Volume 1 May 2011
ABOUT THE COVER Going through the “Who we are and Where we come from” at M9S home page, I recognised the challenge and diversity the magazine is trying to put together in every issue; so I wanted to interest readers with a different lively cover as the interesting alive pages inside. I started to search for one of my photographs that could enrich the cover, so I went through my Ireland land and seascapes and images from my latest tour to the West coast and others. Yet I thought the familiarity of the sceneries is not giving the exotic mood I would like readers to approach for… And so I felt what about a total different scenery, a one with warmer colors, a diverse energy? What about an oriental touch I thought.
From the visit to the Jubayl (Greek: Byblos) the Phoenician city in Mount Lebanon I chose this photograph for the cover. The low yet warm colors, the floor texture and wall stones presented the verve I intended and the light in the centre with the Oriental Arcade and the small alley are the perspectives much similar to those diverse ones of M9S. For the font I tried to use calligraphic typefaces but they absorbed too much from the image itself. After experimenting a bit with the font “Lithos” I found it to suit best with its old Bold Greek look and shape in a 60° angle to meet the perspective of the alley and the image in all.
Feeling good with a totally unrelated scene I went to chose from my summer photography tour in the old markets of Lebanon.
- Fares Fares
Who We Are.... Editor:
Minus 9 Squared is a small, non-profit online magazine run out of the seaside county of Wexford, Ireland.
Founded by Anna Hayes in 2010, the magazine aims to showcase the brightest and best work from writers around the country and, as has happened, the world.
For more information please visit: www.minus9squared.wordpress.com
Or email: email@example.com
Welcome to Volume One After a much too long hiatus, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the first 2011 issue of Minus 9 Squared – our first anthology which, after much deliberation, we decided to call VOLUME ONE. With themes, thoughts and actions changing so rapidly from day-to-day, we decided to throw the idea of themed issues out with the bathwater – we’re not quite sure where it is now but we hope it’s having a good time. As is the case with ever new initiative, developments happen. This time last year, we had released one issue of M9S and had gotten high praise. High praise indeed. It was a simple showcasing area for writers and artists of all ages, craft and philosophy. Quite simply put, if it could be put on a page, the chances were that we would be delighted to do so. This hasn’t changed. What has changed, this issue, is some of our content. Some of our lofty ambitions have found their way back to the surface and are wrestling with the reins, telling us, unequivocally, to try and do something more with this magazine. And it was with these thoughts pummelling around in our heads that we incorporated our features section into the contents of the magazine. Our Featured Artist and Writer were picked from the overload of submissions that winged their way into our inbox. And, as you will see when you read on, it was not an easy decision. The Featured contributors represent, to us, a level of talent that we simply could not ignore. For who doesn’t want to read James Lawless’ new book after the intriguing extract printed here? And who doesn’t click immediately into Elli Chortara’s website, with all the hope of
being blinded by the colour and vigour that is evident in all of her work? Our, as I put it, ‘Quirk of the Month’ came to us quite by accident. Accepting submissions for text and visual, this charming project caught our eye and won its way onto one of our feature spreads. And for all the other work that was submitted to us – its quality is undisputed. I am frequently intimidated by the level of experience and prestige some of our contributors have gained over the years. Others blind me with their raw talent.To close off this editorial, I leave you with a quote from a wonderful film from 2000 called Wonder Boys (based on the book by Michael Chabon), a film about writing and writers, without really being about them at all. I hope that you enjoy the magazine, follow our many social networking sites, tell your friends, your neighbours, your enemies and help M9S to roll on. I leave you with the words of Grady Tripp:
“Nobody teaches a writer anything. You tell them what you know. You tell them to find their voice and stay with it. You tell the ones that have it to keep at it; you tell the ones that don’t have it to keep at it too, because that’s the only way they’re going to get where they’re going. Of course, it does help if you know where you want to go.”
- Anna Hayes
“Clear water in a brilliant bowl, Pink and white carnations. The light In the room more like a snowy air, Reflecting snow. A newly fallen snow At the end of winter when afternoons return.” Wallace Stevens - (The Poems of Our Climate)
“Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.” Christina Rossetti - (Up-Hill)
“And on the pedestal these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level salds stretch far away.” Percy Bysshe Shelley - (Ozymandias)
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch; If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And - which is more - you’ll be a Man my son!”
Rudyard Kipling - (If)
Poetry “The stars are not wanted now:put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; For nothing now can ever come to any good.” W.H. Auden - (IX - Funeral Blues)
“How many loved your moments of glad grace, And loved your beauty with love false or true, But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, And loved the sorrows of your changing face;” W.B. Yeats - (When You Are Old)
“Betweeb the idea
“I never lost as much but twice -
And the reality
And that was in the sod.
Between the motion
Twice have I stood a beggar
And the act
Before the door of God!
Falls the Shadow” Emily Dickinson - (39) “This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.” T.S. Eliot - (The Hollow Men)
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Old age should burn and rave at the close of day;
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -I took the one less traveled by,
Dylan Thomas - (Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night)
And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost - (The Road Not Taken)
Jake Attree Polar Bear If I could pick any animal
There is a hunger I have known
to grab me with a learned lack of mercy
that I do not want to slip back into,
it would be something as warped by man
chewing as I fall from your painted hand.
as a polar bear You know what September means, Iâ€™ve seen them stuffed and premeditated
four pillows and one head,
eyes like tiny black marbles
oil on the road.
and I want to be taught a lesson taught how to paint by a polar bear
The taste of an unspoiled air showing you everything that
because she paints the ice with lashings of red
dust showed me.
a premeditated and learned stroke on a crystallised arctic canvas
there it is
Dust that smelt like the start of something new.
my blood But now Iâ€™m frightened of dust. and something in me wakes up
Scared that it might stop choking me,
and I lie still
that it will settle, its hands falling from my throat.
so that I might appear stuffed my cotton insides melting just millimetres of ice
A grip that tastes like the end of something grown old.
Intimacy Do you remember when November spun everyone round until they felt sick and told them the world owed them a favour; when the clocks pulled them back by their hair and they spent that stolen hour bleeding from the scalp; can you remember seeing their eyes get darker quicker, wet leaves crushed to rust over the pavements; when their breath that appeared in the cold felt like a nosebleed when it touched your lip, when November drew bitter blood?
Thomas Westleigh Brown Revelation of Falsity Skin stretched past bone, a weight in his left; eyes whirlpools, spinning without color, a grimace of nightmare, riding his sickly equine, He smiles and says ‘Sweet lady! I am Famine ‘and you are mine, and I am thine’ A coat of tender velvet, a cigarette in hand; A hat so foolish it must be grand, A man whose only compliment is underhand, And a broken courtier that seeks to demand. Beautiful, yet , surrounded by flies; “I am Beelzebub Lord of Lies.” All the stars that came to fall and fly, As the redness of the bleak sky, the wistful nation of a thousand dead; As the king takes the faithful to his bed. In her right hand, a tissue of bright sanguine, And in her left a bottle, empty of its wine: A dying living being, wet at the eyes; Her beauty makes her words all but wise, As she turns to the palace: ‘I want to enter, but do not let me in, I am Ophelia, the lady of ruin’ From the east, to the west comes the vanguard; A Prince and Master of a thousand princes, Riding on his horse of mercury, his hands bled; And though his robes were not white but red. ‘I am Christ, the spirit, and god, your lord; And he said to the crying oppressed applaud: ‘You fathers and mothers are but fraud’
Mary Melvin Geoghegan Rob Burton
The Snow in the Lane I wish I’d taken a photo
of the snow in the lane.
Troll, that was the name as I dreamt it for
Not striving to recall -
What you were turning in to. Before I had Seen the change start to happen, it bore
taking Christmas down
Into me with the idea, I told you… gathering up the cards Some belly feeling that change was afoot. Branches grew from your uncombed hair
putting the crib away.
Brittle mushrooms around the root Moved fuses up to cover your eye lids in wood.
How, this year -
I was scared that birds would rear families where despite the frozen pipes You had petrified into unfeeling, unmoving Bark. Arriving in the doorway’s dark mouth
Your apology struck me not as unloving, Just passive. Sorry for what? Forgive me what?s spreading My guilt to condone the new growth
I tried to brush away the nests, and shave Off the stubble growth of your illness. But what Of it when I finally wake? Is it that my dream might have
Broken as waves Break? Lying down you filled out a broad check Dressing gown. And growing into the bed’s dark You’d atrophied to apologies. Rooted to the spot
Showtime This is your break A chance to tread the boards Or slip in the cracks The curtain goes up The lights glare on The audience waits to be dazzled They obviously have gone to the wrong show.
Roisin Hackett A Thought To him: A poem, as light, as an autumn leaf, up against the sun its veins are visible. Delicately, thinner than paper, a slip, a little bit, bity poem, pluck it up, and blow it like a jenny joe, cast it out, just for him, the veins are visible. Blow it out, out, and let it shimmer, a fleck of yellow in that blue. Floating among us, between ourselves, others, the talk, and the fuss, the veins are visible, and that’s enough, enough.
The Italian Arctic Monkeys On the Cote d’Azur in June The pregnant women mock me, Happiness fills them. They will have children with eyes That mirror exquisitely the eyes of their lovers On the Cote d’Azur in June My thoughts are azure blue And laced with you, Like the waves I see That lace the sea, They smash the shore And I can hear them draw The stones out. Mediterranean waves make little progress Onto land, But they touch Italy, Crazy Italy, fantastical Italy. To go back to the Italian Arctic Monkeys; The sky was a ceiling that went on forever, And the sand was a bed where I lay all day, The Italian Arctic Monkeys, a band playing, A band existing under a different name, a fantasy. On the Cote d’Azur in June The young couples holding hands sink me, The pregnant women mock me, I cannot listen to music, Everything reminds me, And with everything, Screaming blue expands, far beyond beyond, Ceaselessly loosing and lost.
Mark Lonergan Sea Rise up, mighty sea -Whirl your pointed waves Splash your great creamy foams
David Murphy Navel of the World
On the rocks, Hurl your green seaweed over us,
When twilight falls on Cuzco lean on
Cover us with your pools of blue
Inca walls that withstood tests of time and Spanish efforts at demolition.
Let each wave queue
Breathe in tendrils of oxygen.
Across the bar Waiting its turn
Eyes watered by wind and altitude render loops of light that droop between lamps in Plaza de Armas – copper wires to the soul lit up
Resurrection of a builder He thought he’d conn’d the banks for now; But has been read the book of pain: There are lines upon on his brow; He must make it smooth again. The banks have all been fools The politicians just selfish tools. The money has dried up, no credit to be found All business have run aground
by stars in the sky above Iglesia de La Compañia. – these are not stars. Turn full circle in the square; pearl and amber beads wink on in hillsides, each twinkle a window to Cuzco homes ascending in expanding necklaces, strung out star clusters – baubles and decorations on an upside-down Christmas tree. The dark hole at the centre of the sky remains black, adding to the fairytale
I have taught him he must arise For the next generation’s sake;-He opens up his green eyes, Softly, slowly: let’s optimism, awake
depth of make-believe dusk. Night drapes dreams on Cuzco, drags eyes from sky to plaza. Step lightly, slow-waltz until your coat becomes a scarlet cape, a time machine. Citizens of this city no longer wear modern clothes: they walk tall – empired, empowered – by head-dresses of finest plumes and brestplates of gold. They are Inca again. Pachacutec rules – his conquerors never came here.
Donal Mahoney First Son Growing In the long run the boy will be worth all the misery Iâ€™ve caused you, all the grief. If only for his smile,
One Day All Whores Will Magdalene Mind you, now, my brethren, the Scriptures never claim one day all whores will
yours, I know. If only for his eyes, mine, I know. But his eyes, They have your smile, brighter than a rainbow, streaming through them.
Magdalene and disbelievers Paul and you wonâ€™t find in Scriptures a single verse that claims one day all thieves will Dismas outside the castle gates while financiers Assisi inside those castle walls,
Good Mixers Like the poor, the comfortable you will always have with you. They hold good jobs, then get better ones. Like coyotes they grin and walk slowly in circles. They hire, even fire each other. They wed their own kind and selectively proliferate. Theirs is a constant harvest. Their voices are like sediment, thickening on everything.
their sharkskin suits in tatters, their eyes, their tin cups up.
Roisin Murphy Salt. That gnawing in the pit of your stomach is not envy or guilt or regret.
It is the constant clawing ache of present, may you ever endeavour to let the current slip your mind.
The ebb and flow as these minutes lap at your blood flush,
Everyone’s messed up in their own special way,
picking at the bones buried by flesh too rotten to feast on. Spoiled in barter for all that you wish was,
We’ve got problems that hurt more than a punch from Cassius Clay,
given seamless in aspersion.
A lot of people just want a way out,
You are disintegrating in the most backwards of fashion.
From things that make some people blow their brains out,
Memories cling, lank seaweed you pray will wash away with the tired tide.
We all have problems, rich and poor,
Evidence now lies only on your shoulders.
Some feel more abused than the cheapest hoore,
But life is full of ups and downs,
to thick fudged curdled, grub greased weir.
And we are all kings, without the crowns,
Slicking sharp when, in the lull and inside the dark.
Life is here to cherish,
Pinching at nerves that storm for the ether.
Yeah, there’s bad things, but life’s got its merits,
Your fingers follow metronomes buried deep in ears,
You see suicide is the worst way to go,
dancing jerked and broke waltzes to this swell that never reels.
‘Cause we’ve all got funk in us, like an afro,
Maybe then the tides will turn and just will flood in roaring rush.
So please, stay and bring life to every town,
To drag you from this empty shore, a violent end to a passive lie. Your glory will fall tangled in empyrean reeds, draught sucked barnacles will grace your stilted carcus. In the salted silence your knots – framed to more for scales and sea stars. In the salted silence, your end fought true.
Cause you’re a king or queen without a crown To weigh you down
A Million Little Pieces of Gold
i Luther pressed the blade to skin, shaved until smooth, looked again at his face, knew it was too late, the canal dredged as he splashed. He dressed casually taking care to match, threw the key under the mat. If he remained he would miss the train.
There’s never clarity in alcohol,
ii Mal stopped to listen, heard the click, wondered if he would come back, picked up the other shoe, prepared to leave. Dinner at The Locke
Maybe pull a sicky today,
would be good, a chance to reminisce. How would she manage the grass verge in those high heels?
Your friend will always want it more.
iii Slone sat at his worn out desk, re sorted the photographs. Passion is the girlfriend of crime and the relationship is just fine. When he found the key he counted the parts that added up to the whole. Now he needed to know her name.
A political disaster,
iv Local drove the car to the water, hand braked, left it idling. The carbon Monoxide got him just before the engine cut. They found the body cold, no papers to say who to tell. The canal frozen, unsearchable.
