From now on, every Monday I will join John at The Book Mine Set and others for “Short Story Monday” and will try to post a short-story review or a thought on the short-story genre.
For this first post, I have chosen a story by Alison Moore, “When the Door Closed, It Was Dark”. But first, let me tell you a few words about this chapbook. It is published by Nightjar, a small press in Manchester. Every six months, Nightjar Press publishes two chapbooks. There are only 200 or 300 copies of each title and all are numbered and signed by the author. You can order them by contacting Nicholas Royle; a nice way to support a small press dedicated to the short story.
This story is set in a hot stuffy summer, which helps to create the suffocating atmosphere of the story. It made me feel really uncomfortable, which I guess is a sign of how successful the writing is. As the story progresses, it gets creepier and at no time do we get any relief.
Tina is a young woman from England. She has just arrived to some foreign country to work as an au pair for a family in mourning composed of the baby, Father, Uncle and Grandmother, who live in a flat reached by a steep outside staircase. Her difficulties to integrate the family are worsened by the fact that they have made sure there is no way of escape for her, taking her money and passport away from her. Tina is thus estranged from the family but also cut away from her own family and country, thus increasing the claustrophobia already present because “when the door closed, it was dark”.
At some point, Tina muses: “She recalled reading somewhere that if a woman is carrying a cup of tea down the stairs and falls, she won’t drop the cup because she will think it’s a baby”; indeed…
The end of the story brings you back to its beginning. The story remains open-ended; yet, there are just enough clues through the narrative to allow the reader to come to some interpretation, though not to a closure. As soon as I finished the story, I wanted to read it again in order to appreciate all the significance present in each carefully-chosen word. This, I believe, shows how well crafted this story is.