Short story: The Boy and the Savage Star by Helen Simpson

22 11 2009

They were up very early against the heat, panniers packed and off on their bikes towards Angers before anybody else at the youth hostel was awake. It felt like the beginning of the world, with the fresh damp smell of the hedgerows and the faint reveille from a cockerel several fields away, although it was in fact the last day of their holiday. Six weeks ago they had met at a party, in the summer term of their second year. Neither of them had ever felt this strongly before about anyone.

Adele was reading history and had chosen the End of the World module rather than the history of human rights as her special dissertation subject. It was because of this that she had suggested adding Angers to their itinerary, after reading the guidebook’s rapt account of the apocalyptic tapestries there.

“It’s the largest wall-hanging ever to be woven in Europe,” she had quoted from the guidebook the other night in Chinon. “Six huge tapestry panels, each with 14 scenes displayed on two levels, like a sort of double-decker cartoon full of monsters and catastrophes.”

“Can’t wait,” Brendan had said, chivalrously. His subject was geography, and he was aware that he had probably dragged her round one too many troglodyte caves that day. Amazing, though, the way those caves had been created by chance from quarrying for the local tufa limestone with which to build the white chateaux of the Loire. The damp ones were now used for mushroom cultivation, their guide had informed them, while the rest were being lived in or snapped up by Parisians as résidences secondaires.


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