I was accepted for the creative writing dissertation in Glasgow University today. Which is great news, because not only does it contain workshops, but it also means I’ll be doing a dissertation which is purely creative. This, combined with the fact that all my fourth year classes will have no final exam, means that my fourth and final year will be a pretty good one.
What follows is the 1000 word short story that I submitted as a portfolio for the creative writing dissertation. I don’t think it’s quite finished yet, mainly because there are a few things I’d like to add which I couldn’t because the word limit for the creative writing dissertation portfolio was 1000 words, but this piece ensured my success, so I thought I’d share it with you.
Enjoy! Comments and so forth are welcome.
Duck (Verloren Vertaling)
“S’a fair breeze the day, innit Archie?”
“S’no hauf, Tam.”
“Enjoyin the weather but. Nice wee holiday fae the Glesga rain.”
“Aye, aye. It’s guid. It’s almost goat a different texture than it does back hame. Don’t hink ah’ll be stickin aroond lang wae that wind, mind you.”
Tam and Archie sat side by side in the Prinsengracht somewhere in Amsterdam’s labyrinthine canal system, dodging cruise boats and bobbing for leaves whenever the mood struck them. It was a particularly dull, rainy and therefore standard Autumnal day in the Dutch capital, and the breeze meant that they’d be moving south earlier than normal this year.
“Spoke tae a penguin wance who said that the weather changin is tae dae wae whit the humans caw ‘global warming’. Aw the penguin’s ah’ve met are environmentalists.” Tam said,
“Aye well, ye heard whit happened tae Danny didn’t ye?”
“Danny? Lizzy’s wee boay?”
“Wis involved in a territorial dispute wae Frank an his missus last month. Shite himself an went tae run away, ended up gettin himself tangled in wan eh they circular net hings that they monkeys pull cans oot eh. Drooned tae death. Puir sod.”
“Ah know man. Lizzy wis gutted…haud oan, ye speak penguin?”
“Ach, aye man. Picked it up when ah wis floatin aboot in Edinbra a few years ago.”
A strong gust of wind snuck over the 17th century houses and struck the two coots on their left hand side, ruffling their feathers. Archie started kneading his left wing back into its smooth frame. Behind them a human appeared on the terrace of an orange house boat in his underpants and flicked a cigarette into the canal. It hit the water with a fizzling noise.
“Ach yer arse.” He said, once he’d rearranged his down.
“Here, check this prick oot.”
A duck, all grey feathers, green head and dog collar, swept in and landed in the water next to them. Archie and Tam were dwarfed by the duck’s size and they eyed the newcomer with suspicion. On the roads around the canal cyclists rang their bells at foreigners confused by the bike lanes, and trams trundled along the streets with the occasional loud electrical pop crackling off the overhead wires.
“Whit dae ye hink he wants?” Tam said,
“Here…ah recognise him. Hink his name’s Pat. Wan eh Frank’s enforcers.”
“D’ye hink he followed us?”
“Naw, doubt it.”
Archie paddled over to the duck and nudged him. The duck jumped, as if he somehow hadn’t noticed the two coots, and turned with a startled look to face Archie.
“Quack, quack quack?” he said,
“Whit’s he sayin Archie?” Tam shouted from behind them,
“Ah dunno man. Ah don’t speak duck.” Archie said, assuming that no coot alive could ever speak duck.
Tam swam over to investigate. Archie, noting the cigarette butt floating beside him, ducked into the water to eat it and spat it out unimpressed with the wet ashy taste.
“Whit dae ye mean, ye don’t speak duck?” Tam said to him.
“Whit dae ye mean? Should ah speak duck? Nae cunt ever taught me-“
“Quack?” said the Duck, cocking his head to one side in confusion,
“Ah speak Duck.” Said Tam,
“Dae ye hell. Ye speak penguin and duck?”
“Aye. Ah’ll tell ye whit he’s sayin.”
Tam began to address the duck; Archie turned the other way, embarrassed by his friend’s ‘know-all’ attitude. Tam looked the duck in the eye and said,
“Whit ye sayin?”
“Quack? Quaaaaaaaack? Quack quack. Quack, quack quik quack, quaaccckkk. Quack?”
“Aye, aye. Ah see whit yer sayin.” Tam nodded in understanding. Archie shook his head, unconvinced by Tam’s bilingual abilities.
“Whit’s he sayin then?” he asked, turning to face Tam.
“Askin me whit ah hink eh the weather.”
Archie stared at Tam with a look of incredulity.
“Is that so?”
“Ah’m tellin ye-“
“Quick? Quack? Quack, quack quackquack! Quack!” with a look of fright, the duck flapped his wings furiously, almost as if he was pointing up the canal, offered one final, loud “QUACK!” and took to the sky.
“Aw look, ye offended him.” Archie said, laughing.
“Fuck. Hink he’s in a hurry? He said that he hud something tae attend tae.”
Nonplussed by the duck’s abrupt and rather rude exit, the lads progressed down the canal, negotiating tourists in pedal boats, and dodging the blown out umbrellas that the wind had carried into the Dutch water. After travelling fifty meters Tam came across a large green leaf wedged under a discarded plastic bottle.
“Mate, check the size eh this! Ye don’t see them that big this time eh the year!”
“Aye, yer right there Tam.”
“Gies a haun, eh?”
Tam sidled around and started pecking at the bottle while Archie dived underneath to try and pull the frond free from below. After a few moments of furious hammering, Archie emerged and said,
“Ah hink it’s inside this hing.”
“Ah’f nearlfth thur.” Tam said with a mouthful of plastic.
A second later the brown water around them started to bubble then parted. Looking round, Archie spotted a white canal cruise boat approaching them at tremendous speed. Tam, facing the opposite direction, failed to notice the vessel. Archie jumped out of the water, taking flight the second he saw the ship approach, shouting;
“Tam look-“ but it was too late, and the boat clipped Tam’s tail, dragging him under in its wake.
Archie started to frantically circle the canal, waiting for the boat to pass below him, hoping that it had not decapitated his friend. Once the craft had past it took a few seconds before Tam’s body, legs first and limp, rose to the surface.
“Aw naw. Naw.” Archie landed in the water again next to the body and as he did so, Tam righted himself and brought his head above the water.
“Jesus. Whit the fuck?” he said, coughing and spluttering, “Ah mean, ye’d woulda thought some cunt coulda warned us!”