The Irish Quarter: A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1
Please consider participating in the Irish Quarter. All you need do is post on an Irish short story or related matter and let me know about it. Guests post are very welcome.
"Near the Bone" by Cherry Smyth is included in The Anchor Book of New Irish Writing (2000).
Smyth is a leading theorist and chronicler of Gay and Lesbian art and literature in the U. K.
"Near the Bone" is set in Cootehill, County Cavan, a small town (population about 2000) in Ulster. Desi is back in town for his annual obligatory visit to his parents. He moved to Germany long ago. The town has a few pubs, a couple of pharmacies and a two star hotel. He walks down the main street of the town and thinks that the town has not much changed since he was young, still not much to do. He stops in at what seems to have once been his hang out, the West End Bar. Most of the people he used to know have moved to Dublin, London, or America. Those who have not moved have settled into married life and almost never go out anymore, expect maybe for the World Cup.
As he enters the bar, he is greeted by the owner. He has been working out since he left. The man is hiding something, he is hiding his sexual orientation as he fears his old mates will not accept him and perhaps he will shame his family. We first learn of it when he fantasies about a man he knows in the bar: "Suddenly I imagine him head-to-toe in leather, a Muir cap jammed on his head, and the rush of cruising teems through me like amyl nitrate". He goes into a very vivid totally cinematic flash to himself on the floor of a disco. One of his old acquaintances, Flinty McClure walks in the pub, he is a a few years older than Desi but they did both play football for the county, a very macho kind of thing. He asks him where Bob Breen, Flinty's close friend, is tonight. Flinty tells him he died of cancer. He observes Flinty has a deep cut on his hand which looks like it is not healing. Desi senses a great sadness within Flinty, who before then we have to assume he saw a sort of a one dimensional person from who he needed to hide his sexuality. When Flinty leaves the bar Desi learns that Bob died of AIDS. Flinty never left his side the whole time he was dying. Desi has a shock of recognition that almost makes him shudder. He feels ashamed that he could have been so blind and so narrow in his view of Flinty. He wants to run after Flinty and tell him he understands, to tell him of the other people in his own life lost to AIDS.
"Near the Bone" is a really powerful short story. It is about going home, it is about like so many other stories, the Irish Diaspora, about not seeing the humanity in others until it is almost too late, and about feeling different and escaping.
Official Author Bio
in Portstewart. She has written two collections of poetry, a poetry pamphlet as
well as a book, essays and reviews on contemporary visual arts. She has also
published short fiction. Her debut poetry collection, 'When the Lights Go Up'
was published by Lagan Press, 2001. Her anthology of women prisoners'
writing, 'A Strong Voice in a Small Space', Cherry Picking Press, 2002, won
the Raymond Williams Community Publishing Award in 2003. A poetry
pamphlet, 'The Future of Something Delicate' was published by
Smith/Doorstop, 2005. A second collection called 'One Wanted Thing' (Lagan
Press) appeared in 2006.
Her poems have been published in 'Breaking the Skin', an anthology of Irish
poets, Black Mountain Press, 2002, the Apples and Snakes Anthology,
'Velocity', 2003, 'Magnetic North', The Verbal Arts Centre, 2006. New poems
have been published in various magazines including 'The North', 'The Shop',
'Staple', 'Magma' and 'Poetry Ireland Review'. She was a prizewinner in the Tonbridge Poetry Competition,
2006 and the London Writers' Competition, 2007.
Her short fiction has been published in many journals and anthologies including Blithe House Quarterly,
|"Welcome to the Irish Quarter"-|
Journal, 2004, 2006, Tears in the Fence, Vol. 35, 2003, The Anchor Book of New Irish Writing, 2000, and
'Hers: brilliant new fiction', Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999.
Cherry Smyth is the poetry editor of Brand literary magazine www.brandliterarymagazine.co.uk
She has been teaching writing poetry in the Creative Writing Department of the University of Greenwich since 2004.
You can learn more about Cherry Smyth on her very well done web page. There are also links to her poetry and short stories. I admire writers with enough confidence and generosity to allow a sample of their work to be read for free.