Previous winners of the DCU Library Creative Writing Competition
Medical Journal by Catherine Clinton
In my youth I protected myself like a bird in a gilded cage
I thought I could retain young looks and never show my age
But now as I pinch the back of my hand, though pain is not an issue
The skin does not bounce back because I’ve lost elastic tissue
My once smooth nails are rough and lined and feel like road speed ramps
Using a pen to sign my name brings on writer’s cramp
My dermis and my epidermis have come together fusing
Flattening my plump soft silky hands thus causing easy bruising
The structural follicles in my skin are losing melanin fast
Leaving my days of shining hair a memory in the past
As if that’s not enough to lose, its colour is fading away
Then adding insult to injury, it’s being replaced with grey
Decreasing production of natural oils is making my skin drier
Resembling the streaky bacon slice I left too long in the fryer
My digestive system no longer works, there aren’t enough contractions
So food gets lodged and I won’t be explicit but there’s a bad reaction
Water absorbs from all food waste and there’s no regulation
My gut swells like a tsunami wave with resultant constipation
When walking I’m preceded by a frame, avoiding trips
As the H.S.E. don’t want to re-do my two titanium hips
No more bikinis on the beach the skin tags are in blossom
My breasts face south and while they’ve shrunk, I’ve gained another bottom
Proteins and hormones no longer protect or repair my little grey cells
A decreased blood flow to my brain brings loss of memory spells
Still, pictures of my dried up self will not deter or hinder
My chance to meet a macho man when photo-shopped for tinder
And if by some cruel turn of faith I end up ‘in memoriam’
Sure I’m guaranteed a red hot date in the local crematorium.
The Bees Know by Victoria Uí Bhraoin
We whisper our dreams at dusk
Our thoughts at twilight
And they gather
Nectar and knowledge in equal portions
Phrases and paragraphs provide protein for the queen Labouring to produce the
Of secret keepers
These are the archivists of the insect world
Syllables frozen in amber
Preserved, Purified in wax sealed chambers
Lessons and lyrics and love songs
Debates and discussions
Keeping our counsel
Our guidance under gossamer wings until
When needed, every aspiration, affirmation
Or declaration is released
As honeyed words
Molly's In-convenience by Martin Donnery
You can go to hell on your handcart, Miss Molly Malone, screamed the letter to me in Suffolk Street.
My objection to An Bord come-all-ye was about my eviction and the proposed new College Green Plaza, with its beach parties and skating rinks. Sure Jaysus, I’d never get a wink of sleep. Having disturbed me from Grafton Street, me home since the millennium, the dirty scoundrels want to banish the bould Molly again. Antigone verses the mighty King Creon, wha.
I flexed me not inconsiderate mussels and hit yer man a skelp of a mouldy mackerel into the mush and to the uproarious applause of the mob I sang, “In Dublin’s fair city where the girls are so pretty.” Sure it warmed the cockles of me cart.
I had me day in court and advised by me body of top brass barristers that it would require a public plebiscite to change the law, Molly, with me strong constitution, advises his warship where to stick his subpoena before serenading the gallery, “I was a fishmonger and sure was it no wonder,” until abruptly admonished by the malignant magistrate saying, “shut your gob and respectfully refrain from referring to his lordships refer-endum, you dirty dishevelled little cart pushing tart” On the contrary, I’d consider meself a statue of limitations and as regards me unkempt appearance and fever, you can blame the removal of the public port-a-luas to facilitate the new trams.
“On the contrary,” says he. “My information says, you plaster faced perjurer, the jacks are back”.
I’m sad now leaving behind me neighbours from the grounds of Trinity, Ollie Goldsmith and Eddie Burke, with whom I regularly repair to Bewleys for cappuccinos and chats. But rest assured Molly’s fight for the cause is very much Alive Alive O.
They Say She Won't by Kerrie Gavin
The 8th of October, the day I arrived; they call it premature – I call it eager. I suppose I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about and I came at thirty six weeks and 5 days of Mam’s pregnancy. Ma went to the hospital for her last scan before I was due. She had planned to go shopping in the Jervis Centre afterwards. Little did she know she would have to swap Penney’s for the operating theatre.
‘There’s no shopping for you today, Mrs. Gavin, there’s something wrong with the baby. You’ll have to have a C-section today. It’s spina bifida,’ they said. ‘She will be alright, but don’t expect much. She’ll never walk and most likely never talk.’ Spina bifida is a lack of folic acid which causes the spine to not fully form.
