‘The Beginning Of A Long Story’ by Maeve Brennan

The Beginning Of A Long Story by Maeve Brennan, 1961

The magic trick:

Bringing the reader back to a familiar house

I am beyond thrilled to announce the arrival of Maeve Sumner Walpole, the first daughter to my wife and I, and I believe she most certainly is a future fan of the short story. How could she not be? She shares her name with one of my favorite short story writers – Maeve Brennan.

So, wish us luck. I’ve got the magic tricks scheduled to post for the next year or so while I go about learning the much greater magic trick called being a father. In the meantime, here is a wonderful, early Maeve Brennan story to celebrate the occasion.

“The Beginning Of A Long Story” takes us back to familiar Brennan territory – the little row house in suburban Dublin. A mother, a father, three young daughters. The long hallway to the kitchen. The linoleum floor. She writes often of this house. Three, maybe four, different families show up in her stories. But always the same house.

There is so much I could say about this story. It’s a wonderful, magical story, full of so much truth, you will feel immediately like you know these characters. But I’ll leave off here. The house is the thing. Faulkner had his Yoknapatawpha County. Maeve Brennan had her 48 Cherryfield Avenue.

And that’s quite a trick on Brennan’s part.

The selection:

There was a dark-red carpet on the stairs, held in place by brass rods. The mother polished the brass rods every week, starting at the top and kneeling on every step on her way down. It was not a long way. One time she had taken all the rods out of the stairs and had taken them down to the kitchen to give them all a proper cleaning and Bridget had worked her way in under the carpet and had sat there on the bare stair, making a big lump in the middle under the carpet, and nobody could go up or come down. There was no one upstairs. They were all downstairs. The mother and Ellen and Johanna had stood at the front of the stairs and implored Bridget to have sense and come out but Bridget only laughed and said she would come out when she liked.

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