Short Stories

Completed (what me complete something!!!) stories that stand on their own or are part of a group of stories

What else would you do on a train?

He reached for the soap, wincing as it slipped out of his hand, automatically stretching further but his ribcage was fit to burst at even this small movement. He rubbed the spot gently, wondering as he showered if it was bruised or broken, cracked or shattered. Each small stroke brought new sensations of pain. What was he going to do? It had finally happened, the connection of foot on bone, he had been waiting for it forever. But now that it had, he was confused as to his next move.

There were mitigating circumstances, there always were. He remembered his own occasions of volatile temper raging through him, the only release would be the explosion in his knuckles as he punched something or someone. The time Gerry Downing had teased him about his hair colour in the pub, the surprised expression that hung on his face as he was launched over the bar. Yes he could remember each and every time.

But he had never hit her. They had been going out for over a year now and he had been sure to keep his temper in check. The guys in the bar were always riling him but he began to count to ten, if she were with him, some of them had copped to this and upped their game whenever she was with him. They and he knew, this was the one. The keeper. He just had to keep his cool long enough to get the ring on her finger and then it didn’t matter. He was a cop, he knew domestics were never investigated and maybe, just maybe she would behave herself all the time and there’d be no need to teach her right from wrong.

Last night, in the bar, the guys had just gone over the top. Mocking his clothes, his hair and when they started in on his after shave. Billy Mac, did a pirouette and said in the campest of voices, “lovely cologne, what is that a hint of lilies or lavender?”

He jumped up, strode over to Billy and was about to grab his neck when…

She called his name and he turned. She was slightly squatting, almost a split squat and all in a second was up delivering a front kick to his breast bone and then into a power side kick, from the left. That’s what threw him. Her front kick had been on her left leg with the right outstretched reaching his body. But how did she get that on the floor before beginning the side kick, and when he thought of the power behind it, he winced.

She walked out of the bar, head held high, legs like a gazelle. At the door, she turned, bowed to the ensemble and on rising, raised one arm in the air in a fist and shouted, “for Michelle, you gutless wonder.”

The men gathered around him, it was unfair they said, one said, they were only ribbing. This caused a wave of giggles, but they knew the score. It was only banter and the physicality of it all, just lads having a laugh, blowing off a bit of steam. But Michelle.

Michelle Grainger had lived in the village her entire life, never leaving it for the bigger towns like most of them. She drank in the bar and worked in the shop, her life was simple and her dream was to settle down with her handsome boyfriend, the policeman from town, who came every Tuesday to air the old Garda station and give out the odd ticket for busted back lights. Garda Brennan, AJ to his mates, loved the attention from this yokel girl and spun her a line for a year or two but he had a fiance in town and was not going to be shackelled to Michelle no matter what. The what happened though and she arrived at the station one Tuesday morning to meet him and give him the good news, she was expecting.

She did not get the conversation she wanted as he suggested it wasn’t his and called her names. She didn’t understand, everyone she met that day she told her story, and it didin’t make it right. Meanwhile AJ had contacted his mate on the force, asking his advice. His friend had said, don’t worry, he’d sort it out for him. There was a young hoon, Backers Mackie, he was on the edge of everything and about to move into a bigger league. He needed taking down but it was proving impossible to tie him to anything. Now, he was in Mountjoy on remand, being tried with Michelle Grainger’s murder, he had no alibi, his prints were found at the scene. The village, scared witless by the thought of a murder on their doorstep were all to eager to place Backers in the area on the night in question. Garda Brennan was an absolute rock of support to the family and neighbours. He talked about the shock of her news two days before but how he had bought a ring and was going to propose at the weekend. He was as white as flour throughout the whole affair. He explained to his fiance how this local girl had been stalking him and thought he was her boyfriend telling the whole village. She was so understanding, they waited a year to get married just to allow Michelle’s family some peace. They were invited to the wedding but it was still, for them, too soon but they wished the couple all the best. AJ had moved across country, doing something in vice in the city.

