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Archive for the tag “short stories”

When Angels go Home for Christmas (part II)

here’s part II, read first part here Enjoy + share…


When Angels go Home for Christmas

mummersThe mummers next stop was Dawltawl, a lonesome village that was cold as a mortuary slab even in the finest day of summer. There were few houses here and no children to welcome them. But their antics and music cheered the people to recklessness and they pressed mugs of whiskey on them, in the hope that they might stay longer. Drink went to the Healer’s head and he sang a rousing ballad called The Wild Rover, to the beat of the kettle drum. The Missing Postman had no letters to deliver, but loosened by whiskey he related all the news and lies he could think of. When he got stuck for words, the white haired lady sang an emigration dirge that brought the villagers to tears. Weeping faces bade them farewell and blessings and prayers echoed after them for miles.

Several of the batch were merry from drink, including young Hawkins, who broke into song when he saw the sea in the distance. He gave a fine rendition of The Boys of Barr na Sráide, a classic song about mummers and his compatriots joined in the last line ‘when the Boys of Barr na Sráide went hunting for the wran.’ After that Bachus sang ‘The Black Velvet Band’ and everyone sang the chorus:

‘Her eyes they shone like diamonds,
You’d think she was queen of the land,
With her hair flung over her shoulder,
Tied up with a black velvet band.’

The mummers called at a few more house on their way to the coast and they were well treated with drink and coin. The collection box was heavy and several of them were drunk by the time they reached the sea. It was snowing now and the sky darkened. Two of the Softwood brothers were bickering and Uaigneas Gallagher had a fit of swearing.

“Will ye all shut up to Hell’s blue blazes!” cried the white haired lady, “We have miles to go before we’re finished. Miles to go!”

She stared at the troublemakers and then snuggled against G’way Bawn on the pony. He turned right on the sea road and led the troupe along The Flaggy Shore.

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The snow was falling fast and heavy when they came to the Neither Lands, a large apron of coast broken into twenty or more small islands by centuries of floods and tides. Steppingstones and humpbacked bridges connected islands to each other. Some were inhabited, others were deserted and more were said to be haunted. The mummers crossed the causeway to the Near Island and called to the house of Brewdor, an old man with a young wife. Apart from a huge bed, the room was empty and hushed as a seashell. A blazing fire and several Christmas candles lit the space. The Brewdor clapped his hands and shouted,

“Music! Music!”

He stood in the middle of the floor, bowed graciously and waited for the tune. Running on whiskey, the mummers played fast and reckless and the little man soon wilted. His eyes rolled, his feet tangled and he collapsed in a heap. His wife rushed to his aid and screamed,

“Open the door and let in the fresh air!”

The musicians retreated from the casualty and The Healer went outside for two handfuls of snow and laid the mush on the old man’s face. His eyelids fluttered to life for a minute or two, and he asked to be put to bed. The wife cradled his body in her arms and laid him under a quilt. She turned to the mummers and said,

“Ye nearly killed him, ye’re a proper disgrace, playin’ music like that. If anything happens to him, I’m gettin’ the magistrates after ye.”

“Don’t bother with no magistrates!” G’way Bawn cried, “The Healer will cure Mr. Brewdor. He’ll stay with ye ’till the good man is right as rain. We’ll call for him on our way back to the mainland.”

The mummers slipped outside, the woman mounted the pony behind G’way Bawn and he led the batch to the next island. Bacchus Tobin and Ocras Burke rode in the cart with Dado and progress was slow. Noses dripping, they journeyed across three deserted islands without seeing a house or any sign of life. It was like Napoleon’s retreat from Russia: slow rattle of the kettle drum against the blizzard, cart wheels and pony hooves skidding on ice glazed stones, freezing troops protecting instruments beneath their inside-out-coats. In blind faith they followed G’way Bawn until he shouted,

“Whoa!!”

The troop halted at a cul-de-sac in Illawara, an island of crumbling cottages, emptied a century earlier by a mysterious sadness.

“Back! Back! Back!” ordered G’way Bawn, tension in his voice.

The white haired lady tightened her grip around his waist and pressed her bosom against his bony shoulders.

“Christ,” muttered Dado, “I’m thinkin’ that we’re gone astray.”

On the Near Island, Brewdor thanked Hawkins for not poaching his wife.

“But you have to leave now,” he said, “because we’re goin’ to sleep.”

“And thanks for your help,” she said. “Only for you I’d be a widdaw. And don’t mind the rest of ’em, ’cause you’re the best of ’em.”

wren20With prayers and charms they sent the Healer on his way, and promised to relate his powers to whoever they met. Reeling from praise, he hurried through the snowy night in search of the mummers. He heard the shrill sound of a whistle and it drew him like a mating call. Hawkins followed the notes across three islands before finding a small child blowing a toy do-da outside a thatched cottage. When the child saw him he shrieked,

“The mummers! The mummers!”

The child’s mother appeared and asked,

“Where’s the rest o’ ye?”

“I’m lookin’ for ’em.”

“Well they didn’t call here yet,” she said, “and G’way Bawn’s mummers always call. Come in and wait for them.”

Inside she warmed a pot of fish stew over a driftwood fire and stole glances of him when he took off the Chaplin mask. She inquired who he was and shook her head and smiled when he told her.

“Well it’s a small world,” she said, “tell your grandmother that you met Rince Lynn. She brought me into this life twenty-five years ago, when my mother was a servant girl for the Downwaves in Bearnagweithe. Your grandmother was a very lucky midwife and a great healer.”

“She’s teachin’ me to be a healer.”

“’Tis in you,” she told him, serving the stew.

Rince Lynn listened to how he revived the man on the Near Island, and when she casually mentioned that her little son had eye trouble, he sat the child on his lap and tested his sight by making animal shadows on the whitewashed walls. He concluded the youngster had a lazy left eye and treated it by covering the good eye with one of his Mummer’s ribbons.

“You can change the cover every few days,” he said, “feed him plenty carrots and bathe the eyes in water from Tubbarmacdara if you can get it.”
Rince pressed two silver doubloons on him for his service.

“What are these?”

“Old money from the sailin’ ships. And isn’t this a strange thing, it was the man you cured on the Near Island that gave me a bag of ’em one time. I make brooches and rings out of ’em for the man with the traveling shop. That’s how I get by.”

“It’s time for the mummers to be calling,” the Healer said after she had put the child to bed. He opened the cottage door and stepped outside, listening for their racket. The snow had stopped and all he heard was the whirrey-whirrey of sea birds and the faint lapping of the tide on the winter shore.

“They’ll be here yet,” Rince said. “They’d never leave the Neither Lands without calling. G’way Bawn always calls here.”

hollyShe poured two jugs of brandy, lit a candle and prayed the mummers would leave them in peace. Not since the man with the traveling shop visited in November had she any company from the mainland. And this visitor was streets ahead of the man with the traveling shop.

“What other news have you,” she asked, feeding the fire, “tell me about the world abroad.”

“I was in Bearnagweithe just before the Christmas and I saw d’electric light. They have it in a lot of the shops and pubs.”

“What’s d’electric light?” Rince asked.

Without thinking too much, he gave a long explanation that brought a frown to her face and she wondered if she had given him too much drink. He rambled through the world of science, alchemy and magic and predicted advances in civilisation that made her shiver. She thought him too young to know such things and she stared at the fire, her mind wandering back to the last time she was in the company of a drunken man. That was the day herself and the man with the traveling shop got drunk on a cask of rum she’d found on the shore.

She slept with him that same night and when he called again, she was with child. A pious and honest man, he was smitten with guilt and became impotent. He lost his power, and she could never arouse him again. But he still called to see her and their son, leaving them provisions and buying homemade jewellery for his wife. The man with the traveling shop had left a puzzle in Rince’s mind: she didn’t know if she had fooled him, or if he had fooled her.

