Category Archives: Publications

Short Story: Double-Wired

A thought provoking short story about life and humanity

I am delighted to have my short story, Double-Wired, published in the latest issue of the literary journal Boyne Berries 22. This special issue of the bi-annual magazine commemorates the centenary of the death of the County Meath WWI poet, Francis Ledwidge. You’ll find a taster of my story below and, if you are interested in reading more, copies are available to purchase via the Boyne Berries blog.

 Boyne Berries

Double-Wired

He saved my life. That’s why I’m here, waiting patiently to see him, before finally returning home to my wife and child.

Doctors and nurses rush by, shouting to each other as they attend to yet another bloodied soldier. I count my blessings that we got out of there alive. Many remain; their bodies returning home while their ghosts roam the countryside searching for lost comrades. I still see them; piled high, adding to the putrid stench of the trenches while feeding the clamouring rodents. But it’s not just those of us who sign up for battle; with war it never is. We’ve all lost friends and family.

I remember those first days. We were young, naïve, our heads full of hopes and dreams. Kitted out for war, we marched in our smart uniforms, buttons gleaming, boots polished as we set off for a few months to right the wrongs of the world, vowing we’d be home for Christmas.

I shift on the bench, looking at the worn, muck-smeared uniform which has clothed me for the last four years. My darned socks peep from boots that appear to talk as I walk; the sole opening and closing with every footstep. My life now is full of terror. Nightmares have migrated to days where any loud sound can drop me to my knees. I’ll find myself rocking in place with my eyes squeezed tight, hands laced over the back of my head and a cold sweat running down the back of my neck.

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Short Story: The Visit

A poignant short story about love and life

Awarded 1st Prize – Sports & Cultural Council City of Dublin VEC Short Story Competition, 2010

I’m delighted to have my short story, The Visit, published in the March edition of Live Encounters along with Irish writers Geraldine Mills, Doreen Duffy and Brian Kirk.

Bridie looked out the window of her terraced house. She smiled as she watched Sam pottering around in the garden, stopping to sniff the carnations.

He may not be very talkative but he never moaned at her for the occasional cigarette she enjoyed with her cup of tea. Opening the back door she called out to him. He didn’t even turn his head. It was hard to know whether he was ignoring her or going deaf. She called again and as he walked past her she looked at the sky tutting.

“It would have to rain today, Sam. I’ll be drenched by the time I get to the hospital – like a drowned rat.”

Sam just looked at her.

“Well I won’t be long,” she said, bending to kiss him on the head. She finished fastening the buttons on her shabby coat, tucked her scarf around her collar and pulled on her faded leather gloves. She gave herself a final look in the hall mirror, patted her grey hair into place, glided the end of her pink lipstick across her lips and frowned at the dark circles beneath her brown eyes. Taking an umbrella from the stand, she draped her handbag across her thin frame and pulled the front door closed, giving it a final tug.

Although it was raining she was glad to be outside. A soft day, her parents would have said, back in her native Donegal. The sky was blue, the sun was fighting to appear and there was even a hint of a rainbow.

Bridie opened the door into Cunningham’s Newsagent and queued at the counter. While everyone was talking excitedly about the millions to be won on the lotto this week, her mind wandered, thinking about what she’d cook for dinner later. Maybe as a treat she’d pick up sausages and white pudding and maybe a turnover that she could slice, toast and smother in Kerrygold butter finished off with a steaming mug of tea – something to look forward to. There were three more people in the queue in front of her.

A flash of green caught her eye, as something fell to the floor in front of her.

 

Click here to continue reading my story or click Live Encounters where you can either read or download the full publication for free.

Banner Final Live Encounters Poetry & Writing 2017

Short Story: The Tan-Tastic Four!

A touch of romance and a little humour in preparation for Valentine’s Day.

Serialised and published in InTallaght Magazine, 2011/2012

The warm glow emanating from the window of the Luas was far brighter than the January midday sun outside. Four beaming teenagers chatted and giggled as they headed towards The Square for their weekly shopping fix. Fellow passengers found their eyes drawn towards their perfectly coiffed hair and their sparkling Hollywood smiles which matched the whites of their eyes beneath the false eyelashes and layers of black eyeliner.

The Luas stopped and more commuters boarded. As the doors slid closed, the crowd pushed their way towards the few remaining seats.

“Jesus, Johnnie, come over here,” shouted a spotty, long-haired rocker.

The four teenagers; Lauren, Sarah, Kate and Debbie nudged each other, while they pretended to look out the window at the blustery day.

Bored commuters watched as a handsome guy, with dark, expertly spiked hair and striking brown eyes muttered “sorry”, “excuse me,” numerous times before eventually appearing beside his friend.

“What’s up, Luke?” he said, looking around.

“Put your shades on and take a look at who’s on board – none other than – The Tan-Tastic Four!” Luke said loudly.

