Truth to be told, Deborah, the second short story in the collection gave me heebie jeebies! The story had been written at a time two minors had committed murder (I think Andrea Levy was referring to this), when newspapers were full of discussions on evil children as a result.
In the story, Deborah is a young girl who lived in the same flats as the narrator, Fern. Born to a family of less fortune, and a large family at that, Deborah has picked some qualities that make her ill-fitted in the eyes of other parents in the flats to mingle with their kids, but the children continue to play with her, even though they have their own reservations about her.
I didn’t really want to play at Deborah’s – her house smelt. And Deborah’s mum’s stockings hung down from her knees, and her legs were fat and white and had blue lumpy lines all over them. She wore her slippers in the street and was always shouting. We could hear her in our flat even when the telly was on.
One day Fern goes to Deborah’s when she says she has something to show Fern, hoping that it would be taps where Coca Cola comes out from, instead of water. They are followed by little Kenny, a neighbouring kid who doesn’t have anyone else to play with, possibly because he had a lazy eye. But it turns out all Deborah had to show was a picture torn out of a magazine of Pinky and Perky! Fern and Kenny are disappointed, and Deborah sensing it offers to show them her bum! From that point the story takes a disturbing turn.
Through this gruesome story Andrea Levy attempts to dismiss “simple notions as good and evil” and I feel she sends the idea across with her ending to Deborah. I can’t give away any more of the story, as I will be spoiling it for you, however, this story reminds us what may seem as evil to us might not be so entirely, and vice versa.
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