Pseudopod 329: Red Rubber Gloves

by Christine Brooke-Rose – presented here through the kind courtesy of her literary executor, Jean-Michel Rabaté, who has allowed us to produce this story.

This week’s episode sponsored by Audible.com; they offer Pseudopod listeners a free audiobook download of their choice from Audible’s selection of over 100,000 titles.

“Red Rubber Gloves” was originally read by your editor in the late 1970s (when he was a small lad) in a collection called TALES OF UNEASE edited by John Burke and published in 1966. The book was a tie in to a soon-forgotten, and now seemingly lost, regional television anthology horror show of the same name that ran on London Weekend Television.

CHRISTINE BROOKE-ROSE (1923-2012) was one of the greatest British experimental novelists (the novel, BETWEEN (1968) is written entirely without using the verb “to be”), as well as a critic and a leading interpreter of Modernism. She was born in Geneva, Switzerland. During World War II she worked at Bletchley Park as a WAAF in Intelligence, later completing her university degree. She then worked for a time in London as a literary journalist and scholar. Because she often used alternative narrative devices (including unorthodox chronology and unusual typography) to create alternative realities, her work is sometimes classified as science fiction, though much of it is beyond category. As with much postmodern fiction, her writing — organized around an unspoken compact between the author, who is unspooling the text, and the reader, who is watching it unspool — is about the act of writing itself. As her New York Times obituary said “Ms. Brooke-Rose was a linguistic escape artist. In book after book she dons self-imposed syntactic shackles, and in book after book she gleefully slips them.”

Your reader this week – Kim Lakin-Smith – writes dark fantasy and science fiction short stories that have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies including Black Static, Interzone, Celebration, Myth-Understandings, Further Conflicts, Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse, The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories By Women, and others, with ‘Johnny and Emmie-Lou Get Married’ shortlisted for the BSFA short story award 2009. She is the author of the gothic fantasy Tourniquet; Tales from the Renegade City, the YA novella Queen Rat, and Cyber Circus which was shortlisted for both the 2012 BSFA Best Novel award and the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel.

Her short story ‘Beyond Hope’ features in Solaris Rising 2, which is launched at this year’s Eastercon. Later in the year, her crossover YA novel Autodrome will be published by Snowbooks. Autodrome is part Speed Racer, part Death Race – on the same day that 15 year old Zar Punkstar qualifies as Pro Leaguer, he finds his inventor father murdered. His opposition are polished Pro Leaguers, hired thugs, and parts pirates. But who to trust in a world of competitors?

Visit Kim at her website

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“In the kitchen window of the right-hand house the panel of two squares over two over two over two is open to reveal a· black rectangle and the beginning of the gleaming sink. Inside the sink is a red plastic bowl and on the window-sill are the red rubber gloves, now at rest.

In the morning the sunlight slants on all the windows, reflecting gold in some of the black squares but not in others, making each rectangular window, with its eight squares across and four squares down, look like half a chessboard gone berserk in order to confuse the queen and both her knights.

In the black rectangle of the open kitchen window the sunlight gleams on the stainless steel double sink unit, just beyond the cream-painted frame. Above the gleaming sink the red rubber gloves move swiftly, rise from the silver greyness lifting a yellow mass, plunging it into greyness, lifting it again, twisting its tail, shifting it to the right-hand. sink, moving back left, vanishing into greyness, rising and moving swiftly, in and out, together and apart.

On closer scrutiny I can see that in the left-hand house the wooden frames of the thirty-two black squares, eight by four in each of the rectangular windows, are painted white. It is only the right-hand house which has cream-painted windows. They all looked the same behind the trees against the strong September sun that faces me on my high balcony. The left-hand house seems quite devoid of life. Possibly the two rectangular windows, one above the other in the square end of the inverted U, are not the windows of the bathroom and kitchen at all in the left-hand house. It is difficult to see them through the apple-tree, and of course through the goldening elm in the garden at the back of my block. In the right-hand house, however, the lower room is definitely the kitchen, in the black rectangle of which the red rubber gloves move swiftly apart, shake hands, vanish into greyness, lift up a foam-white mass, vanish and reappear, move to the right, move back, lunge into greyness, rise and move swiftly right. Beyond the red rubber gloves is a pale grey shape, then blackness.”

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