Johnnie’s eyes scanned the nearby seats, eventually resting on the four cringing girls. He did his best to keep a straight face, his eyes crinkling up, while he coughed into his hand. All around commuters smiled and sniggered.

The Tan-Tastic Four cringed in their seats, staring out the window. Their blushes appeared to fan the flames of their tans to make them even brighter.

Two stops later and the four girls were the first to exit the Luas and head towards the haven of The Square. They didn’t say a word as their tanned bodies stomped beneath the bright fluorescent lights. They arrived at their favourite store and rummaged through the rails of clothes. For once, not even noticing the Saturday bargains on offer.

“The cheek of that Luke Connors!” said Lauren, “how dare he! He goes around with his long, lanky hair and thinks he can make a show of us, and of course John just had to be with him when—“

“What does he know about tans or looking good?” said Kate, putting an arm around her friend. “Although, maybe we were a little heavy-handed,” she sighed, looking down and grimacing at the dark brown patches around her right elbow and blobs of darker tan on her knuckles. The Tan-Tastic Four looked at each other and they all began to laugh hysterically.

“I think this calls for a strawberry milkshake and a new beauty regime,” said Sarah.  Three orange faces nodded up and down in agreement.

*   *   *

Lauren slammed the front door and ran up the stairs.

“I’m home gran,” she shouted down, hoping that the old lady might be dozing in front of the TV.

“Come on in and tell me about your day,” called her gran from the bottom of the stairs.

Lauren sighed, “just give me a minute, I’ll be down now . . .”  Taking a last look in the mirror she cringed, forget about getting browner – I’m just getting oranger by the minute, she thought.

“It just had to be today,” Lauren muttered, kicking the waste basket. “That’s all I need, a lecture on ‘the old days’ and how ‘back in the day’ we had to make do with . . .”

Her brother Ben, burst into her room, “mam says you’ve to make gran a cup of tea when you . . .”  Ben started to cough, “who’s been tango’d then?” he staggered from the room, bent over, eyes streaming with laughter.

She could hear the sounds of her grandmother filling the kettle.

“I’ll be down now gran,” she shouted, pushing past Ben and walking slowly down the stairs.

She braced herself for the comments as she took two mugs from the cupboard.

“Why don’t you get the chocolate biscuits from the secret stash and I’ll make us both a nice cup of coffee, the way my mother used to make it,” said her gran, taking the mugs from her and filling one of them with full-fat milk.

Lauren, needing no further encouragement, rummaged inside the slow cooker, pulling out a packet of chocolate biscuits. She didn’t know why her mother had a ‘secret stash’ because everyone knew where it was. She watched as her grandmother poured two mugs of milk into a saucepan and turned the heat up high. Hot milk, she thought, I don’t think I’m going to like this!

“Kids aren’t really supposed to drink coffee I suppose, but a little of what you fancy, once-in-a-while, isn’t going to kill you,” said her gran, smiling. Lauren had never noticed before how blue her eyes were, nearly the same blue as the Sunday-best china she used every week when they went to visit.

“The tip is to pour a little of the milk back into the mug, mix in the coffee and sugar and pour it back into the saucepan. Then bring it to the boil, stirring all the time.”  She whisked the saucepan from the hob just as it looked ready to boil over and poured the steaming coffee into the two mugs.

Lauren bent her head, sniffing the wonderful aroma.

“Right, let’s go Lauren, you bring the coffee and I’ll bring the biscuits. I have a brilliant movie just about to start, The Big Sleep starring your namesake Lauren Bacall, – I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.”

“Please say it’s not one of those old black and white movies that you and Mam love.”

“But Lauren, you don’t even notice that they’re black and white after the first ten minutes. Try it, even just long enough to have your coffee, and see what you think.”

Lauren blew on her coffee as she watched the old movie – she had to admit Lauren Bacall had something; the husky voice, the mannerisms and even the clothes were quite cool too – for ‘back-in-the-day!’ She dipped a chocolate biscuit into the hot mocha liquid and let it melt on her tongue. It tasted really good.lauren-bacall

Her gran dabbed her eyes with a tissue, “what do you think?” she sniffed.  “She married her co-star, Humphrey Bogart, you know.”

“I don’t know about the music gran, but it’s not a bad movie, and you’re right, you do kinda forget about it being black and white after the first few minutes.”

“I’m home!”  The door opened and her Mum stuck her head around the door.  “Ah, great movie, Raymond Chandler’s first novel, did I ever tell you we named you after Lauren Bacall?”

Lauren nodded, smiling, “only just about every time you watch an old black and white movie, but I hadn’t realised how cool she was.”

“Like I said, your namesake,” smiled her mam, as she sat on the arm of her chair and kissed her on the head. “I used to copy her make-up, a real case of ‘less-is-more’, but she had that look off to a tee. Look at her perfect complexion, the matt lipstick making the perfect pout and those eyebrows.”