He actually hadn’t meant to kill Michelle, just talk to her, bundle some money at her and get her on a boat to England, but she was so adamant. She wanted the white dress and the marquee, she had even planned the music for the first dance. She was either obsessed or had little to occupy her mind.

He was still in the shower, letting the water cascade over his rib cage, in all his years of thumping and kicking people, no one had ever landed one on him. He thought back to last night. How he had crumpled in agony. This couldn’t go on, his rages were getting more ferocious, he was under investigation at work, things were beginning to unravel and now this. Michelle, that had been two years ago, Backers was locked up, albeit he hadn’t been to trial yet. There were pre trial hearings with the barristers and a growing swell of people wondering why he was claiming to be innocent. Backers had begun to help the Gardai with their enquiries into a number of unsolved cases around the area and was admitting to the dealing and GBH of more than a few people in town. So why wouldn’t he cop to the murder.

He looked in the mirror, “Thomas James Cronin, it is all getting a bit messy,” as he said this to himself he smirked. Understatement of the century. He winced again as took a deep breath. His phone beeped. The message read, “Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Psalm 143. This might be your answer, mate”

It had been sent anonymously. On his way to work, a guy tried to give him a leaflet as he said, “Repent, the end is near.” At break time, a few of the younger guards were reciting poetry at each other, trying to remember the words from their leaving. They were on the cusp of their thirties and realising their youth was gone, were reminiscing about school and the dreaded exams. Julie Tolley raised her voice in the hushed canteen,

“I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting “Damn your soul!”
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –
“Here is the march along these iron stones.”
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.

Kavanagh”

The whole canteen burst into applause, none of the others had quoted an entire poem, just a line here and there.

“Way to go, Jules.”

“Good one, Trolley Girl.”

Nicknames were common, some stuck. His was “Moanin’ Cronin,” he didn’t care one way or the other. Poems in the station was a good distraction from his mind in turmoil. He looked up and saw the Inspector enter.

“Sir, I would like to meet with you today, if possible, I mean if you are not busy. I mean I know you’re busy but can you fit me in, sir?”

“Sergeant Cronin, I can see you tomorrow at nine am, I have things to do today.”

“Yes sir, thank you sir. Right nine o’clock tomorrow. Sir.”

He walked to river after work, he looked into the water, looking for answers, he only saw his reflection. It’s down to me then, to do what is right. He smarted at the pain as he walked slowly home. He got over another hurdle, he hadn’t jumped off the bridge as so many other tortured souls had. The bookshop was still open, it wasn’t a place he would normally be found.

“Hello Sergeant, how may I help you today?”

“I got a message this morning and I want to look it up, do you have a, a, a Bible?”

“Yes of course, which translation?”

“I dunno.”

“Modern?”

“I guess so.”

“Try this.”

The woman thrust a book in his hand.

“The Message?”

“It’s popular with the young ones and er, um, people not used to opening a bible. What is the passage?”

“Psalm,” he pronounced it p-salm

She smiled warmly, took the Bible back and turned to Psalms. “There are 150 psalms, do you have the chapter?”

“Oh yes, sure, let me look,” he took out his phone, “1 4 3.”

“Here, you read away, no rush.”

“Thank you,” and he sat on the chair and read:

 Listen to this prayer of mine, God;
pay attention to what I’m asking.
Answer me—you’re famous for your answers!
Do what’s right for me.
But don’t, please don’t, haul me into court;
not a person alive would be acquitted there.

The enemy hunted me down;
he kicked me and stomped me within an inch of my life.
He put me in a black hole,
buried me like a corpse in that dungeon.
I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away,
my heart heavy, like lead.
I remembered the old days,
went over all you’ve done, pondered the ways you’ve worked,
Stretched out my hands to you,
as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain.

Hurry with your answer, God!
I’m nearly at the end of my rope.
Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me!
That would be certain death.
If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,
I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you.
Point out the road I must travel;
I’m all ears, all eyes before you.
Save me from my enemies, God—
you’re my only hope!
Teach me how to live to please you,
because you’re my God.
Lead me by your blessed Spirit
into cleared and level pastureland.

