Story Title: The Gun Shearer
Collection/Anthology?: Not applicable. Available for free download (PDF format) from the Costa Short Story Award website.
Briefly: Set in Australia, Oriel runs a sheep farm single-handedly. Hiring in a trio of men to help with the shearing, one of them – the ‘gun’ of the team – looks strangely familiar, stirring distant yet unforgotten memories in the middle-aged spinster.
Afterthoughts: This is a hugely satisfying story, that’s every bit as polished and as engaging as any I’ve read. It’s one of these tales that has you thinking that you know which route it’s taking you down, before it jolts you in a new direction. And there’s some really powerful and memorable symbolism in this one, hinted at in the notable quote below. Storytelling at its finest? You betcha, sport! (sorry, I’m stereotyping a bit there :))
Notable quote: Every year at shearing, she waited for him to come back, but each year it was a different team. Meanwhile, she washed the wool, carded it, combed it and dyed it red. It was added to another batch of yarn, and she knitted it into a hat. One day, she thought, he will wear this and be ashamed.
This story was read as preparation for casting a vote for the 2013 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.