Monday, August 20, 2018

Two Short Stories Involving Girls Suppressing a Memory of Betrayal

Title: The Girl Who Loved Graveyards
Author: P.D. James (Phyllis Dorothy James)
Where I Read It: Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales

It was to be another warm day, and over the serried rows of headstones lay a thin haze pierced by the occasional obelisk and by the wing tips of marble angels whose disembodied heads seemed to be floating on particles of shimmering light. And as she watched, motionless in an absorbed enchantment, the mist began to rise and the whole cemetery was revealed to her, a miracle of stone and marble, bright grass and summer-laden trees, flower-bedecked graves and intersecting paths as far as the eye could see.
This is a quiet, brutal story. It ends with the main character going on a journey to uncover her past, only to find a great gaping nothing. What awaits her is the recognition of a guilt and loss that have already hollowed out her life.

The story begins when she moves in with her aunt and uncle around her 10th birthday. She has been told that her father and grandmother both died of the flu. Until she becomes an adult, her main pleasure in life is to take refuge in a local graveyard. She feels most at home among the dead.

Her aunt and uncle aren't affectionate, and she doesn't have friends. The one relic from her life before her aunt and uncle's house is a cat, and she doesn't even like it. Although she has stifled her memories of her earlier childhood, the events she doesn't remember have left their stamp on her and her relationship with everyone and everything around her.
Those first ten years were a void, unsubstantial as a dream that had faded but that had left on her mind a scar of unarticulated childish anxiety and fear.
The part of the story when she rediscovers these events is horrifying. Memories spring to life, bringing clarity but no hope.
It seemed to her that she had passed through a barrier of fear as a tortured victim might pass through a pain barrier into a kind of peace.

Title: Lavender Lady
Author: Barbara Callahan
Where I Read It: Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

A folk singer has written a song about a nanny who watched over her as a child. The song speaks of love, devotion, and sudden loss. But when she sings it, she becomes overwhelmed with sadness and fatigue, as if the song demands an extraordinary amount of energy to complete.

The story is a good example of the mind's denials betrayed by the body's truth. The singer doesn't want to examine the beautiful lies she's spun around her former nanny. Her conscious mind can't accept the truth. Her body, however, betrays the presence of a dark memory.