Advent Calendar Dec 6th – THE FOSTER PARENTS by Paul Magrs

It’s back! The blog advent calendar. I enjoyed last year’s blog theme last year—re-reading twenty-four books of my youth—so much, so this year I’m applying the same approach to short stories, trawling through a myriad bunch of collections and anthologies I’ve read in the last few years.

December 6th:
The Foster Parents – Paul Magrs

c35412Tell me about your first time: I’ve read both of Paul Magrs’ short story collections, the earlier Playing Out and the later Twelve Stories. There are some wonderful stories in both collections, and it’s odd sometimes how–long after you can remember specifics of books anymore–you still retain images that merge or morph in your memory. I remember vividly the story involving the bloody death of seals and a remote island, the story that is a phantasmagorical traipse through numerous sexual encounters, and the story that retells Leda and the Swan. But of all of them, it’s The Foster Parents that really stuck in my head.

Sum it up: There’s an awful lot of children that keep showing up at the house next door, the house belonging to the Fosters. They appear without explanation, and in great number. And there’s body parts showing up in the shrubbery…

Give me a quote: “Another time I woke in the night, seized with fear. Cries had rung out. Really horrible screams and then sobbing. The heart-stopping sound of a child in distress. I sat bolt upright in our bed and found Robert was already awake. I switched on my light. His expression was grim. ‘I hate to say it. But I think you’re right about something going on next door.'”

Second Reading: This story doesn’t end how you think it will. It begins in the dress of domestic horror–and it does that with creepy effect; it’s the creeping sense of dread that stayed with me–but ends on a magic-realist note of borderline whimsy. But there is a sense that the disinterment imagery can just as easily be run backwards and the story read with darker overtones, and thus the ending shakes none of the sinister feeling of that which precedes it — and this is precisely why I love it.

Where can I find it?: In the collection Twelve Stories from Salt.

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