Jenny Holden's 'Enclosure'


The clock will follow the man, insofar as it will follow anyone. First, he must learn how to die. Then, how to live. There will be a desire to mark out, build walls and square off edges. Essential that he know the distance between the bars of shadow and light on the sundial, and what is at his disposal, and how much. Count it out. To look at the thing is to be brave, and also to be a man. There is a need for certain metals, and a knowledge of the pendulum's swing – if it goes so far this way, can you be sure it will come back? The meeting of brass, stuttering shark-fin, and its brother, keen to get on with it. It's what we're all doing, love, but carry on, we're behind you! A shudder, the briefest friction, and the thing is done. On we go – round and round.
    Pace your land, draw up the deeds. Set your men to work with hammers and iron, or eke out their leisure-time in pastry and decanters shot with light, in the motion of a knife through parsley, the complicated meeting of white and green. Sweetmeats and fruit, lavender and port on the side and never heeding the sky turning blue to black through high windows. Live always in Bede's hall, heads about the table wavering by candlelight. A cry, or laugh, and a closed fist creased into itself as the knots in the oak worn smooth over time. You place a hand to the wall; first it is cold, and then you wonder if you are – it responds to you as flesh, or stone to stone. The glass swells at the bottom of each diamond pane. Your heart isn't what it was – perhaps you are growing too old for this.

When first light is making a ghost of the pine forest, send them out with saws and chains. Down by the ponds; make something of yourself. Look out on what you have, and breathe easier. A chime off in the house makes you start – crows upwards suddenly from the trees, which are solidifying into their right shapes. Dawn always gives over to day, you know this. And yet – last night you dreamt of a life without walls, of a tide that wouldn't turn, and men off everywhere, unable to finish what they have started…

*Jenny Holden was runner-up in the 2009 Orange/Harper's Bazaar Short Story Competition. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in nthposition, Horizon Review, Brand Literary Magazine, The Literateur, Fuselit, Fractured West, Junctures Journal, likestarlings and (Short) Fiction Collective.

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