Tag Archives: alexander mccall smith

Reading short stories online

bookshop rye

I’ve found it hard to read books recently. They’re too challenging. With so much time to sit and think every word carries more weight than usual. It’s too much to comprehend without over thinking everything.

Instead I’m reading short stories online, which is unusual for me as I never read fiction online and shun the Kindle. Maybe it’s the literature degree, my hoarder mentality, or the fact I want to make sure one aspect of my daily life has nothing to do with digital. Whatever, nothing beats a physical book in my hands.

Despite my reluctance I’ve been coping well reading short stories online. Especially when they are super short. I think I’ve found one form that I can comfortably enjoy digitalised.

Short stories. A central theme articulated to perfection. It’s cheesy as hell but inevitably I end each one with a smile, a tear or a nod of conviction.

Free return
Alexander McCall Smith

She was lonely. Exactly six years earlier, her husband, the owner of a company that planted trees across Scottish hillsides, informed her that he had been conducting an affair with his secretary, a woman named Bernie. Bernie was twenty-eight and was keen to meet a man of substance so that she would no longer have to work. Martin, the husband, fitted that description: he had shares in a race-horse called Highland Dancer, and he drove a car that only a wealthy man could own – an old Hispano-Souza. Bernie seduced him by standing very close to his chair when she passed him documents, and making sure that she inadvertently touched his shoulder or forearm at every opportunity.

After the affair was revealed, Clara, his wife, was filled with self-pity that lasted for some years. “I did nothing wrong,” she told herself – and her friends. “I was a good wife to him – and now this is how he behaves. Now there’s nothing for me. Nothing.”

Gradually she grew out of her self-pity and took to going to the theatre. She hoped to meet somebody there, but she found it difficult: people did not talk to one another in the theatre bar at intervals, nor did they linger after the show. But then she had an idea. She decided that she would purchase two tickets for each play, but would leave one at the box office, as a free return for anybody who wanted it. She knew the woman behind the counter and said to her: “Give it only to a man. “ The woman understood exactly what was going on, and complied with the instruction.

On the very first occasion on which she tried this, the ticket was given to an orthopaedic surgeon whose wife had just left him to live in the Scilly Isles with her lover, a tax accountant. He thanked her for the ticket and shyly invited her to join him for dinner after the show. She agreed, and they married four months later. They did the newspaper crosswords together, although she was rather better than he was at this. She said: “It doesn’t matter – it really doesn’t. It’s not a question of being clever – it’s more a question of tactics.”

via Alexander McCall Smith on Facebook