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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.

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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!

Writer Profiles

Poets and writers from writing groups,  including; Platform One in Rua Red, Lucan Writers, St Muirin’s Writing Group and Virginia House Writers, who read their work in Tallaght Library and were profiled in The Poet’s Corner in The Echo.

Find out more about them and read some of their work:Poet's Corner

Michael J Whelan:
The Echo, 26 April 2012 – Michael J Whelan

James Hyde:
The Echo, 5 April 2012 – James Hyde

Joan Power:
The Echo, 8 March 2012 – Joan Power

 Eileen Casey:
The Echo, 1 March 2012 – Eileen Casey

Brigid Flynn:
The Echo, 23 February 2012 – Brigid Flynn

Tony Bardon:
The Echo, 16 February 2012 – Tony Bardon

Jim Archer:
The Echo, 9 February 2012 – Jim Archer

Colm Keegan:
The Echo, 2 February 2012 – Colm Keegan

Ray Mullen:
The Echo, 26 January 2012 – Ray Mullen

Brian Kirk:
The Echo, 12 January 2012 – Brian Kirk

Áine Lyons:
The Echo, 5 January 2012 – Áine Lyons

Mae Newman:
The Echo, 29 December 2011 – Mae Newman

As an added bonus this week, The Echo have also published a short story called ‘The Rapping Penguin’ by Emily Whelan
(Michael J Whelan’s daughter, aged 9¾):
The Echo, 22 December 2011 – Emily Whelan – p1
The Echo, 22 December 2011 – Emily Whelan – p2

Trish Nugent:
The Echo, 22 December 2011 – Trish Nugent

Ann Marie Mullen:
The Echo, 15 December 2011 – Ann Marie Mullen

Kate Dempsey:
The Echo, 8 December 2011 – Kate Dempsey

Trish Best:
The Echo, 1 December 2011 – Trish Best

Gavan Duffy:
The Echo, 24 November 2011 – Gavan Duffy

Maria Wallace:
The Echo, 17 November 2011 – Maria Wallace

Marie Gahan:
The Echo, 10 November 2011 – Marie Gahan

Doreen Duffy:
The Echo, 3 November 2011 – Doreen Duffy

Susan Condon:
The Echo, 27 October 2011 – Susan Condon

Louise Phillips:
The Echo, 20 October 2011 – Louise Phillips

Michael J Whelan:
The Echo, 13 October 2011 – Michael J Whelan

Eileen Casey:
The Echo, 6 October 2011 – Eileen Casey

Photos from Dublin Writing Events

A selection of photos with writers, from all genres, that I have had the privilege to meet.

I admire them all, not only for for their work, but also for their attitude and their willingness to help fellow writers.

And lots more to be added soon, I hope!

The National Emerging Writer Programme
Dublin City Library and Archive
9 January, 2013:

Annmarie Miles, Vanessa O'Loughlin, Susan Condon
Annmarie Miles, Vanessa O’Loughlin, Susan Condon

Hazel Gaynor, Paul Fitzsimons, Carlo Gébler, Susan Condon, Declan Hughes
Hazel Gaynor, Paul Fitzsimons, Carlo Gébler,
Susan Condon, Declan Hughes

Vanessa O'Loughlin, Hazel Gaynor, Paul Fitzsimons, Carlo Gébler, Declan Hughes, Susan Condon
Vanessa O’Loughlin, Hazel Gaynor, Paul Fitzsimons,
Carlo Gébler, Declan Hughes, Susan Condon

#TXS2 at The Westin Hotel
November, December 2012:

Louise Phillips, Jillian Godsill, John Ivory, Maura Donaghue, Susan Condon
Louise Phillips, Jillian Godsill, John Ivory,
Maura Donaghue, Susan Condon

Susan Condon, Trish Nugent
Susan Condon, Trish Nugent

After Crime Night at the Civic Theatre
November, 2012:

533511_10151163759547911_320014214_n (1)
Susan Condon, Fergus Doyle, Trish Nugent,
Ruby Barnes, Louise Phillips

553695_10151163759772911_668106002_n (1)
Shay Condon, Susan Condon, Fergus Doyle,
Tanya Farrelly, Ruby Barnes, Trish Nugent,
Louise Phillips, Declan Kerins, Rhoda Kerins

Three Voices/Three Forms
Loose End Studio, Civic Theatre
14 November, 2012:

