Our Black Comedy

by Elisabeth Ingram Wallace Read author interview March 19, 2018

“Your humour is really black,” you say to me, that first day we meet; standing in the college garden, just two future corpses, about to fall in love.

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At the garden party the entertainment is a woman, small, black haired, handcrafting favours. Portrait silhouettes. Her scissors are silver knives and she cuts out your face and captures the curl of your hair in black card. Then she cuts me out. It takes thirty seconds. She sticks us together face to face on a white sheet. Ten years later we are still there, on the wall in the kitchen, under glass, levitating over the dishwasher.

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We stand outside the library in the late night of our twenties and watch a meteor shower. The Perseids. Perseus was a slayer of monsters, I say.

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I like to tell you classical half-tales. Pliny the elder thought a menstruating woman could cause all the caterpillars to fall out of the trees, he called it ‘the female force’. All a woman has to do – to this very day – is walk naked through a field and beetles and worms and other pests will rain down. Whenever there was a crop infestation of cantharid beetles in Pliny’s day, all the local menstruating women were forced to walk through the fields with their dresses hiked up above their buttocks.

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You laugh like a chicken, all throat.

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We buy the house because it is cheap. I hold your hand under the high crime lights. The CCTV cameras are all smashed and we decide to buy an ugly dog.

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The front door is peeling and it must be painted black, because The Estate Has Rules. I paint it Halloween green. It’s the kind of green they have in Hollywood for an actress to stand in front of while behind her they digitally add in exploding tower blocks full of zombies.

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A man on the Estate kicks his dog and the dog cries. The police never turn up.

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Passing in any crowd are secret people whose hidden response to beauty is the desire to turn it into bleeding meat.

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I sleep with all the lights on when you are not here. The house has noises. When you are here I am safe. When there is a creak or a skitter, you hug me tight and kiss me and say “Don’t worry, it’s just Rupert slithering out the crawl space to play stab-stab.”

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Rupert is your ghost. The ghost of a boy murdered by Catholic school priests.

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I get nightmares in this house.

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You have put me on display, in your Palace Kebab shop. I am meat, on a rotating spit. There is an extra head attached to my body, it is the head of our dog. His tongue is lolling out my face, pink and dry, and our four eyes are cooked cloudy. They twitch. We are so alive.

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I look good in that oak veneer coffin.

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You get nightmares in this house.

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You write out the names of people who cross us, in black ink on tiny white slips of paper. Then you origami them minute, and put them in an ice cube tray. You fill the tray with water. You freeze the names into cubes, and empty the cubes into a bag. A big bag, filled with all the frozen people you hate.

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Depression, anger, is what you refuse to call it, because all reference to your black moods is verboten; and it’s not simply depression, it is mania, which is liquid confidence, and when the tide is out we are fine, but when the tide is in the black is everywhere, and I can’t name it because once I named it and naming it was an act of summoning.

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I’m a soft-bellied white mollusk with three hearts that beat blue green blood. You say I stab you in the night.

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We wait twelve years to look at the fingerprints on the walls that are not ours. The week before we move we paint the whole house, white. Brilliant white. We sell up, we move on.

About the Author:

Elisabeth Ingram Wallace has work in Atticus Review, Flash Frontier, b(OINK), and the Bath Flash Fiction Award anthologies. She has a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award, a Dewar Arts Award, and won ‘Writing the Future 2017’ with her sci-fi short story ‘Opsnizing Dad’. She has a Creative Writing M.Litt. with Distinction from the University of Glasgow, and lives in Scotland. You can find her on Twitter @ingram_wallace

About the Artist:

Find more of Claudia Dea's work at Flickr.