Keep up your reputation, God—give me life!
In your justice, get me out of this trouble!
In your great love, vanquish my enemies;
make a clean sweep of those who harass me.
And why? Because I’m your servant.

His eyes were damp as he finished. “I will take it.”

“Okay, that will be twenty five euros, Sergeant. Say do you need to talk to someone. I mean I don’t want to pry, but you seem different today.”

“Do I know you?”

“We went to the Tec together, years ago now. But you seem beat today, I hope you don’t mind me saying. It’s just you have always commanded the space you were in. But now, well you seem to have shrunk, ever so slightly.”

“Stress, I guess. Oh sorry,” he smiled, “they were quoting Kavanagh at work today maybe it is rubbing off.”

“Ha, ha, Kavanagh never rhymed. Seriously TJ, I know a guy, he is a good guy and he is strictly confidential. He could meet you tonight?” She left it as a question in the air as he got out money to pay for it.

“Where?”

“Just round the corner, in the wee chapel, he’s a minister, well a lay minister, but he is a good listener and he’ll be there now. He cleans the kitchen on a Tuesday night.”

He walked around the corner and through the open door. He saw the guy drying dishes at the sink. “Hello,” he called, “I think I am in trouble. Can you help? …”

chloed clichéd

Cliched driven life was how her world was moving. Her diary remained empty, her computer screen blank and her phone showed no record of any texts. Eyes peered over her shoulder constantly and she jumped involuntarily each time they caught her own.
Her husband, a cardboard replica of the man she married, was charm itself. He should change his name to charm, because that was all that was left. The rest of his personality had ebbed away as each year passed. Or was she getting harder to please?
Chloe paused, applied her eyeliner one more time, hiding the red rimmed eyes. How could she have been so blind for so long? There was a song that played in her head from the seventies, when they first met, he knows that she knows that he knows… She should have known better, her first husband was, how did they say it, as straight as a die. He would tell her if she looked daft in some get up. Oh and they had some get ups back then. Orange corduroy hot pants, her chubby white legs squeezed out like pasta from an extruder. Cheesecloth tops with elasticated bodices, oh the days of dancing barefoot in the park. Denis was her first love, she wondered would they still be married if he hadn’t gone and died on her. Young enough to start again but with the motivation of a hedgehog crossing a darkened road.
Tim sidled alongside her without her really noticing. Before long there were bouquets of flowers every week and tickets to the local flicks. She didn’t notice it was always his choice, just like she hadn’t really noticed they always watched his choice on telly. She sighed as she realised, she hadn’t noticed much in the fifteen years of marriage but now she had woken up from a dream.
Little Terry from next door, well she supposed, big Terry now, she had minded him since he was two and bawling at his big sister to get away from him. Shirley, his mam was one of those overwrought women that could quite grasp being a mother to all her children so Chloe looked out for Terry and he would come and do his homework at her table whilst she made Tim’s tea for six o’clock. Terry came to see her last week, he was all formal and wouldn’t look her in the eye, shuffling from one foot to the next. Eventually he blurted his story, well it wasn’t his, it was Tim’s.
He stood in the middle of her kitchen and told her he was getting engaged, before she could congratulate him he said very quietly, “I won’t treat her like Tim treats you,” and then pointed out a few things. Little things, that don’t add up to much in ones and twos but put in a big list like he did. She saw with clarity what her life had become.
Very slowly she had drifted away from her friends, her writing had dried up, her food became his, everything was on his terms with no compromise. Tim would flash that smile, benign to a stranger but with lethal intent to her. He had hollowed her out and filled her with nothing. When Terry left she began to weep, and still she cried. He was forever changing her, he bought her clothes, making her feel like mutton dressed as a slaughtered lamb to be sacrificed for Tim and Tim alone.
Her first few plans to leave came to nothing, he would read her emails and texts and ask her to explain what they were about. Money was another issue, she was kept on a meagre budget, no room to squirrel anything away and yet just as caged birds sing she began to dream of freedom, of getting out of the ridiculous situation.
With the new sense of seeing she now had, his flashy grin belied a controlling and manipulating man.
She began to write, she wrote letters to her younger self, she wrote to a nameless future self. She wrote poetry, making the painful existence beautiful and she wrote prayers, long detailed prayers and short to the point prayers. She wanted a way out and writing in the middle of the day was her outlet. She threw everything away, even the page underneath that he might find and shade. She was beginning very slowly to be as sneaky as him.
David Trickett lived next door to Chloe and Tim, on the other side to the overwhelmed Shirley. He had an odd kind of life, since getting TB as a youngster he was too weak to work and needed the heat on constantly, even in the summer. He could just about manage to get to the corner shop, but Mrs Khan had to get young Didi to deliver his groceries. He had lived here longer than anyone else, having seen booth his parents die in this house, having seen children come and go, couples move in and move out. He watched life outside his windows, whilst he waited slowly for his time to pass.
The mornings he watched the people leave their houses and go to school or work. He had watched long enough for three recessions to change the way people did work. Mr Tanner across the road was a year out of work before his wife found out, he had piled up debt with some local shark and it was when she was called to the hospital, with him lying their all tubes and bruises that she learned the truth.
In the afternoons he moved to the back window, he watched the birds flit down to eat the crumbs left out after lunch. For the last few weeks he watched Chloe rush down to the dustbin around three o’clock every day armed with paper that she tore up and placed under other rubbish.

