Excerpt from What Becomes by A.L. Kennedy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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What Becomes


by A.L. Kennedy

What Becomes
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2010, 224 pages
    Apr 2011, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton

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Print Excerpt

He’d been in the kitchen, being with the blood. He’d allowed the drops to concentrate at his feet, to pool and spatter, patterns complicating patterns, beginning to look like an almost significant loss. Twenty drops or so for every millilitre and telling the story of someone standing, wounded, but not too severely and neither struggling nor in flight.

He’d been in the kitchen and laid his own trail to the French windows. Tiny splashes hazed a power point in the skirting board, dirtying its little plastic cover—white, the kind of thing you fit to stop a child from putting its fingers where they shouldn’t be. No reason for the cover, of course, their household didn’t need it—protection from a hazard they couldn’t conjure, an impossibility.

He’d been in the kitchen marking the reflections with his blood. Then he’d paused for a few millilitres before he needed to swipe his whole arm back and forth in mid-air, blood hitting the dark glass of the doors in punctuated curves, the drops legging down before they dried, being distorted by motion, direction, gravity. He’d pumped his fist, then tried to cup his hand, catch some of his flow, then cast it off again, drive it over his ghost face and the night-time garden outside, the dim layers of wind-rocked shrubs, the scatter of drizzle, thinner and less interesting than blood. He’d thrown overarm, underarm, tried to get a kick out of his wrist until the hurt in his hand felt anxious, abused. Then he’d rubbed his knuckles wetly across his forehead before cradling them with his other palm, while his physiology performed as could be predicted, increased heart rate jerking out his loss, building up his body of evidence. Read the blood here and you’d see perhaps a blade that rose and fell, or the clash of victim and attacker: blows and fear and outrage, shock.

He’d been in the kitchen and she had come in. Never even heard her unlock the front door, nor any of the usual small combinations of noise as she dropped her bag and shed her coat, made her way along the corridor and then stood. He’d only noticed her when she spoke.

“Jesus Christ, Frank. What have you done. What the fuck are you doing.”

He’d turned to her and smiled, because he was glad to see her. “I’m sorry, the soup’s not ready. It’ll be . . .” He’d glanced at the clock and calculated, so that she’d know how to plan her time—she might want a bath before they ate. “It’ll be about nine. Would you like a drink?” He could feel a distraction, a moisture somewhere near his right eyebrow.

“What the fuck are you doing.”

He’d smiled again, which meant that he might have seemed sad for the second or two before, “I know, but nine isn’t too late.” He needed to apologise and uncover how she was feeling—that would help their evening go well. Time spent paying attention to people is never wasted. “Unless you’re really hungry. Are you really hungry?” Her hair had been ruffled, was perhaps damp—some intervention of bad weather between her leaving the car and reaching their doorstep had disturbed it. Skin paler than normal but with strong colour at her cheeks, as if she was cold. Her suit was the chocolatey one with this metallic-blue blouse, a combination which always struck him as odd but very lovely, “You look tired.” It was the fit of the suit. So snug. It lay just where your hands would want to. “Would you like a bath? There’ll be time. Once it’s ready, it doesn’t spoil.” She’d kept her figure: was possibly even slimmer, brighter than when they’d first met. “I got some organic celeriac, which was lucky.” He seemed slightly breathless for some reason and heavy in his arms.

“What if I’d brought someone back with me. What if they’d seen . . . you.”

Excerpted from What Becomes by A. L. Kennedy Copyright © 2010 by A. L. Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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