Lauren looked up to see if her mother was inadvertently making a reference to her latest tan fiasco, but she was sitting forward staring intently at the TV.

“And I can’t believe you’re crying, Mam. Thank God it’s not that old Bette Davis movie you loved,” she clicked her fingers, “remind me to get a bucket for your gran and waterproof mascara for us, when we watch that one. What was it called, Bette Davis was a governess and there was a French guy, Charles Boyer, I think . . .”

All This and Heaven Too. They don’t make them like that any more,” her gran sniffed.

*     *     *

February rolled in and another Saturday morning found Lauren, Sarah, Kate and Debbie aboard the Luas. They noticed a few admiring glances from other commuters as they sat and chatted animatedly.

“Typical, we’re all looking good and no-one worthwhile to see us,” sniffed Debbie, flicking her glossy mane back from her shoulders.

Kate pouted, “and who, exactly, do you mean?” she asked.

Debbie ignored the question, instead pulling a DVD from her bag and staring intently at the cover. “You know, your gran is alright Lauren. Great idea for make-up tips with these old movies, and the movies actually aren’t too bad either,” she said, as she glanced down at Deborah Kerr on the cover of From Here to Eternity.

The Luas stopped and they headed towards Tallaght Library.

Lauren scanned through the DVD’s. She could see Debbie in the distance, as she tried unsuccessfully, to return her DVD on the self-service scanner. She groaned inwardly as she saw Luke heading towards her. Debbie would be in foul humour later – she hated to look anything but cool. It had been hard enough to talk the girls’ into going to the library in the first place! Not that they minded now, she thought, after they’d seen it wasn’t just books and that they also had a huge selection of DVD’s and CD’s at the end of their perfectly manicured fingertips.

“Not very gadget-friendly, Debs?”

Debbie turned to see Luke heading towards her. He did a double-take, “em, here, I’ll, eh, I’ll do that for you,” he stuttered, shooting bright red. x

Lauren reached towards The African Queen, but an arm brushed against her shoulder and snatched the DVD from the shelf. She turned to see John smiling at her.

“Didn’t think that would be your kinda movie,” he drawled, handing it to her.

“For my gran. I didn’t think that would be yours,” she laughed, as she noticed the copy of True Grit in his other hand.

“For my dad. When I’m borrowing books for college I usually pick him up one of his favourite movies. He’s a John Wayne fan,” he said, waving the DVD in the air. “It could have been worse I suppose, it could have been Bogart!” he said, nodding towards The African Queen with a grin.

Lauren laughed, “I don’t think you quite have the look of a Humphrey,” she said, tilting her head seductively, while arching a perfect eyebrow.

READING THE LINES : A 1916 Commemorative Event

Fiery Arrow in association with Live Encounters
invite you to

READING THE LINES A 1916 Commemorative Event
at Tallaght Library

6pm – 8pm on Monday, 7 November 2016

Readers will include Platform One & Guests
Music courtesy of Tony Bardon

Refreshments will be served.

reading-the-lines

“The idea behind Reading The Lines derives from William Butler Yeats’ Easter 1916. Poets  were invited to choose a line from this iconic work which resonated for them, either culturally, politically or historically. The chosen line was then given a new lease of poetic life, forming a transitional bridge from the now of 2016 to a century ago and the events which led up to or followed on from Ireland becoming a Republic.”
Eileen Casey, Irish Poet and Writer

Live Encounters Platform One Writers Easter

Poem: Sacrificial Lamb

A poem inspired by William Butler Yeats’, Easter 1916, where a line which resonates was given a new lease of poetic life. *Full details below.

Published in Live Encounters, Reading the Lines, Easter 1916 Commemorative Edition, May 2016

Weary feet trudge onward. I unfold
my white handkerchief in a vain attempt
to quell unease. In my wake, bodies and decay.
I dab at gun-smoke streaming eyes, cover my nose.
Silent witness to the atrocities of war.

Children climb over rubbled buildings,
scavenging firewood to pile high
in the black baby pram. It squeals
in protest as they push it over debris
covered cobbled streets.

I’d heard of the death of a two year old.

“Caught in the crossfire,” I’d been told.
“A single shot fired, entered his pram,
penetrated his head. Yet his sibling,”
they said, “survived. Unharmed.”
I imagine I hear his cry.

Screams and bullets. Flames engulf buildings.
His mother, his sibling, how they must ache
for his sacrifice so Eire can be free,
a land he will never grow to see.

Now and in time to be,
wherever green is worn,
all changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

*“The idea behind Reading The Lines derives from William Butler Yeats’ Easter 1916. Poets  were invited to choose a line from this iconic work which resonated for them, either culturally, politically or historically. The chosen line was then given a new lease of poetic life, forming a transitional bridge from the now of 2016 to a century ago and the events which led up to or followed on from Ireland becoming a Republic.”
– Eileen Casey, Irish Poet and Writer

Live Encounters, July 2016

I’m delighted to have two of my poems, Lavender Scented Memories and Homeless, published in the July edition of Live Encounters which is edited by Geraldine Mills.