After the third day he decided to investigate. The first attempt at gaining access to the bin ended in disaster and nettle stings in places he’d rather forget. It made him press on even more and so very slowly he cleared the patch of nettles, it took him a few days as even the smallest amount of exercise tired him out so much. It was in the middle of the second week that he got as far as the bin and delved in to find the pages.

Safely back in his bed and with sellotape in hand he pieced them back together. Oh he exclaimed when reading the first one. It was poem, beautiful phrasing with an ethereal presence. He copied the pages into his own notebook. He continued each day, saving and reconstructing pages and then transcribing them.

Last week he sent the poems off to a publisher and today he got a phone call from them. He dressed with care and leaving his front door he turned to Chloe’s door and began a journey that was to take both of them to a different world, far away from Tim and the rest of Jubilee Street.

sight or faith

Charlie left the office reeling, two weeks before Christmas he had been told to up sticks and move across country. No satisfactory explanation, he was to move on January 2nd. How was he going to tell the kids, they had always lived in Pinkerton. Their friends and neighbours would be sorely missed.

After a few minutes of self pity he got on with the logistics of a move around Christmas. He told few people, but found a lovely three bedroom house in the suburbs of Newcastle Upon Tyne. It was in a road called Kingsway. He trusted that this was a sign of his walk in the Lord, he was walking not by sight but by faith alone.

The children took the news well, he made it sound like a fun adventure. He showed them the house on google maps and they saw the garden. They had never had a garden and only just moved into a flat with a separate bedroom. Up till then they had been in a bedsit, no bigger than a hotel room.

During the Christmas period, Charlie and the kids were spoilt rotten by their friends, not one day went by without a party or a meal. Only on the 25th did he think sadly of what he was leaving behind, he thought of his wife. Oh how he missed her. She died during the birth of Anna, his gorgeous eight year old daughter who jumped in puddles and dreamed of snow.

