Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests





Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Truth and Silence" by Alison Wells



March 1 to April 14

Alison Wells

You are invited to participate in ISSM3.  If you are interested or have any questions or concerns, please e mail me

There are lots of ways to participate.  One simple way is to leave a comment in some of the posts.  Another for Irish writers of any genre is to do a Q and A session.  I am also willing to publish your short story.  For my fellow book bloggers, just do a post on your blog and let me know about it.

"We  never fought. Never fell out, not outright, not out in the open. Things just went cool, frosty. Of course now there are times when I wonder whether the way we were together was like a frozen lake, beautiful on the outside - but underneath there’s all this shit, weeds and algae and shopping trolleys and half dead fish with the entrails trailing, murk basically."

"Truth and Silence", a fine short story by Alison Wells, centers on the very problematic relationship between a man and a woman, lovers.  You can read the story online (I will provide a link at the close of the post) so I will just talk briefly about the plot and remark on how it fits in with some of the leitmotifs of Irish Short Story Month Year III.  

The story is told in the first person by the man.  We learn how the couple's relationship came about through chance events, we are there when they make love and we are there for some vicious bone jangling fights.   I could almost feel the anger of the woman.  One often sees in the Irish short story people who have difficulty expressing their love for each other but have no problems expressing the other side of this coin, the resentments, the feeling of oppressive closeness that turns a trifle into a death match. Beneath the icy reserve (it is no accident ice plays a big role in "Truth and Silence" as you should find out for yourself by reading it-it is a very good story) there is a murderous set of emotions that people have no models to teach them how to express.

We meet the girl's family.  She is estranged from her mother, we are not sure why but it is interesting to speculate, and her father is "long gone".  Once again we see an Irish short story that illustrates the theme of the weak or missing Irish father.  Her sister says the woman is paranoid.

There is a dark event at the heart of this story and I will leave it untold.   I do think the ending was brilliant and it somehow a perfect metaphor for the themes about the Irish character I spoke of earlier.   

You can read this powerful story here


Author Bio

Alison Wells was born in London and now lives in Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland with her husband and four children. Her short fiction has been featured in Crannóg, The Sunday Tribune, the Higgs Boson Anthology and is forthcoming in an anthology by Bridgehouse. She was shortlisted for the Hennessy XO New Irish Writing Awards in 2009 and for the Bridport and Fish Prizes in 2010. She has completed Random Acts of Optimism , a short story collection and is working on a flash fiction collection and a literary novel. She blogs at www.writing.ie and www.alisonwells.wordpress.com

Alison Wells has kindly agreed to do a Q and A Session for ISSM3 so please look for that soon.




Mel u

Alan McMonagle A Question and Answer Session with the Author of Psychotic Episodes

March 1 to April 14
Q & A Session with

Alan McMonagle



Q & A Sessions for ISSM3

Today I am happy to be able to present a Q and A Session with Alan McMonagle, Galway, Ireland, author of a very good collection of short stories set in Ireland,
Psychotic Episodes (My post on the collection is here.)



Author Bio (from his webpage)


Alan McMonagle is a poet, playwright and short fiction writer living in Galway, IrelandHe holds an MA in Writing from National University of Ireland, Galway. He has received awards for his work from the Professional Artists’ Retreat in Yaddo (New York), the Fundación Valparaiso (Spain), the Banff Centre for Creativity (Canada) and the Arts Council of Ireland.
He has published in numerous literary journals. 

Liar Liar, his first collection of stories published byWordsonthestreet appeared in 2008 and was longlisted for the 2009 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The title story from his second collection, Psychotic Episodes, (due from Arlen House in April 2013) was nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize.


You can learn more about his work on his webpage.


1.Who are some of the contemporary short story writers you admire? If you had to say, who do you regard as the three best ever short story writers?


Many of the writers I like are dead:


William Saroyan

Isaac Singer

Sergei Dovlatov


Some of the best:

Raymond Carver
James Joyce
Nicolai Gogol


Of course, this changes all the time.

2. I have read lots of Indian and American short stories in addition to Irish and alcohol plays a much bigger part in the Irish stories. How should an outsider take this and what does it say about Irish culture. There is a lot of drinking in the stories in Psychotic Episodes.

