Friday, May 16, 2014

"Carnival Nights" by Kathryn O'Halloran (Short Stories)

Genre:  Literary Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  Carnival Nights is a collection of short stories about the dreams and hopes we bury inside us and the consquences of acknowledging those dreams. 

A country boy finally makes the move to the city but discovers things aren't the way he remembers them. A woman finds what she needs most after her death. A young girl learns that the idea of sex is better than the act.


She stands in the doorway holding a cantaloupe. Gift-wrapped. The hands offering the fruit are hidden by stretched and ragged sleeves; cardigan sleeves which I suspect have been sucked on and chewed. Multicoloured pigtails sprout from her head like apostrophes in an overpunctuated poem, the freckles on her nose are full stops. Under the cardigan is a mangle of lace, a jettisoned remnant from a child’s dress up box. She looks fey, but knowing, an urban pixie.

"I saw you moving in. I live downstairs and wanted to welcome you to the neighbourhood.” She hands me the cantaloupe and says she is on her way to a party, she can’t hang around bugging me. As if she would. I am not exactly overwhelmed with people offering me their company at the moment. I am about to invite her in for a drink but, before the thought gets from my brain to my mouth, she vanishes.

I moved into this flat a week ago, after dreaming for years of moving to the city. We had visited St Kilda on the Under-19’s footy trip, a bunch of country kids, wide-eyed and naïve. The other guys only wanted to gawk at the prostitutes and snicker at the homeless, as though the street life was an exotic zoo for their amusement.

Meanwhile I'd fallen in love with the place with its decadence and decay. I remember going to Luna Park, the giant mouth of its clown-faced façade swallowing me whole, wandering through the Art Deco ruins within, imagining former grandeur. I screamed like a child on the Scenic Railway. It wasn't the dips that scared me; it was the thought of that rotting wooden scaffolding holding the structure up.

That night, while the guys got drunk and made a nuisance of themselves with the girls on the street, I explored relics of lost opulence on palm-tree beaches. I drank beer in pubs with walls held up by decade-old collage of band-posters. I sipped bitter coffee in a street cafe and watched dramas unfold before me.

As I wandered the streets I felt like the images were filling my eyes up to overflowing. I wanted to hold it all in.

A man, greyed with age and hard living - tattoo with the name ‘Miranda’ snaking around his chest - asked if he could sell me an idea. Ideas were going cheap – a dollar apiece. I didn’t need them.

Buy this collection on Amazon.

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