Kandy

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Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about fresh starts by Christopher New.

Born in England, educated in England and America, Christopher New is a philosopher and novelist who has lived much of his life in Asia, where several of his novels are set.  He now divides his time, covid permitting, between Bangkok and Berlin.

Christopher started writing poetry as a teenager; fortunately, none of that survives. Since then he has published nine novels and a book on the philosophy of literature. His latest novels are The Kaminsky Cure, portraying the tortured lives of an Aryan-Jewish family during the Third Reich, and Chinese Spring, set in Hong Kong during the recent democratic protests. He has only recently started to write short stories and is now completing a collection, each story being set in a different part of the world.

‘Kandy’ follows an old woman looking back on her past.

Enjoy!

 

She came from a wealthy family, she said. Her father owned a string of cinemas and a newspaper. But somehow things went wrong after her husband died, and now all she’d got left was this house she wanted to sell. ‘Won’t you come along and look at it? I’m not asking much. I just want to be rid of it, it’s too much trouble to keep up.’

In her fine red silk blouse and black bell-bottom trousers she recalled some faded fashion page from fifty years ago as she walked on high-heeled sandals with a polished black Malacca cane in her hand – not because she was lame, she said. No, she was half-blind and the cane helped her feel the uneven ground before her, so she wouldn’t trip and fall. She could see shapes, but not colours. And the shapes were dim. ‘Until you spoke, I didn’t know if you were a man or a woman,’ she laughed.

Her hair was white and her Eurasian face quite pale – she was a Burgher, she said proudly, descended from Dutch settlers in the eighteenth century. Her lips were slashed with clumsily applied violently bright lipstick, which jarred with the dark red of her blouse. Both her lipstick and her greenish eye shadow were blurred, melting in the humid midday heat.

Her driver, a gray-haired Sinhalese with faintly raised shoulders, as though he was chronically shrugging, walked beside her, while she strode purposefully on, sweeping her cane from side to side over the broken pavement. People stepped out of her way – even saffron-robed monks, waiving their right of sacred precedence. Shopkeepers greeted her, ‘Hello, how are you today?’

‘Fine, fine,’ she called out cheerfully, smiling and peering vaguely at the unknown voices.

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