“Summer Voices,” by John Banville

—Are you coming or are you just going to stand there all day?

He turned. The girl stood between the two ancient bicycles, a saddle held in each of her small hands.

—I’m coming, he grunted.

They mounted and rode slowly down to the gate, where he halted while the girl swung carelessly out into the road. When he was sure of safety he pedalled furiously after her.

—You’ll get killed some day, he said when he was beside her again.

The girl turned up her nose and shook her hair in the warm wind.

—You’re an awful scaredy cat, she said contemptuously.

—I just don’t want to get run over, that’s all.


She trod on the pedals and glided away from him. He watched her as she sailed along, her bony knees rising and falling. She took her hands from the handlebars and waved them in the air.

—You’ll fall off, he shouted.

She glanced over her shoulder at him and pulled her hair above her head, and the long gold tresses coiled about her pale arms. Her teeth glinted as she laughed.

Free now they slowed their pace and leisurely sailed over the road, tyres whispering in the soft tar. The fields trembled on either side of them. Sometimes the girl sang in her high- pitched, shaky voice, and the notes carried back to him, strangely muted by the wide fields, a distant, piping song. Tall shoots of vicious grass waving from the ditches scratched their legs. The boy watched the land as it moved slowly past him, the sweltering meadows, the motionless trees, and high up on the hill the cool deep shadows under Wild Wood.

—Listen, the girl said, allowing him to overtake her. Do you think they’ll let us see him?


Read more in Little Star Weekly #14

John Banville is the author of sixteen novels, most recently Ancient Light. “Summer Voices” will appear in July in Long Lankin, a book of early stories being published in the US for the first time.



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