Irma’s short fiction has been widely published in literary journals, including Meanjin, Island, Westerly, Review of Australian Fiction, Going Down Swinging, The Big Issue, The Canberra Times, Mascara Literary Review, Tincture, Verity La, Grapple Annual, Idiom 23, Four W, and many others. Most of these stories are not available online but a few are linked below.
Irma’s work has also been widely anthologised. Recent publications include the tenth anniversary edition of Award Winning Australian Writing 2017, Australian Love Stories (edited by Cate Kennedy), alongside Tony Birch, Carmel Bird, Jon Bauer, and Lisa Jacobson, and Escape (edited by Bronwyn Meehan), alongside Alec Patric, Jennifer Mills, Andy Kissane, SJ Finn.
Her debut short fiction collection, Two Steps Forward, was selected from 450 submissions to be published as the final of six books in Affirm Press’ Long Story Shorts series. It was described by The Age as ‘a beautifully crafted volume’ and the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘a collection of bittersweet, beautifully written short stories’, and Irma was hailed by The Australian as ‘a welcome new voice’. Details of awards, reviews and interviews with Irma about Two Steps Forward can be found here.
Listen to Irma on Radio National’s Books and Arts Daily, discussing short fiction and her story in Australian Love Stories, with Michael Cathcart, Cate Kennedy and Lisa Jacobson. Due to technical difficulties, Irma enters the conversation at 4:05.
The day Geoffrey Buesnel finds the dead baby begins with a disagreement. His daughter has lately taken to employing various means by which to extract money from him on a daily basis. On this occasion the activity in question is dinner, followed by a movie.
‘It’s six days until pay day,’ Geoffrey says. ‘I can’t afford it.’
‘But everyone’s going,’ Esther pouts, the same way she did when she was small, swivelling the ball of her right foot back and forth.
‘What happened to that job? At McDonalds? Didn’t you get an interview?’
‘It’s super tough at the moment, Daddy. They had, like, thirty people apply.’
‘Listen,’ he says, knowing she won’t.
IN THE COMPANY OF BIRDS
I have a lot of stuff; too much, some would say. At least Hayley would. And my husband. If you can still call him that.
I don’t like to waste anything.There’s so much waste these days. Perfectly good stuff going to landfill. Everything can be repurposed if you care to take the time. Sometimes it can take years to work out how it can be re-used but you get there in the end. Just last week, for instance, I cracked Harry’s water bowl. Removing it from his cage I slipped, smashed the blasted thing into a dozen splinters and my kneecap with it. Even as I pulled myself from the floor I was already thinking about what I could use instead. Save myself a trip to the shops. I don’t like to go out if I can help it. When she’s being nasty, which is most of the time these days, Hayley says I’m a recluse, a hermit. But I’m not really. I just prefer the company of birds.
THE ART OF COURTING
(Opening story in Two Steps Forward, first published in Island magazine)
You’re a good neighbour. The day is glutted with heat and sweat worms between your breasts, but you still cross the road to help. Not that it’s entirely selfless—you saw him arrive, bumbling up to the kerb in a shabby removal truck, and couldn’t help yourself.
So you lift packing boxes from the pavement, rough and cracked like an ancient cheek, and they press, too friendly, into your hips. You walk back and forth until your arms ache, but you don’t see much of him. He’s skittering cat-like in and out of the house, fingers touching everything, marking it with his scent.
Abby is tall and lanky, taller than all the boys and skinny as all hell. Every afternoon she pegs it down to the wreckers to play with her brother Dan and his mates. They build hideouts in the hulls of cars and play war. Dan always makes Abby go with Jamie, which gives him the shits, to be stuck with a girl, and a Year Eight one at that. He has dank hair that he is forever pushing anxiously off his forehead and a lazy eye, so that Abby can never be sure if he is looking at her or something else entirely.
They make shields out of corrugated iron and throw rocks and bricks at each other. Sometimes they get hurt, but mostly they don’t. Abby gets used to her wrists aching from the slam of bricks reverberating through the iron sheets. She says nothing to the boys, never complains or cries for fear they will no longer allow her to play. There are complex rules. About when you can throw, and how. Close range is out, so is throwing at a target without a shield.
When Celia got on at Currie Street, he was already there. She didn’t notice him at first, but then he wasn’t swearing right off the bat.
Before the bus filled up, she quickly ate the salad she hadn’t finished on her lunchbreak. Just mushrooms and rocket. All that had been left in the crisper. She’d forgotten dressing. It tasted awful. But she felt guilty about the Flake she’d crammed in at the bus stop.
Celia opened the novel she was reading. She liked to read in bed at night but she needed daylight for this book or she’d have nightmares. By Pultney Street all the seats were taken, except for one next to a man in his sixties who sat on the aisle. He wore a gold watch so yellow it was clearly a fake, and he kept checking it. As the bus lurched away from the kerb he began muttering, loud enough to be heard just above the engine.