What is a short story?
Tash Aw: 'For me, the short form is about suggestion, about the murkier, more troubled existence that lies beyond the confines of a few thousand words.'
After the Census by Kate Evans
‘Have you done it yet?’ ‘What?’ ‘The census.’ ‘Still got a week.’ ‘Yes, but you might as well get it done now.’ ‘Yes,’ she lifts it up and then quickly puts it down again without making a mark. ‘I’ll do it later.’
He turns back to his paper, flicking the pages with sharp snaps of his thick wrists. She knows it’s the idea of a great-great-great niece or nephew finding him in the 2011 records which is behind his keenness. He clears his throat, a guttural huh-huh-huh. She leaves the room as if an urgent appointment has just presented itself.
Once through the kitchen and back door, she slows her pace. The sky makes her think of being enclosed in one of those Fabergé eggs he so hankers after. Yolk flowers are beginning to spatter her forsythia twigs, the daffodils and crocuses have cracked through the ground and are rattling their heads together in a breeze laden with the earth’s dampness. She’d pulled on her wellies and an old jumper over her cashmere twin-set on the way out. Now she sits on a low wall and lights a cigarette. For a moment she considers the red-veined, oxalic-acid-green tongues waving above the pink stalks of rhubarb forcing their way through a bottomless upturned bucket. It was question 4 which had stopped her in her tracks.
How could she possibly know?