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 adulthood by Louise Wilford.
Louise Wilford lives and works in Yorkshire, UK. She writes poetry and prose in a wide range of genres, but particularly enjoys fantasy. Her work has been widely published, most recently in 805, Bandit, English Review, Failbetter, Goats’ Milk, Jaden, Last Leaves, Makarelle, New Verse News, Parakeet, Pine Cone Review, Punk Noir, River and South, Silver Blade, and The Fieldstone Review. In 2020, Louise won First Prize in the Arts Quarterly Short Story Competition, and was awarded a Masters in Creative Writing (Distinction). She was recently nominated for Best Of The Net. She is working on a fantasy novel for young adults.
‘Pigs Can’t Swim’ follows a family as they overcome their differences on a sunny afternoon.
When Jill arrived, the paddling pool was already inflated and filled, laid out on the lawn like a huge yellow pet feeding-bowl – if your pet was a diplodocus. She’d always thought there was something prehistoric about her mum’s garden. The trees from the edge of the cemetery craned over the old wooden fence at the back like a crowd of spectators locked out of a football match, and there was an overgrown tangle of shrubs and ferns squatting in front of the bamboo screens which cordoned off the neighbours’ gardens at either side. You could almost imagine some dumb-eyed dinosaur plodding out of the undergrowth and lumbering across the uneven lawn – though perhaps they didn’t have flowers back then, or grass? She’d look it up later.
‘You should’ve waited till I got here,’ she said, irritated by her mother’s martyrdom but also secretly relieved. She didn’t want to stay longer than she had to. Ed, on the other hand, was already twisting off his trainers.
‘He likes to get straight in,’ said Penny, smiling indulgently at her grandson. ‘We always get the paddling pool out when it’s sunny, don’t we, sweetie?’ Ed ignored her, with a three-year-old’s focus on immediate gratification, dragging his Spiderman t-shirt over his head as he ran to the open patio doors. The women followed, watching him fling his red shorts and Minions underpants across the lawn like discarded litter.
‘Come and put your swim-shorts on, babe,’ said Jill, noticing her mother’s frown.
‘I wish you wouldn’t call him ‘babe’, Jillian,’ she said, predictable as clockwork. Before Jill could respond, she added: ‘And, anyway, he doesn’t need his swim-shorts. It’s only us.’