Short stories spotlight: Clare Reddaway


Back in December we published Clare Reddaway's short story, The Guts of a Mackerel, as the final title in our fabulous 2021 Shorts Season. We want to showcase what else Clare has been up to by sharing a sample of another short story she published in 2021.


'Hula Hoops Were My Downfall' is published online by Funny Pearls. You can read an excerpt here and read the full story on the Funny Pearls website.


Sample of 'Hula Hoops Were My Downfall':


My name is Myfanwy Jones, and this is my confession: Hula Hoops were my downfall.


Now you might be imagining that I’m referring to the tasty savoury snack easily purchased from your local convenience store, and I’ve noticed some of you tutting at my waistline already, so perhaps you have leapt to the erroneous conclusion that I have been over-indulging in those salty morsels. But I’m talking about the other hula hoop which our preacher called ‘the Devil’s plaything’.


Some of you might remember the craze for the hula hoop. It was the first of the great crazes. It swept the world, the whole world except, perhaps, Russia which was, of course, the Soviet Union then if you recall, and in the grip of a regime that saw the hoop as an embodiment of the capitalist menace. But here in Wales, children took to the concept of a craze with alacrity. Hula hoops were everywhere: on television, in advertisements and even the magazines were full of hooping tips. And all of the luckiest, richest and most spoilt children in my school arrived on the first day of term with a hoop slung through their satchel, casual like.


So. Me and Angharad, my best friend who lived three down, were not rich, and our parents were very proud of the fact that we weren’t spoilt – oh no, not at all. We wanted to be spoilt. We wanted a hoop. We begged and we wheedled and we cried and we screamed. We didn’t comprehend why we could not have one. There was nothing simpler: a hoop, used from time immemorial by small boys to roll along the street with a stick. The difference with the hula, of course, was that you didn’t bowl it along the street, you rolled it around your midriff, see, with a swish and a wiggle of your hips. It was Elvis all over again. I suppose it made my Ma and my Da think of just one thing – fornication. Well, to tell you the truth, I suppose most things reminded the grownups in our street of fornication. The old man at number 44 even had a pop at the sack race. Really, you wouldn’t want to see inside of his head.


But Angharad and me, well, we itched to have a go. Indeed, if we didn’t have a go with our very own hoops, Angharad and I thought that we would, without a doubt and with no advance warning, die.


So, if they won’t buy it for us, we thought, we’ll have to get hoops ourselves. We had pocket money, of course, but somehow it never managed to stretch. The lure of the sherbet lemons that Davy Evans sold at his corner shop was too strong. The sensation of the sherbet exploding on the tongue, like a thousand fireworks on bonfire night, could not be beaten. So, all we had on that first day of the autumn term was one sixpenny bit between us, and that wouldn’t buy us the paper bag that the hula hoop came in.


I am not proud of the solution that we found. Angharad and I were not bad girls, although if you look at the way we turned out you might be forgiven for disagreeing. We were obedient. We brushed our hair, we knew our French irregulars and had our twelve times table down pat. But now that I am old, I do think that the Chapel had it right: There was something in the lure of the hula hoop that would turn a girl’s head. That would remind a girl that her Da had a roll of notes that he kept in the toby jug on the mantelpiece over the fireplace, the toby jug with the face of Kier Hardy and which played the Red Flag when you picked it up. The roll of notes that was there for a family emergency, and no-one, not even Angharad and me in the fever of our lust for the hula hoop, could say that this was a family emergency. But that did not stop me from coming home from school one Wednesday afternoon when the house was empty and reaching into that toby jug, taking out the roll, and removing a fresh, new five pound note from the middle of the stash before quickly rolling it up and putting it straight back into Kier Hardie with not so much as a backwards glance as I dashed out of the door and up to Angharad’s house with the note burning the fingers that had stolen it.


I would like to say that I was caught and punished for my misdemeanour. But I wasn’t. My Da looked worried when he counted the notes and I did hear Ma shouting at him about spending his money on drink and not saving for the family emergency which she hoped would not come this Saturday as there was hardly enough to cover a 3rd class train ticket to Cardiff, if that was where the emergency took us. Da stayed away from the public house for a good while after that. But he didn’t suspect me. He trusted me.


Clare Reddaway is an author and playwright currently living in Bath in the South West of England. You can find out more about her here, as well as read more of her previously published works.


The Guts of a Mackerel is one of the titles in the limited edition 2021 Shorts Season. Our 2022 Shorts Season anthology, Of Myths and Mothers, is available for pre-order now and is out 25.03.22.


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