Building Skyscrapers by Dara Thomas Higgins

The light unravels outside, spills in the windows, across the floor of the hotel bar. The carpet has become golden with day. What’s it trying to prove? We order another round. I’ve switched to whiskey. It’s more formal. You’re telling me about yourself, like an American would.

-In the eighties, you say, I built skyscrapers in Manhattan.

In the eighties I needed to know that, for the kids on the street who pointed and laughed and said you have no da, you have no da, the kids whose fathers came home and painted purple the eyes of their mothers, the bitter tang of chips and booze on the their tongues, the fucking indifference of the world in their ribcage somewhere. Twanging away, rattling around, bouncing off those bones, playing them like the keys of a xylophone. This dismemberment of maleness. But if I’d known, I could say, me Da’s in New York and he’s building skyscrapers. Fucking skyscrapers. And what’s your da building? A car park, maybe. A shopping centre near Cabra. Maybe his week revolves around the dole office, the promise of a few hours queuing in the blue air for a handful of notes and a trip to the bookies on the way home. My Da, single-handedly building skyscrapers. So high and bright, the sunlight twinkling off the glass, the sky fucked by them, these huge things. Single handed. My Da.

-Well, that’s interesting, I said. And I was interested, maybe somewhat impressed. Pictures of workers on a lunch break, perched on a crossbeam, the vista of New York below them popped into my head. I pictured you there, lunch pail beside you, among the other Irish and Polish and Italian lads. Putting down a real legacy, something that will last and be a source of wonderment for years to come. Something even as it’s being demolished will be a spectacle.

-After that, I went residential. Huge gated communities in Massachusetts.

Somehow there was more money to be made in these prosaic sprawls than in five hundred feet tall skyfuckers. Less magic, more money. Isn’t that always the way? And suddenly I’m disappointed, as if you’ve let me down somehow. As if this is your crime, your talk of millions.

The Irish would never, not even from your generation, bandy digits about with such insouciance. I never have money. I don’t know what it’s like. I know, for example, I couldn’t afford these drinks you’re paying for, the largesse of your tab. Or those chinos that hang elegantly off your slim hips. Or the Ralph Lauren shirt. The heavy gold watch. I couldn’t afford it, I wouldn’t want it.

Maybe things are different for you in America. Here old peoples’ maturity is earned in boredom and submission, and worn across the ordinance of their faces. The American male’s greatest misfortune has been an abundance of choice, the niggling doubt you may have bought the wrong thing, perhaps imparted too much of yourself in that television. Oh, you went with the Sony? Yes, I went with the Sony, what’s wrong with the Sony? There’s nothing wrong, per se. I just went with the Samsung. The fear, the fear.

-What about you, you ask. What about me. I’m ordinary, in the way everything is ordinary. It’s a struggle. It’s a succession of minor failures and harsh lessons, this life. It’s a grind. I read French philosophers and complain to walls life is meaningless. That’s me.

-I read a lot. I listen to music.

-What kind?

You see, that’s disappointing. Small. There’s no genre to me. I’ll listen to anything. I don’t mind, I’m just looking to be moved, and it’s the notes that do it. But seeing as you’re asking, I’m an Arcadia man, before the Power Station. Beatles before Stones. While we’re on it, Paul before John. Beethoven over Mozart. Mozart’s just pop music. Right?

You nod. You tell me how you used to hang on Baggot Street as a youngster, still in school. How you’d sneak in to O’Donaghues and sit there during the epic, legendary sing songs with all the greats. Luke Kelly and Anne Briggs and the like. I picture the yellow walls, the smoke an indoor nimbus and the porter on the tables and the mouths open, the decayed teeth and the singing and the singing, and I wish I’d been there, part of something. There’s nothing here nowadays. No scenes.

-Have you ever mentioned me to your other kids?

-No, I have not. I’ve meant to you know, you say, and rest your head on a folded hand for a second, with some intense middle-distance staring that tells me how difficult it is for you. –When I left here. A pause. –I really felt as if I couldn’t come back. It took years. Then my mother became ill. I came back for the funeral.

Great, another family member I didn’t even know I had bites the dust. Corpses are piling up. I’m beginning to think it’s me.

-And then I saw the country was changing. It wasn’t the same grey, hopeless place I left.

You left me to no hope?

-Have you brought them over? Your other children.

-Sure. Ellen met her husband over here, if you can believe that.

Hold on, my sister, prowling for men in my hometown. Perhaps…

-I will tell them. When we’re all together.

-I’d like to, I start. And then I pause and try the intense inward looking, as you have done. But you misread it or disregard it and plough on, telling me how it’s hard to get them all together with the various ex-wives involved, some less accommodating than others.

-Lana never had any more children? You ask. Lana, my mother. Her death left me orphaned on this continent. Precipitated our meeting. I shake my head. -I was sorry to hear…

-It’s fine. She was sick for a while, so it was a blessing.

I’ve said those words to Lana’s friends repeatedly over the last few months. Save your sorrow. Her life was a painful, the end was a release. But whose suffering ended that day? Mine or hers?

You mumble something about how she was a good woman, and you’re sure she made a good mother, but it’s numbing to me. You stretch, the bad leg, the one with veins that had to be removed, wince almost imperceptibly. You flick an eye towards your watch, and pick up your glass, the ice melted. You swirl it around and neck the remains with a calm finality. You’re telling me this meeting is over, as you must have done hundreds of times before in board rooms across the East Coast, discussing the millions and billions required to shelter humans and their belongings.

-I’m glad we did this, you say, and manage to make it sound almost like you mean it. Here in your hotel, your itinerary didn’t even need to change. To get from the plush, combed velour of the couch here in the bar to your suite is a mere matter of a few steps to the gilded elevator, even after your operation.

-I’ve never been here before, I say uselessly. –It really is as nice as they say, I add, for extra uselessness.

-I stay here every time I’m back.

All those times, and where was I?

A regal twist of your wrist and the waiter’s at your shoulder. You place your tumbler on his tray.

You stand and I stand and we’re separated now by only a couple of feet of foot-deadening pile. We admire each other for a moment. I’m taller than you, broader, but you still have your hair and mine is a chimera, wisps plastered across an all too exposed pate. Grandfather, mother’s side, was a chromedome. Not your fault. Your shoes are polished, my Adidas leak. You’re lithe, an animal quality, as if always poised, even with the stick to aid your recovery. We shake hands. I give it everything I have, but yours is rock solid.–It really was good to see you.

-And, uh. You. And I wonder, should I say anything else. What else does one say? –Maybe I’ll drop into you when I’m in America.

