TOADSTONE by Danny Rhodes


“He can feel something, a recoupling, barely perceptible remembrances linking together, fragile to the touch.”

This is a moving story (across the set road of a man’s life), a man building his own precarious gestalt of the past, hoping things ‘carry on’ the best they can, even if linking his boyhood’s fossilling to his grandparents’ ‘reunited’ gravestone makes him recall a particular ‘frost-crumbling’ stone as a boy and then a crumbling windmill stump, while earlier setting out in short sentences the ‘identifiable’ photos of his parents and his past, later wishfully resettling his  grandparent’s cottage where he once spent much time in the village he was born, but he is today battling what I assume to be some form of breast cancer. Perhaps also failing to airbrush that he has not got married, never had children, here transcended by pond-dredging  on his visit, in a toady today, from the city to the village, as well as, perhaps more significantly,  to help a group of toaders who in turn help mating-toads (quark-quark,  but here disguised as ‘qwark-qwark’) move across a road to the pond without being hit by a car, and his parents matchmating for him with a woman called Dawn in the process, for whom he becomes an apprentice toader, a man fighting against his own obsolescence while his body is failing to decommission the eponymous toadstone in his body. This remarkable work miraculously turns many staccato sentences into feeling like the smoothest stylish prose possible in the rest of it — as we all pray to remove our own singing stones from within. Even if we have to pilfer them out kleptomaniacally? Which brings us back to the scrutiny of the words ‘melancholy’ and ‘sinister’ at the very start of this story’s now always serious carry-on.

“And everything was in place then wasn’t it? Everything identifiable. Everything set. And inevitably not set.”


 ‘Toadstone’ was shortlisted for the BBC Short Story Award in 2021. It was published by Comma Press and is available on the BBC Sounds website here:

My previous reviews of DANNY RHODES here:

My ongoing reviews of single stories by living authors:

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