Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Month: January, 2012

The sins of the father. An addition to the secret in his eyes, at the request of Scriptor.

Sarah O’Reilly could see the lights of the approaching car shining through the window of her modest sitting room, playing of the collection of icons and clay figurines. It was late, well past midnight yet she had stayed up waiting. She thought it was them, back from what they had to do. She hoped that it was successful, that her boy was back. She got off her chair, walked to the window and pulled over the half-opened curtains to look outside and greet them back. Instead of the welcome site of her husband’s car however, Sarah only saw a Garda car and two sober looking guards getting out. “Something had happened” she thought “Something had gone wrong”. She moved to the door, preparing to open it and find out what it was.

Milton Jones, pathologist extraordinaire. Sauntered into the hospital, ready for his usual day shift. There was usual batch of unusual cases he had to deal with, mostly agreeing with the diagnoses that other doctors had come up with. There was one unusual case though. A body, of a child. Autopsy request from Johnston in the A&E. Milton was a bit confused by this. The kid had been in a car accident, should be an open and cut case, death by trauma. What in God’s name was he doing bringing Milton into this. Talk about your overkill. Maybe those knife-jockeys in the A&E needed a little more training? He asked the orderly to pull the body from the morgue for examination. He then put on a pair of scrubs and took out his voice recorder, so that he could make notes as he worked. He then entered the exam room and got to work. “January twelfth, 9:30 AM. Patient James O’Reilly. Aged 7 years three months. Brown hair, brown eyes, approximately 125 centimetres tall, weight 30.6 kilograms. Conducting visual examination. Heavy bruising on limbs and upper torso. Skin shows signs of… Hold on a minute! What the hell!…..”

Detective William Burke did not like to talk to the pathologist. Milton was a bit of a creep, a sense of humour that bordered on the grotesque. Still he was good at his job and the report could not be considered to be lacking in details. Foul play was definitely behind James’ death. The strangulation marks were conclusive. Not only that but the burn marks on the wrists and at least two broken finger bones where indicative of the boy being tied up and beaten at least once before death. It was a sorry tale. The case itself seemed pretty conclusive as well. The father, Robert O’Reilly, was driving with the dead body of his son in the back seat. He had not called any emergency services and was not driving in the direction of a hospital or large town. This was a clear signal of guilt on his part. He was dead though, killed in a car crash moving his son’s body for whatever purpose. The secret of what he had meant to do, what was going through his mind, may well have died with him. Burke didn’t have a séance to ask him. What he did have to do was interview his widow, Sarah. Not only was he going to have to tell her that it was likely her dead husband killed her dead son, but he was also going to have to question her for as long as it was going to take about what if any other abuse occurred. Two to one she was going to cry, Burke hated when they cried.

Sarah sat in the empty interview room. She was not crying because she had no tears left. Both, her precious husband and darling son had died. It was unthinkable, and it had happened to her. And to make matters worse, they had not let her see her son’s body. Some doctor, some young thing, Jennifer something had said that there was a procedure. “What procedure? I just want to see my son!” She hadn’t liked the way the doctor was looking at her. She had ended up getting a little irate then and had to be calmed by security. She hoped that was why she was here. But she knew there was another reason. That the truth was going to come out.

-Interview with Sarah O’Reilly, room B, January thirteenth, 11.05 am. Detective William Burke, investigating. I’m sorry Mrs O’Reilly, just a formality. I want to start by offering my condolences on your terrible loss.

-You are not sorry enough to not bring in here when I should be at home preparing for the funerals

-I understand Mrs O’Reilly, the thing is certain…Issues have come up concerning the death of your son.

-What kinds of issues?

-Autopsy results have shown. I don’t know how else to say this, but that your son was dead before the car crash.


-He was dead, we have reason to believe that he had been strangled. I know that this is difficult for you but can you tell me anything about unusual activities that your husband was getting up to?

-Do you think he did it?

-My job is to find out what had happened. As your husband is dead I am going to have to ask you what you know. You were one of the last to see them alive. Was there any conflict between your husband and your son. Any fights,, arguments recently?

That was when Sarah broke down crying again. William called for someone to bring in tissues. And let her finish. Unprompted she started to speak.

-We were both religious, both loved god. But Robert’s faith was so much stronger than mine. He didn’t believe, he knew. He saw Satan everywhere. We had no television, little James was home schooled, so that he couldn’t be gotten. But we had failed. James had changed, had begun to argue, question us. Robert tried to stop him, to rescue james.

-How did he do that?

-We would tie him down for hours and Robert would read scripture to him. But he would fight us. We had to be more and more rough to keep him under control. In the end Robert was going to make one last try to free James.

-What was that? Where?

-He didn’t tell me. But it was going to be dangerous.

-Did you not think that James’ problem might have just been him acting like a child. Or maybe something medical, that a doctor could treat?

-No doctor could have saved him! It was a demon! And trying to save my son, cost my husband his life!

William had heard enough. He arrested Sarah O’Reilly and made a recommendation that she be examined by a psychiatrist. She had been through a lot, But what she had done, what she had helped was horrible. Maybe she could get the help she needed.

