The Bog Bodies of Old Neighbours

By Selma Carvalho

Jeorge says, ‘Don’t do this.’

I smile. ‘You’re a good son.’

Standing on the precipice, I close my eyes.

I see a fibrous fog rising off an untrammelled road. Mud beaten down to form a path. The path narrows and narrows deeper into an undergrowth assailing me with its thorny vengeance, digging into my skin, bruising it pink, reddening it rough. I see the clearing, a pinhole, a spotlight from the sky. I see the house, its red roof sloping downward with outstretched wings of weathered eaves. There are flowers strewing petals in the gambol between garden and game; strung pearls of jasmine and pods gorged green of marigolds. There are ruffled trees as yet unfruiting but I can tell them by the wingspan of their branches, the flat of their fluttering leaves, the smell of their floating nectaries. How do I know them all?

‘Don’t do this. You don’t belong there,’ Jeorge pleads.

He goes to the kitchen cupboard and pulls open a door. There behind the packets of Jammy Dodgers, the jars of thick-cut marmalade and tins of tuna, are boxes of tea. He reaches for a box and reads the label. It says English Breakfast Tea. He brings it with him to the kitchen counter and puts the electric kettle on. He puts a teabag in a sturdy mug and waits for the water to come to boil. He tips the water nto the mug, tosses the teabag into the bin, and brings the tea to me.

‘Drink this,’ Jeorge says, placing the mug in front of me, ‘it will make you see reason.’

‘Let’s drink tea and eat scones,’ I scoff.

My eyes close; my lashes are spider legs flickering shut.

I part the green. I walk past strutting stalks and flailing stems.

I climb the steps to the house. Ten big stone steps. I am inside the house. I know this house. In here, the world is dark and airless, the windows closed. A frugal filter of light seeps from the roof skimming the surface of bare rooms. I know who lives here. Here the blow is swift onto the flesh and the bruise is silent in the night. Here lives the shadow of hanging hand-me-downs, the frugal jollies of hungry eyes and the plaintive whiny of tied dogs. Where are the children? I can hear murmur-incantations coming from deep within the house as I walk through its rooms. I can smell the woodfire in the kitchen and I know that is where I will find them.


Read the full story in our print anthology ‘The Brave New World of Goan Writing 2018.’ Buy the anthology here.

Selma Carvalho has been published by Litro and Kingston University Press, among others. Widely anthologised, she has received a nod from numerous competitions, notably as a finalist for the London Short Story Prize 2017, runner-up for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize 2017 and the Dorset Fiction Award 2018, and winner of the Leicester Writes Prize 2018. Her collection of short stories, Sisterhood of Swans, was long-listed for the prestigious SI Leeds Literary Prize 2018 (UK).