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TITLE
'Instead of Beauty' (1)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_CYNTHIA_ROGERSON_01
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Cynthia Rogerson
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
40975
KEYWORDS
audio
literary landscapes

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'Instead of Beauty' is a short story written by Cynthia Rogerson. It was first published in 2007 in 'Riptide: New Writing from the Highlands and Islands', edited by Sharon Blackie. It is read here by the author.

'After she gives up on love, Addie decides all she really wants is a baby. A baby! A tiny person to carry around and cook lovely cakes for: someone who'll never look at her as if she's nobody. She is hung over; exhausted and taut. Outside, the July rain is un-dramatic, self effacing, as if it knows its timing is bad. Her kitchen is humid and her head aches. A fragile day altogether, requiring great care and strength of will; and it is also the saddest time of the day: three o'clock in the afternoon. She considers her options carefully. She has nearly run out of men - Lochinellie has a certain number and no more. By the time she makes and drinks her cup of bitter black coffee, she has a shortlist of one. Down to the bottom of the barrel now, and no mistake.

Joe Forbes, the fish man.

He is the only one with no prying family in the area, no wedding ring, and no obvious defects - if you didn't count his probable virginity as a defect. Or his perennial stink of fish, his ugliness (though his shoulders are quite nice) and his complete lack of conversation. Joe is the most silent, ugly and alone man she has ever met. Though, now she thinks of it, Joe is curiously un-lonely looking.

'So, Joe!' she says to him that night at the bar in the hotel. (Addie never wastes time, and she knew she'd find him here. Single men in Lochinellie gravitate to the bar at dusk, like single men everywhere in the Highlands, like thirsty beasts to the watering hole.) 'What you drinking, Joe?'

She buys them both a pint, then lets him buy her two more pints. They sit in silence for an hour, then she tells him she wants a baby from him.

'What do you think? You like me, right?' she asks, her voice hard as hailstones, hard as desperation. Her face all rosy and her eyes excited. She could be uncannily pretty this time of night, for about half an hour. Before time was called and the lights came on full again. As if her much younger, untroubled self resurfaced in some alcohol-fuelled twilight, in order to seduce. A spirit siren on a mission.

'I've seen you looking, and it's not like you've got a queue of women knocking on your door, Joe. Is it? I know you like me.'

'Of course I ... like you. What's ... not to like? You're ... fun. But, Addie - that's hardly the point.'

This is the longest sentence she's ever heard him say. He says the words in a halting staccato, as if English is his third language. There's a sheen of sweat on his nose.

'Aw come on Joe: of course it's the point. If you didn't like me, at least a little, then we'd never manage it at all. I'd say you liking me was the entire bloody point, for you. You'd get a bit of experience; I'd get my baby.'

Mmmm, she searches unsuccessfully for eye contact.

'I'd not be wanting any money off you Joe. Ever. You'd be well clear of it all really. All the advantages; none of the hassle.'

Again, she waits for his response, but he just looks emptily at her as if his whole stock of words has gone. She stops waiting, satisfied that his muteness is entirely appropriate, given who he is and what she is asking. She leans forward and whispers: 'I'm only wanting your sperm. And just for one night, when the time is right for me. For making a baby - there's really only a few days a month it'll work. And it's only you I'm asking. I thought about it, and you're the only one. The best one for the job. The best man.'

Cynthia Rogerson is a Californian, living near Dingwall. Her first novel, 'Upstairs in the Tent', was published in 2001. Her second, 'Love Letters From My Deathbed', followed in 2007 and was nominated for the Saltire Prize and the Sundial Prize. Her short stories have been short-listed in various competitions and published in anthologies and literary magazines, as well as broadcast by the BBC. She is the winner of the 2008 V.S. Pritchett Prize, and is Artistic Director of Moniack Mhor Writers' Centre at Kiltarlity, near Beauly, Inverness-shire.

