The winner of this year's VS Pritchett prizeby Alice Jolly / December 11, 2014 / Leave a comment
Alice Jolly is the winner of the VS Pritchett Memorial Prize, in association with Prospect, for the best unpublished short story of the year. Jolly has just finished her third novel, has published four plays and is working on her memoir. She teaches creative writing at Oxford University. The winning story was inspired by her rural childhood. “Growing up I encountered many odd and difficult people like Ray who lived at the end of long country lanes. My question is—now that traditional rural life has all but evaporated, what place can there be for people like him?”
They tell stories about him in the pub. Used to work in the cider factory. No, the morgue in Hereford. Son of a millionaire-film-star-celebrity with an Aston Martin and all. Family keep him out the way down here. Well, you would do, wouldn’t you?
The stories go around with the pints of Westons and the salt and vinegar crisps. Grows a ton of wacky baccy out the back somewhere. Used to be married, but his wife was eaten. Yeah, eaten. Well, you’ve seen the teeth on them, haven’t you? Buried her in the garden. Ever actually seen him? Nah. Only once at night, digging. Great big hole in the garden. Body shaped. Yeah.
No one sees him, everyone agrees on that. And certainly no one goes to see him. Except me. Now. Walking down the track towards his crooked, bulging house, the sound of barking already loud and the spring-nearly-summer air stained with the smell of dog shit. Josh in the pushchair and me with some biscuits—rather burnt at the edges—which Josh and I made earlier this morning.
Just to be clear—I’m not the home-made-biscuit type, or the sociable-calls-on-neighbours type. But in this world where we now live—two miles to the village, ten to the nearest town—Ray The Rottweiler, three fields away and down a track, is our only neighbour. So I felt I ought to try. But now that I’m getting closer I’m beginning to wonder.
It’s all dog. Dog everywhere. Slobbering dog faces at every window. Paws sticking out through a chewed gap at the bottom of the ruined front door. A dog’s howling head is even poking out of the chimney. OK. Well, maybe not—but you get the picture.