"Leaving for Chile" a Short Story by Viv McDade
Irish Short Story Month Year III
March 1 to March 31
Viv McDade was born in Ireland, grew up in Zimbabwe and lived in South Africa and The Netherlands before returning to Ireland. Thanks to the support of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, she completed an M.Phil in Creative Writing at Trinity College in 2008. Her stories have been read on radio and published in literary journals and anthologies, including the 2011 Faber Book of New Irish Short Stories, edited by Joseph O'Connor. In 2012 she received the Hennessey XO Emerging Fiction award. She has taught fiction and short story courses at the Irish Writers Centre, and is a guest teacher at The Big Smoke Writing Factory. She lives in Dublin and is working on a collection of short stories.
My post on her wonderful short story, "A Gift For My Mother"
"Leaving for Chile"
by Viv McDade
No, I can’t talk louder, Mam. Because I’m on the train. Yes, one o’clock, but it’ll be later. Because we
left late, that’s why. Everyone’s standing on platform one and they go The train to Sligo will now be
leaving from platform three. Typical. They can’t get anything right in this place. Yes, they rang and
told me I’m shortlisted and would it be okay to check my references, so I said Grand. Nearly a week
ago now so I’m not counting on anything. Because I didn’t want you getting your hopes up, Mam,
that’s why. If I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I’m on that ‘plane to Chile. Well, like I keep telling you, why
not Chile? For a start they’ve brilliant beaches there and loads of cultural stuff going on. Ruins and
archaeology and all that. Christmas? Christmas is nothing as far as I’m concerned, Mam. Yeah, I
know but I’m not here to make up numbers. Look, I gotta go.
Fran, it’s Sinead. I don’t know, I honestly don’t. I messed up on the interview big time. I don’t know
why. It’s weird. I didn’t sleep very well, woke up not feeling grounded. But they rang me anyway and
I’m on the shortlist so we’ll see how it goes. I usually do really really well at interviews, so it’s weird.
It’s like I’ve lost a bit of confidence or something. They said they’d definitely let me know one way or
the other this week. Yeah, but let’s face it, there isn’t much of Friday left. That’s Ireland for you, as
far as I’m concerned. No, the only ones I’ve heard from are Ciaran and Maura. They’ve pissed off.
Yeah, London. Who the fuck needs it. I’ll tell you though, anywhere’s better than this dump. Chile’s
still number one for me. You should think about it yourself, Fran. Why wreck your head here?
Seriously, I’ve heard only good things. Hey, there’s a call coming in. Might be the job.
Hey, Anne, how are you. On the train to Sligo. Just for the weekend, calm the parents down. No,
they’re fine really, just my mother phones me every five minutes. The nervous type always has been.
Drives me mad. God, I hope I don’t inherit that when I get old. Yes, I know. I know she is, but you try
living with her. It’s €10 to Sligo out of hours. No, it’s not bad, convenient while I’m living out of hours 2
anyway. No, €10 each way. You’re dead right, it does add up. Surprisingly full really. No, most of
them don’t look unemployed or old or anything weird like that. They look more or less like normal
people. Yeah, I think it went okay. They’ve asked for my references so that’s a good sign. Depends
who else applied I suppose. Look, Anne, thanks a million. Of course you’ll be the first to know. Have
to go in case they try to get me about the job.
Hey, Der. This is some surprise! No, no, great timing. I’m on the train to Sligo. Yeah, home for the
weekend. You know the way. Has to be done. Oh, cool, really cool. Yeah, I’m certain there’ll be a
room. I’m not a hundred per cent sure which one at this stage because we’re going to have a bit of a
room shuffle. One of the girls is into art and she wants better light. €275. Yes really, that’s it. But
what’s happening in Cork? Jesus, same with me can you believe it. Six of us. The HR director.
