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Alan Beard
Alan Beard

Born in Tewkesbury, Alan Beard, married with teenage daughters, has lived in Birmingham for twenty-five years. He works as a librarian for Birmingham City University and is secretary of a successful writers’ group. His stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in many literary magazines and anthologies in England and the USA. His previous  collection Taking Doreen out of the Sky (Picador) was widely praised

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'Daddy’s' by Lindsay Hunter

Alan Beard

You know when you’re reading something and you think this is it! This is exactly what you should be reading now? When the stories hit you everywhere – in your guts and in your mind and in your senses – leaving you a bit breathless, a bit bedraggled and a lot dazzled and moved somewhere to the left of yourself? It doesn’t happen often (although it’s not that rare either – I had the same feelings for Alan Heathcock’s Volt, earlier this year) but Daddy’s packs this kind of punch, and more. I’d just finished reading ‘The Bigness of the World’ before this and the stories there were pretty perfect in a literary way, polished, poised, but pushed no boundaries. Lindsay Hunter breaks boundaries and runs free, fearlessly, and invites you to follow. In ‘The Fence’ (talking of boundaries) the heroine uses a strategically placed dog collar which gives a shock when near an invisible electric fence:

I wind the vinyl part of Marky's collar around my hand, holding the plastic receiver in my palm, then I press the cold metal stimulator against my underwear, step forward, and the jolt is delivered. Like a million ants biting. Like teeth. Like the g-spot exists. Like a tiny knife, a precise pinch. Like fireworks. I can't help it — I cry out; my underwear is flooded with perfect warmth. I lie back in the grass and see stars.

          In comparison to some others this is quite a tame story. Here nothing is taboo. Beauty and horror are intertwined, disgust, sex and longing, food and vomit wrapped up together, blood and maggots. Babies are reviled by their mother:

Always thought babies were dumb. Always did. Bald globey heads and gums dripping spit. Nothing behind the eyes but want. It made me belly sick to see how they’d reach up for me, needing me to feed em and change em and hold em and hell sometimes just look at em.

          Another mother is so fat she has an old brown napkin wedged in her neckfat, how then we wanted to know what else was hiding in there, a diary, a housekey, a slice of pizza, and hey remember when we joked that Dad was in there somewhere, because that was how we dealt with Dad leaving us and moving in with the man who ran the movie theater.

          Children are left in the desert with some jelly beans and limeade, a weird toddler is abandoned in a park. Wolves roam. A deer dead on the side of the road is laying on its back and stretching up its legs in order to admire them better. Most lives here are desperate, poor, pockmarked with longing for things unattainable, but there is also a kind of love and much beauty. Here’s a girl on her birthday who has put her drunken father, an unsuccessful salesman to bed and left to get the bus home:

How if you’re lonely and drunken I guess it makes sense that you’d be finding meanings everywhere your eyes fell and believing with your whole body in some hillbilly song about the greener side of a hill. But see then when the bus come I seen what Daddy meant about things at night looking different, to look at it the bus some kind of miracle box of light trundling toward me with an offering of strangers and a lungful of air conditioning and a bell I could ring any time I wanted to, to make it stop, but I guess that’s not how no tough bitch would talk.

          An exhilarating read: dazzling, haunting, life and blood and sex oozing out of it.


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