Even vodka would make a clear head cloudy. There’s never fortitude in sex, Only a post-analysis of where it went. Another day at school, Ten more minutes in bed, Bullying waits; cold classrooms and irrelevant mates. Make up a Munchausen, And ride a cannonball to the moon. There’s never trust in a drug, There’s never a ripple effect, Tell your child their father ‘went for a long walk’.
Is knocking at your door, Impeachment is a mess; you should have dry cleaned the blue dress. Why not see if they’re bluffing? It worked so well for a guy before? If you lie now, someone else will later lie to more. There’s never a right in gambling, Deceit runs thick through a flinch. There’s never an honourable fight, When a knife can be a gun, can be a bomb. Is it fact or fiction? A violent melee has you sitting in jail. Don’t worry; I once said that I met God in Surrey. Bridge the gap between criminal and addiction,
v Carla fingered the cut edges. A serrated blade but what type? She looked at the distressed face. It’s not possible to die without pain, the price of passage. She closed the file. Still no motive, Weapon. Not much to go on.
Winfrey can make you and then break you, Defamation stuck in your teeth... Though I would lie for a ‘million little pieces’ of gold as well.
Michael Naghten Shanks Ghosts They wander through dim misty streets like young ghosts draped in chains, struggling to break the binds – the prize they claim for old gains. Their bodies hang from age-old nooses swaying in an autumn wind, while calls come forth to cut the cord – will these hangmen ever rescind? Their living life the best they can, such lies they tell to hide the shame and save the heartbreak of the thought that they’re spectators in life’s game.
Modern Puffery “Be all that you can be,” said the U.S. Army – turning soldiers into amputees. “Have it your way,” said Burger King – as long as it’s fast and on the menu. “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” said M&M’s – millions of sticky-fingered children notwithstanding. “Fair and balanced,” said FOX News – with no hint of irony.
Susheel Sharma Meditation I have been listening To my silence To fathom my darkness That is deep enough. I realize it is the jazzed dragon-flies In a dark pool of weeds That don’t let me sleep. I breathe Harder and harder. I’m unable to clinch My mantra. Zipping unzipping the mantra Doesn’t help. It slips On the moss. No chances of my salvation. I remain a ruffian. I have once again Failed God.
Inquisitiveness When my son asked me The question of my coming to the earth It was not full of innocence. He wanted me to describe the details Of the event. ‘There was nothing unusual in it It was like your coming to this earth.’ He sways in silence -Wishes the video-taped version. He was just six. ‘Why don’t I look like you?’ parried his sister. She was just four. The question wasn’t innocent She went and touched The small flower on the tip of the cactus To take out a drop of blood. She wanted the DNA test to be performed. My skin has lost its glow since then. I brush their hair in bed. Both of them fall asleep. Tomorrow once again they’ll ask Questions – difficult questions. It is now a usual story.
Michael Sheehan Ripe Around 1970 My mother crouched, sat, trembled in a stream, In the heat of summer she watched her two brothers Zip back up their pants, as she stood watching Her blood slap ripples in the water Around 1977 My mother washed dishes, sweated dreams, With her eyes full of suds, she met a man who gave her love, And in style they came together in his caravan but My grandmother would not have her pregnant daughter Marry the likes of a tinker; there was a better way During 1978 The end to her stint of insanity passed In the form of birth to her first child, She never saw him but said often, She would have liked to have lost her mind Then, so it just wouldnâ€™t hurt 1980 I was not born yet, but she lost a second son to cancer Around 1997 Now a well-practiced mother popped out her twelfth And had the doctors make her sterile for she was Almost out of love to give, and was only getting it For the sake of having more kids 2001 My grandmother died and I do not understand why My mother cried
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Features May Featured Artist:
Page 19 - 20
May Featured Writer: James Lawless
May’s Quirk of the Month: Pen & Image Collaborative Project
The briars are thick around the cottage. She will go at them with the slash hook, thinking how those prickly things paradoxically yield such succulent fruit.”
Left: A Streaming Lie by Elli Chortara Top: Extract from “Living Without the Other” by James Lawless Bottom: Image from Hannah Ross (Pen & Image, May)
One ‘Ell’ of FEATURED ARTIST Elli Chortara has spent every waking moment since her childhood creating wonderful art. We, at Minus 9 Squared are delighted to feature Elli as this issue’s ‘Featured Artist’.
Name: Elli Chortara Age: 30 Occupation: Illustrator Education: MA in Illustration / BA in Graphic Design Passion and Talent: Drawing and illustrating, reading a text and making an image or trying to convey a message through an illustration. My sketchbook is aways in my bag. I have a strong passion for music, a major influence in my work. I always like to discover new sounds and bands from a wide range of genres. It influences my work in a variety of ways. What inspired you to become an artist?
I loved exploring my surroundings and looking at them for Rhythm of Catastrophe - by Elli Chortara hours, observing light, shadows and things. It triggered my imagination from an early
age and I was carrying a variety of images in my mind - sometimes unconsciously. They come back now and somehow I knew my calling had to be in he visual arts. What inspires your work? Mostly music and nature. I look at nature’s patterns. listen to nature’s sounds and observe life. I also listen to songs, or instrumental pieces which make me visualise things in my mind or transform reality with an endless soundtrack and also of course there is a lot of movements in art that inspire my work and a variety of artists. A very long list of artists. Movements that have inspired my work so far are Traditonal arts/Tribal art/Pop culture/ Street art/ Punk movement and DIY culture/World music and art/Bauhaus/Cubism/ Industrial and Urban landscapes, Contemporary literature and Independent cinema. What are you working on at the moment? I just have finished a collection of strange creatures and creating a book a book. I have also recently completed an online editorial residency with a creative team in California and I will participate in a new exhibition soon in mid April. What role do you think the arts have in today’s world? The role is mostly shifting or transforming in different ways on how people turn to or see the arts. And there are also many reasons why people create art.
f an Artist I believe the arts are of great/invaluable importance in every society as they are also a reflection and an expression of that society. Itâ€™s a difficult industry to make any kind of break in. Have you ever thought about packing it in? If so, what changed your mind? It had crossed my mind in the past but fortunately I am very much motivated and this has become a major part of my life now and having worked in different jobs/positions so far, it is just simply what I love to do and it does sometimes take time and constant work. But the feeling to create something that one loves and the prospect of making a living out of it too, can be a very rewarding feeling. What advice can you give to people attempting to break into the art industry? Motivation and constant everyday work/creation is the most important thing but also communicating with people and working with other artists as well, as much as making the necessary phone calls and getting people to view your work. This all helps to progress your work as much as possible. Where do you see yourself in ten years time? Where would you LIKE to see yourself? Being able to take bigger creative challenges and constantly progress my work and create new things. It is a work that never
Words - by Elli Chortara ends - constant work in progress a big adventure that I am willing to take. *****
James Lawless talks a and his newest novel ‘F FEATURED WRITER
James Lawless has been writing for a long time now and assures us that he has no intentions of giving up. With a book reception for his latest novel ‘Finding Penelope’ on the cards and a new poetry collection, James took some time out to chat to M9S about his work. Name: James Lawless Occupation: Full time writer Education: BA from UCD. MA from DCU. Passion and Talent: Literature. Nature. Botany, Tennis. What inspired you to become a writer? My mother reading comics and books to me and my father buying me my first diary when I was twelve. Who inspires your work?
monolith of corporate capitalism. It is also a story about the corruption of power as exemplified by a high court judge. My third novel The Avenue, as the name suggests, was inspired by the phenomenon of suburbia of which I am a product: what was the promise and what was the reality? I elaborate on these ‘inspirations’ in my writer profile page on Amazon. What are you working on at the moment? At the moment I have just put together a collection of poems, tentatively titled Rus in Urbe which I had written over the years dealing with my experience of urban and country living. I’m getting ready for the reception of Finding Penelope and my study of modern poetry, Clearing The Tangled Wood: Poetry as a way of seeing the world. which is due in paperback also in 2011. It is a global study of poetry where I did my own translations from the Spanish and Irish. Also I am working on a new novel which is ‘inspired’ by Irish America and its interconnection with contemporary Ireland.
I looked up my first Spanish word, zorro Themes rather for ‘fox’ at the back of a dictionary. It was than persons. First novel Peeling Oranges a funny way to start learning a language, was inspired by nationalism and its relevance from back to front. It reminded me of our today, what I was indoctrinated in in school and history teacher saying to us that we should the Irish language and religion and dictatorship learn history backwards because we leave and democracy and early school before we get to the present. Irish diplomacy which I
What role do you think the arts have in today’s world?
The arts provide us with an opportunity to pause and researched when the Na- Extract from “Peeling Oranges” reflect on the tional Archives became world, to see the folly of cupidity and to reuncensored and were opened to the public. alise the transience of it all. I have made my motto: Life is not what you make it, but what you make of it. My second novel For Love of Anna is a love story about a ballerina but is also an acronym for AnarIt’s a difficult industry to make any kind of break chists of the New Age. It originated in the time of the in. Have you ever thought about packing it in? If Celtic Tiger where I posited through the mind of the so, what changed your mind? protagonist Guido alternatives to the all-devouring Yes, it is very difficult to break through an elite which
about his inspriations Finding Penelope’ is what I sometimes perceive Irish letters to be. Frequently merit is not enough. You need luck or maybe a lickspittle quality to get contacts. Some writers are better than others at promoting themselves. I think the media occasionally gets too carried away with celebrity at the expense of talent. I also believe that in these recessionary times it behoves the Irish media to foster a broad range of Irish writers rather than a select few. As regards packing it in, I don’t think so. I’m too far gone now; besides what would I do with my mind? What is your novel, Finding Penelope, about?
approaching writing should be in it for the long haul. It’s not a game for dilettantes. You need a tough outer crust to protect the inner self. Where do you see yourself in ten years time? Where would you LIKE to see yourself? Well hopefully not down under yet. I would like to feel that my work would be recognised and given fair credit.
Read an extract from ‘Finding Penelope’ on page 51
And the great walls of glass curve towards the river taking on a greeny look past the Thirty three year old romance novelist Penelope Eames moves to Spain to luminous pillars of the courthouse, the seat avoid her oppressive father of justice, and the river glistens in the reand drug-addicted brother, Dermot. When she meets flection of the light, illuminating faces and Ramón, a young Spanish school teacher, who is legs and short skirts of women waiting by working for the summer as a lifeguard on the beach the quays. she frequents, she is immediately attracted to him and Extract from “For Love of Anna” feels the happiness that eluded her all her life may at last be hers. However, while travelling idyllically through Spain with Ramón, she receives a distress call from Dermot saying he is at the mercy of Charlie Eliot, a pimp and drug dealer on the Costa. Ramón, whose mother was killed by a drug addict, tells her to have nothing to do with Charlie Eliot. Penelope must decide: is she prepared to compromise herself with Charlie Eliot and jeopardise her chance of happiness with Ramón for the sake of her drug addicted brother? What advice can you give to people approaching the publishing machine? I can’t give advice on publishing but people
Novel covers for Peeling Oranges, The Avenue and For Love of Anna (above)
Pen and Image lay down Pen & Image is a collaborative project run by Hannah Ross, a London-based photographer with a taste for improvisation of the arts. She answered a few questions for Minus 9 Squared.
Meet the collaborators
The project works as follows:
1. A random word generator determines the daily word.
2. London [GMT=1] interprets using text or imagery, followed by New York [GMT-4] then Los Angeles [GMT-8] all within a 24-hour time frame. 3. Sleep & Repeat.
We tested Hannah with a few words of our own.... Numbers: 4 international contributors (London, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong) interpret the word using the text or imagery within a 24-hour time frame. Diversity: All of the contributors are in different working fields, which comes across in how they articulate their interpretations. It’s an interesting look into how members of different industries in different metropolitan cities perceive the same language. Worldwide: We’ve added a fourth rotating member in May (Hong Kong) and each following month we will change to another city. Up coming countries/ states include Tanzania, Portugal, Hawaii, China, and even a Texas Death Row Inmate. Images and text are from May’s segment on SEARCHING
[GMT+1: London, UK] Received her BFA from New York University, and her Fine Art PgD from Central Saint Martins. Currently works in commercial fashion photography.
James Wang (Permanent Contributor) [GMT – 4: Brooklyn, NY] Received his Pharm D. from Rutgers University and is currently working as a pharmacist at NYU Medical Centre.
Ben Caro (Permanent Contributor) [GMT – 8: Los Angeles, CA] Received his BS from Boston University in Film & TV and is currently working as a video editor for America’s Most Wanted.
n roots across the world SEARCHING
[GMT-4 NEW YORK]
“She’ll be there any minute,” he thinks, as he leaps up the steps, two at a time. He catches his foot at the top of the second flight and nearly faceplants into the wall. He recovers from the trip up and takes a second to lift his shirt off his sweaty chest and winces as the back of his shirt, flapping loose, cool and wet before, now plasters to his body. His lanky frame flies up the stairs. He fumbles for his keys and struggles with the lock like a soon-tobe-bludgeoned poor soul in a B-Horror. “Is it left on the top or the bottom?” He finally manages and upon entering, zips open his fly in the hall, only just vaguely concerned that his roommates might be around. He takes a moment in the bathroom to collect himself. “Change of clothes. Polo, not button-down.”
[GMT-8 LOS ANGELES]
[GMT-4 NEW YORK]
BODY LANGUAGE EXHIBTED DURING BORING CONVERSATION 1)
TOPICS DISCUSSED IN BORING CONVERSATION 1)
daiy work happenings
4) 5) 6)
pets food descriptions habits of significant others
Featured Artist: Elli Chortara From Top Left Clockwise: A Streaming Lie, Thirteen, Two Sides of the Brain.
Visual Arts Inside:
Aurelie Bourguet Zoe Buser Orla Clancy Gerry Davis Jemma Dodd Siobhan Doyle Ingrid Locatelli Gerard Lough Sarah Lundy Jack Oughton Tina Remiz LA Speedwing
Left: Dreaming of the Emperor Below: Misquote
Home Is Where The Mountains Are
Orla Clancy Left: Carrier of this Reality
Gerry Davis Right: Wheelman
Photographer: Jemma Dodd Alice: Kelsey Lee Ford Mad Hatter: Alexandra Lanchester Queen of Hearts: Nichola Stockwell
Hair: James Powell Make-up Artist: Sharon Jarvis Stylist: Marianne Campbell for Minimum Mouse
Eye of the Tiger
Clockwise from left: On A Still Pathway; Flora; Boathouse
Both images from ‘The Stolen Wings’ photo shoot.
