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Penny Pepper

Book cover

Cover image for Penny Pepper

Penny is the award-winning writer of Desires, a unique, groundbreaking and explicit collection of short stories focusing on disabled people's experience of sex in all its chaotic permutations. She is also an actor and performer, and has worked and trained with Theatre Resource and Graeae Theatre Company. She is doing further training with Graeae this year on their Missing Piece programme.

Penny is currently working on a film scripts and hopes to win a place on the Channel Four placement scheme Coming Up with a 30 minute script. She is also at the early stages of developing a radical disability erotica website.

The Brown Pot by Penny Pepper

As Suzie jammed her wheelchair closer to the glass pane her ankles protested at the lack of legroom. Wincing, she sagged forward to glare at the displays and settled her eyes on a dark brown pot. It was decorated with endless phalli, each ornamented with wings and short running legs.

'Revolting,' she said and screwed up her nose. 'Why? Prudish suddenly, are we?' muttered Adam as he shuffled on to the next exhibit. 'Don't be stupid.' Suzie turned her chair and jerked up behind him. She stared hard at the small of his back and rolled vicious lips over her teeth.

'Look, let's not bring our shit in here.' Adam's voice was low and grating. 'Remember how to enjoy yourself for a bloody change.' Suzie sighed and turned back to the display cabinet. Her eyes rested on another phallus, cocked high in a comical display. She turned to look at Adam and found he was there, unmoving and stern beside her. He twisted and leant forward on his crutches to study her face intently. 'Come on. Make an effort to look at this stuff. I'm trying for fucksake, I really am.'

They moved into the next section in the museum and gaped at two skeletons. One was revealed to belong to a young woman whose face had been recreated on a statue nearby. Suzie gazed at it silently, the features modern and recognisable, hair wound high in plaits, with delicate questioning eyes.

'Look at their bones. Normal, aren't they. No twists and bumps. No labels.' Adam didn't respond but studied the information card, staring at it furiously. Suzie felt a tight clenching in her throat, eyes flickering to resist the threatening tears. Heat from her stomach gorged thickly through her skin and she turned sharply to look for a way outside.

'We can't tell who they really were,' Adam spoke at last. 'Labels are usually invisible after all.'

'I want to go. I feel ill.' Suzie dropped her head and pushed her chair behind him. 'Why on earth did you think this place would help?'

She spun past the bored attendant at the door, refusing the young woman's gawping eyes and red chewing mouth.

Outside in the park around the museum, the sun sharpened the dusky pinks of the cherry blossoms and keen starlings picked for worms in the lush spring grass. A small girl with streaming blonde hair ran laughing across the park into her father's arms. Suzie let the tears crack apart her smooth face and sat in silence as they fell.

Adam appeared after some minutes and sat on the bench beside her wheelchair. 'Suzie, what is all this?' He lifted his arm slowly to put his twisting fingers over hers. She noticed the fine pale hairs bristling on his knuckles.

'Oh, Adam.' The words juddered to a sob and she wrenched her gaze downwards to accuse the impossibly green grass. The starlings jumped up and down, worms in mouths. A nearby tree shook a little and endless blossom dandled across them, a delicate blush shrugged off to cover the grass in faded confetti.

'We have to go on, don't we?' She said at last, picking wearily at the blossom on her clothes. Adam narrowed his eyes. 'Go on?'

'After all, maybe me and you will be skeletons in a museum of the future. But they won't know who we were. Not really.' 'I'm being cremated and scattered so no bugger will find me.' He pursed his lips then grinned, staring at her. 'Stop being silly and morbid. It's such a lovely day.'

'There just has to be more than this.' She gestured her fragile fingers over her body and her wheelchair. Her eyes were dry, tears caked in cubist patterns across the remnants of her make-up. Adam looked away. The light breeze filtered around them and magnified their silence.

'Me and you should go on. After everything that's happened,' he said, words firm and sudden. 'The grass goes on. The birds go on. Look at it all. It all keeps going. Can't you feel it?' The starlings flew up from the grass and chattered from their hidden perch. At last Suzie smiled. 'Yes, we will go on.'

She looked at the sunshine dancing on the children, playing startling light around the frilly flowering trees - and laughed aloud.