An excerpt from The Things We Do To Our Friends by Heather Darwent

An excerpt from The Things We Do To Our Friends (Penguin) by Heather Darwent one of the shortlist authors for the Bloody Scotland Debut Prize.

Click HERE to read our interview with Heather.



Three girls dance in front of him.

One of them has set up an old stereo, and tinny music blares, blocking out the sound of the cicadas that sing relentlessly at this time in the evening.

The garden looked beautiful when he first arrived, extending back to meet an old farmhouse where delicate vines stroke the white walls. There is grass that feels comforting – a damp rug under his feet. But things are not right, and the smell is a little aggravating. It makes his nose itch and his eyes water. When he focuses, the place looks like it has been left to become wild, and the fruits loaded on the trees are overripe. The garden has the heavy, sweet smell of the monkey enclosure at a zoo.

He struggles to concentrate on them, because of the sun on his face, perhaps, but it’s enough to summon the tangled beginning of an urgent lust, deep in his gut. Two of them hold hands high above their heads to create an arc and the third shimmies and then dives under. There is a screech of excitement as she does so.

He remembers that kind of frenzied joy. When he was their age, summer seemed to go on forever. He would get up to all sorts of things, unsupervised. Now, these months are oppres- sive, caked to his life like dry mud on a car. Summer means foreigners clogging the roads, children everywhere and the slog of work. Supplier events, tastings, factory rounds: in this part of the country, none of it stops because of the heat. It all becomes more tiring the older you get, and each summer is more difficult to tolerate than the last. An itch on the sole of his left foot. A gurgle, and a cranky, more than irritable, bowel.


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