The very next day I would reach my first milestone in my life – my first operation to close the opening in my back, caused by spina bifida. It was also the day my mother became superwoman, at least in my eyes anyway. She helps me through everything and never gives up on me. That’s why I consider her to be a saint. I’m sure there is a Saint Jacqueline somewhere!
A few days later I went home with Mam to the family. I was doted upon from that day on, but was treated no different to the other children in my family, my cousins.
At the age of six I got my first set of wheels and I was off! I loved playing with my cousins in my Nan’s front garden, sitting in the shore with the others making daisy chains. With not a care in the world, I didn’t know I was different until school came along, then all of a sudden I was so different to everyone, it seemed.
I got the odd stupid comment like, ‘Do ya sleep in that thing?’ My favourite one – Ma and myself were out shopping one day and she bumped into an old friend. ‘Heya Jacqueline, how are you keeping? How’s the baby?’ Ma simply replied, ‘She’s down there, ask her yourself.’ Then I would add, ‘Hey, I’m down here, how are you?, with a cheeky smile, or course! 32?
So, you get the point? I’ve had my fair share of pain, bullying and awkward moments, but I look at it like this: God doesn’t give hard situations to people who can’t handle them.
There’s many things that keep me positive, one being my Mam. However the most thanks I have to give is to the bullies, doctors and nurses – who doubted me. But if I feel I can’t go on any longer through the hard times, I think of my tattoo and favourite quote, ‘Don’t look down on me, unless you’re helping me up’.
So, to make a long story short – to the doctors, nurses and bullies who doubted me and said, ‘She won’t,’ I simply reply, ‘Watch me!’
Silently by Michael Donnelly
Sometimes in one section of my mind.
Silently an untold story has crippled my mind.
When given a voice it sings to me and tells me I am better off dead.
The images are like a camera flash.
A disturbed young boy has been conceived In the eruptions of the corner of my mind.
No protection, no affection, abused from the start.
Now it is all starting to fall apart.
The cries are screaming for rescue.
Living with these deep wounds, they brush me off and say I am tap.
Many people want to wear my hat.
What’s in there are intrusions of some pervert who left me with their seed of confusion.
Help me... Give me a transfusion, my mind has taken me to the edge.
Now I am rebuilding, my perpetrator has lost his label
And he is not worth shielding.
Now he is exposed.
I am the garden where everything grows.
Growing up in Finglas in the 60s by Jimmy Conway
I left school three weeks before my 14th birthday way back in 1963. I wanted to work in Merville Dairy Finglas as a milkman’s helper and to drive a horse and cart. I used to get up early, around half three in the mornings, and head down to the Merville and hang around outside the main gate. Some mornings I would get a chance of going out with a driver for two hours and get a couple of bottles of milk in lieu of pay.
Eventually I approached the manager and asked him for a job. He asked how old I was. I said, “Fourteen in 3 weeks’ time.” He said, “Come down and see me next week, I might have a vacancy then.” I couldn’t wait. That was the longest week of my life even at 13 years of age I was nearly growing a beard waiting.
Monday morning, up like a lark and out the door, you couldn’t see me for dust. A ten minute walk, I was there in five, huffing, puffing and wheezing and headed for the office to meet the boss. He brought me up to the stables, showed me a wheelbarrow, shovel, brush and fork and said, “This is where you start, stables cleaned out by 9am as most of the horse drawn milk floats will be back by then.” I was a bit disappointed, I thought I would be out on a horse and cart delivering milk, but so what, it was a job and I had to start somewhere.
I couldn’t believe my eyes at the amount of horse sh**e there was to be shovelled up and barrowed out. I know I was young and inexperienced but it was a job and I needed all the experience I could get and Holy Mother of God that was some experience, my sandals and socks were soaking.
By 11 a.m. I was in the stables when the boss came up to see how I was doing. He said, “Good job, tomorrow morning you can help the drivers to load the trucks for the shops.” Thank God by midday I was on my way home, tired but happy that I had a job.
When I got home, my mother washed my clothes in the sink. We hadn’t got a washing machine yet, but that would change soon, with me bringing in a few bob each week. I only had one pair of long trousers and two pairs of short ones that I used to go to school in and one or two of my brothers were wearing them as hand- me-downs.
