An excerpt from scene 16 in We All Die in the End “PET”

When the time came I went to the bathroom and gathered up the boxes and packets of pills. I felt all right but I couldn’t breathe properly – I had to keep my mouth open. In the kitchen I emptied the whole lot into a bowl, popping them out of the tin foil – it was like shelling peas. Then I put them into the coffee grinder and switched it on. They broke up very quickly and fell to powder, much quicker than coffee beans.

            The lilies arrived and I put them into white bowls, horrible greeny waxy things. I couldn’t decide what to wear for death and then of course there was only one dress that would suit, the tight, black one, my party dress, also my funeral dress. It made my hair look darker and my face whiter. I ringed my eyes with black eye pencil, lathered on the red lipstick. Nothing subtle about that.

            The curry was just about ready and I was unwrapping garlic bread when Jack came in.

            “I’ve made chicken curry,” I said. “Isn’t that all right? Louise likes curry, doesn’t she? She can leave the garlic bread.”

            He didn’t answer, just frowned, at my darkened eyes, at the lilies, half-smiling.

            “What is all this, pet?”

            “Say my name,” I said.

            “What?”

            “Say my name. You never say my name. My name is not pet.”

            The half-smile disappeared. He smacked the newspaper against his leg and went to poke at the curry.

            “I made an effort,” I said when he wouldn’t answer.

            “And I ordered lilies – you said Louise likes them.”

            And I smiled and smiled, still trying, even then.

            “Why are you wearing that dress?”

            He was walking in and out of the dining-room, taking off his jacket and tie.

            “Do you not – ” I began.            

But he went off upstairs.

From “Man and Wife”

Jim coughed again, a hard, tight bark from the top of his chest. His head jerked forward when Connie’s big hand landed on his back and he gulped for breath, waving her hand away. Connie grinned and hit him again anyway. His chest hurt; his eyes watered and tears sat in the long creases in his cheeks.

            The beer tasted sweet going down and he took a long suck, wondering if Connie would let him have another one. He looked at her glass and measured the last of her pint. Connie gave him one of her half-smiles and he knew she knew he wanted another drink. He set down his glass as if he didn’t care and glanced with pretended interest around the bar.

            The usual trio sat on stools, their heads together, Eugene Curran and the Brothers Grimm, and Jim thought that if Connie wasn’t with him he might walk over and say hello, what are you having boys? He tried to imagine that . . . they would talk to him about sport and ask his opinion.

            A shout from the corner drew his attention. He thought there was a fight starting but it was only a crowd of young fellows, a whole gang of them, shouting and laughing, and pushing and shoving at a slight, fair-haired one in the middle. He looked like he couldn’t stand up for himself and Jim’s heart beat sore for him.

            “Birthday party,” Connie said in his ear.

            Jim looked again and saw the huge gold key on the table. The fair-haired boy wasn`t being bullied; his friends were teasing him and Jim could see that he was full of drink. The hair was stuck to his head and his face bloomed in the dark corner.

            “That boy’s not twenty-one.”

            “Eighteen.”

            “You have to be twenty-one to get the key.”

            “No you don’t. That was years ago, it’s eighteen now. You know nothing.”

            “He’s not old enough. Look at him.”

            “Time!” Charlie roared, rattling a spoon against a glass.  “Come on now.”

            Barney Madden started picking up glasses. He’d lift it from under your nose, finished or not. Jim held his on his knee. 

            The crowd in the corner stood up and pulled the birthday boy to his feet, shouting at him to make a speech and he began to talk, leaning on the back of a chair. He seemed to be nearly crying and he shook everybody’s hand over and over.

            The trio at the bar pocketed their change and went out, leaving the doors to swing behind them, letting in great gusts of cold air.

            “Come on now, Connie,” Barney said. “Get that into you. Jim, can you do nothing with that wife of yours? Take her away home to bed.”

            He laughed when he said that and clattered glasses onto the counter.

