Kimi Hears the Sound of Grass Growing


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 young love by Douglas Bruton.

Douglas Bruton is the author of Walter Scott Prize-longlisted Blue Postcards, a Fairlight Moderns novella published on 8 July 2021, and With or Without Angels, a short novel publishing on 16 February 2023.

Born in Edinburgh, Douglas spent most of his working life as an English and guidance teacher. Now retired, Douglas continues to reside in Scotland where he writes in his spare time. His writing has been published in various publications including Northwords NowNew Writing ScotlandAestetica and The Irish Literary Review. His short stories have won competitions including Fish and The Neil Gunn Prize and he has had two novels published, The Chess Piece Magician and Mrs Winchester’s Gun Club.

‘Kimi Hears the Sound of Grass Growing’ focuses on the strange friendship between two girls.



Kimi broke sticks just for the fun of hearing them crack. Dry sticks, thick as the fingers of old men and crooked and brittle. And she’d tread on them in the wood or flex them in her hands or across her knee, and the sound of them breaking was like small gunfire. Everything quiet then and all the fearful wood waiting and watching and expecting more.

And bottles: Kimi threw them hard at stone walls, just for the shriek and music of their breaking; and once she rolled a supermarket trolley into the canal for the clatter and splash that it made. All that, even before Mr Pituka.

Momma said she was no good. She said Kimi was daft as a brush, or two brushes. ‘Not the full shilling,’ momma said, ‘and not all there.’ Momma warned me to be careful with a girl like Kimi or she’d break more than bottles or sticks. ‘You see if I’m not right.’ I didn’t always know what momma meant.

Sometimes Kimi stood in the street with her eyes closed and she was listening sharp as knives or pins or pinches, listening for every small noise underneath the bigger noises. Kimi said she could tell the numbers of buses by the sounds their engines made and she could even tell the drivers from the shifting of the gears or the opening of the automatic doors. And she knew when Mr Pituka was out of his house, too, even if he was a long way off.

Momma laughed when I told her about Kimi saying that. ‘Everyone knows when Mr Pituka is out of his house,’ she said. ‘Ain’t no wonder in that. He slams his door loud as a thunder-clap and his cough is like the bark of an old dog and he sings church songs come rain or wind or shine.’

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