Sarah was still crying as she was lead to the small cell at the back of the station. Memories of her son going through her mind. How he had changed, completely, the evil words, the threats. Then finally, Roberts confession. The foolishness of youth, experimentation turning to tragedy and the pact, the horrible pact, to save face. Robert’s deal cost them their sons soul. The only hope of saving it was even more horrible. Had it been successful, she would never know. All she could do was hope.

Picture it and write: The history at our feet.

It is that time again for another picture it and write from ermilia’s blog here. Again the rules are you take the picture and write a piece about it. To reiterate, the picture is not mine. Here is my attempt. Enjoy! Joe

The history at your feet

All rocks tell a story. That’s what Professor Kelly would tell us during freshman geology lectures. I supposed we understood what he meant, in theory. But I didn’t really grasp what he was on about until we went on our third year field-trip, all the way to Tenerife, in the Canary islands.

We had all gone, figuring the three days we were going to spend actually in the field were worth the four we were going to spend on the beach and in the clubs. The first place we visited was a large mountain by the name of El Tiede, it was a Decade volcano, one to watch.

Prof. Kelly was in his element, pointing at the  various rocks and formations asking us to identify what they were. “That black stuff over there, what is it?” “Basalt Professor!” “And the grey material there?” “Compacted ash!” “And this porous rock here?” “Pumice stone professor!”

In time, we reached a ledge about half way up the volcano. There Professor Kelly bade us to stop and look out over the vista. “Remember I told you that rocks tell you a story? Tell the story of here.”

Julie, the swot started by pointing out a long streak of black going into the distance “Basalt flow! Lava eruption, slow flowing!” Prof. Kelly nodded approvingly “And what about the yellow-white region beside it?” I ventured “Pumice stone, Pyroclastic flow, fast flowing.” “Not bad Joe! Can you see anything else?” I looked, puzzled at the whitish expanse. Then something came to me “The pumice crosses over the Basalt! The pyroclastic flow happened after the lave eruption!”

“Very good!” Prof. Kelly Answered “Notice how the rest of the plain had a grey colour, what does that tell us?” Julie again “That there had been ash fall there before that!” He grinned “Exactly! So now you can see that there is a basic story here. But the rocks can tell us more! Follow me!”

We hiked back down the mountain. With the professor regaling us with how we could derive the age, and the origin of the rocks through stratigraphy and isotope analysis. “If you’re lucky” he said as he approached a small hole on the brush-filled plain, “Then you can find even smaller, almost personal tales. Look at this” We all approached the hole and looked in.

Down there was a collection of rocks, forming a square, like the foundations of a house. They looked blackened. Professor Kelly’s voice became quieter, “The rocks tell us a story. It can tell us some of their story. The ash had been falling here for millions of years, but they didn’t know that. They only knew that this place was fertile, the perfect spot to grow crops. The first eruption happened in the spring, red-hot lava travelled down the edge of the volcano, slow but unstoppable. But the miracles of topography it missed this house and they must have thanked god that they had been spared. But it was only the beginning. Five months later the volcano erupted again. Much more violently than the first time.” He pointed at the ledge we had looked out from. “A whole side of the mountain had blasted off forming s flow of millions of tons of superheated ash and rubble, travelling at over four hundred miles an hour. Straight down here.” He looked again into the hole “They must have just had time to get into their house before the flow. It would have done them no good. The roof would have smashed in in an instant. This place was found my a man digging a well nearly twenty years ago. Right there they found what might have been a meal, bread, burned to charcoal and beside it some charred bones, of at least two people. The rocks tell us their story. And what they tell us might help and prevent scenes like this happening again.”

That last line hit us like a ton of bricks. The science, the art of geology became more real, more immense then it had ever been before. All rocks tell a story. That is a line that I have kept with me ever since. And is what I tell my own students, so many years later. As I show them the history at our feet.

The secret in his eyes

It was a night unlike any other. The A&E had been practically empty, almost unheard of in all the years that Steven had been working there. No drunks filling the place, the bad weather kept people out of the pubs. They would have expected some car accidents in these conditions but everything was still. It didn’t do any of them any good and they tried to occupy their time taking care of  paperwork that had been allowed to build-up. Still, it was hard to remove the sense of foreboding that was lingering around the A&E, as if fate was planning something special for them.

About two hours into Steven’s shift there was a call at the office, there had been a crash out in the country roads, an ambulance was incoming. As details poured in, Steven and the rest of the staff prepared as well as they could for what was coming. He had seen many car crashes coming through those doors over the years so he knew it was going to be gruesome. Even those that survived ended up with horrific injuries, Steven had to steel himself.

The ambulance arrived at the entrance and Steven and his team got to work. It was a single car accident, two occupants, a man, about thirty and a boy about seven, presumably his son. The boy had not survived the crash. But as there was no doctor riding shotgun, he had to be brought to the hospital to be declared. They left him in one of the empty treatment rooms to deal with later while the team got to work trying to stabilise the man.

His chances were grim, severe trauma, numerous broken ribs bones, possible fluid on the lung, and most troublesome, the pupil response was altered, possible indication of a brain bleed, fatal if not treated. They inserted a shunt to drain as much fluid as possible from the lung and aid breathing, then sent him down to radiology, for an x-ray and hopefully answers for what to do next. One of the other doctors called the surgical registrar and gave him the patient details, if the X-ray was positive then the surgeons would have to operate as fast as possible. It had taken Steven and his team not more than twenty minutes for all that, the man was no longer in their hands.

