July 15, 2020
Selfies and Portraits:Snapshots from the Library After Dark
Back in December 2014-2016 I was part of a lovely writers' group that met in Clondalkin Library once a month under the gentle and watchful eye of Helen McMahon, the librarian there at the time.
In December 2016 the poet and writer Colm Keegan edited the collection when the group decided to produce an anthology. The result was a wonderful book called Selfies and Portraits:Snapshots from the Library After Dark Writers' Café.
The book is available to purchase at https://www.sdcc.ie/en/services/sport-and-recreation/libraries/library-services/book-store/selfies-and-portraits-snapshots-from-the-library-after-dark-writers-cafe.html
I had two pieces included in the anthology. I re-produce below the flash fiction piece.
Hide and Seek
Though I always hated my mother, even I have to admit that she got one thing right. She had warned me from my earliest days that I should never marry a farmer. She wanted me to marry a successful business man like she had done. And that's why I married Gerard O'Brien, a small sheep farmer in the west of Ireland.
It's also why I'm now driving along the small by-roads and laneways of Connemara, trying to find a good hiding place for myself, looking for Margaret's possible hiding places, just like I have done every evening for the past twelve months or so. If I do go home and he is there, I can't bear to look at him. I usually go to her room and stuff my nose as deep as I can into her pillow. It's almost lost her scent, I can smell her less and less as every day goes by. I'm dreading the day when I won't be able to smell her in her bedroom anymore.
He filled her seven year old head about the joys of farming. He made her believe that the world was good and full of magic possibilities. He got her enthusiastic about all that nonsense of being at one with nature, about caring for animals as if they were your own children. He played stupid games with her. He refused to let her believe that there was even a hint of danger lurking anywhere, let alone in his own slurry pit, less than one hundred yards from our very own back door.
I began migrating into her bedroom on the night of her funeral. I sat by her little open coffin in the sitting room the night before that. He came in and out of the room at different times during that night. He held her hand, he sobbed, he told her he would miss her, but I ignored him. I couldn't waste any of my precious time that I had left with Margaret's body to spend it talking to him.
At first I used only stay an hour or two in Margaret's bedroom before going back into the one I used to share with him. But, even in his sleep, he'd turn over and seek me out, he'd look to throw his arm around my waist and pull me closer. I couldn't bear it. But now her bedroom is losing her. I have to find her elsewhere.
Sometimes I hear her in the wind. Other times, she plays with me and eventually I find her smell in the bog cotton. Once I saw her head bobbing in the sea off the coast near Clifden. She was a very long way out.
July 6, 2020
Memoir: 'The Liar'
Back in 2010 one of my first published pieces was a memoir piece called "The Liar" published in the Londubh publication of true Irish stories "A Pint and a Haircut" edited by Garrett Pierce.
Some new readers of my blog have told me (I won't mention any names!) that their eyesight isn't good enough to be able to read the piece at the Londubh website where you can have a free read at http://www.londubh.ie/?p=756 when you use the Look Inside link.
As I haven't yet received any solicitor's letter from either of my brothers Liam or Kieran, I re-produce it in full here.
My parents lived in two rooms behind a small shop in Main St. in Killarney when my oldest brother Liam was born in July 1956. My mother described him as a ‘whirlwind.’ He was full of energy, always climbing, exploring, shouting loudly and, generally, getting into mischief. As a baby, everything had to be moved out of his reach. As a toddler, he was a danger to himself and, despite my mother’s best efforts, he was involved in many minor incidents and accidents.
Kieran was born in October 1957 and, by all accounts, he was the complete opposite. He slept serenely for hours at a stretch. He woke to be fed and to be changed and then he settled down happily again to sleep soundly. He had little or no interest in expending energy in either trying to walk or talk. By the age of eighteen months, he had not attempted to do either. My mother didn’t know whether to be relieved or anxious.
When she went to work in our shop, she wheeled Kieran’s pram out to a spot behind the cash drawer where he mostly just slept or lay quietly looking around him. The customers and neighbours all had an opinion.
“What is he now? Seven months? He should be pulling himself up to sit by now!”
“Twelve months and no attempt to walk yet! I wouldn’t like that now. Sure my Bríd was walking the full length of the kitchen at eleven months.”
“And has he said anything yet? Anything at all? I remember well your Liam was all talk at that age.”
When Liam turned three, the nuns from the Mercy Convent came looking for him to enrol in Junior Infants. They needed to make up numbers and, more importantly, to put names in roll books for when the ‘Cigire’ called. My mother was happy to have him out from under her feet for a few hours and sent him off to ‘big’ school to burn up some of his energy.
When he arrived home from school after his first day, he bounded in through the shop and straight into the back kitchen where Kieran was just waking from a snooze. Liam was anxious to try out the new phrase that he had just learned in the schoolyard earlier that day. When Kieran, then twenty-one months old, smiled up at him mutely, Liam leaned into the play-pen and said, “Anyway, you’re only a feckin’ liar!”
My mother had come in behind him from the shop and heard Liam’s pronouncement on his younger brother. She was wryly amused. “I wish!” she said to my father when she was relating the story to him later that evening. They discussed whether they should “send Kieran to see someone”, though they were not exactly sure who ‘the someone’ might be.
Of course, you have to be careful what you wish for. Kieran had been biding his time. He was waiting until he could walk steadily before he put his feet under him. At twenty-three months he got up one day and walked all the way from the kitchen door out to the front door of the shop. He had obviously also decided that he would speak in full sentences before he would vocalise.
Two weeks later at breakfast, the feckin’ liar spoke for the first time and stunned everyone by saying, “Can I have the cornflakes please?”
July 1, 2020
NYC Microfiction Challenge
In the NYC Microfiction Challenge, writers are assigned a random genre, action and word. They are then given 24 hours to submit a story in 100 words or less. In the most recent challenge, I was assigned Drama (genre), Sewing (action) and Strength (word).
I was delighted to receive an 'Honorable Mention' when the results were announced for my 97-word piece below:
Sweating and Sewing
Her mother hadn’t the strength to sit up when Ananya was giving her medicine.
“I’ll get a different job, Mama. I can take care of you.”
She wiped the sweat from her mother’s forehead. Afterwards she used the same cloth to absorb the spots of blood from between her legs.
Later, in the factory, she got a cramp while sewing a flimsy hemline. The sweating supervisor ogled her newly-sprouting breasts, her long slim legs.
“Come here, you girl.”
“You’re useless at the machines. I’ve a job for you in the evening times. It pays better.”