Bloomsday – One Day One City One Story

Dun Laoghaire Pier - Photo by David Levingstone
Dun Laoghaire Pier – Photo by David Levingstone

Editor’s Note

The intention of The Bohemyth’s Bloomsday issue is to celebrate Ulysses, James Joyce and the strange and wonderful city of Dublin. For the streets of Dublin are paved with something finer than gold, they are paved with the stories of the ones who walk them. James Joyce knew this better than anyone.

We whisper our stories to the trees in Stephen’s Green. We tell them to ourselves as we ramble along our way. We shout them at each other over pints in the pub. We cry them into the river. We scream them at the sea. We bury them where we can. We set them free where we can’t.   

Once upon a time all of the stories of Dublin were gathered together and popped inside an empty old bottle of Guinness. It bobbed off down the Liffey. Inside were stories of love lost as soon as won, salvation and hope, moments lost and memories gained, some stories were made of songs and some were made with tears, but all were made with the heart. Then the bottle broke apart and all the stories fell out. Most were washed away, downstream and out into Dublin Bay. 

We went fishing off Dun Laoghaire pier and caught a few that were still swimming about there.

Here are some of the stories we were lucky enough to catch. We hope you like them as much as we do. 

We hope you love Dublin as much as we do!

Happy Bloomsday.

– Alice Walsh

The Grand Canal - Photo by David Levingstone
The Grand Canal – Photo by David Levingstone

Photography: David Levingstone is a Photographer, Art Director and bearded man from Tipperary living in Dublin, more of his work can be found here. David currently works for Getty Images.  

Daniel O'Connell Statue - Photo by David Levingstone
Daniel O’Connell Statue – Photo by David Levingstone

Day Return

– By Laura Cleary

Last night I dreamt.

Dreamt I was found.

Love found me. There.

In that dream.

In a doorway.

Maybe nine was too early.

But I’d been awake since six. The sun had been shining in through my bedroom window. The birds had started hours before, they were in full chorus by then. I had lain there, playing the dream back over and over. By half past seven I was fully dressed and ready to go. The house was still as a tomb.

Ten to nine and there are three of us at the bus stop. A young Romanian woman, her buggy, me.

There’s a baby in the buggy. I’m sure that there is. I just can’t quite tell. All the puffed pink vinyl, femur-thick frame. It’s like a grounded spaceship next to her Romany skirt. I wonder whether the velvet is uncomfortable. If it itches. If it soaks up the damp, rain, piss, swinging as it does so close to the ground. I hope she doesn’t see me staring at her buggy. Or at her hemline.

The bus arrives late.

The woman boards first. Well, her buggy, the baby, then her.

Then me.

I stand alone in the doorway. The driver is the old man that used to drive the bus to DCU. Years ago, back when I’d been in college. The driver that had asked to see my student ID every time he punched my ten journey ticket. The same one I’d bought from him the Monday before.

I stood in the doorway.

Then paid the fare.

Nine was too early. But it meant an empty seat in every direction.

The dark side of the bus in Naas is the bright side on the way to Dublin. And it’s bright this morning. We’re having a June for a change.

The bus follows the slip road’s curl out of Naas. Holds my window to the sun. I open the case and put them on. The case is much sturdier than the glasses. Two skulls safe inside a motorcycle helmet. I bought them back when I still worked in the shop. A spree on store discount. Two Calvin Klein bras and a pair of Chanel sunglasses.

The bus twists into Johnstown. Swans through and out. Past Kill. Rathcoole. Over the spot Veronica Guerin was shot. Under the speed cameras Da had us watch. Arches round the Red Cow and on to the Long Mile. Through Bluebell. Inchicore. Bless myself past the statue of Our Lady and wait for the first breath of air born of concrete.

Heuston.

Drink in the length of the Liffey. Wave to the sunlight buoyed between ripples.

Voodoo.

Bargaintown.

Bridge after mismatched bridge.

A man in a blue Puffa jacket raises his fist in the air. A woman in worn runners and a rain jacket shuffles over to him. They stand very close together, crossing and uncrossing palms.

Nine was too early.