Sarah Lundy Lingzhi
Tina Remiz Clown
Top: Snowy Bottom: Weeds
LA Speedwing Right: Modern Art Below: Racing Stillness
Featured Writer - James Lawless
She concentrates on him now for the first time full face as he places his book on the side of the table and removes his spectacles, holding them nervously, she notices, with both hands on each arm, pondering perhaps where to place them, and she sees the slight eye strain, the little dint on the bridge of the nose and – approvingly – the high cheek bones set in an ascetically handsome face. From For Love of Anna
He (I’m just guessing it was the cob) suddenly raised his heavy wings one day as if they had come from a secret part of himself and, flapping ponderously, tore down the canal like a plane on a runway, his legs skimming along the surface of the water until airborne. Then, wavering for a moment, like someone remembering, he lifted himself higher and flew away. From The Avenue
There was a storm last night that brought hail and snow and trees down. The grey walls of my house shifted, shook a little, their brown brick dressing removed. Poorly mortared, not meant to be seen, the mortar, drydripped over the grey eight by fours like frozen tears. From Brown Brick (Short Story)
‘Regardez!’ she said when I came out, and she lifted up the newspaper from the tray. It was Le Monde. She pointed to the front cover: it had a photograph of two young lovers kissing amid the riots of the Sorbonne. From The Kiss (Short Story)
The briars are thick around the cottage. She will go at them with the slash hook, thinking how those prickly things paradoxically yield such succulent fruit. From Living Without the Other (Short Story)
He hears the waves breaking on the shore to the haunting chant of the muezzin echoing over the minarets and onion domes of the mosques. From Jolt (Short Story)
Fiction Elaine Cosgrove Full Sound
Dean Giles The Game of Life Sam Goldwater A Relevant Party Sarah Griffin Untitled Anna Hayes Jigsaw Pieces Louise Hegarty Everyday Jug Andy Kirby Write Off James Lawless Finding Penelope Rebecca Long The Old House Ronan McDonnell Footprints David Rudden Time Signature
Full Sound by Elaine Cosgrove W
hen the street lamps stuttered their bulbs on, she realised it walking home. She couldn’t figure it out for the past week. She’d been stewing over a series of incidents but never coming to a conclusion on the concrete facts: the facts that she would tell to someone someday. The lamps completed their agency changing from dormant crystal to a smooth, orange electric light. Her mind heaved with silent thoughts colliding busily, synapse to synapse, never excusing themselves. He... he can be so argumentative sometimes. A guy’s voice shouting from across the bridge caught her; the colliding buzz stalled and listened to the voice. She couldn’t see the guy who the voice belonged to but he was with a group of friends. “Cheer up! It’s not so bad!” Asshole. If only he knew. Closing the door behind her, he immediately came out of the kitchen into the hallway demanding to know the answer to, “Where the hell have you been?” She knew, he knew – she had told him two days ago about her plans. She had executed the necessary humiliation, asking him for if it was o.k. to go out. He had granted permission like a presidential gift. She had deserved it, she had earned it. She should enjoy herself. As if. She knew the elements of the storm forming well. She thought about the physics class when she had learnt about the conservation of angular momentum. She had loved physics in school; dipping back into it by reading up on the BBC science webpage. But this thinking was distracting her. Better listen or else. “I SAID, where have you been?” she let out a groan. “You know where I was. I was at the Town Hall at that play I’ve wanted to see. Remember? Remember I asked you? Two days ago?” Another tex onto the bricolage of times he’s done this, for fuck sake, again and again. “You’re so full of shit, Annie.” He said and turned around going back into the kitchen. She pulled down the sleeve of her coat and thought about the street lamps, the walk home, John Jacques Rousseau, and her steps retiring into the pavement hissing “a very monster among men.” Every footstep had been a concentration to step delicately; steady as you go, you won’t fall over, and you won’t humiliate yourself, its o.k. She was thinking this over and then it hit her. The walnut handle of her grandda’s umbrella hit her across her ear and her cheekbone. The lamps bust out their crystal, hammer, anvil, stirrup, a perfectly discordant imploding knockout. Her vision palpitated drawing in the velvet block of idio-dead-sound. When she comes to, her strength will usurp his command. It will floodlight his elements and their angles into obscurity. She will recreate these facts to somebody’s ear with full sound - somebody who will listen and understand.
The Game of Life by Dean Giles F
ive o’clock sharp and Demetrius powered down his PC, he gathered the unfinished insurance quotes and neatly placed them in his in-tray. He scrutinised his desk; it seemed un-balanced, messy. As was his custom, Demetrius adjusted the monitor so it lined up exactly central on the pine desk. He picked up his shiny leather briefcase and made his way to the lift, careful to avoid any of his work ‘buddies’ en route. Once inside he relaxed, happy he was alone for the ten-storey descent. Just my luck, he thought as a manicured hand jammed the lift doors, which opened to reveal Craig’s beaming face. Don’t these people ever get tired of being nice? “Hey Dem, how’s it going?’ Craig asked as he squeezed through the doors, ‘any plans for the weekend?’ he added with an eager grin. Demetrius envisioned his weekend at home, sprawled in front of his computer half drowned in a bottle of Whisky. ‘Nothing exciting,’ he replied with a forced a smile. ‘The wife and I are heading to the Lake District for a couple of days, walks in the wilderness, riding in the hills,’ Craig winked, ‘but most of the riding will take place in the bedroom. We’re trying for a baby you know?’ Demetrius nodded with a sincere knowing smile. He glanced at the lift display, three down and seven more to go before he could get away from Mr. Mary Poppins here. ‘How’s the family?’ Craig asked. ‘Very well,’ Demetrius replied, ‘I’m taking the boys
swimming tomorrow. Chloe’s no good in the water so I get them all to myself for the day.’ ‘Sounds great, you’ll have to give me some tips’ Demetrius laughed, perhaps a little too loudly. ‘Hey buddy, you all right?’ Craig asked gripping his shoulder. ‘I’m fine - just a little under the weather’ he said as the lift doors finally opened. ‘Look after yourself,’ Craig said with concern in his voice, ‘and give my regards to the family.’ ‘Will do - enjoy your weekend,’ Demetrius said. And mind your own fucking business, he thought as he hurried away. Arriving home, Demetrius removed his shoes and placed them in their original box next to his briefcase. He pulled off his socks, folded them three times and delicately placed them in the laundry basket. The hallway gave way to a cramped bathroom on the left, the black tiled floor gleaming around the bright white mat placed exactly in the centre. He walked across the hall, his feet comfy against the soft texture of the grey carpet, and entered the bathroom - the cold ceramic tiles a pleasing contrast on his bare skin. Toiletries lined the shelves in order of height, each one carefully positioned with labels facing outwards. Demetrius stooped over the sink, instinctively avoiding his sorrowful reflection in the mirror. He yanked open the cabinet door and carefully detached the backboard revealing his hidden stash. With a heavy heart he picked up a bag filled with small blue pills and dropped them in his shirt pocket.
The adjacent room comprised of a kitchen and living/sleeping area. Precisely central were three seventy-inch 3D flatscreen televisions connected to a high-end gaming PC. The U-shape configuration of paperthin Television screens totally engulfed a state-of-the-art gaming chair. Demetrius immediately relaxed at the sight of his set-up and for the first time that day a genuine smile elevated his dark mood. He sat down with a sigh and picked up a picture from the desk, the knotted wooden frame heavy in his unsteady grip. He stared at the photo of his wife and two boys taken last year – a reminder of his life before she left him. Anger had long since turned to something colder – bitterness perhaps. But above all, Demetrius was painfully aware that the man he used to be disappeared the very day she walked out of his life. Yet deep down he knew he was unable to change, perhaps unwilling to change. He removed a letter tucked behind the wooden frame, and paused a moment before re-reading it, a ritual he had carried out every day since she left. Demy, I don’t know you anymore. Me, us, your family are just ghosts in your life. The man I married is gone, lost to that infernal machine. You have chosen it, and yourself, over us for the last time. You no longer provide for our children, they need a father -not a zombie who lives in a virtual world. I don’t want our boys turning out like you. Goodbye Demy you selfish stubborn prick.
He contemplated her words again, as he had done every day since she left and each time he drew the same conclusion. ‘Bitch,’ he whispered as he opened a concealed drawer on the arm of his chair. He took out a half empty Whisky bottle and pulled the bag of pills from his pocket. Amphetamine based and highly illegal, two of these mind-altering tabs were the closest thing this side of major surgery for immersion junkies. A large gulp of whisky and two pills later Demetrius began to relax, he leant forward and switched on his computer. The 3D display sprang to life and his drug-induced mind captured the projected images, and made them real. The Sun was slowly dropping over the horizon, the shadows of the trees elongated across the dust track. He sat proudly upon the huge Grey, the horse’s coat reflecting the Sun’s glow. From his vantage point Demetrius could make out the town below, the market square bustling with life and the evening rush already underway. He glanced at the empty sheath on his belt. His quest: Find the Knife of the West and return it to the Queen; in the wrong hands the magical blade’s terrible powers could be used to catastrophic affect. On entering the town’s gate Demetrius dismounted from his stallion and made his way by foot to the battleground; he could hear the monotonous chanting of his name as he walked the tree lined approach to the Arena. The enormous stone structure boasted four spires on each corner. Below the ground, unseen, were huge caverns leading to hundreds, maybe thousands of miles of tunnels. The Arena was the only known entrance to the catacombs in the Western lands of Shivering. They say evil is widespread and fervent in the darkness below. It is there where the Knife of the West is rumoured to be hidden. And it is here he must fight for the right to enter the tunnels. Demetrius entered the Arena to rising cheers,
he removed his fabric cape to reveal his full battle armour, like a warrior-of-old he was covered from head to foot in chrome metal, a metre long broad sword hung easily from his left side. He closed his eyes and let the cheers flow through him. He stepped forward, took a single bow and clamped down his chrome visor, ready for battle. His opponent was no man in any sense that one might recognise - it was obscene to look at. It paced the arena on four legs like an enormous dog, and where its head should be was an elongated body with a further two arms ending in large dangerous hooks. Its four padded legs culminated in sharp claws, and its face was vaguely human. Demetrius had only heard of these godless animals. Half human, half devil, the bastard offspring of a human ravaged by a demon of the catacombs. Without warning it pounced an impossible distance across the arena taking Demetrius out with a crushing blow, cruel hooks ripped at his upper body and sharp pincers tore through his armour. It retreated roaring to the crowd, feeding off their lust for blood. But the monster had over estimated the damage it had wrought. Demetrius rose to his feet, and while the monster’s back was turned he sprinted forward grabbing hold of its foreleg and snatching it from its feet. He spun around with all his might, tossing the monster across the dusty floor. It lay still, blood quickly pooling from a severed limb. Demetrius held the monster’s foreleg high in his armoured grip and moved quickly to the stricken monster. He sliced the hook across its throat, cutting it deeply with its own severed joint. But to his surprise, it was not enough. The monster rose from the floor grinning manically before sinking its jagged teeth into his jugular. ‘Bastards!’ Demetrius roared as his character died in battle. He switched off the system utterly furious, kicked away the chair and stormed around his flat. ‘I need deeper immersion’ He said aloud.
Demetrius fumbled for the bag of pills in his pocket and yanked them out with trembling hands, nearly spilling them on the spotless carpet. He stopped, and stared briefly at the backs of his shaking hands. It’s just the adrenalin; he told himself as he swallowed another two pills. The weekend had taken its toll, Demetrius lay completely still in his gaming chair. He looked down at his clothes, unchanged since Friday and way past smelly. With much effort he focused on the still flickering interactive display screen and checked the time in the uppermost corner – he was late for work! Could it really be morning? Have I been asleep? He attempted to move and at once regretted it, dizziness nearly overcame him. He lay back relaxing once more into his chair, his neck muscles tight and head heavy. He tried to blink away the tiredness and rationalise his thoughts, the desperately unwelcome image of a pile of insurance quotes surfaced in his mind. He shook away the depressing thought and stared at the glittering display in front of him. It was unbearably alluring... To hell with it, one sick day won’t do any harm, he thought as he fished inside his shirt pocket and removed a further two blue pills. *****
A Relevant Party
by Sam Goldwater
burnt the flag that held your name in blood red letters and silver stripes, burned it in the garden where some mutual friend might find it. A quiet hope of mine, I admit that now with irony of hindsight. A bludgeoned town, a wind swept pit, all industry’s great gravestones – they towered above our two story semis, our window boxes. Our patios. ”A steady hand – vote Richmond for Council Chair!” I leaned in close to read the line, but my mind was in two places. Outside: dismal grey. Plastic bags in the wind, flecks of bitter rain, a stray mongrel. The kind of weather that made Caroline weep. I enjoyed it, revelled in the concrete apocalypse. I used to ask to her to come and join me, run and run through Beltton Morgan, it’s tired streets, chain link fences, oily puddles, struggling weeds. “Fucking hell, that feels good!” I stretched over backwards in the narrow kitchen, the door still open, dripping the pissing grey atmosphere upon the cold tiles. “What’s wrong with you?” She said, crouching with her knees to her chest in the window sill. A silhouette in the unlit room. At that moment, (I remember it distinctly) I almost told her. I stood straight, topless and toned, greasy from the atmosphere‟s discharge. “Is there anything you don‟t know about me?” “No,” she said. *** The booth smelled of spilt vinegar, smattered stains on mock leather. The waitress hovered between empty tables, giving the surfaces a rhythmic double hiss of citrus disinfectant. I was waiting for you – I was always waiting for you – at the back, near the pool tables.
You liked to keep a low profile these days. You came in raising the collar of your mac, hunching your shoulders as if stepping through the other way. Into the cold. “Well?” “You’re late,” I said automatically. “How’s the campaign?” “Slow,” you said, sprawling an elbow across the stained surface, chin on palm. “Maggie misjudged our chances with Richmond. Running with the cultural development angle might’ve been a bad idea. Now I’m thinking infrastructure. Did you order?” Caroline had been right for so long – long enough for all Beltton’s meteorological states to keep her in my mind. My parietal lobe. My memory of her is a persistent, earnest sadness. An energy that pushes me forward. A nihilist’s wry determination. She was right about you. I refused to see it then. You leaned in conspiratorially.
your opponent’s name, I cycled west toward the park, past the still smoking ashes of the townhouse, (you said you knew who did it), under the seaward overpass and down the old pedestrian shopping strip toward the southern terraces. Caroline moved out here to stay with a friend after the last time she found out about Us. Nailed to a tree was the latest campaign poster; “What is change?” In caps, above your stern portrait. Caroline’s room faced the yard, shards of broken glass lined the walls that bordered the service alley. What was I here for? “What are you here for?” She said, arms folded, leaning on her drawing desk. “This must be a busy time.” “For some,” I said. “Is it for you?” “It is, I’m leaving soon” “Leaving town?” “Yes”
“The man’s a swine, he’s holding on to his seat with cheap stunts. He practically wears that hard hat in the ward meetings, but I know he’s planning to cut the transport quota – he wants money in stage one education.” You snatched my hand from the table and hid it between your folded arms, as if perhaps neither of us would notice.