-Sure, you say, with a wide, over-bright smile and a twinkle that says: as if that will happen, and I wonder, briefly, if the bank would be quite so accommodating with their pre-approvals now, post-crash, and sure, isn’t it worth a go. Get out a few grand, head to America, meet the family. Try again. Try life again. Fail life again. Fail it better, American style.

-If you’re ever in New Hampshire, you start. But then you stop, and look out the window at the park across the road, the suffusion of golden evening light. Summer in Dublin, its last breaths. The autumn closing in on us, every syrupy sunset coming earlier and earlier. There’s a look that travels across the smooth, soft sheen of your face, as if something simple has occurred to you. Something so simple and so true, something that’s been there for ever and you haven’t noticed. You’re still holding my hand, and suddenly you grasp me. I grasp back, I don’t know what else to do, and when you fall, you pull me down too. I disentangle myself. You’re convulsing, mouth opening and closing, no sounds in there. A waiter reacts quickly. He drops to his knees and listens to your breathing and thumps your chest. I too am on my knees, leaning over.

-I need some space, says the waiter. –Please.

-He’s my dad, I say. The words I have never uttered previously. They sound strange, too weighty, as if unearned by me. The waiter pummels your chest.

-Please.

Someone else from the hotel runs over. A man returning from the gym who’s a veterinarian offers his help. An ambulance is on its way. I watched your face turn blue, a strange hue of polished cobalt. The bustle of hotel staff removes me from your side, and I have to stand, stumbling backwards, falling into a chair as I watch. Within ten minutes the paramedics are there, which is impressive. I imagine they had a special hotline, places like this, with their exclusive clientele of the wealthy and the privileged. There’s overdosing junkies on Thomas Street being ignored right now. And rightly so. Here is a son of Erin, a captain of industry, who did more than the gombeens he left behind here on this sod. He left, he conquered. He accumulated a few wives, as they do over there, and seven children, upon whom he dotes, and a business portfolio, of which he’s equally proud. He won. He deserves his life.

The paramedics are working furiously. Some other patrons are down the back of the bar, looking on idly. The barman hasn’t stopped pouring drinks. I go to him, and ask for another whiskey. He pours silently, freely, not using the little pewter measure. He nods at me, and I back. I upend the tumbler and suck it all down at once. –Stick it on the tab, I say.

There’s nothing for me to do here. I’m no undertaker. I leave. They don’t notice me, any of them. The paramedics are wheeling in a gurney, less enthusiastically now. Outside is dark. Hours must have passed. I take your gold Rolex from my pocket and check the time. I think of the funeral. I wonder will it be here or in America. I’d like to go to America. Start again. Start life again. Maybe get it right this time.


Dara Thomas Higgins is a writer and musician based in Dublin. He currently writes screenplays for State Broadcaster RTE and plays bass guitar for Ireland’s premier psycherock group The Jimmy Cake, among others. @Diplah

Image Credit:  Rohit Tandon

 

They’re on the Roof Again by Odrán Waldron

The stone hit her window and interrupted her shaking. Her teeth cut against each other with fright, the top row jagging off the inside of the bottom row, but she bounded on the balls of her feet towards the window, toes folding underneath. Jess knew the stone had been coming, but had let the anxious pit of her stomach steal away her awareness of time passing. She was shocked back into a linear cycle by the clang of stone on double-glazing. She folded down the handle of her skylight and climbed out onto the sloped black slates of the roof. Laura was there waiting for her.

Jess’ house was the only one for miles. From her vantage point, she could see the metallic red of Laura’s bike, strewn in the ditch that framed a narrow country road roughly half a mile away. The sheen of the bike stood out against yellowing greens of the furze and gorse that made up three quarters of the view from the roof. Laura was singing a Lorde song quietly, underneath her tongue. “L-O-V-E-L-E-S-S,” she sang and then belted the last word out into the countryside as she stretched it beyond all recognition: “GENNNNNNEEEERRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAATION.”

“Shhhh,” Jess hissed at her, tugging the sleeve of a red and blue plaid shirt.

“What?” Laura asked. “Good tune.”

“Yes, it’s fantastic and Lorde is a luminescent spectre of hope in a world severely lacking any, but that doesn’t mean you should sing her songs out loud on my roof while my parents are downstairs.”

“As if anyone would hear.”

“Look around you,” she said, propelling her arm in a semi-circle. “There’s nothing but cows here. There’s no other sound; we hear everything. Things aren’t vying for space in the winds out here, they make the space theirs for the time they exist.”

It was almost as if one of the cows in the field a mile in the direction of the village had heard her kind being referenced. It looked at them. The cow stood on the crest of a hill with the receding sun behind it. Laura held its gaze. She turned back then and sang the word “generation” again in a whisper. “If you mix up your eyes a little bit, it looks like that cow is standing in the sky,” she laughed.

“You’re such a dope,” Jess said, shaking a simper back and forth.

“Relax, Jess,” Laura said, and, oddly, she did. Jess lay back against her roof, feeling the ridges of the slate settling themselves in the interstices between her vertebrae with familiar, yet welcome, discomfort. Laura unfolded herself into the sloping of the roof too and when she had fully lain down, she rubbed the bud of her nose against Jess’s shoulder, the stud in its left side moving with it. “Thank fuck it’s not windy,” she said, her lips brushing the cotton sleeve of Jess’s green Abercrombie hoodie. Laura looked resplendent in the greys and oranges of the pre-sunset summer evening, her brown hair was tossed from her climb, her eyes were wide and dilated to the point of minimising hazel irises, and her smile had widened to flash her fangs and display the brittle chipping on her left lateral incisor. Jess wore less emotion and a heavy peroxide fringe down to her eyebrows, one of which bent as she watched Laura at her shoulder. Her thin lips hinted at a smirk on their outskirts. She looked away, back towards the field and the almost sky borne cow and said, “Yeah. Thank fuck.”