So my trousers were washed and hung out on the clothes line and if they weren’t dry by morning it was looking like I would be wearing short trousers to work. I would have to wait and see what the weather was like. Later on the heavens opened up and my trousers were out in it.
When I woke up my mother said, “It poured rain all night and your trousers were left out in it. They won’t be dry for work in the morning, your Da has an auld pair of post office trousers in the wardrobe, go up and try them on yeh.” I did. They were a bit long in the legs and the waist was too wide. She took them up at the bottoms but couldn’t do anything with the waist. She said there was no belt - I could use a piece of twine or one of my Dad’s old ties to hold them up on me. I said, “That’s alright, sure I might be cleaning out the stables again tomorrow and at that hour of the morning nobody will notice.”
When I got to work surprise, surprise, the boss decided to send me out on a lorry with a driver that I knew. He lived around the corner from my house and was a nice fella, very friendly, about 20 years old. He asked me, “What’s the story with your trousers?” I told him and he couldn’t stop laughing. He said, “We are going down to Boland’ s Mills in Grand Canal St. to load up animal feed. It’s hard work, sure we might as well get a bit of breakfast before we start. We might not get a break during the day.” We went into a small cafe in town and he ordered two fried egg and rasher sandwiches and two mugs of tea. He paid for me because I didn’t have two halfpennies to rub together.
We arrived at Boland’s Mills around six a.m. and pulled into the loading bay which was right beside the main road. He positioned the lorry under the chute where the sacks of grain, wheat and barley slid down. The first couple of sacks had to be laid down under the chute as a cushion so the sack of feed wouldn’t burst open on impact.
The driver was inside the mill pulling the sacks of feed over to the chute to slide them down to me. They were heavy sacks - I lost nearly a bucket of sweat huffing, puffing and pulling, lifting, shifting and stacking them on top of one another.
As I got halfway through the load I stopped to tie my trousers tightly as they were starting to loosen on me, then back to lifting and stacking. I felt a gust of cold air between my legs and looked down only to see my trousers had split open. Now in those days you were lucky to have long trousers starting off as a teenager, underpants didn’t exist in our house for the male members of the family.
Every time I bent down to lift up a sack I could hear the stitching ripping apart and eventually I was nearly bare assed and very embarrassed as we were parked on a busy bus route. At times it looked like I was wearing a long skirt with splits in the sides. I called the driver and told him not to slide anymore sacks down. He asked why and I told him what had happened and to bring a sack down with him.
He slid down the chute and had a look at me, fell to his knees and collapsed in a heap laughing. I thought he was going to have a heart attack laughing. Looking at him lying on his back the tears running down his cheeks made me roar with laughter.
When he composed himself he asked what I was going to do with the empty sack. I said I would wrap it around myself and tie it with string. He said, “I have a better idea. Why don’t you cut a hole in the end of the sack and a slit in each side and put it over your head. Sure they’re long sacks and it will come down over your knees and people in the buses passing by won’t be able to see your bare ass.”
“Will I not look stupid dressed in a sack?” I said.
“You would be stupid to get locked up for wearing a skirt with splits in the sides and no knickers on underneath.”
I think that day a new style of work wear was put into fashion. Well, I lasted the day, the sack held out. Sitting in the cab of the lorry on the way home, every time the driver glanced at me he burst out laughing. I must have looked comical sitting there dressed in a sack.
I was a bit scared to knock at the hall door. One of my sisters opened the door. She stood there staring at me, “Ma, Ma, there’s a tramp at the door.”
My mother came down the hall, looked out at me and said, “Holy Mother of Jaysus.” She couldn’t believe her eyes and all I could think of saying was, “Help the Halloween Party”. And then there were roars of laughter.
Now when I think back to them good old days it still makes me Iaugh. And to think that was my 2nd day working in Merville Dairy Finglas. I had another one and a half years after that and the fun continued.
No Cowboys in Cavan by Tom O'Rourke
Deep in the heart of beautiful drumlin country, county Cavan I would grow up and spend most of my formative years. Our family home was nestled between two hills and within walking distance of the scenic Lough Sheelin with Ballyjamesduff town nearby. My Dad managed a small farm, on which he would grow a variety of crops. Most of the land was used to grow hay, oats and potatoes with about two acres set aside for the production of cabbage, onions, carrots and other arable crops.
