“Of Men and Dogs” - from In Fields of Butterfly Flames and other stories by Steve Wade -2020
This is the seventh short story by Steve Wade that has been featured on The Reading Life. I first read his work during Irish Short Story Month Year Three in March of 2013. I found his short story “The Land of the Ever Young” fully qualified to stand with the great occult fairy tales of Sheridan Le Fanu or Andrew Lang.
“The Land of the Ever Young" recreates and helps us understand the stories of fairies stealing human children and substituting changelings for them. Part of the root of these stories comes from the famine years where people had to find ways to deal with the starvation of their children. On another darker side, this story also treats of the fact that one more hungry child could be the tipping point in a family on the edge of starvation that can send everyone else into the grave.
First and foremost 'The Land of the Ever Young" is a tremendous lot of fun to read. Joseph Sheridan le Fanu or Andrew Lang
have no better stories than this
My Post on “A Mother’s Love” - The lead story in In Fields of Butterfly Flames and othe stories in Steve Wade’s Debut Collection
“Of Men and Dogs”
One of the themes often explored in Irish Literature and in non-fiction works is that of adult children who marry late or not at all because they are forced into the role of care giver for an aging parent. Often they work the family farm.
Like, “A Mother’s Love”, this is a very powerful account of how parent- child relationships can cause immense damage to children, even in this case, as they pass or maybe dont fully pass into an escape from the sins of their parents. A man was drawn back to home after seven years in New York City because of the needs of his father for full time care. He had his own construction business there.
When we first meet him he is kicking the ancient Irish Wolf Hound that is his last bond to his late father. Even the death of his father, who was very abusive to him though totally dependent, has not liberated him, he is stuck with carry for the old dog, which close to tolerates him.
““Lie down, Amadeus,” the man said, and gave the animal a kind of shoving kick or kicking shove in the ribs with his boot. The ancient Irish Wolfhound, over a hundred in dog years, raised a sad eyebrow and then cowered arthritically back into its corner, where it eased itself, with adoggy sigh, onto its dirty blanket. “I’m sorry, old pal,” he said, while working his way around the never-used baby grand piano. He ran his fingers from the dog’s head into its wiry-furred back. Amadeus shuddered but otherwise ignored him. The dog, adored by the man’s father, whom the dog had worshipped in return,almost tolerated,and wastolerated by the man. “I miss him, too.” And it was true. Nine months on since his father last cursed him, he did miss him. What was, at first, the release he’d been awaiting for two years, two years spent tending to his father’s every need, along with the constant whims and demands – the expensive Italian wines and daily, freshbaked bread, the weekly hassle with taxis and the wheelchair on those tripsto the theatre and thecinema; and, worst of all, that constant jangling bell summoning him from sleep to carry his father into the bathroom on his countless imagined urges throughout thenight – all this had lately triggered in the man a longing ache. Only now, in the past few weeks, did the reality that his father had truly ended become an undeniable fact”
It takes the man several months to assimilate the existential fact of the passing of his father. Some historians see in this pattern part of the reason for lingering social issues in the Ireland related to the figure of the weak or missing Irish father. (Your best source on this is Inventing Ireland: The Literature of a Modern Nation by Declan Kiberd)
About the Author - Steve Wade’s award-winning short fiction has been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. His work has been broadcast on national and regional radio. He has had stories short-listed for the Francis McManus Short Story Competitionand for the Hennessy Award. His stories have appeared in over fifty print publications, including Crannog, New Fables, and Aesthetica Creative Works Annual. His unpublished novel, On Hikers’ Hill was awarded First Prize in the abook2read.com competition, with Sir Tim Rice as the top judge. He has won First Prize in the Delvin Garradrimna Short Story Competition on a number of occasions. Winner of the Short Story category in the Write by the Sea writing competition 2019. His
short stories have been nominated for the PEN/O’Henry Award, and for the Pushcart Prize.
From the Author’s introduction
“The stories in this collection first appeared in anthologies and periodicals. Some of them have won prizes or have been placed in writing competitions. Ostracised by betrayal, isolated through indifference, gutted with guilt, or suffering from loss, the characters in these twenty-two stories are fractured and broken, some irreparably. In their struggle for acceptance, and their desperate search for meaning, they deny the past”
There are nine other short stories in from In Fields of Butterfly Flames and other stories by Steve Wade. Between now and March 31 (March will once again be Irish Short Story Month) I plan to post on the other nine.
In Fields of Butterfly Flames by Steve Wade -2020 is A very worthy edition to the reading list of all lovers of the short story.