Click on the arrow above to listen to Gill’s reading.
“I’m Gill Schierhout and I’m reading from a work in progress.
I drew the short straw with that boy, you know what I mean? He knew nothing my son. He could not fix a car, a leaking pipe, a cycle puncture, a broken window pane. Not that he wasn’t capable, not that I didn’t try to teach him everything I knew – he just didn’t do it. What can you do with a boy like that? I have considered all sides of the coin – turned it around looked at it from this angle and that – every question you ask me, I have already asked myself a thousand times. And this is what I think: I drew the short straw with him, that’s a fact. It’s no ones fault. I could have done exactly the same and he could have been sitting in that chair, standing behind a shop counter, fixing cars at Julie’s Motors, come home each night and tickle his wife where she likes it most – a pillar of society, you know what I mean. Sometimes I think that the only thing keeping me alive now is my rage.
I wanted to tell Jonas something that afternoon, to warn him but I couldn’t get my finger on what it was I wanted to say. And even if I could have, what good would it have done? Perhaps it was already too late.
The ball of the sun was dropping fast into the far edge of the water. Without any warning of it, Jonas started to cry. Typical of that boy. Whenever he cried it came on him like a blush or an erection – not a feeling state – just something the body did of its own strange volition.
“Jonas, let’s go have a swim, wash our faces.” I said. “There is still time.”
He waited until I had stripped down and braved the water spiders, then he followed on, his lean teenage body watched by the slippery lizards hiding amongst the long grey leaves of the gums.
After, pulling our clothes on in the dark, the river smell lingered on our flesh, the weedy smell of the river dripped off of us both, factory pollutants, sewerage effluents from the town, whatever had been released into the water found us. I didn’t mind. I felt like a father, taken his boy out fishing. Glad to share something with Jonas, even just the river’s smell on our skin. Just let me hold that moment. Let me breathe it in.
My own tears? Nothing, damn eyeball of mine infected again. The nurses at the clinic put sulphermide in my eye – can you credit it? I’ve been going to that clinic for years, they know I have an allergy to that stuff. Now you can trace the rivers of this continent all around the orbits of my eye, red and swollen with slaughter.”
ABOUT GILL SCHIERHOUT:
Gill Schierhuit has lived in Sydney since 2009. She is a writer, mother, struggling academic, consultant in public health, daughter, dog-owner and aspiring runner. In 2008, her short story The Day of the Surgical Colloquium Hosted by the Far East Rand Hospital was short-listed for the Caine Prize for African Writing. Her first novel, The Shape of Him (Random House, United Kingdom, 2009) was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Sunday Times Literary Award (South Africa), and nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Set in South African mining communities in the early 1900’s, it tells the story of Sara Highbury, an immigrant from the United Kingdom, and her doomed love affair with a diamond digger, Herbert Wakeford. She also writes a few short stories and is working on a second novel, and on some attempts at literary non-fiction.
“I came to Varuna on a Retreat Fellowship in November 2009” Gill Schierhout
The Shape of Him (Random House, United Kingdom, 2009)
Varuna has been funded by the Australia Council to produce a Varuna Writer-a-Day “app”. When we have recorded 365 writers the app will be made available via the iTunes store. In the meantime, if you subscribe to this free blog, you can receive a daily reading delivered to your email inbox which can also be directed to your mobile phone.
To find out more about Varuna’s programs, residencies, events and support services for writers click here.