Soft snores brought her back to the night. The fire was dying and it was time to bed down. She wondered about the young man who was collapsed in a drunken sleep on the sugan chair. Should she put a blanket over him and pile up the fire to keep him warm ’till morning? Or take him to bed with her, just for the company, just for the warmth. She leaned over him and whispered,

“You’ll be more comfortable in my room.”

Rince led him by the arm to room behind the fireplace. She unlaced his boots and helped him out of the fur coat and woman’s dress. He looked at her in the cold blue night and gently touched her head.

“You can go in the inside,” she whispered, pulling back the covers.

The Healer climbed into bed and slid towards the wall. He lay on his back, listening to her clothes fall on the floor, smelling the heat from her body. She cuddled into him and whispered,

“Put your arms around me, this bed is freezing.”

Shy and innocent, he wrapped himself around her and wondered what to do next. The angels were all gone home for Christmas, so anything could happen. There was just Rince Lynn and himself, on a small island in the Neither Lands. Peace on earth and clumsy passion on a goose feathered bed. Lost lovers finding their way home on Saint Stephen’s Night.

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Read a book by Eddie Stack this Christmas

Doolin: people, place & culture — Amazon Bestseller by Eddie Stack


When Angels go Home for Christmas

long time no blog…here’s a Christmas story in 2 parts…enjoy!!


When Angels go Home for Christmas

The blizzard stopped late on Christmas night and St. Stephen’s Day woke under two feet of snow. There was peace on earth: Hawkins felt it from the gentle white rolling hills and the black skeletal bushes, he smelled it in the cold thin air coming through the crack in his bedroom window. In all his seventeen years this was his first white Christmas.

Up stairs in the same cottage, the Missing Postman stared at the same scenery but it made no impression on him. He had a savage hangover, his stomach was cramping and his head hurt. On top of everything, his brain was addled and he wasn’t sure what day it was.  But knew he had been here since the day before Christmas Eve, when he came to deliver a parcel from America. Snowed in and drunk ever since, he was miles away from base with a sack of undelivered mail.  The snow hurt his eyes and he moved from the window and sat on the bed. Voices sounded below and he put on his cap, straightened his tie and descended the ladder from the loft to the kitchen.

”God Bless ye!” he announced.

“And God bless you, M.P.” Nan and Dado said in unison.

They appeared busy and he wasn’t sure if they were ignoring him or not. He didn’t give it any more thought, and stood in front of the fire. Dado was getting dressed for the Mummers and wore an overcoat turned inside out, polka dot lining exposed. He was the postman’s age, sixty-two or three, but twice his size. Nan was as big as her husband and fussed around him, crisscrossing ribbons of green and gold over his shoulders and around his waist.

Hawkins came from the room behind the fireplace. He was responsible for dragging the postman eight miles or more into the back of beyond with a Christmas parcel from America. An innocent-eyed lanky fellow with wild dark hair, he was the couple’s grandson. Known as The Healer, he could cure certain disorders and took after Nan in that way. He was wearing a woman’s dress and a tattered black coat.

”Good morning M.P.” he mumbled.

“God bless you,” hailed the postman.

Hawkins blew notes on a penny whistle while Nan wrapped green and gold ribbons around him. Dado took up a two-row melodeon and vamped a couple of chords that segued into a reel. When the music built up steam, the Missing Postman’s feet tapped and he swirled like a clockwork ballerina and danced sparks from the flagstones. The little man with the snipe legs, bloodshot face and elfin ears, hopped high as popcorn, and stopped in mid-air when the music ended. The old couple and their grandson clapped.

“Come with us,” encouraged Dado, “you’ve great steps.”

”And you might be able to get rid of a few letters on the way,” said The Healer,

“And the fresh air will do you good,” Nan added.

He felt they were psyching him out of the house. Tiny silver stars danced and zinged around his head. He sighed and turned his coat inside out like Dado, an assurance against going astray.

“And maybe I could wear your cap,” suggested the Healer.

“God knows but I don’t know.” he muttered, staring at the head gear Dado offered him: a soldier’s helmet from the revolution.

The Healer pulled a Charlie Chaplin mask over his head and gave an Al Capone one to his grandfather. These were in the parcel that came from America, the youth told the postman. Nan fixed a goose quill to the Missing Postman’s helmet and stepped back to look at them.

“No wan will know ye!” she declared.

Muttering a prayer in Irish, she sprinkled blessed water on them, and sent them on their way to rhyme and roam.

IMG the handThey set off by pony and cart for the Hand, a flat slab of rock where the five roads of the parish met. It was a brisk ride, the pony trotting through the snow to keep warm and the three charioteers sharing a bottle of poitín to shorten the journey. Barren bog land was white and snow capped stonewalls looked like iced scones. The sky was a happy blue and The Healer declared that the world was different today. Dado said you’d know well that all the angels were gone home to heaven for Christmas because the fairies were everywhere.

When they reached The Hand, several musicians were already there. A kettle drummer and a cymbal player beat the daylights from their percussion to welcome them. Bacchus Tobin, robed as a woman with red petticoat and black shawl, waved a holly bush and a money-box.  Nylon stockings pulled over their faces, like terrorists with fiddles, the Softwood brothers and Úaigneas Gallagher tuned their instruments and sounded like a swarm of bees.  Under rouged faces and British bowler hats, Ocras Burke and a hunchback called Awful Sound, danced sean nós on the road. The Hand hummed like a Tibetan temple and young Hawkins’s mind took flight and he burst into an uncontrollable fit of yelling and yahooing.   

The racket stopped when G’way Bawn arrived. Tiny and wizened, he was a piper and rode a small grey pony. Dark and dour as Napoleon, he wore no disguise and looked like a bird crow, with his beaked nose and backcombed hair. G’way Bawn circled them without a word. For a few minutes there was silence and the winter sounds were heard again—cold crow caws, the curlew’s cry and the lonesome lowing of faraway cattle. G’way Bawn raised his right arm and led the troupe west towards the sea.

After a mile or so the mummers came to their first stop—a cluster of thatched cottages at the butt of the Knocknashee hills. To the sound of the kettledrum, G’way Bawn called out:

“They killed the Wran to carry the can,

Up with the kettle and down with the pan,

Give us a penny to bury the Wran.”

Before he had finished, children rushed from houses shouting,

“Mummers! Mummers! The mummers are here!”

The batch trooped through the street in single file— fiddles, flutes, pipes, whistles and melodeons pumping notes, drums and cymbals lashing, holly bush dancing. It was a kaleidoscope of colour, music and mayhem. Children marched behind them and adults clapped and shouted encouragement.  Ocras Burke and Awful Sound danced with wives and daughters, sometimes wheeling them from one house to another. The postman trailed behind, delivering letters and Christmas blessings, consuming whatever he was offered.

The mummers were hailed with drink and thanked with copper and silver coins.  Before they departed, G’way Bawn enticed a tall white haired woman with singing eyes to accompany them. She bundled together a few possessions, shut the door of her cottage and mounted his pony to a rowdy cheer.

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to be continued….


Read a book by Eddie Stack this Christmas


Bonzo

This is the opening of Bonzo, one of the stories in my recent collection, Borderlines.


Bonzo stood out. His face looked a cross between WoodyIMG_0008 Allen and Harry Potter, but he was much plumper than Woody, and taller too. There was a reserved, almost studious air about him and no matter what the circumstances or situation, Bonzo never seemed out of place. He blended in at parish weddings and opera galas, local funerals and rugby matches. He was a man for all capers.

Nobody was sure what he did for a living, or if he did anything. He grew up in the parish, the only child of a small farmer and his wife. A gifted student, Bonzo won a scholarship to some prestigious college when he was twelve and left the village. The next time they saw him, he was a young man with a bookish look. His mother said he had a big job in Berlin, but someone else said he was working in Boston.

When his father passed away, he returned to Ireland and got a job in Dublin. Every weekend he came to visit his mother and when she died suddenly, he took to the booze for a few weeks and announced that he might become a hippy. From then on, he lived in the home thatched cottage and let twenty acres of land go wild around him. He came and went a few times a week in a yellow VW camper van with a surfboard-rack on the roof.