They barely spoke after that; they rarely did on these nights when the absence of school in the morning allowed them to chisel at the evenings without the urgency of looming early awakenings. This was the last one of those evenings for some time; the day after the next was Monday, the last one of August and the beginning of fifth year. At some point, Laura’s head would move more solidly onto Jess’s shoulder and then Jess would stack her head on top, like some cranial, romantic Jenga. The evening air was cathectic with a contentment too mature for the youngsters to fully grasp and appreciate; this was the peace of being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, doing exactly the right thing. They breathed through nostrils; Laura’s left soughed with a blockage that she didn’t bother to clear. Still, the girls knew there was something there, some equilibrium of life that would be impossible to maintain as time slicked and slid by them. They never allowed themselves to be out of time, they clung to it and for now it was all they could do to allow their eyes to be flooded by the flooding of greens between ditches and fields and the light to dark greys of sky to road. The cows and bike interspersed where they could, but this was a scene of motionlessness, only varying in degrees. They knew that they would have to get down eventually, and when it came time to do so, they were as silent as possible, with only the knocking of knees on slates, the light bounce from Jess landing back on the balls of her feet on her wooden floors and the harsh crunch of gravel under Laura’s Vans making any indication that there was life in this part of Goldfields parish. Still, it alerted Jess’ parents.

Jess’ father, with beard and cropped hair more white than black at this point, breathed a gust through his nose, a sort of unmouthed attempt at a chuckle, but didn’t shift in his armchair or look away from the television.

“Hmm?” his wife sounded, curled on the armchair’s matching sofa to his left, looking up from the book in her lap, over her glasses and through her forehead.

“They’re on the roof again,” he turned his head and said. They both gave half-smiles at the right sides of their mouths before he turned back to the television and she returned to her book.


Odrán Waldron is a writer and journalist from Kilkenny who has been published in Cold Coffee StandStorgyThe Journal and New Socialist among others. He babbles on Twitter @odranwaldo.

Image Credit:  Sandra Chile

A Diet of Feathers by Paul Whyte

If a bar is not kept at all times moist to the touch it will grow feral, dangerous. 
       Think of it as a type of sessile organism, a compact colony surviving only on the odd sobs of stout and the dead skin of patrons.
     This particular bar has pulled the fibres from the knit of my jumper and planted them upright in the mahogany so that they sway like sea creatures. Poor thing must have been starving.
     It’s St Stephen’s day morning and I’m consulting the paper. First meet is 11. 
     I use an inch-long pencil to circle names. My first pick is a tip from the radio, 6/1.
 
     Neil returns from the bathroom preening with dull satisfaction. His paper wagging beneath his arm like the tail of one of those strange fish that sticks to the bellies and backs of sharks.
   I can see his picks, circled with red pen so that his choices cannot not be easily erased or forgotten.
   He pays for his drink and while he does I catch the contents of his wallet – a loyalty card for the only barber in town and a balance of cash for the day, all big notes. His bank cards are at home. He knows better.
 
   We leave and walk to the bookmakers, two doors down, last year it was five.
   Neil is shorter than I am and going bald in the most unfortunate of ways, thinning in strips instead of patches. This doesn’t seem to bother him. He lets it grow until it’s unbearably mossy.
He has pale pocked skin and a sturdy crest of a nose. Sometimes when you call to the house for him, his brother will answer and tell you that Neil is out the back breaking blocks with it.
   Right now he has the look about him of someone confident, canny.
 
 
   The bookies is packed and has the visual palette of a stuffed ashtray. It smells of insoles and devastated carpet. 
   The only female here is the cashier, Joanna. She has the kind of calm in her eyes that you see in nurses and first responders. 
   Once on the carpet Neil doesn’t respond to verbal signals. He will not discuss picks or winnings. Men are invisible in this place.
 
   At 2 o clock I tell him that I’m hungry. He seems agreeable. This must mean he’s up.
   We go back to the pub and eat vegetable soup, crumble in soda bread that’s thick as scones. We have a carvery lunch and a pint of free cordial each. There is discussion of Ibiza.
   He tells me that he’s going to get a job in the new year, that he’d like to come with us on the holiday. Says though, that it’s hard with the Mother the way she is. I sympathize, but secretly I know that if it wasn’t this it would be something else. Neil has the sort of mind that subconsciously seeks labyrinths. It’s not broken, it just does what it does with a ruthlessly efficiency.
   He’s never been out of the country. He’s never eaten pasta or drank barista coffee. To my knowledge he has only ever been to the cinema that one time with school. He likes football and playing poker online, thinks he’s better at both than he is.
   We step outside for a smoke. I rub my belly and tell him what the Father told us over Christmas dinner.
   He told us that when he was thirteen years old his Dad organized a job for him in a plant nursery somewhere between Aherlow and Lisvernane. They supplied food and accommodation for the summer and a couple of quid would go back home.
   The meals weren’t much, spuds and bacon, mustard from a tube if they had it. Breakfast was porridge and tea without milk or sugar.
   He told us that he would be so hungry that by lunchtime he would start to eat chips of wood from the handle of his shovel and in bed at night he would sometimes chew the feathers from inside his pillow.
  The story has Neil shaking his head, ”Different times.” he says.
 
   Back in the ashtray the smell has evolved to include the bizarre body odours of farmers fresh from the field. 
It’s not wholly unpleasant. It has a spicy quality to it, something cheap splashed against a hairy throat on the way into town.
   Later myself and Neil huddle in the doorway as a heavy shower leathers the blanked out windows. Threads of rainwater drop from a clogged-up gutter and clap against the pavement. Even the smoke we’re blowing wants nothing to do with the weather, it circles our faces, seeks shelter in our pores.
   Neil is about as happy as Neil gets. Tells me he’ll put the deposit down on Ibiza tomorrow, maybe he’ll even get a deal in the sales.
   When the bookies close we make our ways back to the pub. Neil keeps walking. 
 
   I pat his back dutifully, offer to buy him a drink, curried chips if he’s hungry. He doesn’t answer me, just carries on down the street, trans-illuminated by a connect-the-dot forest of birches wrapped in fairy lights.
 
Once inside, I go to the bar, run my hand across its skin. It feels dewy, fed. I knock it once to see if it answers, thumb the vinyl-like groves in the wood. A voice comes; I order a stout. 
 
 I think of Neil, walking alone in the country dark. I bet he’s starving. 

Paul Whyte is an emerging Irish writer. Originally from Tipperary, he currently lives in Dublin with his wife and two children, where he is working on his first short story collection – Brazen Head. Paul has been writing for about 10 years. He works mostly on speculative literary fiction.

Image Source:  Tommy

Our Chimera by Clare Diston

We built a bookcase from the pieces of the crib.

            We found it in the corner of a bric-a-brac shop. The crib was smooth and wooden and boxy, a rectangle on rockers, and it was filled with dozens of discount scatter cushions. We loved it the moment we saw it.

            It was delivered on a Sunday. We carried it, laughing, in the seagull-screech afternoon as the wind blew the hair into our faces and we tripped over cobbles and brushed past green carnations, up the little path to our house.

            “We’ll never get it inside!” we hooted. “We’ll have to cut it in two!”

