Anjali Joseph is the award-winning author of three novels: Saraswati Park (2010), winner of the Betty Trask Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and joint-winner of India’s Vodafone Crossword Book Award for Fiction; Another Country (2012), longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize; and The Living (2016). Her intermediate-level fiction writing course is a consistent sell-out, and we are very pleased to have her back for the next semester of Creative Writing Online.
Read an extract from The Living below.
A long way from the morning
This morning I couldn’t open my eyes. It was light, mind you. Sunrise is that early now. But I wasn’t waking up. The alarm went at a quarter to six so I could have tea, roll a fag, look at the sky, put on the radio quiet, take a shower. I left cereal on the table for Jason, and some fruit. It’d be there when I got home. Getting back at five . . . It’s hard to imagine, like a place at the end of a walk, across fields, a river, a bridge, a forest,hills, and a motorway.It’s a long way from the morning till the end of the day, a long long stretch.
It’s hard to imagine, like a place at the end of a walk
Late. I flew down Plumstead Road, and up the inside way. My hair was wet, I was breathing too fast. By the time I came up the hill, the cathedral spire behind me, turned in at the factory shop and hurried through the gate it was a minute off seven thirty.
The morning had got brighter, real daylight. I came through the first door, and the second, up the little slope, through the double doors, hurried to my table, put away my bag and sat looking calm, trying not to breathe hard as the first bell went. From the corner of my eye I saw Jane’s head move. She was stood talking to John near the heel attacher but her hair swung as she turned towards me. I put my head down and started checking the first box of Audrey, a vintage sling-back with a bow on the vamp. I got out my black wax stick and fixed a scuff on the toe. The roughing machine was on now and that first smell of leather was in the air, sweaty and sweet and sharp from the spray the men use in the lasting machines. The windows at the closing end were bright but high up and far away. The lights were on, they’re always on,and it was warm, like it always is, from the machines, and there was the sound of the machines, the humming.I carried on checking the shoes, making sure they paired, and writing down how many times I’d done it and I heard the radio and other people’s voices and felt everyone around me at their machines or their station and Jane moving about to check on things and that busyness there always is as the shoes move around all of us a busyness where each one is doing the same thing over and over but fast enjoying being able to do it smoothly but thinking too or in another place and it was like I’d always been there, never left, never gone home or done anything else, and that’s how it always is.