Between Plates


I’d chosen to sleep in the shower tray – I think it was the curtain, cream and not entirely opaque, that made the location attractive. Credit to her, she went right along with it, stood on a chair so she could reach up to blankets on the top shelf of the airing cupboard. I saw she was careful to overlook anything that had fringing or tassels – I like to think I would have been the same.

To my surprise my dream on the first night rippled with carnality. Yet all I could do was witness it as if through a diver’s helmet, and it might be that the only reason why I awoke was because this monotonous churning required my body’s collaboration in order to flesh-out its hopeless formulations. However, once reacquainted with the physical world, certain details pertaining to its enclosed scope were similarly pressing and evocative.

I found myself, for example, fixed upon the curtain rings, which led me to remember a well-timed storm, beneath which I had made a temporary escape – that’s to say I didn’t go anywhere but for the time I stood before the divested window I experienced an unusual affinity with all that I could see and hear, and I remember thinking, all this talk about childhood is simply getting in the way.

I tried to turn things back, and sure enough the light resiled, turned the air to satin, so that every movement was countered or supported, obscured or exposed. Many things were discovered, reversals mostly, and although I do not believe in miracles – that the transgression of a law constitutes one – when gravity is gone, and when one sees – quite clearly – themselves reflected horizontal with nothing beneath them and the edges of my arms variegated with the tips of oval feathers and my hair narrowed into small claws and my hands clubbing at the unseen face – all this as silent as the owl’s hunt – beckon and I will come.

She arrived, head over the rail as if the curtain were fixed – strange, but I liked it – somewhere behind it her mouth groped around for the firmness of words and in the interim her eyes straddled the shower lever – go ahead drench me if you like I thought.

‘Well’ I said, ‘What is it? What news?’ ‘The hazel copse is on fire’, she said, ‘It cannot be saved’. ‘Don’t believe anything’ I said, removing the tape and nudging the lever simultaneously. What dexterity! ‘Those rods will beat the flames, you’ll see, beat them right down. Not even fire can vanquish the wickedness here’. And then I stuffed up the cracks and the holes and the escapes so I could hear the water no more, and it surrounding my ears.

Morning unpacked itself so neatly. Everything in its place. The stifled napkins, the crystal water jug, a little dish for salt, a miniature brass mill for pepper – what civility!

And then breakfast began, in the old sequence – the rim of me was touched, moved even, and yet in some remote compartment an oppressive sensation was reinstalled – now and then, between plates, I watched my fingers move and thought about driving the fork between my knuckles. A traditional breakfast, with no variation or twist, each item served separately and no two dishes overlapping. The egg first, with its impeccable white surround. Then one sausage, horizontal, leering, leering a little I thought. A cluster of small splitting tomatoes followed. Bacon, then, two strips. Criss-crossed. Of course the final dish was the dish I like the most – black pudding.

Even slices of black pudding arranged on their sides like improbable dominoes or a henge perhaps, with the light coming through. One by one, she brought them to me, with nothing overlapping. On those small white plates.

The small white plates that become translucent when held up to the light.

Indeed, I brought the last small white plate up to the sunlight – and there it was, the other hand, clearly visible on the other side, fingers moving just like the beguiling grass we used to thrash through, all the way along the river bank. Before both disappeared into the chastising filigree of an unlit hazel copse.


Claire-Louise Bennett

Claire-Louise Bennett writes experimental fiction and creative non-fiction. She is putting together a book that charts the interplay between those two oblique territories. It is quite rural. It is also probably a very strange love letter. She has had work featured in many publications including The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, and The White Review. She is also a recipient of a Literature Bursary from Ireland’s Arts Council. Recently she won The White Review’s inaugural short fiction prize; her story can be found here.

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