“For how long?”
“I mean, what’s the point in nursery school if no one can get there in the morning?”
“What did you tell them?”
Smiling a callous, victorious smile, you squeezed my wrist under your mac.
lived out of a house just like this one, grazed and picked across the squalor, slept on the kitchen’s tarmac roof. At first we took our sleeping bags out of the window for a joke, a romantic urban gesture during the summer months. When September came around, she had nightmares sleeping indoors so we stayed there. From where I stood,
Was it on this occasion? Perhaps it was another time later in the year, as your running for Council Chair began in earnest, that I elected to call in on Caroline. Leaving the room you always booked under
She turned to the window. There are glorious sunsets here, the tourism board doesn’t talk about why. “I’m going to Barthyscliffe, staying with my parents” “Do they know about us?” “Of course” “I told them I was alone again”. For two years Caroline and I
I could see the ropes of a one man tent pitched on the garage roof. “I told them I was alone again”. For two years Caroline and I lived out of a house just like this one, grazed and picked across the squalor, slept on the kitchen’s tarmac roof. At first we took our sleeping bags out of the window for a joke, a romantic urban gesture during the summer months. When September came around, she had nightmares sleeping indoors so we stayed there. From where I stood, I could see the ropes of a one man tent pitched on the garage roof. “You’re in a tent now?” “Privacy,” you said. “You’re out there on your own? I thought you hated this weather” “I’ve changed my mind”. *** Scissors, ash trays, house dust, the driving rain. You roped me into catching the coastal line to Warwick-Seaton, said you needed help putting a new pamphlet together. There were several of us there, some of them competing admirers of yours, I guessed. Wind battered the heaving walls, a draft sent pages fluttering across the large, cluttered table. Somewhere in the house you paced about, heels echoing, speaking to committee heads on the phone. “Nor would I, Jackie, nor would I! Only these are the concerns voiced to me by my constituents, and if you–” We worked mainly in silence through the afternoon. You weren’t around much. At seven I opened the bottle of cheap red I hadn’t planned on sharing. Sheila methodically poured a dismal splash into plastic cups emblazoned with your name. “It will be close,” Adrian said. “Richmond is gaining in the suburbs,” said Aileen, the campaign manager. I found you upstairs, sitting on the edge of the double bed, your back to the door. The tide was in. Death coloured salt water exploded against the breakwater, running
in icy sheets across the car park. I stepped across the creaking wood and leant against the dresser. You turned a razor blade between your fingers. “What’s that for?” “Protection” “I haven’t seen you all day,” I said. When we were children, my parents sent me to visit on long holidays to this house, your father’s house. He was a petulant man, directionless, cold. Marv was a fisherman, he squandered the long months between lobster seasons bawling obscenities at the sea. Something I could see you doing in summers to come. This was his room, before the family moved south. Always south. You stayed out of spite, out of duty. The romance of it struck me then as you hunched, legs apart, grinding a heel into the woodwork. “The committee isn’t taking my calls. What does Richmond have, Ron? That I don’t?” “The pamphlet looks good,” I heard myself saying. “The new mantra is a winner.” One of the prints must have been sucked out of the window from downstairs, or else one of the volunteers had thrown it. The scarlet pamphlet spiralled in the wind, towards the sea. The campaign line was stamped across the front page, „Rise Above Pot Holes’. You were studying the razor blade and thankfully, didn’t see the sum total of your passions laid waste by the elements; enough to make anyone spin something sharp between their fingers. *** What would there be to weave and dodge between, through the electric rain and snow crash hurricane if not for the legendary pot holes of Beltton Morgan? Your town! Your constituency. Cycling through the sharp sleet I asked you this, my day-glow waistcoat flapping against the violent weather. What character would there be left to our beloved, ruinous waste? Out of furious patriotism, I cut a right angle across the A road,
before low visibility traffic, the coal trucks and crete turners, following a neon sign that caught my eye. “Richmond Campaign HQ”. Tinsel flailed helplessly about the gilded garage door, this was the loading bay of a one-time supermarket. Finley’s, bless him. I heard you were conceived in this alley. Several rusting hatchbacks were parked along the curb, one of them I recognised. Sure enough, inside, under the sad purple lights of an office disco, Caroline stood chatting to someone I did not recognise. An older man, silver, refined. He leaned on a cubicle wall, paper party hat balancing jauntily on his iron DA. She crossed her arms. She wore a grey polar neck we used to share – military – a hand-me-down from my uncle in the Caucasus. “What’s the occasion?” I asked, interrupting. “We’re celebrating Richmond’s win.” Caroline said, speaking to the man. “A little premature,” I hazarded. “I think not,” said Richmond. “We are gaining in the suburbs”. “The real votes are down Shop Street,” “Sorry, who are you?” “I am a Relevant Party” “A relevant party!” Caroline laughed, glancing toward the dance floor. “I’m not here to take sides,” I said, turning to Richmond. “How do you feel about Beltton’s potholes?” “They’re part of our heritage,” he said in a councillor’s voice. “To move our city into the 21st, we’ll have to address issues deeper that potholes,” he laughed forcefully. Feeling in the mood, I caught up with some familiar faces on the dance floor, leaning close to shout simple phrases over the blaring music. Joe the newspaperman predicted resurgence in print media. “I hope you’re right Joe!” “What was that, Ron?”
“I said, we’ll speak later! ‟”
me on edge.
As I’d hoped, I ran into Caroline on the stairs.
“Belttown doesn’t look like that, the only agriculture around here are the fish farms”
“Ron,” she said, leaning on the rail, “what are you doing here? Really?” I thought about it. “Do you still see her?” “No,” I said, it was basically true. I had barely thought about you since leaving the coast. She looked at me, hand slipping slowly down the banister. “I still want to get out of here,” She said. “Where would we go?” “South”. *** The ballot was a week away. You haunted Caroline and me as best you could. Campaign posters, canvassers, solemn pledges over Shop Street’s crackling PA. A public appearance on the hill didn’t boost your approval ratings – when the storm hit you tried to shout it down. Wringing hands, spiritual howls. A disquieting sight to your straggling base. I couldn’t help but smile; your father would have done the same. *** Thursday. I woke late to a vision of permanent, porous green. My head throbbed: another Richmond pre-election victory party. I unzipped the tent and crawled out on to the garage roof. Grey, flecks of rain. The window was open; Caroline was painting in her room. Strains of shrieking voices came from somewhere across the service alley. A cool breeze blew, sulphur tinged. A pleasant afternoon. “What are you working on?” “Richmond’s victory poster,” she unfastened the board from the easel and held it up. “Do you like it? We’re going to print it big and roll it from the roof of the old Inglewood’s factory, remember where Epicurean Cleaning Products used to be?” Richmond’s wolfish face grinned at me as Caroline tilted the canvas left and right, catching the light. Something about the rainbow skyline and luscious pastures put
“It’ll be different when Richmond wins” “He’s been in power for six years already, Caro‟” “Well, who cares? I’ll be gone”. *** The Election Day was a chemical heat. Fluttering ribbons adorned the police cordons of provincial murder scenes and damaged kids sounded the horns of stolen cars. Caroline had left early. I stood on the corner of Shop Street taking in the buzz. I planned to meet her there, by Richmond’s local – the station where he would ceremoniously register his vote. Romany immigrants sold plastic Richmond figurines and flammable voodoo dolls, your name on the forehead. A white family squatted by a camping stove, roasting something synthetic. The electorate can be cruel. Before you entered the campaign trail, I had never once hit the polls. A stalwart of Beltton Morgan as it was, I didn’t wish to see it fall to the Thatcherite forward march you contended in your pamphlets, in your disturbing public addresses, even in your love making. I liked the potholes, but I had never liked Richmond. No one had before you came along. Now a gathering crowd were awaiting his entourage, flailing flags in his name and colour. Mauve. My phone vibrated in my pocket, I checked the caller. My stomach writhed, it was you. I let it ring. The vibrating continued as the steady breeze changed direction. This new wind carried a shift in temperament. Suddenly, shrill sirens echoed through Shop Street, the victorious shouts outside the polling station became silent. People were running. Out of the pedestrian zone and on to the A road, people ran. Traffic had disappeared. A kilometre down we saw why – across the dual carriage way police had laid a road
block.The wind had become a gale, our coats blew about us. Police men and women silently warding us from the road ahead, leaned backwards against the elements. Over bobbing heads I saw the wreckage. A family SUV decorated in council chair regalia, Richmond’s car. The vehicle had plunged into the notorious Shop Street pothole. A limp, silver-haired body was hurriedly dragged from the backseat. Paramedics wheeled the figure towards an ambulance. On the other side, two policemen were prising open the back door. With their help, a woman in a military polo neck hobbled onto the pavement. Was that-? My phone still rang. “Hello?” “Ron,” you said in a quiet, electric voice, “I’ve won”. *** You were inaugurated in a private ceremony, the public event abandoned for security reasons. With Caroline still in hospital, I did as she asked and attended the flag burning on the square. A night of looting and hatred. I sensed that many of us in Beltton were taking the opportunity to fall in with the terrible fiction of it all. The Council Chair was dead, the throne was yours. They broke shop windows and threw rocks at police. What were people protesting? “Life’s delicious irony, I suppose” said Caroline from her hospital bed. A protest then or a celebration? Later, at hers, I burnt the flag that held your name in blood red letters and silver stripes, alone, and in memory.
Untitledby Sarah Griffin i
am lying here because i was not having fun at your party. your friends are dull and all look the same and make me feel like i am the wrong shape and shade and size to be in the kitchen talking about the political weight of contemporary something or other but most of the girls are plain and i think this is funny. i have drank a bottle of wine and several mixed glasses of other wines. fine wines. fine, fine white label supermarket bob’s yer uncle five quid paint stripping vinos. feels like the end of the world in my mouth and the fires of hell in my throat and sweet, sweet stupid and joyful padding the lining of my skull. i am lying with my hair over the edge of the roof of your building and you don’t know i am up here and you would be very angry if you knew i had gone up onto your roof. i don’t want to be a supermodel but i want you to look at me the hardest and now i am on your roof and your party is boring. the feel of icy december on my face is nice up here and maybe makes me soberer and that’s fine with me. i decided to lie here because i like the look of our mucky city sky and seeing the stars do their damn best to peep out to see me and say hello, hello you lovely girl, we’re interested in talking to you even if nobody in the kitchen is. i wonder what they feel like against fingers and i’d love to reach up and touch them but i know i’d lose my balance and fall off the top of your building and die and nobody would benefit from that. i wouldn’t even get to touch them before i fell. it’d be a waste. but this december feeling all over me is good and rich and they are winking through the manky clouds to touch them. i lift my arm. i lie with half my head over the edge of your roof and my hair billows in the icebreeze and my right hand will not feel the twinkly teasing lights in the sky and i hear your voice then. shouting. why are you up here why are you up here what are you doing what are you doing. what am i doing? i am lying on your rooftop. why am i up here? why? i am up here because your party was boring, because there is no wine left, because december’s hands through my hair feel better than yours ever have.
Jigsaw Pieces S
he was already asleep when I clambered into the bed beside her. I’d been pacing around in the common area for a while, trying to find whatever excuse I could to keep away from her for as long as I could. Of all the people on the trip, I had to end up bunking with her. It wasn’t as if I could have gotten out of it though. When they’d announced that we’d all have to double up she seemed to just gravitate towards me, nudged me in the elbow and said “Two of us?” All I could do at the time was nod, a lump suspended in my throat threatened to turn my voice husky as a smokylunged jazz singer in the sixties if I’d tried to speak. After dinner we’d sat around in the common area, talking, joking, planning our route and ideas for the next day. A further 5 miles, just into the next small village where we’d either pitch a tent or find someplace cheap to bunk down for the night. I’d expected that trekking through South America would be rough living but so far I’d been amazed at the sheer quantity of cheap hostels there were scattered in every small, insignificant corner of the continent. Not that any of it was insignificant per se. It was beautiful. I’d fallen in love with it the minute I’d taken my first step outside the Buenos Aires suburbs into the countryside. I’d met her in a bar just north of Buenos Aries, my first night outside of the city. She was with three other friends, two of whom were an engaged couple who, rather than try to live together in one place were testing the theory that if they could travel the world together for a year and not kill each other then they were meant to be. The five of us had moved on from there and spent that second evening in tents just off the main road. The following night, we met some more backpackers bringing our group’s total to eight and setting the
by Anna Hayes
scene for some inevitable pairing off among the gang. One of the guys in the second group hooked up with one of her friends and from there, everybody seemed to slot into a space, like jigsaw pieces finding who they knew was the right partner but twisting and turning until they fit together properly. I was her jigsaw piece. It was ten days since I’d left Buenos Aires and here I was, trying to find an excuse to stay in the common area for another while, listening to conversation I couldn’t follow because I could barely keep my eyes open. The air conditioning was broken and I was sticking to the less than comfortable plastic chair I sat on. Finally I stood up and stepped away from the group. One of the guys from Group One wished me goodnight and I returned it politely before slowly padding down the corridor to room seven. As I said, she was asleep when I walked in so I didn’t turn on the light. The moon was shining in through the crack in the curtains, illuminating everything in a pale yet radiant blue and I was able to change into my shorts and vest top using its light. I looked at the bed. She had positioned herself somewhere in the middle of it. I weighed up my options as to which side I should go for and eventually decided to slip in on the side that she had her back to. I lay on my back watching the fan twirl silently above me. I tried closing my eyes once or twice but every time I did I saw her, her pretty face smiling over at me from behind a bush, or a few steps ahead on a steep mountain. Her smile cut through any semblance of worry or anxiety I had about my ambitious trip across a continent I didn’t know. Her smile made me wonder why I had never done it before. I suppose now, in retrospect, she was the metaphor for that trip, the metaphor for my sudden ability to do all the things I didn’t think
I could before. She was the metaphor for everything. No. She was everything. I was just about dozing off when I felt skin brush against my bare knee and a weight settle across my lower abdomen. My eyes shot open. I looked down, shifted my leg slightly. She had turned in her sleep and in doing so had draped an arm across my stomach and a leg over mine. Her face was nestled into my arm and it frightened me to think that my first reaction was to slide that arm around her. I took a deep breath. When I’d left the common area, the remaining gang had been playing poker. I somehow felt like the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher than they were right now in this room. I looked down, twisting backwards so I could see her face. She was still asleep. Out cold. Probably didn’t even realise what she’d done. Would probably wake up first in the morning, see her position and recoil without ever pretending to know about it. I could see her face now, asking me if I slept ok, wasn’t the bed comfortable, I thought our combined body heat would kill us… I lay still for what seemed like an hour but could only have been about ten minutes. I felt my breathing even out as my body got used to the extra weight being placed on it. She was warm. I was roasting. The fan continued to twirl above me but for what good it was doing it might as well have been turned off. Her leg felt smooth across mine, soft. Her hand curved around my hip in such a way that it felt like she was holding me in place. I could feel her breath against my arm and suddenly I felt very much at peace. Just then, out of the blue and completely cut off from any pragmatism I may have had left sitting around in my brain, I craned my neck down and kissed her. I kissed her just where her hairline met
with the skin of her forehead. Her skin was soft and I closed my eyes as I softly laid my lips to her head. I kept my eyes closed as I pulled back and my head hit the pillow again. I sighed quietly to myself.
should have feigned ignorance. I knew what she meant. It was an issue I’d worn on my every wrinkle and smirk since the dynamic between us had changed. She asked it again.
