Monday, April 9, 2018

300 Degree Days and Other Stories by Deborah Sheldon

Release date: February 16, 2018
Subgenre:  Short fiction collection

About 300 Degree Days and Other Stories:


 ‘Sheldon’s stories lift the skin of small, suburban lives to expose the raw nerves beneath. Her writing is intimate, compelling and alarming…’ – The Short Review, UK.

Sometimes, the ties that bind are sharp enough to cut. In these eleven stories, set in contemporary Australian suburbia, Deborah Sheldon examines the darker side of family relationships. Unsettling and incisively written, each story of betrayal, envy, loss or bad blood resonates for a long time after reading.



A guest for dinner

He spent six nights on the ward. In the beginning, time passed in a pleasant fog of morphine dreams. Then, as staff switched his medication to codeine and anti-inflammatory drugs, he began to re-enter the world. First to register was the hospital stink of bleach, cabbage and musty refrigerant from the air conditioning system. The bed sheets were so starched they rustled like paper. Plenty of Arthur’s friends, colleagues and students came by with hearty smiles and offerings of balloons, fruit baskets or flowers, but he came to realise that there was no one to haunt his bedside, no one to hold his hand and weep. Arthur’s last significant relationship had ended twelve years ago, on his partner’s instigation.
On his fifth day in hospital, Doctor Connor visited him in the morning as usual, but she was dressed in jeans and a jacket rather than her white coat, and this time she took a seat. It made Arthur uneasy.
He said, ‘Not operating today?’
‘It’s Sunday.’
‘Already? I’m losing track of time in this place. What are you doing here?’
‘Checking up on you. How are you feeling?’
‘I’m not sure,’ he said, and braced himself. ‘Am I going to die?’
‘Probably not. Try not to worry, I think I got it all. Now let’s have a look at the wound.’
Arthur flipped back the sheet. A square of gauze the size of a handkerchief covered his abdomen, with a feathered bloodstain along the dressing’s midline. Doctor Connor lifted the surgical tape and opened the dressing like a book cover. A snarl of black stitches wove through a raw clotted slash that ran from Arthur’s navel to the root of his penis. The skin along both sides of the cut was buckled and puckered as if the sutures had been pulled too tight in places. Arthur felt sick to look at it.
‘Terrific, no sign of infection, that’s great.’ She closed the dressing, tucked the sheet around him, then laid her hand on his. ‘Are you doing your pelvic floor exercises?’
‘As best as I can. How long before I can stop wearing a nappy?’
‘If you keep up your exercises and do them every day, you’ll have bladder control in about three or four months.’ She patted his hand. ‘No one likes wearing the incontinence pads, but it’s only temporary.’
‘Unlike the other issue.’
She nodded, gave his hand a squeeze. ‘Have you spoken to the hospital’s social worker about that? She can arrange some counselling for you, put you in touch with a support group in your area.’
Arthur set his teeth. ‘I don’t want to talk about my dead dick, and I certainly don’t want to sit around and play woe-is-me with others in the same predicament.’
‘It’s not dead, Arthur.’
‘A dick that can’t get hard is as good as dead.’
‘We had to cut the nerves that control erection but the sensory nerves are intact. You’ll still feel pleasure, you’ll still be able to climax.’ She paused, searching his face. ‘Please consider seeing the social worker. Okay? Don’t try to get through this alone.’
‘Why not? I’ve always got through everything else that way and I’m pretty bloody good at it by now.’
But for the first few weeks at home, he was an old man and it frightened him. His spine was a column of broken bricks, his insides a bucket of broken glass. The drugs Doctor Connor had given him were only pharmacy-strength ibuprofen and he watched the clock, waiting for every dose. Reading was too much effort so he lay on the couch with the television on and allowed whole days to pass in a blur. Friends dropped in from time to time with casseroles and soups. When he could be bothered, he ate the donated meals cold from the fridge. This is what dying must feel like, he would think, nothing momentous or grand in any of it, just pain and humiliation, an unmanning of oneself.




About Deborah Sheldon:

Deborah Sheldon is a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. Some of her latest releases, through several publishing houses, include the collection 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, the novella Thylacines, the collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, and the novel Devil Dragon. Upcoming titles include the novel Contrition later in 2018, and a retrospective dark fiction collection in 2019.

Her short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines such as Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, SQ Mag, and Midnight Echo. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous Aurealis Awards and Australian Shadows Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing.

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