Before the power went out (Josephine Rowe)
Before the power went out I saw a girl dressed in a black jacket and plaid skirt, cawing like a corvidae, like a warning except she wasn’t circling: she was piss-bolting down the tram tracks, down the middle of the road between the bright streams of traffic and just Haw-Hawing her fucking head off. Then all the lights went out and the streets went dark and the traffic slowed down creeping like dreamthings along the soft black gutters. And somewhere out amongst it all she was still running, her peroxide-yellow hair flagging out behind her snarled with dirty little secrets, the memories of men’s fingers and I thought of girls I went to high school with, the ones who showed up Monday mornings with their hair all dried out from domestic bleach, yellow-white like faded notices in suburban shop fronts. And I thought when it all turns to hell, when all reason crawls up under the house to die and the whole derelict world is shut off and hauled down, this is the way it will be foreshadowed. This is the way the end will be prophesied. By a girl in a plaid skirt tearing through a blackout, crowing bloody murder from the middle of the tram tracks. I went home and sat in my kitchen, lit a candle stub and waited.
Before the Power Went Out was selected from Josephine Rowe’s outstanding first collection of stories East of Here, Close to Water. Her latest collection of stories, How a Moth Becomes a Boat, has recently been re-published to wide acclaim by Hunter Publishers. Verity La encourages you to read both.