Susan Condon, Colm Keegan
Susan Condon, Colm Keegan

Susan Condon, Colm Keegan, Eileen Casey, Louise Phillips
Susan Condon, Colm Keegan,
Eileen Casey, Louise Phillips

Louise Phillips, Susan Condon
Louise Phillips, Susan Condon

Eileen Casey, Susan Condon
Eileen Casey, Susan Condon

Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards
Saggart Heritage & Arts Centre
November, 2012:

Susan Condon, Michael J Whelan, Doreen Duffy
Susan Condon 1st Prize Short Story
Michael J Whelan 3rd Prize Poetry
Doreen Duffy 1st Prize Poetry

Susan Condon, Michael J Whelan, Doreen Duffy
Susan Condon 1st Prize Short Story
Michael J Whelan 3rd Prize Poetry
Doreen Duffy 1st Prize Poetry

SDCC European Week Against Racism Poetry Competition
SDCC County Hall
27 March 2012:

Mayor of Tallaght, Susan Condon
1st Prize
SDCC European Week Against Racism Poetry Competition, 2012
Deputy Mayor of South Dublin County Pamela Kearns, Susan Condon

Brigid Flynn, Susan Condon
Brigid Flynn, Susan Condon

Tallaght Library Writers Group
Rua Red
August 2011:

Doreen Duffy, Orla Coffey, Tanya Farrelly, Michael Whelan, Des McInerney, Paul Tylak
Doreen Duffy, Orla Coffey, Tanya Farrelly
Michael Whelan, Des McInerney, Paul Tylak

Michael Whelan, Des McInerney, Orla Coffey, Doreen Duffy, Tanya Farrelly, Susan Condon
Michael Whelan, Des McInerney, Orla Coffey
Doreen Duffy, Tanya Farrelly, Susan Condon

SDCC Bealtaine Short Story Competition
SDCC County Hall
28 May 2010:

Susan Condon, Mayor Michael Duff
1st Prize
SDCC Bealtaine Short Story Competition, 2010
Susan Condon, Mayor of South Dublin County Mick Duff

City of Dublin VEC Creative Writing Competition
Teachers’ Club, Parnell Square
29 April 2010:

John MacKenna, Susan Condon - 1st Prize - City of Dublin VEC Short Story Competition, 2010
1st Prize
City of Dublin VEC Short Story Competition, 2010
John McKenna, Susan Condon

John McKenna, Susan Condon - 3rd Prize - City of Dublin VEC Poetry Competition, 2010
3rd Prize
City of Dublin VEC Poetry Competition, 2010
John McKenna, Susan Condon

Out and About at Writing Events:

Susan Condon, Mick Halpin, Nell McCafferty, Louise Phillips, Liam Flood
Susan Condon, Mick Halpin, Nell McCafferty,
Louise Phillips, Liam Flood
After Inspiring Crime Writers
Dublin Book Festival
The Porterhouse, Temple Bar (15 November 2012)

Louise Phillips - Red Ribbons Launch
Louise Phillips
Launch of Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips
Hughes & Hughes Bookshop (5 September 2012)
Photo by Ger at Taken by Titch

Susan Condon, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips
Susan Condon, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips
Launch of The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly
The Gutter Bookshop (31 August 2012)

Jillian Godsill, Valerie Healy, Michelle Jackson
Jillian Godsill, Valerie Healy, Michelle Jackson
Launch of The Terrace by Maria Duffy
The Clarion Hotel (2012)

Jane Travers, Susan Condon, Derek Flynn
Jane Travers, Susan Condon, Derek Flynn
Launch of The Scarlet Ribbon by Derry O’Dowd
Hodges Figgis Bookstore (10 February 2012)

Susan Condon, Joseph O'Connor
Susan Condon, Joseph O’Connor
A private Reading of Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor
at the home of Orla Coffey (13 April 2011)

Melissa Hill, Susan Condon
Melissa Hill, Susan Condon
Irish Women’s Fiction
Eason, O’Connell Street, Dublin (31 March 2011)

Dundrum Irish Crime Fiction Writers
Mick Halpin, Ann Usack, Patrick Fay,
Brian Roche, Laurence O’Bryan, Louise Phillips
Dundrum Irish Crime Fiction Writers
(only some of them and taken by me!)

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