Is there a lot of drinking in Psychotic Episodes? Is there really more drinking in Irish stories? I'm reading a wonderful collection set in Canada at the moment. There's been booze in every story so far. Last week I finished a collection by the Chilean Roberto Bolaño. Lots of booze there. Every great Russian I read seems to know how to make vodka. Alcohol can be tricky. I like drinking and I don't like drinking. It can be fun and it can undo the will like no other substance I've encountered. In Ireland, spending lengthy spells of time indoors is inevitable on account of the weather. 'The Pub' helps facilitate this indoor existence.



3. Declan Kiberd has said the dominant theme of modern Irish literature is that of the weak or missing father? Do you think he is right and how does this, if it does, reveal itself in your work. I claimed it was a dominant element in several of your stories.

If you take the weak/missing 'father' to mean a lack of guidance - spiritual, emotional, political - then yes, it is a big theme, and not confined to my stories or to Ireland. Of course, a writer can only write from the context of his or her own experience, offer his or her own perspective. And experience and perspective is constantly evolving.

4. when did you start writing?


I started when I was seven and wrote pretty much non-stop until I was twelve. Then I stopped for twenty years. I remember the first story I finished - it was titled the ants who grew into giants. I thought the title was so clever (gi-ants). I remember my father counting the number of words in it and then saying, 'there are more words in this than in your mother's dissertation'. I still think of that as a fine compliment.


5.  

Do you feel Aosdana is the best use of the Irish governments limited funds to promote the arts or do you think the money could be better spent in another way?

In Ireland, there are plenty of people getting paid obscene amounts of money for doing very little; there are questionable financial systems receiving ridiculous dig-outs - this is the pot of money that could be better spent.



6. Tell us a bit about your thoughts about the Masters Program at NUI Galway please? What do you like best, what could be cut, what improvements could be made?

The best thing is that if you like to flit from one form to another - which I do - then this course is a dream come true. The limitation is that you must drop chosen forms at semester ends, which can be frustrating, especially if you are getting into your stride.


7.  Please tell us a bit about your non-literary or non- academic work experience?

I've been an office boy, a greeting card salesman, a packer, a night watchman in an amusement park. Though you wouldn't think it, I spent two summers working on building sites in London. I've also worked in Sydney.


8. In an over the top World Wide Wrestling Battle Royal between a playwright, a novelist, a poet, and a short story writer who wins and how does it play out?

Hah!
The short story writer is trying to beat the record for the longest period of time spent on an opening line.
The playwright is dashing frantically about the place in search of a killer stage direction, a lamp that works and an old piece of furniture (a dresser is my guess).
The poet is reclined in a suitably comfortable chair, and is gradually sucking every drop of water in the ocean through a straw.
Meantime, the novelist is nowhere to be seen because he knows that finishing something is the most important thing.

9. (This may seem like a silly question but I pose it anyway-do you believe in Fairies?-this quote from Declain Kiberd sort of explains why I am asking this:
" One 1916 veteran recalled, in old age, his youthful conviction that the rebellion would “put an end to the rule of the fairies in Ireland”. In this it was notably unsuccessful: during the 1920s, a young student named Samuel Beckett reported seeing a fairy-man in the New Square of Trinity College Dublin; and two decades later a Galway woman, when asked by an American anthropologist whether she really believed in the “little people”, replied with terse sophistication: “I do not, sir – but they’re there.

Do you remember what the unicorn says to Alice in Through the Looking Glass? 'If you believe in me I'll believe in you.' I think this is the only answer I can give to a question like this.

10. When you write, do you picture somehow a potential audience or do you just write? As a playwright, do you caste the play at least by types before you write it?

The stories, by and large, come as they are.
I have drafted a full-length piece of theatre with an actress I admire in mind for the only female part. I hope to show it to her very soon.


11. Does the character of the "stage Irishman" live on still in the heavy drinking, violent, on the dole characters one finds in many contemporary Irish novels? Are some of your characters in this mode? In "The Spanish Arch Whores" we have two lads out on the town in a perhaps drugged state looking for prostitutes. In "Bloomsday Bus Driver" the bus driver takes a break to have sex with a street walker. related question (Alan, just ignore this if rude), why so many hookers in contemporary Irish short stories?

You see, the streetwalker angle (in 'Bus Driver') is your interpretation, and this is a valid interpretation. Someone else, however, may have a completely take on the scene you are referring to. Likewise for the two lads in 'Spanish Arch Whores'. I fully agree that they are on a quest. But as to what it is they are actually looking for, I can't honestly say. (Plus, I don't want to give the story away!)
As for the 'stage Irishman' you refer to, this is a label and I am not interested in labels.