We stop at O’Connell Bridge.

I offer to unload the Romanian lady’s buggy but she hands me the baby instead. She smiles at me. The baby. Smiles and winds her little fingers in my hair. The lady says thank you and takes the baby back. Straps her into the spaceship. Tiptoes away.

All of the doors on Bachelor’s Walk are closed.

O’Connell Street isn’t a pleasant walk but I love to make it anyway. I love all of it. Bulletholes in statues’ breasts. Weather burned faces beneath them. Piss pooled on the streets. The layer of old Dublin laid on top of store fronts.

The Hugh Lane is open. I’m sure of it. It’s quiet in there. Restful. Nice coffee shop. I round the corner, pass the Writers’ Centre.  I must have walked too fast. Its door is closed too.

I stand there, still for a few minutes. Turn around. Walk back the way I came.

It isn’t warm enough to sit in the Garden of Remembrance. I walk around it anyway. Remember taking my sister to see it years ago. She didn’t know the story of the Children of Lir. She took pictures of the sculpture while I told her what I could remember. Which wasn’t much. It’s even less now. Really just that the girl’s name was Fionnuala. That she looked after everyone else. Well, that and they were swans. For ages. It’s one of the Sorrows. I forget how many there are.

I leave the garden and turn down onto Parnell Street, through the birdshit and sunshine. Cross over onto Moore Street. Fresh flowers, fresh fruit, fresh fish, y’alrigh’ luv? Two for a tenner, lovely arndey? Isn’ir only glowrious ou’? Der yar luv Goblesha. Enjoydesun t’day luv shure itcouldbe raynin t’mara, wha?

I wave and walk on. Shop shutters are beginning to rise.

Weave through flocks of young girls on Henry Street. Making sure not to look right at them. They’re wearing tights they think are leggings. I know by the raised gusset outlining each twelve year old pubis. I don’t look. I can’t. They’d stride up to me just like they’re striding now, shouting about how I’m some fuckin’ sick lezzer ye bleedin’ queer paedo my da’s just ourathe bleedin’ Joy an’ he’ll fuckin’ come down here a bather ya watchin’ my arse ya sick queerass lezzbeen.

Duck into Arnotts. The piped music and designer handbags are soothing. Wander through aware that it’s only half one. There’s a bagel stand at the back, wedged between Menswear and Abbey Street. A turkey bagel for every day I worked here. The seat beside the far door is empty. Drape my coat there while I order.

The windows have been washed. The passers by can see and the door opens out. Perhaps Love will pass. Maybe this is the doorway.

They bring my order too quick.

Green tea, plain bagel, toasted, butter, jam. Just me and Huck Finn.

This is my third time through. It’s like going home. It’s more home than Naas. Like here. Maybe that’s it. A viscous Mississippi, the greasy Liffey beyond. Jim on the run, my cousin’s five years. Snakeskins, NAMA. Sivilization.

A second green tea.

I usedn’t feel able to get up and order seconds. Then one day, here, on my break I saw a mother send her eight-year-old son to the counter. He almost turned purple waiting at the register. But then he turned around and came back with hot chocolate.

A third green tea. The pen is for marking out passages but the Grangerford’s feuding doesn’t keep my napkin bare.

love                    Love

lOVe                                         loVe                                     LovE

LOve                                                                                     lOVE

loVE                    LOVe

lOVE

LOVE

I leave.The chair opposite me is bare. I need it to work. Need love to find me. Want love to find me. Sitting by the doorway. Want love to. Want to be found. Wantwantwant—

There’s a bar across the street. I used to go there often back when I worked here. It’s still bright out. There’s no football today, so it should be quiet. No washed out T-shirts. Bookies’ slips. Deep swallows. Roaring at the screen.

Just me.

An empty seat in every direction. I sit in view of the door. Just in case.

Liffey street is just beyond the glass. It’s fluid, Liffey street. Moves at a constant pace. If it stops, it smells. It’s gorgeous to watch. Even abandoned shopping trolleys caught up in the current.