            One by one the young men got up. With the fair one in the middle carrying the huge gold key they pushed through the swing doors and then they were gone.

            “Now, Barney,” Connie said, and handed over her glass.

            Jim nodded and said goodnight and waited for Connie to button up her new brown duffle-coat. It is a man’s coat, he thought again, looking at the long sleeves of it and the breadth across the shoulders. Whatever she says, it is a man’s coat. I’ll say it to her later, get her going. His own grey tweed was threadbare but he was attached to it. Connie wouldn’t let him have a new one anyway. She belted the door open and Jim ducked as it swung towards his face. Barney winked at him and locked the door behind them. They wriggled deeper into their coats, turning their faces from the wind, and then Jim pointed:

            “Oh, look!”

            The fair-haired boy was crouching at the corner, his arms hugged over his thin chest, and him bare as a baby. He turned when Jim and Connie came out and moved towards them with his knees close together.

            “The b-b-b-bastards left me.”

            He sniffed hugely and wiped his face.

            “I thought they were going to throw me in the sea! I’m fuckin’ freezin’ . . . give us a jacket for God’s sake, will you?”

            Jim looked at Connie. She was laughing, her eyes going up and down the pale, shivering figure.

            “Is it your birthday?” she asked. “Where did they go, your friends? God you’re a hoot, isn’t he Jim?”

            “I’ll get my fuckin’ death out of this, an’ me ma’ll be waiting and I’ve no phone.”

            The boy’s voice went up and up.

            “Oh Jesus God I’ll kill the poxy bastards. Give us something to put on for fuck sake!”

            He began to dance around like a boxer, swinging his arms, and then he remembered to cover himself. Connie turned to Jim and he backed away from her, shaking his head. His chest hurt in the cold air and he coughed. She can’t make me, he thought. I’m not going to. For a moment the three of them stood there, until bolts were shot in the door behind them.

            “Quick,” Connie said. “Charlie’s still around, cleaning and that. Go on, knock the door.”

            And then she turned and knocked it herself.

            “What’s your name, boy?” she said.

            “Frank.”

            “Frankie Pankie,” Connie laughed. “Isn’t that right, Jim? Frankie Pankie! God, he’s a hoot . . . Charlie!” she roared, banging on the door.   

            “There’s a bare-assed bird out here. Let him in. Come on, we know you’re there, we know you’re not gone yet.”

            There was no sound from behind the door and then the lights went out. The wind rose with a cruel nip; the sea rolled black and oily beyond the wall and the first drops of rain were blown over Frank. He ran against the stout door of the pub and shouted for somebody to fucking well open up, and then he ran up and down the street listening for a car, for his friends to come back. Connie watched him and Jim stood well behind her, his coat clutched tight.

            “Poxy bastards! Frank screamed into the wind.

            “Make your man let me in,” he said to Jim and Connie. “Yous know him better than me. He must have heard us knocking – they’ll have put him up to it, the fuckers. How am I to get home? Lend us the taxi-fare will yous?”

            Jim felt the rain on the back of his neck and turned up his collar. Poor bugger, he thought. He looked at the boy’s thin legs, white as milk in the dark night, and his arms like strings wrapped around his chest. Jim was cold himself; he wanted to go home to his quiet bed and lie against the warm bulk of Connie’s back.

            And then he saw Connie taking off her own coat and his breath puffed out in a snigger. What was she at now? She threw it around Frank’s shoulders and he seemed to sink under it, bending his knees, trying to get his feet into it too.

            “Come on now.” Connie marched him quickly away.

            “You come home with us, boy. We’ll mind you, won’t we, Jim? Sure you’re only a little chicken. Are you sure you’re eighteen?”

            She belted Jim’s ear and he staggered.

“Some husband you are,” she said.