Some nights he walked down to Cleary’s pub in the village to listen to the music and have a few pints. Once in a while he got drunk and danced alone to jigs and reels, to the glee of the drinkers. Crumpled and cockeyed, he would shake hands with everyone and whisper that they were always welcome in his house.
“I mean it,” he’d say, squeezing their hands.

Sometimes after the pub closed, a small crowd went back to Bonzo’s cottage with packs of beer and bottles of spirits. When musicians came, there was a rollicking session. The parties took place in the old country living room, decorated with pictures of saints and a red Sacred Heart lamp. Books overflowed from shelves to the floor and people built them into seats and sat on them. There was an open fire, a couch and a few sugán armchairs, which were given over to the musicians. He was a welcoming host and cooked up plates of charred sausages and sardines on toast. On those nights, Bonzo got really spaced and was often first to hit the floor.

His land stretched down along the sea road, from the edge of the village to a ruined castle once occupied by his ancestors. It was prime development land and Bonzo let it be. Every few months a hippy named Guy came with horses and grazed the place for him, but other than that the land was idle, left to itself. When he was drunk one night in Cleary’s pub, Bonzo said he was going to ‘plant it, plant it with trees. Broadleaves, native trees.’ It was good for the planet, he said and a few drinkers cheered, “Good man Bonzo!”

Backpackers knocked on his door once and a while asking if they could camp in his fields and he gave them permission. One Dutch girl stayed for two weeks and slept with him a few times. An American woman with a lemon Citron van pitched there every May and again in late summer. She was a photographer and took the picture of Bonzo and the cat that hung in Cleary’s Bar.

The first time Kiki McFadden met Bonzo, he was backing the camper van out to the road, being directed by Guy the hippie. She stopped her silver jeep, got out and approached him.

“Hitting away for the weekend,” she smiled, noticing sleeping bags and backpacks in the van.

Bonzo nodded and Guy hopped in beside him and began rolling a smoke.

“Are you going to the Electric Picnic?” she asked, smiling broader.

“You got it,” nodded Bonzo and Guy chuckled.
“You lucky things, you,” she sighed, “God, but it’s well for ye and some of us slaving away to try and make a living.”

“You’re keeping us all going,” smiled Bonzo.

“Listen,” she said, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you. Will you give me a call when you get back, I’d really appreciate it. God, I should introduce myself, I’m Kiki McFadden from Round Tower Real Estate in Ballygale.”

They shook hands and he said,

“Hi, I’m James, James Callahan.”

She gave him her business card and said,“God that’s gas, you have the same name as a cousin of mine in Mayo. I know you to see as Bonzo.”

He put her card on the dashboard and said,“Nice meeting you, Kiwi.”

“Kiki,” she corrected.

“Of course,” he smiled, “Kiki”

The VW pulled away slowly and Bonzo scoped her out in the wing mirror as she went back to her jeep, taking a call on her mobile. She had a full figure, tight power suit and sexy swagger.

“She’s a smooth operator,” he said.

“They’re on to you, man,” warned Guy.

He didn’t call Kiki McFadden when he got back from the Electric Picnic. The outing lasted longer than he had planned. On the way home he made a detour to West Cork with two English women and stayed with them for three days. Then Kiki’s business card disappeared from the dashboard and he forgot all about her.

Autumn arrived and he was away a lot. There was no VW parked beside the cottage when Kiki passed and after a few weeks, she slid a note under his door.
“I heard the Picnic was great. Hope you enjoyed it. Give me a call for lunch sometime when you’re free — All the Best, Kiki.”

Bonzo put the note beside the phone and it got covered with piles of mail. Guy came over with horses and they went to a Christy Moore gig in Lisdoonvarna. Then Bonzo disappeared and nobody saw him for weeks.
Kiki’s head turned when she noticed the camper van tucked behind the cottage. She parked the jeep and knocked on Bonzo’s front door. It was Sunday and he was having a snooze by the fire, a weekend radio talk show chattering away unheeded. Her knock woke him. Dang! Bet they have heard the radio, I’d better see who it is, he thought.

“Hello Bonzo,” Kiki, greeted and he was startled. For a second he didn’t recognize her, she was dressed for heavy weather in an Australian outback raincoat and broad brimmed hat.

“It’s Kiki, remember?”

“Of course, of course, Kiki.”

“Is this a good time to call on you? I know it’s the weekend, but I can never seem to get you at home during the week. How’re things anyway?”

“Fine, fine, great. Yeah, come in. Please, you’re welcome. The place is a bit of a mess.”

“Arrah it’s fine, what are you talking about. You should see my place! God this is grand, Bonzo, lovely and cosy.”

“Thanks. Would you like coffee.”

“God I’d love a cup, d’you know that? This is a lovely spot, and you have the open fire and all. God but I’d love a place like this…”

“Milk and sugar?”

“No sugar thanks. I s’pose you don’t have soy milk?”

“I’m afraid not. Sorry.”

“Arrah, it’s grand…just black is fine.”

They made small talk about the weather and she asked about the Electric Picnic.

“I’d love to go there next year. You’ll have to remind me when tickets come on sale. God but you have a very interesting life Bonzo. And d’you mind me asking, what do you do for a living?”

“Nothing very exciting, pen and paper work,” he said vaguely.

“I bet you’re a writer,” she smiled, “you have that look. Do you write poetry?”

“On occasion,” he replied, “but I wouldn’t consider myself a poet.”

“I would,” she said, “and I bet you’re very good. A lot of great artists didn’t consider themselves as good as they were. D’you know what I mean? Like Van Gogh, like.”

“Poor Vincent,” sighed Bonzo.
“Yeah, he cut off his ear, didn’t he? But listen,” she said, slowing her voice a gear, “we have a client who is very interested in buying some land from you.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I can’t say who it is at the moment, but it’s a serious player. They’d be interested in buying as much as you’d sell them along the road.”

“For development, I presume. It’s not somebody who wants it to farm.”

“Yes, for development. As I said, they’re serious. And they would make a sizable offer.”

Bonzo looked into the fire and Kiki bantered on about the holy pictures, chipped statues of Jesus and family photos that stared at her from every wall. She said she envied his lifestyle and longed to give up the rat race and retreat to an island and write poetry. Or just meditate. Kiki sipped her coffee and silence seeped around them.

“Well,” she said, “will you think about it anyway. The offer would be in the region of 300K an acre. Say, 5 to 6 million for the whole place.”

“Jesus, that’s a lot.”

“Of course it would be conditional on planning but the client is well connected and thinks that wouldn’t be a problem…”

Bonzo’s head swirled and he felt dizzy….


Borderlines is 3 long stories by Eddie Stack — Carnival Cop; Bonzo; One for the Rover. The stories are set in the West of Ireland. Kindle edition costs $0.99. Download here


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Lisdoonvarna via The Hand

The leaves are beginning to curl at the edges, there’s a nip in the air and crows are cawing like supporters at a sad All Ireland final. Here, there, everywhere, lonely hearts and bouncing hearts are stocking up on perfume and aftershave, condoms and Viagra, praying to Jude and Josephine, rehearsing chat lines and touching up hairlines. Love is in the air, it’s Spa Time…to us locals, that is. To the outside world it’s Lisdoonvarna Match Making Season.
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Big business nowadays, Lisdoonvarna became famous some hundred and fifty years ago when a Doctor named Foster discovered therapeutic springs there. The doctor swore the waters could cure anything from arthritis to zoomorphism, and soon people began to flock to the town in late summer and early autumn, to get tuned up for the winter chills. ‘The Spaw’, as it became known locally, was the perfect place to unwind after the summer slog: mineral baths, sulphur tonics and the likes worked wonders on tired bones and weary souls.

drinkers2To cater for the Victorian masses, hotels were built that made so much money in six weeks, they could afford to close down for the other forty-six. The Spa became Ireland’s first health resort and saints and scholars smiled at the new consciousness dawning on the land. But the waters worked other wonders, and the tonics soon had people looking for bedmates to help keep the winter chills away. Lisdoon became a place where you could waltz all night, drink till dawn and get the bus home in the morning. The Spa season became two months of madness, when the town danced from dusk to dawn, keeping three shoemakers on the go full-time, mending heels and worn soles. Marriages were made, marriages were lost, hearts were shattered, new ground was broken.

