At the Side of the Road’ - a short story by Ethel Rohan. - from From issue #4: spring/summer 2017 Banshee Press
You may read today’s story here
I first began following the work of Ethel Rohan March 13, 2012. Since then I have posted eleven times on her works. She also kindly contributed a guest post and participated in a Q and A session. Obviously I hold her in great esteem. You can see my feelings in this selection from an old post.
My thoughts on Ethel Rohan, from March 2014
“Last year I read a story, "Beast and the Bear" by Ethel Rohan, a totally new to me at the time writer. I read it during Emerging Irish Women Writers Week. I never expected to read a story during this week that I would end up regarding as belonging with the greatest short stories of all time. I read it four times in a row I was so amazed. Since I read that story for the first time, I have read, I estimate, at least 1000 other short stories including most of the consensus best short stories in the world. After reading "Beast and the Bear" again yesterday and this morning I am completely convinced it should already be counted among the world's greatest short stories. I was in fact so shocked by the power of this story that I wanted to be sure I was not overreacting. I sent a fellow book blogger whose taste I know to be exquisite and educated through decades of reading short stories and she said only the very best short stories she had ever read, she is noted authority on Virginia Woolf, could compare to it. I know this sounds hyperbolic but it is how I feel. I do not lightly say a short story written by an author I had never heard of the day before I read it belongs with the work of the greatest of short story writers but that is my opinion. In a way I felt a sense of satisfaction in that I am open enough in my perceptions and judgments to be able to make such an assertion.”
Since I wrote this Rohan has published three collections of short stories, a memoir about Dublin and a highly reviewed debut novel, The Weight of Him.
My purpose today is to let my readers know another Ethel Rohan short story maybe read online and to keep a record of my readings of her work.
In just a few sentences we learn a lot about the subject of the story:
“Cissie Murray sold Wexford potatoes and strawberries by the dual carriageway, under a grey-white awning she pretended was a fancy marquee. For every hundred cars that passed, maybe one stopped. Meanwhile, Cissie held hard to her phone—texting friends, playing games, and bopping to music with frantic rhythms. For this, Dan Topher paid her thirty euro a day.
This Friday, Cissie had forgotten her phone at home. She felt clammy and irritated, her hands, her head, having little to do. For hours she hummed songs to herself, watched greenflies race over the strawberries, and haggled with a few customers, all wanting something for nothing.”
Of course a young woman standing beside the road all day has to be wary of attracting the attention of men wanting something more than potatoes or strawberries. It was fun to see her ward of one man with a golf club, we admire her fierce pluckiness.
We learn a bit about her family, her past relationships and go on what at first seems like it might be a movie day date which goes badly.
We see Cissie’s expectations are not very high. Like many in the often set in Ireland short stories of Rohan, it deals with the life of a woman struggling to get along in a challenging environment.
I am greatly looking forward to reading Ethel Rohan’s fourth collection of Short Stories, In The Event of Contact, forthcoming in the spring of 2021.
“In the Event of Contact chronicles characters profoundly affected by physical connection, or its lack. Among them, a scrappy teen vies to be the next Sherlock Holmes; an immigrant daughter must defend her decision to remain childless; a guilt-ridden woman is haunted by the disappearance of her childhood friend; a cantankerous crossing guard celebrates getting run over by a truck; an embattled priest with dementia determines to perform a heroic, redemptive act, if he can only remember how; and an aspirational, angst-ridden mother captains the skies.
Amidst backgrounds of trespass and absence, the indelible characters of In the Event of Contact seek renewed belief in themselves, recovery, and humanity.” From Goodreads.