“Mary Oliver puts it very well when she says ‘poems are not words but fires for the cold, ropes to let down to the lost.’ That is what Live Encounters is, for the reader and the writer; when thrown into the cold sea of uncertainty, when we are in too deep and our feet can’t feel the bottom, it is the hand stretched out that pulls us safely to the shore.”
– Geraldine Mills, award winning Poet and Writer.

Her fiction and poetry is taught in universities in Connecticut, U.S.A. Her first children’s novel Gold has just been released by Little Island.

Live Encounters Poetry July 2016

Click here and go to pages 59 and 60 for my poems or click on Live Encounters where you can read or download the full publication for free, which includes poetry from:

Geraldine Mills – Guest Editorial and Poems
Barbara Flaherty – Reading the Barren Land
Dr Greta Sykes – Shipping News
Eileen Casey – After Midsummer’s Day
Jean James – Nothing is Fixed
Lynda Tavakoli – Conflict
Mary Melvin Geoghegan – As Moon and Mother Collide
Rachel Blum – Six Poems
Randhir Khare – Walking on Water
Shahbano Aliani – The Beloved Calls
Susan Condon – Selected Poems
Terry McDonagh – Lady Cassie Peregrina

 

Would He Dare?

I’m delighted to have my flash fiction piece, Would He Dare?, published today in Arizona on The Flash Fiction Press:

elevator

Walking towards the office, he blew into his hands, sniffing to ensure the alcohol fumes weren’t too strong. It probably wouldn’t do in his first month, he thought, even if it was a bank holiday and he was one of the few skeleton staff expected to work. Just as he noticed his blood encrusted index finger, a hand grabbed onto his arm.

“Jack, isn’t it?”

 

If you’d care to read on, please click here to reach The Flash Fiction Press.

 

Easter 1916 – Commemorative Edition

Live EncountersLive Encounters Poetry – Reading The Lines Easter 1916 Commemorative Edition

“The idea behind Reading The Lines derives from William Butler Yeats’ Easter 1916. Poets  were invited to choose a line from this iconic work which resonated for them, either culturally, politically or historically. The chosen line was then given a new lease of poetic life, forming a transitional bridge from the now of 2016 to a century ago and the events which led up to or followed on from Ireland becoming a Republic.”
Eileen Casey, Irish Poet and Writer

Click here to connect to Live Encounters where you can read or download this beautiful publication for free!

Live Encounters Platform One Writers Easter

Editor of Live Encounters, Mark Ulyseas, has served time in advertising as copywriter and creative director selling people things they didn’t need, a ghost writer for some years, columnist of a newspaper, a freelance journalist and photographer. In 2009 he created Live Encounters Magazine, in Bali, Indonesia. It is a not for profit (adfree) free online magazine featuring leading academics, writers, poets, activists of all hues etc. from around the world. March 2016 saw the launch of its sister publication Live Encounters Poetry.

 

Short Story: Paradise Pink

A poignant short story.

Published in the Circle and Square anthology, December, 2015
(available for sale at Easons in The Square, Tallaght.)

It includes work from a number of writers, including Dermot Bolger, Martin Dyar, Mia Gallagher, Mary Guckian, Ferdia McAnna, Paula Meehan, Geraldine Mills, Louise Phillips, Kevin Power, Trish Best, Annette Bryan, Joan Power, Niamh Byrne, Eileen CaseyDoreen Duffy, Gavan Duffy, Brigid Flynn, Marie Gahan, Sue Hassett, James Hyde, Vivienne Kearns, Brian Kirk, Aine Lyons, Mae Newman, Trish Nugent, Tony Shields and Michael J Whelan.

 

‘Lipstick?’ asks Mary, squinting at the label. ‘Paradise pink.’

I purse my mouth and close my eyes, enjoying the familiar sensation of the lipstick as it glides over my dry lips.

‘There you go, LMIRRO002ily, all done,’ says Mary.

That woman is a Godsend. She holds the oval hand-mirror in front of my face. I pull it towards me and bend in closer, pressing my lips together. I still find it hard to believe the white-haired woman looking back is me and I most certainly don’t feel my eighty years. It’s merely a number – an indicator to tell the world how many wars and recessions I’ve lived through.

It’s amazing how a splash of colour across my lips always lifts my spirits, but this has been a particular favourite which I’ve worn for the last fifteen years. A visit to the local shopping centre, for my retirement party, had me returning home with a new look courtesy of the make-up counter in Boots. Maybe it’s time for another visit and an overhaul. Nothing too drastic, mind you, I’m not going back to the smoky eyes and red lips of Lauren Bacall at my age. Besides, I’ve always been more of an Audrey Hepburn – wide-eyed and innocent. Or so I’ve been told.

