Spill Simmer Falter Wither NPR coverage of Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.
NPR logo Spill Simmer Falter Wither

Spill Simmer Falter Wither

by Sara Baume

Hardcover, 274 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, List Price: $23 |

purchase

Buy Featured Book

Title
Spill Simmer Falter Wither
Author
Sara Baume

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

NPR Summary

Two damaged creatures — a man who has been shunned by his village, and a one-eyed dog — accidentally find each other and form a lasting relationship that transforms their lives as they travel the Irish countryside.

Read an excerpt of this book

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Spill Simmer Falter Wither

PROLOGUE

He is running, running, running.
   And it’s like no kind of running he’s ever run before. He’s the surge that burst the dam and he’s pouring down the hillslope, channelling through the grass to the width of his widest part. He’s tripping into hoof-rucks. He’s slapping groundsel stems down dead. Dandelions and chickweed, nettles and dock.
   This time, there’s no chance for sniff and scavenge and scoff. There are no steel bars to end his lap, no chain to jerk at the limit of its extension, no bellowing to trick and bully him back. This time, he’s further than he’s ever seen before, past every marker along the horizon line, every hump and spork he learned by heart.
   It’s the season of digging out. It’s a day of soft rain. There’s wind enough to tilt the slimmer trunks off kilter and drizzle enough to twist the long hairs on his back to a mop of damp curls. There’s blood enough to gush into his beard and spatter his front paws as they rise and plunge. And there’s a hot, wet thing bouncing against his neck. It’s the size of a snailshell and it makes a dim squelch each time it strikes. It’s attached to some gristly tether dangling from some leaked part of himself, but he cannot make out the what nor the where of it.
   Were he to stop, were he to examine the hillslope and hoof-rucks and groundsel and dandelions and chickweed and nettles and dock, he’d see how the breadth of his sight span has been reduced by half and shunted to his right side, how the left is pitch black until he swivels his head. But he doesn’t stop, and notices only the cumbersome blades, the spears of rain, the upheaval of tiny insects and the blood spilling down the wrong side of his coat, the outer when it ought to be the inner.
   He is running, running, running. And there’s no course or current to deter him. There’s no impulse from the root of his brain to the roof of his skull which says other than RUN.
   He is One Eye now.
   He is on his way.

SPILL

You find me on a Tuesday, on my Tuesday trip to town.
   You’re Sellotaped to the inside pane of the jumble shop window. A photograph of your mangled face and underneath an appeal for a COMPASSIONATE & TOLERANT OWNER. A PERSON WITHOUT OTHER PETS & WITHOUT CHILDREN UNDER FOUR. The notice shares street-facing space with a sheepskin overcoat, a rubberwood tambourine, a stuffed wigeon and a calligraphy set. The overcoat’s sagged and the tambourine’s punctured. The wigeon’s trickling sawdust and the calligraphy set’s likely to be missing inks or nibs or paper, almost certainly the instruction leaflet. There’s something sad about the jumble shop, but I like it. I like how it’s a tiny refuge of imperfection. I always stop to gawp at the window display and it always makes me feel a little less horrible, less strange. But I’ve never noticed the notices before. There are several, each with a few lines of text beneath a hazy photograph. Altogether they form a hotchpotch of pleading eyes, foreheads worried into furry folds, tails frozen to a hopeful wag. The sentences underneath use words like NEUTERED, VACCINATED, MICROCHIPPED, CRATE-TRAINED. Every wet nose in the window is alleged to be searching for its FOREVER HOME.
   I’m on my way to purchase a box-load of incandescent bulbs because I can’t bear the dimness of the energy savers, how they hesitate at first and then build to a parasitic humming so soft it hoaxes me into thinking some part of my inner ear has cracked, or some vital vessel of my frontal lobe. I stop and fold my hands and examine the fire-spitting dragon painted onto the tambourine’s stretched skin and the