He prayed a lot, Lord, he said, I know you will provide, I know you will keep us protected, I know you love us. Lord I love you so much. I am so grateful for all you have done for me already, the gifts of Anna and Elijah, so grateful we will have a roof over our head and food in our bellies. Use me Lord, however you will and help us find a place to worship in our new town. Amen

Across town, on the day Charlie had reeled out of the office, Billy sulked. A new supervisor had come with new ideas and people liked them, Billy was feeling left out. His way of supervising was being sidelined and his popularity was waning. He felt resentment against the new woman. He blamed his feeling on her and their boss. Billy was a political animal, so he tried to get people on his side against this new one. But people tried to change Billy’s hardened heart. In his intransigent state, there was no turning. He believed God had told him to work in this way, he believed that his way was the only way and he believed that the new supervisor was not as good as him. By Christmas Day he had worked himself into a frenzy and wrote a letter of resignation.

With a very heavy heart, hardened by resentment and bitterness Billy went looking for a new job in the New Year and he was got Charlie’s old job. Everyone in this office told Billy about Charlie, about how he was told to leave and how he did just that. How he lived his life by faith not by sight. The whole office had been changed by Charlie and his faith, openly they talked about the Bible and the Lord. Billy felt blessed.

In time as Billy and his heart were softened, he saw that he had been wrong, he had been trying to not change. But he was learning that he was supposed to change, each day to change more like Jesus. He thought of the new supervisor and her ways and he saw how actually he was jealous of her talents and gifts in getting the people to do the work. He thought about Charlie and all he had to go through and one night, on his knees, he cried out to God.

Romans 2

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a] To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favouritism

girl meets boy

Once upon a time there was a young girl.
Every day, she would avoid contact with all humans.
One day a boy followed her and wouldn’t stop.
Because of that, she ended up talking to him.
Because of that, some other boys got jealous.
Until finally only her and the boy were left.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hilary lived in a strange little room, in a strange little house with strange people. She wasn’t allowed to talk to people, not even them. Every day she was sent out to collect wood for the fire, bottles for one of the people who filled it with liquid and sold it, old newspapers for another who created bowls and vases from them after mushing them up. She avoided people so she couldn’t be talked to. Sometimes not talking to people was worse to the people than talking. She didn’t really know so she just kept to herself. A lot of her day was spent in the wood on the edge of the town collecting twigs and cutting branches into smaller pieces. Little forays into the town for the bottles and newspapers and then back to the more comfortable woods.

Billy watched Hilary for a week before he followed her. He was a curious chap, new to town and already ostracised by the cool kids. He was geeky enough to put kids off from being friends but not geeky enough to not care, he was in his own world at the same time as being part of the bigger one. He followed her from town to the woods, on her second trip that day, at first he treated it like a spy story being thirteen he wasn’t quite old enough to find playing uncool but was just on the cusp of it all.

“Why you followin’ me boy?” Hillary sprung from behind a tree.

“Oh, hello, my name is Billy, I am new, I want to be friends. I have no friends. Will you be friends?

“I ain’t allowed. Go away!”

“No seriously, the kids in town, they don’t want to know me and there is no one else. Please!” Billy countered, not willing to give up after spending all week watching.

“Okay, kinda, only in here, only in the woods, and not all the time. I have work to do. I don’t have friends either. It might be nice. There isn’t much that’s nice, here,” Hilary was softening.

Over the summer they got to know each other, odd they may have been but fun they had. Halfway between childhood and adulthood, not quite one or the other, there was fleeting hugs, fleeting kisses, all chaste, not quite ready for anything else, not quite ready to even know.

One September evening they were just saying goodbye when Jeremy Spencer and Rob Dickinson were running through the woods away from some mischief at a nearby farm. All tallness, angles and the beginnings of muscles they circled the two youngsters.

“What do we have here Mr Spencer?” Rob began.

Later, much later, Hilary half limped, half crawled to her strange little house. She knew what had happened, so did Billy, being forced to watch. Hilary didn’t go to the wood for three days. The people did not like this, they needed the wood, the bottle and the newspapers. On the fourth day Hilary went. Billy went too. They found they couldn’t look each other in the eye. They wanted to talk but found they couldn’t. They wanted to cry, to comfort, to love but found they couldn’t.

Billy killed Jeremy and Rob, everyone thought it was an accident because the rest of the world didn’t know. There was a fire in the shed of the strange little house, everyone thought the still had blown up because the rest of the world didn’t know.

