"Your friend repeats the name of the disease and the number of its variant, but you can’t take it in"by Kate Clanchy / May 21, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
The novelist and memoirist Kate Clanchy won the BBC National Short Story Award in 2009. The story below, “Animal, Vegetable,” is taken from her new collection The Not-Dead and the Saved. It imagines a rivalrous friendship between two mothers. Clanchy says: “Surely all mothers of young children must at some point stand by a wailing pram in a gutter and ask themselves if they really have to do this bit? When I was such a mother, with such a pram, I was also teaching myself to write short stories, and exploring the fun you can have with the second person, ‘you.’ This story, ‘Animal, Vegetable’ is the result: it isn’t based on anyone I know; all my children are well; and I certainly don’t have an answer to the question I pose at the end.”
In this story, you have a particular friend. You’ve known her a long time—since college, at least, but probably even earlier. Maybe you both smoked Consulates out the window of the sixth-form common room. Maybe you went to primary school together, shared a desk, a pot of poster paint, an obsession with French plaits.