As the rest of the A&E staff went about the rest of their duties, Steven and an intern, Jenny who needed the experience went into the empty treatment room.

The death of a child is usually an unnerving experience for a doctor, especially their first time, Steven expected her to have difficulty at least. But if you wanted to be a doctor then you have to take the good as well as the bad. Still Jenny had Steven with her. Who did Steven have?

The walked together into the examination room. There, on the bed, lay the still body of the boy. His face was greyish, blue lips, darkened eyelids and the eyes, the eyes, open to the world. It was a sad scene and Steven was almost unwilling to enter the room. They stepped in together and Steven began his examination, to check that the boy was dead. Pulse, looking for heartbeat, breath sounds and pupil response.

He was looking over the body, jenny at his shoulder, when the door opened and one of the nurses, Frances stuck her head in. “James told me to tell you that they found two bleeds in the patients brain, McCluskey and Smith are scrubbing up, they say that they’ll do what they can.”

Two bleeds, in the brain, the outlook was grim. McCluskey was good, but he couldn’t do miracles. Not a good day at all. He started up his examination again. The body was  pretty beat-up, that would be expected from a car crash. He could hear Jenny sniffling behind him, all in all she was taking it pretty well, had the makings of a fine doctor. “It doesn’t look real” She said “I thought he would look more alive”. Steven found it remarkable how often interns had preconceptions. “The patient is dead Jenny! You would expect him to be somewhat lacking in life.” Still, as Steven finished his examination he did seem to find that was something odd about this body. Something seemed off. The colour was wrong. Jenny could see that he was puzzled about something. “Is there something wrong doctor?” Steven went back over what he had been saying “How long ago was the car crash?” Jenny checked over the notes that she had one her “Crash was reported at 10:30 might have happened ten to fifteen minutes before that… about and hour and a half ago. Why?”

Steven pointed at the bruises on the boys arm. “Look at these” He poked a large bruise “Note how they feel. there is no swelling on this bruise, isn’t that odd?” Jenny looked on,  a confused look on her face. Steven pressed on “If I was to give you a thump, you will bruise, right? There will also be some swelling as the body reacts to the injury.” He pointed again at the body. “There is no swelling here.” He moved his hand over that arm and the other one “Or on any of the limbs. Do you know how the body was handled at the accident scene?” Jenny seemed to be grasping what was being suggested “They seemed to be respectful. No serious manhandling when he was brought it in. Are you suggesting that they were too rough?”

“What I am saying that these injuries were not made on a living person and unless the paramedics kicked him around before they shipped him to us then the they could have only have come from the crash.”

The young intern seemed taken aback by the suggestion “Are you saying that he was dead when the car crashed?”

Steven looked her in the eye and said “If you can explain it better, then I would like to hear it.” He leaned over the boys face, there was more bruising there, around the eyes, still open. He looked straight into them “what secrets do you hold?” he whispered.

Jenny was about to asked he had said when he called her over. His fingers where on the boys neck, feeling around the throat, “How bad a case of whip-lash would you call that?” He prodded the windpipe, it gave way. “Oh my god!” Jenny whimpered, “Could the crash have caused that?” Steven was doubtful “I have never seen it. Maybe if the seatbelt was around his neck. But there is a lot of ifs about that.”

“Are you saying that the boy was strangled? Should we tell someone?” Steven held up his hand. “That isn’t our job. Pass me the death certificate, please.” Jenny nervously passed on the form and as he filled it in, he made sure that she could see how he filled in the cause of death section ‘Unknown, recommend autopsy’. As he gave the form back he told Jenny “If  we could spot these, then Jones will in a heartbeat and more” referring to the hospital pathologist, “He’ll take it from there.”

Steven and the intern then left the room and called in a porter to transport the body to the morgue. The night picked up quite quickly, six idiots had injured themselves trying to night cycle and needed to be stitched-up, there was also a toddler who had drunk some cleaning fluid and had to get his stomach pumped. Pretty basic stuff but kept his mind off what he had seen.

At two in the morning, news came from upstairs. McCluskey and smith had tried their best but the damage had been too great, the man had died on the operating table. The Gardai had made an identification and were trying to track down his wife and tell her the bad news. “That is only the beginning” Thought Steven.

The rest of the night passed quickly enough and at six in the morning, Steven signed out and made way for the day shift. As he was changing in the locker room. He spied Jenny sitting on a bench, she had been crying, he placed a hand on her shoulder and as she looked up, nodded. It was small comfort but it made her smile, someone else understood.

As he drove home from the hospital and for some time after. Steven’s mind kept on going back to the boy, his name he had found was James O’Reilly, and to his eyes, open, dead, and filled with secrets. Just waiting to be revealed.

Picture it and write: The Offering

This my offering for this weeks picture it and write competition on Ermilia’s blog here . Again, standard rules, the picture isn’t mine I am just writing a short piece based on it. Enjoy

The Offering.

She had drawn the short straw, it was her turn to go into the mountains. Her friends and family had feasted and toasted to her success but they had left her at the start of the forest. It was only her now, she had to do this, alone. Her red dress, filled with symbolism and her basket, weighed down, swayed as she moved nervously through the trail. Up higher into the mountain, into their domain.

