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Viva Caledonia: Fiction by Kirsty Gunn
'Abstract X (extract) 3' 37'
Peter de Moncey-Conegliano

'Crying Man' 1985  2007 Calum Colvin
'Crying Man' by Calum Colvin


"Car" is a passage taken from "44 Things" (to be published in March, 2007).


The car was parked right outside and there was stuff in the car. There were broken books and magazines and clothing, for example, there was makeup in the car. I saw lipsticks and I saw mascara and I saw various creams, some tubes of cream that were squirting out, and it was quite old, the cream, and some of it had smeared all over the little makeup bag that itself was broken looking, its contents spread out over the back seat along with all the other stuff I saw, and my daughters, my two little girls saw it, they are three and six, and they saw the stuff, too, inside the car, the clothes, the underpants . . . The car was right there, pulled up in front of our house, right outside like it was parked there only it wasn’t parked there, it was just pulled up and naked looking somehow, the windows half wound down or open and this broken stuff inside, this half torn and half used up stuff like tights, she’d left her tights strung out along the front seat and they were stretched out poor things and raggy and old.

We could see it all. Like that little makeup bag with the bust zip and the dirty cream inside, anyone could look clean inside the car and see it. They could come out with us, out our front door and they’d see it straight away, think, oh, I don’t know, think, Whey-Hey! Hell! Or, Jesus Christ! They could think: Oh look’ere! Look at this ere’ bleedin’ car. They could think . . . What did my daughters think? They could think . . . Anything. The car was perfectly exposed that way, its interior was exposed. There was no doubt the car . . . There were tampons in the car . . . This was a woman’s car. There were tampons and they’d been taken out of the box, out of their wrappers even, those cellophane wrappers, they were undone, not used, okay, but split and open, dangling with their little strings and there were panty liners in the car, in sachets, in their pastel colours but panty liners all the same and they were sprinkled out across the backseat, too, you know, somewhat, not opened and not used up looking, too, and spoilt, because of how they’d all been ripped out of the box that had contained them, that small place where they should be now, should have been.

“Look” I said to my daughters. “What is this?”

We’d stopped outside the car. We were on our way to school.

“Who has parked here?” I said.

What goes on in one’s mind now, in one’s head? How interesting this is? This car with all this stuff inside? Does one think a thought like that? Have wonder at this stuff here in the car, at all this stuff? And all of it that should have just been tidied clear away, just all of it, not spread out in the way that it was now, the underwear, the blouses and cds all pulled out of their sleeves and they’d get spoiled that way, they’d be broken. Is it curiosity, inside one’s head? That keeps you there and staring, like getting a sort of art work, installation, there and right outside your own front door and you’re just on your way to school, you’re just about to walk your daughters to their school?

I could have said: Look! What we have here! How interesting this is!
I could have said: This is like an art work, something like an installation, and right here outside our door!

Instead I said again: “Who’s parked here?”
And my daughter, my oldest daughter, said “I think that she is lost.”

We walked closer towards the car. We saw how broken open were the windows then, not wound down at all but forced, the window on the driver’s side, and the back window had been smashed. There was glass spread along the back shelf of the car, weather had got in. Lighter things, pieces of paper which I saw had writing on them and a bra, these gave the impression of having been blown about inside the car, there was rainwater pooling on part of the floor, and there was stuff outside the car, too, in the gutter, that had blown there.

As I said, the car was parked just outside our house.

I think that she is lost.

Two things happened then. I said: “We have got to get to school on time.” I said that to my daughters. But almost as I spoke I also knew we had to rescue all the things inside the car. It was my second thought, my bravest. To gather up the things inside the car, to keep them for the woman who had been there, safe.

But I did not. I took my daughters to their school. When I came back, years later, the car was gone.


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last update: June 25, 2007