A story from Stuart Evers's debut collection, Ten Stories About Smokingby Stuart Evers / February 23, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
Stuart Evers is a London-based literary critic. In his first short-story collection, Ten Stories about Smoking, he takes a clear look at quiet lives, in writing that has been praised for freeing itself from the dominant tone of British literary fiction in the last 25 years. Aravind Adiga, author of The White Tiger and winner of the 2008 Man Booker prize, has praised Evers for “an impressive debut,” noting that “love, loss and recovery are the real themes of these quiet, haunting stories.” David Vann, a rising star of American fiction, wrote that “Evers has found possibility in even the bleakest and smallest of lives, with each story delicately linked not only by a cigarette but also by a glimpse into how terrifyingly empty a life can be.”
For several years he had spun a solid and convincing story about an inherited sleeping disorder. It had been passed down, he claimed, on his mother’s side of the family and it meant he often woke up screaming, or was unable to sleep at all. It wasn’t anything to worry about, he’d reassured her with his arms hooked over her ribs, it was just a part of him, like his height or his shoe size. “Doctors call them the night terrors,” he’d said with a wry smile. “Makes them sound like some old aristocratic family, doesn’t it?” She’d laughed a little and then kissed him. He slept right through that first night, and slept for many nights afterwards.
Some weeks later, when the attacks first began, Jean felt prepared for them. She woke instinctively and immediately tried to calm him. She held him tightly and felt the erratic beat of his heart; she stroked his hair and told him that he was safe, that she’d got him. Peter lay in her arms immobile. When she tried to hold his hand it did not easily yield and when it did, it did so grudgingly. She spoke softly, reassuringly, saying the very first things that came into her head. She talked about her dreams and her ideas for the house they wo…