Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Bobogue" an original story by Eddie Stack

A Guest Post for The Irish Quarter
A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1

Eddie Stack 2012

The locals were wary of Bobogue. Children whispered that she was a witch; adults said she was odd, that there was a stain in her blood. Thirty years old or maybe more, she'd never had a job and drew Social Welfare as an unemployed poet. She lived a few miles outside town, on a small dysfunctional farm with her brother Paddy, another unemployed poet.
            Twice a week, Bobogue traveled to town on an old red Vespa. In custard-coloured sailing jacket, wild black hair blowing in the wind, she took her time, often halting to smell flowers, pick berries or talk to a horse in a field. The Vespa was seldom road-legal, so she parked it out of harm's way, in Duffy's Lane at the edge of town. From there she walked to Maguire's Supermarket, the post-office, the dole office, the newsagents. If it rained — and she didn't understand why she did this — she browsed in the chemist's shop, soaking up the smells and reading the instructions on medicine packages. But never bought anything. Last call before heading home was Harbour Hotel for a cup of coffee, two cigarettes and a view of the sea.  On the return journey she counted the words she'd spoken during the expedition, like they were spent coins.  A dozen was average, but once she did it in seven, which was a record. If a trip involved conversation of any length, she didn't bother counting the words, but that seldom happened.

The weather was unseasonably warm for May — 'pet-weather,' the old people called it. Bobogue sipped coffee in the hotel bar and watched the early summer activity — a sailing boat maneuvering in the harbour, children fishing from the pier, three orange kayaks being launched on the slipway.
Jason Berry watched her from the counter while he sipped gin and tonic. As if feeling his eyes on her, Bobogue slowly turned and squinted at him: a stranger. Jason thought she was smiling and flashed a grin. She turned away and looked out the window, one eye on his reflection in the glass.

A few weeks afterwards, they met in Maguire's Supermarket. Bobogue was picking up a few cans of Guinness for her brother when Jason docked beside her. and said,
“Hello.” She nodded.
            “Know much about wine?” he asked.
            She shook her head and moved away.
Later he saw her biking home and saluted her. Bobogue glanced back, puzzled. 
After that, he scanned the streets for her whenever he was passing. Once, driving through with his wife, he saw her outside the post office and almost honked. 

June twelfth was Bobogue's birthday and she celebrated with an Irish coffee in the Harbour Hotel. She looked out the sea-view window, lit a cigarette and got lost in a tangle of thoughts about age and death. Jason watched her from the counter. Finally he took his drink to a neighbouring table and spoke.
“Hello there, enjoying the view?”
            “Beautiful around here.”
            “You're local, right?”
            She nodded and sipped her drink. A waiter left another one beside her.          
“It's on me’” Jason said.
            “You're welcome. I'm Jason.”
            He offered his hand and she shook it meekly, blushing a smile.
            “I'm Bobogue.”
            “Nice to meet you, Bobogue. What a lovely name. What does it mean?”
             “Just a name,” she shrugged.
            Jason moved to her table. Fair and fit, with bronzed face and expensive watch, he looked like a model in Sunday magazine. She lit another cigarette. He praised the beauty of the countryside, the friendliness of the people. Then he asked,
“What do you do?”
            “Write poetry.”
            “Really? I thought there was something different about you. I'm in IT. Computers. Software.”
            She nodded.
            “Have you any poems published?”
            Bobogue shook her head, tapped ash from her cigarette and inhaled deeply. A line of poetry came to her and she smiled and felt a little light-headed when Jason called another round. The third drink had her humming and the world lit up. Words began to flutter like butterflies in her heart and she said, “You've made my birthday.”

After two more Irish coffees, Bobogue was sitting in the passenger's seat of Jason's white Volvo, sunroof open, stereo playing the Waterboys. She directed him through the narrow roads of the peninsula, her head bobbing to the songs. Bobogue navigated him to a cul-de-sac, near a monument to the ill-fated Spanish Armada. They crossed the sand dunes to a small beach and Bobogue ran to the water, threw off her clothes, and waded naked into the waves. Jason muttered 'Jesus,' and sat on a black rock.
            They made love in a grassy hollow above the beach and it was a fast act. Bobogue was naked and Jason's pants were at his knees. He turned away from her almost immediately and when she tried to caress him into giving more he said, “We'd better go, I've things to do.”

