Flash fiction: New writing inspired by the 2014 Scottish independence referendum
Prose and poetry on Scottish independence by Samuel Best, Simon Williams and Harry Giles
The List’s books editor Kirsty Logan put a call out for writing inspired by the theme of independence. Here are our favourites
by Samuel Best
It was autumn when I began to dig at the edges of my garden. I’d been getting headaches for a couple of weeks and thought some peace and quiet might do some good. The doctor told me a lot of people had similar problems and recommended painkillers, or perhaps a better diet. He’d frowned when I told him my plan and gave me the number for a local psychiatrist.
Living by the sea meant the earth was mostly sand and broke apart easily. After a few days I managed to crack my land away from the neighbours, and as the tide went out that night I went with it. I sailed out into the northern seas to find cold weather and essential living. I’d not thought to bring a supermarket with me and the online retailers said they couldn’t locate my address anymore, so I learned to work the soil like a crofter. My meals became more nutritious and I grew leaner and stronger. My headaches began to fade.
One morning, I spotted a shape on the horizon and as the sun grew fat in the sky, I counted more and more. Hundreds of islands floating across the choppy sea, each dotted with individuals, couples, and families. One by one we began to bump into each other, our islands joining together to form a patchwork. Hands were shaken and meals were swapped. I saw faces I recognised from the old days and made friends with my new neighbours.
That night, as the moon woke, we shared stories under the stars and prayed the tide would never stop carrying our quilted island. I relished the feeling I had when my shovel first bit into the dirt, and drifted off a calm soul, happily expecting another fresh dawn.
by Simon Williams
Some mid-season tourists were hanging around in the Gardens, waiting for the explosion. It was a couple of minutes to one and that was all there seemed to be to do. The locals were busy with their voting but the shops were open and you could still buy tartan towels and travel rugs.
Jan had sold the experience to the boys as an explosion rather than the One O’Clock Gun. She’d get them to look up to the Castle and see the smoke before they heard the bang. But it was five past, ten past now and the boys were getting bored. Just a couple more minutes, she told them, the soldiers must be having their dinner. And then – it was strange – she heard the explosion but didn’t see the smoke. She wondered why the gun was so late – 13.14, she remembered later – and the boys gave a little cheer.
After the boys had gone to sleep, she went down to the hotel bar. And that was when the gun sounded again, just before quarter past eight. The windows shook and rattled and Jan screamed a cut-off scream into her drink. She worked near the embassies and had been on edge for 20 years. ‘Colonist!’ a man at the bar spat. Jan had no idea what he was talking about. He carried on. ‘No more bowing down to the rich man’s whims and wishes, that’s what it means.’
The barman: ‘Unless they’re Scottish, I suppose. The rich men. Then we’d have to bow and scrape.’
‘It’s started, no matter how the vote goes. Hear the glorious guns of Bannockburn and Independence Day?’
The next day Jan bought shortbread and a Jimmy Shand CD. She was at Waverley in plenty of time but there were no trains south.
by Harry Giles
wadna ken workin class authenticity gin hit cam reelin aff an ile rig douned six pints o Tennent’s n glasst hit in the cunt,
whit it wadna
by the way;
o google Scotland,
o laptop Scotland,
o a Scotland sae dowf on bit-torrentit HBO drama series n DLC packs fer paistapocalyptic RPGs that hit disna ken hits gowk fae hits gadjie;
hinks the preservation o an evendoun Scots leeteratur is o parteecular vailyie n importance bit cadna write hit wi a reproduction claymore tae hits craig;
wants independence fae Tories
n patronisin keeks
n chips on shouders
bit sprattles tae assert ony cultural awtonomy whit isna grundit in honeytraps;
hinks thare’s likely some sort o God, rite?
whit’d like tae gang for sushi wan nite but cadna haundle chopsticks,
whit sines up fur internet datin profiles n nivver replies tae the messages,
whit dreams o bidin in London;
fires tourists weirin See You Jimmy hats the puir deathstare,
n made a pynt o learnin aw the varses tae Auld Lang Syne,
n awns a hail sined collection o Belle n Sebastian EPs;
cadna hink o a grander wey tae end a nite as wi a poke o chips n curry sauce,
whit chacks the date o Bannockburn on Wikipaedia,
whit draws chairts on the backs o beermats tae lear ye aboot rifts n glaciation
n when hit dis hit feels this oorie dunk,
this undesairvt wairmth
o inexplicable luve;
is heavt up,
in the blenks afore anxiety is heavt up
by the lithe curve o a firth.
whit’ll chant hits hairt oot dounstairs o the Royal Oak, whit’ll pouk hits timmer clarsach hairtstrangs, whit like glamour will sing hits hairt intae existence, whit haps sang aroon hits bluidy nieve hairt,