The forest got darker and the air more foreboding as the trail wound through the tall trees. Every now and then she could see movement in the trees, just beyond the limits of her vision, she was being watched.

As if from nowhere there it was, right in front of her, a giant wolf. It’s massive paws threading the ground, as if in waiting. It eyes, deep yellow, looking straight into hers. It knew why she was here. She steeled herself and said the words that she had been taught. She then reached into the basket and removed a lump covered in red-streaked paper, opening it to reveal the bloody, still warm, lambs liver. The wolf started to salivate as she approached, speaking the words and holding the liver in her outstretched hand. She wanted to drop it and run, but that was not how things worked. Her hand reached right to the wolf’s muzzle and it gently took in its jaws. She gingerly took her hand back and the piece of flesh disappeared into the beast’s mouth without so much as a chew. She then finished the words and the wolf responded with a howl. It was finished.

She turned to pick up the now empty basket and looked back to find the trail again empty. Her heart was still beating furiously as she set back down the trail, to the village and to her family to tell them the news. That the offering had been accepted, that they were safe again, for a while.

Misdirecting Americans

“Excuse me sir! How do you get to the book of Kells?” The long accented drawl, the shadow, the sense of impending doom. It could only be one thing. I look up. Before me was a man-mountain, hanging out of an undersized t-shirt and shorts most definitely not designed for Irish weather. What do I look like, an information kiosk? I look to him blankly and say “wot?”. He seems unfazed, the fat in his head seems to have seeped into his brain, dulling any possibility of comprehension of the annoyance in my voice. He speaks again “The book of Kells Sir. I am trying to find it, they say it is in..” He consults a guidebook, possibly pop-up, I can’t tell from this distance, “Trinity College. Can you tell me how to reach it from here please?”

I have sat here, at my stall, selling fruit and veg for donkeys years. That is what I do, my livelihood. Yet the number of times  that I have been waylaid, lost business, by some fat bollix who couldn’t read a map or follow a sign if their life depended on it. I am not saying that they are all American, I’m sure there have been some Germans, maybe the odd English as well. But it is the Americans that grate on my memory. I decide to have some fun with this one.

“Right! You’re on Moore street. Right! To get to Trinity you go down that way. Right! Make a left. Right! Go straight down the street. Right! Then make a right. Right! Go over the bridge. Right! Keep to the right on the road. Right? Then keep on going and Trinity would be on your left. Right? ”

He looks at me as if I had just grown a second head. “Excuse me!” I keep a straight face but inside I am grinning, He is biting. The protocol next is to repeat the directions verbatim, faster and in an annoyed voice. He seems confused by this, as if the directions are simple, needing only one clue for them all to fall into place. He turned and walked slowly away, he seems to have difficulty thinking and walking at the same time. Reaches the end of the street and turns, in the wrong direction. Result!!!

Misdirecting Americans isn’t the only thing I get up to on my long days at the stall. There is always giving a caramello to one of the junkies and watch him devour it. Fierce funny that is. I try to fit the odd durty reference into the speil. “Bananas! Four for a euro! Get your widow’s memories right here!” Always a good laugh. I can have a chat with the lads in the dodgy phone-shops. Listen to the local scum-bags try to sell the phone their “mother’s gave to them to sell” As if!

But I have to say, misdirecting Americans is the most fun. Not to mention misinforming them. Easily in the top ten for gullibility, just below small boys. I have told them that the spire was meant to be a giant Christmas tree, but they never got to finish it because of budget cuts. Or that leprechauns were actually a race of aggressive midgets and Irish dancing was invented to keep them at bay. I am even pretty sure that there is some woman from Texas still convinced that shamrocks glow green when you hold them and you have Irish blood. That one was a keeper.

Sometimes, you do have to feel sorry for them. Coming over here, barely a clue where they are, educated but not knowing anything. They don’t deserve the stick we give them, they only want to have a good time here. Tourism is worth an awful lot to this country, I should get into the act with the bit of Céad Míle Fáilte and be as helpful as I can.

But then, I hear. “Where can I find Templebar? The guidebook says it’s near the river but I can’t find it.” The old mind starts to whirr with possibility, the inner grin beams and I look up and say “Ah you’re real close, just keep going down that street. Now if you reached a man in a funny hat with a sign, you’ve gone too far. Make sure you hang a left before that. You can’t miss it!”

I’ll turn a new leaf next week. I promise!

Saturday Morning

“Wake Up! Wake Up!!!” John raised the blanket over his head, as if that would protect him from the incoming onslaught, he was wrong. “It’s morning! Time to get up!” He tried to hold the blanket in place but his son’s small hands were able to pull it off him, their energy easily overpowering his still half-asleep limbs. “How can someone that small be so filled with energy?” thought John before his train of thought was crushed by the combined weight of the four year old and his canine compatriot. “I’m up, I’m up!” Shouted John, his hands raised in surrender before grabbing the young boy for a revenge tickle. Only releasing him after the resulting squeals reached their prerequisite pitch. Philip ran out to get dressed, followed by the dog. Not a bad way to start the day,  mused John.

Breakfast was a short affair, they had planned to have a large brunch in the shops later. A strong tea and toast took the edge off John’s sleepiness and he watched with increasing horror as Philip chose the most processed, most sugar-filled of all his cereal selection. It wasn’t as if he needed the energy. The boy shared with the dog, one spoon for her, two for him. The vet says it wasn’t good to do that but John couldn’t bring himself to stop either. Soon enough they were finished and it was out the door.

