A Paris Story

‘Somebody came and sat next to Alice, on her right. Not that the place was filling up. The rows before her were still empty. Had he just entered? Perhaps he had been there all along in the dark somewhere behind her. She glanced at him. He was young, North African, no older than her son. She stiffened, clutched at the arm-rests, making to move away. But his eyes in the half-light were wide and afraid, staring at her. And how young he was. She felt he had fled to her. Should she then flee from him? She turned to face the screen again and before long sensed that he had done the same. So they sat side by side as though they had arrived together or met there by arrangement, watching the woman’s strangely, beautifully troubling film. Alice sank again into the dread that at any moment something would happen that she would not be able to avoid seeing or ever rid her mind of afterwards. And all the while she felt the boy close by her, staring fixedly ahead and trembling. She sensed, she could even smell, his undiminished fear.’

Every time I read one of David Constantine‘s short stories I feel a kind of breathlessness. Afterwards, sometimes for days on end, I’m astounded and have to keep going back, over and over, trying to work out how and why. This excerpt is from ‘A Paris Story’ in Under the Dam and other stories published by the wonderful Comma Press, of course.