Soda water and a chicken stir fry. Too salty and over far to quick. A gin and tonic. A man in white pants walks past on his way to the bathroom. Huck won’t tell me about Buck Grangerford’s murder. I’m glad Jim’s okay. Another gin. It’s still bright out. I’m sure it’s getting later. Liffey Street flows strong. Another gin.

Huck and Jim begin to swell, then sink. They soak into the river and pull apart like tissue paper. I mark the page and fumble for my jacket.

“You can’t be leaving?”

The man in white pants stands beside me, smiling. He is short, grey haired, shirt collar unbuttoned to the order of wealth. Not that common these days. This side. Anymore.

Uninvited, he sits down. He strikes me as the type of man to put his voice into a sneeze. The type of man to decide when companions cross the street. The type of man to explain things.

I tell him I have to leave soon. That there’s a bus in ten minutes. He hands a green banknote to the waitress holding my bill.

“Wait for the next one?”

I hold my breath. Ten seconds pass. I take off my coat.

Two more gins.

He tells me he’s a businessman. CEO of a web design firm that specialises in translation software. You know when you enter a website for any big cosmetics brand a stack of different flags unfurl across the screen? You click on your own nationality to understand what to buy.

They deal with that. Dior, Clinique, Chanel. I run my fingers along my sunglasses case.

He asks about me. Maybe I’m hopeful. Or maybe it’s the gin. But I tell him. Everything. Mammy. Home. The Baby. Why not?

It doesn’t matter at this stage.

I don’t matter at this stage.

He listens. Says I’m remarkable. Surviving alone in a home like that. He tells me that living in a place where no one believes in you makes for remarkable people. Most of the time.

I think I’m supposed to ask about him.

Another gin.

I ask does he have children. He admits to a grown up son. Attending Rutkers in New Jersey. Was eager to leave home (Colorado) after his mother died. Car accident, 2010. Drunk driver. Killed instantly. Very tragic. Very tragic indeed.

I ask him is he enjoying Dublin. He says he hasn’t had the chance yet, looking at me from under his eyebrows. He reaches across under the table. Hooks a fingertip into my waistband. Grunts softly, just loud enough for me to hear.

There’s a bus in ten minutes. It’s still bright outside. He insists on walking me. I notice on standing that he’s shorter than me. A green note to the waitress. His hand on my waist.

We join Liffey Street, are carried over the Ha’Penny Bridge. I tell him about the time I ran, drunk, across it. That I didn’t notice the change from long steps to short ones. That I skidded the whole way down and didn’t fall.

He tells me I’m remarkable. I tell him he already said that.

I point down a laneway into Temple Bar. Tell him there’s a Lebanese restaurant he should visit there. A great gallery right beside it. He asks me to show him. I say it’s just a couple of steps on, but he insists. We turn down the laneway and he pulls me aside. Against a metal door. The rust nips at my shoulders.

There’s a bus in five minutes.

His breath is hot on my neck.

A bus in four minutes.

I don’t want to go back.

Bus in three minutes.

Want love to find me.

Here.

Laura Cleary is a poet and writer (among other things) living in Dublin. Her poetry has appeared in Ascent Aspirations magazine,wordlegsbarehandspoetryThe Poetry Bus and the recently launched Bare Hands Anthology as well as the forthcoming issue of can can. Her poem “Breaking Point” was shortlisted for the 2011 iYeats Emerging Talent Award, and she was a featured poet in the recent Ash Wednesday series in Ranelagh, Dublin. She received first prize in the inaugural Heart in Mouth competition for her performance of her poem “Note to a Mislaid Friend”. She currently lives in Dublin with her partner Colm and an extensive nail polish collection. For more information please visit her website and follow her on twitter
Molly Malone - Photo by David Levingstone
Molly Malone – Photo by David Levingstone

Alice at the Globe

– By Cormac Buchmann

Morning came with yellow light filling the room. A taste of dried wine on the tongue. Strips of plastic window shutters giggling in the breeze. The song of city cars playing on a distant street. A beautiful bleached blonde with a face full of nordic edges lying nude on the bed, sheets hanging from her and the boy. Him smelling orange and sweat and rubber, sitting up to look on the ground, and seeing a carpet awash with books, clothes and scribbled paper. The girl is smiling at him now. He wants to say a silly thing, but he just kisses her and keeps the ideas in his throat. What would you do? The boy is shy baby Cormac (me).

