A short story for you all (an edit of a piece from a couple of years back). Click below for a PDF or read on for a taster…
We called her Beetle, this girl at school, small and round and curious, always fidgeting around looking for things that didn’t concern her.
You never knew she was there until you were ready to drop the water bombs down the stairwell, or nervous fingers had just undone your bra, or you’d nearly got the blue to appear under the red as you bruised a younger kid’s face with your fist. Just at the wrong moment, there she’d be, Beetle, looking at you and sniffing like she’d just crawled up to a pile of food or shit and she wasn’t sure which. She’d look at you and do a thing with her face. Then she’d scurry off and you’d know that whatever you had planned to do just wasn’t going to happen.
Small and round and curious. Tough, though, like she had a beetle’s shell. If you grabbed her by the hair, dragged her through the car park gravel, gave her dead legs, dead arms, Chinese burns: whatever you did, she wouldn’t say a word. She’d just take it, wait until you were done, do that thing with her face and scurry away.
That’s why we didn’t like her: like a beetle, we didn’t understand her, didn’t know what she was made of, where she came from, what she wanted. We were scared of her silence.
It was April, just after Easter, when we were thirteen or fourteen. We came back to school and Beetle wasn’t there.