Five times in two weeks they made love in that same place. She'd park the Vespa in Duffy's Lane and wait in the hotel until he arrived. Her brother Paddy noticed she spent more time away. She had become almost loquacious and sang self-penned love songs when she was at home.
Jason became elusive and her mood changed. She occasionally caught glimpses of him or his car, but could never meet him. Almost daily she was in town, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes in the hotel, circling the waterside pubs like a spinning top. A few times she came home drunk, once with a swollen jaw from a bike fall. 
            Nearly six weeks passed before she cornered Jason outside the post office. He said work was hectic, but he hadn’t forgotten her. In fact he was delighted to see her and suggested they go to the hotel for a drink. After a few, they drove to the little beach on the peninsula and made love.
            “I need to see you more often,” Bobogue whispered. “At least once a week. You can come to my house. My brother won't mind.”
            “Look,” said Jason, pulling away, “I'm really busy. When things quiet down I'll have more time.”
            “Can't you make time?”
            “I'm not God.”
            The drive back to town was fast and bumpy. She wanted to know more about him: What was his work number? His mobile phone number? Where exactly did he live? Did he like her? Why wasn't he answering her questions?
            “I'm tired,” he said impatiently. “There's a lot going on at work, I told you that.”
            He dropped her outside the town and sped away. The evening was warm and the tide was full and calm. A couple of white yachts returned to harbour, and a rust-sailed hooker docked at the quay with a group of sunset watchers. People strolled on the pier and Bobogue heard a ceili band play through open windows of the hotel. Outside waterfront bars and cafes, couples in shorts and t-shirts sat at tables. She wished Jason and herself might do things like that: dine at sunset on seafood and champagne.
            When she got to the Vespa, Bobogue couldn't find the ignition key and retraced her steps, peeling the ground as she backtracked. No luck, so she figured the key was either in Jason's car or at the beach. She walked home and stayed up late, searching in drawers and tins and bowls for a spare key she had put somewhere safe. No sign of it. She lit candles and offered a prayer to Saint Anthony as a last resort. Bobogue slept without inspiration and in the morning got a screwdriver and headed into town.
            She was admiring the view at the top of Hogan's Hill when she heard a car approach from behind, and her face brightened when she recognised the white Volvo. She flagged him joyfully, but Jason changed gears and passed her by. There was a woman in the passenger seat.     
            “Hey!” Bobogue shouted after the Volvo. “Hey!”
            In the car, Jason's wife muttered, “Christ, that woman gives me the creeps. She came to my writing circle a few times. She's absolutely bonkers. We had to ask her to leave. I told you about her, she used staple her poetry to the lampposts in town. The police had to stop her.”
            Jason swept down the valley, and Bobogue paled as the car telescoped away He had ignored her. And he was with that stuck-up blow-in from the writing group. It struck her they might be husband and wife. She got weak and sat on the ditch.

Bobogue knew Jason’s surname, but couldn't find his telephone number in the directory, and enquiries had no listing for him. She went demented and Paddy wondered if she was in need of help. She broke two chairs on the kitchen table one night, and spent hours screaming and swearing at the fire. Then she wept for a few days and slowly slipped into blue silence.

The tourists had thinned out before Bobogue spotted Jason in Maguire's supermarket one evening.  She crossed the store to confront him but he vanished. Another time she saw him get petrol at The Rock filling station but he sped away as she approached.  Matt the mechanic told her he lived down around Seafield.
            Bobogue swore that no matter how long it took, or how many roads she traveled, she'd find him. Weekend after weekend, when workers rested at home, she trawled through Seafield, Barrtraw, Skyline and Trawroo for Jason's car. She peered into driveways, scowled at the designer houses with SUVs, Mercs, BMWs and Saabs. No white Volvo in the Blow-in Belt. But Bobogue soldiered on. 
            As the weather got wintry, she wore leather gloves and a parka for the cold. In mid-December the roads were icy by sundown and one Saturday she skidded twice coming down Skyline. She stopped at Maguire's Supermarket and got a six-pack for Paddy and a soldier of whiskey for herself. Christmas songs played over loudspeakers and the checkers wore Santa caps. Every few minutes the voice of Paddy Maguire interrupted the music with bargain announcements for turkey and ham, whiskey, cigarettes, and mince pies. Bobogue was bagging her purchases when a shiny black car pulled outside. She saw Jason get out and hurry into the store; he didn't notice her in the hooded parka.

