‘jellyfish’ by Janice Galloway

Alice Munro says that every short story is at least two short stories.

We’re back in Scotland, where I wrote much of this. Galloway’s stories are brutally funny: like Saunders’, they also trust the reader to work stuff out. “This was what happened: you thought you had problems till you found a whole new set in whatever ward they put you in.” (from ‘and drugs and rock and roll’)

In ‘jellyfish’, a divorced mother treats her son to a trip to the seaside the day before he’s due to start school. Being the parent of a four year-old can be funny and boring and full of love, and Galloway gives us all of that. It is also scary. His whole world rested on a terrifying level of trust that shocked and moved her in equal measure. And when they find jellyfish stranded on the beach, a story about a mother worried about how her son will cope without her gradually becomes – at one and the same time – a story about how a mother will cope without her son: 

soft, transparent animals, open as wounds, lying where the tide settled them to simply wait.

jellyfish’ was commissioned for Headshook, ed. Stuart Kelly, Hachette, Scotland, and included in jellyfish, first published in 2015 by Freight Books, Glasgow. Republished with additional stories by Granta Books, 2019

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