It was a clear spring day but there was still a nip in the air. The three, John, Philip and the dog walked through their estate. John had difficulty keeping the dog in check as she kept on trying to catch-up with Philip, always at least ten steps ahead. They reached the park and John released the dog. She burst from her confines and tore through the grass making straight for Philip. The boy knew what she was after and in one fluid, lightening motion took out a ball from his pocket  and threw it at right angles to the dogs course. She curved in the direction of the ball bringing herself nearly underneath the ball as it flew above her. Then with a deft flick of her body she leaped into the air, snapping the ball in mid air. She turned to see Philip running in the opposite direction and took off in hot pursuit. Taking about ten seconds to cover the distance. Philip stopped, giggling and took the proffered ball and taking a run released it into the air. John sat on one of the benches and watched as the drama  unfolded. Mostly, Philip threw the ball like the dog asked but roughly every third time he would  hide it in his coat after a false throw. The dog went mad running up and down before sussing what had happened and going back to the then giggling boy to root out the ball. They both could have literally played for hours but there was other things to do, and while John was daydreaming he felt a sudden wallop when a ball hit his body, with the dog coming right behind. “Come on Dad!” shouted Philip, “It’s time to go!”

They exited the park and walked together further along up the road. They came to the large iron gates and Philip half walked, half ran through. John slowed, reluctant to enter only dragged through by the dog trying to stay with the boy. He had never liked to enter cemeteries especially since…

John could see Philip getting faster and faster, almost breaking into a run as he made his way through the rows of tombstones. John struggled as he tried to drag the increasingly panicked dog in the direction the boy had taken. One more look down to avoid a stone and when he turned his head up, there was no sign of him. He had already arrived.

John and the dog reached the grave and he noticed approvingly that it appeared to be in a good condition as before. The flower bed was lovingly attended with not a weed visible except for one patch. Philip was leaning, towards the tombstone, whispering, telling it his secrets, about what had happened, what he had done. John never pried into the details, Philip said it was private. He held a respectful distance, so far that the inscription on the stone was barely visible. He didn’t need to see it, he knew it off by heart.

Laura McGuinness, Born 12th march 1979, died 15th november 2007, in childbirth.

Philip finished whatever it was he was saying and lifted himself from the graveside. He put a hand into the breast pocket of his coat and removed something. It was a daisy. It was always something like that, a daisy or a buttercup or sometimes a daffodil, a placed it in the pile before the stone. Philip then walked back to John, gave the dog a hug and looked into his fathers eyes. “Do you want to talk to her?” John shook his head and said “I’m OK, I’ll talk to her later. Do you want to do get some brunch?”

With that the child raced ahead with a squeal. The dog again dragging John after him in pursuit. As he moved away he found himself looking back at the grave, slowing, more and more, until he came to a stop, lost in his own thoughts. He felt a small hand in his, looking down he saw Philip, smiling up. “It’s OK daddy, she’s watching us.” With that John grabbed his son with another squeal saying “Of course she is, because she loves us both! Now come here!” and hugging his son as close as he could. “I am hungry!” the boy said “We should go!” “Lets go to O’Briens.” Suggested John Lifting Philip to his shoulders “We can get pancakes, your favourite.”

And with that, son over his shoulders, dog at his heel, John marched through the silent rows. His saturday morning was over, time to see what was coming next.

A bit of banter

-Jaysus! That wind’ll freeze your hole off!

-It’s windy enough all right!

-Hello Shay, Jimmy.

-Howya Alan! Can we have two pints please?

-Evening Alan

-Coming right up!

-Hold on a second while I get me comfy seat!

-How’s business Alan?

-Not too bad Shay, things could be worse,. How are things with you?

-Same as always. As long as I can come down here and get me few pints every week, I’ve nothing to complain….

-Make way!!!

-Oh Jaysus!

-Ooooh! Thats better! Here Alan. You should get some proper chairs for out here, the other ones are not comfy enough!

-Why don’t we just leave a chair here for you? I can put a sign on it “Jimmy’s chair” How do you like the sound of that?

-I can tell you for a fact, that that bollix prefers going out to get the chair.

-Yeah! I do. Can’t complain if I don’t!

-Here you go gentlemen. That will be nine twenty please.

-Here you go. The moment of truth. Sláinte

-Sláinte Shay

-Oooh Jaysus,

-That was a lovely pint

-Fucking lovely that was. My compliments Alan

-Thanks Guys, your change?

-Just leave it there

-There’s ate’n and drink’n in that

-Just hits the spot,

-Howya lads!

-Anto! How is it going?

-A pint of Bud please Alan.

-Howya Anto!

-It’s fucking freezing! You could hang meat out there!

-It is indeed. Here! What are you doing here Anto? Didn’t you go away?

-I don’t want to talk about it.

-Anto was away? Where did you go?

-Listen lads…

-He told me he was going to Africa. To look at the Lions and the Tigers and shite!

-What are you talking about? Lions and tigers!

-Yeah! He was on a whatchayamacallit… A Safari.

-I don’t mean that! I mean there are no tigers in Africa. Isn’t that right Anto?

-I really don’t want to talk about it.

