Saturday 22 June 2013

'Two Swans' by Clare Kirwan

Day 1
It starts with two swans crafted from white bath towels, perfectly proportioned, swimming gracefully on a fluted beach towel lake. We are delighted and leave a few pesos for the maid.

Day 2
An enormous papier mache butterfly has been lovingly assembled from toilet paper, coat hangers and the television aerial. Its delicate membranes quiver in the air-conditioning as though preparing for flight. We leave a few pesos, and a request for new loo roll. We cannot watch television, so we read.

Day 3
A poem by Jose Marti, folk hero, is spelled out beautifully on the white tiles in blue shampoo, yellow shower gel and an unknown red substance for the parts that mention martyrdom. We leave a few pesos but have to clean it off before we can use the bathroom.

Day 4
The room is ankle deep in frangipani flowers, the smell so intoxicating that we feel compelled to make love all night. We leave pesos and a note of gratitude.

Day 5
The ants that arrived with the frangipani have been lured by trails of sugar to form exquisite patterns on the balcony. They have stopped biting now.

Day 6
An anatomically-correct tyrannosaurus constructed with sheets, blankets and pillows. Although not life size, it fills the room. My husband marvels at the engineering, with its skeleton of plumbing fixtures. We leave a few pesos and an apologetic note asking for the toilet to be looked at as it does not seem to be working.

Day 7
Sunday. Nothing. We are ashamed to feel relieved, but only in some ways - the toilet has not been fixed.

Day 8
A scale model of the local town has been constructed from our own dried excrement. It smells exactly like the town, and clearly a lot of work has gone into it so we leave a few pesos and use the replacement shampoo to clear it up a bit. We go to bed very late.

Day 9
A papier mache bust of El Commandante has been scultped from the new supply of toilet roll and a glue-like substance, possibly spittle. There is a letter from the manager asking us to use less toilet roll as supplies are limited. I have to wipe my arse on the only parts of El Commandante that are easily removed – his beard and cap. We leave a few pesos and a polite note requesting that our supplies are spared.

Day 10
There are no sculptures, but in the middle of the night a six piece band – guitar, maracas, bongos, double base – serenades us on our own balcony. We give them a few pesos to go away.

Day 11
They have trained a flock of dragonflies to perform basic manoeuvres. The room is filled with the beatings of tiny neon wings and flashes of iridescent blue in synchronised patterns.

Day 12
On the last day we open our door with some trepidation. The maid and her fifteen year old daughter lie naked on our bed covered in hibiscus flowers and scented with frangipani. They have nothing left to give.


  1. Wow. This is so imaginative and more than a little subversive in it's absurdity. Well done :)

  2. Absolutely love this - absurd and true both at the same time. Fabulous!

  3. Thanks for the comments. True story! (Well, day one anyway)

  4. Anne Summerfield22 June 2013 at 20:57

    Love this too, especially the way the day by day structure builds so much tension. A great read!

  5. Thanks! I should have mentioned it's one of 24 stories in my new collection: Broken Biro: There Will Be Blood. Free until Sunday morning.

  6. Anne Summerfield23 June 2013 at 13:26

    I've downloaded the collection and am really looking forward to reading it - thank you.


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