A Bit on the Side
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William Trevor is truly a Chekhov for our age, and a new collection of stories from him is always a cause for celebration. In these twelve stories, a waiter divulges a shocking life of crime to his ex-wife; a woman repeats the story of her parents’ unstable marriage after a horrible tragedy; a schoolgirl regrets gossiping about the cuckolded man who tutors her; and, in the volume’s title story, a middle-aged accountant offers his reasons for ending a love affair. At the heart of this stunning collection is Trevor’s characteristic tenderness and unflinching eye for both the humanizing and dehumanizing aspects of modern urban and rural life.
the kind. She’d always known the kind. The first of the late bells sounded, rhythmically clanging. Younger boys gathered up their books, and then their footsteps were muffled in the corridors, no conversation exchanged because noise was forbidden while the Upper and Middle School classes continued their preparation. Olivier read Cakes and Ale, the orange-backed book hidden from view behind Raleigh and the British Empire and a guide to laboratory experiments. Was it Chapman, do you think? a note
eerie when there was moonlight. The odour she’d once associated with the dead was old leaves rotting. The cottage where all her life she’d lived was the last in the village. Her father had left it every morning of her childhood to go to work at the quarry; he’d died upstairs, where her mother had too. A boy had come on the day her mother died and she’d had to send him away, head of St Andrew’s he’d been, Tateman. La même chose: it was he who’d taught her that, and chacun à son goût, making her
stove. He spooned tea into an unheated pot and set out cups and saucers, and milk in a milking can. He offered bread but Fina shook her head. He took a heel of butter from a safe on the dresser. ‘John Michael went over,’ he said. ‘Yes, he did. A while back.’ ‘He’s settled so.’ ‘He hasn’t the right papers,’ Fina said. She watched while the butter was spread on a slice of bread, and sugar sprinkled over it. It wouldn’t take long to set the kitchen to rights. It wouldn’t take long to paint over
been walking before. When they married she had moved upstairs to his two rooms, use of kitchen and bath, the rooms freshly painted by him in honour of the change in both their lives, old linoleum replaced by a carpet. The paint had still been fresh when she left, the carpet unstained; she’d never begun to call herself Mrs Arthurs. Later that afternoon, although he was not a drinking man, Arthurs entered a public house. Like the cafe in which he had earlier had a meal, it was not familiar to him:
carried downstairs the black plastic bag in which she’d collected the waste-paper. She re-set the night alarm. She banged the door behind her and began to walk away. ‘They ignored Mr Simoni,’ he said in the empty dark. ‘Mr Simoni tried to shake hands with them but he needn’t have bothered.’ She looked at him with nothing in her eyes. There was no flicker that they were man and wife, as if she had forgotten. She had been everything to him; she could have sensed it from the way he’d been with