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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Reconciliation in a New Short Story by Alexander McCall Smith: “Skating”

The Handsome Man’s Deluxe CaféThe Scotsman has published a short story by Alexander McCall Smith. His latest book, The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café, was published late last year, continuing Mma Ramotswe’s wonderful adventures.

The story, titled “Skating”, illustrates the power of a simple gesture. Paul and Anne are signing holiday cards to send to their friends and family. When they come to the card they want to address to their neighbours Andrew and Julie, Paul hesitates. “Should he write something else? Sorry about your disappointment? Or, perhaps, Better luck next time. If there was going to be a next time, which it looked as if there would be, even though they had said there would not.” In the end he simply writes their names but then the really difficult decision needs to be made: Will he deliver it by hand, or by post?

Read the story to see how Paul’s decision leads to reconciliation during the festive season:

It’s far better this year,” he said. “Far better …”

She looked up from the magazine she was paging through. “What’s far better?”

He had one of the cards in his hand, and now he held it up to show her. “This,” he said.

She glanced at the card. “I can’t remember what we used last year. Odd, isn’t it? I must have signed at least sixty of them – maybe more – and I can’t remember what it looked like.”

“That’s how instantly forgettable it was,” he said. “It had a child on it. One of Raphael’s angels, I seem to recall. We bought it at the National Gallery. I regretted it almost immediately. Angels on cards are only one step up from robins.”

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