Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (4 May 2018)
Buy from Amazon UK
BLURB: Journalist Nell Greene is intelligent, beautiful and quirky – but a failure at relationships, thanks to her untrusting and disruptive inner voice. She has received The Award, and refusing to help repopulate the earth can seriously complicate your life: it is time for Nell to change. In a world where greed, war, and an environmental disaster have massively reduced the population, survivors have introduced a new system of governance - led by women but delivered by robots, and designed to promote peace and remove opportunities for abuse of power. Or at least that was the intention… Will Nell overcome the challenges of life in a post-apocalyptic world to find happiness, or will the System win? Spaghetti Head is Sarah Tyley's debut novel that addresses issues of modern womanhood, environmental devastation and the impact of technological advances on our freedom, relationships and mental health.
Learning to manage, control and direct the resources of your mind
is the greatest challenge you will ever face.
Dr Shad Helmstetter
MALI – NEW YEAR’S DAY 2116
“How many times, Alice, have I showered out here, hoping for a blinding flash of enlightenment?”
“Maybe I’m not breathing deeply enough,” I said, staring at the candle resting on her back.
“Well you’d better hurry it – you’re four minutes over your water allowance.”
I closed the tap and held my arms out to the side – no need for a towel in this heat.
“What do you want enlightenment about, anyway, Nell?” Alice said, her black metallic nose shining up at me in the moonlight.
“About why I’m still a single. About why I can’t tell Mum and Dad I love them. About whether I should listen to my head, or my heart.”
Always listen to me, Nell – here in your head.
“SID’s telling me to listen to him.”
“Well, SID would! Listen to your heart, Nell – it’s where you’ll find the truth. Whatever you do, do not listen to SID – how has he ever helped you? He’s probably the entire reason you still are a single.”
“You think so?”
“Well what other reason is there?”
You’re terrified of commitment?
“Talking of being a single, I’d better get dressed, I’m meeting Youssan in an hour.” I crouched down to blow out the candle and tickle Alice’s ear. “Do you think it’s a good idea?”
“Meeting Youssan for dinner.”
She hasn’t even met the man!
“But I was only chatting to him for a couple of hours last night – what if he only invited me because he’d been drinking?”
“Well, there’s only one way to find out, Nell. It’s only dinner, for goodness sake. Lighten up!”
DINNER WITH YOUSSAN
Ankle-level solars lined the sandy track. They line every walking track. I should be used to how pretty they are by now, sparkling through the darkness, yet still they always make me want to spin.
What, and arrive covered in sweat!
The solars are installed to help us feel happy. And safe. And thankful. You can tell the planet’s governed by women – would men bother with such detail? None of those I know would.
I arrived at the twinkling circle-junction and took the left path towards Fanta’s, who serves the best chicken and chips in the zone. There are five zones in West Africa: Frangipani, Arachide, Tamarind, Baobab, and ours, Cassava. They’re all part of a massive agricultural project – Feed the Soil, Feed the People – designed to improve crop yields. Mum and Agnes Gondwe, oversee the plant nursery, and Dad manages irrigation. We have year-round sunshine, low rainfall (which is why I installed an open-air shower), but decent reserves of underground water. Combining soil improvement techniques and using drought-resistant plants, the project is finally, after thirty years, starting to see an increase in yields.
My stomach flipped – a string of coloured lights shone out from the restaurant’s thatched veranda. Youssan would be able to see me approaching.
What if he’s not here?
I took out a tissue and blotted my forehead.
Hot. Go away.
“Nell!” Youssan called from a round table over to my left, under a ceiling fan.
Tall. Broad. Shaven head. Pink linen shirt – which looked amazing against his dark skin. He was as attractive as I’d remembered from last night.
He stood up, kissed me on the cheek and pulled a chair out for me. His hazel eyes were dotted with dark specks, reminding me of a tree pipit’s egg, only shiny. They sparkled into mine, prompting a smile over which I had no control.
Oh God, here we go.
“Thanks for coming,” he said, smiling back.
“Thanks for inviting me.”
We sat down appreciating the fan. “Would you be okay if my sister joins us?” he asked.
No. You want him all to yourself.
“Of course,” I replied, my palms sweating.
A slim, dark beauty walked confidently along the veranda towards us. Youssan stood up, hugged her and pulled out another chair.
“Yolandé,” she said, smiling, as she shook my hand.
“Nell,” I replied, admiring her symmetrical smile.
How do you know that’s his sister?
Who else would it be?
“I’ve read some of your articles, Nell. I love them,” Yolandé said.
