Nighttime brings a different rhythm

Place des Abbesses, 18 Arr., Paris - Photo by Claire Tracey
Place des Abbesses, 18 Arr, Paris – Photo by Claire Tracey

Photography – Claire Tracey lives and works in Dublin. She has previously lived in France, Italy and Singapore. She has also travelled throughout Asia, America, Canada and Europe. Claire is currently working on her first screenplay.

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Short Story: The Exhumation of Parnell                                                  

– By Ross Weldon

We walked down Harcourt Street, ding-ding of a tram, past the Unitarian Church “Love is the doctrine of this church”, bla, bla, bla, onto Grafton Street, flowers love, I grab a bunch of chrysanthemums and hand her a crumpled tenner.

–      These are for you.

–      Beautiful, she said.

We ducked into Neary’s, the barmen in dickey bows, and slunk into the back corner.

–      What will you have?

–      A glass of Guinness, she said.

–      A pint and a glass please.

–      The wife not with you today?

–      She’s dead.

I have been married for two years but it’s a sorry, dull affair. Two weeks ago I caught my wife masturbating over a copy of Men’s Health. I watched her fumble the pages, trying to build a rhythm, a wave. I thought it pathetic. She visits the gym every day. She takes classes such as krav-maga and pre-pregnancy pilates. It was the first time I’d ever seen her masturbate. I didn’t even know she did. She seemed awkward and apprehensive about it, like it was her first time. I don’t know where she got the copy of Men’s Health, it seemed old, from the dentist’s waiting room perhaps.

I went to the toilet, always just enough time to do so before it settles.

–      Fine bit of stuff you have out there, the man beside me said.

–      Found her in the Iveagh Gardens. She said Edvard Munch visited her in a dream and told her to pursue me.

–      Hmmm…who you shouting for in the match later?

–      I’ve no interest.

I picked up the two drinks and sat down beside her, the chrysanthemums were spread out on the stool across from us, like a bunch of little, white fists.

–      Are you French?

–      Belgian.

–      How did you end up in Dublin?

–      What do you think about this Parnell business, the barman asked an elderly man at the bar.

–      It was his family’s wishes, bloody De Valera’s fault.

On the one o’clock news protestors could be seen outside Glasnevin cemetery. The locals from the Gravediggers watched through the gate, hands greasy from toasted sandwiches.

–      I tracked a flock of starlings to Ireland and lost them. Then I stayed, she said.

–      White-shouldered?

–      European.

She sipped her glass of Guinness, her fleshy lips under the head. She half closed her eyes as she drank. I took a cool mouthful. Always pleasant to be reacquainted, nothing worse than a bad one, chocolate, coffee, mother’s milk.

In Dundrum a woman – nude but for two Tipperary bottles strapped to her back, filled with nitroglycerin – ran around the shopping centre. She shouted “I’m gonna blow the fuck out of this place”. The last sighting of her was in Boots. Boots had been evacuated.

–      My Mary lives out in Dundrum, said the man from the toilet.

No one replied. I thought of my mother and her distaste for Christmas and my father face down on the kitchen floor, half way through a lamb sandwich. The cat licked the butter off the tiles beside him while customers shouted in the bar for more porter.

–      What would you like to do today? I asked.

–      Whatever you would like to do.

She was a nice size, smaller than me in all areas but fleshy with taut, sallow skin, European, classy. I attended French classes and the more verbs I conjugated and conversations about booking hotel rooms in Marseille I had, the more I aspired to a brief affair with a Francophile.

–      Another pint and a glass there please.

I have fumbled through the last 6 years, bounced from indecision to regret to self loathing, repeated rotten lies about the future to myself and listened to everyone but myself.

The Belgian picked them up and paid for them. I gulped the second back. I tapped the side of my glass. She looked at the walls and the thick green carpet and took gentle sips from her glass. I could smell dry roasted peanuts, earthy.

–      Some fella’s swimming around the pond in the Green, a broad man said as he walked in the door.

–      Will you bring me to a gallery? she asked.

We finished our drinks and made for the new gallery, down Grafton Street, crowds gathered around a man standing still on the street, people wait on buses on Nassau Street, Romanian gypsies outside the car park on Andrew’s Lane, rain, Dame Street, more people, more buses, Christ Church bells, vinegar soaked chips, junkies climb over the fence of St. Auden’s church, children calling us “cunts” on Thomas Street, toilet rolls for sale on Meath Street, the heavy air around Guinness’s, smells like Weetabix tastes, the top of the hill, down the hill and up the hill to the new gallery, colonial and white.

When I wake up beside my wife all I want to do is get up.

