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Joe Dunthorne
Joe Dunthorne

Joe Dunthorne was born and brought up in Swansea. His debut novel, Submarine, has been translated into ten languages and was this year made into an acclaimed film directed by Richard Ayoade. His debut poetry pamphlet was published by Faber and Faber. He lives in London.

From 'Wild Abandon'


‘First off, the sky goes dark.’ ‘Of course it does.’ ‘Then they come out the ground and, if you’re
a certain type of person, drag you under, where your body is consumed.’ They got to the gate of
the pen and Kate opened it, letting her brother through first. ‘And I’m guessing you are that type
of person,’ he said. She slid the bolt back across while he ran ahead, his boots squelching in the
mud. Walking on, she watched him duck under the low roof, slapping the wooden joist with his
free hand as he went inside the shelter. At eleven years old, her brother awoke every day
buzzing. Everything he saw in these first few hours – the gravestones of pets, log piles, frost –
deserved a high five. ‘I’m gonna milk the face off you,’ Albert told the goats. ‘I’m going to milk
you to death.’ He did resemble a trainee grim reaper, she thought, in his deephooded navy
poncho, carrying a bucket to collect fresh souls. Following him into the shelter, she sat on a low
stool next to Belona – her favourite goat, a four-year-old Alpine with white legs and a black
comma-shaped beard – who was against the back wall with her neck tied. She stamped her
hooves as she ate from her feed pan. Belona was notoriously difficult in the mornings; this was
part of her and Kate’s affinity. Albert was talking as he milked. ‘. . . so she has this massive
picture of what’s at the centre of the universe and it’s basically a pair of eyes – two huge evil
eyes . . .’ Kate tried not to listen. She squeezed, tugged, closed her fingers from index to pinkie
and focused on the noise of milk on metal; the sound slowly deadened as the bucket filled. She
put her ear against Belona’s side and listened to the gurgling innards. The swell and slump of the
goat’s breathing. ‘. . . and research shows, you’ll have to wave bye-bye to gravity and time and
university and . . .’ ‘Albert.’ He stopped talking but she knew his speech continued, unbroken,
inside his head. She started to get a rhythm going, two-handed, fingers finally warming. Her
brother, meanwhile, played his goat like an arcade machine. ‘One nil,’ he said, as he picked up
his bucket and stool, and moved to the other side of the divider. He put a feed pan in front of
Babette and she immediately dug in. Belona started battling a little, her legs jerking, clanging
against the bucket. With her knuckles, Kate stroked the tassels that hung from the goat’s jaw
and, leaning over, whispered to her. ‘What are you saying?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘Are you in love with
Belona? That’s okay if you are. Mum and Dad won’t mind. They’re totally easy with whatever.
They just want you to be in a loving relationship.’ Belona kicked and the bucket tipped – spilling
half the milk on to the mud and straw. Kate’s jaw tightened. Her brother, through years of
collecting words from international visitors to the community, had compiled an armoury of exotic
insults. He tutted and proceeded to call her something bad in Bengali. It was just getting light.
There was the smell of hay and shit. Hooves skittered on the stones. Outside the gloomy hut she
could see the rain still coming down in the pen, filling the holes left by their boots.


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