“What was that for?” the mumble came through a moment later. I froze. What’s more, I knew she had probably felt me freeze too. I said nothing, tried to even out my breathing. Maybe she’ll think I’m asleep, I thought.
This time I got it right. But it was too late.
“Pretending to be asleep isn’t going to cut it,” she said then and I swallowed hard. “I’m sorry,” I said, spluttering over my words, wondering how long before I was turfed out of the bed and made to sleep on the floor. There was a silence for a moment. She was contemplating how to tell me to leave, I could tell. I was just about to save her the hassle when she spoke. “I think it’s sweet,” she said quietly and I could have sworn she nuzzled her face further into my arm. My eyes widened and a thought struck me. “Would you think it was sweet if I told you I thought you were asleep?” “I knew you thought that. I still think it was sweet…regardless of the fact that you were taking advantage…” I could hear the smile in her voice. I could hear how certain words took on their own inflections, proof at least to my ears that she was grinning as she spoke. I turned onto my side and glanced down at her. Her face was perfectly straight. I studied it carefully, looking for some flicker of recognition, something to tell me that she was yanking my chain. There. A tiny flicker at the corner of her mouth, a smirk she suppressed at the last minute. I took it as my cue. I leaned down and brushed my lips softly off of hers, barely even enough to count as contact. I pulled back before her taste had the chance to linger in my mouth. That was when I saw that she had closed her eyes when I kissed her. They flickered slowly and she opened them. I tried to put as much distance between us as possible. She looked at me. “Why are you afraid?” she asked quietly. “I’m not.” I said quickly. It occurred to me as I said it that instead of going immediately on the defensive I
“Why are you afraid?”
“Afraid of what?” “Afraid of me. Of this.” Her hand flicked lazily between the two of us, some sort of gesture that I couldn’t comprehend how it was supposed to mean anything. I sighed heavily and turned back onto my back, my eyes once again finding the whirring fan and following a spot on them round and round and round. I felt dizzy after a minute. I felt like I needed to sleep but knew that I wouldn’t be able to. “I don’t know.” I said finally. A lie. Lies were what I dealt in when the questions were too tough and complicated to tell the truth about. I heard her sigh next to me. She knew. I closed my eyes, tried to let my breathing even out again, tried to let the darkness of sleep overcome me. Beside me, I heard her settle into sleep. I felt the bed dip as she twisted first back onto her back and then onto her side, facing away from me. Hours, or at least it felt like hours, passed. I couldn’t sleep. There was no way. I contemplated going down the corridor to one of the guys’ rooms. I knew one of them had worked as a pharmacist before going travelling. I also knew he was a bit of a maverick and I was willing to bet that a request for a sleeping pill would certainly have proved fruitful. But it felt like I was in a bubble and if I’d left now the bursting of it would have been catastrophic. I wondered if I was already on something and just hadn’t realised it. Her question bugged me. How had she known, what did she know, was she simply bluffing me? Fishing for scandal, trying to appear knowledgeable by appealing to my base insecurities? My brain felt fried. I brought my hands to my head in frustration. “Fuck.” I whispered to myself, a little louder than I’d intended. I ran my fingers across my eyes, freezing once again as I heard her stir in her sleep. She turned back onto her back
and I could see that she was some where between waking and sleeping, briefly experiencing that hyper-reality that you existed in when you weren’t quite sure if everything was real or a dream. I swallowed hard. “I’m afraid of being a constant disappointment,” I said suddenly. I waited for her response. There was none – at least not a vocal one. She turned her head to face me and I could see that her eyes, though they should have been hazy and full of sleep, were bright and attentive. I wondered if she’d been asleep at all or if she’d simply turned away to listen to me moralise silently with myself for the last aeon. “I’m afraid that, because I’m not like my sister or my brother that it won’t be good enough for them. I’m afraid that they seem to think that there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem and that I should just slot into that practice…” I took a deep breath. Now that I was saying all of this it didn’t seem so difficult anymore. The difficulty was stopping. I could feel my heart rate increasing, my breath getting shakier, my lips drying up. I’d never said any of this to anyone before. “I’m afraid that I’m going to spend my entire life being somebody I’m not because they can’t, and don’t want to, understand the alternative.” I felt like a balloon that had deflated, I’d been let go before they’d managed to tie a knot in me and had gone fluttering about the room on a madcap flight. I’d been airborne for so long and now I had finally landed. I had ran out of air and deflated right here in an overheated hostel bed somewhere west of Buenos Aires with who I perceived to be the hottest girl in the world. I couldn’t remember, couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment that I’d been let go, untied and uninformed. Maybe the landing was more important anyway. I felt my shoulders relax as I sunk further into the mattress. I could feel her eyes still on me but couldn’t bring myself to look at her. “I’m tired…” I mumbled, suddenly feeling a weight in my eyes that hadn’t been there before. I let them close just as, for the second time that night, I felt the bed dip and then her thin leg and arm draped across me again. Her hair tickled my shoulder as she edged closer, a jigsaw piece turned the right way to interlock with its partner. “Go to sleep,” she said softly. So I did. *****
The Everyday Jug
by Louise Hegarty
tilt my head backwards, cigarette clenched in my mouth, inhaling deeply. From my vantage point on the window-sill I can very comfortably see what is going on down below. There are boys and girls hurrying to school, their bags slung on their backs; delivery men bringing parcels and boxes into the newsagents and a group of women nattering outside the chemists. This is the scene I am greeted with on a daily basis. There is one thing I wasn’t expecting though - a woman. She is leaning up against the wall of the doctor’s surgery reading from a book in her hand. She is moderately attractive I suppose dark hair pulled back off her face and dark brown eyes. I push my nose up against the window and squint trying to see the name of the book. I am just about able to make out the words ‘Ranier Maria Rilke’ . Hmm, I think to myself, that’s something you rarely see nowadays, people reading poetry in public. The woman checks her watch and then deposits the book in her satchel. She then walks towards the door of the surgery and gives it a push. It doesn’t budge. She appears to recheck her watch and then examines the opening times on the door. She pushes again but nothing happens. She looks searchingly around her but there’s no-one in her vicinity. I know there’s another entrance. I glance towards the door of my apartment and very nearly go to run out, down the stairs and onto the street so that I can find her and tell her where to go. I could impress her with my illuminating knowledge of Rilke. I could quote some poetry. She would smile; I would smile... But I don’t do any of this. Instead I watch as she approaches the group of women outside the newsagents and asks them for instructions. I light a cigarette and turn away from the window. There is a shuffling outside my front door and a satisfying ‘plop’ as my papers are delivered. I wait a
moment to allow for the delivery guy to have moved on to the next floor so as not to have to make small-talk. I never know what to say in these situations and so I avoid them as best I can.
sister. My only sibling in fact. She is only two years older than me but acts like she’s my mother, constantly chastising me for my lifestyle and what she deems to be my apparent lack of ambition.
Eventually, I open the door and take the papers in.
“I need a favour,” she continues. “I need you to take him this evening.”
I make myself coffee in typical junkie-like fashion. I measure out the exact amount of water required and pour it into the kettle. I leave it to boil and watch as the steam gushes out of the spout. Leaving the water to cool just a little, I expertly measure out the coffee, scooping the granules out of the packet with a spoon and then leveling it off with my index finger. I then pour the water into the cup and watch as the liquid rises and swirls towards the rim. No milk. Milk is for cowards.
The ‘him’ she is referring to is my nephew who I don’t see that often. He seems an alright kind of kid – a bit quiet, though he’s probably not to blame for that.
After I finish drinking my coffee and reading the papers I generally plan my day. In my humble opinion the pursuit of knowledge is the only worthy objective in life. The need for money however tends to get in the way of this goal on but I have worked out a system for myself. I work for a large international company making phonecalls that generally tend to annoy people from the comfort of my own home. This allows me the flexibility to choose my own hours and to spend the best part of my day wallowing in autodidactic bliss. I work until midday and then I have plenty of time to read my books, most of which I borrow from the library or buy in second-hand shops on the rare occasion I leave my apartment. I spend an hour on this subject and another hour on that and then in the afternoon I’ll listen to a classical CD or watch an arthouse film. Around about 2 o’clock I start to think about lunch but my thoughts are interrupted when the phone goes off. I let it ring three times – no point in seeming too eager. “Hello.” “It’s me.” That’s my sister. My only
“How soon? Now? I’m not sure if I…” I mumble. There is a derisive snort. “Give me a break. Please don’t act like you’re busy. Please don’t act like you have something to do.” Now it is technically true I have nothing to do. Well ‘nothing’ in the sense that other people have nothing on. But for me this ‘nothing’ is something. “He is your nephew, for Christ sake. It is the least you could do,” she says into the silence. The guilt trip now, is it? Oh Jesus…. “I suppose it’s fine,” I say attempting to sound nonchalant. “For how long?” “Two hours tops. I’ll meet you at the top of Colbert Street in half an hour. Ok?” “Yeah ok…” And she puts down the phone without saying goodbye. This arrangement is definitely going to interfere with things. I will now be required to shower and shave and put on semi-respectable clothing. Even now I can feel the knot in my stomach. I breathe out hoping to release the tension but it doesn’t help. I get out of the shower and dry myself off. I choose my only uncrumpled shirt from the wardrobe and throw it on over a pair of jeans. It’s beginning to cloud over so I grab a jacket from the back of the door on my way out. I walk quickly down the stairs meeting no-one on my way and turn around the corner. The park isn’t
far from where I live so I get there in no time. A car soon pulls up and the kid is pushed out and then there is a sharp ‘I’ll be back at three’ and she’s gone. We are left on the pavement – just me and the kid. I gesture towards the open park gates and he solemnly walks ahead of me. “So do you want to do anything in particular today?” I ask. He shrugs. “We could go see the ducks?” I offer. He shrugs. “And then have a milkshake?” He shrugs again. “Ducks and milkshakes it is then.” The kid’s a chip off the old block. We walk down the main promenade of the park toward the duck pond, me with my hands in my pockets and him with both of his little fists clung to the straps of his backpack – a near mirror image. His eyes are glued to the gravel underfoot. I realise that I am the adult in this situation and therefore the onus is on me to initiate conversation. But everything I can think of saying sounds forced and awkward and I am slightly afraid of what this six-year-old will think of my time-filling small talk. At the pond I blag some stale bread from a young mother who is there with her two children. “Here you go,” I say handing a piece of bread to him. “You’ll need to break it up into little pieces first so the ducks can eat it.” This must be my paternal instincts kicking in. He dutifully tears the bread into chunks and starts throwing the pieces into the pond. The first duck swims over to the chunk of bread and snatches it up in its beak, gulping it down its throat. He lets out a contented laugh. We look at each other and I realise he doesn’t need words. We contrive to outwit the bully-ducks so we start to aim our bread pieces more expertly now towards the weaklings who are constantly out-swum. A number of swans move closer to us eyeing up the precious cargo in our hands but we are having none it. We shoo them away and continue with our unnatural selection. When all the bread is gone he looks up at me inquiringly.
