Wednesday, May 1, 2013
I came across this metaphor while looking for a copy of Burnside's, essay, A Winter Mind.
"Slut's Hair" A woman, in a Dundee tenement, is stuck in a relationship where her husband's
aggressive interrogations about her happiness are a form of torture. When she reveals she has toothache, and they can't afford a dentist, he resorts to whisky and a pair of electrician's pliers (a typically sharp-eyed detail). He then goes off to the pub, leaving her alone: the classic miserabilist Scottish short story would end there. But in Burnside's version, it segues into her finding a creature – "at first she thought it looked like a tiny, malnourished cat, only it was blue and too small even for a kitten; then, as her eyes adjusted, she saw that it was a fox, or something like a fox, with that keen clever face a fox has in children's books". Just as her husband returns home drunk, she realises it has escaped her grasp – if it ever was there – leaving behind what some call dust bunnies and what is sometimes called in Scotland slut's hair. The very next story – a far more "realistic" affair – uses the phrase "slut's hair" in describing the contents of a schoolboy's desk. That hazy, horrid uncertainty of connections makes the individual stories chime and resonate with each other in a re‑readable way.