From “We All Die in the end” – Now with three 5 star reviews on Goodreads

amazon.com/author/elizabethmerry

We All Die in the End – an excerpt:

Jim nodded and said goodnight and waited for Connie to button up her new brown duffle-coat. It is a man’s coat, he thought again, looking at the long sleeves of it and the breadth across the shoulders. Whatever she says, it is a man’s coat. I’ll say it to her later, get her going. His own grey tweed was threadbare but he was attached to it. Connie wouldn’t let him have a new one anyway. She belted the door open and Jim ducked as it swung towards his face. Barney winked at him and locked the door behind them. They wriggled deeper into their coats, turning their faces from the wind, and then Jim pointed:

            “Oh, look!”

            The fair-haired boy was crouching at the corner, his arms hugged over his thin chest, and him bare as a baby. He turned when Jim and Connie came out and moved towards them with his knees close together.

            “The b-b-b-bastards left me.”

            He sniffed hugely and wiped his face.

            “I thought they were going to throw me in the sea! I’m fuckin’ freezin’ . . . give us a jacket for God’s sake, will you?”

            Jim looked at Connie. She was laughing, her eyes going up and down the pale, shivering figure.

            “Is it your birthday?” she asked. “Where did they go, your friends? God you’re a hoot, isn’t he Jim?”

            “I’ll get my fuckin’ death out of this, an’ me ma’ll be waiting and I’ve no phone.”

            The boy’s voice went up and up.

            “Oh Jesus God I’ll kill the poxy bastards. Give us something to put on for fuck sake!”

            He began to dance around like a boxer, swinging his arms, and then he remembered to cover himself. Connie turned to Jim and he backed away from her, shaking his head. His chest hurt in the cold air and he coughed. She can’t make me, he thought. I’m not going to. For a moment the three of them stood there, until bolts were shot in the door behind them.

            “Quick,” Connie said. “Charlie’s still around, cleaning and that. Go on, knock the door.”

            And then she turned and knocked it herself.

            “What’s your name, boy?” she said.

            “Frank.”

            “Frankie Pankie,” Connie laughed. “Isn’t that right, Jim? Frankie Pankie! God, he’s a hoot . . . Charlie!” she roared, banging on the door.   

            “There’s a bare-assed bird out here. Let him in. Come on, we know you’re there, we know you’re not gone yet.”

            There was no sound from behind the door and then the lights went out. The wind rose with a cruel nip; the sea rolled black and oily beyond the wall and the first drops of rain were blown over Frank. He ran against the stout door of the pub and shouted for somebody to fucking well open up, and then he ran up and down the street listening for a car, for his friends to come back. Connie watched him and Jim stood well behind her, his coat clutched tight.

            “Poxy bastards! Frank screamed into the wind.

            “Make your man let me in,” he said to Jim and Connie. “Yous know him better than me. He must have heard us knocking – they’ll have put him up to it, the fuckers. How am I to get home? Lend us the taxi-fare will yous?”

            Jim felt the rain on the back of his neck and turned up his collar. Poor bugger, he thought. He looked at the boy’s thin legs, white as milk in the dark night, and his arms like strings wrapped around his chest. Jim was cold himself; he wanted to go home to his quiet bed and lie against the warm bulk of Connie’s back.

            And then he saw Connie taking off her own coat and his breath puffed out in a snigger. What was she at now? She threw it around Frank’s shoulders and he seemed to sink under it, bending his knees, trying to get his feet into it too.

            “Come on now.” Connie marched him quickly away.

            “You come home with us, boy. We’ll mind you, won’t we, Jim? Sure you’re only a little chicken. Are you sure you’re eighteen?”

            She belted Jim’s ear and he staggered.

            “Some husband you are,” she said.

            “Letting your wife give up her coat and you walking there wrapped up like a teddy-bear, much good it’ll do you, I’ll deal with you later.”

            Jim knew Frank was looking at him, expecting him to say something, to fight back, but he stared at the ground and coughed his hard, tight cough.

