Polly Tuckett speaks with a fresh, contemporary voice steeped in the literary traditions of Flaubert, Maupaussant and Proust. She is a Leicester-based writer of short fiction and poetry and her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Areté and Brittle Star. Her stories have been shortlisted for the Bridport and Fish prizes. She is currently working on a cycle of character-themed poems in French.
The Josephs (extract)
‘How can I help?’ asked Father Ignatio.
‘I want to convert.’ I blurted it out.
The priest stared at me before a wry, disbelieving smile crept over his face.
‘You’ll forgive me,’ he said, ‘but in our faith, people don’t often show up on the doorstep like this. We don’t go out converting either. Just like you wouldn’t really expect a Rabbi to go door-to-door spreading the word… Jehovah’s Witnesses, yes, but the older religions don’t need to work so hard.’
‘Are you saying it’s a closed shop? Members only?’
‘No,’ said Father Ignatio, standing to brush the crumbs from his cassock, ‘no, of course not. So what, may I ask, has brought you here?’
He was a lovely laconic fellow, handsome too. I found myself confiding in him, trying to impress him with my candour. We ate dinner together that night and got through a couple of bottles of wine. His place was ornate, not at all what I would have expected. We sat in throne-like inlaid chairs at opposite ends of the table. He had this little poodle that kept jumping up, begging for scraps which he bestowed with an indulgent giggle. We agreed that I would not have to study the catechism but could jump straight to baptism and confirmation in one go, but first he would help find me a sponsor.
In the meantime, I had to get on with the house.
I’d agreed to effect the major renovations, then the plastering and paintwork, and finally to begin work on a set of bespoke furniture. At first, I threw myself into the structural work, humming as I wheeled rubble down a planked ramp, imagining the neighbours admiring my industriousness. And the work provided a good enough reason for avoiding Francesca. But once she’d gone, I took a breather from the renovation project and busied myself temporarily with the furniture instead. For two whole months now, I’d been working on a set of chairs, whittling their facings with a cranky perfectionism that somehow would not release me for the much more pressing task of finishing the house.