Even in today’s hi-tech world of the Internet, lusty chatrooms and dating sites are buzzing about the Spa at this time of the year. My friend Jay Spelman accidentally discovered this virtual world of Spalovers when he was trawling for a soul mate on a wet Sunday afternoon. Jay is recovering from a messy divorce and only dipping his toe in the water again. It astounded him that in all corners of the globe, people knew about Lisdoonvarna. Surfing the chatrooms became his nightly kick, logging on at half-ten, the same time he used go down to the pub in the last century. He took the moniker Spaman and threw in comments about the town and environs, making it known he was local. And just like he had drinking buddies in the pub long ’go, he now had friends online like ‘Brown Eyes’, ‘Sore Toe’, ‘Sexy Sixty’, ‘Miss Dickie’. He became known as a Spa expert, taking hours to explain the difference between the Lisdoonvarna Music Festival and the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. In chatrooms, if anyone wants to know anything about Lisdoonvarna they ask Spaman. He gives recommendations to those intending to visit the town: Where to eat, drink, stay, avoid…and what to do, say and hope for. Then he got into a jam and called me: he had ‘met’ an American lady online and she was coming to Lisdoonvarna the following week.

“Tell me more,” I encouraged.

“Well like, I can’t meet her in the Spa,” he said, “Everyone would know my business…they’d know that I was ‘on the pull’, so I’m meeting her in Ennis on Tuesday.”

“Next Tuesday? The day after tomorrow?”

“Yes,” he muttered quietly, “and I was wondering if you’d sorta come along with me…”

“You want me to be the ‘gooseberry’?”

“Not really…just to lend a bit of moral support…I haven’t had a date since I split up with Stella…”

I agreed because I didn’t want to hear another monologue about Stella.

On Tuesday morning, Jay called for me and we drove to Ennis in his van. He was spruced up in sports jacket, white shirt, blue tie and Dunne’s Stores slacks. He chain-smoked all the way to town and I could get little out of him regarding the lady, except that she was fifty-five and five foot-six. That made her both older and taller than Jay and when I pointed this out he sighed and lit another cigarette. He was heavily doused with cologne, and seemed to be wilting as we approached town.

We got to the hotel fifteen minutes before the date and sat in the bar from where we had a good view of the lobby. I ordered a pot of coffee because Jay was in the jitters and pretty much speechless. All my efforts to find out about Internet dating met with sighs and shrugs. So what’s her name, I asked eventually.

“Kelly O’Shea,” he said in a half-whisper, “she’s Irish-American.”

“Well that’s good, at least she’s hardly a whacko then.”

He whimpered into panicked rabbit mode. We waited and watched people coming and going through the hotel lobby. The Cathedral bell pealed time and Jay shivered. Stay cool, I advised and he nodded and went outside for a smoke. No woman like the one he described came, but a heavy-set lady with a coiffured white head and studded denim jacket appeared at the front door. I pointed her to Jay when he returned and he shook his head. Ten more minutes passed and the lady still stood at the door. Jay got edgy and muttered that he had been stood up. Again. Happens every time, he sighed, shaking his head. Then, over the intercom we heard the sweet tones of a receptionist say,
“Will Mr. Jay Tobin please come to the lobby…Mr. Jay Tobin, your party is here to meet you.”

We stared at the lobby, empty apart from the white-haired woman in denim.

“Oh fuck,” whined Jay.

“You have to meet her,” I pressed, “she came all the way from America…”

He closed his eyes and sweat pressed through his forehead. The receptionist paged him again and the lady looked around with an anxious face.
“Go on Jay, ” I encouraged, “she might be a millionaire…”

“I can’t…” he stuttered, “I fucking can’t…”

Then he looked at me with those sad rabbit eyes of his and said,
“Would…would you go and meet her…say I’m sick or something…please…”

“You’re a horrible libe,” I hissed, “and a terrible bad ad for Clare tourism…she could complain you to The Gathering authorities and have you exported.”

“Please…please…I have to go to the jax…I’ll be back in a while…just hang with her til I get back.”

I left the seat and went to the lobby. As I approached, the lady smiled and came towards me.

“Jay,” she drawled, “so good to meet you…”

We shook hands, she looked me up and down and I lost my ability to speak. On every finger there was a ring or two and she gripped my hand like a frisky sixteen year-old, though she was a good sixty if she was a day. I looked around to see if any neighbours happened to be in sight and noticed that Jay had disappeared.

“You never told me about the beard,” she chuckled, “and you look just like Van Gogh with that long coat and black hat…”

“Welcome to Ennis, Kelly…” I said.

“Like a drink or some tea?” Kelly asked, beaming up at me.

“Sure,” I replied and we walked to a discreet table in the bar.

“I’m really glad you came,” she said with a smile. I nodded and forced a smile. “Well, as I told you in my last e-mail, I’m searching for my roots, and I’d like to retire to Ireland and meet someone I could have a relationship with…”

All I could do was nod. A waitress came to the table and I ordered a brandy for myself, and tea for Kelly. After a sip, words came to me.
“So how have you been?”

Fine, she said and told me her life story: widowed twice, no children, just a sister in a retirement home in Florida. She’d like to give it one last try, grow old gracefully with an Irishman. A North Clare matchmaker had arranged for several men to meet her, she said with a glint.

“But I haven’t made any commitments…I thought I’d meet you first…your e-mails were so sweet…and thanks for all your information about Lisdoonvarna.”

I shrugged and wondered where in Hell was Jay. Then she asked me about ‘my farm’ and I told her about Jay’s spread, adding sixteen horses and forty head of cattle to the mix. She moved in the chair and said she liked to ride horses and told me about the lovely western saddle her first husband had. After that I ordered another brandy and told her about the lake in the middle of the farm and how we used swim there in the long hot summer nights. The acreage grew until I was the second biggest landowner in West Clare and said that my grandfather had sold the Cliffs of Doneen to the Council for a song. There was no going back after the fourth brandy and Kelly took my hand gently and said,

“You’re such a nice man…I should tell you though…I was very skeptical about this Internet dating business…I mean Jay, one never knows.”

I nodded and agreed, “You’re right, one never knows…”

“So before I came to meet you, I went to the police station and said, ‘look, I’m meeting a man called Jay Tobin from Tobarwiska in the hotel…here’s his telephone number…so if I don’t come back and say I’m OK, you know who he is…’ I hope you don’t mind, Jay…”

It took a few minutes for it to sink in and then I had flashes of the Guards tapping pens on desks, recalling all they knew about Jay. It was a horrific vision, because they knew a lot. Kelly gave me a kiss on the cheek and whispered,

“So I’m going back to the police station to tell them I’ve met the nicest gentleman in the world…and when I return maybe we can learn more about each other…”

When she returned I was gone, but later I heard from Jay that she found the note I left on the table beside her tea-cup. He said I dropped him in the shit and he hasn’t spoken to me since.

“Darling Kelly,

Sorry I had to rush away, I just got a call saying cattle broke out. I would love you to come to dinner tonight at my house, I’m cooking roast duck with all the trimmings. We can crack open a bottle of champagne in the hot tub and watch the stars. Maybe take a ride up Mount Callan if you’re up to it. Below is a map how to get to my place. Be careful making the right turn at The Hand. I look forward to seeing you and call if you get lost.

all the best,

Jay”



photos copyright of Clare County Library



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When Everyone in Ballyjames had Helicopters

This is an extract from When ‘Everyone in Ballyjames had Helicopters’, a very long short story. It’s from my recent book Quare Hawks, available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0098TKAAE . Quare Hawks can be read on Mac/PC with the free Kindle app from Amazon. American writer Willy Vlautin had this to say about the book:

“Quare Hawks is a collision between old and new Ireland. Both heartbreaking and hilarious, and hopeful and despairing. Eddie Stack has a way of making you laugh and cry at the same time. A brilliant collection from a great Irish storyteller.”

