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rock looms from the depths like a totem’ in ‘The Boat Trip’. In ‘Outer Banks Riptide’ Paul’s snack of churros is “a nest of fried dough snakes” while in ‘God Mode’ the narrator flees Ireland following the end of a relationship: “I step on a moving walkway and watch the airport scroll by.” There is an economy of prose too in the way Ashfeldt suggests so much in the limited space of the short story. A mother’s devastation at the loss of her child, Elizabeth, is captured in the following tiny detail: “the door closes behind her and Nola hears her go upstairs again, back to Elizabeth’s room”. Nola reappears as an adult in the next story ‘Saltwater’ where her children struggle to understand her phobia of water. Here, the possibility of rehabilitation and healing is suggested as Nola finally faces her fear in an attempt to save her own daughter. ‘Neap Tide’ accurately pinpoints the moment in a relationship when the first flush of love finally wanes, and the characters face each other with a growing awareness of their ordinariness. Panos from Greece visits Lisa from Dublin only to discover that “all the other little Irish girls have eyes just like [hers].” This story is set in contemporary Dublin and Lisa is shocked on her return from abroad to discover the new building that has encroached upon the coastal town of Portrane. Again, Ashfeldt deftly captures the unspoken expiration of novelty in the relationship: “... the tide had turned between them. She was just treading water awhile, catching her breath for the next big wave to take her on her way”. Historical disasters share space in the collection with personal epiphanies such as that in the aforementioned ‘Neap Tide’. ‘Dancing on Canvey’ which won the Fish Short Histories Prize, relates the horrific North Sea flood in 1953 on Canvey Island (a reclaimed island in the Thames Estuary). The story is focalized through its young female narrator and is a poignant evocation of how one family is almost destroyed by the flooding. Ashfeldt seamlessly interweaves historical facts with a touching romance, which unfolds amid the natural disaster. The imbrication of romance and tragedy is continued in ‘Sound Waves’. The naming of the band at the centre of this story is perhaps the only misstep in what is, overall, an impressive debut collection. The warmth of young love is cut short in a scene which is made powerful by Ashfeldt’s deceptively simple style: “He does not sense the slick, cold water that opens up, takes hold and softly closes around him.”

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The incubator issue 3