12. William Butler Yeats said in "The Literary Movement"-- "“The popular poetry of England celebrates her victories, but the popular poetry of Ireland remembers only defeats and defeated persons”. I see a similarity of this to the heroes of the Philippines. American heroes were all victors, they won wars and achieved independence. The national heroes of the Philippines were almost all ultimately failures, most executed by the Spanish or American rulers. How do you think the fact Yeats is alluding too, assuming you agree, has shaped Irish literature

Yeats is writing at a certain time in history and to an extent from his own perspective and experience. Today, we are a hundred years on and there are other influences. The wonderful thing about writing is that you have an infinity of choice. This can also be a nuisance. For me, writing is something intrinsic. Heroes and villains exist everywhere at all times. They exist inside the same person.  


13- people say Shakespeare killed off the english stage as no one could follow him-did Beckett do something similar?

No. Beckett is an inspiration. Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

14. Do you think poets have a social role to play in contemporary Ireland or are they pure artists writing for themselves and a few peers?

I think all that good writing can do is bear witness - as soon as you start trying to force things creativity suffers.


15. "To creative artists may have fallen the task of explaining what no historian has fully illuminated – the reason why the English came to regard the Irish as inferior and barbarous, on the one hand, and, on the other, poetic and magical."-is this right? Kiberd, Declan (2009-05-04). Inventing Ireland (p. 646).

Good writing should help melt away barriers between people, dissolve labels - not merely explain their existence.

16. Do you think Irish Travellers should be granted the status of a distinct ethnic group and be given special rights to make up for past mistreatment? Are the Travellers to the Irish what the Irish were once to the English? I became interested in this question partially through reading the short stories of Desmond Hogan.

I think 'equal' rights is a better way of putting it than 'special' rights. And, just as with any other community, members within this community should also have ('granted' is murky) equal rights.


17. Tell us a bit about what you most miss about Ireland when you are out of the country, besides friends or family-what are you glad to be away from?

I don't miss a thing when I am out of the country. Though I do enjoy 'the return'.


18. I will be in Galway in May with my brother-best book store?
best literary reading event?
best traditional full fry breakfast?
best place for a fairly priced pint? . best fish and chips?

best place to feel I am where the great of Irish lit have been?

Kennys and Charlie Byrnes for books.

McDonaghs for Fish and Chips, but if it is busy go to Kettle around the corner and strike up a conversation with the staff member from Pakistan - he is hilarious.

Go to McCambridges for breakfast, and for lunch, and for dinner. They also have a wine cave. Go to Naughtons if it's black beer you're after.

If it's a literary event you want come for the last week in April and catch the Cuirt Festival of Literature.

19. Do you prefer e reading or traditional books?

I like collecting books.
Also, I'm an aural learner so I keep an iPod full of spoken word.

20. If you were to be given the option of living anywhere besides Ireland where would you live?

Buenos Aires.

21. If you could time travel for 30 days (and be rich and safe) where would you go and why?

I would love to have been with Achilles et al inside the Wooden Horse. Or taking that walk through the dusty street with Claudia Cardinale at the beginning of Once Upon a Time in the West.


22. Flash Fiction-how driven is the popularity of this form by social media like Twitter and its word limits? Do you see twitter as somehow leading to playwrights keeping conversations shorter than in years past?

I don't think the forms you refer to are driven in any way by social media. Look at the work of Eduardo Galeano, Richard Brautigan, Jamaica Kincaid...as far as 'flash fiction' - as you term it - goes, writers like these are the inspiration. Not Twitter.

23. Quick Pick Questions
a. John Synge or Beckett-?
b. Cats or dogs?
c. Galway or Dublin-which city is best for neophyte writers?
d. BBC or RTE?
e. days or nights?

It's the wrong question.

Synge AND Beckett
Days AND Nights

and so on...

24. Savage Poets, William Butler Yeats, Lord Dunsany, Lady Gregory-Posers or genuine revolutionaries?

Padraig Pearse is the person I think you're looking for here...