“Here,” two Camels ready between her fingers “Your roll-my-owns make me sad.”

I try to explain I’m a student and too socialist to bother working, and all the rest.

“You are such veal. Light the fugging cigarette and appreciate good things.”

I do. We puff. We tip ash into an empty cider can. I’m lying there dumbfounded.

“This room smells like poison.” she says. That’s her thing. When a word is clear in a sentence she swaps it for poison. Example: Motherly poison. I poison books. Late at night a man and woman can make poison. And so on.

“Cormac,” she says. “I couldn’t remember it for a second.”

Someone knocks on the door.

“Go away!” she pulls the sheets over us. “And my name really is Alice.”

Oh.

Alice, lying in to me. Her face beneath my neck. Her voice coming up muffled from the pillow.

“Tell me a story.”

“A story?”

“Any story. Just tell me anything.”

“Once upon a time there were two alcoholics in a bar. A boy and a girl alcoholic. Dublin. The town he was born in. They could have been in any other place, but they were both in this one bar. The boy was there by pure chance, with his friend Barry, who left to work in America this morning.

(the girl hasn’t yet told me how life got her to The Globe Bar)

The boy was outside smoking his rollies when she appeared, and she stood crooked in the door. A man was in her way. A big man with a big beard who told a story about some war and the way it made you feel after so broken and sorry and everybody was listening to him because he had a hard voice and a big jaw. It’s a wonder she didn’t take him home instead!”

“Hmmprff…”

“People don’t hmmprff in fiction, Alice. Unless they hmmprff in real life. Unless women really do sigh and roll their eyes sometimes. But anyway, forget that old bore. The boy pointed at the crooked girl and said that the man’s stories turned women into statues. And that was enough to get her chatting. Boy and girl went inside and danced, her lost her, but he found her again. Outside, smoking her Camels. He saw the burns on her arms from the café and made a joke about razor blades. She said she got her marks playing Fight Club.

‘I’ll play with you,’ he said ‘Give me a punch and then I’ll give you one.’

They couldn’t in front of the doorman. They walked to the unlit corner of the street. She hit him on the left cheek.

‘And now it’s your turn’ she said. So he took her and kissed her. When they walked back Barry laughed at the red stains on his mouth. But he didn’t mind.”

She lifts her head from the pillow, her blond hair falling down and resting on my face. I’m in a hair cocoon. I feel lips.

“I’d read that. The tale of Alice and Veal.”

“I’d call it Alice at the Globe if I ever wrote it. Doesn’t that sound like Fitzgerald? Alice at the Globe?”

“It’d make a fine short story.”

“Well,” I pause for just one moment “Maybe it could be a novel”

Cormac Buchmann is a 22 year old writer of fiction living in Howth, Dublin. He drinks Karpackie and rolls cigarettes from rejection letter paper. He can also fold them into little hats.

Samuel Beckett Bridge - Photo by David Levingstone
Samuel Beckett Bridge – Photo by David Levingstone

Sitting With A Stranger In A Busy Café

– By Sophie Meehan 

The vegetable moussaka is nice but vegetable moussaka is just what people on Come Dine With Me make when there’s a vegetarian over. He keeps hrrmphing behind his paper, so that’s what a hrrmph sounds like, I’d only seen it written down. RAIN TO EASE TODAY BUT WILL BE BACK and a fireman carries a small pink girl through a puddle. There’s a smudge of soup under the headline, the  bowl is as big as his head. He has one of those professions that make grown men look like they’re wearing a school uniform, I think it’s the navy jumper. Go ahead plenty of room he says but the face buried means he doesn’t want to talk. The mashed potato has cheese in it which I don’t understand.

