excerpt from the short story 'The Sandbags':

What sort of sound is it? she had said to me, but I couldn’t describe it.

Well, what does it sound like? she’d asked me next, and I said, it doesn’t sound like anything, I can’t hear it, and she told me that that meant there was no sound. Sounds sound, she said, and that is why they are sounds.

Are you sure? I said. I know it is a sound because I feel it. Sounds have waves and that is strictly science. Do you remember waves, the ocean, classes and diagrams? Anyway, I can feel the waves the sound is making in my bones and flesh, just like I saw them in our textbook pictures when we were little girls and learning how the world was put together.

No, she said, sounds make noise, sounds are sounds, they are not feelings. Just like pictures are things that you see with your eyes and can say that you see.

Are you sure? I said, and then I heard exasperation in her breathing, because it is the picture that allows me to say that the feeling’s a sound. Next click and the line went dead. I went to sleep in the hopes that the sound would stop, or that I would realise it was only imagination.

But all night I felt it thrumming as I slept. And so in the morning to the drawer, sixish, to the screwdriver.

And the little flat tip of the screwdriver fit with precision in the gap at the side of the loose floorboard, and I pressed down on its handle as lever with the faith of a person bent on vision. Yes, vision and I are devoted to each other, are old lovers, know the soft spots on each other’s bodies, notice how each year moves this softness more into the skin, takes it from the fat underneath. Vision and I are touching and losing each other. Fat supports less and less.

When I pressed the handle it would not move far down and the floorboard did not much budge either. There was a slight creak and a small wiggle, just enough to let me wedge the screwdriver in a bit further. Slowly I proceeded in this fashion, back and forth, up and down the length of the dark line that joined and did not join the planks, and slowly the dark line grew wider, more capacious and demanding. And then it seemed the floorboard lifted itself up into my hands, and scarcely did I have time to place it to one side before the picture and a splinter were in my hand.

handmade paper depicting stains

Bottle stains, abaca pulp and pigment, 35.5 x 29 cm (13.9 x 11.4 in), 2015

drawing, book, open

The open book, 21 x 29.7 cm (8.3 x 11.7 inches), ink on paper, 2014

copyright © Isobel Wohl
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