Billy’s parents, pastors at the new church, brought Hilary to live with them. She didn’t need to be told to not talk anymore. She no longer tried. Billy looked at her but couldn’t see her eyes anymore. They lived in the same house but might as well be on different continents. As they grew up Billy continued killing and Hilary continued being mute. Both traumatised by an event in the wood, that no one was left to talk about and the ones who should talk about it, unable.

{grey}paresis

She sat on her front doorstep, she was getting donkey stone on her skirt but she didn’t care. She was watching; watching the other kids in the street. They were playing tag. Nobody asked her if she wanted to play, perhaps they didn’t see her.

A girl her age came running past to join the game and a bigger boy from across the street banging out the alley shouting at the small ones for starting without him. A woman a few doors down was washing her windows, with newspaper and vinegar, the acidic smell wafted toward Mary.

She shouldn’t be here, she should be inside, keeping warm, under the blanket, not out here with all the germs and dirt and children. It wasn’t cold, there was no sun but it was summer and the breeze was warm.

Mother and father were arguing again, arguing about her. They didn’t ask what she wanted, where she wanted to go. Mother wanted her to stay at home and father wanted to send her away to the country where the air was clear, where she could breathe clean air. Mother wanted to keep her close, not let strangers raise her. All of July the argument had gone on, she thought it would continue until school started.

Last year father found a place in the next county that would take her but then he lost his job in the offices of the slipper factory. It wasn’t his fault, he was the scapegoat for young Master Lambert not being able to manage. Mother won last year, though she said it was hollow victory what with her husband laid off.

Father started work in the dye factory by the river, he came home with purple hands that he scrubbed and scrubbed until they red raw but clean. Then they would sit down to eat. Tea was always a slice of bread and dripping and a bowl of broth. The broth was for Mary’s benefit, or so father said. Mary wondered what they would eat if she went away with no Mary to benefit from the broth.

On Mondays mother would get the bones from the weekend meal and boil it with any few vegetables she could find, a teaspoon of beef extract and some white pepper and salt. This was the broth, Mary wondered how a person would go about extracting the beef from a cow and thought perhaps if she were to go to the country she might see it happen.

Mary was never sure which option she would choose if she was asked. Father was so good at describing the countryside, he had an uncle there that he would visit as a child, it sounded very nice. But Mary liked the little house in the long cobbled street where she could hear so many fascinating things. Monday, all the women washed in their backyards and hang out white sheets in a parade of competitiveness, they shouted to one another over the thin brick walls and there was always laughter. Newlyweds were discussed along with births and deaths and then illness, Mary was usually mentioned, finally as the last of the sheets went on the talk got quieter and of more delicate subjects, or so mother said.

This was odd to Mary because the words she heard were not lacy, frilly words but the words and noises she heard late on a Friday and Saturday evening as she lay in bed listening to the men come home from the public houses. Words of violence and of morals. The whispering stopped for two things alone; the rain and the children coming in from school. Clogs on cobbles the army of children would dance or joust among the sheets whilst the women berated them for getting dirt on them. If it rained there would be shrieks as the women helped each other to gather up the white sheets.

Mother ironed on Tuesdays, Mary would sit in the nook by the fire as mother lifted the iron backwards and forwards from the hearth to the cloth, The air was moist and hot as steam rose, hiss and spitting out the fabric into the air. Mother told stories to Mary as her face got redder and wetter. At eleven they stopped, mother would take down the tin that contained the good cake and they would sup tea and nibble on a sliver of iced madeira cake. A little treat for our hard work mother would say and then she would continue with pressing father’s shirts and telling stories to her little girl.

Wednesdays were Mary’s favourite, mother would call up the stairs to tell her to behave and she would go off to visit her sister, Aunt Lizzy. She lived on the other side of town in what father described as a much better situated house but then her husband was one of the clerks in the town council and got paid too much according to father. As soon as the door was shut Mary very slowly eased herself out of bed. She dangled over the edge for an eternity sliding; sliding till her foot touched the ground. Holding onto the furniture she walked to the door and sat at the top of the stairs and slid slowly down counting each step.