There’s a dingle at the doorbell, it must be a mother and a daughter, because she’s translating Shoes! Yes your shoes are lovely, they sparkle just like you do. Lunch! Yes we’re going to get you some food now, it’s closer to dinnertime though. I wonder if he’ll check what I’ve written when I go to get some cake, he probably wants me to go away. Everyone here is very trusting with their Marks and Spencers shoppers, but he’ll probably feel crippled with responsibility, coat-minding wasn’t part of the agreement and now he’ll have to stay put in the 3-7 minutes between chocolate and cheesecake. Doesn’t look like he’s going any time soon though, he’s getting his money’s worth out of that soup, all the way to the sports section.

He has a ring on his finger but it doesn’t look like a wedding ring. I bet he can feel me reading the back of his paper, he probably regrets his openness but it would be rude to move now. Elsewhere, this sponge is so spongey is feels like I’m cleaning raspberry sauce off the bathroom floor. I wonder if people think we’re a father and daughter who through comfort or discomfort are beyond communication. I wonder if he has a daughter. Maybe he had a childless marriage which divorced because they’re both financially independent, and now he lives in the Docklands which has changed a lot since his day but most of the old gang are still around, snooker on Wednesdays, no, Thursdays, and he’s planning his first trip to Thailand because he wants to get some warmth in his bones.

Sophie Meehan studies English and Spanish in Trinity. She wants to be a writer when she grows up, she also wants to have a dog and live in Sandycove. Sophie writes poetry, prose and theatre, she has been published in Icarus and THE SHOp and wrote and directed Does Anybody Ever as part of ABSOLUT Fringe Festival 2011. Follow her on twitter @someehan

On the Cobble - Photo by David Levingstone
On the Cobble – Photo by David Levingstone

At least I Have Her Love The City She Loves Me

– By Angela Finn

Yeah because after a night of no sleep we walk north to Clontarf past Pigeon house towers rising sun-glow platinum yellow flushes of first love making my heart pound into Saint Annes Park by the milky green pond Italian pavilion not like Dublin at all we lie on the cold stone steps morning bird song you singing your new lyrics then Janes Addicition Im done with Sergio treats me like a ragdoll you unbutton my blouse softly singing Red Hot Chilli Peppers the city like my only friend is the city I live in city of Angels smell of night leaving earth glistening green pond water frothy white scum sound of early tide lapping notsofaraway feel my stomach ribs breasts take me to the place I love take me all the way tweeting birds sky haze dissolving at least I have her love the city she loves me lick my face lips kiss me sparkly sun on olive green water under the bridge downtown is where I drew some blood eat breakfast through the cafe window glittering periwinkle sea eggs benedict oozing yolk starry eyes silver leaking teapot tea tastes of chlorine milk brown sugar crystals feet entwined fluttering belly take me to Cowper Road Victorian house brick red facade santaupe steps hot June midday drifting in and out of sleep squashed in single bed speakers amplifiers bass guitars posters waking fucking smoking end of spliff from your shirt pocket take me to the place I love take me all the way yeah yeah yeah in twilight we surface one drink at Bruxelles snoggers everywhere Pygmalion smells of sewage Long Hall mirrors reflect starry eyes sing try again tomorrow Im gonna kick tomorrow kick tomorrow summer city noise shrinks to quiet almost midnight drunken howls opposite University Church pinned against rusting iron railings dusty branches scratch my neck my bare shoulders Jane says Ive never been in love lonely as I am together we cry Yeah.

Angela Finn lives in Dublin. In 2012 she was shortlisted for Francis MacManus story award and was runner up in the RTE Penguin short story competition. This year she came third in the Fish Publishing short memoir contest and had two pieces of short fiction broadcast as part of RTE Arena’s New Planet Cabaret creative writing course.

Ha'penny Bridge - Photo By David Levingstone
Ha’penny Bridge – Photo By David Levingstone

One Good Eye

– By James Conor Patterson

At some indeterminate point in the day, when Dylan Ruddy could hear nothing at all, he opened his eyes with a slow scratch against the light in the room and felt it fade from above and around him with unnatural quickness. He couldn’t remember being asleep.

There was the sound of a clock ticking and it sent echoes through the wooden boards and coursing cell-like across the entire infrastructure of where he lay so that he imagined lying in a colony of locusts. He was aware of a single red candle dripping in the hearth.