Willy Vlautin, author of Lean on Pete, Motel Life and Northline


The road from Mulla to Ballyjames is barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other, and miles of it weave along the northern face of the Killgory Mountains, through pine forest and high bog. The region is remote, sparsely populated by small farmers and a few reclusive artists who live in the hills.

About halfway between Mulla and Ballyjames, the pine forest falls away like stage curtains and Logra Lake appears unexpectedly. From the mountain behind, a waterfall pours into the lake, and the view is so spectacular, that the county council created a roadside vista area with two picnic tables and a litterbin. There is a small country store across the road from the vista area. Petty’s of Logra has been there for generations, catering to basic needs of the locals. A sleepy, two-story building with white walls, green windows and shop front, it doubles as a post office. Apart from Wednesday, business is very slow and sometimes the shop is shut for hours. Occasionally it might not open at all for a day or two.

Wednesday is doleday, and in the morning, recipients come to collect their allowance at the post office and buy a few provisions in the shop. A police car is always there with two officers, who bring the money and the departmental documentation. With a dozen or so local recipients, mostly small farmers, everyone knows everybody else and it’s as much a social gathering as an official roll call.

It’s a busy day for Paddy Petty – busy in the post office and busy in the shop. Dole day provides his week’s wages and he juggles hats as postmaster, shopkeeper and government paymaster. Medium height, eternally dressed in old blue suit, shirt and tie, Paddy uses Brylcreem to sculpt his dark wavy hair and tame his bushy eyebrows. Nearly fifty and fighting against it, he was once married, but his wife left a decade ago. She told him she was going to visit her sister in London and he drove her to the airport but never saw her again. She blew away like an autumn leaf, writing him a goodbye card from Southhampton. When people asked where she was, Paddy said she’d gone and joined the nuns and eventually they stopped asking. Nowadays he received comfort from Goldi, a hippie from the other side of the Killgory Mountains. Goldi swapped him free-range eggs and organic carrots for tobacco and chocolate. She was easy on his head and stayed with him once a month, often for three or four nights.

In late May, a few strangers turned up to collect dole at the post office. Scruffy young men and women, dressed in leather, they had odd hairstyles, tattoos and facial rings. When they got their money, they bought cartons of milk, bread, cheese and crisps from Paddy and went across the road to the picnic tables.

Paddy watched them from his shop. Two were jabbering on mobile phones, others admiring the view. He thought them mediaeval in their look and manner; even their speech was from another age and place, wherever that may be. A couple of mongrel dogs sniffed around the table and they threw them crusts. Three men and two women. Paddy looked at the new names on his register: Cloud Maggs; Sixtop Reeves; Birdie Cole; Zag Homa; Ork Toms. He noted they were all of ‘no fixed abode’ and pursed his lips, trying to match names with faces. When he peered through the window to jog his memory, they were gone.

He saw them again the following doleday. They came in a battered white van with foreign registration plates, and along with the original five, came four others of similar dress and appearance. Two of the new ones had blue woad on their foreheads, another had a raven on his shoulder. Paddy looked at the new names: Yorrel Hix; Midnight Lyke; Tatan Brown; Filly Downs. They were mannerly and pleasant, pocketed their money and bought bread, sardines, milk, rolling papers, pouches of tobacco, and cans of beans. Then they gathered around the outside tables, talked on phones and had a picnic. Paddy glanced out the window at them, checked the register: his ‘family’ was growing, twelve regulars and nine irregulars.

George West, a so-so English potter who had settled in the area, came to the shop around midday. He noticed the picnickers and whispered to Paddy, “I yam an ol’ hippie, but I never did see the likes of these in my travels. They’re like something from a bad trip, man.” Paddy added up his bill, glanced out the window.
“It takes all types to make a world, George, and their like have to be in it too.”
“They’re campin’ down by the lake at Collock’s Shore.”
“Easily known they’re not locals.”

The strangers came to the shop every few days. Paddy thought they didn’t wash and smelled of musty hay. He couldn’t place their accents or the language they spoke amongst themselves:
“Hey Zag, banda suko Tatan hagur zonka.”
“Ah no man, nishin suko zonka.”
“Why not? Burka lato sut?”
“Nah. Ishto.”
“Hi, two packs a Golden Virginia and four pints a milk.”

They all had a similarity in their leather jerkins, muddied jeans and badly-cut hair. It was difficult to tell one from the other and Paddy felt their numbers had grown. George the potter confirmed this when he came to do the Lotto at the weekend.
“Jesus man, there’s three vans down at the lake now and a horse-drawn wagon. There must be a couple a dozen of ‘em there. There’s kids an’ all runnin’ naked around the place, man.”

On dole day Paddy had thirty-eight strangers on the register, an all-time record when he added his regulars. They swarmed outside the shop and blocked the light coming through the door and window. When they moved to the picnic tables, Paddy sprayed the space with air freshener. He was annoyed at the amount of extra work they generated: all the counting and doling of piles of money, the watching in case they shoplifted. But they also bought a good deal and for this he was pleased.

Before leaving for HQ, the policemen came to see him and buy cigarettes.
“An odd bunch,” Sergeant McGee said.
“There’s no harm in them though,” Paddy suggested, wringing his hands.
“No, no. We believe they’re part of some pagan outfit or cult or something.”
“Is that so?”
“Earth magic and that sort of thing,” Constable Collins said.
“They’d learn plenty about it, if they went cutting hay or footing turf for a few days,” Paddy muttered.
“And there’s more of them on the way,” the sergeant told him.
“I s’pose it can’t be helped.”
“We’re expecting about forty more next week.”
“Jesus, that’ll be nearly eighty of them so,” Paddy winced.
“It’s a changing country,” Constable Collins sighed.
“There’s six helicopters in Ballyjames,” the sergeant said. “Every builder has one, and those who don’t, have race horses. Solve that one.”
“Everyone has a helicopter now.” Collins said. “On Sunday they come to Mass in them and land in the football field.”
“Terrible fucking noise,” McGee said, “you’re lucky there’s no helicopters around here, Paddy.”
“Tis something to be grateful for,” agreed Paddy.

Later that evening, a convoy of five vehicles came through Logra. An old school bus painted purple led, followed by a pickup truck with a makeshift cabin in the back. An ambulance towed a grey station wagon and they were tailed by a black Ford cargo van. Paddy watched from the doorway as they passed slowly, laden down with people and gear.

Next morning three horse-drawn wagons with green canvas barrel tops were stopped outside when he opened the shop and he was reminded of a scene from a cowboy film. A woman approached, followed by a toddler. They were scrawny and wild looking. Forest people, thought Paddy, smelling the moss and the leaves from them. She bought two pints of milk and two cans of sardines and paid in small coins.

After she left, two young men arrived, one of them leading a large blonde cat-like animal on a leash. It’s a fucking lion, thought Paddy in alarm, stepping back from the counter. The men rattled away in their own lingo:
“Hanz, serto von puka?”
“Ishna zee, sunto zog.”
“Cool. Albu onxa.”
Paddy heard the animal snarl and curled his toes. The man tightened the leash and spoke firmly to the creature.
“Smells another cat,” he said to Paddy, “two cans of beans and a pack of Golden Virginia, please.”
He was ten pence short, but Paddy nodded and suffered the loss, relieved to see them leave.



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After Hours, After Nama: The Resurrection

This is the 3rd and final part of After Hours, After Nama. It’s fiction… See Part 1 and Part 2 for previous pieces.