Once downstairs she moved around the rooms, always holding on but faster and faster, each week she did it she got faster. Only last week she had almost spun out of control and landed in the china cabinet, Mrs Burroughs next door, always put the heavy pot on the stove at twelve mid-day and when Mary heard this she began her ascent back to her room.

Sometimes Mary asked her mother and father why she couldn’t play out with the other children, or why she couldn’t go to school, but they never answered. Now father was looking to move into the office at the dye works, it seems that young Master Lambert messed up again and there was no one to take the blame. Word got around the town to the office manager in the dye works and he has spoken to father about possibilities.

The children were leaving the street, going into their houses, they didn’t look at Mary, perhaps she was after all,  invisible, and father was always saying how pale she was. She slowly stood up and entered the house; there was a smell of fish and chips with it being Friday and father getting paid. Mary thought it was an ideal time to stop the argument with her walk. They didn’t know she could yet, they called her a cripple and a spastic and other words but Mary had been practising and she walked or hopped into the room to show her father and mother that one leg was enough and she would love a pair of shoes!

Muddie in two stories

Story 1

Muddie starts school today

Muddie is not happy

Muddie walks through the field

Tick tock tick tock

Muddie is scared

Muddie sniffs the Dandelion clock

It tickles It tockles

A a a Atishoo

The dandelion clock is no more

Muddie hears buzzing

Muddie is scared

Muddie trips over

And frightens the bees away

Brave Muddie bounds through the field

And gets to school

Story 2

“Muddie!” Mummy Honey shouted. “Time for cat’s lick lessons! Where are you?”

Muddie was hiding.

Muddie did not like washing his paws.

Muddie crept out of the barn.

Under the gate,

into the field.

His paws were getting dirty,

Muddie was having fun.

“Muddie!” Daddy Pepperpot shouted. “Time for mouse catching lessons! Where are you?”

Muddie was behind the tree

Muddie did not like catching mice

Muddie climbed up the tree

Trying to catch butterflies

He went up and up and up

Muddie was having fun

“Muddie!” Nana Tippy Toes shouted. “Time for cream drinking lessons! Where are you?”

Muddie tried to get down

Muddie was stuck

“Help! Help! Nana I’m stuck. Please help me!” Muddie shouted as loud as he could.

Mummy Honey, Daddy Pepperpot and Nana Tippy Toes rushed to find Muddie

“Oh Muddie! What are you doing up there?” They all exclaimed

“ I don’t like washing and hunting so I chased butterflies and got stuck, I’m sorry.”

“But you must learn how to wash and how to hunt, you are a cat.

Only then can you learn how to drink cream, Mummy Honey said

Daddy Pepperpot climbed up and brought Muddie down.

Nana Tippy Toes scolded Muddie.

Muddie learned that cats must wash and hunt and then

He could be the cat that got the cream

lilian part one

As I bent down, once again creating another stook I cursed my husband. Freaking turf, it was bad with company but all this bending and stretching in the dry wind on top of the bog was crap without him. I’ll get this row done and go see how the bog tea is brewing, three hours of this back breaking labour calls for the special tea that tastes like the milk and honey of the Promised Land. Oh Dan, I do so miss him.

It was his words that ran through my mind like a rural rule book, “Girl, a fierce day at the bog, saw young Jerry Pa, what a scoundrel! His father, a great man, will be reeling in his grave. His turf’ll be wet and heavy that’s for sure. It’ll never draw fire, that’s for sure. You should’ve seen him, the cocky little sod. No turning or footing, making some giant stook at the edge of the bank like one of them sculptures on the side of the road. Tis no way to treat the sods. Ye have to take time, turn it, leave it to dry in the wind for at least two weeks, then foot it.”

“What’s a foot Dan?”

