The Brink – short story excerpt

The Brink Award-winning Short Story by Scottish Jamaican writer Jeda Pearl
3 min |

In this award-winning short story, frustrated painter Mark is stuck in an office job he hates, sat next to an employee he can’t stand. It pays a pittance and he’s about to become a father.  WARNING! Contains violence.

The Brink was Shortlisted in the Words With Jam 2011 Short Story Competition.

Words With Jam is a UK literary magazine, founded in 2008 by author, typesetter and designer, JD Smith, who is also part of the Triskele Books group.

 

The Brink by Jeda Pearl

The sculpture is a giant hand, open and ready to catch whatever might fall from above. Mark will aim for that hand if a plane ever flies into his building. A conveyor belt of ash-grey cloud renders the plaza quite deserted and the stone hand grows out of the ground, begging.

Mark shivers. The concrete bench is bone cold. His sandwich wilts in his hand, with the cling-film hanging like a bride’s dirty fishtail at the end of the night. The white bread clags to the roof of his mouth – egg mayo had seemed like a good idea this morning. He swigs down lukewarm orange juice, picturing his broken body cradled within the huge stone palm, rivulets of fresh blood meandering down to the cracks between the paving slabs. This particular piece of public art, which dominates the plaza, was commissioned by Mark’s company. He wonders if the artist sneaked in a small anarchic gesture, like the fabled bulls’ ears on the Duke of Wellington’s house in Edinburgh. But maybe the cradling is the whole point.

It’s time to head back. Hushed tones seep out from the cafes and deli queues on Mark’s periphery. He steps into the revolving door for a moment’s silence, then out onto the concourse. The glass corridors above seem endless. His shoes squeak on the floor, joining the echoes of stiletto heels and the buffered whoosh of the lift doors.

At his desk, Mark checks his watch and fishes out his sketchbook. Blunt pencils roll around the drawer. He locates his scalpel and begins to sharpen them. Right now, Nina will be dozing at home, curled around her foetus-filled belly. Carrier bags filled with second-hand clothes will be sulking in the hall, waiting for Mark to come home. Scraping by on his call centre salary, he knows their baby will be dressed in charity shop hand-me-downs for years, yet no amount of Nina’s enthusiasm and charming appliqués can detract Mark’s eye from the worn cloth, made soft by rinse cycles in a rich man’s house.

A silent tremor perturbs the building. Courtney arrives. Mark looks up from his pencil shavings, watches her strut across the office, sit down and apply fake tan to her arms. Their desks are rammed up against each other, no partitions. She rummages in her bag, which is big enough to conceal a small child, for a bottle of Tangerine Dream nail varnish. The fetid acetone accompanies every Friday afternoon. Once they’re painted, it’s difficult to tell where her fingers stop and the nails begin. Mark continues slicing off curls of wood towards the sharpening tip of lead, his eyes steady upon her.

‘Hi babes. How’s the wifey? Still lovin’ being knocked up? I’d recommend a c-section, mind. Dinnae want her getting all slack downstairs, like.’

Mark almost chokes on his spit. …

~

 

Buy The Brink {with a custom personal dedication} for just 99p!

“Lovely, economical writing and fantastic turns of phrase.” – Willow

“I love the economical observation and the raw but restrained narrative voice. Your writing is wonderfully visual – it has the lilt of poetry and its rare to find such attention to style.” – jane DH

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