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 worry by Peter Arscott.
Peter Arscott was born in Lima, Peru. He went to school and university in England before working in Barcelona as a language teacher and painter. He has had exhibitions in Spain and the UK, and now works in his studio in Herefordshire as a ceramicist and artist.
Peter has been writing short stories for five years and has been published in The Common, 365 Days, Brittle Star and Storgy.
‘Turtle’ is the first story by Peter Arscott to appear on the Fairlight Books website.
‘Turtle’ focuses on a mother’s worry after her daughter leaves home.
The rough clay figure of a turtle that looks at Rosemary from the shelf above her desk is a gift from her daughter after returning from her year abroad:
‘Here, this is for you, Mum. I bought it in a village near Quito.’
The girl’s round face looks up at her from the floor where she has been rummaging in her large rucksack. She has always been like that; she can’t wait, things can’t wait. Rosemary takes the gift and bends down to kiss her daughter on the forehead, her lips feel the smooth unblemished skin, moist with the excitement of arrival, and she smells the familiar tang of unwashed hair and patchouli. The girl stays kneeling, smiling, willing her mother to open the gift, as if it is the culmination and whole purpose of her year-long absence.
Rosemary is holding the small gift in her hand and remembers her daughter coming home from school, brimming with excitement, waving a drawing or a clay pot or a poem in front of her. She begins to unwrap the tissue paper, letting the crumpled pieces fall to the floor, until she is left with the little clay creature cupped in both hands. She brings it up close to her face. She is unsure what it is.
‘Darling… Thank you.’
‘It’s a tortoise.’
‘Sweetheart, it’s quite lovely.’
‘Its head waggles. If you put it on your desk near the edge the head hangs down and moves. It’ll keep an eye on you while you’re working.’