            But we didn’t, of course, although we did end up bent double with laughter when we tried to get it up the stairs.

            For a while it lived on the first floor, covered by a sheet, as we feathered the room around it with fresh paint, new carpet and triangles of rainbow-coloured bunting. We liked to go up there early in the mornings and watch through the steam from our mugs as the sparrows hopped on the window sill and the breeze ruffled the sheet like it was trying to look inside.

            We held hands, and for now the secret was ours.

Three months later, it happened, so we took the crib downstairs. This time it caught on every corner and dug into our limbs, until one of us could not hold up the end properly and our hands slipped and we lost control. It slid, carelessly, all the way down and landed with a crack. For a moment we looked at it, immobile at the bottom of the stairs, one rocker broken and hanging limp. We replayed the sound of the crack in our heads. Then we picked it up and put it on end in the large cupboard under the stairs, and we snapped off the broken rocker and put it inside.

            We pushed it back, squashing everything behind it, and closed the door.

            Like swans we tucked away our heads and let our bodies get on with the business of living. Calmly we took down the rainbow bunting; quietly we packed up the clothes and linen. But our composure exhausted itself before we could get to the understairs cupboard, and as time passed our grief gathered like dewdrops around the only thing we had not dealt with. The crib sent out ripples, lapping us softly every time we passed the cupboard door, until we could not even look at it. One of us tried to tell the other that it was just an empty box, something which only carved up air, but that did not work at all – it was an empty box, it carved up the air.

Then one day one of us said, “I need something.”

            “Then go and get it,” said the other. “What are you looking at me for?”

            “It’s under the stairs.”

            Even though we knew where it was, we searched the whole house first and even rooted through the car. A turtle dove watched us, purring in the highest branches of a tree. At last we went back inside and stood in front of the understairs cupboard.

            We took each other’s hands and it was a surprise and a comfort.

            The thing we were most afraid of was that it might have changed somehow. Perhaps it had tilted forwards and would come tumbling out on top of us the moment we opened the door. Perhaps it would be bigger than we remembered, or worse, smaller.

            But when we opened the door it was exactly as we had left it, standing on its end, the broken rocker inside, framing an emptiness, but not one that wasn’t familiar to us already. In fact, seeing it again felt like alighting on a branch; at last we had something to push off against.

            We pulled everything out of the cupboard and found what we needed. Then we put the crib back in, right way up, and filled it with everything that had been crammed behind it. Now when we closed the door it didn’t feel like a weight against our hands, and when we walked past there was no need to curve our steps towards the far wall. Brushing against the handle was no longer the worst thing in the world.

            We allowed our caged grief to take flight, until it was time again.

One of us had an idea and did not know how to tell the other. One of us stood in the upstairs room – repainted, refurnished, refilled – and knew that something had to go in the empty corner. In the end, when we spoke, one of us decided the what and one of us decided the where.

            We took the crib out from under the stairs and emptied it of everything but its own broken rocker. Then we carried it back to the upstairs room, and it bumped into edges and the soft parts of ourselves until we had it upside down on a sheet, helpless, belly exposed. We had never seen it like that before, and even as it stirred our pity, we found ourselves hating it.

            We wondered whether we were angry enough to claw the thing apart with our bare hands.

            “Why don’t we do it like this?” asked one of us.

            “It would be better this way,” said the other.

            The screws were old and rusted, but with enough force they could be turned. We detached the second rocker and began to take out the screws that tightened the sides to the base, but we saw straight away that it would not be so easy. Ridges of hardened opaque glue squeezed out of the seal between the base and the rest of the wooden frame, and we ran our fingers along them and pecked at them with our nails. But we carried on anyway, one of us dropping loose screws onto the sheet, the other putting them into a little dish. Of course, even when the last screw was out, the structure still held fast.

            “Why would anybody glue this?” asked one of us.

            “They probably never expected it to be taken apart,” said the other.

            We attacked the seam with screwdrivers, which we jabbed into the glue and worked and worked so that we could get the points between the two pieces of wood, and then we levered up and down and side to side, mashing the wood and pulping the dried glue, loosening the base enough that we could force our fingers into the join and really wrench and tear until, finally, it came apart.

            We sat back, breathless, on our heels.

            “Do you think we’ve damaged it?” asked one of us.

            “Let’s go and have lunch,” said the other.

            When we returned there was a collared dove standing on the window sill, cooing and bowing its head. Now and again it paddled its little feet like it was excited about something. When we opened the window it flew away.

            The frame of the crib now became our work table; we laid the base across it and trimmed off the ruined edges with a jigsaw, and then we cut the base into strips which became the shelves, secured with nails and glue. The old screws, some scattered on the floor, some collected neatly in the dish, all ended up in the bin. The crib’s old rockers became an unexpected decoration, added to the top of the new bookcase like deliberate wooden moulding.

            When we had finished we stood it upright and examined our creation; the product of our plan, hatched. It bore the scars of our work, certainly, but it was sturdy, perhaps even sturdier than before. To begin with it was difficult not to see it as a bottomless crib standing on end, but as we stared at it we stopped seeing the shape of what it had been and began to see it in its most basic elements – pieces of wood, nails and glue – like looking at a word for so long that it loses its meaning and all that’s left are the empty letters.

            Right then we wanted nothing more than to fill the shelves with books, but it had to be left to dry. So we went downstairs and out into the garden with mugs of tea, and the air was so crisp the steam looked like feathers. We stood among the violets and looked up at the open window. A breeze stirred the curtain and we knew it was setting the glue.

            “Do you remember when we thought we would have to cut it in two to get it through the door?” asked one of us.

            “I remember it all,” said the other.

            We held each other’s hands as a distant cuckoo started to call.

 


Clare Diston is a freelance writer and editor through her business, Human Voices. She received her MA in Creative Writing in 2011 and she loves reading (and writing) literary and science fiction. She blogs about all things books at www.50ayear.com. This is her first fiction publication.

Image Source:  Kari Shea

Six Nights by Aileen Ferris

When Colin came into view descending the stairs of the wine cellar, I knew I wasn’t attracted to him.  He was skinny, about my height, and clean-shaven.  He had obviously made an effort, and that put me right off.  It seems counterintuitive not to want someone to make an effort for me, but it contributes to that contrived feeling of being On A Date.  The effort is for themselves, really. I’m more comfortable with people in their natural state, without observance of rules that no one knows who wrote.