National, in fact global, issues he goes. Our sector and the situation we find ourselves in. All that
shite, you know. Then asks if there’s any questions. One of the guys, Sean, he doesn’t care what he
says, he goes, Yeah, I’ve got a question for you. All this ‘we’ and ‘our’ stuff. So you’re also losing your
job and the fat bonus? The HR guy nearly died. He goes, I sense that you are feeling very angry and I
can understand that, and we all start laughing. Anyway, no worries. Look, I’m sure you’ll have a
much better chance up here. There’s quite a lot going if you’re willing to look. Like in my case, I’m at
reference stage for a job out in Blanchardstown. If I get the job I’m going to buy some paint for the
house, it looks a bit manky to be honest, but it’ll be cosier with a bit of paint. No, that’s not a
problem, there’s a bit of storage near the toilet and you’ll get a bike easy. There’s that bike auction
place, they pick up all the bikes that have been nicked or thrown in the canal or whatever, and sell
them off real cheap. I’ve had a few bikes that way. If I get this job I’ll be getting a bike too. Yeah, of
course. I’ll text Aoife right now. Oh my God, I can’t believe we’re going to be roomies. Good times,
Mr D, good times.
Mam? What’s with ringing from the landline? I’m not being short, I just want to know why you can’t
ring from your mobile like every other normal person. Well put it on the charger then. Why from the 3
garden, what don’t you want Da to hear? Is he okay? You mean you’re expecting me to cancel Chile
because of his blood pressure? No, Mam, I’m not moving back home. I’m happy where I am. My
friends are there, I’m settled. No, I wouldn’t accept money off him even if he could afford it, the last
thing I’m doing at this stage is sponging off you guys. What do you mean? It’s wrong to say I haven’t
tried long enough. This place is totally a mess, Mam, the dogs in the street know that. Of course I
don’t know anyone in Chile. I haven’t even arrived there yet. I’m not thinking about what happens
after that. Who knows? One thing leads to another, things turn up. Yeah, it is far away. Anywhere
worth going is far away. Look I’ll see you in a bit, Mam.
Hi, Aoife. So you got the text, what do you think? Der’s brilliant, really he is. You couldn’t find a nicer
guy. No, I didn’t say it was certain. I said there’d probably be some moving around in the house and
that might free up a room. I’ve also been thinking about the way Paul literally spends all his time in
his bedroom. Seems like he only comes out when everyone goes to bed. Some sort of mid life crisis
do you think? Last night I came out of my room and he goes I’m just going to wash my clothes, and
I’m like, Oh my God do you wait in your room ‘til everyone’s gone? Yeah, that’s fair enough, Aoife,
but Rory doesn’t really have a clue, he’s as cut off from him as the rest of us. He goes there and tries
to interact with him and Paul doesn’t even look up. Look, okay, it’s fine by me. For that matter, I
might not even be here. I’ll probably be in Chile. All I’m thinking is he’s taking up a perfectly good
room. What’s going to be the story when Mary moves because I know Ella wants to move rooms? I
mean I’m just wondering. I’d prefer Mary’s room but it’s fine if I have to stay in my room. Look, Rory
hasn’t said anything to you about the rooms either? Oh, he did? No, he said it to me once about
Niamh’s room and she was looking at Ella’s room and I was looking at hers. Other thought I’ve had is
the room in the roof. Yeah, it’s a fabulous room. I’d like to get a ladder and make it my room. All I
need is my mattress. I’ll have to get a ladder to go up and have a look. Look, let’s think about how
we could work all this? Other thing, we need to talk about our strategy when Pat tries to put up the 4
rent. Yeah, we can say the rent is the only reason we’re all there. Come ‘ere, can I ring again? My
battery’s going down and I’m worried that job might try to get me.
Hello. Yes, Sinead speaking. Oh, I see. Yes. Well, to be honest with you I am disappointed. Yes, I
understand. Well, thank you for that anyway, it’s good to know I was a strong applicant. Yes, I
would, of course I would, if anything else came up. Well, I have one or two irons in the fire. One of
them should be back to me today and a couple of others next week. Thank you very much. I hope so
too. Bye, bye, bye.
