Jolley Prize Story

Certain days: it is easy to imagine this small, once-prosperous river town (barely distinct from many other small, once prosperous river towns) as if you are only passing through it, shunpiking the thruways in favour of the scenic rural two-lanes on a road trip in your better, your best life. The life in which your formidable boxer-turned-human-rights-lawyer wife has simply pointed to this town on a much misfolded map and declared: Here, lunch.

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In the car we wound around the bay, which, on the map, made the shape of an ear with a tear-shaped island off the coast like a jewel earring. My mother and I were going to see the lighthouse out on the cape – or what was left of it anyway, which was not much, she told me, but stones and rubble ...

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It was the first thing she noticed: all the clocks had stopped. She only mentioned it when she was shown to the dining table and the woman – his grandmother – placed in front of her a glass of bandung, bright pink and sweating. Thanking her, she held the glass, the chill of it shocking the heat of her palm ...

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Before I learnt the language of map-making, the word cadastre sounded like a timbre or a cadence. It was a momentous drum, a hollow ratatat. Bone, fire, dirt, stone. Like a shout, a ring, a knock, a blow. But when I learned maps, I discovered cadastre meant the legal boundary. There was no sound to it at all, only lines ...

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At the first interview, I sat in a plastic canteen chair while Berkeley lay under a towel and a woman with spiked hair dug into the cords of his thigh. He rested his chin on his forearms so he could talk, his eyes boring into my notebook, as if he could read the questions upside-down from the massage table. His blonde eyebrows faded into his skin and made his forehead look overdeveloped ...

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We met him in a park down by the derelict part of the harbour. It was just an oblong of yellow grass and some lopsided play equipment. We used to go there at night and drink cheap, fizzy wine we bought from the lady who owned the Chinese market nearby. This man was standing by the water taking photos of the bridge ...

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My neighbour has been digging a hole in his backyard for the past few days. The hole is quite large now, big enough to fit, say, a single bed, or – it’s hard not to draw the connection – a coffin ...

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We are wading out, the five of us. I remember this. The sun an hour or two from melting into the ocean, the slick trail of its gold showing the way we will take ...

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When he steps outside and pulls off the mask, it feels like removing a second face, the one he keeps from the ones who wouldn't understand and those who would ...

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She says it was a man, an old man (but all men are old to her), which man, what did he look like, what was he wearing, what did he do ...

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