100 Word Novels
100 Word Novels
Matt Dalby’s 100 Word Novels started as sporadic experiments on his blog santiago’s dead wasp in 2008. This ebook collects all 31 published there so far. All but the last, Tiny Bones (dating from 2013), were written between 2008-2010. Matt Dalby is a Manchester based artist in various media.
100 Word Novels Matt Dalby
July 2013 100 Word Novels Matt Dalby This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.
Title ! ! ! Ants!! Line! ! Kate!! Carpet! Lucy !! Rauri! Jane!! Donny ! Edie!! Dough! Snow! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Page! 8! 9! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Title! ! ! ! ! ! ! Page 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38
Mr Lord! !
Kim and the Snow! ! The Garden Shed! The Frog! ! ! ! ! ! !
10! ! 11! !
12! ! 13! ! 14! ! 15! ! 16! ! 17! ! 18! ! 19! ! 20! ! 21! ! 22! ! 23! !
Three Accidents ! April!! ! !
Jane and the Pigeons ! Josef! Stream! Nikki!! Bike!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
Catherine's House ! ! Doors! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
Fairy Tales! Sam!! !
The Orange! Fish! ! !
John and Rose ! Tiny Bones! !
At six Livvy sat in the garden and watched an ant crawl on her hand. Don told her the ground was porous. He smelled of grapefruit. Livvy’s daughter Rachel was never well, pain like little black letters in her blood and intestines. One night Livvy curled up attempting to ignore the cries from next door. It just made them louder. Don’s lover, Will, knew simple ways to distract from the pain temporarily. He died of pneumonia. Livvy moved away somewhere unforgiving of her guilt, by the sea. She pours water on the sand and makes small holes with her ﬁnger.
Armin collected pegs. He started because he loved to follow his mother when she hung the washing out. At ﬁrst he kept them in a Christmas biscuit tin, but later clipped to strings around his room. At college Armin was attacked in a bar. The bottle left a scar from his chin to his left ear along the jawline. He held an exhibition of photos he took of the injury from shortly after it happened. He used the red pegs from his collection to ﬁx the photos to wires. Armin's partner Alice left him because she could not believe him.
Kate had felt old, out of touch, and tired many times. Within a few years she would be reinvigorated and yet aware of how young she had been before. But now at eighty-six she realised there would be no change of perspective. She could only accommodate the slowness and aches, even if they sometimes made her cry, or shout with frustration. She dropped a book one day, and found it so hard to pick up that after a time she beat it with a poker instead, shouting, 'Fuck!' Then sat and looked at how shrunk her hands were.
Dave's father brought home off-cuts of carpet from his work, for when he went ﬁshing, and sat on the rocks by the sea. In very little time carpets got worn and ﬁlthy. As he got older Dave's father would leave the carpets on the rocks to rot or be swept away. The house too was ﬁlthy. When Dave visited for the ﬁrst time in seven years he found a dead bird in a kitchen drawer. He was still trying to make care arrangements when the police visited and told him his father had lain dead outside for over a week.
Lucy was happy alone. She had lovers, but she did not need them. What others thought were secrets she knew were no one else's business. Only one regret. Donna was brilliant, an addiction, but took too much effort, too much time to live with. Lucy left her. She knew Donna would be ﬁne. But Donna struggled in unchallenging jobs, with unsupportive relationships. She died aged forty-two in a car accident. When Lucy heard she cried silently, alone, and felt simultaneously selﬁsh and cleansed. After her death Lucy's relatives were surprised to ﬁnd years of her diaries, which they burned.
Rauri and Jon were together for seven years before Rauri died. Jon lost count of how many men he fucked in the next ﬁfteen years. At ﬁrst he was ﬁtfully numb or in pain, but mostly he had a great time. Toward the end of that time he met Iain, and they fucked a few times, and gradually grew together. They fucked other men too, but stayed together, lived together for thirty years. Jon was seventy-three when Iain died. But even standing at the graveside, supported on a walking stick he still thought of Rauri as his great love.
In her career Jane ﬁnished and exhibited only ﬁve paintings. It took her years to learn how to sculpt the paint as thickly as she wanted without destroying the board or the paint sliding off. The ﬁrst painting, when she was twenty-ﬁve, was three metres high and ﬁve wide, a storm of blues, whites and blacks reaching out. Her next two paintings were exhibited when she was thirty-seven, red and dark blue. Her fourth was black, exhibited at forty-three. She was eighty-nine when she completed her ﬁnal work, a tiny canvas with a mound of white paint.
The only time Donny appeared in the newspaper was after the funeral of Jeremy, his grandson, killed in a road accident. He said, 'They say nobody should bury their child: nobody should ever bury their grandchild.' When he spoke to the reporter he had a ﬁngertip in a jar hidden in a drawer. It came from the site of the accident. Donny found it the following day, and kept it, sure it was Jeremy's. He could not preserve it, it rotted despite his efforts. He later realised it came from the driver, who survived the accident. He buried the ﬁngertip.
