This book presents the twelve stories shortlisted for the Asham Short-Story Award 2009, plus four stories (all excellent) by Margaret Atwood, Esther Freud, Yiyun Li and Alison MacLeod. All different, each touching a different nerve. My favourites are Because it is Running By by Jo Lloyd, a beautifully understated love story (deservedly, first prize); Rape Fantasies by Margaret Atwood; and The Stripper and the Dead Man by Janna Connerton.
She would slice some bread and cut some cheese and wash some lettuce in the tiny kitchen that was next to the couch that was also the bed that was next to the shower. She liked the smallness of the caravan, the few steps it took to go from beginning to end, the little space there was to accumulate things. Just what you needed and no more. Every morning she turned the bed into a couch, made it ready for the day, and every evening she turned it back into a bed. In the night she could hear creatures moving around outside, as if she wasn’t there.
The old woman returns to the flat, walking faster than she should, and finds Electra at her husband’s side reading to him from the paper. They have solved that day’s crossword, working out the clues together. The old woman is sad that they have performed this most intimate of acts together, more intimate than that for which Electra’s services were obtained.
She and I are the ones that’ve been here the longest and she never will forget the time I got drunk at the office party and insisted I was going to dance under the table instead of on top of it, I did a sort of Cossack number but then I hit my head on the bottom of the table — actually it was a desk — when I went to get up, and I knocked myself out cold. She’s decided that’s the mark of an original mind and she tells everyone new about it and I’m not sure that’s fair. Though I did do it.