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

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Today I am very pleased and honored to be able to publish an original short story by Gerry McDonnell.   There is an author biography at the close of the story.


a short story by

Gerry McDonnell

An Irish Quarter Special Event


 by Gerry Mc Donnell

In the house Angelina asked me did I eat here alone at this table every day? I was embarrassed that I did. She was referring to a bare formica table with just a rusted bread bin on it. We were drinking tea and I felt cornered by her question. She was twenty-one and I was a thirty-year-old, mature student at her college. Her parents were Italian and owned a local chipper. Her mother was a sensation when she came from Italy to marry Angelo, a dark, stubby, dynamic man. People said she looked like the movie star Sophia Loren. She smiled in the chipper with large autumn-coloured eyes and perfectly even, white teeth. Angelina has her mother’s looks.
 I suggested we go out to the garden. It was more a yard now since I had agreed with the next door neighbour, a builder, to concrete over it.
“It’ll tidy the place up”, he said.
It used to be a mature garden with yellow laburnum blossoms, and along the stone wall, there were blackberry and loganberry bushes. Mercifully a lilac tree at the end of garden was spared. It laid its blooms on the corrugated-iron roof of an old shed.
I told Angelina that my mother used to love the tree when she was alive; that I used to break off a branch for her. Suddenly she clambered up onto the wall and roof to snap a plume of perfumed, bluish petals. She was unabashed when her skirt lifted in the breeze. I noticed she had dark bruises on her thighs. I held her hand as she jumped down from the wall. She handed me the blossoms.
“For the table”, she said.
We went inside to put the lilac flowers in a vase but a jam jar had to suffice. We sat sipping tea and smelling the petals. In the silence I felt like touching her hand.  
Suddenly she became agitated.
“I had an abortion”.
 I didn’t know what to say. To console her could be interpreted that she had done something wrong. To say nothing would be to make little of it.
“I got a girlfriend pregnant once. She insisted that I pay for an abortion in England. None of us had any money in those days”.
What was I saying?
“I haven’t told anybody else”, she said.
We sat simmering. She had a seminar to attend in the college so she took her bike from the hall and cycled away looking back to smile.
That evening I went upstairs for something and found underwear neatly placed on by bed. I was dumfounded. It had to be Angelina’s. She must have gone upstairs when I was in the toilet. What kind of girl was she?
The next day I cycled up the avenue to the back of the college, the route she took. Often I had timed it to bump into her ‘by chance’. I wasn’t sure how I would broach the subject of the underwear. However, I didn’t see her, not during the entire day at college, or the next day, or the next week.  I asked her friends about her but they knew nothing. A month later I got a letter from her from Italy. She went to get away from an uncle who had been abusing her since she was twelve. She was staying with her grandmother until she decided what to do.  
One evening, when I was eating at the table, there was a hammering on the hall door. I opened it to find a swarthy man, not unlike Angelina’s father, in a state, sweating profusely. I guessed it was the uncle who had been abusing her.
“You know where is Angelina”?
He was aggressive. I tried to shut the door but he had his foot jammed in it.
“She with you”?
I threatened him with the Guards. He punched the door, cracking a wooden panel and turned to go. I slammed the door shut and went to the sitting room window to see him lift the front gate with great force. He left it broken, sticking in the air. A couple of months had passed when I got a letter from Angelina from Sweden. She said she was getting married, that she was pregnant! I felt robbed of a chance of happiness with her. I wanted to feel her belly with our child inside.
Her uncle paid me a few more, nasty visits. But things settled down. I saw him once, in a local park, walking, holding hands with a very young girl. Shortly after that, I read that a man had been badly beaten in that park and was in a coma. It was him. He recovered, I heard, but went back to Italy blind in one eye. He picked the wrong girl and messed with the wrong people!
One day in December the phone rang. It was Angelina. She was back in Dublin. “Could I call over?
“Of course”!
Standing at the hall door she looked as though a smile hadn’t alighted on her face for a very long time. Her hair was lank and she was wearing baggy tracksuit bottoms. She had her baby boy with her. We drank some tea and talked. She told me she was pregnant by her uncle when she left Dublin; that she couldn’t face another abortion and chose to have Michael. She had met a Swedish man in Italy and moved to Stockholm. He was kind and loving at first but he turned physically abusive referring to her as ‘damaged goods’. She left with her baby and came back home where she wasn’t welcome. Her parents, particularly her father, didn’t want to know her. He said she had besmirched the family’s good name by accusing his brother of abusing her.
 She was staying in a B and B, paid for by the government.  She had to be out of the accommodation early in the morning and couldn’t return until evening.
“I don’t know how much longer I can push a buggy around the city in this weather. We go into a MacDonald’s to get warm. I don’t want to burden you but I am desperate”.
I assured her that she was welcome to stay with me. She sobbed and thanked me.  
She stayed over Christmas. In spring I came home one day  and saw her sitting in the back garden with Michael who was absorbed with piling up coloured cubes.  I had made an attempt to recreate the garden, planting a laburnum tree and loganberry bushes. Daffodils lolled in the breeze around the sapling. I called her name but she didn’t answer. When I walked up to her she turned away and lowered her head. She was holding a letter. I hunched down beside her. When she looked up I was completely shocked. Her forehead was scratched with red lines, there were wipes of blood on her cheeks and she was shaking.
“I don’t know what happened.  I must have blacked out”!
The letter trembled in her hand. I helped her inside to the bathroom to wipe the blood off her face. The scratches looked like letters. She stood looking into the bathroom mirror. I could see the words I love you on her forehead. Who did she love? I picked the letter out of the sink. It was written in Italian but I recognised the heavy hand from the ugly notes her uncle had dropped in the letterbox from time to time.
She was mumbling as I led her to her bed to rest.
“Don’t call a doctor. I am too ashamed”.
Gradually she felt up to going out, wearing her hair in a fringe. Neighbours said hello, while trying to get their heads around this apparently, sudden, family. We walked out by the sea in the summer. I hadn’t appreciated before how close I lived to the sea. When the tide was out there was a pungent smell of mud and seaweed but if we walked far enough along the coast we came to a wooden bridge to an island which brought us closer to the sea. I pushed the buggy, with Michael asleep in it, over the warm, lumpy sand barbed with bunches of sun-dried seaweed and empty beer cans. After eating sandwiches in the afternoon sun, we would walk along the cool, dark strand. Sometimes her eyes would well up.
“It’s nothing really, just small things now, just small things”, she said.
As if to demonstrate her growing freedom, she slipped her feet gracefully from her sandals.  I was attentive as she balanced lightly on the hurting, hard-ribbed sand. She inhaled in surprise as the wind blew wavelets over her feet.
“Let’s go for a swim”, she said.
“But we’ve no togs or anything”.
“We can skinny dip. Look, there’s nobody around”.
Only a couple in the distance who were walking their dog.
“Come on”, she said.
She took off her dress and waded out. She swam about and floated silently with the tide, her breasts exposed to the evening sun.
“Come back, you’re going out too far”.
She stayed floating, her eyes closed before she turned and swam back with ease. She dried herself with a blanket and put her clothes back on. She was invigorated, spontaneous.
“I’m going back to Italy and I’d like you to come with me, with us”.
I felt dizzy and hunkered down. The incoming sea crept over my sandals. I looked at the sand shifting under the water.
“It’s a bit sudden, isn’t it? It’s a lot to take in”.
“I think it is the right thing to do. I want Michael to grow up in Italy, to feel the light and the sun and not end up drinking in gloomy pubs”!
The light was dimming turning the sea grey and the sand had lost its sparkle. I looked at her settling Michael for the walk home and wondered how much love she had against all the odds.
“Angelina, I want to go with you, I will try but will you forgive me if I fail”?
“Yes, but you won’t fail”!
We strolled back in silence, along the beach, back to the wooden bridge, under the jaded sky.                                                   END