-Fancy that! Going on safari and not knowing if he had seen a bleeding Tiger.

-I didn’t see a bleeding tiger!

-So you were on safari then?

-I told you I don’t really want to talk about it.

-Why not Anto?

-You’re really not going to give me any peace untill I tell you about it, aren’t you?


-Probably not.

-Okay, Okay! I will


-We’re waiting!

-Well it is a little difficult to talk when you are there just looking at me.

-Do you want us to turn away?

-We can do that.

-Ah fuck off! The story was I went down to Africa with my nephew last week.

-Is that the one with the gorgeous Mot?

-Excuse me!

-The one with the blond girlfriend?

-Where the fuck did that come from?

-I’m just asking.

-Jimmy! You are wrecking my head. If you will let me continue?

-Go on!

-Thank you! Well meself and the nephew were in Africa, in Kenya..

-I thought you said Africa?

-I did! For fucks sake, Kenya is in Africa ya dozy bollix! Everybody knows that!

-I didn’t. Are you saying that I’m not with everybody else?

-I don’t think there is a shadow of a doubt about that Jimmy.

-Go on Shay! Gang up on me! You and Anto, always abusing poor old Jimmy.

-Are you finished?

-Yeah! Go ahead.

-As I was saying we went to Kenya for a safari. To see, Lions, elephants, Giraffes, the works. They put us in a great hotel..

-Did it have a bar?


-A bar, did the hotel have one?

-Jaysus! Of course it did, sold a lovely pint of Stella. But as I was saying, we were to go out in a jeep every second day.

-Why every second day?

-Let the man fucking speak, for jaysus’ sake

-Thanks Shay, it was so that they could take you to a different market and you can buy stuff.

-That doesn’t seem very nice.

-Well you don’t have to go, the hotel is very good, pool and everything.

-Any naked women?


-Any women get their knockers out?

-I can’t fucking believe this!

-I’m only asking a fucking question. Did they?

-No! It wasn’t that kind of place.

-No wonder he came back so fast!

-Yeah Ha Ha!

-If you don’t mind! We did the safari the first day, saw load of animals and the next day I went into the market and Johnny stayed in his room.

-Bit of the dehli belly?

-Yeah! Racing out of him it was.

-What was?

-Me bollix! Would you not shut-up and listen!

-Fair enough! Don’t be so bleeding aggressive.

-So I went on me own to this market. We arrived after lunch and had an hour there to walk around and buy stuff.

-What kind of stuff?

-All kinds of shite! You know? Gifts for back home. Souvenirs and stuff.

-Did you get anything for us?


-Yeah did you bring anything for us?

-Listen! You bunch of gobshites! I am trying to tell a story here.

-We are just wondering of you got us a present.

-Yeah! You know. If you care about us.

-I don’t care much for you at the fucking moment, I can tell you that.

-Listen to that Shay! Look who’s showing their true colours.

-As I was saying! We were left to walk around this market and find things to buy. Mostly it was shite, blankets and stuff. Like who needs another blanket?

-I could use a new one. Why didn’t you get it for me?

-Listen Jimmy! If you want me to finish then you are going to have to keep your fucking mouth shut!

-I was only asking why you didn’t get me a blanket.

-I couldn’t give a bollix! But I went from stall to stall, not seeing anything good. When I came to to this auld fella just sitting there with some strange looking stuff around him.

-What kind of stuff?

-Was it some fella’s dried-out mickey?

-Jaysus! Give me strength!  I wasn’t any of that kind of stuff, you bunch of perverts! It was a bunch of bowls and statues.

-Well that doesn’t sound very strange.

-Well they fucking were! Stop interrupting me!

-Well! Go on then.

-Well I was looking at these pots and I found one that I thought looked alright. So I….

-Hold on for a second. Hey Alan!

-Mother of Jaysus

-Alright Jimmy

-Can I have two pints there please?

-Coming right up!

-Okay! You can continue!

-Thank you Jimmy! You bollix! Well I took it up and asked your man how much. He said 100 dollars so I went “Fuck that” and went to put it back down. But it must have slipped from my hand and it fell to the ground, shattering.

-He must have been pissed.

-All he did was stand up, point his finger at me, look me in the eye and mumble. I was going to pay him for it but…

-There you go Jimmy, nine twenty.

-Cheers Alan, there you go, Shay this ones yours.

-Thanks Jimmy, gentleman.

-Your change Jimmy, Anto are you ok?

-I’m grand Alan, Cheers.

-Did you pay your man?


-The auld fella with the pot.

-Well I was going to but after that I said go and fuck yourself and walked off. But the thing is, I found that all the other guys at the stalls wouldn’t even look at me, they shooed me away when I went to their place. They seemed a little scared.

-I’d be scared of you as well Anto!

-Listen Jimmy. If you keep this up I will give you something to be scared of.

-Listen to Anto Shay. He’s threatening me!

-Jimmy would you let Anto speak!

-Thanks Shay. So none of those fuckers would even look at me. So I went back to the coach, then the hotel. Even then I could see some of the staff talking to each other and looking at me. I was starting to get weirded out.

-What happened next?

-Nothing much, got a good nights sleep and the next day the nephew was feeling better so we went together on safari.

-Did you see Tigers then?

-Holy mother of Jaysus! Did I not tell you there’s no tigers in bleeding Africa! In fact we didn’t see fuck all. So that evening, I went down to the bar for a few pints before me dinner. And there she was?