About half of the vegetables were grown for our own use, with any surplus stock sent off to the fruit and vegetable market in Dublin. A large amount of the work on the land was done by Dad with the aid of a spade and shovel. In the fifties very few farmers had the luxury of owning a tractor. In fact you could say in those days tractors were almost as rare as hen’s teeth. To make matters even worse my parents had to cope with life without electricity.
Rural electrification did not reach our townland until 1960. Inside our house we got some light relief while doing our school home work from the famous tilley lamp. Outside the house we depended on the hurricane lamp for guidance during those long, dark winter evenings. I was about ten years old when Dad exclaimed, “Do you know I could produce more stock for that market in Dublin if I had the help of a donkey. I will keep my eyes open for a decent looking donkey each time I go to the fair in Ballyjamesduff.”
Every time Dad went to the fair I would wait for hours in the lane expecting him to arrive home on a very fit donkey.
I waited, but there was always something wrong with the animals for sale. Dad would tell us the donkeys were, “Too small, too big, too young, too old or just didn’t look right.”
I think the nearest we got to owning our own donkey was when Dad told us, “l did see a fairly decent looking donkey today but I didn’t trust the fellow selling him.
Anyway Dad was an expert on donkeys and characters selling them. I was too young and diffident to challenge Dad’s judgement on these important matters.
As the idea of getting a donkey was fading into a distant memory. Dad came up with another great plan. During our meal one lovely spring evening Dad announced, “I’m going to get a horse which will be of great help to me on the farm.”
Then Mam asked, “ls this horse going to take as long to get as the donkey you were planning to get at the fair?”
“Anyway,” Mam continued, “Where are you going to get the money to buy a horse?”
Not beaten, Dad replied, “I have a strategic plan and if it works I won’t have to bother the bank or anyone else for money.”
Dad pointed to the dresser in the kitchen and said, “That bucket of milk, I will take to the fair in Ballyjamesduff tomorrow and sell it. With the money, I will buy a setting of eggs. When the chicks hatch and grow up, I will sell them and buy a lamb. When the lamb grows up and becomes a sheep I will sell it and buy a calf. When the calf grows up, I will sell it and buy a foal. When the foal grows up, then we will have our horse.”
My brother Patrick who had been listening carefully to this hatched plan shouted, “Daddy, Daddy can l ride the horse around the farm like they do in the cowboy films?”
“Of course you can son,” said Dad, ‘Once you are careful and don’t wear out the poor horse.”
Patrick, who was now quite excited, started to run around the kitchen shouting, “Thanks Dad, I’m going to be a cowboy, I’m going to be a real cowboy.”
He had been told several times to slow down and give the poor horse a rest, but chose to ignore all such requests.
The next thing we heard was a loud bang and a splash as the bucket of milk fell to the floor. As the horse, sorry, I mean the milk, was disappearing out of the kitchen, Dad said to Patrick, “ Ah don’t worry about it son, sure there is no point in crying over spilt milk.”
As my father was cleaning the floor with a bucket of hot water, a brush and a sprinkling of Lux Luxury Soap Flakes, my brother, who had just about recovered from the ordeal, said, “Daddy will you still be able to get a horse?”
At that moment my mother came into the room and said, “Of course we can son and you will be the best cowboy in Ireland. All you have to do is find another bucket of milk for your father.”
If you ever enter Breffni County, you may see some beautiful lakes and meet some generous people but you will find no cowboys in Cavan.
My Brother's Shoes by Gerard Browne
Back in the early eighties I was in my mid-teens. I was brought up in Ballyfermot in a family of nine. My brother Mick and I were very close to each other. He was a year and a few months older than me. So we palled around together and also worked for the same company. He worked full time but I only worked part-time so he earned a lot more money than I did.
I remember one time he came home from town where he’d been shopping. He’d bought a new pair of shoes and a whole bunch of other things, jeans, t-shirts… But the shoes were something else! They had leather soles and the heels had built in steel tips. They were the “bee’s knees”! The shoes that I had weren’t that bad. The toes were a bit scuffed and the steel tips were bought in the local hardware shop. You’d just stamp your heels on them and that was it. Steel tips seemed to be a bit of a trend at the time! Without delay I asked my brother if I could borrow them sometime. Well, I can’t write down what he said but it was at the top of his voice and he meant it.
