Alan McCormick and Jonny Voss
Short Story and Artwork // The Reading
“Michael and Hattie were insinuating subconscious atrocities at each other across the breakfast table when they heard the sound of debris screaming down the chimneystack. Plumes of ash escaped from the fireplace and engulfed them in a domestic 9/11,” the reader begins.
Amongst the audience his opening words are digested and absorbed:
‘I idolise his pants,’ thinks the poached-egg-breast woman at the front: ‘and I especially like the way he dips and sways his crotch when he mouths “plumes of ash”’
But sometimes the work is unappreciated, undigested:
‘I can do better than that shit,’ thinks the lightly bearded bohemian type. ‘It’s so fucking do-mestic!’
The reader continues: “Hattie under ash looked like a burnt soldier in the dying fire of the trenches, reflected Michael.”
The clink of a wine glass from a new arrival into the room momentarily inhibits the writer’s flow, and fleetingly takes the poached-egg-breast woman’s attention away from the reader and down to the shopping bag nestled at her feet: a small bottle of vodka waiting to be opened and emptied.
A Hoxton small hat frantically scribbles his own thoughts, word bebop, live writing’s scat reaction to the reader’s own words: ‘atrocities, precocities, velocities: word ash under her belly made her look like George Melly . . . ’
“Michael’s tongue entered her smoking vulva as if he was searching in a volcano for something to say,” intones
Meanwhile in the back of the room the previous reader’s account of a lone walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands still captivates a small circle of strangers. They will unexpectedly talk about it when the readings are done, and later at home on their own they will drink a whisky before bed to toast its memory. For now they shut out the reader and let their thoughts drift away on the fine mist escaping the room.
Alan McCormick lives by the sea in Wicklow, Ireland. His fiction has won prizes and been widely published, including in Best British Short Stories, Litro, The Bridport and Fish Prize Anthologies, and Confingo Magazine. Alan collaborates with the London-based artist Jonny Voss. An earlier version of this piece was included on the final night of Decongested Tales' story night residency at Foyles on Charing Cross Road.
Their work has featured in previous époque press é-zines, Fictive Dream, Words for the Wild, 3:AM and Dead Drunk Dublin. Their book ‘Dogsbodies and Scumsters’ was long-listed for the Edge Hill Prize.