He spotted me sitting at the table and waved.  My selfies must at least look recognisably like me.  I took a long gulp from the glass of Malbec in front of me (not intended to be gulped) and stood up to greet him.  A quick, superficial kiss on the cheek – he really was only about an inch taller than me.  How to get through the next hour?  More wine, of course.  While listening politely to stories of his advertising job at a large multinational (you know the one), I guzzled the stuff (not intended to be guzzled).  We (mostly I) went through a bottle quickly and as soon as enough time had passed to excuse myself I did, telling him that this was nice and wishing him safe home.

I checked my phone while walking in the opposite direction.  My friends were in Pantibar dancing, so I joined them and drank some more.  That was where I met Lacey.  She wore baggy jeans and a beanie hat, her soft flesh hanging out self-confidently from her yellow crop top.  She was twenty two, a student from Oregon on a semester abroad, and she knew what she wanted.  We talked, laughed and danced until closing time, when I said I should go home.  She was upfront.  “Can I come?”  Hell yes.  Yes, you can.  Once in my bedroom, she cut through the smalltalk.  “Do you wanna fuck?”  Hell yes.  Yes again.

Lacey wasn’t trying.  She didn’t care what I thought of her.  She had hair on her legs.  She was comfortable in herself, and it was sexy as hell.  She told me about the guys she fucked now and again when she felt like it.  She usually went home right after, but she stayed with me till morning, when we ate hummus and I drove her home.  She was perfectly content.

*

The left are the good guys, we agreed as we walked, feeling reassured and slightly superior to count ourselves among that group.  The only problem is that people on the left are too principled to compromise and this keeps us fractured.  The right is happy to compromise, we supposed, because it has no real principles.  That’s what keeps it in power, and how it perpetuates the oppression of women, gays, trans people, bisexuals, immigrants, Muslims, non-whites, the working class, the disabled, the mentally ill, the chronically ill, artists, the polyamorous, the unemployed and any other group it can get its hands on.  “The right is interested in the good of the individual”, Logan said, “while the left is interested in the good of all.”  I could have fucked him there and then in the street.

Later, we talked about television, which we considered unforgivably low-brow.  Logan breathed his appreciation of Twin Peaks, however, telling me that I would love the music, the intimacy and the broken fourth wall.  I rushed to order the DVDs as soon as I got home.  The interaction between the characters felt staged and surreal, but in Lynch’s stylised ambiance it was believable, as though the unreal was more real than the real.  A hyperreal, Baudrillardian simulation of reality, the cinematography and style winked and grinned at me, like a perfectly made up face with a gaping, dripping wound glaring from the lower lip.  Jarring like the sight of blood on an image of performed beauty, it was impossible to turn away from.

Logan was surprised when I told him I didn’t have a television.  “It’s by choice”, I said.  “But how do you keep up with current affairs?” he asked.  “That’s what Twitter is for.”  And maybe social media has taken television’s place as the dulling apparatus of contemporary times.  In any case, my reflection in the black mirror of his empty television screen while bent over his single bed looked more engaged and present than when in front of screen lit with dancing pixels.

*

I was already drunk when I met the beardy Shinner with the tattooed arms.  We talked about little that I remember, except for the fact that he was in Sinn Féin, and presumably I must also have told him about my own political affiliations.  Both a little the worse for wear, he ended up scrapping with his mate and I ended up kissing someone who called himself a “non-practising Catholic”, thought it would be handiest to baptise his future children to get them into school, and said that politics was boring.  I might have bored him with the reasons why church and state should be separated, but what with all the wine I can’t say for sure.  Either way, the beardy Shinner and I both ended up going home alone.

A week later I found a contact I didn’t recognise in my phone: Cathal.  Confused for a second, and then it came back to me.  He had given me his number.  I was supposed to text him for a drink.  Better late than never, I thought.  He was happy to hear from me, and said he’d be in touch at the weekend.

The following day I crashed my car into the side of a yellow BMW.  Broken neck.  Lying strapped to a board in A&E hours later, I told my sister about Cathal the beardy Shinner.  “You’re going to go out with a Shinner?” she asked, alarmed.  “What are you going to tell Dad?”  “I hadn’t planned telling him anything.  Besides, I’m in no fit state to go anywhere now.”

I didn’t hear from Cathal again.  I saw him at a protest months later.  Too much time had passed to say hello.

*

I met Joanne on a crowded Saturday night.  She was the new friend of my friend, who had met her in the psych hospital.  My friend had gone off her meds and got manic.  She ended up getting arrested for trying to break into the national broadcaster to prove that the government was using radio signals for mind control.  Joanne had borderline personality disorder.  She was a nurse, although not working at the moment.  She was vivacious.  Her huge curves seemed to spill from her dress as she leapt at me to kiss me.  She showed me the little plastic ziplock bag with her meds for the night in it.  There must have been ten tablets.  She was amazed that I could manage my bipolar with just an antipsychotic.  I hadn’t been up or down in over a year, and it helped me sleep, too.  A wonder drug with no side effects, I thought, though I knew that my friend hated it.  She said it messed with her lateral thinking.  I never saw Joanne after that night.

Two years later my friend mentioned her at a party – “Poor Joanne”, with a reflective pause.  “What happened to Joanne?”  My friend looked at me with dismay.  “You don’t know?  Joanne killed herself three months ago.”  I couldn’t distinguish the feeling.  It wasn’t grief – I had hardly known her.  But she was there, she was real, I had touched her skin and kissed her lips, and now only her absence was there.  Only Not Joanne.

*

I wasn’t really attracted to Xavier.  He was nice, and we had good conversations.  He thought Hillary Clinton was a criminal but was voting for her anyway.  I met him two nights in a row just before leaving LA.  It was good to have someone interesting to talk to.  The practice of driving to a bar, drinking, and then driving home would remind me of rural Ireland if this wasn’t such a sprawling metropolis.   Xavier said he was a feminist, but told me that in America the man always pays on a date.  I told him that on the rare occasions when a man insists on paying I get uncomfortable.  What if my date wasn’t a man, anyway?  He paid for dinner, and was impressed when I bought him a drink in return.  It was the least I could do.  He said that he liked this system because “It renders women more independent and puts less pressure on men”.  “It puts less pressure on women”, I told him, “because there’s no unspoken expectation to repay a man with sex.”

We had sex anyway.  I wasn’t that into it, but it had been three months since my ex and two years since anyone else, and I wanted it out of the way.  His flesh was squishy, and his breath smelled.  Just as the thought that America’s culture of body hair removal for all genders was too much floated idly through my mind, he commented “I’ve never had sex with a European girl before.”  Sure enough, I had more hair than him.  I like hair.  Xavier thought it was novel.