25. OK let us close out on this note-what is your reaction these lines from a famous Irish poet?
I was born to the stink of whiskey and failure
And the scattered corpse of the real.
This is my childhood and country:
The cynical knowing smile
Plastered onto ignorance
Ideals untarnished and deadly
Because never translated to action
And everywhere
The sick glorification of failure.
Our white marble statues were draped in purple
The bars of the prison were born in our eyes
And if reality ever existed
It was a rotten tooth
That couldn't be removed.
Michael O'Loughlin

This is hard-hitting, edgy stuff and it is relevant and true and valid.

Straightaway it sends me to the wonderful McNeice poem Thalassa

Run out the boat, my broken comrades;
Let the old seaweed crack, the surge
Burgeon oblivious of the last
Embarkation of feckless men,
Let every adverse force converge-
Here we must needs embark again.

Run up the sail, my heartsick comrades;
Let each horizon tilt and lurch –
You know the worst: your wills are fickle,
Your values blurred, your hearts impure
And your past life a ruined church –
But let your poison be your cure.

Put out to sea, ignoble comrades,
Whose record shall be noble yet;
Butting through scarps of moving marble
The narwhal dares us to be free;
By a high star our course is set,
Our end is Life. Put out to sea.


Thalassa is the Greek word for Sea.
That line at the end of the second stanza 'let your poison be your cure' captures quite a lot...

PS: In Michael's poem, I would have tried not to repeat the word failure (!)


I am very grateful to Alan McMonagle for providing us with such interesting and well considered responses. I hope to follow his career as best I can from so far away.

Mel u

Irish Short Story Month The First Month Extended Until at least April 14 Some general blather on various topics




March 1 to April 14


Irish writers of all sorts, please contact me if you would like to be featured on The Reading Life.  

This year I have begun to do Q and A sessions with writers.  I now have 47 either online or in house waiting to be posted.  About 20 more are in various stages of development.  I am now seeking contacts beyond just short story writers to poets, novelists, playwrights, editors, publishers, and book store owners.


Every Q and A is written for the person doing completing it.

  In the case of poets, if possible I would like to publish one of your poems to accompany your Q and A.  I am willing to share my readership stats with interested parties so you can see the potential readership for your Q and A.  If you have any questions or concerns, just ask.

The less ISSM3 is just me blathering on, the better it will be.

"Free shoe repair for'
all who join us"-Rory
I offer my great thanks for those who have participated in ISSM3, for sure including my fellow book bloggers whose work I will spotlight in another post.  I humbly thank those who entrusted me with the honor of publishing their short stories.  A great shout of thanks on this goes to Mr. Eddie Stack!   I know some of my Q and A questions border on being rude-I ask the questions because I respect those I am speaking with-I know questions about the weakness of the Irish father (claimed by Declan Kiberd,  to be the dominant theme of Irish literature), stage Irishman, drinking in Irish culture,   and  the questions derived from the observations of Yeats have not been to the liking of everyone. 

I am a total outsider to Irish culture.  I live on the other side of the world.  Of course in many ways it puts me at a disadvantage but it also gives me an outsiders perspective.  I  do not have any preformed notions.  I do not think one university is better than another, one religion better, north of south better, Dublin, Cork, or Galway a better city for writers.  I have no alliances with any literary group.  I have no private agenda.  

  

"Do a Q and A so we can have
some private time"
Carmilla
  On the other side, I lack the common experiences of those in the Irish writing community.  Not long ago I saw on Facebook many people talking about Arthur day and I did not at the time even know that was the celebration of the birthday of Arthur Guinness.   I did not know that if you wish to offer to take someone somewhere in your car it is not proper to ask them if you can give them a ride.  I do not know what literary works are read in the Irish universities.  



During ISSM2 in 2012 I did a feature on what I referred to as Emerging Irish Women Writers.  I have been following as mucas I can the career of these writers since then and most seem well on their way to significant careers as writers.  I like to imagine that someone will do an Irish Short Story Month twenty years from now (somehow I doubt it will be me) and my guess is some of the writers I have featured at the start of their careers will be included in IMMS23.

Based on my readings, the future of the Irish short story as a world dominating class of literature is secure.  People who talk for whatever reason about the death of the short story have just not done their reading or they are just seeking attention.











Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Omni (M)potent" by Caroline Healy (2013, 4 pages)



March to April 7
Caroline Healy
Belfast

ISSM3 will continue until at least April 7.  If you would like to do a Q & A Session, publish a short story on The Reading Life as numerous multi-awarded writers have done, or contribute a non-fiction work of some kind related the event, e-mail me please.

