Story Title: Mown Grass
Collection/Anthology?: Not applicable. Available for free download (PDF format) from the Costa Short Story Award website.
Briefly: Robin Stanbridge has died suddenly leaving his family shocked and upset, and with one or two skeletons cowering in the closet.
Afterthoughts: When you read certain short stories they appear more thoughtful and more considered than most. They unwind slowly giving the impression that there is no restriction on length or time, and they end up feeling much longer and more satisfying than the word count would have you think.
Mown Grass is this kind of story. It reads as though it were penned by William Trevor – a master of the ambling short – and it is thoroughly entertaining. The characters are brilliantly sketched, the storyline is engaging – right to the end where a final twist makes it stick in the head – and all in all the story just feels as though it’s been engineered by a meticulous craftsperson. If I were to compare Mown Grass to a piece of furniture then I would have to call it an old mahogany antique dresser, where every other story is nothing but a budget set of drawers from Ikea. Masterful stuff!
Notable quote: Robin Stanbridge, Kathleen’s husband, had died days after his retirement from the family firm for which he had worked dutifully for over fifty years. Privately, he had detested the work. As a young man, he had excelled at golf and had nursed an ambition to become a professional. He also possessed a fine baritone voice, for which, at university, he had been applauded in productions of Gilbert and Sullivan, and had dreamed, at times, about the possibility of going on, after he graduated, to music school.
But the weight of family tradition, a certain faintheartedness in his character and an inherited belief that he needed money to be happy, had strapped him to the wheel of Stanbridge and Turnbull, an engineering firm that in recent years had specialised, very profitably, in road construction in the Third World.
This story was read as preparation for casting a vote for the 2012 Costa Short Story Award. In all, six stories were selected by the award panel before being put to the public vote. All stories were presented without note of the author, so that each story would be judged on merit alone. For further details, please visit the Costa Short Story Award website.