Single Skin (eBook)
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Single Skin (eBook)

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Nine brilliantly vivid and compelling stories by Steve Dearden.

Click here to buy the Kindle edition. 

‘Steve Dearden's stories are populated by real people with real jobs and real desires and fears; and in the rhythms of the dialogue and the scaffolding of the terse descriptions, we find loneliness, and majesty, and a belief in humanity that gives your heart a lift.

In these offices and departure lounges and bedrooms and kitchens, lives are made vivid by prose that pins down meaning and ideas without artifice...' — Ian McMillan

‘In a moment, the story can go violent, almost too violent, then sexy, really sexy, then funny. Not just funny, hilarious. Strangely obsessive. And very very smart. Wonderful moments of existential clarity. And then he breaks my heart. Bastard.’ – Tom Spanbauer

‘The unexpected and the extraordinary presented in a terrific matter of fact way – it startles the reader. Nothing's redundant but there's a strange expansion of space inside these stories so that they seem to grow when you've read them.’ — Patricia Dunker


Steve discussed the collection on Leeds online radio station ELFM in August 2012. Listen again here.



from ‘Authentic’

You drove nearly twenty hours straight through a corridor of flat forest at an intense elk-wary fifty m.p.h. Eight hours in, I was itching for a bend, or at least a curve, a camber even. At thirteen hours we ran out of water, out of crisps. After fifteen we’d drunk our Red Bull, finished off the blocks of chocolate I’d bought on the plane. Sixteen hours and we were still talking, but worn, deficient talk from road-stare and lack of alcohol. You’d begun to scratch at your balls, pick at the band in your pony tail, rub the knuckle of your thumb on the lapel of your leather jacket.

You said, 'Stop it please.'
'Stop what?'
'Stop it, please.'
'You step on it and I’ll stop, whatever it is.'
'Your tongue.'
'Put your foot down.'
'Your tongue, like that.'
'You’re no Kimi.'
'Rubbing on your teeth.'
'No Mikka Hakkinen.'

'Stop it please.'
'I’m dry.'
'Then spit.'

After nineteen tree-lined elk-less hours and forty-five tree-lined elk-less minutes, houses began to come by more than one isolated farmstead at a time. We rubbed our eyes, stretched our mouths, slapped our cheeks. Jazzed by streetlamps, you stopped until a green light went red, struggled with parked cars coming towards us at intersections. We messed up the navigation three blocks left, three blocks right through brutal concrete and low wooden houses to our four roomed hotel where a squat, wall-eyed couple sat behind our keys on their reception desk, making it clear they had waited up for us while all civilised folk had been in bed weeks before.

The only drink that late was in Q, a nightclub next to K Chain. As we walked in you yelled in my ear, 'This place – Used to be a depot – As a kid – I learnt here – To strip down snow mobiles – Tractors - Trucks Down into – Ev’ry – Single – Part – Then – Then! - Reassemble them. Smell! Go on smell!' Through the smoke and aftershave - oil and metal filings.

Q was rammed with all the loners who hung back on the edge of all the worst parties you've ever been to, victims from four decades of dubious fashions, all the bad beards in Finland, all the haircuts on Jaaskalainen’s window dummies, all the men looking for fights they were too drunk to finish, all the travelling salesmen and hotel hand jobs in town that night, all the women to be disappointed by men again, all the unhooked, unbooked eyes set from staring too long and too far into lack of distance.

We leant over our beers at a high table near three boys with wispy goatees and sideburns whirring rockabilly, the crush shouting and squirming round us, no tarmac, no white lines, no tree blur, no not having an elk jump out at us.

You swept the crowd, gleaming, 'I’m sorry, this is terrible.'
'Nah this is fantastic.'
'Fantastically terrible.'

We counted the gorgeous girls on our thumbs. With your hand over my full empty glass, you pointed to my wedding ring, 'What do you do about the question we all have to answer?'

My hand cupped to your ear, I answered...


— 'Authentic' is from Single Skin (2012)

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