Today I am delighted to share an extract with you from Robert Jenkins’s The Fell…..
Stand by Me meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in this powerful debut
His hand was a gigantic bear claw and swallowed mine and half my forearm too. He had a big man’s grip and a real deep voice.
‘Welcome to Feallan House. We call it Fell. The sign says Fell, so it’s Fell.
Actually, we’re Fell… If you’re solid you get to be Fell… that’s us.’
In an unspecified time and location, an unnamed boy is living what seems like an idyllic life. He idolises his father who is a lifeguard at the local faded and peeling Lido, never more so than when he saves the life of a suicidal man. The boy comes to believe that heroism is all.
Later that summer, the arrest of his sister brings the halcyon days to an abrupt end and his family is torn apart. With Lilly sent to jail, the boy is sent to a boarding house for dysfunctional youths far away from home The Fell. The boys band together against their enemies, both real and imagined, they become family.
The boy sees the world and his place in it through a unique lens. He meets ghosts, hears voices and battles his fears. What he never does, however, is question his own version of reality.
When the boy’s fear and hatred of authority comes to a head, everything is thrown into disarray and his actions lead him to run from The Fell. And run, and run…
I see a man hanged himself once, in the trees back of the lido late in that first burning summer after the little circus stopped coming to town with the tattooed Jewish trapeze girls, and after they stayed away it was like loneliness came in their place and later on people would say they had the sight and we should have known.
That summer was like living every day in the embers of a big and hungry fire that burned for ever and sucked all the air out of everything and every breath scorched your lungs so you breathed shallow and it was that same summer my friend Snotty Nosed Chaves went drowning in the canal after he jumped in for a swim and couldn’t climb back out because the sides were steep and sheer and too high and nobody knew. He was no great swimmer and the water was deeper and blacker than it looked and colder too. And that same summer a woman commits suicide down the road walking in front of a train and they raised the fences after that. They said the devil was on the whole neighbourhood that summer. It was airless and breathless and long and hot and perfect but for the flying ants and the dying. They said there were demons over us all like a cloud of flies and some Baptist preacher did the rounds preaching on street corners and even knocking on doors like they used to in the black and white days, but my dad said it was nonsense and he wasn’t scared and he forbade me to be scared too.
I was scared anyway. He said people die when it’s their time or if they go early it’s on account of they make mistakes or get bitten by plain bad luck, like the kid did in the canal, or had no job or good woman or man in their lives, or got betrayed or just lost in the fog of it all. He told me I could pray if I wanted but best not to any god in particular. Hedge your bets, he said, and don’t be scared. No god listens to chickens he said. Chickens don’t have a god. Chickens just get fried he said.
But people dying is an unpleasant thing and by all accounts from what I observed a very random thing and I was properly scared if I let my mind go there. Death was just too unpredictable and always very personal and as ugly as the flying ants that covered everything like tar and drowned in their millions in the cool water of the lido. Every morning we scooped them off in big nets on long poles before the customers came and everyone came there that summer because there was nowhere with cooler shade or sweeter water and it was everyone’s wish all day and all night just to submerge their super-heated bodies in those cool holy waters.
With thanks to Anna & Julia @ RedDoor Publishing
happy reading 🙂