End of Guest Post

Official Biography  of Gerry McDonnell

GERRY MC DONNELL was born in 1950 and lives in Dublin. He has had five collections
of poetry published. He has also written for stage, radio and television. His play Making It
Home, a two-hander father and son relationship, was first performed at the Crypt Theatre at
Dublin Castle in 2001. A radio adaptation of this play was broadcast on RTE Radio 1 in 2008
starring the acclaimed Irish actor David Kelly as the father and Mark Lambert as the son.
His play Whose Veins Ran Lightning, based on the life and work of the Irish poet James
Clarence Mangan (1803-1849), was performed at The New Theatre in Dublin in 2003. His
libretto for a chamber opera, The Poet and the Muse, (music by composer John Byrne) also
deals with Mangan. He has written for the Irish television series Fair City.

His interest in Irish Jewry has resulted in the chapbook; Jewish Influences in Ulysses
and a collection of monologues, Mud Island Elegy, in which Jews of 19th century Ireland
speak about their lives from beyond the grave. His stage play Song of Solomon, set on the
Royal canal in Dublin, has a Jewish theme. Mud Island Anthology, concerning ‘ordinary’
Dublin gentiles who lived in the latter half of the 20th century was published by Lapwing
Publications in 2009 and is a companion collection to the ‘Elegy’ poems. His latest collection
of poetry, Ragged Star, was published in 2011.

He is a member of the Irish Playwrights’ and Screenwriters’ Guild and the Irish Writers’

Gerry, thanks again for allowing me to publish this great story.   Stay tuned for more stories from Gerry McDonnell.

Mel u


1 comment:

Valerie Sirr said...

Lovely story. I want to know more about these characters and how things turned out!