            Frank turned after Connie. She walked fast with her face up to the rain and the pleats of her long skirt swung from side to side below the coat. Every time a car passed Frank stopped to look but it was never his friends. Jim wondered what they meant to do. They wouldn’t know where he was if they came back. He thought of saying that to Connie but his ear smarted. He fixed his eyes on the bare feet under the long brown duffle-coat. They were wet and splashed with mud and they moved quickly.

            Connie put her key in the door and shoved it open. She grabbed Frank by the arm and pulled him inside and he stood in the dim hallway pushing one foot over the other. His face was pale and damp and he didn’t look drunk any more.

            “Come on, come on,” Connie said, and he followed her.

A quote from “We All Die in the End”

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.

Any tips for Indie Authors?

For some years now I have been writing short stories, most of which have been published or broadcast, or both. The stories are grim, some verging on the macabre, others dealing with strange marital relationships, but there is black humour here too, and the odd flash of joy.

At some stage last year I realised that the sea was a feature in most of the stories and that with a lot of work I could link them together and give cohesion to a book. I enjoyed reworking the stories so that a character with a small part in one would become the main character in the following one. It isn’t quite as linear as that – any character could turn up anywhere. The book is called “We All Die in the End”, subtitled “Scenes From a Small Town”. Here are a few quotes:

I should have clocked her one but that’s not the way I work. She spun over onto her side and her knees came up and her head went down. She was like a spider, rolling itself up when you touch it and not a sound out of her – waiting for me to go asleep; my eyes were heavy all right. I pushed her a bit more and she curled up even tighter.

   “What ails you?” I growled at her.

Sadie lay without moving, afraid to move in case her body broke up and fell to pieces. She knew she must have bled and the blood would be mixed up with what came out of him and it was all down there messing the sheet. So that’s it, she said to herself, that’s it. She smelled a new, hot smell and turned her head to one side, tears running into her ear. 

I had to practically tear Jennifer’s hand off my arm and promise to have tea the next time and all that and, by God, I needed a smoke to restore myself. I was a bit disappointed the baby wasn’t dead, being usually right as I am. A girl to mind the baby indeed! It makes no sense at all but I imagined her as Dutch, long yellow plaits and a big skirt. I’m a little Dutch girl, she’d sing to the baby and when it was asleep, Lydia’s husband would go up and stand behind her and undo the plaits.

I have tried very hard to find a publisher, or an agent, but I find it impossible. Short stories, linked or not, are neither popular nor profitable (unless you’re famous) so I published it myself on Amazon Kindle. Now it’s time to promote the book, get reviews and make some sales – a full-time job! There are several excerpts from the stories here on WordPress if anyone would like to take a look. Any tips from other Indie Authors would be appreciated.

        amazon.com/author/elizabethmerry

“Cloister”

Some days, I wish I’d been a nun

Cloistered, curtained by the hanging

Green of trees. pale apple green,

Serene cloak. Measured days and nights

Paced from hour to praying hour

No pride no lust no greed no lies

No loss no gain no pain no strife

But peace, pale apple green, serene

Soft poultice on the quick of life.

amazon.com/author/elizabethmerry

@elizabethmerry1

SUSAN

I know all reviewers on WordPress are very busy and have long lists of books to read and review but I wonder if any of you would have time to give this book a look? There are several excerpts here on WordPress which would give you an idea of the content. It is available on Amazon Kindle and I could gift it to you or attach the manuscript to an email. The book is an interlinked collection of stories; some are grim, some verge on the macabre, and others deal with abusive relationships. But there is a lot of black humour throughout and the characters are eccentric for the most part.

May 20th I.00 a.m.

Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. All day nothing – again. The worst is when I think I feel something and I go to check and there’s nothing. Sometimes I convince myself there’s a trace of blood but it’s no use. Niall is asleep already. Look at him – the huge bulk of him in the bed, feet pushing the sheet out at the bottom. I feel like whacking him with something – big, oul lump, sleeping there like that without a worry. You’d think he was dead, the way he sleeps.

