Wednesday 22 January 2020

Notes about "Together"

I had this story published a while ago. I've written better stories, but I think it's neat. It does a lot in about 350 words.

Her father used to work on battleships, said how they had more than a million parts. She showed him her iPhone, saying that it had over a million parts too.
      During a punting party her mobile sinks into the river. Friends take turns to feel for it with the metal end of the pole. When they tap something hard a boy dives in, follows the pole down through the murky water and retrieves it. She shakes it out, opens it, leaves the pieces in the sun to dry. An hour later it’s fine — “it needed a clean,” she said. There’s a new message for her — from the boy, asking her out.
      Later they share a flat. While he’s off at another conference, she takes his precious bicycle apart, down to the last little bolt, puts everything into a cardboard box, adds some bits from his spares to confuse him, then gift-wraps it.
      Some people — and he was one of them — see metaphors everywhere. He liked the idea of probing the depths for a way to communicate with the person beside you, of reconstructing the present. He promises not to spend so much time studying alone or cycling on Sundays with his club. She feels guilty. Perhaps he was right, perhaps she’d not got over her father’s death.
      And yet she doesn’t help him with the bicycle. It takes him a whole afternoon. He’s drunk by the time she returns from shopping. She doesn’t like that — nowadays he only does it to stop himself getting bored or angry.
      “What do you think?” he asks. “It would have been easier with a manual but it’s good as new now. You ok?”
      She unpacks the groceries.
      “The club’s cycling to Broxton tomorrow. Maybe you could meet us there in the car?”
      She’d cleaned each little part of his bicycle with a toothbrush.
      “Follow the A14 until you see the Broxton sign,” he says. “You can’t miss it.”
      Even with a map she misses it by miles; he phones, failing to get her.

It manages to have a narrative flow while sustaining some themes -

  • Several items have pieces - battleships, phones, bicycles. Not all of them can be mended. It ends with the title "together" coming apart.
  • There are several modes of transport - punts, cars, bikes. The couple end up taking separate ones.
  • There are communication failures - first the phone miraculously works, then at the end it fails.
  • The punting and bicycle anecdotes are interesting in themselves. Why had she cleaned the parts?

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