“Milkshake time?” he asks. As we walk out of the park he grabs my hand and I feel a weird chill go up my arm and then down my spine. In the café I watch as he blows bubbles into his milkshake and absentmindedly licks leaked milkshake from his palms. He is completely pre-occupied and totally unaware that I am watching him so intently. The waitress comes over to clear the table. “Are we all finished here?” she inquires, smiling gently at the milkshake-covered child. “Yeah, we’re finished thanks,” I say, pushing my glass towards her. “It’s nice of your dad to bring you out for a milkshake,” she says “Oh, he’s not my dad.” “I’m his uncle,” I interrupt. “Just helping my sister out for the afternoon.” “Oh.” Then she smiles lightly at me and I smile back. She is very pretty when she smiles. “I’ll bring you your bill in just a moment.” After I pay we walk back to the collection point together. He is full of talk now - all about his friends and his teacher and what he’s planning to do for his birthday. The car pulls up and he is whisked away with a quick ‘bye’ from the front seat. The street is suddenly very quiet. I cross the road and turn the corner, smiling gently to myself, and that’s when I see her – the woman from earlier. She has her head turned away from me slightly so that I can only see the side of her face which is half-shielded by a lock of hair that has come loose from her ponytail. I slow the pace of my walking as I desperately flail through my memory trying to remember some assailing killer quote, some line to charm and disarm. Every step towards her my heart picks up speed as I continue the frantic search for words. I clear my throat, summoning up any courage I may have amassed. And then slowly and delicately she turns her head fully towards me and lifts her eyes to meet mine and…it’s not her. It’s someone else. Some other woman with dark hair tied up and brown eyes except this woman’s eyes are watery, not focused on anything. I release my
tensed shoulders and breathe out deeply letting the words tumble from my mind once more. (‘I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone enough to truly consecrate the hour.’ That’s what I was going to say. But now as I repeat it in my head it’s beginning to sound too pretentious, too abstract, too...) Her eyes follow me as I walk past her and continue down to the street feeling her watery vagueness cling to the back of my neck. I turn right into my apartment building and walk back up the stairs meeting no-one on the way. ***
Write Off T
hey were standing over the bathroom sink in the holiday apartment; Amanda leaning so low she could make out exactly how discoloured the plug’s chain was, Richard rubbing her back affectionately. ‘Maybe you should drink some vegetable oil,’ he said, over the rattling of the extractor fan. ‘You know, to help you on the way.’ Amanda removed the finger from her throat before replying: ‘Or maybe just binge-drink ten bottles of alcopop.’ ‘Think of something so disgusting you can’t help but throw up,’ suggested Richard. He caught sight of his reflection in the tiny mirror of the bathroom cabinet. Even in the dim light, he looked desperate. His hair was playing desperate. Before going out that evening he’d taken the time to flatten down his mad scientist’s unkempt locks into a more regimental style, but now his hairs were going AWOL. ‘I’m sorry,’ he breathed. ‘Tonight wasn’t supposed to be like this.’ Amanda lifted her head out of the sink and offered a fluttering smile. ‘I know, Rich. It wasn’t your fault. It was a nice thing you did.’ He pulled her into him. Her head only reached his chest. That was one of the things she liked best about him; his height. He wasn’t dark and he certainly wasn’t handsome but he was tall all right. So tall he felt somehow at a different level to her; when he spoke it was like talking to a mountain. A rock solid mountain that didn’t have time for life’s Amanda-level minutiae. But that was good. It meant he never interfered, never presumed, never over-stepped the mark. The mountain knew his place. They listened to the cicadas outside while the extractor fan
by AJ Kirby
heaved another breath before launching into another epileptic fit of a rattle. Amanda thought about the thing inside her and what it might mean for the rest of her life. In the past few years she’d become a proper, honest-to-goodness independent woman. She’d got the haircut she wanted (short and manageable), the flat she wanted and the job she wanted. She could see Richard whenever she wanted, or not, as the case may be. Now all that looked as though it was going to change. She pulled away from him and they studied each other in silence for a long moment. ‘I just don’t know why we need to get married. Everything’s going pretty well as it is, isn’t it?’ said Amanda. She slipped down onto the tile floor and sat with her back against the wall, looking up at him from an even lower level. From hell, a voice in her head told her. You’re being so ungrateful. He’s only trying to do something nice. Richard took a moment to collect his thoughts. In that moment, his whole face went slack. It was strange when he did that; how he seemed to disappear out of himself. Then, suddenly, he came back. He looked confused to see her sitting on the cold bathroom tiles. ‘Course it is love,’ he said, finally answering the question. ‘But I think it’s time we took the next step. Aren’t I good enough for you?’ She fluttered a smile at him again: ‘It’s not that, Richard. You know it’s…’ She was about to say ‘it’s not you, it’s me,’ but realised just how clichéd it would have sounded. ‘It’s just after everything with Daniel…’ The mere mention of Amanda’s previous marriage to Daniel caused Richard to clench his jaw. She saw the tiny muscles on the side of his
face pulsing with frustration. ‘Once bitten,’ said Amanda, by way of further explanation. ‘Once bitten, twice shy,’ said Richard, bitterly. ‘Sounds like the sort of expression George W Bush would get wrong.’ Amanda tried a laugh but it sounded reedy and false in the echoey bathroom. ‘You know how… spoiled my first marriage was. After the wedding reception there were fireworks, but the rest of our time together was a damp squib. It was as though marriage just sucked the life out of us.’ ‘The same thing doesn’t have to happen to us though,’ muttered Richard. He looked as though he was about to start crying. She’d never seen him cry before. Amanda did start crying. All the guilt, the longing for a different past, the confusion flowed out of her. Part of her wished something else would come out too. Richard creaked down to her. It took an age. Swift movements did not come naturally to him. Perhaps it was something to do with his height. He was so tall, it sometimes seemed to take him an age to communicate messages from his scientist’s brain down to his limbs; certainly it took him long enough to get round the table when she started choking in the restaurant. ‘There, there,’ he said, ridiculously. Nobody said ‘there, there’ any more did they? Maybe Daniel had. Maybe Richard was already turning into boring Daniel. When they’d got married, Daniel had transformed overnight from flighty, dreamy student to someone who fitted the description of a plain nineteenth century vicar quite well. Maybe he’d been under the impression that once you were married you could never, ever (on pain of death) have any fun
any more. Whatever it was - the pressure of marrying so young, most likely – he’d seemed to think growing up (or down) a few generations would be better for both of them. It wasn’t. ‘I just can’t afford to make any more mistakes,’ snivelled Amanda. ‘I don’t want us to become habit or worse; bored of each other.’ Richard suddenly brightened. ‘You could never grow bored of me; I’m like a walking science encyclopaedia. I know everything. I can talk about anything,’ he said in a C3PO from Star Wars voice. As usual, his attempt at an impression was laughable. He was famed in Amanda’s circle of friends for his Balkan-sounding Bush and his robotic Rooney. But that was why she couldn’t marry him. If they married, the impressions would stop. The laughter would stop. The holidays in Greek islands would stop. Life would become drudgery. Life would become like her mother and father’s had been. ‘My mum and dad sat in the same chairs in the same front room for over forty years and never once laughed together. Dad would be watching his programmes on the telly or listening to the sports commentary on the radio, mum at her competitions in the magazines… She wrote off for everything; filled-in coupons, crosswords, caption competitions. She spotted the ball, searched for hidden words… She filled envelopes with self-addressed postcards and I’d run off to the post box with them just to get out of the house for a bit...’ Amanda took a deep breath and then continued: ‘She wrote off to Jim’ll Fix It, for God’s sake. But all she ever won was a set of tea-towels. I don’t want the only excitement in our life to be winning new tea-towels. I don’t want to have to write-off for things just to relieve the boredom. I don’t want to have a set of scissors on the coffee table so I can cut out my coupons. I don’t want the same chair every night of every week of every year…’ ‘You’re only thirty,’ whispered
Richard. ‘You’re not past it. Neither am I. I’m thirty-nine and I can still have as much fun as when I was a student… More, in fact. Because then I did the things undergraduates were supposed to do; I got drunk, I went to discos… Now, I can be as eccentric as I like. And you, Am; you know all my foibles and you still love me for them.’ He turned to her and cupped her face in his big hand. He looked her straight in the eye. ‘I just want to make you happy,’ he said. MShe wanted to make him happy too. But why did marriage have to come into it? Things were fine as they were… Still, the look in his eyes when she took the drink would haunt her for the rest of her life, and if they didn’t sort this out now, she feared they’d never get over it. ‘I’m sorry about the ring,’ she said. ‘You weren’t to know. Silly old eccentric me. I should have done things differently myself. Got down on bended-knee.’ ‘You know what your knees are like,’ smiled Amanda. ‘Maybe we could, you know; say we’re engaged anyway. Only, it’s an invisible ring which you’re wearing on the inside,’ said Richard. ‘And besides, it wouldn’t be very nice wearing it after we’ve had to fish it out of a pool of sick.’ An invisible ring. Amanda liked the sound of that. Didn’t sound so possessive or so final. Didn’t sound so grown-up. Didn’t sound anything like what Daniel would have said. Daniel would have had her down the Greek A and E and he’d have been wringing his hands - only he could wring his hands at the age of twenty-three and look convincing with it - while they did their X-Rays. And Daniel wouldn’t have been as silly as to put the engagement ring in the bottom of a glass of champers at the end of a lovely meal either, would he? Daniel would have been too busy working out the bill in advance just in case the Greeks tried to rip him off. When Amanda and Richard had left the lovely restaurant on the sea front – the one with all the hanging
lanterns and creeping vines – Richard had left his whole wallet on the table, imploring the waiter to ‘take whatever he wanted.’ ‘This evening’s been a complete write-off,’ sighed Richard. Amanda looked back at him with hope shining in her eyes: ‘Not a complete write-off. We don’t have to do things the same way everyone else does, do we? We don’t have to follow the same script as everyone else…’ Richard looked excited: ‘We could get married here, anything!’ ‘One step at a time,’ cautioned Amanda. ‘But while we’re at it, why don’t we head down to the bar for a nightcap. Let me show off that invisible ring of yours, why don’t you?’ ***
Finding Penelope An Extract from our Featured Writer’s latest novel.
he hears the voice on the sand, gravelly and authoritative like that of her father’s. Press the button and reject, that’s me, she thinks, Penelope Eames, that’s how I feel, or rather how I’ve been made to feel over the years, by him. Oh yes, the former esteemed professor of Histology and Morbid Anatomy with textbooks and learned articles to his name, who couldn’t teach compassion or filial love. The early Spanish sun is lulling her, making her mull over things, things that she had decided belonged to the past now, to another country. The top of her left breast is burning slightly, the new red bikini being skimpier than her usual black swimsuit (she should have thought of that), and then the skin is more sensitive there after submitting to the knife. It was Sheila Flaherty, her agent, ironically who had suggested she go in and get the implants – her breasts were an average size. ‘Good for your image,’ Sheila had said. She was reluctant at first, considering it a vanity to don the anaesthetic mask to undergo an inessential butchering of oneself (she never even put a tint in her hair, for God’s sake). Sheila had had the job done a year ago, transforming her into the wellupholstered blonde that she now is. And for what? For men. Yes. It was then they discovered the lump in her left breast. Quite young for that, the nurse had said, and Sheila tried to make a joke of it – ‘you’re the lump out and I’m the lump in,’ and the nurse taught her breast awareness. She hears the voice on the sand, the smoker’s huskiness reeking of pseudo-wisdom; he thinks he is the
by James Lawless
cat’s miaow. ‘Not at all, my dears,’ the voice (clearly English) is saying; ‘on the contrary, chewing your nails is good for you; rich in protein you know. If I could reach my toenails, I...’ Men, stupid old men, but maybe there is a humour there – who can account for taste? She looks up coyly from under her straw hat to locate the provenance of the voice: that elderly guy a few yards away with the silver ponytail sitting under a huge parasol in the canvas chair. He is holding forth with a bevy of young sycophantic beauties – just like him. Trying as he is to be youthful-looking like a born-again hippie or something out-of-date, just like him, the slate blue eyes, her father to a T. Except of course for the ponytail. The fine fawn-coloured sand she slides freely between her fingers, letting go, easing her life. She is delaying. The sun has made her lazy. She should be gone back to the quiet of her apartment to work on that recalcitrant second novel, before the sun reaches its zenith. She knows that, and to avoid the sunburn. There is a sound of laughter. She can just make out through the rising waves of heat: grinning young males (is the broad bronzed chap one of the lifeguards? She thought she saw him earlier on his perch) and two females among them playing volleyball as she gazes up into the sun from under the awning of her hand (for she has removed her sunhat which was chafing her forehead). She hadn’t noticed the net before. There are shouts in Spanish of ‘Anda’ and ‘Olé’ subsuming the elderly guy’s utterances. The young men, in a veil of light and heat, are laughing at a monokini-clad girl who has just missed the ball. The putdown. What always emanated from her
from her father. She wanted him to be proud of her as he was of Dermot, her younger brother, when he started on his science degree. Oh, such voluble praise. A scientist in the family. Mixing chemicals and potions in Quinlan’s Laboratories. How right, how prophetic he was. And earlier her first book which she stuck at, she was sure he’d be proud of; she was hoping - her first novel to be published - but all he did was wonder if anything could be done about it, her writing that is, as if it were one of his studied pathologies. Her right arm is going dead from resting on her side. She turns. Svengali of the bitten nails is calling the girls in from the sun. They are gabbling in different tongues – mainly Russian she thinks – among themselves, and in strained broken English to him. ‘You’ll sizzle up, my dears, out there.’ She can see him clearly now as he looks this way and that, his ponytail bobbing like a pendulum. And the girls come running. And he sits on his chair like a king on his throne, his harem in the shade at his feet, and the blonde who had been playing volleyball without her top - the shameless hussy. It’s a different matter to lie prone demurely in a topless state, Penelope convinces herself, with the towel on the ready to cover for any required movement, but to flaunt oneself in such a manner at sporting males, and he talking about fingernails... really! The girls are ignoring the taunts of the volleyball boys to come and play; they’re concentrating on the mature man, positively drooling over him. Is he some rich dude? Is that it? They’re after his money, or maybe he’s a powerful film director - the chair, after all, in its canvas making could be interpreted as directorial.
They’re looking for parts; that’s it, to be made famous in his next film. And the chrome-haired lecher pulls at the string of the nearest girl’s bikini bottom. Her father always called for Dermot, never for her when he wanted something, whether to announce or to confide, he made his bonding with Dermot. Dermot, the scientist, the proud son, the drug addict – pick the odd one out. Oh yes, Father did not know. In a moment of pique and greeneyed envy, which occurred when he called for him, she thought of telling her father, of releasing the cat from its miaow as it were, and of revealing to him what his whitehaired boy was really up to all those purblind years. The cocaine habit that started after their mother’s death at the in-set college parties, the social round of Dublin’s elite (some of whom less canny are reduced like Dermot now ironically to the gutter). The mutual admiration society was what she called it, of all that talent and intelligence of neophyte lawyers and doctors and dentists and financiers, and scientists, a veritable whirl of brilliance in a newly vibrant country. But he called for him, at the first sign of failing, for this junkie. It was like a dismissal to her, a rejection to one who had been tending to his needs all along. All those needs. All along. All those demands. All her life. The best years. And the last time Dermot came - Penelope had found him with the help of the drug unit in a downand-out place: a lane, she can’t remember the name of it – Crow’s Lane, that was it, strewn with bottles and syringes and faeces and a pungent stench of urine which was trapped in the narrow street by overhanging buildings, so that, she mused, junkies would find their way home like animals by following their own smell. Sometimes she wished her pain on both of them for all the years, not of material neglect - she was never left short in that regard - but
for all the years of indifference. It must be the cruellest of wounds to inflict on someone, she considered, to do something unaware of or indifferent to the harm it would cause: to impose on one a habituation to worthlessness. But – and she looks down at her wriggling toenails like a chorus to her thoughts – she is not worthless. She is a writer. She wrote to stitch the wounds, to seek affirmation from other sources. The great world out there. She had her first story published in a teen magazine. ‘Shows a lot of promise,’ the editor had said. The story was about an orphan girl. What else could it have been about? she realises looking back, indulging the warmth of the Mediterranean sun at its zenith now (cajoling her to linger). And then her first novel several years later, Smelling of Roses, a romance about the unfulfilled yearning of a young woman until she met the dark foreigner on a beach just like this one, feeding into what her father deemed the frenzied imaginings of impressionable females. Men, she muses, as the waves beat rhythmically (she will venture into the water soon; she is sweating; she can feel the drops meandering into her cleavage). She was able to give up her job her last job where she’d worked as a temporary tour guide in a Dublin museum, after a previous disastrous sojourn in a bank and an earlier stint at Telesales. She had wandered through an Arts degree but did not know what to do after it; had no one to guide her. ‘Any dolt can get an Arts degree,’ her father said, and that was the end of it as far as he was concerned. In contrast, she remembers some of her college friends with their careers mapped out for them by doting parents; the sang-froid of those young women, she marvelled at, as single-mindedly they pursued careers in the media or the diplomatic corps or later appeared in the society columns marrying some rich lawyer or dentist. She bought an apartment
on the Costa del Sol on the recommendation of Sheila (‘Such a romantic country’) from some savings she had, abetted by the royalties of her first book and the advance for her next one. A sequel, well not really, but in the same vein, more of the same, that’s what they said, don’t change a winning horse. Another love story maybe with a bit more umph this time, yes that is what they said. She could afford to be more daring in this second one – it is the twenty-first century after all, Sheila said, as if Penelope were not aware of that. Not exactly a bodice ripper no, we’re not looking for that, but quality of writing and candour of expression, those are the things we are seeking in a novel for the independent woman of today, who is not afraid to venture forth et cetera et cetera. But there is a problem this time: Penelope’s mind is in a flutter. After all, the first novel had been completed before her mother had died and before Dermot really went downhill. A mind needs, if not a stability, at least the semblance of it to write. She is thirty-three now, and has to think of her future. All the time previously, because of her father’s conditioning of her (she blames that), she thought not of what she wanted but of what men demanded. But not any more. Better not to have got hitched at all than to painfully suffer afterwards as her mother had done – such acrimony, and she was a witness to it all. Penelope Eames had run the whole gamut of negative emotions before she left her teens, and without having to put a foot outside her family home. She feels a palpitation as Mr Nails folds up his chair to make his departure. It’s like she’s missing him already in a sick sort of way, her father who is waning now, she has to admit, no matter what. She is afraid of loosening chains. Wanting and fearing at the same time. How had she come away? In what manner? The stubborn defiant Go if you must of his followed by the demented Where are you off to? And he refused to go into the nice nursing home in Booterstown which she would have arranged.
