Our new short story of the month is ‘All Through the Night’ by Angela Graham from her debut short story collection A City Burning.
A man looks back to the night his marriage reached its tipping-point on a cliff-top in west Wales.
A city burns in a crisis − because the status quo has collapsed and change must come. Every value, relationship and belief is shaken and the future is uncertain.
In the twenty-six stories in A City Burning, set in Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy, children and adults face, in the flames of personal tragedy, moments of potential transformation. On the threshold of their futures each must make a choice: how to live in this new ‘now’.
The story ‘All Through the Night’ was first published in the Irish journal Crannóg which nominated it for the prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2019.
This is an excerpt, read the full story for FREE on the Seren website here.
All Through the Night
I look back now with a kind of dread, yet dread is about the future, about what’s going to happen, not what has already happened. So I dread…? The memory of pain.
I never thought of myself as a man given to gestures. Imagination I do have, but I tend to keep it to myself.
I remember the road: the little road under the starlight that summer. It was the year Mam and Dad sold the farm. I didn’t want it. They kept the farmhouse and the little bwthyn that had been the kernel of the homestead. You and I had used it for years already for holidays with the kids. They loved its thick walls and deep window-ledges.
At Clogwyn Uchel, on the very edge of Wales, the roads are dark (some of them are tracks, really) and the stars sort of spread themselves out overhead, display themselves, with a careless glamour; or like something much more homely, like sugar spilt across a slate, but up there, up above. A sprinkling of sugar overhead. Very confusing if you thought about it too much. And higher into the sky – it’s hard to describe! – there’s a hazy cloud of them. Growing up at Clogwyn Uchel and I never bothered to learn much about them. Anyway, the stars do what they do whether we notice them or not. They’re not waiting for our attention.
On a clear night like that one they shed enough light to see your way and the chalky ground of the lane helps. It’s a glimmering path up to the bwthyn, reflecting light from far, far above. Sometimes it even seems to me as though a bit of the sky has dropped to earth because the little white stones are like a rough and tumble Milky Way between the hedges.
You walked ahead of me, Mari. Blindly, I thought. Or like someone who’d been dazzled by something. Your feet took you.
Your mind? Numbed.
Probably. We all have to do so much guess-work about each other! What is she feeling? What will she do next? What does she want?
“Do you love him?” I called out. But you didn’t stop, or look back, or speak. I’m sure you heard me. You went on, into the little house.
I couldn’t. I walked around it to where the sea suddenly presents itself. A shock! Always. Always that shiver at finding yourself on the edge of a cliff. Acres of water ahead in a dark mass. The endlessness of the sea. It doesn’t stop. It goes about its business, rushing and crushing, floating boats, flexing itself. That night it was shuddering.
The stars. Some flung themselves down the sky. Mad bastards. Most looked on in a dignified way, blinking mildly at this recklessness. And I thought of the song. Its beautiful tune.
Holl amrantau’r sêr ddywedant
Ar hyd y nos.
Ar hyd y nos. All through the night.
Nothing like the crappy English version. Sickly-sweet, that. And boring. “Soft the drowsy hours are creeping… visions of delight revealing… hill and vale in slumber steeping”. And the stars don’t get a look-in! Not a mention. You pointed that out to me. When you were learning Welsh. “How come…?” you asked. You were always asking that. “Why is the verb here? Why do I have to say…?” Whatever.
And I’d say, “It just is, Mari. I don’t know why. Ask your teacher, cariad. Gwyn knows all that stuff.”
Yes, he did, didn’t he?
Finish reading ‘All Through the Night’ on the Seren website here.
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