There was a special exhibition on dedicated to new Irish artists. The first floor featured pictures of a fat woman in the nude. One of the outside galleries featured a room full of hand sized stones with miniature name badges like big stone, funny stone, moody stone, flirty stone, diligent stone, accountant stone. The information on the sidewall indicated that visitors were free to walk among the stones, as if you were at a party. The Belgian mingled. She stood in a section of the room where the artistic stones seemed to congregate, between actor stone and interpretative dancer stone and delighted in their pleasure.

She laid her hand on my upper back as we walked and rubbed the part where my spine becomes my neck.

In the basement café we ate carrot and fennel soup with a cardamom seed bread.

–      Why didn’t you get the ham? she asked.

–      I have a pork aversion.

In Paris I ate andouillette sausage. I later read that “The faeces-like aroma of hot andouillette can be attributed to the common use of the pig’s colon (chitterlings) in this sausage, and stems from the same compounds that give faeces some of its odours.”

I had to buy cigarettes afterwards to remove the taste from my mouth. It was a taste that mints could not remove. In L’Olympia that night the music was rhythmic and jazzy and the lights looked like fireflies but I burped throughout with each one tasting of faeces.

She slurped her soup. We drank two quarter bottles of red wine. Lyric FM played in the background. I always loved Variation d’Apollan, she remained silent while it was on.

In general, Paris is not as clean as I would like. In Spring there are rats everywhere, undeterred by the rain, bigger than those in Dublin.

She stroked the side of my face and smiled at me. It was an uncomfortable situation. I didn’t know if Belgian’s were by nature affectionate. I got a bit of an erection but it may have been because I was warm, comfortable and tipsy. She smiled at me. I looked back at her. We left.

A breeze blew down the quays and the Belgian clung to me. She was warm and I could feel her breasts through her coat press against the side of my arm. She ran her hand down my spine on the inside of my jacket, on the outside of my sweater. The Liffey was a strange colour, a rich maroon, like thick carpet from the 80s. My erection piped up again. A pack of stray dogs walked out of St. James’ Gate.

I asked her to wait outside my apartment block on Wood Quay as I had to return home. I opened the letterbox outside my apartment. There was a letter from Martha, she is penniless in Costa Rica and wants me to follow her there. I wonder is your face still round and pretty. People used to ask me was there any Asian in you as your eyes were ever so slanted, a mother from Hong Kong perhaps or a father from Singapore? They were both from Crumlin. I put the letter into my pocket and ran up the steps to my apartment. I brought Maria a lump of coral from the mantelpiece, which she appreciated.

–      Where did you get it?

–      The Perhentian islands.

I went there on my honeymoon, my wife brought lacy underwear, it was sexy the first night but became repetitive and tiresome after a while, as things often do unless you’re a dog or a parakeet.

Four birds flew by and hit the widows of the hotel on Fishamble Street, all within seconds of each other. They slid down the panes, their little skulls cracked, two writhed on the ground, the Belgian looked at me. I stood on their necks.

–      It’s what your meant to do, I seen it on a wildlife program before.

She wept a little.

–          I know, she said.

We swung through the small bar door of the Lord Edward and perched on two high stools beside the long mirror and facing the frosted glass windows.

–      Two Jamesons please, drop of water.

She wiped her tears with the cuff of her coat. I thought of the Origin of the World, thick and hairy, warm and odorous. Corbet was wasted on animals. We sipped our Jamesons and I listened in to other people’s conversations.

–      First Parnell then your one in Dundrum, then the young fella in the Green.

–      It’s the drugs Colm.

How much would a ticket to Costa Rica be? I could fly there and help Martha and she would come back in tears, vulnerable, weak and pliable.

The Belgian invited me back to her apartment. It is in the basement of a Georgian house along the canal. She pays no rent in exchange for doing the housework for an elderly woman. The old woman was still up, she stared blankly at me, her catheter bag reflected specks of light around the tastefully decorated room. Maria made coffee in a percolator. On TV women and children fought outside Glasnevin cemetery, she kissed my neck, the coffee bubbled and the lid tapped, the police were called in, she kissed under my ear, the percolator tipped over and I could hear the coffee being burned on the hotplates of the small cooker, the women beat the children but the authorities moved in to support them, the airforce commenced flour bag drops to disorientate the women and the children scampered around them. They bit their thighs.

In the evening the old woman likes a taste of honey. The Belgian took a small pot from the press and dunked the bulbous head of the honey spoon in, she turned it in the pot, the old woman held her head back and the Belgian drizzled honey in a long thin stream into the woman’s mouth, some of it fell on the side of her mouth.

–      Would you like some? the Belgian asked.

The old woman turned her head to me. There was honey on her chin. She disapproved.

–      Sure, I said.