"Omni (M)potent" by Caroline Healy is an interesting,  challenging and creative story, both for its content and for its presentation  on the pages of The Bohemyth - A Literary Journal.   I do not want to say to much about this story as you can read it online in just a few minutes.   

The story is told in the first person.  The opening lines had me intrigued as well as wondering who the narrator might be:  "I am omnipotent, I see everything, I know everything".  There are a few possibilities who the narrator might be.  She talks, the story is conveyed via an interior monologue, about people she says she knows everything about, from their descriptions and life style it appears they are 20 something year old women.  So one possibility is that this is just kind of a small space drama with a woman thinking catty thoughts about the secrets she knows about her friends.  That is what I thought at first.   Then the narrator says there is ship in the harbor and she names the men working on it and what they are doing right now.   Either she is making it up or the speaker is in fact God.  You can decide or maybe we will ask her in the Q and A Session she has kindly agreed to do.

The type setting is unconventional.  I got it the first time it was done but I will have to ask her more about this,  The observations about the lives of the women are very interesting and it does seem the speaker sees to the heart of their relationships with the women in their lives.

You can read this story here.

Author DataAlice Sebold

Caroline Healy is a writer and community arts facilitator. She has recently completed her M.A. in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University, Belfast. She published her first collection of short stories, entitled A Stitch in Time in August 2012, having won Doire Press’s International Chapbook Short Story Competition. Her work has been featured in publications such as Wordlegs, Prole and the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice. Caroline is completing the edits to her second short story collection, The House of Water and is working on her second young adult novel entitled The Wolf Mirror. You can follow Caroline on Twitter @charliehealy8 and check out her wonderful website: www.carolinehealy.com


Mel u

"Couples" by Eddie Stack - A Short Story



"Couples" by Eddie Stack - A Short Story
A Reading Life Special Event
Irish Short Story Month Year III
March 1 to March 31
Eddie Stack
Dublin


In an act of supreme generosity Eddie Stack has sent me 22 short stories to post for Irish Short Story Month.   I offer him my great thanks for this.  I intend to share all of these short stories with my readers.  He is a master story teller with a deep understanding of Ireland.   

Press comments on his work


Praise for Eddie Stack’s writing

"Mr. Stack's fiction is versatile and engaging...a vivid, compassionate, authentic voice...securing (him) a place in the celebrated tradition of his country's storytelling.”
New York Times Book Review

“This second collection of short stories by Eddie Stack has a wonderful sense of unreality, of weirdness among Irish characters and of downright fun.”

Irish Emigrant

“Eddie Stack’s stories jet back and forth across the Atlantic, contrasting small town Ireland and big city US. Every time they land, the author seems to test the borderline of what might and might not be possible in downtown bars, crumbling dance halls and drizzly farms. The result is a remarkably consistent collection of short stories.

Ian Wild, Southword


The sitting room was warm and serene, with a trace of jasmine incense. The radio whispered classical music from Lyric FM, and Mona balanced her checkbook on a beanbag near the fire. In an armchair across the hearth, her husband Rolf frowned at a Picasso print on the wall: War and Peace. He looked preoccupied, a bundle of typed pages on his lap.
      “I got a call from Dermot today,” he said quietly, “Kate moved out.”
      “What?”
      “Kate moved out. She left Dermot.”
      “Jesus Christ! Why didn’t you tell me before now?”
      “I was waiting for the right time.”
      “But Jesus Christ Rolf, she’s my best friend!”
      “I know.”
      “When did this happen?”
      “Yesterday.”
      “Oh my God. This is incredible. I spoke with her on Sunday and she didn’t say anything. What happened?”
“Apparently she met someone else. Dermot never knew. She told him as she was packing.”
“And she left just like that?”
       He nodded and went to the kitchen for a bottle of wine.
Mona looked at the small black and white photo on the mantelpiece from a college ball: Rolf and herself with Dermot and Kate. The couples had been best friends since way back then. Kate was shy, Dermot was loose, Rolf was stiff and Mona was somewhere in between. “I can’t believe this,” she whispered.
They had known each other forever, stuck around town after graduating and became part of the arts scene. Dermot worked as producer in a local radio station; Rolf was editor of a community paper and Mona had a small craft shop in a renovated mill by the waterfront. Kate taught creative writing at the university.
      “I’m shocked,” she muttered when Rolf returned with the bottle,  “Jesus Christ, we never know what’s going on in someone’s life.”
      He nodded and poured two glasses of wine.
“But I can’t imagine her with anyone apart from Dermot,” Mona said.
      “It seems she was seeing this guy for the last three months. He’s Spanish, a chef in college canteen.”
      “Holy shit.”
      “They’re moving to Alicante.”
      “Jesus! Alicante! What’s the matter with her?”