2.50AM Henry calls for two pints, and the anticipation of free porter puts The Geek on a roll. Egan begins filling the order and listens to him telling Henry, “We’d be in a different Ireland now, if the proletariat had taken to the streets when the shit first hit the fan. We took it lying down. Are we destined to be always picking up the tab for an elite?”

“My point exactly,” muttered Henry, looking at the floor. Egan topped the two pints and left them on the counter. Henry put a fistful of money beside them and said, “That’s the bank.”

The Geek's View of Ireland

“Sláinte, Henry.” saluted the Geek. He took a drink, smacked his lips and said, “We have a weak gene, which we indulge, rather than taking responsibility for it. We’re suckers for fairytales, deep down we believe the crock of gold and the rainbow crap…we’re weaned and reared on it. So at any given time, a certain percentage of the population are away with the fairies, whether they be the politicians or their followers or both. How else could the same clots be voted into government, election after election? We fall for the bait every time. We have a societal rot.”

Egan exhaled loudly and lit a cigarette. He knew The Geek would like a smoke, but didn’t offer him one.

“What do you mean by societal rot?” Henry asked politely.

“A suspension of critical faculties. ” The Geek said. “We are no longer independent thinkers, we do our masters bidding. We might as well be on a Roman slave galley. We’re all paddling, so guys can have chauffeurs and yachts and stuff…”

“All I know,” Egan sighed, “is that I’m being screwed.” And nodding to The Geek, he said, “I’ll need you to give me a hand with the books for the race.”

“Absolutely…no problem, Peter,” the nerd said, straightening his tie.

3.00AM
A harmonica played a few lonesome notes that segued into Dirty Old Town. Right on cue, Lulu Hoppal warbled, “I met my lo-ho-ho-hove by the gasworks wall…Dreamed a dreee-ee-eeaaam…” The bar howled and Egan picked up the remote control gizmo and zapped on the television.

Without warning, Lance Piggott of CNN loudly announced to the pub that killer bees were on the rampage in Zagrastan. The singing faltered, and everyone looked at the buzzing plague on the maxi screen above the fireplace. Enough of that, Egan clicked the remote and surfed his drinkers to Al Jazeera…BBC…a Korean cooking show, a jewelry auction in Boston. A roar erupted from the pub when he clicked to Telemundo Mexacali 12, broadcasting the Mexican Open Greyhound Grand Prix live from Ortega Stadium in Cancun.

3:06AM
Flickering television light and spatters of Spanish enter Monty’s brain and he regains consciousness slowly. To determine his whereabouts, he lifts an eyelid with caution. He sees the pub staring at the screen, where tall women parade dogs. The pub’s eyes search for Ballygale Bandit, the local greyhound, owned by John Joe Mac, trained by Murty Kerins and sponsored by NAMA.
“Which wan is he?” asked Dodo Malley.

“Number four, the brindle dog with the lady in the tricolour.” pointed Egan.

“I hope she comes home with them,” Henry said, “she’d warm me up on a winter’s night.”

“Jaysus, but that’s very like Miko Kelly there in the front with the red shirt,” Egan said, as shots of the spectators appear.

“Fuck me, it is!” cried Mary White, “and that’s Maggie Kane and Dolores beside him.”

Betting Odds Flashed on the screen:

La Bamba 3/1
El Greco Grande 5/2
Senor Castro 2/1
Ballygale Bandit 3/2
Coca Dolce 1/1
Chi Yung 3/2

Egan lowered the volume and announced, “I’m openin’ a book now if anyone’s interested in having an interest in the race.”

“I’ll put five on the Chinese dog,” Bart Hogan said, tossing 5 fedros on the counter.

“I’ll do ten on the Bandit,” Pakie Lamb said.

“Fuck the begrudgers,” Laya Lohan said, “I’ll do the same.”

“Me too,” a woman agreed.

A crush formed at the bar as Egan took the punters’ money. He wrote in his black book and called out numbers to The Geek, who scribbled dockets for the bets.

3:10AM
The hum of betting and clamour of drinking invades Monty’s head and his body heats up. The frada warms accordingly and clicks into life, quiet as a late night fridge. His mind begins to speed as thoughts hurtled through like meteors. His fingers tap on the instrument’s track pad. Dog, dog, he mutters, dog, dog. Suddenly the frada emits a bark that startles the pub.
“What the fuck was that?” Egan asked.

“Sounded like a dog,” Henry muttered.

“Must be outside,” Duddy Nixon said, placing two fedros on Senor Castro because his brother lived in a place named like that in San Francisco.

“Dogs can pick up the fever,” Olive Collins said, “you know…the vibe like…dogs always want to get in on the action…they’re like bankers and lawyers and the rest of them…”

3:25AM
Egan closes the book and makes a phone call to lay off his bets. The Geek has the remote control gizmo and turns up the volume. On the screen, the women lead the dogs to their traps, to a fanfare of trumpets. The pub is tense and silent, all eyes on the race.

A bell clangs, and an electric hare zooms down the track. Dogs yelp and traps shoot open as the ball of fur darts by. In the background, the race commentator, Diego Avilia, rattles in Spanish. Monty stands to get a better view of the screen and meanders to the counter. He picks up Henry Connoly’s pint and has a slug. Nobody sees him, the race has their full attention.

In front from the break, Senor Castro soon had a length on El Greco, who was followed closely by Chi Yung and Ballygale Bandit. Behind them came La Bamba and Cosa Dolce. The pub cheered on Ballygale, but he pulled back after the first bend and fell to last place. He slowed to a canter, then a dance. A split screen showed dogs racing in one screen and the Bandit waltzing in the other. The commentator rattled faster.
“Fuckin’ hell!” exclaimed Egan.

“He’s doped,” Geek said.

“This is…this is fuckin’ crazy!” cried Egan.

Ballygale Bandit was dancing in front of millions of viewers on satellite tv. The pub erupted in shouting and swearing and firing threats at the greyhound.

Monty was tapping the frada. There was something he should be doing…something concerning the dog on the television. Something to do with the microchip he implanted in the dog’s ear last week. Something to do with the frada. Something to do with NAMA.
“Oh no!” he shrieked and suddenly pecked at keys on the frada.

The television screen turned black. Green strings of computer code flashed on it, barks and static farted from the speakers. The Geek fiddled with the remote, but it made no difference. Egan grabbed the controls and clicked impatiently. More of the same. Then someone noticed Monty frantically toggling switches and knobs on the frada. They screamed at him to stop.

Henry grabbed Monty as he hit a power chord with full reverb. Suddenly, the screen filled with the head of a greyhound: Ballygale Bandit, tongue pumping and the pub forgot about Monty. They watched the Bandit clocking eighty miles an hour and leading Chi Yung by a shoulder coming into the last bend. They cheered for the homedog and wild as Hendrix, Monty worked up steam, pushing the frada to the max. He was drowned out by the roar that went up as Ballygale Bandit pulled away on the home stretch and finished almost two lengths ahead of the field.

While everyone cheered and hugged and laughed in the pub, Monty powered down the frada, wiped his brow on the sleeve of the fur coat. He lifted a pint from the counter and had a good slug out of it.
“Jesus,” he whispered to Henry, “I almost fucked that up, man, the Bandit was supposed to do the dance at the end…you know…at the presentation…I can’t even remember the fuckin code for the dance now…but fuck it, who gives a shit, right? We won, right?”

Henry nodded and prised the pint from his hand.

“That dog was carrying a lot of cash,” Monty whispered, “NAMA would have hung my ass if I fucked up…but I didn’t, see? I didn’t fuck-up and we won, right? Monty might be fucked-up but he doesn’t fuck-up. Right? I’m not like the developers, right?”

He tapped the frada and two horrendous barks froze the jubilant pub. In the silent vacuum Monty politely asked, “May I please have a pint, Mr. Egan, to toast our local greyhound’s victory.”

