John Saul
June 2016 Commended


by John Saul

When I heard of a town having tearful peripheries I soon thought of the outskirts of my own home town when I was young. With their pale concrete and rough surface, the flat roadways were certainly sad and unloved, evoking no fondness except possibly from one or two pilots who peered down on them as they homed in on the airport nearby. No one liked to drive on them on account of the rumbling, a cause for depression, so they were left to driving schools and the occasional lost juggernaut or police who had to investigate. Set back from the roadways, the houses too were sad, hoping not to be associated with the cheap paving and arid verges, but they were likewise affected by the situation of the periphery, where little grass graced the earth. The people were not sad; they might be beautiful, as was Linda who worked at the chemical works over the bridge and Keith who also worked at the chemical works, and they would meet at each other’s houses whenever they could. Both wore fine coats, Linda’s loose and easily taken off, Keith’s expensive-looking soft leather, zipped tight against his tall self, and both had thick dark hair they tossed back many times in a day but, their hair aside, it was as if the messages they passed between them were expressed in their coats. There were tears, young tears to do with jealousies and fine gradings in declarations of love, but happy times too, at small dance halls and birthdays in one of the houses set back from the roadways, and happier times still, when they removed their coats and slowly drove themselves into frenzies, before returning to quietly reverberating moments of tenderness, when the pores of their skin felt so open and clean.

About the Author

John Saul

John Saul was last year shortlisted for the international 2015 Seán Ó Faoláin prize for fiction. This year he has work included in Best British Short Stories 2016. He has a website at

photo: J Tang

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