26 May

It was Latin Link’s fundraising week the other week, and I thought I’d try doing something different to raise money. I’m no good at sports, I can’t run, keeping silent would be problematic… I wondered what anyone might pay me to do.  In the end I asked people to give me any three random words of their choosing, pay me a fiver and I would write a story that included them.

The most difficult challenge was laid down by my friend Hannah, who thoughtfully supplied me with the words: dialectical, umbilical and transavantgardism.

I had to use wikipedia to find out what two of those meant. And then I thought they might actually tie together somehow… Anyway, I think the story that came out of this most tricky challenge was actually my favourite one (even though one of the others involved Mary Poppins being killed by pirates). Thought I’d share it. Enjoy!


“Well, we know it has proven reliability,” I say, quietly.

“But we could infer that a newer model is even less likely to break down.”

I sigh inwardly, folding the map of the art gallery into halves, quarters and then back out again. I rub my thumb along the fraying fold lines and then glance up at his face. He is perched on the edge of the bench, attentive as a lawyer, nodding at me. Here we are again, pausing for breath on a nice day out, and ruining the silence. He raises his eyebrows, awaiting my next response, and I think, This is ridiculous.

“Look, the point is that I like the car,” I whisper. The map flutters in my hands.

He rounds on this as I knew he would. The smug, teacher look settles on his face and he leans back. “Ah, now, that is not the point at all. Not at all. The dialectical method says we must not use emotion to arrive at a conclusion, but must find logical arguments in the car’s favour. Only then can we determine-”

“For goodness’ sake, why must everything be a logical argument? I just want to keep my car, there’s nothing wrong with it!” The furious whisper ends in a high-pitched squeak, and I glance around the gallery self-consciously. I am shivering. He tries to meet my eye, and I turn my face away.

On the wall behind me is a huge painting of two people, brightly-coloured, connected by some sort of umbilical cord. I stare at it until the colours have burnt their imprint on my retinas, and then I glance back at him. He looks ruffled; shocked at my outburst. I lower my eyes. “I just wanted to have a normal conversation,” I whisper, and my voice cracks.

I don’t wait to see his reaction, but stare back down at the map. The back cover declares: Transavantgardism rejected conceptual art, reintroducing emotion―especially joy―back into painting and sculpture.

After a moment, I carefully fold up the map around this paragraph and tuck it into my breast pocket. Then I count to ten and get to my feet.


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