Jenny Hauser is from Berlin and stumbled into Dublin via Kuwait, London and Cork but is impressed with where aimless wandering can get you. She is a journalist and PhD student of media studies at DIT. Photography has been her consistent sidekick since she was a teenager and she studied film and photography in London after leaving school but before she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. More photos can be seen on her criminally neglected blog and she can be found on Twitter @jenny_hauser.
– By E.M. Reapy
Our youngest child, Patti, came bawling through the door, her plump face red, dribble bubbling from her mouth.
My instinct seized my gut as I rushed over to her and asked, ‘What is it, honey?’ trying to keep the alarm from my voice. My husband Bill stayed in his chair but watched us intently.
‘Cooper- And – Justin Beiber,’ she said, struggling to get the words out. ‘Cooper and Justin Beiber, they- they-‘ And then she broke down.
‘Where are they?’ I asked.
She pointed to the wall behind me and I knew she meant the garden. I scooped her up in my arms and kissed her fair curls a couple of times, shushing and cooing her. I walked out to through the sliding doors in the kitchen. The day was marshy, grey clouded but dry for the moment.
Cooper was to the left of a crow, his paw clawing the fat, awkward looking bird, Justin Beiber was to the right and took swipes from that side. The cats wailed like pained babies and the disorientated crow cawed deep and mournful.
‘Oh Jesus,’ I said and shielded Patti’s head. I took her back inside. ‘Daddy, come out here for a minute,’ I said and Bill paused his TV show.
‘She alright?’ he asked me as he rose.
‘Yeah. But we have a situation.’
I gave Patti my phone to play around with and promised we’d be back to her in a minute.
I took Bill’s hand and ushered him to the garden. The cats had grown bored. Cooper leapt onto the wall and patrolled around. Justin Beiber skulked on the grass while the crow, like he was headless, rather than half headless, flapped and cocked erratically, blood making his breast shiny and reddening the dewy grass around him.
‘It’s awful,’ I said.
Bill nodded at me and gave my palm a gentle squeeze.
‘The bird, it’s not fair is it? We need to stop the misery.’
I could feel emotion threaten up my chest to my throat. I didn’t like crows, little pricks that woke me up most mornings, even before Patti did with her hopping and cuddling and playing. They squawked demented as early as 5am sometimes, before the night had even lifted. But this little one had been destroyed by our pets, by the creatures that we fed and allowed roam our house and snuggle up beside us on the couch.
Bill inspected the bird but didn’t touch it. ‘How will I do it?’ he asked and I shrugged.
‘Just do something, hit it with a stick or something?’
‘Ah no, I can’t do that. What if Patti caught me? No,’ he said. He took a deep breath and bunched the bird into his hands. I was shivery.
The cats eyed us from different angles of the garden.
He went to one of Patti’s sand buckets. It was filled with Irish summer rainwater.
‘Sorry birdy,’ he said and plunged it into the bucket. The crow didn’t put up too much of a fight but then again Bill had strong worker’s hands. I dread to think of me trying to drown it, its wings flittering and protesting, me screaming, flittering and protesting.
Bill put the dead bird beside the bucket and said, ‘I’ll get a shovel, will I?’ and went to get a shovel.
Cooper and Justin Beiber sprang over to sniff at the bird.
The choke in me changed shape.
Cooper strutted towards me and purred against my leg. I recoiled and nudged him away with my shin, ‘Go away,’ I said but he rubbed, clinged, his furry heat on my skin.
I tried again to shoo him away before using my foot,
and into his face.
EM Reapy is from Mayo, has an MA in Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and edits wordlegs.com . In 2013, she was awarded an Arts Council Literature Bursary for her debut collection. She is the Irish representative for PEN International’s New Voices Award and directs Shore Writers’ Festival in Enniscrone. Follow her @emreapy
The Mask of Ophelia
– By K.S. Moore
The stage is closed up but dressed up in loud gold curtains. The only figures visible are marble formed, lazy operators, leaning against pillars. Behind the scenes are murmurs, sideways looks and put downs. All is a flurry of preparation, hair scraped, make up on. Nobody has time.
Martha has less than most; the fear has stolen it all. She sits, tense and shivering at her dressing table, a mug of steaming black coffee beside her. She hasn’t even begun to apply her make up. Her hands are too clammy.
Leonardo hovers, offering comfort or condemnation. He is sly, ever watchful and yet she is addicted to his company. They first met at the auditions for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘. He was the obvious choice for Puck with his diminutive stature and wicked edge.
She had harboured dreams of playing Titania but was eventually cast as Mustardseed. The role was better than it appeared. The production was a blend of drama and ballet and she was given extra dialogue and a solo dance. She had hated the colour of her costume though; a shade of yellow that fell somewhere between bile and peanut butter. She had felt ugly and not good enough.
Looking back, she had been blessed, cast in a role that did not place her under too much pressure but still up there on the main cast list. Everyone told her she had stolen the show. The critics called her and Leonardo ‘the stars of tomorrow’, whereas the actress playing Titania was labelled ‘frigid’ and ‘disconnected’.