To let someone else look after him, to take her place. But he would have none of it. Always winning the moral battle, to make the guilt hang on her.
to keep him off the streets before she departed for Spain.
Mr Nails has folded up his chair, his flapping gaudy shirt revealing a bush of wiry hair on his tanned, high-ribbed chest. He is moving away, the line in the sand filling in already from the mark of his chair as his seraglio disperses.
‘You’re fucking off on me,’ he said trying to make her feel bad, just like their father had done.
She must get back too, and forego the swim. But how to write, to concentrate, not knowing where Dermot is, her only sibling, her kid brother. She thought it would be easy, just a matter of coming away to leave such preoccupations behind her, but it’s not so easy, she realises now; for such thoughts travel too and find their own berthing. Dermot started his disappearance act after their mother’s death; he would vanish for days, for weeks on end, and then reappear out of the blue with his dirty laundry and expect her to skivvy for him, while he chilled out, just as she did for her father. Penelope was caring towards Dermot; accepting it in the beginning with the way their mother was. Even to know where he is, no matter what travail he may be going through – it is self-inflicted after all. But it would be a relief; it would put her mind at rest, just to know he was all right, still on the straight and narrow where she had tried to place him before she left, for she could not in her heart have abandoned him callously in the condition she had found him in Crow’s Lane. She brought him to the drug recovery unit on Merchant’s Quay before he realised where he was going, driven there, she remembers, to the repugnance of the taxi driver. After a few days with her cajoling (the strain of it she still feels), and on a course of methadone, he slowly improved. She spruced him up in a tie and suit, got him a job, not the big scientific position, no, none of that now, but part-time work in a Supervalu off-licence. She knew the manager there who had worked with her in Telesales. It was all a rush but at least it was something
The day she was leaving, she gave him her mobile number and her forwarding address.
‘If you ever want to come over...’ ‘Ha.’ The sneer. ‘I mean it, Dermot...’ But she didn’t mean it, she knows, as she looks out on the crystalline water. No, she has not settled here yet, despite the apparent tranquillity of the surroundings: the rolling hills, the lenitive evening beaches sufficient to provide the balm but not the longed-for obliteration. But she is only a few days here after all; one must give time a chance to exact its healing powers. Her skin has hardly changed colour; she is still pasty-faced. Who used call her that? Dermot yes, pastyface, he used to say, and he ironically always more pale than her. She intends to stay a full three months, at least, what Sheila had recommended. And who knows she may stay longer. Who can tell? She may even stay permanently; after all, who wants to go back to what she had left behind. But a full three months gestation period is needed to make inroads into a novel, Sheila had said, thinking it was her only reason for her move to Spain, for Penelope never revealed the intimacies of her family to her. Once that initial foray has been got over, Sheila told her, it can all be tidied up in gloomy old Dublin during the dark autumn evenings. And ‘the bleak midwinter’, Penelope adds mentally, finding masochistic consolation in the sadness of a song. And she looks now at the Spanish sky and is dazzled by the light. But – and a panic seizes her – she has made no encroachment, not even the slightest indentation on that carapace of the imagination, and nothing to constitute the happy ending that is de rigueur for her publishers. ‘God knows,’ Sheila said, ‘there is enough misery in the world, without adding to it in
our imagination. Write that blissful ending first, and then go back and recount the obstacles.’ So what am I to do? she wonders. What are the obstacles to happiness? ***
The Old Houseby Becky Long Sometimes she dreamed that she still lived in the old house. Sometimes when she woke up, she didn’t know where she was. “Who am I?” she would say to herself in the darkness, as though she expected someone else to answer. “Who am I?” Sometimes she dreamed she was in love and the sunlight on her face in the morning would make her smile despite herself. And sometimes she didn’t dream at all and her old life seemed too faraway and too long ago to ever have been real.
“It should be easier to know the difference between memories and dreams” she would say to herself. “It should be easier to be certain of things” and she would wish for the strength of her childhood convictions. Walking past the old house, she almost expected to see herself at the window, a half familiar shadow moving back and forth. She would think, I was a child in those rooms. I lived in that place once. Then I went away forever and I left myself behind when I shut the door. I left my secrets behind. I hid my heart in the old hollow tree. Now I am the stranger passing by. Now I am the ghost looking in. She would stand at the gate and try to remember the way she had lived. Looking at her hands she would try to remember how young she had once been. She would look through the trees for the child she used to be. And once, when the sky was dark and the air was cold and sharp, she wondered who had freed the monsters she’d locked in the cellar. One day as she stood by the gate the wind pulled at her hair and her clothes as though it was trying to drag her away. The trees were bare and there were no shadows. There were no memories. “I will build a house for myself”, she said to the wind. “I will make a place for my secrets.”
Footprints There they were, as plain as day. True enough, they followed a clear line in the sand, just as he had said. Sure what did I expect? Hadn’t I seen the concern on his face? When I had seen him earlier, Donal had been tearing off along the beach towards his family home, up beyond mine. Like any other morning, I was standing out the back of my place, having my cup of tea. Grains of sand were dancing in wind-driven streams, across the perfect rolling solidity of the strand and pounding themselves into the dunes beneath,which piled ever higher. The air swirled and spun. On a day like that you can taste the beach between your teeth. The blasting gale, coming in off the ocean, battered the fractured and craggy coast. Beyond the shelter of the pitch rocks at the bay’s entrance, angry grey plains seethed as they were slashed with hundreds of white lines. The Atlantic sat out there, the surging grey shroud which had been pulled over my brother James fifteenodd years back. He had been out fishing when he went under. Every morning since then I had stood out the back of the little house we grew up in and looked out over the pristine permanence of the beach, watching the sea. It was different every day. One day beating and tearing at the filthy black rocks, the next running wild crashing into itself and sending briny spray up into the squall. As he had dashed along the beach, Donal’s voice was almost lost to the whipping gust. “Mr Breen! Go down the beach and look at the prints. I’ll be back shortly.” I could see that he had said more but the wind had caught the words leaving his mouth, and scattered them all over. Although he must have been about thirty at the time, he ran off with the nervous energy of a boy, his open jacket flapping around him like a ripped sail. I went back inside for my heavy
by Ronan McDonnell
coat and made my way through the scrubby dunes, leaning into the wind, my legs made heavy by the sucking sand. I only had a couple of minutes to inspect the footsteps before Donal came back with the rest of the O’Flahertys – time enough to see for myself what the fuss was about. As he had said, the solitary steps emerged from the dry, pounded sand of the dunes. They seemed to fade their way into existence, the forms appearing slowly over the course of maybe six or seven steps. Following a slight angle, they led towards the swelling waters of our little bay. There was a rhythm to the dead straight line of prints, each one evenly spaced and regular. As they neared the water, the impressions got more definite in the firmer sand. Then they simply stopped, well before the line of scorched-looking seaweed that defined the tide’s highest reach. The last two steps were side by side, as if whoever had made them had stood for a while. The toes pointed toward the sea, the marks of slim leather-soled shoes clearly visible. Whoever made them may have stood like that for an age, or maybe a second. Then they were gone. The prints were alone. There was nothing around them; no bather’s belongings or discarded clothes, no accompanying footprints, no clues. There was no body, no dragging from a currach’s keel or other small craft’s hull, no other marks of any sort. Well, Donal’s boot prints from earlier were there, of course, but they were a good six foot away. The traces’ beginning was unremarkable. It was just their ending, the sheer finality of it, that brought us together on the beach in that cruel wind. On any other strand those prints, the last traces of someone, would have gone un-noticed. But this was our sand. Away from the road, only three houses backed onto it – myself, the O’Flahertys and the abandoned
O’Shea house down the other end, its garden overgrown and hidden under the coarse grass of the dunes. That’s why Donal had been so flustered. Anything that happened here was his responsibility. The O’Flahertys had the largest plot of land that ran along the beach, and his father would be handing it to him soon enough. “So, what d’ya make of it all then, Mr Breen?” Donal had returned, the rest of his family behind in single file and wrapped up, “Are they not just like I said?” I turned to answer, startled at having not heard them coming along. “Padraig Breen! How’s things?” Joe O’Flaherty, Donal’s father, spoke over his son’s words as he walked up, his rubber boots mucky from the past week’s calving, “It’s an odd one isn’t it? To tell the truth, I didn’t believe Donal at first. But, sure, you know yourself, it’s as well to take a look.” Joe was, and still is, a big fella, a solid man built for working in fields. I knew him for a soft man too, a listener. Neither of his sons had that physical thickness about them though. Tadhg, the younger one, especially took after his mother. “So, what is it that you brought us down here for?” Joe turned to Donal, the question seeming more for my benefit than his. “For God’s sake Dad, will you look at least look at the prints first?” Donal waved an impatient finger along the twenty yard length of the trail, “If someone has gone in, we’ll have to call the Gardai or the lifeboat.” “But sure, how can you call the guards? The prints don’t even go near the water, and none of us actually saw someone go in,” Joseph asked, “You can’t call the guards out here for nothing.” “If someone has gone in, it’s too late for them now. But, from here anyway, it doesn’t look to me like
they have,” Mary’s voice was the kind that only a teacher, and a mother to two boys, can have. A voice that was used to being listened to. Small and slight amongst her lads, her bright red coat shone bold against their dull greys and greens.
years; enough young lads dead. The fact is the steps go right toward the sea and I don’t see them turning back.”
“You know yourself I didn’t Joe,” I answered.
“Left?” said Donal.
other the length of the strand. The sand used to be churned up. It used to look ugly and dirty to me, back then, against the smoothness of the untouched parts of the beach. The steps just new scars on an old strand. It was all different now that their marks were gone. Evelyn’s and James’ own families were leaving their own trails on beaches in America now, somewhere across the same sea.
“This is the only trace of people,
“Nobody called? The postman? Fr. Cleary?”
“Ah come on Mam.”
“Maybe Mr Breen had visitors last night?” Joe asked indirectly.
“No.” I suppose he was just making sure, but Joe knew I didn’t get many visiting my house. My two children, Evelyn and James, had left for America years before Maureen, their mother, had died. After twenty years of living alone, not out dancing, nor going to the pub, I suppose people had forgotten me a bit. “I’m going to walk around them and take a look,” young Tadhg looked tired standing there, his hair blowing across his face. He looked every bit the lad who would come to cross that same wild sea in the next few months. He was a friendly enough young fella. His hands were always at work when he spoke; revolving, wringing and waving their way along like one of them orchestra conductor fellas. He still had the jittering, gangly limbs of a teenager. I had always felt a bit sorry for him. Being the younger of the two brothers, he never had a chance. The farm would be Donal’s; there was nothing else around here. Not for someone who had been to college up in Dublin. Not for a fella with ideas. Notions. “I can sort of see why someone might go in,” Tadhg muttered as he walked off, “It was probably just someone who came down here to get away for a bit. Just looking out and dreaming. They’re probably back home now. And us down here freezing our arses off all the while.” We stood as Tadhg stumbled off, tripping over his own feet and lashed by the grainy gusts. “I still think we should call the guards,” said Donal, “Sure, Jesus, let them decide. There’s been enough suicides around over the last few
“You’re right Donie,” Mary said, “They don’t turn back. They don’t go anywhere. It’s like whoever it was just wanted a last look out before they left.”
“Listen a minute. Do you remember Eilish Creedon? She used to come down here all the time,” Mary looked straight at Donal, “I used to see her a lot. Out here with the dogs. They were like children to her. She couldn’t have her own, although that was her own business. Herself and the young O’Dwyer lad were only two years married when he came home drunk and smashed her head in.” “Ah Jesus Mam! She’s dead; are you saying she walked down here herself?”
“Have you a better idea? Why should everything be rational, or scientific? We don’t know everything. The O’Dwyer lad – he’s just been sent away. Maybe she waited to make sure.”
“For God’s sake Mam. Dead people
don’t just pop out for a walk. But they do just float off, or sink,” Donal rubbed an open palm across his right eye. “Listen to your Mam a minute, Donie,” Joseph spoke, “Don’t suppose you know the way of the world. That’s only the one version you have.”