-Who was?

-Only one of the most gorgeous women you have ever seen. Eyeing me up.

-Did you dip the wick? Heh Heh!

-You know Shay? You have a filty mind. But as a matter of fact I didn’t. It was all going that way but I didn’t.

-Couldn’t get the horn, could ya?

-Jaysus Shay, you’re an awful dirty bollix, let the man speak.

-Well I brought her to my room and was about to get stuck in, when she said something into my ear.

-Nothing like a bit of sexy talk, go on ya boya!

-No it wasn’t anything like that it didn’t even sound like a woman.

-You haven’t been going after lady-boys again, have you Anto?

-Jaysus no, not after Thailand. This didn’t even sound human.

-So did you shite yourself?

-As soon as I heard the voice I was out. Fell to the floor. Woke up the next morning, there was a big snake beside me.

-A snake!

-Yeah a fucking snake. You know I don’t like them things, so I went and called room service. Soon as these guys showed up, they looked at the snake, then at me and started to shout.

-Were they scared of snakes too?

-It wasn’t that. The manager showed up and said that all the staff were saying that I was cursed, that the old man in the market had put some kind of hex on me and that they were going on strike until I left.

-So what did I do?

-What could I do, they told me sorry but I had to leave. I was able to get on to the travel agents and they got us on the next flight home. So that is why I am here.

-Jaysus! Anto cursed.

-I hope your mickey doesn’t fall off!

-I appreciate your concern Jimmy. But I am certain that no matter how bad it is, it can’t be as bad as being cursed to sit with you every poxy bleeding Saturday.

-That’s not fair. I like to sit with you, here give us a hug

– And the say that I am not cursed already!

Picture it and write: The Shot

Another piece for Ermilia’s Picture it and write competition from here . The piece is based on the picture and let me be clear, the picture is from Ermilia’s blog and I had nothing to do with its production. Anyway enjoy.

The Shot:

She could feel the cold travelling through her feet and up her legs. The coat, the hat were useless against the cold but she kept on persevering. She had to get the shot. She repeatedly pressed the button in the digital camera, heard the chime and inspected the results. Each time there was a problem, a shake of the hand blurred the image, or there was a flash of light, a distortion that ruined the effect. Each time she tried again. She had to get the shot. Feet numb, she checked the display one more time to find, yes! Yes! that was it, that was perfect, the focus, the reflection, perfect! She stomped her aching feet to get the circulation running again. The shuffled back inside, to the heat. To upload the photo, and to send it on.

To send it to the source of the bauble, so very far away, where the snow never falls, but never out of her thoughts.

Scents of memory (An addition to Perfume, at the request of Tricia)

Frank turned around to take his first look at the source of the heady perfume. Needless to say he was blown away. She was stunning, it was almost a pain to look at her. Frank always considered himself a reasonable man, not a believer in love at first sight but, it was either that or lust was doing impressions. The combination of the sweet smell filling the air and the effect of those soft brown eyes looking at him was almost enough to crush the faint glimmer of recognition. Well, almost. “Tracy! Is that you? It’s me! Frankie. Laura’s brother.” The wheels of memory took a moment to slide into place. When they locked she seems to grow even younger, back to the young girl of memory. “My god! Frankie! Its been years! How are you?” She made to hug Frank, but he had to stop her, Lab coat. When that and the gloves were off they embraced, her perfume completely filling his awareness. She looked him over again “You know? I could have sworn I recognised you before. From your jogging.”  Frank nodded at that. The lads often would slag him about going for a run each lunch, well look where it led now! She asked him questions, about where he had been, how was Laura? Everybody back home? What happened next came as a bit of a shock, especially to Frank but he said “That is a lot of questions, I can’t really answer them all here. Why don’t we meet for a drink this evening? Do you know McSorley’s? It’s a great place. She smiled at the suggestion and quickly agreed. Almost as an afterthought, she got Frank to do what she had come for, sign some form “I can’t believe you’re Dr Walker. That’s amazing.” As she was leaving, she stopped to give Frank her number, at which point Declan walked in, waited for Tracy to walk out and with a puzzled expression asked “Since when did you start being so smooth with the ladies?”

Frank arrived in McSorley’s a full half hour early. He found a nice snug away from the foot traffic and waited, nursing a cold pint. The place was pleasantly ticking over, some men where watching a match from the bar talking loudly. Frank tried to ignore their comments.

Suddenly the loud talking stopped. Frank looked over his seat to find what had happened only to be greeted by a vision. There was Tracy, in a floral, figure-hugging dress. Her long brunette tresses curled around her face, shining in a brilliant smile, directed at him. Frank stood up and Tracy hugged him, giving him a peck on the cheek. “It is soooo good to get out of work clothes. Isn’t it Frankie?” He swallowed and nodded his head.

They talked and talk. About the past, about home, about what they had done. Tracy, it seemed had left Mayo after school, did a night course in secretarial skills and had worked in an estate agents until the last year. The recession got her the sack from that job and after some looking she had got the post in their department. She was still new but she was enjoying herself. It was a good job and an indefinite contract, nice work if you can get it.

