As part of our Arachne 5th Anniversary celebrations, we’ve asked all of our authors to come up with a blog, that might have something to do with writing or anniversaries. Some of them responded! This one is from David Mathews whose work we have published in Solstice Shorts: sixteen stories about Time, Liberty Tales and Shortest Day, Longest Night.
No animals were harmed in the making of this blog!
How writing saved me
Our neighbour had been a pest for five years. We disagreed about our shared boundary. To be exact, she disagreed with us, with the land registry, three surveyors, anyone with a gram of common sense and even her own lawyer. She insisted, ‘I can just go on and on.’
The evening of her latest infuriation, a TV crime drama took me to the laboratory of the pathologist, this obligatory scene presenting a row of knives. Which best made a similar wound?
The knife nearest the camera had a wooden handle of singular shape and the slight curve overall that denotes an Opinel. A number 8. My knife.
In France Opinels and the like are common in shop windows and on market stalls. There is no moral panic about knives; your right to carry the means to cut bread or sausage is assumed. My knife comes with me on a walk or a picnic. Bon appetit.
How the TV crime was solved I forget. It failed to distract me from our neighbour’s latest infuriation, but it intruded images of the various kitchen knives I had used lately, and the drill, the saw, the angle grinder, the hammer and chisel, scissors, and corkscrew. It had me reflecting how I had chopped logs; how I had stored items in the freezer, the attic and the boot of our car, and disposed of sacks at the recycling depot; how I had dug and filled a hole in the garden with concrete. My mind gauged the keenness of points and edges, the weight of a blow and the capaciousness of containers.
There was butchery in my family. It had been my grandfather’s trade.
A book, a jigsaw, a crossword, conversation and a bath failed to soothe me. I turned to writing. A cat seemed the thing, a sentimental tale of being lost and found, or heart-warmingly saving the life of a child.
I began nine times. I called the cat Tiddles, Fluffy, Blackie, Paws, Tiger, Puss, Kitty, Ginger and Smokey, but each time something intervened to turn the sweetness to mayhem. It was not the cat whose life was lost each time. Rather, each incarnation of cat became complicit in the death of … well, mice and voles at first, a dog, a horse, then Johnson and Gove in a pact scarcely stranger than truth, my old foe Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Julius Caesar yet again, Kitty having been Brutus’s cat.
Only in the darkest hour did the impaling of Smokey on a boundary post drive me to take bloody revenge on our tiresome neighbour.
I slept soundly and long.