“But Mick we’re mates!” I said.
It didn’t matter. I was to go nowhere near them. Anyway after what seemed like a long time later, I was putting my jacket away one evening. I was hanging it under the stairs, the little room that was used for holding everything under the sun! It was packed with footballs, bags, prams, and the lot! I looked at the back and I could see a shoe. I reached in and pulled it out. Yes! It was one of the shoes I was mad about. I called my brother Mick and asked him about them.
He just said, “They’re in bits! You can have them.”
I jumped back in rooting frantically for the other one. Finally I found it but to my horror when I picked it up the sole was hanging off. No matter! I would get some glue and stick it back together. They’d be as good as new! After I’d polished them you could see your face in them! The next morning was Saturday and I was up early for work. With a fresh clean shirt, jeans and my newly fixed up shoes I stepped out into a beautiful summer’s morning.
The temperature was already in the twenties. Click, Click, Click. You could hear me as I walked up the street to catch the bus to work. I worked in a dry cleaners and pressing the clothes involved pressing pedals with my foot. As the day wore on I noticed the sole of my shoe started to come apart at the tip. No worries! I’d be finished work soon and when I’d get home I’d just re-stick them.
I left work later that evening and although I could get the bus outside I decided to walk as it was a marvellous sunny evening. The walk was only ten minutes to Kilmainham where I’d get the bus home. As I was walking I noticed the sole of my shoe opening more and more. Feeling a little uncomfortable with this I started to walk faster. I had to get to my stop quickly. The sole was coming away with every step I took. Up ahead I could see my bus stop. By this time I was walking like a scuba diver! I had to lift my foot three or four inches off the ground so that the sole wouldn’t scrape off the path. Finally I made it. Panic over! My bus would be here soon.
As I stood there waiting I noticed that if I pressed my foot hard to the ground it would stick the sole back together. It only lasted a few seconds but this would help me get my foot up the step and on to the bus. So I stood waiting for my bus, foot pressed hard to the ground, praying the sole would stick one more time. Back then the old buses had the entrance at the back and you could stand at the back of the bus. A look of horror crossed my face when around the corner came one of the new buses that had recently started to appear on the streets of Dublin. You had to get on at the front of these buses and walk down the aisle past everyone!
“I can do this,” I told myself. I hopped onto the bus and started to shimmy down the aisle. But the bus was packed; I’d have to stand all the way home. With the sweat rolling down my brow my leg started to shake uncontrollably. It must have been all the pressure I’d put on it, “Oh God! Will this nightmare ever end?”
Now with only a few minutes to my stop I prepared myself to get off. By now the sole was not sticking at all, just hanging by a thread. Finally my stop came. I just shimmied down the aisle, got to the door and hopped off. I knew when my foot hit the ground I had left my sole behind me! I had just my stocking foot on the ground with the remainder of my shoe swinging around my ankle. I took off like a bat out of hell hearing the bus conductor shout after me, “Hey kid! Your shoe!” I prayed that there’d be none of my friends around the corner. The embarrassment of it would have been too much! I didn’t stop running till I got to my house. In I stormed through the front door, slamming it behind me in anger and embarrassment.
My mother followed me into the sitting room, concerned and a little bit angry at my entrance.
“What’s wrong with you?” she yelled.
I grabbed the remainder of the shoe and with the other one threw them in the corner.
“What’s wrong?” I yelled, “What’s Wrong?”
I started to tell my mam and my sisters the story and they started to fall around with laughter. As I went on the laughter got louder and louder. I couldn’t see the funny side of it that day but after a while the story of my brother’s shoes became a bit of a party piece.
My Second Confession by Sean Flynn
Most people remember their first confession. However, I wonder how many remember their second one? I certainly remember mine! You see, my big problem was that I had no sins to tell. I had not committed a single sin during the week and I worried about what I would tell the priest. I knew I would have to tell him some sin. I thought that it might be better if I waited until next week. That would give me a better chance to commit a sin. However, our teacher had made us promise to go to confession every week, so I had to go.
