This post is part of a series on the 2020 BBC National Short Story Award.
Of all the stories I’ve read so far on this year’s shortlist, this one has the most obviously unconventional style:
& what happened was Simone said she wasn’t sure she was really in the mood so Jackie walked the small & darkening park alone, the tower behind her, the fizzed glow of the thin-strung lamplight guiding her along the narrow concrete path to The Birdcage…
Simone and Jackie are friends, addicts who move in together in the hope of finding some stability. Their lives are fundamentally precarious, which is reflected in Houston’s writing, that tumble of words and occasionally-awkward phrasing – saying what you want to say in any way possible, because you don’t know when there will be another chance to say it.
‘Come Down Heavy’ is harrowing to read, but that prose is unstoppable. You’re right there with Jackie and Simone, feeling what they feel.