“Advise and Sandwiches” - A Short Story by Pat O’Connor - from his collection People in My Brain - 2019
“Advice from €5. Free sandwich with all advice No advice, no sandwich”
Website of Pat O’Connor
Irish Short Story Month on The Reading Life has brought me first encounters with marvelous great writers, among them now is added Pat O’Connor.
During the last 12 months, here in Metro Manila, I have been pretty much under lockdown the entire time. The government has strict regulations and my wife and three adult daughters have imposed stricter ones. We suffer no material deprivation, while many here do have real food anxieties, I have videos, a virtual and real library, six cats and a newly added Shin Tsu for company. I am grateful for my privileged situation but sometimes I miss going to the mall, dining out and other things. Last week I was peeved because our grocery store did not have my preferred brand of Ketchup, Heinz of course. Sometimes what really helps a lot is a good laugh and advise from someone you feel trust in. Pat O’Connor’s story “Advise and Sandwiches” is perfect for such a moment.
As the story opens Julia has just left her office for lunch. She is worried she will be fired soon, her results are good and her clients like her but things just feel wrong to her. Her boyfriend just told her he has met someone “really exciting” and is moving on. He seems to expect her to be happy for him. She feels in strong need of some life directing advise. Suddenly she sees a just opened sandwich shop sign that intrigues her.
“A sign over the opening said Advice and Sandwiches, and a placard said Queue here - Advice from €5 - Gourmet Sandwiches free. The queue was the shape of a U, with a rope on little white poles to keep order. A burst of laughter rose from the crowd. It was a good-natured sound. Julie strode past. There was a cheer and clapping. She took a quick, grudging glance. People were saying ‘Aww’ like they were affected by something.”
As Julie waits in line she overhears some advise:
“A male voice called out: ‘I hate my job. What’ll I do?’ ‘Either make it so you like it, or else live cheaper, build up cash, then resign and look for a job you do like. €5. What you want to eat?’ ‘Aah… gimme a ham and cheese and tomato sandwich. No, a sub. A sub, please.’”
Now Julie is at the front of the line. Somehow she is given just the advise she needs.
The advise given was funny and shrewd, kindly meant.
“‘My wife’s a bitch. What’m I goin’ to do about it?’ This was a cocky voice, his friends egging him on. ‘Go and ask her forgiveness for your own shortcomings. That’s €8. What you wanna eat?’ ‘Hey, I thought it was five euros a sandwich!’ ‘Sandwiches are free – read the signs. Advice starts at five euros and goes up from there. You got the eight euros?’
“‘What’s the best sandwich for someone who loves cats?’ ‘A shared sandwich. That’s €5. What you want?’ ‘Oh? Emm… chicken, some salt, light mayo.’ ‘On plain?’ ‘Plain.’‘Chicken, some salt, light mayo on plain, green wrapper.”
Of course I thought what question could I ask: then I said ok be timely-
“What is my best strategy for coping with the start of a second year of lockdown”. -response “realize millions in Metro Manila would jump to changes places with you and Oh Yes, six cats are enough.”
“Advise and Sandwiches”, the lead story in People in My Brain, was a lot of fun to read, the conversations were very well done and I felt I was there.
There are 14 other stories in collection. It is my hooe to read and post on three more of them this Month.
From The author’s website
Pat O’Connor lives in Limerick in the southwest of Ireland. He was a joint winner of the 2009 Best Start Short Story Competition in Glimmertrain, and in 2010 he was shortlisted for the Sean O’Faolain International Short Story Prize. In 2011, he was shortlisted for the RTE Francis MacManus Award for radio stories, and won the Sean O’Faolain Prize. In 2012 he was shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and the Fish Short Story prize. In 2013 he was longlisted for Over the Edge New Writer of the Year.
His stories have been published in Southword, Revival, Crannóg, The Penny Dreadful, the Irish Independent, the Irish Times, anthologized by the Munster Literary Centre, and broadcast on RTE.
His radio play This Time it’s Different, was broadcast on 95fm as part of the Limerick City of Culture program in 2014.
In autumn 2014, he was one of eight International Writers in Residence in Tianjin, China.
His story Advice and Sandwiches was included in the Hennessy Anthology of New Irish Writing 2005-2015, published by New Island.
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