*

I sat at the bar waiting for Nico twenty minutes past the time we had agreed to meet.  My phone hopped with frantic texts every few moments, always assuring me that he was two minutes away.  Eventually he appeared, hurrying down the stairs toward me – I recognised the messy black hair and pointed face from his photos – but when he reached the bottom he veered off course and straight into the men’s toilets.  Minutes later, he greeted me.

He was agitated, and drank his pint before I had finished my wine.  Conversation was clipped on his side; gently probing on mine.  Less than half an hour in, Nico lunged at me.  “Lobbed the gob” is the expression my friend used when I described it to her later.  Startled, I froze for a few seconds before extricating myself and returning abruptly to contrived conversation.  He sulked, but kept his hands to himself for at least ten minutes.

He kept bringing the conversation back to an ex-girlfriend of his.  I asked how long the relationship had been over.  Two months, he said.  Gently suggesting that he may not be quite over it yet, I drained my wine glass, making moves to leave.

“You have nothing to worry about”, he insisted, grabbing my arm.

Oh, I thought, that is definitely not what’s going on.  He ordered another round of drinks, as I dropped my coat with dismay.

For hours I tried to remove myself, politeness too deeply embedded in me to stand up and walk away.  I let him rave about filmmaking, LSD and ‘crazy’ girls, all the time searching for my way out.  When I stood up for a bathroom break, he grabbed both my hands.

“I just don’t want to lose you.”

“My coat is still here”, I pointed out with impatience.  “I’m coming back.”

When I returned, Nico took his own bathroom break.  I waited.  And waited.  He was taking his time.  Suddenly it hit me: just leave.  I was out the door and down the street without another thought.

With a dead phone battery and an empty wallet I walked the forty minutes home.  When my phone was revived in the secluded safety of my bedroom, there were six text messages, fourteen missed calls and three voicemails.  They kept coming.  After ignoring many more, I responded asking him to leave me alone.  He said he’d never forgive me.  I blocked his number.

 


Aileen Ferris has published poetry in Route 57, the University of Sheffield’s online literary journal.  A Dublin native, she ran a travel blog at www.frequent-flier.com for some time before turning to writing fiction.  She is also an aerial acrobat and channels her creative energy into that as much as her writing.  This is her first fiction publication.

Image Credit:  Bruno Martins

Audio Guide by Ronan Hession

“Are you sure you’ll be ok?”

“I’m fine. Honestly.  My folks are coming over later so I won’t be on my own.  Go on. You’ll be late.”

I left Angela to rest up, her body still getting used to itself after the miscarriage.  Everything had changed so quickly.  Last week, we had been living a life of plans, talking  about the arrival of a baby who was in fact already in our bed, inside of Angela; a little nineteen-week-old grapefruit.  But what can you say when there’s no heartbeat?   When the scan shows indecipherable black and grey shading and the baby is still there but without that pulsing, characteristic pattern that is supposed to last a lifetime?  I was full of questions, trying to talk my way out of things, but Angela just settled into a profound, personal realisation that was inaccessible to me.  That deep wisdom of the body once it knows, truly knows, that everything has changed.

As we sat at home, waiting for the tablets to work, I texted my sister: “We’ve lost the baby.  Can you tell people?”  We sat through the unreality of trying to find something decent on TV, of having run out of bread, of drying some spare pyjamas for Angela in case she needed to go back into hospital, which she did, for a D&C later that day.  I phoned my boss and said that I had a vomiting bug and would be out for a couple of days, instinctively knowing not to tell the truth.  The following days were filled with the practicalities of medicine, and that closeness you find between two people who have been through a lot together.

The world seemed stubbornly normal as I made my way back in to work. It was autumn and Dublin looked well; the leaves turning the colour of Georgian bricks.

“Here he is! The only man to catch morning sickness when his wife is pregnant – how’s your bump Ger?”

“Hi folks.  Thanks for your sympathy. Don’t come too close, I’m not sure if I’m entirely over it.”

“So brave.  What a pro.  Here he is back after only three days in his Superman pyjamas.”

The first morning at the office filled itself with routine: looking through the end-quarter numbers before they were sent to the West Coast; querying payments made while I was out; clearing annual leave for the girl who worked for me.  Little pieces of normality that I operated by remote control from inside my grief.

At lunchtime, I passed on an invite to go for a curry with the others, answering them with a pantomime pat of my supposedly recovering stomach.  Once the office quietened down, I logged out and left for a walk.  Outside, the bockety streets were full of that midday busyness: people texting their lunch dates to say that they were running late, something had come up; charity fund raisers flirting for Africa; and Italian students in puff jackets walking five abreast, full of continental obliviousness.

I stopped outside the National Gallery.  For months it had been barricaded by hoardings during its renovation, but now, like me, it was slowly beginning to engage with the world again.  It appealed to me as a safe place where a person could go and look like they were doing something, even if they were not really taking anything in.

The lobby was busy with tour groups and people with bags being told that they would need to use the cloakroom.  The Perspex donation box stood awkwardly, half full with unfamiliar currencies. I decided to rent a recorded audio guide to insulate myself from the chatter and close off my interior world.  I put the old-style foam-covered headphones over my ears and clipped the device onto my belt.  It was still set to German so I had to fiddle around and find the English setting, but it played automatically once the language was selected.

“The National Gallery first opened in 1922, after the Parliament building had been bombed, leading to a reorganisation of city centre properties under the control of the State . . .”

The crowds were all drawn to the big names on show at the visiting exhibition of Art from the Low Countries, so the rooms of lesser known Irish art were pretty quiet – mostly rural scenes and large landscapes.  The audio guide explained that Irish landscape paintings typically devoted an unusually large amount of space to the sky: the mercurial weather providing the variety and drama that painters loved.

“Number 41.  This painting depicts working men stopping for lunch.  Their dark skin and weathered clothes indicate that they may have been day labourers, or Journée men . . .”

Standing still, my arms hung loose and my body felt torpid.  I needed some rest, but I also knew that I needed to begin the process of rejoining the world.  Any more time in that house and I would have become too sad.

“ . . . Notice how the woman to the rear of the painting, wielding the soup ladle, stares straight at the viewer.”  

-She looks sad.  On her own among all those men.

“That’s because she is sad.  She’s wearing a black scarf over her head, which indicates a family bereavement.”

-Is one of the men her husband?

“Unlikely.  Perhaps her husband has died and her sadness is because she must work among other men in his absence.”

-That’s a powerful interpretation.

“What do you think?”