Jason left the bottle of wine and carton of ice cream on the passenger's seat and pulled out from Maguire's. He liked his new car. He toyed with switches and controls, played a U2 CD, balanced the speakers. Over the weekend he'd hook his iPod to the system and he'd have music all the way to heaven.
When he spotted Bobogue's Vespa peeping out of Duffy's Lane. He drove faster, hoping to avoid her.      
            But turning down towards Kilmore, Jason thought he heard a rustle in the seat behind. Twisting his head, he caught a blurred movement with the corner of his eye, just before Bobogue grabbed him by the neck. He made a gurgling cry as the car swerved out of control. It mounted the ditch, screamed through hazel and birch, until stopped by a stonewall. 
             Jammed against the seat by a huge air bag, Jason moaned and wept. Bobogue climbed from the wreck and into a haze of smoke and road dust. Metal winced and creaked; one headlight beamed cock-eyed across the frost-white fields.
Uneasy on her feet, Bobogue walked towards town with blood on her face and hid in the ditch when cars approached. She had reached The Rock filling station when an ambulance sped by in a whirl of blue noise.

The streets were empty and the Church was full for Saturday night Mass. In the quiet, crisp darkness, Bobogue retrieved the booze she’d stashed in Maguire's wheelie bin and headed to Duffy’s Lane. She smoked two cigarettes and had a few slugs of whiskey while staring at the stars. She mounted her red Vespa and it started on the second turn. Sore and slow on the icy roads, Bobogue rode home at ten miles an hour, a poem rising in her heart.

End of Guest Post

I am very honored and grateful that Eddie Stack has allowed me to published one of his newest   wonderful short stories.   Eddie Stack was one of the first authors whose work I featured when I began to focus on Irish Short Stories.   I read his famous story "Dreamin Dreams" about an out of work Irish blue collar worker in San Francisco.   If there is a theme of this year's event, it is the pervasiveness of  the consequences of the Irish diaspora and Eddie Stack's story looks deeply into that.   

Author Bio- 

Eddie Stack is an Irish writer. He received a Top 100 Irish American Award and American Small Press of the Year Award in response to his first book of short fiction, The West: Stories from Ireland, which was published by Island House (US) and Bloomsbury (UK). His work is included in State of the Art: Stories from New Irish Writers; Irish Christmas Stories, The Clare Anthology and Fiction in the Classroom. His stories have also appeared in literary reviews Fiction, Confrontation, Whispers & Shouts and Criterion. Stories from The West have been read on radio worldwide and a CD of four stories read by the author, with music by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill is also available. His collection of stories, Out of the Blue, was published in Spring 2006. He recently won the Caomhnu Award for short fiction published his novel Heads, which is included in MediaBistro's Best eBooks of 2010 List.

Eddie Stack was co-founder and artistic director of the Irish Arts Foundation in San Francisco. He was a member of the Irish trad group Last Night's Fun with Tommy Peoples, Paddy Keenan, Johnny Moynihan and the late Shane Holden. He is currently working on a book about the culture and traditional arts of Doolin, County Clare. Due out in 2011, the book includes interviews with Micho Russell and Paddy Shannon as well as profiles on the Russell and Killoughery brothers. It has features on storytelling, dancing as well as music and songs from Doolin.

west-sml           blue-sml           heads-sm           simple-twst-sm

You can learn more about him on his beautiful web page.  

Thanks again to Mr Stack for extending this honor to The Reading Life.  I will be reading a lot more of his work.   

Mel u

5 comments: said...

Thanks for posting this Mel and for your interest in my writing.

eddie stack

Anonymous said...

Title and character name 'Bobogue' Reminds me of 'Babog' the Irish for doll(pronounced like 'Bobogue') and in this story she's just a plaything for the man. Babog also means infant and she does seem innocent, childlike and other wordly too. Interesting how she becomes vengeful at the end said...

you are correct, story and character's name comes from the Irish word babóg. I like how you tie her name with aspects of her character...didn't set out to do that and good when someone else points it out.

thanks, es

Suko said...

Thank you for posting this wonderful, contemporary short story, which also reminds me to read more Irish short fiction (and long)!

@parridhlantern said...

I liked this tale & the perspective from the "Witch" on the outskirts of the town, something a lot of places have but you never hear their side of things, appearing to be merely a source to frighten the kids with & to be harassed by said kids. thanks for bringing it to my attention.