‘Thanks, Mary, you’ve done a great job, as usual.’

Mary moves behind me, fussing and teasing my hair. Her finger hovers over the hairspray tin. ‘Close your eyes.’

I know the drill. Hiding a smile, I cover my face with my hands, only peeking through when the hissing of the spray finally stops. There’s no fear of Mary leaving anything to chance with these tresses. She knows I love to waltz, but I fear she thinks I love to tango and has visions of me with a rose between my teeth as I strut up and down the room with my dance partner. She will ensure that my hair remains unyielding; like spun sugar sitting atop one of those exquisite deserts in the swanky New York restaurants we frequented all those years ago.

Rat-a-tat-tat. Mary checks her watch, raising her eyebrows, before crossing the room to open the door. ‘That’ll be John, I suppose,’ she murmurs.

There are whispered voices and moments later, a tall, grey-haired man appears in the doorway behind her. I watch as he removes his overcoat, shaking specks of rain onto the linoleum. He is dressed in dark trousers with shiny shoes. A crisp white shirt and paisley tie peep through the neck of his navy jumper.

‘They didn’t forecast that downpour, Lily,’ he says, his brown eyes meeting mine. He crosses the room and kisses me gently on the mouth. My heart hammers in my chest. I gasp and turn away, but not before I see a look of dismay cross his face. What does he expect? Just because he’s a handsome man, it doesn’t mean he can take such liberties; we’ve only just met!

‘Lily, it’s me, love. It’s John,’ he says, as if by telling me his name he thinks he can excuse his shocking behaviour.

He sits in the armchair opposite me and tries to lift my hand, but I pull it away. The sound of his melodic voice soothes me as I practice the two-step in my head, my toes tapping. Suddenly he stops talking and looks deep into my eyes.

‘You look well today, Lily,’ he says, ‘I’ve always loved that colour on you.’

I look down at my dress and smile. ‘It’s my favourite colour,’ I tell him. ‘Periwinkle blue; it matches my eyes, I’ve been told.’ I laugh and pat my hair. ‘I had to make an effort to look extra nice today for my visitors. Did I tell you my son, his wife and their young daughter will visit later. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting my granddaughter. Her name is Mia; my very first grandchild. They’re flying in from . . .’ I look towards Mary, ‘flying from . . .’ I can feel myself getting agitated. I click my fingers, hoping that the words will magically appear. They don’t. ‘You know the place I’m talking about, it sounds like Koala bears.’

Mary hesitates. Usually as sharp as a new pin, it appears she has forgotten too. She looks towards the man beside me. They think I don’t notice his barely imperceptible nod before she answers. As if he is giving her permission to speak.

‘Do you mean Kuala Lumpur?’

‘That’s it,’ I say. “When Sean left America he toured the world before settling there.’ I shift in my chair and turn to look at the man beside me. ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but you should probably leave soon.’ I give him my sweetest smile to take the sting from my words, ‘I’m sure you understand.’

I’m surprised to see his eyes are moist. And strange how I hadn’t noticed earlier what a beautiful shade of hazelnut brown they are; the same shade as Sean’s.

Mary turns off the radio and I glare at her. ‘What are you doing?’ I snap. ‘I always listen to the midday news.’ I didn’t mean to snap. My voice becomes softer, ‘it’s good to know what’s going on in the world.’

‘I just thought that as John was here—‘

‘I’m sure John will understand,’ I say, glaring at him instead. ‘Besides, my visitors will be here soon and I need to get to Mannings Bakery before it closes to pick up a few cream cakes. I must remember to get Sean’s favourite. He loves those gingerbread men. Maybe I should get one for Mia too.’

‘Good idea,’ he says, ‘but I’d like to wait a while. Sit with you. Just for a little longer.’

I suppose he must be lonely. And he’s doing no harm. We were always brought up to be charitable to those in need. I nod. ‘But you’ll have to stop talking while I listen to the headlines. I always listen to—

 

There is still no news for the relatives of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 missing since Saturday. The plane, along with the 239 people on board, vanished off radar screens while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The search continues . . .

 

I can’t breathe. My heart is thundering in my chest, but I can’t breathe. I bend forward, my arms folded across my chest; rocking, rocking, rocking. There is a loud keening noise, like a banshee. It’s blocking out the voice of the newsreader and getting louder.

‘Lily.’

The banshee …

‘Lily!’

I realise…

‘Lily, please. You’ve got to stop!’

…is me.

‘Lily, it’s okay. It’ll be okay,’ the man says, as he kneels before me.

My eyes fall upon my handbag, sitting beside my chair leg. I pick it up and rummage through it, emerging victorious with my lace handkerchief and mobile phone. I dab my eyes, then begin to press the buttons on the phone but my hands are trembling. Soon my entire body begins to shake and I am powerless to stop it; I feel as if I’m losing control.