Exhaling a cone of smoke, Egan shook his head and said, “Sorry Monty, you’ve had enough. Yourself and your frada nearly fucked up everything here tonight…not just once or twice, but several times.”

“But we won, didn’t we?” pleaded Monty, “only for the frada this fucking country would be bankrupt again tomorrow. And that fucking dog would be in a taco. What have you against my frada? Where’s your vision, man? Where’s your vision?”

Monty's Mantra for the NAMA Blues


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After Hours, After Nama: Part 2 — The Google Deal

Here’s the second part…like NAMA, it’s taking unexpected twists.
Read part 1 here

2.05AM
Peggy Morgan came to the counter and ordered a small brandy and a bottle of Tarzan Extra. She was with her mother’s lodger, Ms. McCabe, who worked for the dentist, and Egan wondered if they were lovers or just friends. After serving her, he asked Henry, “Has she a NAMA deal as well?”

“She has indeed. Apparently she’s a poet and gets a good slice of pie. Imagine! Did you know, that according to Fás, there are sixty-five registered poets in Ennis? Hah? More poets there now than Polish plasterers in the old days. Go figure that one out.”

“Brutal. And I bet you, there’s none of them as good a poet as Quaker Leary from Ballyfin.” Egan said.

“My point exactly. The Quaker wouldn’t go within an asses’ roar of NAMA; he wouldn’t take a penny from them. He paddles his own canoe. And for the record, there’s twenty-two potters in Kilfadeen, all on the NAMA tit. I mean, how many jugs do you want on the dresser? Hah?”

Happy Leprechaun with friend

“Twenty-two blue cuckoos,” said Egan, filling a pint for himself, “And you heard that Mattie Clark got on the Leprechaun Scheme? I mean, more luck to the poor devil, but do we need another fuckin’ leprechaun in this parish? Like, we have at least a dozen of ‘em.”

“My point exactly. But you see, Peter, we’re a tourist nation now, we’re in arts and entertainment. Tourists expect to meet leprechauns and talk to them, watch them do tricks with a crock of brass coins. But most of these shagging leprechauns spend their days on the beer. And a more awkward bunch of flutes you won’t meet in a month of Sundays. In my opinion they’re a liability to the place, they’re giving us a bad name…I mean how can it serve us well, to be known as the leprechaun capital of the world? Give me a break! Cut them off! The same goes for that terrible bore, MacClune the sheanachie, he’s another NAMA beneficiary, another national asset, an’ a most toxic one. I cringe every time I see him giving a spiel to tourists…and he hanging around Doyle’s Corner with a caubeen and a clay pipe. Straight from Disneyland. You see, they get paid for this shit. They’re all artists now, Peter.”

2:20AM
“What gets me most about this art stuff,” confided Egan, “is that it’s impossible to know the good from the bad. Like, you know if a carpenter hangs a door the wrong way…but this art stuff is different.”

“Aha!” said Henry, after he had a drink. “You put your finger on the crux of the matter. With art, there is no good or bad. Not anymore. I always said there should be a regulator for the arts.”

Book of Kells, Saints and Scholars

“But you know, I blame Labour and the Greens. When they were in government, the whole shebang went belly-up…”

“I agree. NAMA should have stuck to the property problem, letting them near the arts was ludicrous. But that was the Greens, that was the Greens. And once NAMA sold the Book of Kells to Google, we were shagged, After that, everything was on the table. I know it got us out of a hole at the time, but…”

“Well of course, that was let go because of the whole church scandal but then they sold the Cliffs of Moher to Microsoft who hung a big fuckin’ sign on it that you can see from New York! What’s all that about?” Egan asked.

“My point exactly!” Henry said, beckoning for another pint, “We became a brand…good old Ireland of the grá mo chroí welcomes. Céad Míle Fáilte and all that shit. You see, even though Labour and the Greens were top-heavy with brains, they were no match for Google or Microsoft or Don Draper.”

Egan nodded. He knew Henry was getting loaded, but good enough for a few more pints, so he put another one in front of him.
“None of them were as smart as poor ol’ Charlie Haughey, bad and all as he was,” he said.
“My point exactly!” Henry said.
A woman named Kiki O’Neill was singing ‘Two Little Orphans’ and the pub roared the chorus. Brutal stuff. Henry said she had a NAMA deal — she sang five hundred songs a year and got big money for it. A microchip sent a message back to Apple every time she sang, he said, and money went straight into her bank account in Kilrush.

“It’s all microchips and PIN numbers now,” complained Egan.

“My point exactly!” said Henry, “we’re owned by Google and Microsoft and Apple, like it or lump it. They know where we live, what we ate. We’re fuckin’ guinea pigs, Peter, and they’re watching us. Monty explained it all to me one night. Bad and all as poor old Monty is, at least he’s a genius, I mean, and I really don’t begrudge him the Elite Plan he has. In all fairness, the likes of him need to be supported. ”

2:35AM

The Geek Hynes

The Geek Hynes, a thirty-year-old unemployed nerd had been eavesdropping and said,
“What’s wrong with a poet or a singer getting a NAMA deal? NAMA helped all the big crooks, didn’t they?”

“But tis gone too far,” Egan said and Henry nodded, “I mean, there’s a fella in Barrana who got a NAMA deal to make statues out of old telegraph poles with a chainsaw…”

“My point exactly!” said Henry, “and they gave thousands to that nut Babbler Forrester to compose a concerto! I mean that guy hasn’t a note in his head…what was that Shakespeare said about the monkey and the typewriter? Oh damn, it escapes me now…but it’s the same thing.”

“The reality is, this country is just an anthill now,” the Geek said, “we’re all drones, bringing home bacon for the queens. We should have revolted when the Celtic Tiger imploded…we needed a program like the WPA that the Yanks had during the Depression. But we had to reinvent the wheel and fucked it up. Anyway, we can’t blame the Brits for the disaster, we showed the world we were well able to crucify ourselves. We believed our own blarney, the joke is on us.”

Egan moved down the counter to serve Dilly Mangan. He only tolerated the Geek because he needed him to hack the till now and again to get around the NAMA taxes. The landlord figured the Geek was too bright for his own good, and too thirsty as well. A tipsy woman was singing “Wooden Heart” in the dark and like a mating call at twilight, Dixie Daly, an amateur jockey, harmonized in the chorus. Egan wondered if they too had NAMA deals. The Guinness clock over the bar read 2.45am. Soon the greyhound race would be broadcast from Cancun, so he filled himself a pint, lit a cigarette and took a black ledger from under the counter.

(to be continued…)


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After Hours, After NAMA

I’ve tried getting a blog together on NAMA, but it’s a slippery fish, hard to grasp and gets weirder by the day. So I thought I’d write a bit about Post Nama Ireland instead. This is fiction and in three parts.

It was well past closing time and the pub was crowded, dark and steamy. Monty Hogan staggered towards the counter, lost balance and fell on a table of drinkers. Men and women scrambled out of his way, toppling bottles and smashing glasses. Drinks splashed and a woman screamed that her dress was ruined. Another woman cried,
“Fuck you Monty!”
Helpless as a babe in a cot, Monty lay across the table, clutching his frada — an electronic gadget that looked like a computer fixed to a guitar neck. It blared head wrecking psychedelic whirls and a man roared,
“Stop that noise!”
“Turn off the frada!” a women shouted, “turn off the fuckin’ frada!”

The Frada, financed by NAMA

The frada screeched louder when two men lifted Monty off the table. Peter Egan, the publican, grabbed a syphon of soda water from a shelf and sprayed the flashing instrument. There was a sizzle and Monty jolted, then collapsed on the floor clutching the silenced gadget.
“Don’t touch him or ye’ll get electrocuted!” warned Mossy Fossett, “call d’ambulance! d’ambulance!”
“I’ll call fuck-all at this hour of the morn!” shouted Egan, “Drink up or shut-up!”

Two Good Samaritans settled Monty on a bench seat. He was drenched in soda water and Lily Doyle felt his brow and took his pulse.
“He’s alive anyway,” she announced, and a jumble of relief and disappointment rumbled around the pub.

