We are delighted to welcome Stewart Ennis as Featured Writer for February. Stewart’s new novel Blessed Assurance has been named as one of the Best Scottish Books 2019 by the Association of Scottish Literary Studies. He will be reading from it at Aye Write! in Glasgow and has been invited to read at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. The extract below exemplifies why his writing has earned so many accolades from ‘born stylist’ to ‘brilliantly crafted’. Even in this short excerpt the characters leap into life.
Stewart was born in Bridge of Weir. He was a founding member of the Benchtours theatre creating many touring shows throughout the nineties and noughties. He was creative writing lecturer at HMP Shotts and edited Visiting Time, an anthology of prison writing. (Vagabond Voices 2019) His stories & poems have appeared in Gutter Magazine, The Curlew, The Caterpillar , National Poetry Day Anthology and other anthologies. Plays include, The Darkroom, Robert Burns’ Celtic Complex, One Straight Line, The Taking of Zena Charbonne and The Monster & Mary Shelley. In 2019 he was awarded the Aberdeen-Curtin Alliance scholarship to study a PhD at Aberdeen University & Curtin University, Perth, Australia. Blessed Assurance (Vagabond Voices 2019) is his first novel.
CHAPTER SIX of The Blessed Assurance
Walking in the Counsel of the UnGodly
Archie Truman was two months younger than Joseph, a good four inches shorter and about as far away from Joseph Kirkland’s uptight rigidity and God-fearing gaucheness as you could possibly get. He was an unclean, underfed wee skelf of a boy, a dirty shilpit elf of a boy, always dressed – come wind come weather – in his trademark thin greasy anorak, shorts and sandshoes, all of them worn and frayed. All of him was worn and frayed. There was barely a square inch of him that wasn’t scratched or bruised. His finger nails were black, his cheeks shiny from layer upon layer of grime mixed with smeared snot from an endlessly runny nose that had dried hard on his face like varnish. He looked like a wooden marionette with his Andy Pandy retroussé nose, his big round pale blue puppet eyes that were painted forever wide open, fixed in a state of utter astonishment, and thick tufts of carrot red hair that seemed to have been drilled into his skull in oddly cut clumps. He walked towards Joseph like he walked through life, in a loose limbed string-cut swagger, kicking the hell out of whatever lay in his path: tin cans, stones, people.
His six old sister, wee Maggie, skipped along at his side. Where else would she be? She had the same blue eyes, red hair, the same turned up button nose, but unlike her beloved big brother, wee Maggie was well-fed, well-groomed, immaculately turned-out, and dressed to fight the weather. Archie saw to all that, always, without fail.
“Look at me,” he said, walking backwards until the fog had completely enveloped him, “I’m The Invisible Man,” and reappeared, “Did you know The Invisible Man was naked?”
“Archie!” said wee Maggie, giggling now, “That’s rude, so it is Joseph?”
“He was! Bare bum, everything! He couldn’t make his clothes and shoes and things invisible, so he had to take them off. Except his specs. He had to keep them on or else he’d end up bumping into folk.” Wee Maggie was still giggling at naked and bums, so Archie had to say it again, “It’s just you couldn’t see his bum even though he was naked because his bum was invisible. Imagine that. Imagine having an invisible naked bum.” Wee Maggie imagined and giggled even more. So Archie wiggled his bum, trying to send her off into hysterics, “I wonder if The Invisible Man did invisible jobbies…”
This was Archie’s main business in life, to see his wee sister happy and laughing, all the time. And this was what Joseph needed in his life; happy-go-lucky Archie, devil-may-care Archie, a down-to-earth, of-this-earth Archie Truman. He glanced around in case Mrs Chaddock or anybody else from the Hall might see him talking to Archie Truman.
Joseph Kirkland, the Fake Friend.
© Stewart Ennis 2020