As I walked from Mountjoy Square to the church in Gardiner Street I wondered what I was going to do. I was so busy thinking about this that I was not looking where I was going. Walking up the steps of the church I accidentally bumped into Christy Doran and knocked him down. He jumped up and gave me a dig on the nose. Christy was the bully in my class so I did not want to mess with him. I just shouted a curse word at him and ran towards the church. There was a huge crowd waiting to go to confession. Most of them were boys from my communion class. As I was waiting for my turn, it suddenly occurred to me that I did have a sin to tell after all. I couldn’t wait to tell it to the priest.
When I got into the confession box, I knelt down and said, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It is a week since my last confession.” Then I came straight out with the sin I remembered.
“Father, I told Christy Doran to fuck off.”
The priest nearly fell off his chair. He roared at me, “You told who to what?”
“I told Christy Doran to fuck off, Father.”
This time he roared even louder.
“Get out! Get out of here and don’t come back until you learn how to make a proper confession.”
Then he slammed his little window in my face and left me in the dark.
As I knelt there I realised that the priest had not given me any penance. This made me worry even more. Our teacher had told us that sometimes, if you commit a really bad sin, the priest may not give you absolution. You might have to go to a bishop to be forgiven. Oh God! I thought, if I have to go to a bishop, my Mum and Dad would die of shame.
On my way home, I decided I would tell no-one about it. I would just go to communion and act as if nothing had happened. It took me a long time to get over that. Eventually I was able to convince myself that it was the priest who was wrong. He should have told me that in confession I should just say I used bad language - there was no need for me to say the curse word
Our Nativity by Margaret Walsh
My life changed when Lisa and Mary joined our family. Mary was a late Christmas present. The lights on the tree seemed to echo our happiness. They twinkled and glowed as if they too were celebrating our joy. We changed her from the baby-grow she wore in St. Patrick’s Home and dressed her in a beautiful pink dress with a satin collar and satin at her tiny wrists. Suddenly our new daughter of six weeks old was transformed into a delightful bonny baby. Her blue eyes glistened as she gazed at the warm glowing fire.
For months I walked around in a daze terrified that Mary would disappear. We had waited five years and at times I was lost in sadness and utter despair. I had longed for children all my life - the more the better, but nature had other ideas. Two years later I got the second telephone call - our second baby Lisa arrived. She too was six weeks old. Now Mary had a baby sister for her Christmas present. That Christmas was the best ever. We filled the house with decorations which extended to our front and back garden and announced that a baby had arrived. I wanted to dance and dance.
Now Mary is thirty years old and is a mother herself. Lisa is twenty eight years and thrilled with her two babies. My weekends are spent visiting our girls. Now we are continuing parenthood with a difference. We can play with our grandchildren, take them off on trips, bring them shopping and then hand them back. Life for me is simply beautiful. I feel like thirty-four instead of sixty-five. I was thirty-four when I got Mary, thirty- six when I got Lisa. They have grown into wonderful caring daughters. They love us dearly and we adore them.
They are our seasons; they are our Winter, our Summer, our Autumn and our Spring.
The Old Man by Hugh Baxter
The old man sat by the fire, his eyes staring down at the floor. While shadows danced outside his window, there was a very loud knock at his door. He lifted his head so slowly and called out in a voice that was frail. “Who’s there’? Come in. Can I help you? I find it hard to get out of this chair.”
No answer came back from outside. Just the sound of the wind as it howled. And the rain as it beat down on the rooftop.
He tried to call out more loud. He’d spent most of his life in that bungalow, making a family and home. His wife and his children are all gone now. So he sits in the house all alone.
He waits every day for a caller, just someone to talk about old times. To share in the memories he holds fondly, as he waits for the passing of time. Every day is the same as the last one. Every night he hates going to bed. The rooms are so cold and so empty. There’s no comfort to be found in his bed.
He sits down on the bed for some moments, not knowing what he should do. His eyes keep opening and closing, as he tries to undo his shoes. He looks at a photo beside him, of his wife as she stares back at him. And he knows that he wants her beside him. No more nights will she spend without him. So he lays down on the bed and she with him, stroking his arms and his face, she smiles and says, “Come on my darling. It’s time you were leaving this place.”
Then a light shines down from above him. All the pain he had suffered is gone. With his wife and his children back around him, he closes his eyes and he’s gone.
Something Old, Something New by Cathy Norris
As the band began to play Damo felt the sweat break out and roll down the side of his face, between his shoulder blades, drenching his shirt. He felt like he was on fire. What was he supposed to do? It just wouldn’t come to him. Sharon looked at him, eyes wide like saucers, head nodding and mouthing, ‘Come on, come on.’
