What’s that, then?

The evangelical in Anne had always recoiled at ‘The Arts’, for they had no obvious place in the useful, pious life. But Lia had something. It was not simply an ability to accurately depict the world, to replicate the exact gradient of a crow’s beak or the detailed creases of a hand, held out. There’s real flair there, one of Lia’s teachers had told her, a year or so ago, when Anne had been parked outside the school…She can capture the very essence of a thing, whilst… imbuing it with a… startling newness.

The teacher was new there. New and young and pretentious, for what nonsense this was, Anne had thought, but smiled as politely as she could nevertheless, and started the car, so as to let the intrusive woman know she had heard quite enough. Lia came out, holding a painting of a single egg in the middle of a large blue bowl. There was no essence; no startling newness. Just an egg in a bowl. And no one, thought Anne, with any sense, kept their eggs in bowls in the first place. Except for the French, perhaps.

See you tomorrow, Amelia. The teacher had smiled and walked away, smart and smug in her shoulder-padded jacket.

What’s that, then? Anne had asked, glancing in the rear mirror as they neared home.

Quiet, Lia had said.

What?

The title. I’ve called it – Quiet.

And Anne had straightened her spine in the driver’s seat, unnerved by the odd little child in the back of the car, pretending that she couldn’t see how the solitary egg in the bowl was, indeed, a very quiet-looking thing after all, as the tyres ground loudly against the gravel of their driveway.

— Maddie Mortimer, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador; March 31, 2022)

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