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'Instead of Beauty' (1)

2000s

audio; literary landscapes;

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: Cynthia Rogerson

'Instead of Beauty' is a short story written by Cynthia Rogerson. It was first published in 2007 in 'Riptide: New Writing from the Highlands and Islands', edited by Sharon Blackie. It is read here by the author.<br /> <br /> 'After she gives up on love, Addie decides all she really wants is a baby. A baby! A tiny person to carry around and cook lovely cakes for: someone who'll never look at her as if she's nobody. She is hung over; exhausted and taut. Outside, the July rain is un-dramatic, self effacing, as if it knows its timing is bad. Her kitchen is humid and her head aches. A fragile day altogether, requiring great care and strength of will; and it is also the saddest time of the day: three o'clock in the afternoon. She considers her options carefully. She has nearly run out of men - Lochinellie has a certain number and no more. By the time she makes and drinks her cup of bitter black coffee, she has a shortlist of one. Down to the bottom of the barrel now, and no mistake.<br /> <br /> Joe Forbes, the fish man. <br /> <br /> He is the only one with no prying family in the area, no wedding ring, and no obvious defects - if you didn't count his probable virginity as a defect. Or his perennial stink of fish, his ugliness (though his shoulders are quite nice) and his complete lack of conversation. Joe is the most silent, ugly and alone man she has ever met. Though, now she thinks of it, Joe is curiously un-lonely looking. <br /> <br /> 'So, Joe!' she says to him that night at the bar in the hotel. (Addie never wastes time, and she knew she'd find him here. Single men in Lochinellie gravitate to the bar at dusk, like single men everywhere in the Highlands, like thirsty beasts to the watering hole.) 'What you drinking, Joe?'<br /> <br /> She buys them both a pint, then lets him buy her two more pints. They sit in silence for an hour, then she tells him she wants a baby from him. <br /> <br /> 'What do you think? You like me, right?' she asks, her voice hard as hailstones, hard as desperation. Her face all rosy and her eyes excited. She could be uncannily pretty this time of night, for about half an hour. Before time was called and the lights came on full again. As if her much younger, untroubled self resurfaced in some alcohol-fuelled twilight, in order to seduce. A spirit siren on a mission.<br /> <br /> 'I've seen you looking, and it's not like you've got a queue of women knocking on your door, Joe. Is it? I know you like me.' <br /> <br /> 'Of course I ... like you. What's ... not to like? You're ... fun. But, Addie - that's hardly the point.' <br /> <br /> This is the longest sentence she's ever heard him say. He says the words in a halting staccato, as if English is his third language. There's a sheen of sweat on his nose.<br /> <br /> 'Aw come on Joe: of course it's the point. If you didn't like me, at least a little, then we'd never manage it at all. I'd say you liking me was the entire bloody point, for you. You'd get a bit of experience; I'd get my baby.' <br /> <br /> Mmmm, she searches unsuccessfully for eye contact.<br /> <br /> 'I'd not be wanting any money off you Joe. Ever. You'd be well clear of it all really. All the advantages; none of the hassle.' <br /> <br /> Again, she waits for his response, but he just looks emptily at her as if his whole stock of words has gone. She stops waiting, satisfied that his muteness is entirely appropriate, given who he is and what she is asking. She leans forward and whispers: 'I'm only wanting your sperm. And just for one night, when the time is right for me. For making a baby - there's really only a few days a month it'll work. And it's only you I'm asking. I thought about it, and you're the only one. The best one for the job. The best man.' <br /> <br /> Cynthia Rogerson is a Californian, living near Dingwall. Her first novel, 'Upstairs in the Tent', was published in 2001. Her second, 'Love Letters From My Deathbed', followed in 2007 and was nominated for the Saltire Prize and the Sundial Prize. Her short stories have been short-listed in various competitions and published in anthologies and literary magazines, as well as broadcast by the BBC. She is the winner of the 2008 V.S. Pritchett Prize, and is Artistic Director of Moniack Mhor Writers' Centre at Kiltarlity, near Beauly, Inverness-shire.