The music was unfamiliar, with feet like lead he started to move towards Sharon. ‘This is it, our song, we’re supposed to be dancing around the floor,’ he thought. But his feet just wouldn’t move to the music, they were stuck. He kind of fell awkwardly into a rigid embrace with Sharon, waiting for a familiar beat. ‘Get into it, man,’ he told himself.
He could feel eyes piercing a hole in his back, ‘The happy couple are supposed to lead off the first dance.’ That’s what she said, the conversation in the kitchen flashed across his mind.
‘The first dance at the wedding is the most important dance of the night,’ Sharon insisted. ‘Everyone has their song, we have to have our song.’
‘News to me,’ sighed Damo.
‘Remember Annie’s wedding, she had a song.’
Berni, Sharon’s mother butted in, ‘Was that Annie’s song, John Denver?’ ‘No ma,’ Sharon scoffed.
‘I remember me and your Da’s song.’ Berni’s eyes misted over with nostalgia. Billy Joel, ‘I Love you, just the way you are,’ she hummed and swayed. Berni just loved to dance. She drifted back to another place in her life when she and Gary were mad about each other. Out dancing every night. ‘God he was gorgeous.’ Her mates envied her; they all said he looked like Georgie Best.
Nor could keep his paws to himself. That thought jolted her back to her kitchen, her mood changed to match her tone. ‘Lying bastard, him and his bloody tart. They’re all………’
‘Ma please, not now,’ Sharon barked at her mother. She knew well what was coming next... ‘They’re all the same... cheatin’ bastard... first bit of skirt. Billy bloody Joel’.
Damo just sat there. Sharon jabbed him gently, careful with her new gel nail ‘D’ye not remember Annie’s wedding?’
In truth, Damo was seriously hammered that day and couldn’t remember much about Annie’s anything, but he did remember her dress. Man, was she spilling outa that, the lads even had a bet on that she’d a boob job done, just for the wedding. Sharon interrupted his thoughts with another cautious jab. ‘Well?’
‘Course I remember the weddin’,’ he lied. ‘Just don’t remember the dancin’ bit, musta been outside havin’ a smoke.’
Damo just couldn’t get his head around what all the fuss was about. Since they (or she, more like it) decided they were getting married she just never let up; dresses, flowers, rings, church, hotel, her tan, her hair, her makeup, she just banged on and on forever and now it was THE song, THE dance.
Berni looked at her daughter, slim and glamorous, she knew how important this whole wedding business was to her. At least she won’t be trying to conceal a bulging belly with a ridiculous bouquet, like she was on her wedding day. Berni wondered how things would have worked out if she weren’t expecting Sharon, would they have got married anyway? At the time she believed Gary and the words of love songs, ‘don’t go changing to try to please me,’ It didn’t matter that she was only 18 and pregnant, he said he loved her, ‘just the way you are’.
‘Yeah, real sexy, especially across the eyes.’ Wasn’t the other thing he had in common with George Best, ‘bit too fond of the drink’ as her father liked to remind her.
Damo had little interest in music or songs; he could never remember words, even when he liked a song. He thought he liked the group ‘Take That’ but couldn’t be sure.
‘What about somethin’ by ‘Take That?’ he offered, doing his best to sound helpful.
Sharon stared at him, ‘Yeah, ... maybe, ‘I Want You Back For Good.’ Now that’s a good song to slow dance to, mmm but that’s about a couple who have split up, and it’s all sad’.
‘I’m saying nothing,’ Sharon’s mother snorted in derision and off she went. ‘Love you just the way you are’. Sharon wished her Ma and Da could be together for her wedding day, like Annies folks.
She was still a bit iffy on this ‘casual seating’ idea of the wedding planner. She made a mental note to sort that out. She glanced woefully at her future husband, she knew better than to expect inspiration from that source.
Berni interrupted her thoughts. ‘Ye joining us for a bit of dinner, Damo?’
‘Don’t mind if I do,’ he quipped, delighted to change the subject. Damo took that as a cue to look busy and set the table, tomato ketchup for him, Hellman’s lite for her.
‘But what about our song?’ Sharon wailed, ‘Why does everything get left up to me?’
She stormed off in a huff; from the next room Damo could hear her rooting noisily through her CD collection.