A few nights later, Dermot came over for dinner. He spilled his heart out and Mona went to bed early, leaving the two men to drink and talk until dawn. He came again the following week, and told them he had received a letter from Kate’s lawyer – she wasn’t coming back and wanted to sell their house. He cried at the dinner and got drunk and conked out on the sitting room sofa. They worried about him, and Mona wrote to Kate through her solicitor, hoping to coax her to her senses.  When she received no response after three weeks, she wrote again.
“I don’t believe this,” she said to Rolf, “I mean, I thought we were best friends.”
Through six months of legal ping-pong, Dermot came for dinner at least once a week. They listened and consoled him, gave him heart and support. They read the small print in legal documents and helped him fight his corner. They cajoled him into to going to concerts with them, brought him to the Arts Festival reception and tried to humour him out of his sorrows. It was their idea that he should buy a small apartment down by the harbour when it was all over. Make a fresh start, they said, everything will be fine, you’re a young man in your prime.

After the divorce was finalised and all bonds were untied, he took their advice and bought an apartment. A one bedroom box, with a balcony overlooking the docks, it faced south and had a view of the Blue Mountains over the roofs of warehouses. He moved in on his thirty-seventh birthday, and Mona and Rolf came by with two bottles of champagne to warm the home and celebrate his new age. He didn’t sleep for hours after they left and got up several times to look at the boats in the harbour. In the morning, he sat on the floor and had a breakfast of coffee and cornflakes. He opened the windows and smelled the sea, played CDs of songs from his youth.
As Dermot settled into his new home, he came over to Rolf and Mona’s less frequently, though the two men had lunch together at least once a week. His social life got hectic as summer came to town, and Rolf heard he was living life full throttle, meeting women from Italy, Spain, Poland and Ukraine. There were Americans too, a divorcee from Mayo and an exotic ballet dancer from Birr.
“I trust you’re using rubbers,” Rolf remarked, hearing of a threesome.
“Several,” his friend smiled.

Dermot came over for a barbecue on the August holiday weekend. A god-sent balmy evening, they lingered outside and finished four bottles of Aldi wine before the night chilled. Back inside, Mona lit a token fire in the sitting room and made Irish coffees. Late into the night, Dermot gave a dramatic recitation of the ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol’. Rolf corrected what he said was a misquoted line and that somehow led to an argument between them. Voices were raised. Mona ordered Dermot to cool down.
He looked at her with hurt eyes, walked out and banged the door.
Then he stuck his head back in and shouted,
“You’ve become fucking yuppies!”
The couple talked about the incident in the morning and Mona said Dermot owed them an apology. Rolf said, “Look, the guy was drunk. He was just letting off steam...he’s been through a lot. Let’s pretend it never happened.”