1:25AM
Monty is forgotten and Lulu Hopal, the merriest widow in town, croons ‘Yesterday’. Her voice is ethereal at first, but gets distraught by the second verse. She veers off song and addresses her dead husband Faxo, asking why he had to go and spoil the show.
In tears, Mary White orders a gin and tonic, and Egan the landlord has to lower his head, to catch her whisper. Then she puts her tongue in his ear and kisses his cheek. Perks of the job, he fondles her breasts and she sighs,
“You never visited me like you promised.”
“Any night now,” he muttered and turned away to fill a pint of porter for Oliver Collins, and another for himself.

Bart Carson, an undercover gossip, asked Egan if he’d heard the rumour about Bella Donnell and Father Wogan. He hadn’t, and took a sharp draw on a fag when Bart said the priest tried to exorcise a demon from the ex-nun and failed.
“She ended up on top of him,” Bart whispered, clutching Egan’s elbow, “the two of ’em were bollix naked when Mary Callinan came into the room with a Mass card for him to sign!”
Shaking his head, Egan turns away and fills two half-whiskeys for Dido Lavorn, a blonde hell raiser, decades beyond her prime.
“Peter,” she whispers, “if you want a bit of housework done anytime, just let me know.”
“Sound,” he nods, and lies that he has no ice.

1:42AM
Henry Connoly, a long time patron, sings ‘When the Swallows come back to Capistrano’ and Sharon Jones holds Egan’s hand over the counter and hums along in harmony. After the applause, from a dark corner near the Ladies, the sultry voice of Dodo Malley pleads,
“Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone…”
Glasses clink in anticipation of a classic performance as she emerges from the darkness, singing from her heart, holding a small mixer bottle as a microphone:
“I’ll tell the mah-ha-haaan, to turn the jukebox way down lo-ho-hooo…”
Some other women wailed along and Egan wondered if he should call it a night and throw them all out before things turned chaotic. That happened once in a blue moon, things slipped out of order in a blink. Someone would fuck-up, some one else would react and next there’d be an explosion. He pulled on a cigarette, slugged his pint and gauged the crowd. They were mostly well-on, but good humoured. He’d let them be. Anyway, soon the dog race from Mexico would be on the television and he’d make a good till.

Egan squinted over at Monty, drew hard on the fag, and asked Henry Connoly,
“What kind of a yoke is that frada anyway?”
“Something he invented from bits a computers an’ electric guitars an’ things. Monty’s a genius.”
“I know,” Egan sighed, topping his pint and beginning one for Henry, “the fucker is nuts. The rig-out of him…in a fuckin ballet dress an’ a fur coat…isn’t he getting dosh from NAMA?”
“Apparently every month he gets a thousand fedros or maybe more from them and all the pills and stuff that he can swallow.”
“It’s an amazing NAMA,” Egan said cynically, “the rest of us payin’ tax to keep the show on the road an’ Monty inventing contraptions to drive us up the fuckin wall…”
“National Asset and Protected Personalities, I think that’s the name of the fund he’s drawin’ from.”
“Jesus wept.”
“Well, I knew that scheme to monitise the arts was always going to be a disaster. Money down the drain. It’s worse than NAMA 1. I mean, Monty and his likes add damn all to the economy. They make this art shit and they’re costing us a fortune. Give me a break.”
“At least the builders built something and used up sand and timber and stuff. And they spent their money.”
“Exactly, Peter. We’re back to the Saints and Scholars, that’s what we’re famous for now. Geniuses like Monty, no more tar and cement. It’s all art nowadays. Apparently that’s what the tourists want to experience, the arts.”

Egan lit a cigarette and said, “I don’t know what tourist would want to come and visit Monty.”
“Well, of course he’s very talented,” said Henry, “and he’s a fine fella when he’s not on a jag, very well mannered and sociable, sensible dress ex-ceterra, ex-ceterra. Afternoon tea in the Imperial Hotel with his mother and so on. And then he snaps…something gets to the poor hure and he goes astray bit by bit until he’s gone totally gaga. Then Galligan gives him the needle and after a few days he’s right as rain.”
“He’s gaga enough now,” said Egan, “I mean…you could put up with the frada occasionally, if he could play it or turn the fuckin’ volume down…and anyone can get shit-faced once in a while but havin’ both of them full-on and he prancing around in the ballet get-up, now that shit can get to you.”
“And of course you can’t bar him or you’d have wan of them shaggin’ anti-discrimination cops on your arse. But sure there’s no harm in the poor hure, he’s his own worst enemy. And who’s to say that if we had a mother and father like Monty has, that we’d be any better than him. Worse maybe.”
“NAMA has a lot to answer for.”

(to be continued…)



Books by Eddie Stack

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THE WEST


iPhone app of Irish fiction, spoken word, music + art

Blake's Corner by Phillip Morrison


In the nature of full disclosure, this blog is about an iPhone app that I developed/produced, with the help of a meithel of talented people, all connected to County Clare. And in all fairness, if a Liscannor man could invent the first submarine, why couldn’t an Ennistymon man get the first iPhone app of Irish fiction, spoken word, music + art into orbit?

It happened like this: I decided to publish an edition of my book The West, which was out of print for several years. A new cover was in order so I contacted Phillip Morrison, an artist living and painting in North Clare. His scenes are from the home of the stories in the book and Blake’s Corner seemed an appropriate image for the cover. I sent the cover design to Alan Wherry, an old friend, for his feedback and somehow the idea of turning The West into an iPhone app formed in my head. Alan knew an Apple developer in Toronto and after a few emails across the Atlantic, we began working on it.

It was a simple idea: combine the stories in the book with spoken word I’d recorded a few years ago with music by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. Have artwork by Phillip throughout the book, notes on the stories and a song by Ron Kavana which was inspired by one of the tales, Time Passes. For two weeks I sat by the fire in Ballylara, laptop and wi-fi and boomeranged files between Ireland, San Francisco and Toronto. There were a lot of late nights, getting this and that right. It was intense work and a bit clandestine to be doing something so hi-tech from the smallest house in the parish. Not to mention a bit surreal. The livingroom began to look like a programmers den in Silicon Valley, coffee cups all over the floor, chocolate wrappers, stacks of dinner plates, Alabama 3 on the speakers.

So now The West is available as an iPhone app. It contains an ebook of seven short stories, 60 minutes of spoken word with music by Martin & Dennis; the song Memories by Ron Kavana and several great images by Phillip Morrison.

Check it out. Tell anyone you know who has an iPhone. Click the button!:

THE WEST


In a week or so, the new print edition of The West will be available. I’ll post direct links to the indie Irish bookstores who’re going to stock it as well as Amazon.

Beir búa.
THE WEST ON FACEBOOK


All paintings above are by Phillip Morrison; see http://www.phillipmorrison.com


Books by Eddie Stack

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Time Passes: Irish Christmas Story Podcast

The West Clare Railway, Ennistymon

Time Passes is a story about emigrants coming home to Ireland for Christmas. It’s set back in the days of the West Clare Railway and I was moved to write it after reading a poem in Irish about our town by fellow Ennisymon writer, the late Tadhg O hÉaghráin.
Time Passes was first read on KPFA radio in Berkeley, California in 1986 and subsequently published in The West: Stories from Ireland. It has also been published in several newspapers and magazines in Europe and North America and is in a few anthologies of short fiction. The song ‘Memories’ by Ron Kavana is based on this story.

Music is by Martin Hayes + Dennis Cahill

Download for $2. Click here: Stories from Ireland

Beannachtaí Nollag díbh, agus go mbeirfimid beo ag an t-am seo arís ag cómhóradh na féile — Christmas Blessings to all, and may we be alive at this time again to celebrate the Festival. ES

photo credit: Clare County Library


Books by Eddie Stack

Eddie Stack’s books for Kindle + iPhone

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