‘Let me, love,’ he says, presumptuous as ever, it seems. But I allow him to take the phone.

It springs to life. I know he has dialled Sean because the ring tone is longer than normal. I hold my breath. It rings once, twice, three times and then I hear Sean’s voice. I allow my breath to escape. Only it isn’t Sean. Not Sean in the here and now. It’s the Sean in the phone. The Sean that wants me to leave a message and he’ll get right back to me.

I prise the phone from his shaking hands.

‘Sean, it’s me. I just wanted to check that you were alright. I’m looking forward to your visit.’ The tears have started to run down my face and I choke back a sob. ‘I love you, son.’

The phone slips to the floor.

I bend my head and examine the wizened hands sitting in my lap, where they twist a handkerchief round and round.

I am aware of a man and woman. The man has his back to me, his forehead pressed to the window, while his shoulders move up and down. The woman turns the dials on the radio, finally landing on Frank Sinatra. Fly Me to the Moon, bursts into the room.

The man turns from the window and looks straight at me. His forehead furrows and his red-rimmed eyes glaze over as if deep in thought. Suddenly, it is as if his well-worn face deflates like a popped balloon. I look away. I cannot bear to see such sorrow and it would be insensitive of me to ask what has caused it.

‘Would you like me to fix your hair?’

I turns towards the owner of the soft, country lilt and nod. The pretty, young woman smiles and I relax as the soft bristles of the silver handled brush, glide through my hair. Picking up the matching hand-mirror, I watch the soft white tendrils lift and fall around the face of the old woman in its oval frame. I notice she’s wearing my favourite lipstick, Paradise Pink. I must remember to pick up another tube.

Heavy rain begins to fall, drumming against the window pane. The sky is slate grey but the lush green grass glistens outside. The benches, scattered among the myriad of rose bushes, sit empty and desolate.

It will be nice to have a visitor.

The ghost of a smile reflected on the woman’s lips tells me she agrees.

Flash Fiction: Don’t Look Back

A story in 100 words

Published on Friday Flash Fiction, March 2016

It was the shoes.

Black, scuffed, well-worn.

They reminded her of him.

Back to her college years: parties, cheap wine and music.

They loved their music. Second-hand albums that hopped and skipped on the turntable. Saturday night gigs. He nursed the microphone while she watched on, like every female there, transfixed.

She smiled, removing a leather glove, before delving into her handbag for a few coins.

“Thanks,” he muttered, looking up.

His dark eyes met her gaze and, for just an instant, there was a spark of recognition before he dropped his head.

She willed herself not to look back.


 

Flash Fiction: Alone Again

A short flash of terror …

Published in Flash Flood Journal, June 2014 

I turn my head skyward at the screech of a lone black bird. A crow, if I’m not mistaken, although from this distance it’s hard to tell. The summer evening holds a winter chill. The sky is dark and overcast, like my thoughts. I watch as wings flap and the bird circles round and round in the bleak sky emitting a baleful cry.

I tear my eyes away, resisting the urge to cover my ears.

I remove the gloves, overalls and shoe covers. Naked, as the day I was born, I stuff them into a black refuse sack and push it deep inside the empty plant pot buried at the back of the shed. Replacing the padlock, I take a final look down the garden, before entering the house and taking the first step into my new life without her . . .MEN048

Standing under the shower I relish the ice-cold water as the powerful jets lash my body, reminding me of my father’s belt as a boy. I scrub until my skin is red raw, the carbolic soap burning my nostrils and stinging my eyes while all I can hear is the drumming in my ears. Just like before.

When I can stand it no longer I towel dry and dress: a fresh white shirt and grey tie; black trousers with a sharp crease and freshly polished, laced, black shoes. Finally, I don my favourite blazer with the gleaming gold buttons. She always liked it and somehow it seems fitting to wear it tonight. Respectful, somehow.

Time has passed quickly. The sky is black. No stars in the sky tonight. Yet the full moon shines brightly. I wait until it clouds over before placing the suitcase gently into the boot of my Mercedes. I coax the dog into the back seat where she whines incessantly. I drive to the other side of the city and park beneath a broken streetlight.

New territory; the dog is excited. I wheel the suitcase halfway across the bridge, lever it up onto the barrier and drop it over. For a moment I freeze, thinking that it’s going to float, but it topples over and the black water consumes it. The walk is over. We return home and I head out to the shed. I need to be sure it wasn’t all a dream. I pull open the chest freezer and her blue lifeless eyes stare up at me, ice crystals already forming over the gaping wound on the side of her head.

I run my finger over the crease in my trousers. Maybe I can wait a week or two before replacing the iron; no point in raising suspicion.

