‘Blackie’ by Elizabeth Spencer

Blackie by Elizabeth Spencer, 2012

The magic trick:

Showing how familial pressure can turn into a horror story

We’re off to Virginia this week.

Elizabeth Spencer was 90 when this story was published. Truly amazing.

It’s a powerful story. Emily is under constant pressure to make everything normal and balanced. As a result, there is a palpable stress hanging over the calm, warm moments of the story. So, you can imagine how the tension ratchets up when the plot thickens.

It’s a remarkable way of creating something akin to a horror story out of what is, in most ways, a standard family drama. And that’s quite a trick on Spencer’s part. 

The selection:

Mr. Earl was happy she was home. Blackie pawed her skirt until she patted her head. Hubert came home from college for the weekend, just to see her, he said. “We didn’t know what you were doing over there,” he told her, and was only partly joking. Lawrence, having closed a good business deal, stayed home every night and coddled her. He called her his Dumpling: she was small and almost plump, easy to hold. They made love slowly, with considerable pleasure. Concluding, he murmured, “It’s close to perfect.” Sliding contented into sleep, she knew it was the whole of the household he meant.

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