‘Ladeeees and gentlemen, put your hands together for Sharon and Damien.’ For the first time that day Damo found himself looking full on at Sharon, his wife. He actually hadn’t noticed, but in her white dress and everything she’s a real cracker. As always, she took the lead and somehow managed to get his feet to follow her. Within a few seconds words drifted in over the music and into his consciousness:
‘Don’t go changing to try to please me’. Hang on; he knew that one, Billy bloody Joel, her Ma’s song. ‘Thank God,’ he thought. ‘I know what comes next, I’ve heard it all before.’
The Hanging Basket by John Roche
Old flowers wither and they die
So we grieve and say goodbye
When young flowers die and leave a note
We analyse the words they wrote
The hardest question we ask is why?
They never even said goodbye
We condemn ourselves to a life of pain
For something we cannot explain
Was there a sign we did not see?
Or was it something in our family history
We search for answers but in vain
Maybe something snapped inside their brain
It’s all put down to pressure or stress
That’s left us in this awful mess
The emptiness that’s left behind
Cannot be shaken from our mind
The sleepless night it’s hard to cope
When they’re cut down from a rope
With tears in your eyes you cannot see
When a body’s taken from the sea
We search for something we can blame
To cover up this hurt and shame
The name that we try to hide
Is the dreaded word called suicide?
One day busy as a bee
The next day hanging from a tree
An Alarming Affair by Lena Connolly
This all happened to me a few months ago. My family came in to have a chat with me. They were thinking I should make a change in my life, so it went on till
the punch line came out - that I should be introduced to this person. One of my children had heard a neighbour of hers had one of these introductions and was very happy with life now.
After they had gone, I started to think - maybe they are right and I should go along with their idea. But changes in my life at this stage? Would I be able to cope? Your nerves can get the upper hand when you think too much about changes...
These last few years I have been on my own, able to come and go as I please. Would I like to have someone checking on my movements? But when you sit at the fireside all alone, when the evenings are so long and dark, sure it might be nice to have someone to look out for me as I am not getting any younger. So, between the comings and the goings, I decided to make that phone call.
Some time later they rang to ask would this day and time suit me. A squeaky voice said, “Yes”.
What was I getting into? Should I clean the house, put new sheets on the beds, clean the windows, polish the doors? Questions and more questions! Well, he has arrived and I must say he speaks very well! The only thing so far is he will not allow me to leave the hall-door open. Before he came, I always put my hat and coat on, keys in my bag and walked out the door. I said, “How else am I to get out that door if it is not opened?” Now I take him to bed; I sleep on the right, he is on the left and when I turn the light off, that is when he gets very active! This is the time I like most because I know he is watching my windows and doors. That is why I sleep peacefully.
Now I would like to recommend anyone who has not already got an alarm in their house to go and get an introduction to one tomorrow!
Night Terrors by Patricia Mullins
Frightened eyes moved behind closed lids. I dared not move in the bed. Breath shallow, ears strained to hear. Yes, there it was again. A noise outside my bedroom. He was back.
Should have killed him the last time. Too scared, chicken hearted, should have killed him then because in my heart I always knew he would come back. What to do, what can I do? I feel helpless, alone and terrified.
I slowly open my eyes, slowly, slowly, don’t let him know you’re awake. Eyes adjust to the dark room. Listen, yes there it was again. Faint, but there. Swallow hard, quiet, quiet. Did he hear, does he know?
I will kill him, he will never come to my house again, never into my bedroom watching me while I sleep. This time I am ready.
Eyes adjusted now, adrenalin pumping, digital clock shows two-fifty a.m. I hear him move quickly into my room. Tense, ready. Sweat running hot and tear-like down my cheeks. Could I do it? He moves, stops, moves, stops. Oh God help me! Please help me. I sense him as he reaches the bed. Gently now I reach under my pillow, feel the wood and steel, easy now I tell myself.
He is on the bed. I can feel him move, inching towards me. My heart is thumping, not in my chest, in my throat. Ready now, ready. Wood, steel and SNAP. I jump from the bed. ONE DEAD MOUSE.
Never again will I eat Pringles in bed. I take the mousetrap from the bed and drop it into the bin. Just as I’m closing my eyes to go back to sleep I have an awful idea. What if all his family come for a funeral? Oh help.