Short Story Review: “The Secret Life of Little Wormwood Scrubs” by Courttia Newland

4 of 5 stars.

Cities and their neighborhoods evolve over time. In the larger metropolises, this also reflects the movements of ethnicities through the neighborhoods, and the inevitable pushback against change, whether rooted in xenophobia or not. In the years since 9-11 and the subsequent bombings in London, Madrid and elsewhere, there’s also been the growing anti-Muslim sentiments clashing with the natural immigration from Middle Eastern countries where opportunities are fewer.

In this tale, a young, male Muslim, Khalil, in London does what comes naturally to him in his newfound freedom, living on his own–he jogs through his neighborhood’s park. Nevermind that the park used to be dodgy and unsafe, things have changed. Such as the Thai restaurant on the corner growing posher by the day. But, today isn’t like every other day in London. The day prior, 4 young male Muslims bombed the city and everyone’s on guard. Khalil cannot help but to watch his back and make sure everyone sees he’s on the up and up.

While jogging in a muckier, swampy part of the park where the stream used to be, Khalil finds a suspicious rucksack. Should he call it in? Or would he just be making himself a target? Will other people in the park find him suspicious for stopping to look at an abandoned rucksack? In the end, he decides to quickly jog out of there–leaving the tracks of his trainers impressed upon the swampy earth . . .

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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