And I felt a lurch in my stomach as I spoke. People always think they feel things in their hearts, but they don’t – it’s all in the stomach. On Valentine’s Day there should be big red stomachs hanging up in shops, and the cards should say – you are my sweet-stomach, my stomach is all yours, and stuff like that.
Tinted warm by rose and amber light
Melanie smiles and pouts her painted mouth
Exotic spider, webbed in scarlet silk
She wears the face of Venus, Helen, Circe
Drawing one-hour lovers to extol her grace
And wit. She lends her body, listens, comforts
Promises a paradise of lust
The door lets in the shocking light of day
Melanie leaves, her pockets full of gold
Her eyes are clean and cold and bold
And know the secrets of the world.
- Child of my child, I
scoop you up and hug you, breathe
you in and keep you.
2. Daffodils today;
chuir siad gliondar ar mo chroí,**
glowing, golden bright.
3. A rose, heart-stopping
red, intoxicating scent,
irony of thorns.
** Irish for “they bring joy to my heart”.
“Primroses in a
ditch, surviving wind and rain,
lighting up the gloom.”
The kitchen was too warm, and it was quiet except for Sarah’s occasional tobacco cough and the rustling of thin white pages. Sarah read quickly, stopping sometimes to laugh silently, her shoulders shaking. A bluebottle buzzed in the heat and flew to the pile of dirt in the corner. Tea-leaves, eggshells, bits of porridge – Sarah no longer noticed them, no more than she noticed the thick oily grime on the shelves and window-sills, or the matted clumps of dust on the floor. Her thin hand stretched from the sticky sleeve of a black cardigan as she read and her skirt, once a pale grey, was patterned with dribbles of tea and porridge.
The sudden, small noise in the hall made her look up. She waited, listening for her brother’s key, frowning, her eyes searching the floor and the walls and then she rose from the chair. Barney’s pipe lay on the mantle-piece; she stuffed it with tobacco and lit it with the long matches he always used, and after puffing and coughing she opened the door and peered out into the hall.
The postcard was bright against the dark linoleum. It looked new and neat and strange beside the pile of old newspapers. Sarah’s breathing filled the hall as she smoked faster. She bent awkwardly and picked it up, a picture of mountains and a lake. Her fingers trembled over the address. It was addressed to them all. To Barney and Martin and herself.
Sarah kept her eye on the door, listening for Barney but the only sound was the bluebottle buzzing in the corner. She sighed deeply, looked to the door, and then read the card but the words made no sense to her. She read them out in a loud whisper.
“Hello my dear cousins. Just a quick word to say I’ll be back from overseas in a few days and I`d like to call and see you all on the 20th – I`ll be bringing my new wife!! I`ll keep all the news until I see you. Love and hugs, Richard.”
“Bringing new wife . . . Richard,” Sarah read again. “Oh, what does it mean?”
And then the front door opened and closed and Sarah subsided into her chair. Barney came in rubbing his hands together, bringing with him a taste of salty air and a whiff of beer and whiskey from the pub.
“Well then, Sarah,” he said. “Is the porridge ready? What a morning we had, a crowd from the city, you should have seen them, down for some party or other. I never saw people so nice about themselves, looking at the chairs before they sat down, looking at the tables. What do they expect in a public house – polish and perfume? I don’t know what the city pubs must be like. And Charlie hounding me to dry the glasses and bring up crates of beer, more beer every ten minutes.”
He bent his knees, leaned back
To give a better view
Words gathered in my head
Shaped the story to be told
At his expense
Does this man live alone
In a dingy, broken room?
No friends, no love, no life
A soul full of angry tears –
To shock, the only cure
Did he wake and think –
Yes! It’s been a while
Sniggering over toast
Looking forward to
The glory of exposure
And when I had scurried off
Did he shake with wicked glee?
Or, zipped up and re-arranged
Did he turn away to hide
A sorry, red-eyed face?
I will wear white silk
In your house
And drink white wine
From a crystal glass
Remote, cool, still
My will to quench
The fierce, white heat
In the night
And in the morning
Rise like a white rose
To drink new milk
From a blue cup.
Lily stood at the door with Grace on her hip. She was very pale and she was patting her face with a towel. She looked at him, at the poster still pinned to the floor with Grace’s bricks and she pressed her lips tight together.
“There’s a job,” Andy started again. “Stevie was saying there’s a job . . . “
He sat back on the bed, his hands smoothing the bedspread.
“Don’t mention that eejit to me!”
Lily marched straight across the poster and leaned over him, Grace clutching at her neck.
“Get yourself a fuckin’ job! Nobody’s going to hand you one, Stevie or nobody else.”
“Fuck sake, Lily!” Andy tried to stand up. “I’m going out now. I only came in to – “
“You only came in to lie down. That’s all you do. You lie down and sleep and dream about fucking bikes, and your own child – your daughter . . . “
She thrust Grace onto his lap. The baby’s eyes were red from the cold and she stared up into his face.
