Wendy Erskine is like Vermeer, I think. In the same way that supposedly ordinary people and places are illuminated by Vermeer in a way that is technically flawless, but also imbued with something extra that can’t be extracted from the whole, or seen or replicated. I do think it is genius really, in the both of them.
There is a moment in this story where Erskine makes a plant come to life. It suddenly bursts into bloom. It astonishes and delights a youth in a recreation room. It’s on the television, of course. In time-lapse. Ritchie, the character reporting this event is not moved by the miracle. Regarding the boy, he feels pity. “I thought you poor bastard. You stupid bastard.”
The moment is about five lines long, and part of a genuinely beautiful story about a woman letting go of her comforting routines. I am highlighting it because Erskine doesn’t generally veer from the real and solid world, but always finds a place for some magical intervention to enter the space when required. The plant blooming is something we have all seen, but it is also honestly miraculous. The sweet pain of seeing it through the cynical eye of the narrator is sharpened to the point it makes you catch your breath. You stupid bastard. But you’re not stupid, you’re miraculous really.
First published by Tangerine Press, 2021. Collected in Dance Move, Picador/Stinging Fly, Feb 2022