Samuel Leader grew up in he UK and France. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Modern Languages from Oxford and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UC Irvine. From 2009–2010, he was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He is working on a novel entitled Dust, featuring, among other things, a unicorn, a missing woman and an aged demographer on trial for crimes against humanity.
Photo credit: courtesy of the artist
Excerpt from Dust, a novel in progress.
Perhaps now is the time to tell your shouting wife that someone you both love (let us say, for the sake of economy, at least, that this someone is your daughter; and let us say that she has been missing for some time, and no one has been able to find her, despite her cloud of hair that is bright orange and her eyes that are zinc-blue, her outlandish clothes and her tendency also to shout) is, for certain, dead, but there are no words in you to tell your wife this, and when your silence proves unending, your wife says she is going out. She will not be back for lunch. There is some leftover choucroutte on the kitchen counter, she says. She is going to Mass to pray for the children in Rwanda, then to the Bingo, then to Chantal’s to get her hair done, and then to Hyper-U, where there is a special on oysters. She is in the mood for oysters.
The door slams (she always slams it) and you are alone in the house.
And so you are alone in the house and you do not know what to do with your body, nor with the cumbersome news that your daughter is dead, so after pacing for a while you do various things merely not to do nothing – go to the kitchen and sweep the tiles, wash the plates from breakfast that your wife has left in the sink, put some of that left-over choucroutte on your plate – but these things you do, even as you do them, strike you also as superfluous, and you feel guilty for these acts that are not relevant to your daughter, whom perhaps you did not love correctly, and you stand up and look around at the things in the kitchen – the crumb-strewn terracotta tiles, the branch of bay leaves dangling over the black stove, the stove itself, the row of white mugs with blue polkadots on the pegs above the sink, the porcelain figurine of a greyhound on top of the sarcophagal fridge, the nesting stack of jade-green pots on the pine sideboard – the particularity of everything you see offends you – and, like all this gratuitous stuff in the kitchen, the things that you did and still are doing that are not relevant to your daughter (who is dead now, you must remind yourself; who is nobody; whose corpse is divided, perhaps, into little rotting pieces) – for instance you were tired; you took a nap; you were restless; you read an article in yesterday’s egg-stained newspaper; you are hungry: you went to the kitchen to eat some leftover choucroutte; you were bored and agitated: you swept the kitchen tiles; you were upset: you cried, prayed, talked to History, talked to the Future etcetera – these acts now feel to you like physical things, actual and protuberant; they are decorations festooning a ship’s stern – the intricate gilded scrollwork, garlands, emblems, balustrades, coats of arms, the mermaid figurehead with jutting breasts – and as you stand there in the kitchen amidst the profusion of your things and your acts not relevant to the dead person you loved, you feel giddy, the ship will keel under the weight of its pretty ornamentation, and you look down at your plate and regard the cold fat sausage and little heap of sauerkraut with an inkling of disgust.