitch dark home late to find bird in kitchen. Startled. Must’ve come though chimney. Starling, I think. H. petrified. S. excited. Phoned Fi then shooed out with sweeping brush and sheet. Beak bleeding. Spatters of blood on kitchen wall. Will paint.

*
R. rang all evening. Ignored. Wanted to speak to kids. Could hear tropical morning birds in voicemail. Imagined sunshine, sky, beach, sun bed rows, yellow and green birds. Raining buckets here. Fuck them.

*
H. afraid bird will return and now afraid of dogs, cats, all animals. Blocked up fireplace with garage wood. Lit tealights. Had ceremony to keep birds from coming. Place looks more like squat every day.

Went to park. H. and S. played ages on rocks. Sat on bench. Blue blue sky, little cloud. Tried to figure why flying birds turn white to black and back to white. Must be how light catches.

*
Solicitor’s letter. R. claims I’m depressed, unfit. Am depressed. Am anxious.

*
S. sick whole week. Housebound. World shrinking.

*
School principal rang. R. phoned, wants to meet with him. Concerned about S. Sounded weary. Says has seen all before. Thanked him for letting me know.

*
Mothers outside school all talking about holidays. Dreading weeks ahead.

*
Morning, heavy rain. Upended LEGO box. Sitting room now playroom. Sat in garden. Lavender abundant. Largest bees. Rosemary bush flowering purple.

*
Started Simpson’s jigsaw at kitchen table. Enormous. A thousand pieces.

*
With S. and H. to Willy Wonka. Johnny Depp’s teeth—so white. Hate August. House fetid. Smell like Botanic hothouses/bad drains. Awfully awfully humid. Clothes smell strange.

*
Packed car on whim and drove west. Later, R. called every few minutes. Forgot was his day. Ignored calls. Sun now gone down in Oranmore. S. vomited on way. Both asleep now. R. texted, said he’d report me. What future is there?

*
R. did report me. Answered five-digit number on mobile. Guard seemed sympathetic.

*
Crying lots. B&B owner Evelyn kind. Made coffee. Sent S. and H. to garden. Had been there lost weight too, says all will turn out okay. Said, you have your treasures. Wish I could see things her way.

*
M. phoned. R. looking for photos to bring to guards. Wonder which ones he’d have used.

*
Drove to Galway city. Told kids they could have anything. S. wanted new Nintendo game. H. a toy ironing board. Carried board around town like surfer, crying. Woman stopped me. Said regretted not buying one for daughter—now an adult.

*
Letters as anticipated from solicitor, social worker. Envelopes ripped. Spring too tight on letterbox. Danger to small fingers. Appointment Friday with SW. P. called over. Bought a bottle of Happy from duty free. Smells sickly.


*
Browsed ages in self-help section. Bookshop man asked if children mind. Stole book.

*
Social worker. Wore floral blouse at P’s suggestion. Building smelled of dentist. Walls ugly mint green and primrose yellow. Cried, which is good, apparently. Showed I care. Say help there if needed.

*
R. had kids over for sleepover. One-night stand. Regret. Lights off at his request. Probably concious of back—so hairy like an animal. Said he wrote lyrics for Morrissey song. Spoofer. Believed briefly—drink, naivety. Loud snorer. Awake. Could see Christmas tree branch poking from wardrobe. Depressing. Timex left under pillow. Texted. No reply. Washed sheets at 90 degrees.

*
Smashed timex face on doorstep. Hall door kickboard loose. May be woodworm.

*
Solicitor’s letter. Two whole pages. R. wanting full custody. Doc afternoon. Prescribed Anxicalm. Will keep just in case.

*
H. started real school. Cut new shoe strap with craft scissors.

*
House cold, damp. Lit small fire. Will buy plugin heater. Two blind drawings—sharpened branch/India ink.

*
Petty neighbour called. Said S. wrote initials in wet concrete path outside garden.

Said I didn’t care. Don’t care.

*
Leaves on little acer bright orange. Carved pumpkin—messy.

*
Tried to ignite boiler. Gas smelled rancid. Opened windows, kitchen door. Sky black, stars like pinholes. Will get plumber. Fitful night.

*
Groggy. Peanut butter licked from traps. Mice getting smarter.

*
D’s anniversary. Cemetery with P. morning. Drove coast road home. Sea green, choppy. Stopped at garden center. Bought amaryllis bulbs plus chocolate tree decorations. Shows a will to live, Fi said. 

*
H. angel in nativity. Seems happy. Made new tinfoil star. Promised to put up tree soon. Might buy new lights.

*
Plumber came, looked at boiler. Old, dangerous and not worth fixing.

*
Snow forecast. Ordered coal, briquettes. Clear sky tonight. Can make out winter Triangle.


                                                Betelgeuse *





                                                                                                Procyon *




                                                    Sirius *







Desperate Literature is an international bookshop in the heart of Madrid, founded in 2014. They sell books in English, French and Spanish, working to build a literary community around and through these literatures. They (normally) run weekly events with authors from around the world, and in 2019 hosted Spain’s first English language poetry festival. They first launched the Desperate Literature Prize for Short Fiction in 2017.  The Prize is an international attempt to recognise writers of innovative and experimental short fiction, with the aim of providing opportunities to all those shortlisted through a publishing and events programme that partners with 14 different literary organisations across Europe. The 2020 edition was judged by authors Claire-Louise Bennett, Rachel Cusk, Niven Govinden and Ottessa MoshfeghA pamphlet collating Angela Finn’s work alongside all other shortlisted stories, published by Desparate Literature, can get got here as a PDF.


Angela Finn is an Irish writer and tutor. She lives in Dublin with her children. She was nominated for a Hennessy New Irish Writing Award in 2018. Her writing has appeared in the Fish AnthologyThe Irish TimesPoetry Ireland ReviewThe Moth Magazine and elsewhere, and has been broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1.







2020



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Hotel is a magazine for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. The magazine is bi-annual, the online archive is updated periodically.

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2020
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