I held back my head and the Belgian spun the honey into my mouth. I heard a gurgling noise from the wheelchair beside me as the old woman protested. I lapped at the honey as it fell into my mouth in a long, endless, golden brown line.

It is six in the morning. The Belgian is lying naked on her back with the sheets only covering her feet. I look into her black knickers on the ground. They have that small stain that all women’s knickers seem to have that looks a bit like ear wax and outside the window thousands of starlings fly aimlessly in nauseating black waves.

Ross Weldon lives in Dublin and has participated in courses with Some Blind Alleys. He has previously had work published on Some Blind Alleys – the online journal and in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.

Abandonment - Photo by Claire Tracey
Abandonment – Photo by Claire Tracey

Modern Version of Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy: Mrs Penelope B

– By Eithne Reynolds

Yes because he never did a thing like that before as to say he doesnt love me yes I know in my heart he loves me so why cant he admit he made a mistake O yes because what about the twelve red roses he bought me just last month I was so surprised getting flowers out of the blue because hes  never done anything like that before either and it was Thursday and he waltzed into the kitchen with this enormous bouquet of red roses and he kissed me ever so gently on the lips just brushed my lips with his and there I was in the middle of preparing dinner with my hands smelling of onions and my hair everywhere and he handed me the roses and I felt a rush of passion I hadnt felt since our first days together and he said that they were just because he loved me and I felt like an awkward teenager and I was trying to clean the onion off my hands and I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time because the time wasnt right and place wasnt right O I want roses over a romantic dinner but he thought I was crying because I was happy and I was happy but well does that matter anymore because two weeks later he dropped the bombshell

O  yes it was Friday night and I had cooked him his favourite dinner because we had the night alone together and I had set the table in the dining room with the fire lighting and I kept going in and out to check that everything was perfect and it was perfect until seven o clock came and he wasnt even home and then eight and I hate ringing him on his mobile because it looks like Im being needy or checking up or naggy so I left it and I sat by the fire watching the candles burn down and I didnt even get up to wipe the candle grease that had fallen on the good tablecloth that his mother had given us  and then he arrived at nine and the two candles were burnt out and I didnt say anything even though I could have said so much and he didnt notice my hair or anything God even Mike in the vegetable shop noticed it when I went to get the stuff for the dinner yes what can I get you Mrs B he said nice hair cut Mrs B must be something important going on in your house tonight Mrs B and I said yes the kids are away so Im having a bit of a party fair play to you Mrs B he said and he didnt ask me how many were invited to the party and I didn’t say that it was just for the two of us but he noticed my hair anyway and Im disappointed that himself didnt notice it but I didnt say anything because I didnt want to spoil the moment although in actual fact it was spoilt anyway and I thought God he doesnt even seem to be hungry because he never lifted the lid off the pot to peek inside like he usually does when he comes in hungry

O I was starving anyway and it was actually nearly ten by the time we sat down and he played with the food for a few minutes and he kept staring at the grease marks from the candles on the table cloth and I suppose it was annoying him but I didnt care at that stage and I knew he had something on his mind and I thought to myself that maybe he had lost his job or something with the recession and the way things are in the bank and I kept saying to myself that werent we lucky we hadnt invested in that apartment on the Costa del Sol after he got the promotion last year yes you know how things go round in your head but he hadnt lost his job and then wait for it he said this in his matter of fact sort of way that he wanted to move out and that he had no where to live yet but he was still looking No he didnt love me anymore and he was sure I could see that and we were both young and he thought we should allow each other space to be free and then the room began to spin and I could hear my voice somewhere in the distance high pitched the way he hates it calling him a liar but I was suddenly scared O what are you saying I asked this foolish question and he put his fork down and left the dinner untouched the lovely dinner I had spent hours preparing but I continued to swallow each mouthful without even tasting what I was eating

God dont let him see that youre upset I kept telling myself to smile and to keep eating and dont let him see any tears and if he thinks hes free hell come back like they all do because they are all the same men are and so I kept eating and he looked at me and I felt he was saying to himself God no wonder shes as fat as she is she should just stop eating for a few minutes and listen to me but I was eating desert before he spoke again and his voice was softer now and I hated that pitying tone and he said you know I really am so sorry he whispered it like he was mortified and then he said the most stupid thing like he really didnt want to hurt me but he had to go and live his life and I just kept smiling afraid to look up in case his eyes were cold and then Id know he was right when he said he didnt love me and that there was no mistake about it so I poured him his coffee and continued to smile and he asked me if I had nothing to say me who has an opinion on everything and I told him no I didnt have anything to say except that he was a liar and he said he wouldnt have the coffee

yes because Saturday was our girls morning out in Bewleys and it wasnt until I met the girls that I finally broke down when I went to tell them what happened and how could he say that I asked the girls repeating it over and over and how could he be so wrong and what about the red roses Yes red roses are for passion and love so he must love me and it was a real puzzler for us all and then Marjorie says what everyone is thinking and I knew Marjorie would be the one to say it because shes  a real bitch that maybe he has another woman and maybe he felt guilty thats how she tried to explain it away and maybe it was one last effort to see if and O I cant let Marjorie finish Yes Marjorie is mistaken just as he was wrong when he said we should split up

