This week’s short is based on my weekly Reasons post.
“Hi Terry, welcome, have a seat,” Miranda opened the door and greeted her fourth and final guest for the book club.
Now in its fifth year, guests had come and gone. Terry was number fourteen to have come to one of her meetings. Halfway through the second year Miranda had to say goodbye to guests two, five, six and seven when she moved back to London from Dublin, where she’d been for four years.
To Miranda, London was more artistic than Dublin in the way that when you get a bigger bunch of people in the same place, you’re bound to find more artists. Dublin had better writers and better poetry, in her mind. London was very inward-looking. It pulled its artists and its audience from outside. Dublin looked outward, and from her little house she had read more books that she never thought she would’ve. Since starting the club anew in London – one of her first social acts here after getting drunk with enough people to make friendships that would last her stay – the group had only ever really dealt with ‘classic’ literature – that is, stuff written by men in the twentieth century and before.
The thing Miranda loved most about book club was what it brought out of her guests. She gained such keen insights into the lives of her friends this way. Sometimes subtle indicators, like the tone of voice Lizzie (number seventeen) takes in responding to a question, or David (number nine) and his overt explanations that book-ended, by way of justification, a comment on the monthly read.
Terry’s wife left him four months ago. He never stopped coming to book club since he started: Terry was the first one to show up in London. Miranda met Terry and his then-fiancee, Sallie, in a pub at Halloween. Miranda and Sallie were both dressed as Sue Perkins. Terry was supposed to be Mel Giedroyc, but it itched him, so he kept taking it off and holding it in his hand like it was a creature from Star Trek.
Jemma was the first to arrive. Jemma was number ten, and Miranda had come to rely on her so heavily for emotional support in the before and after of the meetings. She didn’t want to bring her own stuff to the group, which had become a kind of ersatz counselling session for some.
The tea was served, the crudites and home-made humous – three kinds this month – in bowls and being nibbled on, and so the meeting began. Miranda always asked them how everyone was at the start. It was supposed to give them the opportunity to get things off their chest at the start so they could focus discussion on the book.
Jemma opened up the first discussion. She commented on the author’s use of different perspectives through time to give the book a more timeless quality, and cover more ground. Ever the optimist.
Miranda agreed, and turned to one of her bookmarks – a pink post-it sticking out about halfway down the book. She really liked the parts about putting ones offspring first, how the intellect steps back to allow room for nature to dominate. She drew a parallel to those who have a caring personality, rather than those who are directly parents.
Terry noted how the denouement, where the couples reunite, was particularly poignant for him. Did it mean that reconciliation was still possible for him?
Lizzie made a pointed, yet obfuscated analysis of the need to leave behind a legacy, but despite its persistence, the central message being ignored or reinterpreted.
The humous is scrapings around the bowl.
David talks of his recent insomnia, and the solace he finds in reading about those who can’t get to sleep, and how it might be a metaphor for hiding from dealing with his problems.
Terry relates, at first taking some offense, then he slips into something more melancholic.
The tea gets cold, and Miranda asks what everyone thought the central theme of the book was. She knows the answers she’ll get before she opens her mouth.
Two by two, they leave – Terry and David go together, still talking about loneliness and lack of sleep, but buoyed by the camaraderie; Lizzie and Jemma help Miranda clear up, then leave themselves. Miranda holds the door open as they walk down the stairs, talking brightly about how the weather has been impacting Lizzie’s attempts to be a writer.
Until next month.