I wrote this at the start of the year for a Kindle Book of short stories based around The Gathering that someone was organizing – but it never happened…
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Redser’s gaze was so absorbed in the red ripples of the sky reflected across the blue ripples of the water that he almost didn’t notice the wet nose busily sniffing his arse.
“Jesus! What the fuck have you been eating?”
“You wish. She hated gingers.”
“How many times do I have to tell you. Red Setters are red. NOT ginger. The name’s Redser, remember?”
“Yeah right, as if a human would be stupid enough to call a Red Setter Redser. What did they actually call you?”
“Redser! Sure didn’t they call you Blackie!?”
“Not the same thing and you know it. C’mon Red. You can tell me. What they really call you? Been asking you for years now.”
“Not a chance.”
“I bet it’s something to do with that white spot on your forehead.”
“Drop it, Blackie”.
“Very strange for a Red Setter to have a white spot on his forehead.”
“So you keep telling me.”
Blackie sits beside Redser and joins his gaze across the sea. “What a perfect moment this would be if it wasn’t polluted by that fucking stench. Seriously Red. You should see a vet about that, that’s some serious stinkage. Tell me, what fine establishments have you been dining at recently to pollute your intestine so?”
“Oh yeah, that is worth telling actually. I was hanging around the back of Jo’s this morning. I was only there five minutes, when some young lad backs out the door with a bucketful of fried eggs. FUCKING JACKPOT. You know I love the oul eggs!”
“They don’t love you, Red. Seriously. They’re trying to send you a message. Arse to Brain – stop eating eggs… What the hell were eggs doing in a bucket anyway? Does not compute Lord Vader. I mean, why would they fry a load of eggs and then chuck them out in a bucket?”
“Got me, Black. One of life’s mysteries. Anyway, where’ve you been?”
Blackie looks a bit sheepish. “Nowhere. Here and there. Nuthin. No one.”
“You’ve been hanging around the park waiting for that poodle again, haven’t you?”
“No sireee, Bob. Not me. Nope. No way”
“You’ve no fucking chance, Blackie. You’d want to snap out of that. You’ll be in the pound in no time. Seriously.”
Blackie just stares out to sea, looking a bit miffed. He’s determined not to respond but doesn’t last five seconds. ”She’s gagging for it Red, I’m telling you, she’s all fur and no fucking Snickers. Get that one into a bush for two minutes and she’d be howling like a she-wolf. She’d never look at another poodle. Once you’ve had Blackie there’s no going backy!”
“You wish. Just don’t do anything stupid. Not too many of us Paddies around here these days. I mean what’s the chances of any other dog fluking it over to here like we did? I’m telling ye. I’d go insane if I had to talk to these yankie doodle poochies all day. I mean they’re alright and all but you need to talk to one of your own now and then or you’d go fucking mad.”
“Awww, poor Redser, doesn’t want to be all alone and the big bad west. That reminds me. Did you hear about that thing where they’re trying to get everyone to go back home?”
“Yeah. The Gathering, will you ask me big dangly bollox!?”
“Bollock. The noun one would apply to the dangly vestibule of creatures bestowed in single testicularity.”
“Fuck you and your two tiny chewing gum balls”.
“Two heads are better than one. No interest then?”
“In The Slathering Blathering? Christ no. Seems like a load of nonsense.”
“I think it sounds good. It’d be like one big long Paddy’s Day.”
“Oh Jesus Fucking Christ. As if that’s a good thing.”
“Yeah but imagine what the atmosphere would be like with lots of people going home for the first time in years.”
“We ain’t people, Blackie, and you know better than anyone I can never ever go back there. Even if this was a fucking Disney Movie and we could stowaway in a serious of hilarious events. I can’t go back there. Ever.”
“I know, I know. But it’s a pity – I think it’d be great crack.”
“Yeah you’re right. I can imagine how great a distraction it’d be from the shit storm of a mess that country is in. How clever of them.”
“You is one cynical old dawg, Red.”
“You have to be cynical about everything that lot do, Blackie. You know I’d sooner eat a conspiracy theorist than listen to one spouting their garbage, but you have to question every idea that comes from that lot. Everything. When it comes to the Irish government, I’m definitely more of a Mulder than a Scully. The truth is out there!”
Redser has been toying with an injured fly for the last two minutes and decides to put it out of its misery. It tastes like shit but he likes the crunchy texture, and the little pop it makes as it bursts onto his tongue.
“Maybe I’m just being nostalgic” says Blackie. “But I’d sure love to get back home for something like that.”