I told you you’d be the first to know. No, hold on, Anne, hold on! I didn’t get it. The woman really did
sound sorry. She goes We’ve had a huge number of applicants and in the end it was a really difficult
decision between you and the person we chose. Look, I haven’t had enough time to think about it
yet. I was expecting it but at the same time I’m gutted, you know that kind of a way. No, I’m okay,
really I am. It’s just that Mam will go straight into Chile overdrive. I’m not going to tell them, not yet
anyway. I’ll leave it for a bit, ring when I get back after the weekend. No, I don’t agree; there’s
nothing unfair about saving them from themselves. Fuck, I wish I’d never even mentioned the job to
them. They’ll try to stop me, but I’m going. In a way it’s a relief. In my heart of hearts I’d rather be in
Chile. It’s given me the push I need. One thing I can tell you, Pat will have to start changing his tune
about the rent. This could be the start of some kind of exodus, if you know what I mean. Ah, well.
Chile here I come. About three weeks I think. I found some specials on the internet. Look, I gotta go.
The trolley’s in the aisle and I need something to drink. I wish, but we’re talking Iarnr d ireann
remember. Have to make do with a cardboard cup and a teabag. I’d go mental if I didn’t have Chile
to look forward to.
Look, Mam, we can talk about it this weekend. You and Da are totally overreacting. You think Chile’s
some kind of dangerous place where you’ll end up having to fly over and bring me home in a body
bag or something dramatic. It’s not like that. You watch too much telly, that’s your problem. Would 5
you listen, Mam? What I’m saying is you’ll never have to afford a trip to Chile because nothing’s
going to happen to me. Chile’s just an ordinary place with great beaches and loads of people
enjoying themselves, like anywhere else outside of Ireland. I’ll show you some stuff on the internet.
Just calm down and forget about Da’s blood pressure. Of course I’m not asking you to be heartless.
I’m asking you to get into the real world. Look, there’s a call coming through. No, it won’t be the job,
Mam. Put the fecking job out of your mind. I wish I hadn’t even mentioned it to you. You get all
worked up, you don’t have a clue about my situation. All you do is pile pressure on me and I’m
telling you right now it won’t work.
Hello. It’s Sinead Maguire here. I just picked up a voice message from Jane O’Connor. Sure, I can
hold. Hello Jane. No problem, I just picked up your message now. Really? Oh my God, that’s just
fantastic. I can’t believe it. But I thought you’d already offered it to someone else? Oh my God,
that’s awful. That’s really terrible. So he was Irish, he didn’t actually live there? Yes, it must have
been. I can’t, I can’t even begin to imagine. I understand, yes. Yes, of course, I understand you had
to. No, that’s fine. I promise I won’t take anything else. All right, we’ll speak again next week so.
Hey, Anne, there’s no way you’re going to believe this. They’ve offered me the job after all! Yes,
exactly. They left a message and I rang straight back. Your woman was totally freaked. They’d just
heard the guy who got the job died in a road accident. Wait for it, in Santiago can you bloody well
believe it. It’s the fucking capital of Chile, Anne. Right after she first spoke to me. Weird. Really
terrible. His father’s going out there to bring the body back. It was terrible. I could hear she was in
shock herself. It felt weird to be pleased about the job at the same time if you know what I mean.
She didn’t want me to take something else in the meantime. I’d said I had other irons in the fire. You
know the stupid things you say when you feel let down. I said I was waiting to hear from another job
today. No, of course it wasn’t true, for God’s sake. Weird. I really wish I hadn’t done that now. Of
course, I know all that. It’s not that I’m beating myself up or anything. I just wish I hadn’t done it,
that’s all. It’s not a case of the universe doing anything, Anne. Shit happens, that’s all. Come ‘ere, can 6
I ask you a favour? Please don’t ever say anything to my parents about this. Of course I’m not talking
about the job, you eijit! I’m talking about the guy getting killed in Chile. Because I’ll never hear the
end of it, that’s why. To be honest I’m really shaken, but doesn’t mean I’ll never go to Chile. It’s off
the cards now, but who knows what’s round the corner, for any of us for that matter? Okay, see you
We’ve just left Boyle, so about half an hour or so. Look, Mam, why don’t you both come down?
Yeah, I know, but he can record it. Tell him I’d really like him to. Just this once. It’s not a big deal but
I’d really like it if you both came down to meet me, that’s all.
End of Guest Post
This story is protected under international copyright laws and is the exclusive property of the author. It is posted here with her permission. It cannot be printed or posted online without her consent.
My great thanks to Viv Mcdade for honoring me by allowing me to publish this wonderful short story.