When Martha had been chosen to play Ophelia in ‘Hamlet‘ she had felt beyond ecstatic. But the madness and despair of the role must be catching. She can almost feel the water closing over her head. It had taken hold in the dress rehearsal as Hamlet struggled to remember even one line of his soliloquy. His fragility was unnerving, as were his heavy lidded eyes.
When he asked her to ‘get thee to a nunnery’ she felt like racing straight there. But she is imprisoned in this role.
Steering her senses back to the present, she sees Leonardo advance towards her, a hip flask in his hand.
“This will take the edge off.”
But she is too afraid the alcohol will rob the shine from her performance, make her sluggish and inclined to slur. Jerkily, she shoots out a hand to stop Leonardo. She catches him mid-pour and the liquid trickles out onto the carpet. It smells like her Father’s going out jacket, slightly chemical, with a hint of the outdoors.
She listens, detached as Leonardo curses and leaves to find a rag. She is usually distraught when he is angry with her but tonight she is untouchable. She is still immobile when he returns to furiously scrub at the carpet.
“I’m not giving up on you!”
A few members of the chorus, butterfly in. They feign concern, giving themselves an excuse to be present. Both Martha and Leonardo know they care for nothing but their own aspirations. Leonardo glowers until they all drift away, leaving only the sickly union of their perfumes.
The word signals the start of the rescue operation. Leonardo swoops on the foundation, measuring out the exact amount required for each cheek and for Martha’s high forehead. He dots, blends and expands, taking the reddish hue from her skin, replacing it with a pale sheen: the mask of Ophelia.
His next task is to darken Martha’s eyes. They are green and watery but by the time he is finished they are vibrant, enormous. He has swirled black and silver eyeshadow, given her eyes shape with incisive dark eyeliner and finished the look by attacking her eyelashes with mascara. She now resembles a doll. All her features are exaggerated and there is no life in her eyes. She has still not woken up.
“The dress Martha, where is the dress?”
Leonardo’s words have become a hiss and Martha feels no compulsion to answer him. She is lost in memories of triumphant moments, spontaneous outbursts of applause, encores and cheers. If only she could take back the control from these memories. She has been that person. She can be her again. But before she can complete the transformation, she is drowning in cloth.
Leonardo has found the dress and is forcing it over her head. For the first time since sitting down at the dressing table she moves, feels slippery, like the first catch of the day. She doesn’t know whether she is complying or fighting but she cannot sit there like a dummy. Halfway through the struggle, she realises it is Ophelia she is resisting.
When it is over, she looks at herself in the mirror. She resembles a bride from the Romantic Gothic era, doomed to be wedded to a monster. The parallels are accurate. The stage has become her enemy and she is an innocent all over again. She understands now, that the dress has become her catalyst. It is terribly significant, symbolic of Ophelia’s purity and trust.
Leonardo attempts to remove her from the chair. He has long sharp fingernails like a girl. She winces but stays put. Her bare shoulders are fraught with red and she feels like the sacrifice has already begun.
Leonardo is stronger than he looks. He hauls her up, out of the chair and her eyes take in the dull colours of his costume, a peep of cream shirt, a laced brown topcoat and black felt hat. He is like a drab garden bird, nothing like his flamboyant appearance in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. She wonders if tonight will be a step down for him.
At last, she is standing, although swaying slightly. She is glad she didn’t take the drink. She feels otherworldly enough. She opens her mouth to say she will not go out there, but Leonardo speaks first.
“You are going out on that stage. Do you hear me? This is your big chance!”
The moment she realises he is serious, she hears the gong of her own heart, gathering speed until it is battering her from the inside. She has no idea how to quiet it, so moves forward in its pounding company. Leonardo is not touching her, yet she can feel his presence at her back and knows he will not allow her to turn.
She finds herself in the wings, regarding the action on stage, wondering how it can ever include her. She is incapable of speech, has no fight left and cannot even run away.
“Martha, it’s you, it’s Ophelia!”
Leonardo nudges her out from behind the curtain. Her heart is wilder than ever. At least she cannot see the audience. The lighting is so acute, all their faces blend into a silver mush. She finds herself wandering towards it as the floor tilts up.
She’s going down.
K. S. Moore was one of the FlashMob 2013 finalists, with her story: ‘Old and Free’. She also had a piece called ‘Bones’ selected for publication in National Flash Fiction Day’s FlashFlood Journal. A poem of hers will appear in the Winter issue of Welsh literary magazine: The Seventh Quarry. She has a background in publishing and ran a company called ‘Young Welsh and Poetic’ between 2005 and 2008. During this time she published pamphlets and full collections by young writers and produced four poetry collections of her own. She blogs at: ksmoore.com and has had articles published at Irish magazine site: Writing.ie. Recent achievements include performing her poetry at Waterford Writers’ Weekend, and being awarded a place on Artlinks Clinic Mentoring with Grace Wells. She is also the Clonea & Rathgormack Correspondent for The Munster Express.