Our new short story of the month is ‘Intervals in Making Lace’ by Diana Powell. This is one of a collection of stories set in the Black Mountains, where a group of women artists gather to work. As they do so, they spin tales of their childhoods, coloured by the folklore and landscape of their surroundings. But what do they really remember?
Diana Powell was born and brought up in Llanelli, and studied English at Aberystwyth University. She writes mainly short stories and novels. She won the last PENfro short story prize, and the 2013 Allen Raine Award. This year, she was a runner-up in the Cinnamon competition, and was longlisted for the Sean O Faolain, and the Over the Edge. Her work has appeared in a number of print publications, including The Lonely Crowd and Brittle Star.
Intervals in making lace
This is an extract. Read the full short story for free on our website.
How do you describe a gap? It is, after all, a place with nothing there. You could say ‘an opening with two clear ends’ perhaps – like a break in a fence or a mountain pass (both easily found in our hilly, farm-shod landscape). Or holes in a fishing net; a clearing in a wood … to let water out; to let light, animals, people, gather.
All these are gaps. All physical entities (although there is nothing there). There are plenty of examples both natural and man-made, difficult, but not impossible, to explain.
But how do you make sense of the other kind of gap – the less substantial, belonging to the mind, or the spirit?
Recently, I have been enduring such a gap in my life: a break in its normal proceedings. An accident. It was an accident: all my own fault, of my own making. There is no one else to blame.
Just like then, whatever they may have said.
‘Foolish Bron! Daydreaming again!’ Words from the past echo down to me. The voices of my mother and father, or sisters, fondly scolding. ‘Off in cloud-cuckoo-land, Bron? Again?’ True, then; true, now. For yes, I was daydreaming. You’d think I would have learnt … I had learnt! For a long time, I had! But no, my thoughts wandered away, and my body followed, leaving the stove on, and the towel draped too close. Easily done; it could happen to anyone! Though there are, no doubt, those who whisper about my fondness for a glass of whisky; a second glass. Those such as the old women in the Square, who tutt behind me as the till girl in Mace slips the bottle into a brown paper bag; all the while dismissing and excusing, somehow, their own favoured tipples – as if sherry and gin do not count as the devil’s potions, brewed to steal your wits and lead you to Hell.
But there was no whisky that night, though I am happy to admit to it on other occasions. After all, it is a quick, easy way of making gaps in your existence, if that is what you are after.
So … there was a fire, as testified by those who pulled me from it, and by the charred detritus of my worldly goods – and of my body. Yes, my body bears witness, but not my mind. Not my consciousness, for I remember nothing. Even the knowledge of the stove and tea towel were presented to me later. Lucky, some say. Better that way – to have been pushed into such dense oblivion by the fumes, and to fall from that into an even deeper chasm of unconsciousness (the greatest depth of my gap), so that I did not know the worst of the pain, or the prodding, patching and finishing that was needed to put me back together again, into some reasonable fashion. Did not know … until I finally woke and had to face the torment, and battle through it (such floundering, such darkness, then!) Making tentative steps forward into painful reality, interspersed with welcome lapses back into insensibility … one step forward, two steps back. Onwards, upwards, until…
Until I am here. Now. Again. Yes, I have come through on the other side. For there is always this about gaps – the suggestion that they can be bridged or crossed; that they are something to emerge from. It may take time, and much effort. But, with some luck, and hope, you can make it. Maybe.
That is how it seems to me now – now that I am trying to put my life back together, and make sense of it all. Yet, in truth, none of what happened should have been strange to me. I should have been prepared. I should have known all about absences from consciousness; lapses from reality. I should have remembered. But back then we called such things by different names. We wrapped them in strange words, or wove them into magical imaginings, all meant to cloak, disguise or simply hide them. And so the truth was left unsaid, replaced by uncertainty and bewilderment. Another kind of gap; a deep, churning river that you struggled through, leaving you reaching for understanding like a drowning man gasping for air. But since I came back here, amongst you, memories have been returning – not from the accident, but from my earliest years, as if they are needed now. Like the echoing words, they flash into my mind, clear, not clouded. And beyond them, something else is taking shape – something not fixed, yet, not fully revealed, but which, if I start with what is definite, will also, perhaps, become more clear, so that I, too, will have some kind of story…
Continue reading ‘Intervals in making lace’ for free here.