The slightest manipulation of light from a glimmer of the wick, or even rising and falling with the fluctuations of a shallow breath kept the room moving in a constant swim of changing dark and as he adjusted further, he noticed alterations in the room’s fragrance between black coffee and burning wood.

Dylan lifted himself carefully onto one elbow and looked quietly around him. Barely daring to cough or stretch a tendon for fear of disturbing the atmosphere, he could see that what little light there was seemed to come almost entirely from the candle burning in the fireplace. Any remaining light was filtered sparingly through the black window on the side furthest from the hearth. He could also make the shape of a black plinth on the opposite side about a dozen feet from where he lay. Something which, when he squinted hard against the scant amber of the low flame, revealed a wooden bar with brass taps and a gaudy footrest. He had no idea how he had got there.

‘That was an awful fall you took’ someone said to him, ‘you’re lucky the wife and the two boys were here to help me get you up the stairs.’

Dylan didn’t move. He had presumed, up to then, that he was merely alone and that the room would reveal itself over time; or by deciding what may or may not have happened in order that he might end up on this strange floor at this strange hour; in a dark and strange and empty city pub with no boots or hat or coat on.

The floor itself was black and white and two-tone marble in a pattern that slithered quite everywhere and drew attention to the bright red velvet on the walls. It had done its best to make him uneasy before any voice had revealed itself beneath the dark, but now he was shocked completely into stunned silence. He didn’t know where he was.

The immediate fear he felt was that he hadn’t located a door and he had the strange urge that any access to where he was seemed at once both impossible and perfectly natural. He tried to locate the voice and looked to the corner nearest the window. A man leaned out from the dark in a wooden chair with a ladder of pipe-smoke climbing about him into the yellowing roofspace. He was wearing a greatcoat over some long-johns and spoke with an accent that Dylan couldn’t account for. Perhaps he was foreign.

‘Where am I?’

‘On the floor of a public house asking a strange man with a pipe where you are.’

‘How’s that?’

‘Not to worry. I’ll tell you in a moment when you’re feeling a bit better.’

The man’s words seemed to come from the inside shell of a shared lung and Dylan could see that, underneath a peaked cap with silver badges that shone bright like teeth against the window and the moon, he had only one eye. The socket rang out against the featureless wax-bent drip of his skin and he could feel it watching him the same as if it were the eye of any number of gamblers he knew. Or the men he’d see with unnatural movement in the ring, who lurched hawk-eyed into the path of an oncoming throw without ever being hit and the hands of their opponents all the time by their sides as they slumped onto the mattress and the bell rang Time.

‘I had a fall?’

‘You did.’

‘Where was that?’

‘On the street’ replied the man, getting up and pointing. ‘Down there.’

‘Did you see it happen?’

‘I did.’

Dylan paused. ‘I wasn’t in here was I?’

The man shook his head, ‘No.’

He came over to Dylan and sat down heavily on the floor beside him. He carried a round cushion taken from somewhere in the dark and his bare feet were stretched out, twitching like dog-eared hares snuffing at a vegetable patch in spring. His back was against the wall where the fireplace lay and he motioned to a black plastic and glass pot that stood out on the hearth with two empty cups on either side of it.

‘You should have some.’ He said, ‘Black preferably. I can’t think of anything more suited to a fall and rescue mission.’ He smiled and shook his head as he poured out twice, ‘And quite a fall it was.’

‘Thank you.’

‘I’d say you met more than your match today with a move like that.’

‘It happens.’

The man looked at him from behind one clear, blue eye and lifted a hot cup off the floor. ‘Not like that.’

‘I suppose not.’

‘Tell me though… would you never think about stopping?’

‘I have’ said Dylan. ‘Sometimes I have, but I don’t have much in the way of income, and there’s not a whole lot for me to go back to, you understand.’

‘I do.’

‘Why do you ask?’

‘No reason. I just thought you could use a bit of sage advice from a man who’s seen this sort of thing before.’

He pointed up to his empty socket and winked with his one good eye.

‘Yourself!?’