-I think she might just be exhausted to the point of sadness.

“No. 59.  This portrait depicts the Earl of Longford, James Hassekemp, with his hunting dogs.  The landscape in the background alludes to his Dutch protestant heritage and the style of the Dutch masters . . .”

-Is he famous?

“Only in the sense that he was rich in the nineteenth century and so his history is recorded and his family name remains in the area.”

-Is that the only reason his picture is here?

“Do you feel drawn to him?”

-I don’t know.  I’m not sure.  I think I like the painting though.

“It’s well executed, but somewhat stiff.  Why do you like it?”

-It’s just so big.  He looks so tall.

“Why is that important?”

-It makes him look substantial.  Unaffected by things.

“Number 73 is titled ‘Woman with a Guitar and Tears’.  This is by Irish painter Lily Oster, who travelled and studied throughout Europe and who was married to the famous sculptor, Daniel Bard.”

-Why tell me who her husband was?

“He is very famous, and the better known.”

-He always will be if you keep describing her like that.

“It’s a Cubist painting. Do you know what that is?”

-I think so. I mean, I know it’s modern art and it’s made up of shapes and different perspectives and all that.   I wouldn’t be able to tell it from other schools of abstract art, but I know as much as I need to.

“How does the painting affect you?”

-It’s ok.  Only ok.  On a different day I might feel engaged intellectually, but the way I am today it just sort of washes over me.

“Does the fact that she is crying mean anything to you?”

-I suppose it’s meant to mean something, but to me it just looks, I don’t know.  Just a painting.  I’m not getting anything from it.

“Some say she looks like a sad Mona Lisa.”

-Let’s move on.
“The next one is number 80. We can skip this if you want.”

-It’s ok.

“I thought it might upset you.”

-Why?

“Because of your baby.”

-My little grapefruit.

“We don’t have to do this one if you don’t want to.”

-Tell me about the painting.

“It’s by Ulick Grey.  It’s called the ‘Child’s Wake’.  It was his last painting and was unfinished at his death.  The child and the adult figures were done by Grey, but the details of the room had to be completed by one of his students.  This is the first time it has been shown here.”

-I haven’t seen it before.

“Grey mostly painted landscapes.   Even though it’s not particularly well executed, the choice of subject is original and profound, which makes it arresting.”

-I see what you mean. The child’s face is wrong though, isn’t it?

“How so?”

-It looks like it’s sleeping, rather than dead.  It’s too peaceful.

“How should it look?”

-I don’t know. But not too peaceful.

“What about the mother figure?”

-She’s not difficult to do.  Everyone knows what a heartbroken mother looks like.

“And the father?”

-He’s not looking at the child.

“Why do you think that is?”

-I think I know.

“Go on.”

-At some stage he will have to choose the exact moment to pull the blanket over the child’s face.

“Should we move on?”

-I have to go back.

“Can’t you stay?  There are two more rooms on this floor.”

-I can’t.  I wish I could bring you with me.

“They won’t let you.”

-What would happen?

“I don’t know.  I don’t know how things work from your side.”

-I’ll just bring you back.  I suppose I have no way of knowing if I’ll get you the next time I come here.

“I guess not.”

I returned the audio guide at the counter, where a woman with a steel grey bob hung it among the others, without breaking off the instructive conversation she was having with some tourists.  It was hard to see exactly where she had hung it or to tell which one I had given her.

Stepping outside into the street again, my ears felt the cold.  Things seemed calmer now, with a few people here and there, making their way with an easy randomness.  A school tour passed by, the children each holding hands with the kids in front and behind them, looking like a string of cut-out paper dolls.

I was in no mood to go back: not yet ready to accept that part of returning to normal was getting back to doing the things that I didn’t want to do.  I sent two texts:

“Hi love.  Am taking a half day.  See you in an hour xx G.”

And to my boss:

“We lost the baby.  Can you tell people?”


Ronan Hession is an emerging writer based Dublin – his work has previously appeared in The Honest Ulsterman. As Mumblin’ Deaf Ro, he has released three albums of storytelling songs. His third album Dictionary Crimes was was nominated for the Choice Music Prize.


Image Source:  Igor Miske

LACES by Iseult Deane

In the corridor beside the gantries, she hid with her hands in Oliver’s shoes. She leaned right down, till her cheek was on the carpet, feeling the spread of her fingers where his toes would be.

Downstairs, on stage, the performance was coming to the end of Act I. She sighed, sat back up, and put the shoes back under where the rest of his Act II costume was hanging. She liked to stay here during the show, officially as costume designer ready for quick changes. In this small theatre building they were renting, nothing was soundproofed. No one wanted it to be their footsteps or their conversation that threw off a whole performance. The actor’s voices created a silence that was like a spell; complete and unbreakable. For this, she thought anyway, Oliver’s voice was the most effective because he made it softer. She felt like he understood the potential of the building, forced it to breath in time with him by drawing back just a little. Under this spell, no one could ask her what she was doing with shoes on her hands; no one was supposed to walk this way at all. In this silence, her secret, her adoration, breathed with the building, with Oliver.

She followed his lines on her script:

Malachy: I want you with me Niamh! When you go, I want you with me.

Niamh: But where can we go? What’ll we do when we get there?

Malachy: We’ll go as far as we can. I want to beat those fucking rain clouds Niamh. I can’t take more cold! If we try to leave now, it’ll be hours before anyone notices. We can disappear, and no one will even know it. Maybe no one will even mind, in the end Niamh.

She loved how Oliver said “Niamh”, with two syllables, like Nee-Uv.

She didn’t, though, like the play all that much. It was sentimental and new, and the director was a fretful angry man; David. He came to every rehearsal in the same denim jacket and sat there with his laptop out, covered in the stickers you get from Amnesty International when you sign a petition in the street. She’d seen him, peering over that screen, leering at Molly. Molly was playing Niamh, and Niamh seemed some kind of fantasy for him, following Malachy all the way around the world with her dark hair and her sweet, quick heart only to die on a tiny boat in the night in an unfamiliar sea. David screamed and shouted and ran things over by an hour, or cut them short when everyone had got up at 7am. She hated him for his cruelty, but more for what he had written into life. It was only the second night, and already rumours about Molly and Oliver were falling off the stage and into the real world.

She waited until she heard the murmur of the crowd before standing up and tucking her script away back into her bag. Molly was the first up the stairs from backstage at the bottom of the corridor.

“How’s it going?”

“Alright I think, bit low energy maybe”, Molly replied, taking the tights she was holding out to her and starting to pull them on under her skirt.