Dermot and Rolf didn’t have lunch the following week, or the week after that. August rolled on without contact and Mona said, “You should write to that jerk and demand an apology.”
“Actually I was wrong, I looked up the poem. He was correct. If anything, it’s us who owe him an apology. I intend writing to him.”
“But he called us fucking yuppies, Rolf.”
“Look. Forget it. It’ll sort itself out. Ok?”
In late September they went on holidays to Greece. Rolf hated the resort, a noisy seaside town in Lesbos, packed with British and German tourists. They had a studio apartment in a large complex at the edge of town, and he was unnerved by young Greeks on motorcycles whenever they walked to the beach.  The sand was littered with cigarette butts and drinking straws. The sun was merciless and Rolf brooded in the shade of a rented umbrella.
The Dermot issue followed them to Greece, and when Mona raised it one night at dinner, Rolf snapped. “For Christ’s sake Mona, can’t you forget the bloody thing while we’re on holidays?”
“I just want to resolve it.”
He was boiling and she thought he was going to explode like an over-inflated balloon. She pulled back from the table in alarm. He called a waiter and ordered a brandy and a cigar. For the rest of the evening they ignored each other, and when she got up next morning he was gone. An unsigned note left on the table read: I’m taking off for a few days on my own.
At first she was furious, and spent the day sipping brandy frappes outside the Lazy Fish taverna on the waterfront. That bastard won’t spoil my holiday, she resolved. Greek youths passed like golden godettes. A flush of freedom lulled over her: singledom in the sun. Siesta sex. No, no, she couldn’t do it. But it would be good enough for him, and the thought warmed her. After that she tanned in the sun by the pool in the apartment complex and dreamed of sin, over ouzo and coke.
Two days before they were due to leave for home, Rolf returned. It was late afternoon and the plaza by the pool was crowded and smelled of chlorine and body lotion. He picked his way around sunbeds until he spotted Mona sitting under a canvas parasol. She was chatting to a tanned Euroman with bleached hair. Rolf stopped, he saw them clink cocktail glasses. His mouth dried up and he turned away quickly.
      Later that night they were both drunk when they met in the apartment. He called her a whore and she slapped him across the face and said he was a wimp. They stared at each other, breathing heavily like animals. No more words were spoken. Rolf backed away and spent the night on balcony, sleeping on a sun chair.
Their journey home was silent. Autumn had set in and Mona lit the sitting room fire and turned on the central heating at night. For a week they barely spoke and then one evening at dinner she said,
“Look, I’m sorry I went on about that incident with Dermot. Maybe we should try and patch things up with him. . .maybe I should call and invite him over.”
“Why? Do you want to fuck him?”
He stared so hard at her that she dropped her cutlery and fled from the table.
They slept apart after that, and the house didn’t lighten until Rolf went away for a few days.  When he came back, he stopped using the sitting room and went straight to bed in the evening. Every Friday night he came home drunk and Mona found him asleep at the kitchen table on a couple of Saturday mornings. By Christmas she was seeing a therapist.

Dermot partied most weekends and the carpet in his apartment was stained, and the door to the shower was buckled. A French woman he took home refused to leave for two days. The following week his Mayo lover dropped by when he was entertaining someone else, and the two Donnas fought on the floor like cats until security men arrived. He drank and cavorted at full belt, seeing no end to the party. He was a free man and he was going to taste every fruit in Paradise. But fate had other plans. Dressed as a one-eyed pirate for the Arts Ball, he stumbled down the steps of the Silver Bay Hotel and cracked his ankle. He was out of work for a month and came back with a cane. That brought a cooling period and a time of forced reflection.
He was resting up one night, mindlessly watching the news on television, when Rolf arrived unannounced. His face was flushed and he extended his hand in friendship. Dermot shook it and invited him inside. 
“Well it’s good to see you, Rolf,” he said, taking two cans of cider from the fridge.
“Sorry it took so long. . .”
“I often meant to call, but you know the way life goes.”
Rolf nodded with a smile. He eased back on the couch and said, “Well I come with good news. I’m in love.”
“What? What did you say?”
“I’m in love,” Rolf beamed.
It happened in Greece while he was away from Mona. He was drinking alone in a beach club, watching a few women dance. One of them in particular held his eyes — a tall dark-haired lady in tight white jeans and orange t-shirt. She magnetized him and he got up and danced beside her.
“Christ Rolf, I can’t imagine you discoing.”
“Well I did….beside this beautiful woman...I invited her to have a drink and we got chatting.”
Catriona was from Paris, and married to a mathematician, she told him almost immediately. She was a photographer, on the island on assignment for a travel magazine. When the club closed, they strolled along the shore. A blue moon hung over Turkey, a gentle sea lapping at their feet. They talked for hours and walked back to her hotel at dawn. But she declined to take Rolf inside or even kiss him goodbye.
      They met again next evening and went for a meal at a taverna in a small mountain village she knew. There was singing and dancing by old men with proud white mustaches and women with red scarves.  Surrounded by feta cheese and olives, Rolf felt the spirit of old Greece through wine and ouzo. He melted into the most wonderful night of his life.
      “I fell in love. And we didn’t even kiss.”
      “Jesus. Does Mona know?”
      Rolf shook his head, drank from his can.
      “Not yet,” he said, “anyway, it gets better. I arrived home smitten by Catriona. I had her business card and wrote to her, but she didn’t reply. I phoned a few times but only got her voice mail. I left messages of course, but she never returned my calls.”
      After a month Rolf flew to Paris and went to her address. From a bench down the street he watched the apartment. Occasionally he glimpsed blurred bodies behind lace curtains. When it got dark he saw her silhouette on the shades, saw her husband’s silhouette. Saw the light go out.
      “I can’t express how emotional I felt,” he told Dermot, “On top of everything, I was ashamed of myself for snooping on her.”
      Next morning, some distance from the apartment, he approached Catriona as she walked to work. She was bewildered to see him and agreed to have coffee, even though she was running late. He bared his soul and she lit a cigarette and sighed, “Look, you’re a lovely man, but I’m in love with a lovely man already. Please leave me alone.”
      Rolf went back to Ireland brokenhearted and a few weeks later he returned to Paris. He approached her on the way home from work but she refused to talk with him and threatened to call the police. Rolf pleaded with her but she ran away, shouting in French. Back at home he wrote and apologized, promised never to bother her again. After that he was overwhelmed by sadness and loneliness.
      “And why didn’t you say something?” Dermot asked.
      “I couldn’t. There was nothing to say. Until two weeks ago, that is — I got a letter from her, a note really. She just wrote Are you there?”
      Rolf’s eyes glinted like crystals in the sun.
      “I’m in love,” he said, “and I wasn’t even looking for love. I’ve just been to Paris and Catriona and myself had a magical time together. I’m divorcing Mona.”
      “Jesus! I’d take it a bit slower if I were you.”
      Rolf nodded patiently and said,
      “I have never been more certain about anything in my life. We’re meant for each other and we’re in love.”
      “Well, congratulations…I’m flabbergasted.”
      “There will be some to-ing and fro-ing between here and Paris for a while. Then Catriona will probably move here.”

