Short Story Sunday is still being maintained as an archive of all the wonderful and original stories published on the site. You can find out more about the short story collection ‘Magic, Tales & Other Stories’ from Lydia Niomi Christie here.
I began to let myself slip into a commuting coma. Alongside the hundreds of other disengaged members of the public, I was consumed into the screen of my iPhone. Sure, an iPhone is interesting, it’s bloody interesting. Just yesterday I downloaded an app which tells me all the stars that surround me, I navigate it to the North, it tells me what constellations are above me. I navigate to the East, I still struggle to understand how space is EVERYWHERE, and it will tell me that there are some stars in the shape of an animal – amazing.
So I became disengaged from my phone, just like I just became disengaged from my story. It seriously takes me a millisecond to have my mind switch elsewhere. I disengaged, and the first thing I noticed was lots of lines. LINES.
Lines are a funny thing, perhaps it isn’t even worth calling them ‘a thing’. Some connect, some disjoin other things, some stand alone, they are in everything, but until it was a dull Wednesday morning on a Greater Anglia train, I never noticed them.
“No Sonya, the girl sounds dreadful. Just because she’s driven you mad, I don’t see why I should be driven mad too.” She really believed that life would be better if everyone was honest. She thought of saying:
“I do a lot of favours for you, Sonya. This one is going too far.” Or even:
“I’m rather offended that you think I’ve got nothing better to do.”
She pressed the telephone to her ear, and made a stern face at herself in the hall mirror, but her voice came out in a whine.
“But I don’t even speak French. Only schoolgirl. It’ll be dreadfully old fashioned.” Sonya laughed. A great, gurgling laugh that sounded to Fay, as if Sonya was relieved. As if Fay had already agreed to take the girl on.
“You needn’t worry about that, Fay. She never says a word.”
And indeed, Fay was already leafing through her diary. “We could have her Monday, I suppose. But only if Isobel’s free.” She tried to make it clear from the tone of her voice that she was not smiling as she spoke. “ You know what teenagers are like. Isobel may have plans that she hasn’t deigned to tell me, and I don’t think I could manage this on my own.”
So she agreed to spend a day with Sonya’s French student. It was bad enough last year, with Isobel’s French exchange. All the gesturing, the nervous laughter round the bathroom in the morning and her ill disguised distaste for English suppers. There was no scope for honesty with someone foreign in the house.
Thomas Mogford is the author of Cabinet Reshuffle. Thomas has worked as a journalist for Time Out and as a translator for the European Parliament. His first novels in the Spike Sanguinetti series, Shadow of the Rock, Sign of the Cross and Hollow Mountain, were published by Bloomsbury in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively, to critical acclaim. He was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award for best new crime writer of 2013. His new novel, Sleeping Dogs, will be published by Bloomsbury in April 2015. Thomas Mogford is married and lives with his family in London.
Author Q & A
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this story?
The story originally started life as a prologue to the new Spike Sanguinetti novel, ‘Sleeping Dogs’ (out in April 2015). Spike is a lawyer based in Gibraltar, but the books give him licence to roam around the Mediterranean, and in his fourth outing, he goes to Corfu. My hope was that the events described in this story would resurface years later, leading to a murder case in which Spike would find himself professionally involved. I know Corfu well, having been there on holiday most years since I was a child; however, my wife and I went to Albania on a research trip (it’s just 2km across the water from Corfu) and found the country so riveting that the plot had to change to incorporate it. So the prologue was scrapped, and received a new lease of life as a short story…