He laughed ‘No, not me. Someone else. I’d just seen it so many times that I got tired of it and plucked my one good eye out with a teaspoon.’

‘Lovely.’

‘Only codding’ he said, ‘Some people took it a number of years back in a bit of a tiff… I was trying to help them out of a jam…’

‘I’m sorry to hear that.’

He waved his hand. ‘Not to worry…’ he smiled, ‘it happens.’

Somewhere out the window Dylan could hear the grumble of a motorcycle, low and still and spreading across the warmth of the room like a sleepless man. He imagined it calling out over the dark dormant lawn of a suburban back-spread and the dogs speaking in monosyllables through the nooks of trees and up the sides of houses. There was a white rectangle rising sharp against a nameless black void, and an open garage revealing itself; a garage that would receive the shuddering bike and close back up into nothing once again. All was silent.

‘Listen’ the man said, ‘do you have somewhere you can go?’

‘I do.’

‘And a wife and kids in the same bargain I presume? A bit like myself…’

‘I do.’

‘Well then…’ he said, standing up, ‘put on your coat there. Get your boots and hat, shake my hand and make your way home this very minute. I’m sure your family think you’re dead along with the rest of the world.’

Dylan shifted his shoulder-blades and stretched his back as he moved up onto his hands and said quietly, ‘I’m not sure they’ll have me.’

‘They’ll have you.’ The man said.

‘How do you know?’

He smiled, ‘I know a lot of things.’

***

Back out in the street it had gotten cold. Dylan turned the collar of his coat up and buried his chin beneath it, slouching down against the frost as he went and the harsh wind up the Liffey from Dublin bay promising new snow if he didn’t get a move on and do what the stranger had asked.

He was walking now, believing that people would never fully appreciate the uncanny complexity of night until they had embarked upon a lone walk like this one: A walk across the deserted heart of a city street at three o’clock in the morning, for it taught a man everything he needed to know about human frailty. That everything was quite frantic, alive and urgent before a certain hour in the day seemed only to enhance the absolute absurdity of boundaries and social conduct and nothing deflated hubris for Dylan quite like the frozen dark of a city street laid out like the interior of a cobbled valley; vast and silent.

The street where he stood was completely empty; all except for a single white square a thousand feet from the city floor. Perhaps, he thought, there was a cleaner working late in the upper portion of an office building; someone dealing with the fallen staples and accumulation of the day’s debris. The relics of men and women who were likely now at home in their beds. Men and women, indeed, who could be lying dead in the city morgue.

The change from daylight to dark and the passage of time in general brought much that was unexpected and Dylan considered that really the only tangible reality at all was that beacon of light he watched shining several stories into the night sky. A light that, before tonight, he had known absolutely nothing about.

James Conor Patterson is a 24 year old Irish poet and short-story writer who, over the past few years has seen his work published in a number of publications including: Cyphers; Wordlegs; The Poetry Bus; Southword; Bare Hands; The Open Ear; Outburst; The QUB Writers’ Journal (Queen’s University Belfast); The Bell (University College Dublin); and Full-Stop (UL, University of Limerick). He will also be featured in the Autumn issue of The James Dickey Review, based in Virginia (U.S.A.)

In 2012 he was featured in the Wordlegs ‘30 Irish Writers Under 30’ e-book publication and also in its print anthology which was published in November by Doire Press. He currently lives in his home-town of Newry, Co. Down.  Check out his blog and follow him on twitter.

The Custom House - Photo by David Levingstone
The Custom House – Photo by David Levingstone

One Day One City One Story

In the Words of James Joyce – Photo by Emily O’Sullivan
In the Words of James Joyce – Photo by Emily O’Sullivan

The Bohemyth will be publishing a special Bloomsday Issue on June 16th to celebrate James Joyce’s Ulysses and Dublin, the UNESCO City of Literature.

We are looking for submissions of photography and short fiction. All short fiction submissions must take place in Dublin on June 16th in any year. Photography must be shot in Dublin.

To be considered for this issue please submit by June 5th.

If you’re unsure of the suitability of your work for this issue, submit it anyway and let us decide.

Get writing. Get shooting. Get Blooming.

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.