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My name’s Gretchen Shirm and this is an extract from the start of my novel called The Forgetting Curve which will be published early next year by Scribe.
What was the first thing she thought when she saw Greg? She’s always remembered, because she wrote it down in her notebook: shark. That’s what he looked like, standing at the bar table with his gown flowing down his back, his movements sharp and constant. The witness he was questioning stammered. It was as though Greg had smelt the witness’ blood and had already started to circle. Later, she learnt that Greg was like that; he had a sense for weakness in others.
As she was sitting there, the strangest thing happened: Greg turned around and looked straight at her. She was good then, at going unnoticed, at entering a room silently, through a back door and finding a seat, at taking up as little space as possible and at keeping herself contained. She’d learnt to do that as a journalist, to keep quiet in order to observe other people. So when Greg turned around and looked at her that day, she thought that something must be wrong. That the buttons on her shirt had come undone or that she’d been too loud as she was taking her seat, but when she looked around the room, no-one else seemed to have noticed anything.
She started taking notes of everything that was being said. She wasn’t the same as other journalists who sat there and took down only those things that were of interest to them; she had to get everything down on paper. She thought if she didn’t capture everything, something important would be lost. Mostly, when she wrote like that, she didn’t look up. She just sat there and scribbled down everything she heard and the only thing other people saw when they looked in her direction was the part in her hair, to the left of her scalp. But every time she looked up that day, Greg seemed to be looking back towards her.
She saw him again the next day, in the café at lunchtime, queuing up for a coffee. She didn’t recognise him from behind at first, with his wig off and she kept looking at his back, because there was something about him that she thought she recognised. After a few moments, she realised what it was – he reminded her of her father. It was the way that he stood, erect, as though his head was being held up by a string from the ceiling. Then, he turned around and she saw who it was and looked away. He was two ahead of her in the queue and he let the people in between them move ahead of him.
‘Journalist?’ He asked.
She nodded, looking at his forehead. There was something familiar about his eyes that made her want to avoid meeting his gaze.
ABOUT GRETCHEN SHIRM:
Gretchen Shirm was born in 1979 and grew up on the north and south coast of New South Wales. Her first book of interwoven short stories Having Cried Wolf was published in September 2010. She was named in 2011 as one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelists and her stories have been published in Best Australian Stories, Southerly, Wet Ink, Etchings and heard on ABC Radio National. Her first novel The Forgetting Curve will be published in early 2013.
Gretchen came to Varuna on the Eleanor Dark Flagship Fellowship for Fiction.
Having Cried Wolf, September 2010, Affirm Press
The Forgetting Curve, 2013, Scribe
Lyn Tranter, Australian Literary Management
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