My Posts on John Duffy and his prior short story
The first time I read a story by John Duffy it was during my read through of Abandoned Darlings, a collection of writings by the 2011 and 2012 MA in Creative Writing classes at the National University of Ireland at Galway. His story was about a very dangerous bus trip through the Andes in Bolivia. You can read my post on the story here. These words sum up how I felt about Duffy's really well done story.
You might have seen a National Geographic Channel program about the terribly dangerous road through the Andes in Bolivia that the narrator in this story crosses in a bus ride sure to scare anyone out of their wits who is not from there. The first person speaker in this story is an Irishman out for an adventure in the wilds of South America and he happens to hook up with a beautiful and delightful sounding "French girl of Lebanese extraction". Some cynics say the reason the English conquered India was because they could do things and have adventures there that they could never do at home. I think that is part of the deeper theme of this very interesting marvelously cinematic story.
Today John has very kindly, in the spirit of Irish Short Story Month, given me permission to share one of his short stories with my readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
John Duffy is a short story author from Ballina, County Mayo. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and History from NUI Galway and an MA in Writing. He has contributed to Abandoned Darlings, an anthology of fiction and poetry, The Georgia Straight and also to The Reading Life. You can visit him at
"Paddy’s Feast Day"
By John Duffy
I finished my dinner before anyone else at the table and slipped out the back door. I had arranged to meet Paddy for a drink up the canal and afterward we planned to watch the parade from the bridge. I had a good feeling about the day and I looked well on my way when a Massey Ferguson tractor and trailer turned in off the road and came up the drive. My father called to me from an open window,
‘Bring that turf in before you go anywhere.’
‘Bring the turf in before it rains. I’ll send Martin out to help you.’
Turf, such a day to land with a load. The driver, a hardy old buck with a round red face and big hands wore battered old clothes, a tweed hat and Wellingtons. He took a claw hammer from the cab and struck two pins at the back of the trailer. The gate opened and some sods fell on the tarmacadam. The bog man went into the house and I forked the fuel as quick as I could onto the driveway. My brother Martin filled thick plastic fertilizer bags with sods and dragged them into the shed. I emptied the trailer and we brought the rest of the bags inside and cleaned up. By the time I got up town the parade was underway.
The brass band wore maroon uniforms and played their instruments to the beat. They marched inunison along Garden Street and led the parade along its route. The weather was overcast and chilly with grey-black clouds hanging over town. A troupe of Irish dancing girls in colourful Celtic dress danced along, their hard shoes tap tapping the street. An articulated lorry with an open trailer carried traditional Irish musicians. I walked past wood turners, Travellers and beekeepers then stopped at a gap in the crowd beside a man holding a child on his shoulders. A shiny new fire engine flanked by firemen in brown coats and yellow hard hats passed. They were followed by members of The Order of Malta walking beside an ambulance. A squalling shower of rain swept down and some people opened umbrellas.
I moved through the crowd and followed the parade downtown. A man on stilts dressed in a striped suit and top hat came down Tolan Street. He bent down and offered lollypops to peopleon the footpath and I wondered how he didn’t fall over altogether. At Marcello’s I opened the door and two kids pushed their way in behind me. The restaurant was busy and staff called orders back and forth. A waitress carried a tray laden with plates of food; hamburgers, curry chips and sausages. There were children at tables in green party hats gorging on food and ice-cream. A girl child kneeled at a booth gulping back Fanta orange to beat the band, she kept goinguntil it spilled out the side of the glass and down her dress. A group of young lads ran about throwing food at each other. Paddy sat in a booth at the back. His face was pale. I slipped in across from him.
‘Alright P, What’s going on?’
He took a deep breath and sighed.
‘Sorry I’m late Paddy. I got held up at home.’
His shoulders twitched and he let out a gurgled belch. The vomit flowed freely and spread across the table in a pool, small pieces of carrot in the mix. I moved out quickly as his head dropped on the table.
‘Alright, let’s go.’
He followed me with encouragement, wobbling around tables like a bowling pin about to fall over. I opened an exit door at the back and it set off an alarm. A waitress in a white uniform peered at the table we just left.
‘I’m never touching that rotten Linden Village again.’
We walked through the car park and out by Harness lane. The parade had passed and people filled the space left behind on pedestrianized streets. There was litter scattered about; empty bottles, half-eaten ice-cream and balloons. Paddy looked even paler in daylight, his gaze fixed on the ground. The freckles on his face looked like tattoos and his pointy ear was wet with rain and vomit.
‘Let’s go to The Hillside and see if she’ll serve us.’
‘Alright, but I’m only having the one.’
The Hillside was a dark, old smoky bar on Hill Street. A few locals and a middle-aged barmaid with mousey blonde hair made up the place. Nirvana, ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ played from the radio. I ordered cider and a lager.
‘How old are you?’
‘Eighteen,’ I lied.
‘I doubt it.’
I handed her a fake ID I bought from an articulate gent in Gun Town a fortnight before. It helped me past the bouncers at Thrillers at the weekend and I was optimistic about getting a drink in this kip. A blonde girl with a petite figure in a black miniskirt came to mind, blue eyes and a lace dogcollar. I shifted her for half an hour at the club, strawberry lip gloss I’d never tasted before. Iwould have swallowed her whole if she’d let me.
Come on to fuck Theresa, I haven’t got all day. It only comes around once a year. The glasses slipped down her nose as she studied the card.
‘I’ll serve you today but that’s it. Don’t come back tomorrow.’
She left the drinks on the counter and I handed her a crumpled five pound note. Paddy sat at a table by a window with faded brown curtains drawn across. I poured the cider over ice to acrackle of splitting cubes. An applause of sorts.
‘Happy Saint Patrick’s Day Paddy. It is your feast day after all.’
‘No more food for the rest of the day. Do you hear me? You’ll only make yourself sick.’
He offered a cheeky smile and took a drink. The colour came back to his face and he looked a little more like himself.
This story is protected under international copyright law and cannot be republished in any format without the author's approval.
I give my great thanks to John Duffy and hope very much to one of these days post on a collection of stories or a debut novel by from him.