Short story: The Unfortunate Fate of Kitty da Silva

“After the huge success of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and its successor novels, ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH turns to his home city of Edinburgh for ‘The Unfortunate Fate of Kitty da Silva’, a whimsical short story about an unusual companionship.”

From The Independent:

Mccall231205body_104496bHe arrived before the agent did, and was standing there, on the pavement, for 15 minutes or so before the young man came round the corner. The agent was whistling, which surprised him, because one did not hear people whistling; there was something unexpected, something almost old-fashioned about it. And there was no birdsong, of course, or very little. At home there had always been birdsong, and one took it for granted. Here the mornings seemed silent; the air drained of sound. Thin air. Thin.

“Are you the doctor?” asked the young man, looking at a piece of paper extracted from his pocket. “You’re Dr… Dr John. Right?”

He shook his head, and stopped and reminded himself that it was the other way round. In India one shook one’s head for yes, which was the opposite of what they did here. It was rather like water going this way round as it drained out of the bath in the southern hemisphere, and that way round in the north, or so people said. Clockwise or anti-clockwise. Widdershins and deasil. Those were wonderful words – widdershins and deasil – and he had written them down in his notebook of fine English words, as he had always done since he was a boy. He had had an uncle who had taught English at a college and had impressed upon him the importance of a wide vocabulary. He had imitated his uncle’s habit of writing down interesting words in his notebook. Pejorative, he wrote. Gloaming. Conspicuous.

More here.