Launch: Circle & Square

As promised – details of the official launch of Circle & Square!Circle and Square Invitation

CIRCLE & SQUARE
An anthology of prose, poetry and fiction, inspired by ‘shopping centre’ as a place brim full with dramatic possibility. It includes work from a number of guest writers, including (in alphabetical order):

Dermot Bolger, Martin Dyar, Mia Gallagher, Mary Guckian, Ferdia McAnna, Paula Meehan, Geraldine Mills, Louise Phillips and Kevin Power.

As well as a number of Platform One writers, many of who have won or been shortlisted for writing awards including: the Hennessy Literary Award, the Listowel Writers’ Week Short Fiction Award, the Cecil Day Lewis Award, the Jonathan Swift Short Story Award, the James Plunkett Short Story Award, the RTE/Penguin Short Story Competition, the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award and many more …

Trish Best, Annette Bryan, Joan Power, Niamh Byrne, Eileen CaseySusan CondonDoreen DuffyGavan Duffy, Brigid Flynn, Marie Gahan, Sue Hassett, James Hyde, Vivienne Kearns, Brian Kirk, Aine Lyons, Mae Newman, Trish NugentTony Shields and Michael J Whelan. 

 

“To open Circle and Square is like entering the sort of fascinating cafe which every shopping centre should ideally possess: a cornucopia of engaging voices and fascinating stories that any reader would happily eavesdrop on. Eileen Casey has deftly knitted together a compelling ensemble of poets and prCircle and Squareose writers whose stories complement each other, as they ripple outwards in increasingly imaginative circles to explore the multitudinous facets of everyday living. This is an anthology where a shopping expedition or a Luas journey can also bring you on a succession of intriguing and inventive voyages into the past and future. Prepare to be entertained.”
– Dermot Bolger

 

Looking forward to catching up with you for what promises to be a wonderful launch which will include poetry and prose readings from a number of writers included in the Circle & Square anthology!

So please spread the word …

Anthology: Circle & Square

CIRCLE & SQUARE is an anthology of prose, poetry and fiction, inspired by ‘shopping centre’ as a place brim full with dramatic possibility.Circle and Square

It includes work from a number of guest writers, including (in alphabetical order):

Dermot Bolger, Martin Dyar, Mia Gallagher, Mary Guckian, Ferdia McAnna, Paula Meehan, Geraldine Mills, Louise Phillips and Kevin Power.

As well as a number of Platform One writers, many of who have won or been shortlisted for writing awards including:
the Hennessy Literary Award, the Listowel Writers’ Week Short Fiction Award, the Cecil Day Lewis Award, the Jonathan Swift Short Story Award, the James Plunkett Short Story Award, the RTE/Penguin Short Story Competition, the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award and many more …

Trish Best, Annette Bryan, Joan Power, Niamh Byrne, Eileen CaseySusan CondonDoreen DuffyGavan Duffy, Brigid Flynn, Marie Gahan, Sue Hassett, James Hyde, Vivienne Kearns, Brian Kirk, Aine Lyons, Mae Newman, Trish NugentTony Shields and Michael J Whelan. 

“To open Circle and Square is like entering the sort of fascinating cafe which every shopping centre should ideally possess: a cornucopia of engaging voices and fascinating stories that any reader would happily eavesdrop on. Eileen Casey has deftly knitted together a compelling ensemble of poets and prose writers whose stories complement each other, as they ripple outwards in increasingly imaginative circles to explore the multiudinous facets of everday living. This is an anthology where a shopping expedition or a Luas journey can also bring you on a succession of intriguing and inventive voyages into the past and future. Prepare to be entertained.”
– Dermot Bolger

There will be a sneak preview of Circle & Square at the RED LINE FESTIVAL
on Tuesday the 13th October, 2015
at RUA RED Arts Centre
from 7.00 pm – 8.30 pm.

Guest writers Joan Power and Kevin Power (Bad Day in Blackrock) along with Eileen Casey will be in company with representatives from local trader organisations. The evening will feature the lyrics of WB Yeats put to music by Tony Bardon together with brief readings from Circle & Square (Fiery Arrow Press).

Admission is FREE, but booking is required via (01) 451 5860 or by email, boxoffice@ruared.ie.

The official launch of Circle & Square is due to take place in November – details to follow soon!

Artyfacts on KFM – Interned

I was delighted to have Interned featured on KFM Artyfacts, hosted by Brenda Drumm, on 6 August 2014. You can listen to the Podcast here.

Interned was also chosen for inclusion in Original Writing from Ireland’s Own, Anthology, 2012. You can read it below:Ballykinlar, 1921

Eighty year old, Jim, received a call from his older sister Monica, asking if he could repair the old piano in the parlour of their family home. It was there, hidden inside, that he discovered the bundle of letters. He opened twined knots to release a dozen, off-white faded and torn envelopes. Each with a two pence stamp pasted in the top right corner, the address beautifully penned in fading black ink.