            I thought I was going to scream at dinner today and I was afraid I was going to be sick. Chops and cabbage. What a strain meals are now, and me that always loved my dinner. I don’t know if it’s because I’m pregnant – God! Even to write that down – or because I’m so worried, because I think I might be. I sat there thinking that if it was real, if it was true – the cabbage would be good for me.

            I looked out the window at the bits of an old boat the men were working on and I looked at the cat sleeping on the window-sill, the sun shining in through the yellow curtains – everything so peaceful and normal, and all the time I was hot and sick and sweating.

            And to think that Matty doesn’t know, has no idea even. I wonder if he ever, ever thinks about it . . . about me. Oh, Matty . . . There he sat across from me, eating quickly, not looking up. I stared at his hands as they moved, gripping the knife and fork, lifting bread, drinking tea. Brown, wide, rough hands, not too clean. And I looked at the hairs on his arms, all lying in different directions like he’d been scratching them.

            “Susan! What’s wrong with you?”

            Niall was leaning across the table.

            “Susan!”

            “What?” I said.

            “You’re mooning there in the heat. We’re ready for the afters.”

            He gestured at their plates and I got up and poured custard over the stewed apple. The floor was slippy by the cooker and I steadied myself. If I fell, I wondered, would I have a miscarriage? Paul said, ah, when I put the plate in front of him. That’s what he says in bed too, just before and after. Ah, he says. The thing is – it just could be his, couldn’t it? It happens to other couples after years of trying. Suddenly – bang! There you were, pregnant.

            They were eating their desert when there was a noise outside and I knew Bella had arrived. You’d think she’d no house of her own. Matty’s as bad. Brother or no brother, it gets ridiculous sometimes. They just about sleep in their own house.

            “It’s only me.”

            She sang out the words as she pushed the door open. Jamie toddled in and she fluttered in behind him carrying the baby. She always says that when she arrives and I always want to say back – oh, it’s only you.

            “Well,” she said, kicking the door shut. “I swear I lost half a stone on the way up. This fellow wouldn’t walk for me. I had to carry the two of – Jamie – leave Auntie Susan alone. Matty, take him on your knee, will you?”

            Such a flurry she causes every time, especially when she’s pregnant. Everybody hopping, even Niall, and Matty putting cushions behind her back. And that lisp of hers – calling me Shoosan!

            “Shoosan,” she says. “I’ll just put this fellow upstairs for a snooze. OK? Any dinner left? I’d no time to cook today. Where would I get the time to cook – I ask you – where?”

            She looked at the men and laughed and they both stood up. Matty moved the table out a bit and Niall pulled a chair over. She smiled all around her and then went upstairs with the baby.

            Jamie was calling, Da, and pulling at Matty’s arm, waiting to be lifted. I put out a dinner for her, scraping my cabbage onto her plate. She’d eat anything she didn’t have to cook herself -even for the poor children, fed out of jars, they were.

            “Thanks a mill, Shoosan,” she said when she came down again, settling her skirt about her on the chair and shaking back her long hair.

            “Aren’t you great?” she said to me although she looked at the men.

            “What would we do without you? You’re a mother to the whole lot of us. Jamie, put that down like a good child. Matty, would you look what he’s doing? Would you pay a bit of attention to your son? Isn’t he a holy terror?” she said as she ate the dinner.

            I didn’t know was she talking about Matty or Jamie. I leaned over and took the salt from Jamie’ little fingers and I could feel the heat from Matty’s arm. I willed him to look at me.

            Please, Matty, I said in my head but I might as well have been invisible. It’s never any different, never a look, never a word. Even that night, my party night, he didn’t speak . . . Oh wait a minute, he did. Jesus, he said. One says, ah, the other, Jesus. Talkative, the pair of them!

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