Winner of the 2012 VS Pritchett Memorial Prize, supported by Prospectby Martina Devlin / November 14, 2012 / Leave a comment
Martina Devlin is the author of several novels including Ship of Dreams, inspired by a family connection to the Titanic disaster. Her first published short story won a Hennessy Literary Prize. She has been shortlisted twice for the Irish Book Awards and was the 2011 National Newspapers of Ireland columnist of the year. This story, “Singing Dumb,” won the 2012 VS Pritchett Memorial Prize, an award founded by the Royal Society of Literature in 1999 to celebrate and preserve the tradition of the short story. The judges noted the story’s “confidence and simplicity, saying most by saying least.” Devlin says it was shaped by “a tragedy in my mother’s family in rural 1930s Ireland. The death of a child is always difficult for relatives to come to terms with—but when another child in the family witnesses it, and feels a sense of responsibility for what happened, the tragedy is compounded.”
Mrs Nash is in a hurry coming through our door. “The guards are on their way!” She drops onto a chair, fanning herself with her hands. “It’s the pair from Doon barracks. They were in Con Sullivan’s shop asking for your house. I slipped out the back, ahead of them.”
Mama looks upset. She puts Baby Bridie in the pram, and takes off her apron. Brakes squeal outside. I peek through the window: two men in navy uniforms, caps down low on their heads, lean their bikes against the hedge.
They have come to take me away. I’ve been expecting them. But I run toward the kitchen table and hide under it.
Mama bends down between the table legs. “Kitty, come out of there at once. Wash your face and hands in the basin of water in my room. Quick as lightning, now.”
I do as I’m told, but I stay upstairs. Ned is sent to fetch me.
“Mama wants to know what’s keeping you. We’re all to go outside and play, except you. The guards want to talk to you. You’re in trouble.”
I long to crawl under Mama and Dada’s big bed, in among the spiders. They scare me—but not as much as what’s downstairs. But I know there’s no use, the guards will only reach in with their long arms and pull me out. Maybe I could sneak out through the window and climb down the drainpipe.…