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I woke to the gentle

plink plink

of rain hitting the window sill. I was

dreaming about a railway line, and was roused by the discordant

clanging of hammers onmetal. Like a distant fog, the railway blurred

into this oddly familiar reality that grew on me as if the dream had

never existed. The cold kitchen tiles stung my bare feet as I set the

kettle to boil, goose pimples growing underneath my pyjamas – I

wasn’t accustomed to the British winter after years of Southern

China’s mild climate.

If you ask me why I came to

Sussex, I would say

that Sussex is charming in the way that any new place is; curiously

enigmatic and left to the imagination’s interpretation before its true

history and intransigence is revealed.

I peered into Dan’s room–he had fallen asleep midway through

writing a story. His forehead rested on the edge of his typewriter,

his arms crossed over the desk like a Tibetan monk in prayer. The

floorboards were barely visible beneath clothes, bedsheets, shoes,

empty cigarette packs, magazines. Papers and books lay open over

the floor –Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell To Arms’ and a collection of

James Joyce novels. The dark, tangled mop of Dan’s head stirred,

his unwashed hair falling towards his shadowy face as he lifted his

head off the desk. Late sleepless nights had enhanced the dark

circles under his eyes, casting a shadow of unconsciousness across

his blank expression.

‘Good morning,’ my voice cracked the cold air, still rough

from sleep.

‘You should have knocked before coming in,’ he spoke

emotionlessly, as if in a trance.

‘I shouldn’t have to.

You must be exhausted


‘I have to go to work. Isn’t that what you want?’ He hated

knowing it was his job that gave me pride and happiness.

He was right – it was what I had wanted, when he was younger.

Despite scarring his weak knuckles, my brass ruler had disciplined

Dan to work hard, proceed to London University, study to become

an anaesthetist. Funny how it was he who had gradually lost sensory

perception since starting his degree. Back then he had wanted to

write. Not research papers or medical transcripts, but stories. As a

child he wrote about werewolves and zombies and vampires, not

about the real world. But they were childish ways, and it was my

duty to discipline him into growing up to cope with the adult world.

I had repeated every syllable, every consonant of the Chinese

Surrender And


And Discipline

And Glory

Claire Smart