Edie lay on her back watching the clouds. They were too much clouds, changed too fast to resemble anything else. Often her life felt like a dream. Not that she could be woken by a pinch, but hazy. One moment suspended, riding drifts of time. Her left side started to feel cold, a stone dug in her buttock. She tried to ignore them, get back among the clouds. Instead she shifted, aware of her body, concentration broken. The clouds were clouds again, distant. The ground solidiﬁed, and suddenly, brieﬂy, she felt lonely and cold. Edie stood and brushed her clothes.
Jaime may have become a baker because of his mother. Staying at home as a child watching her work the dough, ﬁrst in the bowl where it was sticky and edges and almost ﬁbrous, coming off on her ﬁngers like a skin disease, then on the table getting fat and smooth like a boneless baby. The smell of yeast you could taste. The radio would be on, news and discussions, plays and music. Jaime never cared what the bread tasted like. If the feel of it, the smell and how it looked were right, nothing else was important to him.
As a child Dean tried to count snow ﬂakes falling. He tried to photograph scenes in his head to count at leisure. He would end up staring so hard that the scene dissolved and he forgot how to see. He learned how to induce this this blindness but remain aware of what was around him so he could walk safely. Other children called him Zombie but Dean learned to hear things they would never notice. His ﬁrst successful composition snowfut kamera consisted of an orchestra gently rubbing the bodies of their instruments or blowing on them as silently as possible.
When Catherine got tired of moving every six or twelve months after university she moved into the ﬁrst ﬂoor of a derelict house. From a single room with no services she reclaimed the house in around three years. After her death one of her daughters discovered faint writing in pencil on the reverse of a piece of wallpaper. Slowly she and her sisters removed the rest and were able to collect and transcribe most of the text of an autobiography of their mother's life between the ages of thirteen and thirty two. Then they buried the transcript in the garden.
Charlotte's whole life felt like different doors. Stretching for the handles when she was too small to reach. Listening behind doors to adults - and later to her friends. Slamming of petulant lovers. Most of all she liked the physicality of doors. The tangible presence of gloss paint. The variety of handles, hinges and other practical or decorative features. She loved the simple mechanism of doors. Her grandparents' house had hinged wooden shutters that folded into recesses on either side of the windows when not in use. When Charlotte visited with her parents she was always allowed to close these shutters.
Laura liked oranges. Despite the occasional sharpness, despite the drudge and mess of peeling them, despite having to spit out the pips. She liked to show off to her grandson Carl by peeling the skin in a single spring with a knife. Then she would lay the segments out for him on a plate while he told her whatever came into his head. Sometimes he would peel the orange himself. When he was eight he managed for the ﬁrst time to peel the orange in one strip. He laid out the segments and gave them to Laura. 'For you Grandma.'
At her grandfather's for dinner after Christmas when she was ten or eleven Sian noticed he put some of his ﬁsh to one side before he ate. She asked him why and he told her that if you gave something back for everything you took from nature it showed your respect. From then on she always left a small part of every meal. Later on she also learned to give something whenever she was hurt. So when her grandfather died she cut off some of her hair and buried it. The act was more calming to her than the adult rituals.
Stephen's most valued possession was a red crayon from a set of crayons given to him for his sixth birthday by his mother. He still had it when he was twenty three, and was hurt and upset when his partner Joanne used it to write him a note. In turn she was upset by the thought she had hurt him. He told her it was not important, that she had no way of knowing. Even so she bought him a replacement crayon. From then on until he died Stephen included a red crayon in every birthday present he gave Joanne.
Every day James watched Mr Lord from the end house in the village walk past slowly, leaning as though he wanted to drive the stick he used into the tarmac of the road. In summer he sometimes wore slippers and always stopped to wave when he saw James dodge out of sight behind the curtain. James wondered why the old man had to walk so slow when it was so much fun to run. At twenty seven James's knee could barely manage stairs and when he visited home he would stop and talk to Mr Lord, not yet a pensioner.
Kim and the Snow
It did not snow. Kim looked out of her window every morning. She wore her coat to school. Kim stood in the garden with her arms outstretched until she started shivering. Then she stood until she stopped shivering. Ice formed a fur up her ﬁngers across her face and down her coat. The ice froze through her skin until she was ice until she was no longer cold. And then Kim started to tremble and then slowly at ﬁrst snow poured from her hands and from her hair and ﬂew into the sky before it fell again. In the morning it snowed.
The Garden Shed
Simon sat in his garden shed and told himself the story of every item there. How he learned to hang onions and the weather when he picked these. The smell of the rusty hedge clippers whose cracked wooden handle used to nip his hands. His discussions with friends before settling on which string to buy. And although most of the objects were useless now their weight of meaning felt like the only thing keeping him down. That if he got rid of them he would ﬁnally drift slowly off the ground leaving his whole life behind as he rose higher.
Once Kirsty tried to work out how long she spent paused. Staring at something or concentrating on a job or decision that others might not even think of. Mowing thick grass once she heard a crunch and stopped the mower to move the stone or stick. Instead she saw a frog its two front feet chopped off lying on its back in the stream bleeding gently. She stayed a long time trying to work out whether to kill it or not and how. Moments when time pauses have no boundary she realised. She could not measure and add them up.
