‘Mermaid’ by David Constantine

David Constantine is a magician when it comes to writing place and many of his stories explore characters’ fears via landscapes that both bewitch and offer solace. In ‘The Mermaid’ a man retreats “gently, gently” from the “sharp little fingers” and even sharper tongue of his wife to carve a mermaid figure from fragrant cherry wood in his shed overlooking the sea. The “trance” of the carving, the melancholy ending of the holiday season in the seaside town, the objects he combs for on the beach and the shouting mouths of his wife’s friends – “as red as jam” – animate his cruel situation. As expected of Constantine’s work there is no resolution, no working through, only the comfort of moving slowly on.

From In Another Country: Selected Stories, Comma Press, 2015

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