“Christ, Blackie. It’s a marketing team’s wank fest. I mean there’s nothing I like more than licking up a puddle of spilt Guinness. But see that Arthur’s Day? Get it well the fuck away from me. That’s the biggest trick the devil ever pulled right there. Another event for the Irish to go out and get pissed for a whole day. Paddy’s Day. Arthur’s Day and now the fucking Gathering. Would you ask my big shiny bollock!”
“So you’re immune to all marketing ploys then, is that it, Redser?”
“No one’s immune to marketing. I’ve neither purse nor pocket, yet the claws of marketing scratch me every day. More than these fucking fleas. Doesn’t mean I can’t do my best to avoid shit-fests like this though.”
At the mere mention of fleas, both Blackie and Redser have to pause the conversation, throw their legs akimbo, and start a three minute scratch-fest.
Blackie continues, his voice shaking as he’s still going hell for leather behind his ear “I dunno, Red. I’m sure you’re right. Maybe it was conceived as a distraction but I still bet it’d be an amazing atmosphere…. Oh shit, here’s Vinnie.”
“Vinnie’s alright. I thought you liked Vinnie too?”
“He was alright before he came out and turned into the biggest queen in town. I don’t get it. Everyone knew he was the gayest dog around. And everyone was fine with it. But then he makes the big announcement, as if he needed to tell anyone, and suddenly he’s camp as Christmas. I’ve never heard anyone trying so hard to lisp while they bark! I mean, that dog used to have the best taste in music around. The conversations we used to have about glitchy German House, and all of a sudden he’s obsessed with Kylie Minogue. The whole thing’s ridiculous. I know plenty of gay dogs who are, you know, normal, and plenty who were always, you know, a bit camp. All well and good. But this complete transplant is nuts. What the fuck is that all about!? Fake as fuck.
Vinnie – “Hey ladies! Mwah. Mwah.”
Redser – “Hey Vinnie.”
Vinnie – “What you two luvvies looking so serious about?”
Redser – “Blackie was just saying how much he loves your recent zest for life. Saying you’ve got a great spring in your step for a big butch Saint Bernard.”
Blackie – “Never mind him, Vinnie. We were talking about The Gathering. Redser here is being as cynical as ever.”
Vinnie – “Oh that, yeah. Sounds great to me. Party party party!”
Redser – “Oh Christ. Don’t you start.”
Vinnie – “Would you not love to go back to Ireland for that Redser? I’m sure you’ve got plenty of puppies back there, ha!”
“NO I FUCKING DON’T!” Redser growls, and then snaps at Vinnie, catching his ear, and drawing a bit of blood.
Vinnie is so shocked that he doesn’t fight back. Just says “What the actual fuck!?”
Redser looks a bit embarrassed and just turns tail and runs off.
Vinnie – “WHAT. THE. FUCK!?”
Blackie – “Sheeeeeite! Not your fault Vinnie. I should have known better to keep going on about Ireland. But, you know, it’s been donkey’s years now.”
“What the fuck is going on, Blackie!?”
“You don’t know why we left?”
“I sure as hell don’t.”
“Ah. Ok. Right. Well. Where do I start?”
Blackie looks out across the sea again as he casts his mind back.
“Right. So. There’s this beach back home. It’s a bit like this beach here. But it’s got lots of sand dunes. And lots of sand. Duh! And lot’s of marshland full of birds too. It’s a great spot. There’s always loads of dogs there. We used to go down there all the time. Even family dogs used to have a bit more freedom back then. But this one time, we were messing down at the water. Running in and out. And we spot this bag in the water. We both make a dart for it at the same time. But Redser gets there first. He picks it up in his teeth ready to shake it from side to side. Trying to soak me like. But he sees it too late. Shakes it anyway. Three dead puppies spill out.
“Oh my fucking god.”
“Three dead red setters. One with a little white spot on its forehead.”
“Oh christ. Fucking hell. Poor Redser. What fucking animals people can be.”
“He wanted to kill the murdering bastards. I don’t know how I stopped him. But I did. I made him stay at the beach. We slept in a fisherman’s boat that night. At least we thought that’s what it was before all the drug smugglers climbed in the next morning! We couldn’t believe it! Thought that shit only happened in movies but sure enough, four lads… that looked as normal as anything jumped in… but they were definitely bringing drugs across the water. And… well… I think you know the rest of our travels. Finally ended up here. And we’ve been here ever since.”
“Jesus, yeah. But I’d no idea about the start!”.
“I should have known better than going on about the fucking Gathering.”
The two dogs sat for a moment and gazed once more across the red rippled sky. In the distance, Blackie could just about hear a sound that he thought he recognized as Redser’s howls but it might just have been the wind.