Amber's car slid sideways into another vehicle parked at the side of the road. After a short time she eased forward and sat shaking. Her partner did not take the accident seriously. Two years after they split Amber lost control on ice. Her car slid downhill and through the low wall at the bottom, landing on its side in a stream. Amber was knocked unconscious. Months later as she parked on the road outside work Amber's car slid forward and gently bumped the car in front. She walked away, dropped the car keys in a bin, and phoned her sister.
From age eight whenever marriage was mentioned April said I will not marry. I will live in the woods and cut down trees. If she was asked how she would live she said I will dig a well and I will catch birds and rabbits. April trained as an architect and at twenty nine built a small house at the edge of woodland. She did not hunt for food or have a well but she owned and managed the woodland. Her favourite room was at the top of the house where she could read and look out over the woods.
Jane and the Pigeons
Jane ran at the pigeons. They ﬂew out of reach. Jane laughed. She was three in red wellies. Jane dropped bread and led the pigeons in circles round the park. She was ﬁfteen in Doc Martens. Jane sat on the grass and sketched the broken missing diseased feet of the pigeons. Jane had taken off her purple shoes. She was twenty three. Jane watched her cat fail to catch a pigeon in the garden. She was twenty seven in slippers outside. Jane did not notice pigeons outside the pub as she watched the river. She was thirty in brown boots.
Josef's deafness did not happen suddenly. It started as pressure in his ears. Then there was a sound like the sea or a ﬁre. Josef tried to ignore the noise then to ﬁght it. He only made himself angry and experienced the noise as pain. He was gritting his teeth and scratching his hands with his nails almost crying when his partner Lilli took him outside and sat him on the grass. Then she started to touch him. Three ﬁngers and thumb ﬁrmly in random places on his back arms chest thighs. The noise receded and Josef began to cry.
Down the road close to the old bridge a small bit of the stream was just deep enough to swim in. David and Naomi trod the cold water circling backwards slowly. Naomi turned to face David. She looked at her arms bent and ﬂattened through the water. She bit his chin delicately. He felt for her hand. A yellow leaf ﬂoated by. Most of the vehicles passing barely in sight were trucks. 'Three days of holiday left.' said David. 'I do not care.' said Naomi. Earlier in the day they had sex, bedroom in green light, breathing shadows and air.
Nikki liked to walk against the wind. She especially enjoyed coming to a halt. The wind preventing her from taking another step or stopping her breath. When she was ﬁve she had walked up a steep hill to the butcher's shop with her Grandmother. At least twice they were forced to take steps backwards. On the way home the wind pushed them at a run. Now she was forty three and her Grandmother living in France. Nikki and her daughter in coats of matching red leaned against the wind. 'Look,' said her daughter, 'it is holding me up.' They laughed.
Hayley and Jack sat on the ﬂoor where he fell off his bike. She stuck dry leaves to the blood. His leg was white. At ﬁrst Jack cried but now he played with the grit on his knees and hummed. Fifteen years later Hayley remembered the leaves momentarily sticking then falling from Jack's leg. She sat in Joe's kitchen as he cleaned her toes. In sandals her foot slipped off the pedal of her bike. Joe's neck was pale under his shirt through red where it recently burned to tanned just below his hair.
'I have fought,' she says, 'and I do not wish to ﬁght any more.' She does not explain further but shows him an illustration in a book of fairy tales. The picture was her escape she says, she wanted to climb into the book and live in that picture. He can see nothing special or striking in the picture but comments on how detailed it is. She agrees. He does not know why his mother has gone or why his grandmother is now his mother. It is one of those adult things he assumes he will understand later. He goes outside.
Sam was puzzled by the living room ﬁreplace. It was never lit. The back was bricked up. Sam wished her parents would light the ﬁre. Across the top of what she thought of as the ﬁreplace gap was a piece of wood. She imagined how it would catch and burn if there was a ﬁre in the hearth. Sam liked the wood itself,which was dry and grey - rough. Parts of it reﬂected light - rufﬂed silvery parts of wood grain. She would sit in the ﬁreplace gap and look up at the wood, lose track of where she was.
John and Rose
John and Rose walked up out of the village. The path went through a narrow valley with a stream to one side. Ahead a man walked toward them. John stepped sideways heavily into the stream and said ‘He is walking on the water,’ then dropped to his knees. Rose laughed then hesitated. She walked a couple of steps and stopped. She half turned. John knelt in the stream with his arms at his side and his head at a slight angle. She hurried back and knelt in front of him making a strange sound she could not stop or control.
Once when I was a child I followed a creature, half glimpsed, into woods. It looked like a squirrel, or a bird, or a small person or monkey. The creature led me to a collapsed, moss-covered house, where it sat and watched from a large wooden table overgrown and cracked. In one of the drawers were glass jars of delicate bones, needles, thread, and a notebook that described how the author took the bones of tame animals after their death and stitched them together, giving them life. I rebuilt the house, and make companions for the lonely creatures.