‘If It Keeps On Raining’ by Jon McGregor

This story was the first thing I read by Jon McGregor; I have loved his work ever since. I always used to think that the sense of otherworldliness that I loved in fiction was simply a by-product of reading SF and fantasy. When I felt that same sense of otherworldliness from McGregor’s (decidedly non-fantastic) work, I had to think again.

‘If It Keeps On Raining’ depicts a man who spends his time watching the fishermen on the other side of the river and the boats that go past. He also works on his raft and treehouse, preparation for the flood that he believes is coming. Only gradually does it become apparent that this man was a police officer at Hillsborough, who subsequently left the force because of the psychological scars he still bears.

It’s the layers of language that make a McGregor story for me. In this case, the character experiences the present through the shadow of the past: debris “gets swept along like small children in a crowd, like what happens in a football match if there are too many people in not enough space and something happens to make everyone rush…”

Whenever I write about Jon McGregor’s work, I always feel like quoting it at length. That’s the kind of writer he is.

(Read and first published in the BBC National Short Story Award 2010 anthology, Comma Press. Available in the collection This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You, Bloomsbury, 2012)

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