As his father spoke, Donal kept
his eye on the sea, squinting into the squall. People had to make sense of the world in their own way. Look at the Children of Lir, turned to swans instead of being killed - taking to the air was a part of all the old stories. Mam could see what she wanted, as could he or anyone else. As Tadhg made his way back around, I stopped listening for a moment and looked at the prints once more. They looked fragile down here at the end of the expanse of light cream sand; as if they were left by someone light and frail. I imagined a vulnerable creature, afraid. The wind whipped the grains over them, filling the marks slowly. The beach was shifting and would cover them entirely. A memory crept up on me – Maureen and I watching the kids playing on the beach. They used to leave such tangled trails as they chased each
other than us, existing around here, and we all stand around mystified,” Tadhg had made his way back, “like we can’t believe someone would actually come here.” Tadhg was smiling as if vindicated, as if he had scored some point against an unseen opponent. I couldn’t understand the sneer. I still can’t. I have spent a long life in Ballybohreen without becoming vindictive about the isolation. “There’s a family of foxes in the old O’Shea house. They’re the only ones mad enough to move here these days,” Tadhg went on. “Unlike people, animals don’t need road access,” Joe said, his head still down, hands in his pockets. He was watching the sand blowing across his boots. “It’s in a bad way that house. No use to anyone anymore. Sure, it’d cost you a fortune to fix it up,” I said, “Dinny O’Shea had no-one to pass it on to. He had no family.” “I remember you bringing him food,” Joe said to me, “After his stroke, when he couldn’t walk anymore.” “That’s right, I used to go to Bridie’s shop in those days. It was before the petrol station, and its fancy frozen food,” I said. Tadhg had started off back home as I spoke. His family and I turned to follow. “For as long as I can remember O’Shea used to grow his own food,” I continued, “Even when I was a gasun, he’d be out all day. He was always digging, weeding, pulling and so on. The beach and the sea used to destroy his potatoes and onions. It was the salt in the air that used to kill the leaves; the blowing sand covered the rest. It was the same every year. But he fought it all the way.” “He was a lovely man,” said Mary as we walked, “Time just left him behind, down there on his own.” I looked back and saw the sand blowing into the prints, the same sand that killed O’Shea’s potatoes.
by David Rudden
There isn’t much further to go back now. My hands are greyed with dust from cramped months in this chamber. My breathing is shallow and creaking from the dust that hangs in the air like a lost constellation, the shaking almost constant now, the candlelit words fading into blurry shapes of age-faded ink. The bard’s witticism had struck deep with the Emperor, and his rage had lasted for weeks. I had not even attended the banquet, nor the bard’s summary execution. My hands were cramped from writing of such things and if the insult was not to be recorded, then what importance was the bard’s name, or the music that he played? Reasons were of import to history, not people. I remember hearing that the bard laughed though, before the axe fell. My imprisonment began then, as the Emperor railed from the shadows of his oversized throne. The Empire was forever, eternal, and to imply that anything else possessed the same longevity was the highest treason imaginable. I was to search the annals and chronicles, the collected history of the World, and I was to find the beginning of the bard’s love and discredit its immortality. It was a fool’s errand, but one that took me far from the courts of power and their master with his too-large eyes full of anger and madness. I remember receiving the order gladly, my shuffling walk to the archives, and that first reverent sip of that chamber’s dusty air. It feels like an eternity ago now. I’ve had hundreds of years under my fingertips, millennia pooling around my feet in rustling waterfalls of parchment. At first I was careful with the flaking spools of lambskin but now I discard wars and conquests like they are napkins, my nails drawing curls of aged ink with each desperate motion. I’ve seen the beginnings of this city, the first steps of the Starling Kings, I see the mad face of our Emperor staring from each and every page but no matter how far back I search I see no end to the music. I work in darkness now, the candles slowly going out. The pages I sort through are little more than shaped dust now, the words angular and strange, in no tongue I have ever seen, in no language I can imagine a human speaking. I stumble through translations, parts and particles of words swimming in my head. Missives from the Emperor arrive almost daily now, the words blood-dark on the page, screaming for an answer in the badly-shaped handwriting of a child. It takes all my concentration not to see them as a song.
Contributors Profiles JAKE ATTREE is a 20 year old student studying for a degree in Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich. Originally from Poole in Dorset but currently living in East London, Jake, scrawler of poems, short stories and the odd bit of comedy, draws from lifes finer influences, such as beer and Kerouac. Could you also include my new poetry blog in my biog please? It’s: http://www. jakeattreepoetry.blogspot.com/ AURÉLIE BOURGUET was born in the south of France in 1984. She spent her youth under the sun of the French Riviera copying André Franquin’s comics and repeating ‘When I’m older I’ll do as well as him.’ For her, drawing is a magnifying glass that focuses on reasons and elements. An ideal image should mix the nonchalant elegance of Marcello Mastroianni, the clumsiness of a Monty Python sketch and the rough sex-appeal of Jack White. Aurélie works with Universal Music, Catch22 Magazine and Emilie Satt THOMAS WESTLEIGH BROWN is a poet, hailing from the North West of England, where he currently lives. Apart from writing he enjoys acting, martial arts, calligraphy. He is a lover of English Literature and History both ecclesiastical and Roman and wishes to pursue Ancient History at University. ROB BURTON lives in Paris where he works as an editor ZOE BUSER graduated from Goldsmiths in 2003 and completed her post graduate diploma at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2007. Since then she continues to work and exhibit in London. She is pleased to make contact with Wexford as her ancestry originated from here. Zoë spends most of her time walking, talking and looking at buildings; further amblings can be viewed at: zoebuser.weebly.com. ELLI CHORTARA has recently graduated from an MA course in Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. She lives and draws in London. She loves creating conceptual work and is inspired by meanings and words, contemporary music, magazine articles of various subjects and books.To find out more you can also have a look at her website and blog: www.ellichortara.com or www.elllichort.wordpress.com ORLA CLANCY went back to college at 33 to study art properly and it was great. She sits, watches, thinks. She photographs and sketches, strikes up conversations with people and makes new friends sometimes. She hears all sides of every story and understands the power of words. She is only beginning to scratch the surface of the power of images and for her, this is the greatest fascination and challenge.
ELAINE COSGROVE was born in Sligo in 1985 and currently lives in Galway. She enjoys writing both poetry and flash fiction. Check out elainecosgrove.tumblr.com for a scrapbook of what she’s been up to the past couple of years. CLAIRE MARIE COSTIGAN has completed a BA in Sociology and Anthropology at the National University of Maynooth.She is currently interning at the Irish Writers’ Centre. She enjoys attempting poetry and short stories and the drama that is life. GERRY DAVIS studied Painting at the Limerick School or Art and Design from 2005 to 2009, and since then has been involved in numerous group shows and one solo show. Most recently a group show in All out Design and a solo show in Normoyle-Frawley gallery John St. He is currently a member of Wickham St Art studios and works in both Digital and Traditional mediums. www. gerrydavisart.com www.gerrydavis.blogspot.com JEMMA DODD is a final year photography student from Birmingham City University. SIOBHAN DOYLE is a Wexford born, Waterford based portrait artist. Having only been painting on a regular basis for just over 2 years, Siobhan has accumulated an impressive catalogue of work with subjects ranging from Hollywood Legends like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, to Disney characters, to pop sensations such as Lady Gaga and Jedward. Having previously exhibited in galleries with other artists such as Mark Baker and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, Siobhan has also displayed her works at art stalls, fairs and exhibitions throughout the country.
FARES FARES is a Dublin based Documentary / Travel Photographer and Graphic Designer from Lebanon who moved to Ireland after documenting the 2006 War in Beirut. In 2010 Fares participated in the PhotoIreland Festival and the RDS Art Fair and had the exhibition “Finn Autumin” opened by the Ambassador of Finland. Fares’ photographs are a range of topics from “People & Life” to traditional detailed architecture that forms a story, to landscapes of open spaces. More about Fares’ work at www.fares-fares.com MARY MELVIN GEOGHEGAN was born in Dublin and now lives in County Longford, Ireland. Her first two collections came from Lapwing Publications Belfast 2003 and 2005. Her third collection ‘When They Come Home’ was published by Summer Palace Press in 2008. She’s currently working on ‘Say It Like a Paragraph’ to be published in 2012. Her poems have been published widely including Poetry Ireland Review and The Stinging Fly. She facilitates creative writing for the Writers-inSchools Scheme with Poetry Ireland.
DEAN GILES is married to a beautiful woman and is father to a 2 year old boy who is about to become a big brother. One day he plans to write about his experiences training in martial arts overseas. He spent three months in the wilderness of Northern China, running up and down mountain steps while being hit with sticks by small (but deadly) men in orange trousers. Surely there’s a story in there somewhere? SAM GOLDWATER is a writer and filmmaker from North London, based in Newcastle. He has directed documentary and corporate work but focuses on drama. He freely admits to finding writing ‘the hardest thing ever’. SARAH GRIFFIN is a 23 year old faux-redhead with a nosering from Dublin. She is currently undertaking a Masters in Writing in NUIG. She has been published in a variety of publications including Oh, Francis, SouthPaw Literary Journal (UK), PUSH Magazine and Daydreamer Magazine. She is currently working towards finishing a first collection. Her blog is www.wordfury.blogspot.com ROISIN POWER HACKETT is 21 year old considers herself both from Dublin and Waterford and is currently studying Painting in the National College of Art and Design. She also loves reading and writing poetry. She produces a creative writing magazine in her college called ‘the Kite’, has set up the Creative Writing Society in her college and occasionally reads her poems at the Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar. In her spare time she likes to swim and sail and is a mermaid at heart. ANNA HAYES is a 24 year old Journalism Masters student with lots of ambition but probably not enough time on her hands. When she finally leaves college for good she has no idea what to do or where to go and is hoping to make it up as she goes along. Her personal blog can be found at www.ahayzer42.wordpress.com and a short story blog is available at www.sevenparkingtickets. wordpress.com (Email for the Password) LOUISE HEGARTY is 21 years old and liveS in Cork. She has won the iYeats Poetry Competition 2009 and a Poetry Award at Listowel Writers’ Week. Most recently she was shortlisted for the RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland short story competition. She has been published in the Winter ‘10 issue of wordlegs and has work forthcoming in The Poetry Bus magazine and in the Bloomsday edition of Cuadrivio. LUKE KAILE has recently started a new comedy company group called, ‘Muzzle The Pig’. Based in London, the company produces black comedy plays and online sketches. Their next play, ‘A Criminal Audition’ can be seen at the Etcetera Theatre on the 7th June. Luke can also be seen in various short films trying desperately to carve out an acting career that generates enough money for him to live off, it’s not working…
AJ KIRBY is the author of four books - Perfect World, Mix Tape, Bully and The Magpie Trap. His short fiction has been published across the web and in print. This year, Andy has been short listed for the Legend Press/ Paperbooks ‘Tale of Two Halves’ competition and was awarded runner-up in the Dog Horn Publishing Fiction Prize. Andy is a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books and The Short Review. He lives in Leeds, UK, with partner Heidi, and partner in crime, Eric the cat. You can find out more at www.andykirbythewriter.20m.com. JAMES LAWLESS was born in Dublin and divides his time between County Kildare and West Cork. He is the author of three novels, Peeling Oranges, For Love of Anna and The Avenue. His latest novel, Finding Penelope, about a woman’s growth in self-realisation and set amid the expat drug culture on the Spanish Costas, will be published in the UK by Indigo Dreams later in 2011, and Clearing The Tangled Wood is due in paperback also in 2011. James is included in Irish Writers Online and may be contacted on Amazon at his writer profile page. INGRID LOCATELLI was born in Italy. In 2000 she moved to London where she found her source of inspiration and she started to dedicate more time of her passion for painting and drawing. She often illustrates mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborates fantasy worlds. She elaborates simple visual images adding fantastical elements and doing so transferring her emotions and ideas. Her artwork is often characterized of difficulties with drawing and perspective that result in a charmingly awkward vision, strong use of pattern, vivid colours and simplicity. MARK LONERGAN has been published in Haiku Journals in Ireland, UK, Croatia and New Zealand, and is currently living and working in Dublin, concentrating on playing Junior Hurling. BECKY LONG always has her head in the clouds and never ceases to be amazed by what she finds on her bookshelf. She’s a writer whenever the stars are properly aligned and the fact that she’s never grown up will come in handy when she goes back to college to do a Masters in Children’s Literature. GERARD LOUGH is a writer / director from the north west of Ireland. He has directed several music videos for independent artists as well as critically acclaimed short films such as ‘The Scanner’, ‘Deviant’ and ‘The Stolen Wings’. His most high profile work was ‘The Boogeyman’, an ambitious 27 minute film adaptation of a short story by Stephen King. SARAH LUNDY is a writer and visual artist based in the west.
RONAN MCDONNELL lives in Dublin, works in design, maintains a website called the Inquisition, races bicycles, feeds his family, makes art under the title Order-Found and finds time to write fiction. He thinks very highly of himself, and cannot understand why everyone else doesn’t follow suit. CLODAGH MURPHY studies English and Philosophy and uses poetry to thread the two together. She is endlessly interested in exploring the literal context of terms and the new relative semblance that can result from such considerations. Cork-born DAVID MURPHY’S earlier poems, in English and Irish, were published in various magazines. His most recent poetry has appeared in, or been accepted for, Stony Thursday Book, Revival and The Poetry Bus. He is also a short story writer and novelist. Visit his website at www.davidmurph.wordpress.com JACK OUGHTON Aka Koukouvaya is an artist and producer of images, music and unworkable business ideas from Croydon, UK. As something of an outsider he has won no awards or accolades, and doesn’t expect to receive any, possibly ever. He does however, desire to inflict his own unique brand of beauty on the world and works hard every day to do so. He is currently busy on releasing a new album and displaying his photographic projects in galleries around London. He’s also trying to carve out a name for himself as a freelance writer. You can see more of his work and engage in long surreal conversations with him at www.koukouvaya.co.uk COLM QUINN is 22 and hails from Wexford. ‘Kings’ is Colm’s first published poem. HANNAH ROSS received her BFA from New York University, and her Fine Art PgD from Central Saint Martins. Currently works in commercial fashion photography. (Pen&Image) TINA REMIZ is a Latvian-born, London-based multimedia reporter and visual artist. With academic background in media, photography and journalism and equally eclectic professional experience, Tina works across a wide range of creative platforms, choosing the most suitable mediums to tell the stories. DAVE RUDDEN is a writer and storyteller who has mastered the arcane talent of looking dishevelled even when in a suit and tie. He is an instructor in Creative Writing in the Centre of Talented Youth in DCU and his stories have been featured in Daydreamer Magazine and anthologies by Divertir Publishing. His chapbook Silencing the Light will be available to buy once he stops fiddling with it.
JOHN SAUNDERS has been writing poetry for over five years. His first collection ‘After the Accident’ was published in 2010 by Lapwing Press, Belfast. His poems have appeared in various magazines and he has read on radio and at poetry readings. John has recently completed the Faber Academy Becoming a Poet Course 2010. He lives in Co. Offaly, Ireland with his wife and two children. MICHAEL NAGHTEN SHANKS - is a 24-year-old graduate of English Studies from Trinity College Dublin. Minus9squared, Wordlegs, OutburstMagazine, and Boyne Berries exhibit examples of his work. He entreats you to read David Foster Wallace. DR SUSHEEL KUMAR SHARMA (b. 1962) is a Professor of English/Poetry. Some of his poems have been published in Canada, France, Ireland, the UK, and the USA. A collection of more than thirty reviews of his first poetry book (From the Core Within) has been published. The second collection of Dr Sharma’s poems entitled The Door is Half Open is in press. MICHAEL SHEEHAN currently works as an English Language Teacher in Dublin’s city centre. He studied theatre at Thomas More College in Northern Kentucky where his interest in experimental writing began in the form of playwriting. He believes in the freedom and flow of words. For Michael clarity comes from the chaos, once the excess is weeded out. He hopes to pursue an MA in the states next year with a focus on creative writing and screenwriting. LA SPEEDWING is living in Dublin and currently writing a fantasy novel for young adults. LA runs a daily blog ( http://laspeedwing.blogspot.com) and has recently undertaken an internship as a blogger for the Upstart project. (http://upstart.ie/blog/)
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The first anthology of Minus 9 Squared after a long hiatus. Featuring poetry, prose and visual arts, the magazine showcases the brightest t...
Published on May 18, 2011
The first anthology of Minus 9 Squared after a long hiatus. Featuring poetry, prose and visual arts, the magazine showcases the brightest t...