CREATIVE Mark Blayney

NWR Issue 121

The Devil Next Door

Look across the road early evening – they moved in today and have not yet put up curtains. They pace diagonally in the frame of glass, touch- ing each other’s sides as they pass. That time of night when the lights are on, the sky is violet but there is no such thing as evening, the windows stay summered. I’m doing the same: my light is on and I am visible.

Two commissions this week, or I would not work this late. I throw my largest drape over Lord Stocke but he is too tall for it: pinstriped legs now appear beneath a paint-splattered skirt. I go through to the kitchen, take the whisky from the shelf. Surely it’s lower than I left it last night. It’s as if someone is coming in and drinking it for me.

Lilac panel of sky above the sink. Four stars appear in the top left, looped like the chain round Lord Stocke’s neck. I go back to him, lift the cover, study yesterday’s handiwork. It’s like a lavatory pull around his shoulders. Why have I not noticed this before? I laugh out loud, whisky in hand. The ice cubes chime along. Enough for the day.

Over the road they stand by their window, seemingly looking at me. A hand snakes round a waist, then onto a breast. As if realising I am there, finally they walk back and disappear behind the lamp light.


A dray pulls up outside – another delivery. The driver lifts the sheet, the horse kicks hooves and snorts in the heat. It’s too early for it to be this hot. As if showing what it thinks, the horse drops a large pyramid of manure. The driver side-steps, holding the panel to one side and swaying it back and forth, dancing with Lady Kittingley who I know is hiding demurely under its wraps. I watch as he carries it up to the door and taps.

It is all the rage: to bring your old portrait up to date by being redecorated. It creates a somewhat spooky effect – a modish figure emerges from a background that might be thirty or forty years old – two people clash for the same space. But the real-life versions of the new figures do not notice this. They just like the fact that they still look young when the painting is old...

Mark Blayney was highly commended this summer in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2019 Rheidol Prize for Writing with a Welsh Theme or Setting. This is an extract from his entry.


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