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Il-Linja l-Ħadra


“Azzopardi’s ability to tell such unpredictable stories serves to further draw the reader’s attention to every word, every turn of events, and every snatch of dialogue that she elicits from the normal people, living at the turn of the 21st Century. Despite their meticulous organisation, these stories are far from stylised or excessively literary - quite the contrary ...” Adrian Grima


Merlin Publishers


National Book Prize - Best Short Stories


Pierre Portelli (cover)


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I, the witness

I, the witness

her body felt cumbersome pointless she was laughing and screaming and called andrè to tell him their marriage was destined to be no more than a pencilled scrawl but andrè didn’t understand and then fully clothed a drenched dance in the bathtub on the table on the couch on the windowsill where she munched on lots of carrots and felt her legs growing longer and touching the street below to the verses of carlos’s poems and all the feelings they engendered she flicked away borne on the ashes from a pack of twentytwenty fags’ worth of feeling had ebbed away by dusk and her legs dangling six storeys above street level hadn’t grown any longerwhere are they definitely had another pack maybe on the windowsill probably wondering whether or not to take the plunge or then again in the bath cleansing themselves of my sinsso she called them and prayed it wouldn’t be last night’s man at their endhelp me she told the tired voice. I wantI wantwhen she calmed down she fell asleep blanketed by the ash of burnt poems the smoke waking her up quite late the next morning to tap another dream into her laptop and that done it was her hair long strands of hair shorn off as she danced with the scissors among the wedding gifts from it seemed so long ago swaying as she had done that day glass of red in hand while she nibbled cauliflower blossoms which who knows might make the hair grow back in curls rose-scented with the memories of othertimeand then he turns up“The fuck’s going on? you out of your fucking mind? This place reeks of alcohol and what’s with all the hair? The fuck’s this all about?”Bang goes the fridge door.“Listen, you listen to me.”Bang goes the fridge door.“You do this one more time and I’ll fucking kill you.”the dress dangling from the ceiling slowly swung in the breeze airing out thirteen years’ worth of damp and mouldI was the witnessI’d just bent over to scrawl my presence at this lily-infested ritual in an abandoned chapel when I noticed that the pen’s blue trace was invisible on the paper the priest already blushing as I straightened up pen in surprised hand she naturally burst out laughing and then a rush to the sacristy and another pen this one just as hapless and following an urgent appeal from the lectern and the handbagged hands of women rustling finally pencil ok naturally she laughed even louder I was the first witness to sign in pencilI guess it’s lost what little colour it had so many years later and a marriage isn’t valid without a signature from the witness her laughter still rings in my ears but she probably doesn’t know that as when the photographer managed to freeze-frame my discoloured countenance against her radiant features bursting with sudden suppressed emotion engulfing her all at oncethey’ve been scattered all over the floor so many years latermoment by momentlike a trail of sequins falling one by one beneath the dress throughout the reception held on the tiny parapet because every other hall was booked on the day“Have you heard? He passed away this morning.”“Yes, I heard they’re burying him tomorrow.”“Don’t think I’ll go.”“Up to you really. You’re free as a wedding dress that was bought never to be worn.”“Everybody thought well of Patri Feliċ. He was humble as his sandal-clad feet.”“Wonder what his epitaph will read? Here lies the love that bound 33 couples all of whom have untied the knot.”There’s a little window in the front door you can spy through. That evening’s snatches of time, all laid to rest on the floor and she the guard, jealously keeping watch. She was completely out of control that night. Every moment, even the ones she’d wanted to keep for herself, had been captured by the photographer. Now it’s she who’s stopping the moments in their tracks.Because she wants to.I’d knock on the door, but my hands refuse to budge. I imagine her saying “Come on in and drop your signature, I like your signature.”They were clearly visible on the floor, laid to rest. You could see them all through the little window in the front door.The wedding dress dangles from a ceiling beam, and stares pointedly at me.The rope looks thick and heavy. Plaited, it reminds me of the one my father uses to lower the pail into the garden well. The freeze-framed faces on the floor are looking my way, calling to me to enter, drop a signature.I, the witness.Today, once more.The gentle current breezing in through the back is swinging her gently back and forth.I can’t get inside, the door is locked.I slip my hand into my pocket, without knowing why.

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Linja reading

Sharon Bezzina reads from Il-Linja l-Ħadra by Clare Azzopardi