Facing East


A boy lying in a wheat field is counting down the days until he can stand again, but he needs to hurry. He can already hear something large moving through the wheat.

Facing East won the Ruth Rendell Short Story Award in 2012.


From here on the ground I am eye to eye with a great grandfather snail. I know that snails have been alive since before the dinosaurs all died and so this one must be a million years old. The snail is climbing an ear of corn; I don’t know where it is going.

If I roll my head over to one side then I can cover the sun up with the snail’s shell and it glows with a gold halo. What will it do when it reaches the top? Will it just come back down the other side or will it fly?

I wonder where the others are? I wonder if any of them are up yet or whether they are still counting? I am going to be last if it kills me. I am not the oldest, but I count slower than they do.

I can already hear it coming through the corn.

Chaff chaff chaff chaff chaff chaff.

You have to count the years first. You start with the year you were born and then say every year until the year it is now.

1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990.

But you can’t get up yet. I know because I started this. It was never supposed to be a game; it was just something I would do every Saturday morning when my parents’ thought I was out on a bike ride or fishing with friends. Matthew Hardy found me one day and made me tell him why I was hiding in the corn. So now they all play.

Except Matthew.

Matthew doesn’t play any more because he is no longer around. I can hear it louder now.

Chaff chaff chaff chaff chaff chaff.

I think it started over my side.

Once I get to 1990, which it is now, then I have to say all the months until this one.

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September.

I saw my dad watching TV once and there were people lying in front of diggers and the diggers couldn’t move. I think they had to use a huge crane, the biggest one in this country, to move the people so that the diggers could move again. And another time there was a boy, a big boy who lived far away, who stood in the middle of the road and every tank in the army couldn’t drive or fire its guns. I don’t know how they moved that boy. It must have been five cranes.


  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publication Date: 6 Jun. 2012
  • Publisher: Roastbooks Ltd
  • ISBN-10: 1906894116
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906894115


‘Interactions’ anthology features work by; Ruth Rendell, Toby Young, Nell Dunn, Seamus Heaney, Alan Ayckbourn, Max Stafford-Clark, Lolita Chakrabati, Alan McCormick, Christian Cook, Adrian Henri, Emily Pedder, Vicky Paine, Pete Barrett.