Winter winds and hail attacked the harbour town and Dermot’s apartment was like a ship’s bridge in a storm. Fishing boats were tied four deep at the quay and the clinking of cables against masts, kept him awake half of the night.  Constant gale warnings, the days never seemed to brighten beyond stone grey. He called Rolf at work a few times but he was away. Then he received a postcard from Paris; Rolf was helping Catriona pack her stuff and move to Ireland.
On a wet March evening, as Dermot walked home from the radio station, he met Mona outside McFadden’s Supermarket. Hidden in a dark heavy wool coat, a fur Cossack hat down to her eyebrows, she was ashen-faced.
Did you hear?” she asked, with eyes full of hurt, “He left me.”   
Dermot hugged her and patted her back. She shuddered into sobs and he linked her to a doorway, out of the path of shoppers and homegoing workers. He held her while she cried on his shoulder. He whispered that he understood, he understood. She sniffled herself together and said quietly,
“Thanks Dermot, I’m fine now.”
They went into Neylon’s Bar and sat in a small private snug that had a blazing turf fire. Dermot ordered hot whiskeys and Mona told her story. They had another drink.
“He just walked out,” she muttered, “he told me to keep the fucking house . . .I hear they’re renting a place in Ballyboy.”
“Christ, I’m sorry Mona.”
“Well you know what it’s like, you’ve been through it too.”
They fell silent. A clock ticked solemnly somewhere in the pub. The fire murmured up the chimney. From the bar came quiet mutters of conversation, clinking bottles, clunk and hiss of beer pumps. A smoker’s cough. Coins being counted on the counter. The clock chimed eight. Dermot gently put his hand on Mona’s.
“Would you like another drink?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said with a tear-eyed smile, “why not?”
     
 End of Guest Post




Author Bio

Eddie Stack has received several accolades for his fiction, including an American Small Press of the Year Award, and a Top 100 Irish American Award. Recognized as an outstanding short story writer, he is the author of four books —The West; Out of the Blue; HEADS and Simple Twist of Fate.

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His work has appeared in literary reviews and anthologies worldwide, including Fiction, Confrontation, Whispers & Shouts, Southwords and Criterion; State of the Art: Stories from New Irish Writers; Irish Christmas Stories, The Clare Anthology and Fiction in the Classroom.


A natural storyteller, Eddie has recorded spoken word versions of his work, with music by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. In 2010, he integrated spoken word and printed work with art, music and song to produce an iPhone app of The West; this was the first iPhone app of Irish fiction.

My great thanks to Eddie Stack for allowing me to post this story.

This story is the sole property of Eddie Stack and is protected under international copyright laws and cannot be published or posted online without his permission.

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