I was a naïve city girl, civilised, used to imported Polish smokeless coal. We were just married, Dan had said not to go up to the bog this first year because the midges would know I was a wee blow-in. Till he met me, well no till we started courting, as he put it, Dan was a fully paid up member of the bachelor club with thirty five years under his belt, never had time, so he said, for the girls in the village and then they all got themselves married or moved away.

According to village gossip I was the flighty piece from the city, twenty two years in my cotton socks. The old men of the village had me pegged as a gold-digger, only in it for Dan’s cash, they warned him frequently about my feminine wiles.

If they only knew how we met; six years previous to our wedding I was actively running away from home. I was a bit mussed up, sitting on the train, no clear plan, just to get away. Dan sat down opposite but when the train lurched to a stop we bumped heads and in the ensuing apologies we began to talk. He chatted to me like I was a person, not like mam always treating me like a child. Told me all about his trip to the city to see a solicitor. He was chuffed to bits because Auntie Cissie had left him a few acres and a cottage with a chimney.

“Don’t all houses have chimneys?”

“Ah, in the city you probably get them without don’t you. Those on the gas, or electric? In the country it means you have a wee bit of bog. Each bog was split up and if you had a house in the area on the day they split you got a strip of bog. The saying goes ‘the bank goes with the chimney’. New house don’t got banks.”

He told me about his Auntie Cissie and her south-east facing bank of turf, her couple of acres of mature trees and her house built in 1945 when Uncle Peter came home. Cissie was the only one who knew he painted, he’d wanted to go to college, but there was no money and he daren’t have told his daddy so he got work as a carpet fitter in the nearby town and began to save.

When the train started again we shared our food and in a very serious voice Dan asked for my address, not my phone number, not that I would’ve given an old man my phone number, but he asked for my address. I felt so grown up writing out: 13 Poplar Crescent, Mayfield, Cork. He folded the paper and put it in his wallet then produced a fiver. He told me to go home, he said if I didn’t go home I’d never get his letter. I reluctantly agreed although I was looking forward to receiving mail.

He wrote, it arrived two weeks later, full of news from his new house, full of plans, he asked my opinion on colours and asked a whole bunch of questions about school and home. I wrote straight back telling him all the goss from school, tales about our Darro, my little troublesome brother, Mammy and her hips and Daddy and his allotment. I began to tell him how I hated school and how I loved my Nana who died earlier that year.  I had filled four A$ pages when I wrote, write back soon.

Dan got my head around school, slowly in the letters he suggested careers, courses, subjects. We wrote to each other by return, never letting a week go without a letter dropping on the mat in either house. I did okay in my leaving and got a place at the institute of technology doing business. He began to come up to Cork on the odd Saturday, we’d have lunch in the old Roches Stores and then off to the pictures on Grand Parade. On fine days we went for long walks by the Lee out to the Carrigrohane Straight.

He’d been made redundant, people were putting in wooden floors and there was little call for carpets and he had no prospects of getting another job. Auntie Cissie’s house was being transformed and each visit he’d regale me with tales of windows, loft conversions and insulation thanks to his savings and redundancy package. Dan described everything so well I could almost see the cottage; one long hallway with the rooms coming off it on both sides. On the left was a den, a single bedroom and the master. On the right was a small kitchen with a new extension housing a scullery and utility room. The bathroom was next and a study, finally another single bedroom. The loft extension was Dan’s studio, his painting was still hidden from the world but now he had the space to explore his artistic streak. Outside, raised beds growing veg, fruit bushes and trees. Chickens, ducks and a bad tempered goose had been joined recently by a female goat.

On my nineteenth birthday Dan arrived in his new acquisition, an old van. We ate in a Chinese Restaurant and over coffee Dan put a small jewellery box in front of me.

“Lilian, will ye marry me?”

“I don’t know, yes, no, yes, I think, I mean we haven’t even kissed.”

Dan smiled shyly and suggested we take care of that straight away. Of course I knew Dan was the man for me, I had always known.