Each was written by his father, John and sent to his mother during the war for Irish Independence, dating from 1921 to 1923, while he was interned in Ballykinler Prison Camp, in County Down. Their formal air spoke of different times, each signed off with “best of love to all at home, from your loving son, John,” with references to Father and addressed to Dear Mother.

“Rounded up and taken” along with many others to Wellington Barracks on 1 December 1920, John had scribbled notes, on scraps of paper, telling his mother that he was okay. He expected to be released soon, as he had “never mixed up in any party” and asked if she could bring a collar and handkerchief for his release. Mother had spoken to a Lieutenant at the Barracks who promised to see what could be done. A meeting with O’Neill & Collins Solicitors in North Brunswick Street had been arranged for 11 December 1920. In October 1921 letters from John were arriving – now from Ballykinlar Prison Camp.

Ballykinlar Camp Orchestra

Ballykinlar Camp Orchestra (circa 1921). 

The men pictured were detainees in Ballykinlar Prison Camp in Co Down during the war for Irish independence where Martin Walton (far right) formed and taught the camp orchestra. 

They rose at 7.30am, eventually retiring at 9.00pm when they would make Bovril, then rosary and bed at 9.45pm. Papers delivered to the camp could be bought for two bob. Camp rules allowed prisoners to post no more than two letters per week, of no more than two pages in length and both to be sent in the same envelope. Most letters were written on Sunday and were four pages long.
Parcels from home would be shared around. No eggs, but supplies of butter, tealeaves, fruit cake, cigarettes and strings – apparently one of his fellow interns was Martin Walton who formed and taught the camp orchestra to play the violin. He was yet to found the famous Walton’s Music Shop and the Walton’s music programme which always finished with the words: “If you feel like singing, do sing an Irish song”. Other internees included Peadar Kearney, co-author of the National Anthem and Sean Lemass who, in 1959, would succeed Eamonn De Valera as Taoiseach.

John requested a kit-bag from home so, that like the four chaps he shared with, he could use it to store his clothes neatly. He frequently requested pencils and colours. Among the letters were sketches he had made from Hut 29. Barbed wire covered the windows outside. Blankets and sheets piled neatly on low wooden cots. Small shelves set high on walls – milk and Liptons tea sitting atop one; a small selection of papers and books lay flat on another, beneath a chess set. Pegs were set into the wall and held coats and hats. Other sketches showed a row of rust coloured huts running down the camp, a dark mountain looming in the background, echoing the atmosphere. Another showed “The Altar, Ballykinlar”. Music notes for “Show a leg” appeared on another page along with a pattern for a suit jacket on the back. The last showed a hut with two crosses, one on either side of the door. The words “Where Sloan and Tormey Died,” written beneath, dated Jan. 17th 1921.

Sports Day arranged for March, 17th, 1921 – St Patrick’s Day – had not been a success due to the weather. “I hope the weather is better in old Dublin, it is wild here, but dry and the sand would cut the eyes out of your head. Talk about the sands of the desert,” he’d written. They had, however, enjoyed a concert that night.

On August, 7th, 1921 he mentions rumours that they may soon be returning home but that he will never forget 1st December 1920. “I think this will be a different Winter. I’ll not forget the 1st of Dec. 1920 in all my life. I don’t suppose any of you will at home. I have a good laugh at it by times, when I think of Father with the blanket round him. I don’t expect he will forget it in a hurry. Does he laugh over it? I don’t think so, but I will make him laugh over my times since, even though they are not all laughable ones I may tell you.”

In the final letter, John was looking forward to returning home and back to his job as a tailor/cutter with Messrs. Scotts.

He asked his mother to be sure that his blue suit would be ready for him to go “clicking.”

Publication: My Weekly

My Weekly

I’m absolutely delighted to have my short story, Photograph Of A Stranger, published in the latest edition of My Weekly magazine.

As a child, I remember flicking though copies of this magazine as I tried to imitate my mother and grandmother who would spend their free time devouring each article while enjoying a cup of tea. Back then I had no idea that I would eventually have a short story appear between its heartwarming pages and on the very weekend of my silver wedding anniversary too – what timing! My mother rang me first thing this morning from Easons in O’Connell Street to tell me that it had hit the stands and she had already purchased two copies.

Here’s a snippet about My Weekly and I hope that when you pick up your copy you’ll enjoy reading Photograph Of A Stranger as much as I enjoyed writing it.

“My Weekly is a warm and welcoming women’s magazine. Our dedicated team aims to bring you a great mix of engrossing reads plus short snippets every week.

The first issue was published in April 1910 so the magazine celebrated its centenary two years ago. Over the years, the magazine has moved with the times as women’s lives have changed – but we never lose our dedication to bringing the best of life to our readers every week. Come to My Weekly for fun, inspiration and love – not nasty gossip and misery!”

 

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