Sit down. Let me hang your coat up. Pull up a chair by the log burner. Take a load off. Nothing to do but stare at the flames, listen to the harbour bell tolling on the swell, and imagine the sea har pressing against the rattling windowpanes.
You’re soaked through, friend. Let me put your boots next to the fire, otherwise they’ll never dry. Get that down your neck. Ha! It’s got a kick alright. Perfect for this dreich weather. That’ll be a pea-souper out there before long, mark my words. It’s not just mist in the air either – it’s change.
My fireside wasn’t always like this. In days gone by it would have been so crowded in here you’d have barely had a sight of the logs, let alone feel their warmth on your palms. The stories I tell would have stilled the air in your lungs, they would have risen in your mind like the fugue on the windows. You would have tasted them like the salt air on your tongue.
Mastery of the narrative has shifted now, though. Now is the time of the dilettante in the wheelhouse, the gape-mouthed in the captain’s quarters. The pen is moved not by the writer’s fancy but by the keening moan of the crowdfund, the toadying to the superfan. Character arcs are stretched hideous over the teenager’s fanfiction, whilst internet forums become sacred texts to be referred to in lieu of anything more authoritative.
Not in this house. Here there will be no last-minute rewrites. You will not be held on the cusp of literary ecstasy any longer than I deem fit. Underneath these ceiling beams the narrative air still weaves as I will. Here the writer still reigns. I will speak; you will listen. And if you could by chance think that the story would be better uttered through my lips another way, remember that it was you that came through the door, friend.
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order.