“We’ve no dinner,” Lily said. “I was in the shop and I opened my purse – but there was nothing, there was – “
She began to cry; loud, angry wails.
“Ah, for fuck sake, Lily. Don’t cry. Would you not ask your mother – “
Lily let out a louder wail. She hit the wall with her fist. Oh, Jesus, Andy thought, trying to breathe calmly. He pressed his feet against the floor and hugged Grace tight, trying to stop himself from jumping up and running out of the room.
His eyes fell on the poster; Lily was standing on a corner of it, wrinkling the smooth, shiny surface. He wanted to move her off it.
“I’ll get a job today, Lily. Honest to God I will. I won’t come home without one.”
“Chrissake! What are you like?”
Lily blew her nose and slapped away the baby’s reaching hands.
Read the rest of this story and eighteen other interlinked stories in “We All Die in the End”. Please have a look at the 5 star review on http://www.thebookdelight.com. Thank you.
1. Midnight, and the pale moon paley lighting up
The worm beds on the beach. We hoked them out
Threw them wriggly into buckets. Damp knees
In the damp sand. Uneasy in the stillness, watching for
The yellow hair of fairies hidden in the tide,
Voices from another world. That white beach
An other world itself that sent me home a changeling
Waiting forty weeks a year, patient, to resume myself.
2. Barely rose, pearly in the dawn, an angry sea throws
Spray across the wall, wrecks the boats tied up
Beneath the lighthouse on the pier. Its flashing light
Lights up the summer picnic island. Foam spuming
Flying, keeping all indoors. Spattered windows;
Seaweed stranded on the road like giant insects. And
I, an elemental on a swing, lick my salty lips and
Laugh and watch the sea for Manaman, its King.
Rosemary always made Dominic wait outside the door until she was in the bed. He could feel the slackness in her thighs and arms; he didn’t have to look at it as well.
“Come in,” she called when she was ready.
Dominic bounced into the room half-undressed and dropped his shoes.
“Wait now,” he said, and brought in a bottle of red wine and two glasses.
“I’d have been here sooner but only young Andy, you know Andy, he gives me a hand sometimes for a bit of dosh . . . ah, that’s the best sound in the world,” he said as the wine gurgled into the glasses.
“So, himself and another young fella stopped me going in to the shop. Booze, they wanted, trying to talk me into getting it for them. Well, I gave them a good telling off but sure they’d hardly listen to me – look like babies, the pair of them, skinny, wee feckers. A good feed would suit them – “
“Did you shower before you came over?” Rosemary interrupted him, sniffing at his shoulder.
“I can still smell fish.”
“Well I did, Rosie.” Dominic got in beside her, wrapping himself in the duvet. “But the water wasn’t all that hot. Sure what harm is a smell of fish?”
“No harm, I suppose, but I don’t want to be covered with fish scales. I’m not a bloody mermaid.”
“God, Rosie, you’re a cruel woman sometimes. The smell of fish is a grand honest-to-God smell attached to a man going about the business of survival. Drink up now,” he said. “That will warm and sweeten you.”
Rosemary took a drink.
“Dominic,” she said. “I won’t be able to see you for a while.”
“Oh?” Dominic took Rosemary’s hand. “What is it, Rosie, my pet, my dear? Tell your old man.”
“Oh, it’s all right, nothing tragic – just – I got a letter from Vera this morning, a letter if you don’t mind. You know her husband died – the horrible Tony. I went to the funeral, remember? She wants to come and stay for a while. She thinks I’m fading away from loneliness.”
“Well you’re not.” Dominic squeezed her hand. “You’ve got me.”
“I couldn’t tell her that. She’d have a heart attack.”
Rosemary took a long drink and caught her breath.
“You don’t know what she’s like. It’s a miracle she ever got herself pregnant . . . she said for a week or two but that could mean anything.”
“Well, sure, well – will we not meet at all then?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what it’ll be like with someone here. Could you not get rid of your landlady now and again?”
“Ha! Might as well try to get rid of – of – barnacles on an old boat.
They were quiet for a minute and Dominic topped up their glasses.
“What’s the woman like anyway?” he said. “Not like you by the sound of it.”
“She’s neat and tidy and she wears shoes all the time. God, Dominic, I don’t know why she wants to stay with me – we never got on – and I’ve an awful feeling she’s thinking of something permanent.”
Rosemary leaned over and set her glass on the locker.
“Right,” she said. “I’m not going to think about her.”
She put her arms around Dominic.
“It’s getting late – are you not ready for action yet?”
“Now, Rosie, don’t be rushing your old man. Didn’t I take my cod liver oil this morning? Will I stay the night? We could stock up for the few weeks!”
Read the rest of the story – and all the other interlinked stories in “WE ALL DIE IN THE END” on Amazon Kindle.