“Me too!” Youssan said. “I thought the piece about the manager of the wind farm tying himself to the blades to check for cracks as they turned was brilliant,” he said.
“My favourite is the one about the effects of blowflies on cattle in Venezuela. I read the bit about them burrowing their heads into rotting flesh to Youssan at breakfast – do you remember?” Yolandé said, laughing in Youssan’s direction.
So they’re together at breakfast as well?
“How could I forget!” he said, rolling his eyes.
We ordered: three times chicken and chips.
“So,” I said, “What do we all think!”
“About which?” Youssan said, “Compulsory mindercising, or the 2117 election announcement?”
“I feel a bit insulted,” Yolandé said. “I’m healthy as it is, thanks.”
She certainly looks fit.
“Outwardly healthy, yes, Yol, but mentally?”
Hope he doesn’t ask you that question.
“Are you joshing? We’re practically born with therapy implanted into our brains. An hour a day during ed years, surely set us up for positive mental health, so why the need to re-name it ‘mindercising’ and make it compulsory, I’ve no idea. I don’t get it.”
“I’m always out walking anyway,” I said, “that’s my meditation.”
“Me too,” Youss replied.
“Fantastic. I know some lovely circular walks, if you ever fancy joining me.”
The food arrived. “Shall we say the Words before eating?” Youssan said.
We sat up straight, cleared our throats and joined hands.
‘We shall never forget those who perished. Our gratitude to them for who they were. Our gratitude to Yellowstone for who we have become.’
We released one another and picked up our cutlery.
“So, which ‘mindercise’ did you register?” Yolandé asked.
“Yogic walking,” I said.
“Counting ants,” Youssan said.
“Balancing on one leg,” Yolandé said.
I started to feel rather normal.
Boring more like.
“Balancing on one leg was an option?” Youssan said.
“Granma will love telling her friends what you’ve registered,” I said.
“You’ve still got a grandparent?”
“Yep. Two weeks ago she became one hundred and six years living.”
“Wow! So she remembers humans governing, before the Disaster.”
“What did you do for her birthday?” Youssan asked.
“Nothing special!” he said, pulling a face. “When did you last see her then?”
“You were in Australia?”
“No. I saw her on-screen. We chat every week. I haven’t seen her in the flesh for twenty-one years.”
“Yizer! Twenty-one years!” Yolandé said. “What does she think of the election announcement?”
“She’s glad she probably won’t live much longer.”
She’ll ashing live forever!
“But why have you only seen her on-screen?”
“She’s a chronic claustrophobic and can’t travel.”
“Anything to do with being shut underground for all those years after the Disaster?”
“Enough to give anyone claustrophobia.”
“How come you’ve never gone to see her?”
“She says Australia’s too far, too much hassle – especially with one flight a month. The moment I finished ed she told me to concentrate on my career, and not waste time going to stay with her for a month. I see so much of her on-screen, I’ve never insisted on visiting.”
“Would it really be too much hassle?” Yolandé asked.
“From here to the airport in Timbuktu is 26 hours by sunbus,” Youssan said. “Then there’s the flight to Oz…”
“And then no flight back for a month,” I said.
You’re too selfish to take the time off work.
“You should go, Nell, whilst she’s still alive,” Yolandé said. “What did she do in the survival parks?”
“She managed insect storage. Granpa managed birds.”
I watched Youssan as he picked a chip up, dipped it in the chilli-mayonnaise and slid it past his barely open lips. I couldn’t make out when he was chewing, or swallowing – I’d never seen a man eat so elegantly.
Give it six months and you’ll hate the way he eats.
“So how do you both know my mum then?” I asked.
“I’ve just joined the composting team, so I met her at my welcoming event.”
Youssan could be perfect – he likes walking, eats beautifully, cares for the environment, and he’s a great dancer.
Lots of women must like him.
“Apparently your Mum’s got a bit of a reputation for throwing a good party, so we were excited to get an invite. Little did I know there’d be the extra bonus of finally meeting Nell Greene, with her flared cotton trousers and wild red hair,” he said, smiling.
“Well, I’ll give it to you Youss,” Yolandé said. “You certainly know how to make a woman blush.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I grew up on a dairy farm in Somerset and had a lovely childhood running around outside, spending alot of time surrounded by cows. I would have to be biased towards Friesians, but really any cow will do - I love them all.
I have written a diary since I was twelve, and some years ago I thought to myself ‘hey, that must mean I’m a writer’ – and so I embarked on short stories. I never quite got the hang of those so moved on to trying a novel.
I currently live in France splitting my time between my gardening business, writing, and playing tennis. I love Roger Federer almost as much as I love cows
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