Power’s Short story
I decided to have a bash at the Power’s short story competition recently. Here’s my entry:
They came. One after the one before. Each face old and unfamiliar. Then recognition emerged until they were so familiar, you wonder how you ever forgot them. These faces that once loomed large in your world, like the moon, always there.
There was Davey Boyd, the biggest gurrier ever there was. Kicked out by his own mam at 16, and fishing for more trouble by the day, until that one day I came home from school to find him and his sheepish grin parked at my place at the dinner table. Two months passed before I got that seat back and Davey was back at his own, no doubt causing trouble again from day one.
There were the Byrne Brothers from next door, standing tall in their uniforms, all three guards now. I remember mam passing plates of dinner over the back wall for a month when their own mam was sick. It must have been a winter, trails of steam busy to get away from the gravy, cutting through the air like a Bisto ad.
And she didn’t only feed the needy. She just seemed to enjoy stuffing people’s cake holes. She’d never let my own friend’s leave the house without having a bit of dinner. I’d bet a bucket of beans they had more dinners in my house than their own. A game of pool in the shed, until Ma shouted DINNER, then we’d all pile in. Polite declinations had long been disputed and lost, no more need for the Mrs Doyle routine.
There was the gang of them now. The state of them in their interview suits, and shiny shoes, each more red-eyed than myself.
Many more came that I didn’t know by name. But I remember their appreciating lips, appearing at our table for days, or weeks on end. I didn’t need to ask where she got them from, their weather-beaten faces said everything.
Sometimes, as neighbour, friend, or stranger, left with a belly of stew, I’d ask her why she did it all. She’d just toss me a wink. “Building an Army Jimmy Boy”.
It was just something she said without much thought, but there they were now, bulging out of the church grounds. An army. The army it would take to replace a great sadness with the warmth I was now surrounded with. And I can’t help wonder if she really was building an army. An army that would be here for me on this day. An army that would celebrate her love and kindness and return it on to me.
I can see why I didn’t even make the long lists. The theme was “valuing the important things in life” and the story I went with seemed to have been done to death, not surprising in retrospect, and thus completely unoriginal. Twee as fuck and all. I always end up writing something twee when I try something like this, even though most books I like are dark and dirty.
This year’s winner is well deserved I think.
Smile of a stranger
Book in hand I open the front door and the sun burns a smile on to my face. I glance to the left as I lock the door and catch the eye of a guy walking down the terrace path. He’s young, early twenties, not Irish, maybe Polish. I turn to the right and head to the canal for my hour of solace. His footsteps behind me are silent, like mine, the Nike generation.
I cross the road, one turn left, one turn right and I am alone on the street that leads to the canal. As I cross a final road, a guy appears from the right and walks in front of me. He’s young, early twenties, not Irish, maybe Polish. He stops at a door and turns to the right as he inserts the key. He catches my eye and smiles. I smile back, and nod to acknowledge the joke of our mirrored exchange.
He’s younger than I thought I ponder. Give him a few more years and he’ll stop smiling at strangers. Strangers who will easily, and understandably miss such subtleties, and strangers who will think him strange for smiling. But I cherish the moment, and the canal is all the more soothing that day.
A very short story
“He lifted her bloodied head – eyes gouged out, bedroom door ajar, then looked inside, prised the knife from her hand and repeated the act.”
I thought I’d have a go at a twitter sized (140 characters) short story during the week. Though I did get one WTF?! reply on Twitter, thankfully the Dublin homicide team didn’t smash the door down; recently a friend of a friend of…. twittered about smothering her daughter, very obviously joking and in context. Soon enough the LA cops were banging the door down. Yikes.
Homepages, the book.
I can be quite impulsive sometimes. I had my contribution written and sent off before I’d given myself the chance to decide if I liked it or not. But I’m still not sure if I like it, so ho hum.
Organized with gob-dropping efficiency by Catherine.
I’ve chucked up a few old music articles that I wrote years ago. Hardcore you know the score was written for Anorak. And the (rose-tinted) History of Dublin Clubbing was written for DUBfly. Actually they’re both fairly rose tinted. And there’s my thesis on acoustic phenomena.
- My top 10 Irish Movies
- The Blathering
- Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease
- Top 10 books of 2012
- The truth about tattoo removal
- CABBAGE CONTROLS – some thoughts on Prometheus casting
- Power’s Short story
- Books of the (last) year
- Pruning your feeds
- That other time I went to the States…
- Quincy M.E. and Cameron Diaz doing the La Bamba
- Different folks, different strokes
- Family cinema design