“It sounded good from here anyway”. She held out the rest of the costume.

“Thanks a million Laura” Molly said, and turned towards the dressing room. Laura watched her go for a moment. Molly was tying her hair up; she hoped she hadn’t been on stage this whole time with that bobbin on her wrist.

“Could you give me a hand with this?” Oliver. Laura had made him a shirt for Act II, but had put the fastening very high up on the neck by mistake, so that it was hard to do up yourself. She nodded.

He was taller than her, and now she was eye level with his chin, feeling his breath on her hands. Laura felt lately like there was a flood that followed her, that she was only ever just about ahead of. Here, she felt it rise, coming to rest just under her nose as she did the fastening. He lifted his chin to give her space, and she wanted to throw her arms around his neck and lift herself up, away from the flood, up to his height where it couldn’t get her. She took a small, extra second, and stood back from him. The water sank a little.

“There” she smiled.

“Thanks!” he said, and bounced away down the corridor. The water drained down the stairs after him. She smiled to herself that he didn’t feel the need to check his costume in the mirror.

She heard a shout for their five-minute call, and watched the rest of the cast traipse past her, back downstairs. The lights went darker, and she sat back down and took her script out again.

There was never much of a routine before the play started, always a lost pair of shoes, or a new tantrum from David. No one really noticed then, except Laura, how late Oliver was on the fourth night. Ten minutes until open, her breaths were coming shallow with worry, and David stormed into the corridor. He seemed not to notice Laura, but she felt like he knew someone was watching. He was performative, like an angry person in a film, pacing around on his phone

“Fucking nothing!” he screamed, and kicked the piping running along the wall. “Molly!”

Molly came out to the corridor then. Laura liked Molly. They had been in the same class at college. They always commented nice things on each other’s pictures on instagram. Once they had run into each other leaving the library and gone for a drink and Molly had cried about her sick cat to her.

“I can’t get through to Oliver, have you heard from him?”

Molly shook her head.

“If he doesn’t show up in the next like two fucking minutes then I’m gonna do his part tonight. Just to give you a heads up”.

Laura saw real fear cross Molly’s face at the thought of acting across from David, of acting in love with him.

David could no more do this to Oliver than to Molly. He was too cruel to stand where he stands, say his words in his clothes.

She gathered Oliver’s costume up, waited until the cast came out and started downstairs, before slipping into the middle of them, four pins in her mouth so that she’d look like she had a task to do. Downstairs, she got changed in the dark backstage, rolling up the legs of the trousers, pulling the shoelaces as tight as she could, pinning the shirt at the back to make it fit better. The fire announcement began as she stuffed her hair into his hat, patting around the edges for strays. She could hear David stomping around upstairs, and hoped that he’d still care enough about the play to stop making noise soon.

She waited for Oliver’s, or Malachy’s, first scene, running over his lines in her head. She knew them perfectly. She had studied them like they were sacred the past few days, had come to far more rehearsals than she really needed to hear Oliver say them. Her hands shook with worry, with the burden of filling his place, with disgust at the thought of David standing in these shoes.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned around. David was there, with the rest of the cast peering at her from behind him. Without waiting for even a gesture from him, she turned and slipped on stage, too early for her scene, and paced at the back. As she became Malachy , her anxiety dissipated. She was safe here, in Oliver’s place, holding something precious for him.

The performance went completely smoothly. They heard from Oliver at the interval; he had been knocked off his bike and had a concussion and a broken ankle. He was safe, and she imagined Molly texting him later about what had happened, and him seeing her name and imagining her in his clothes.

Oliver couldn’t come in the next day. When Laura arrived, Molly and David were screaming at each other. She waited in the corridor, with his costume clutched to her chest. She heard a door slam and footsteps and Molly rushed into the corridor. She said that David had left, that we were to run the show ourselves tonight.

“Thank you so much Laura”. They hugged, the bundled costume caught between them.

The same thing happened the next few nights, until David seemed to give up on the whole production. He stopped even watching, spending the whole show smoking on the balcony and then only going downstairs at the very end to collect his praises and his ticket takings. The cast was grateful to her for creating such a distance between them and David. Every night they flocked around her, chatting, asking for help with their hair, laughing with her. She thought all the time of Oliver, wondered what he was hearing about what was going on, if he was curious enough to come watch, feeling that same flood rising and falling around her.

She still changed backstage in the dark for every show. She preferred it to be dark; it made it easier to forget herself, to inhabit Oliver. On stage, she tried to copy everything, his accent, his gait, squinting slightly to change the shape of her eyes, and always looking out, past the yellow lights, to where he might be in the audience. As she walked home and as she fell asleep every night she thought of nothing but his eyes on her.

On the thirteenth night, the second last, she changed as usual in the dark. As she was tightening the lace on her shoe, it snapped off in her hand. She had pulled too hard and it was only cheap and elastic. The break pinched her skin a little. She tested the shoe; it was very loose, much too big for her. She tucked the raw end of the lace inside and stood up as the fire announcement came on.

As she stepped out, gripping the inside of the shoe with her toes, she went closer to the edge of the stage than usual, so she could see better beyond the lights. The audience was small tonight; he was not there. The weeks’ worth of hoping and getting nowhere weighed heavy on her; she was tired. It was her line but she waited, let the silence grow. She walked out of step with Oliver’s blocking, and took her hat off, feeling her hair fall down around her shoulders. She didn’t pay much attention as the scenes passed her by, always looking outwards, wide-eyed.

She turned, at last, to Molly:

Malachy: I want you with me Niamh! When I go, I want you with me.

She stepped forward, and left her loose shoe behind. She used her foot to loosen the other one.

Niamh: I can’t leave here, what will I do? Where will we go?

As she spoke, Laura untucked and unbuttoned her shirt. She faced forwards at centre stage. Molly was backing away, until she was outside the line of the lights, almost off stage.

Malachy: As far as we can. I want to beat those fucking rain clouds Niamh.

Laura felt herself begin to shout. The rest of her clothes began to come away. They were not hers and they didn’t fit her. They slipped off without her trying.

I cannot take more of the cold. If we try to leave now, it’ll be hours before anyone notices.

Laura stood on stage naked, the trail of the costume behind her, staring

straight into the yellow lights above her.

We can disappear and no one will even know it! Maybe no one will even mind, in the end.


Iseult Deane is 20 years old and a third year English and Philosophy student at Trinity College Dublin. She has lived her whole life in Dublin. She works in a cinema at the moment but likes theatre a lot more and would like to be a costume designer. 

Image Credit: Peter Hershey