O  and he says hes going in three weeks yes but its such a pity because everyone says we always look so happy together and that we are the best fun and I wish they were right and I hope he gets someone who will dance attendance on him the way I do but I close my eyes every night while lying beside him  and I wish on the stars to make him stay and that maybe he really does love me and I often wonder why he has decided to go O yes I often wonder in these lonely nights how we could share babies and children and teenagers and even parents dying yet we cant talk through a problem before it destroys everything and I wonder maybe if I tell him that Ill never curse again then maybe he will stay or maybe if I tell him he is  the best husband ever and if I say that he was right about all the little things I said he was wrong about or maybe if I say he was right about some little things like that then maybe he will admit that he was wrong when he said he didnt love me O yes and then maybe when I ask him if he will ever be able to love me again he will take me in his arms and he will draw me towards him and he will hear my heart beat wildly and then yes he will say yes he will Yes.

Eithne Reynolds is a writer living in Dublin. She is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin where she studied English Literature. In 1994 she obtained a scholarship to The James Joyce Summer School which gave her a great love of Joyce’s work. She has just completed her debut novel White Roses. Check out Eithne’s blog.

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Ode to the Different Beats (San Francisco) – Photo by Claire Tracey

Language of the Birds is an art installation of 23 waterproof books suspended above the street near the famous Jack Kerouac Alley. The Jazz mural was painted to represent the presence of Jazz in San Francisco before the Beat movement and Jack Kerouac.

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Flash Fiction: Goodnight Scarlett

– By Eoin Devereux

The first thing I think of most mornings is that I am still alive. I haven’t died from the cold, been beaten up or robbed as I try to sleep in this doorway. I can’t remember how many weeks I have been sitting and sleeping here. Most people hurry past and ignore me.  Averting their eyes, looking ahead, clasping their car-keys, gripping their Skinny Lattes, their shopping bags or their mobile phones. Mostly, I feel invisible.

My sleeping place is the entrance to a video-store, long since closed down. Inside, a pile of letters, flyers and free newspapers lie scattered on the carpet-tiled floor. All of the shelves are empty, save for a shattered DVD box or two. Scarlett Johansson gazes wistfully from a yellowing sun faded poster on the wall.  The walls inside are pock-marked with balls of Blue-Tack.

The road is busy. On warm days the smells of exhausts and melting tar transports me to a London street. I never beg. I did not have a breakdown. Nor was I a professor of Old English who could speak seven languages.  I try to keep clean and presentable.  I wash myself in the toilet of the ESSO petrol station nearby. The Estonian workers there are very kind and never refuse when I ask for the key. Sometimes, they will hand me a bag of food that has passed its sell by date. We don’t speak to each other much, but there is a sort of camaraderie all the same.

When you sit in a doorway all day, one of the first things you notice are people’s ankles. Fat ankles, skinny ankles, white ankles, swollen ankles, varicous-veined ankles. Don’t talk to me about socks or scuffed shoes. Middle-aged men wearing flesh coloured socks with sandals. Women with vermillion painted toe-nails and fissured heels. I always notice scuffed shoes. They always remind me of Saturdays when I was younger. Our shoes would be lined-up sentry-like on the kitchen table. We all wore black shoes. Two brushes – one for the polish and one for shining. My father would say “Spit costs nothing. I want to be able to see my face in them” and we would energetically shine our shoes, making sure to cover the table with sheets of Friday’s Irish Press.

Nighttime brings a different rhythm. I turn into the door, away from the traffic’s searching lights.  I check my few possessions. My transistor radio, books and family photographs. The photographs are creased and cracked.  I say ‘Goodnight’ to my parents – both now long dead.  I don’t know where my sisters are. I put my paper money in my shoes. I zip up my sleeping bag. I wear my radio headphones to block out the noise. I say ‘Goodnight Scarlett’ and shut my eyes to be lulled to sleep by the static in-between stations.

Eoin Devereux is from Limerick. He teaches at University of Limerick. Eoin is the author of a number of best-selling academic books including Understanding The Media published by Sage (London) in 2007. He is the co-editor of the book Morrissey: Fandom, Representations and Identities. ‘Goodnight Scarlett’ is his first flash fiction story. 

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