Frank was more reluctant to talk about his own journey. Degree, doctorate and two different post-docs seemed hopelessly mundane to him. Tracy seemed genuinely interested though. Frank sometimes wondered why to regular people, science, and scientists seemed so exciting, when the reality was usually the opposite.

Tracy became very animated when she talked about the old times back home. She could remember more about him than he did. The time he had driven all her friends out to Westport for the junior disco, the time he blagged their way into that concert in Galway with no I.D., or even the time he knocked-out that drunk who was harassing her and Laura outside the chipper. Frank admitted that all he could really remember was her as a young girl, still growing. “I’m all grown-up now! Aren’t I Frankie?” she answered back. Frank just blushed at that.

He walked her back to her apartment along the canal, they were talking all the way. As stood by her door, it seemed that they both didn’t want it to end. But it did, with a kiss, gentle but passionate, the perfect end to the night.

With that, they began to spend more and more time together, first with coffee followed by nights out and in the end, nights in. Things became official. The grapevine thought it was too soon but they moved in together, him into hers. He was only a poor post-doc after all. Things were going great, but times change.

The recession began to hit research spending. Oleg, Frank’s boss just couldn’t get the funding he used to. By the end of the year, his contract was going to be up.

Frank looked around for jobs. While industry was still hiring, there was little in the research he wanted, at least in Ireland. He tried to keep those thoughts out of his mind and kept on sending out CV’s and funding applications. His research was going very well after all.

As a last hurrah, Oleg sent Frank to a conference in Hawaii to show his results. Tracy came too, they sneakily shared a hotel room on Franks Grant. She didn’t spend all her time on the beach either. She did, after all work in a chemistry department and knew how to handle academics. It was a roaring success.

A little too successful, for near the end Frank ran into one of his heroes, Fujita Shimura from Berkley, a god in his field. He had been impressed with Franks presentation and asked for a copy of the slides as well as Franks details, “In case something comes up.” Practically a job offer from a man like him. Tracy thought he was so polite.

When Frank returned to Dublin, he found himself increasingly despairing. He loved Tracy, he knew that, but there was no opportunities for him here. If he went with Shimura, it meant half the world away, possibly forever, but the biggest break he could ever have, his big chance. Sure enough, there came a job offer, and three days to decide.

Frank bit the bullet and arranged for a heart to heart with Tracy. There was no dramatics or crying fits, that he could deal with. Just acceptance, Tracy knew how important this was, she knew him so well that it hurt him that he had to leave her.

But that was it. He accepted the offer and had two sweet months left with Tracy. They tried to make the most of them. Doing all the things that they had never done before, travelling the country, making memories. They vowed to each other that they would remain friends and try to see each other as often as they could but both thought that was just words.

On that faithful day, in Dublin Airport departures, after he had hugged goodbye to his parents and sisters, Frank came face to face with Tracy. “It was fun. Wasn’t it?” He regretted saying it right after. “It was!” she said back and the hugged, reluctantly let go and Frank walked through to security and a new life.

He as sad a first, but he was too busy to dwell on it. His career took off after the move to California and eventually Professor Frank Walker became a name both respected and admired over the world.

But he never forgot the sacrifice that he had made to get there. And for the rest of his days, whenever there was the smell of perfume in the air, Frank would pause for a minute, to savour the scent, and to remember.


Frank lifted his nose into the air and sniffed. There it was, again. That sweet, all-consuming perfume. He had been noticing it around now for a few days. He was unable to determine who was wearing that captivating scent, it really could have been anybody. This was an occupational habit of working in a chemistry lab, he supposed. The draw of the fumehoods sucked in air from everywhere else. Resident scents constantly past him as he worked. This was why he knew that Philip had brought chilli in from home again, or that Derek really shouldn’t have had that lamb madras last night. Still, as far as blow-in smells were concerned, this was pretty good, he could enjoy this. He let the soft, fruity, aroma caress his senses as he continued his work.

He wondered who would wear it. It was strong, but not overpowering. You’d notice it, but it didn’t lead you gasping for breath. This was a woman who was confident, but not so much that she would go out of her way for attention. It seemed to have a natural feel to it, possibly made with natural oils, organic type crap, or a good imitation. She was used to the finer things. Expensive tastes, at least in perfume. If anything, the scent, while it was made of a number of components he could recognise, was mixed together in a way he had never experienced before. This was either rare, or possibly, made to order. Either case struck of a strong sense of individuality. Was she the same in other aspects of her life? Who could tell?

Frank shook himself out of his thoughts in order to add some more acid to his reaction. He grinned a little, why did he take that grad-course on perfumery? They hadn’t even taught the ability to analyse what people around him were wearing, but somehow he had found out a way to do that. Perfumes told you a lot about a person, at least so Frank thought. Besides, what is the point in learning a new skill if you were not going to use it?

The sharp tang of the acid quickly dissipated and the perfume returned, if anything, stronger than before. He breathed it in more and continued his deductions. Was it someone new here? Was it someone who had been here a while? No one wore anything like this before, but that was before. Was this a new perfume, for a new life, a new direction? The idea had merit.

If it was a change, was it her own doing? Could it have been a gift? Perfume was too personal, something you really couldn’t trust to someone else. But then, how often have we gotten gifts that we didn’t really want? Was this a present from aunt Myrtle she was wearing, just to keep her happy? If it was something she wanted, then that had to be someone close. Right? A boyfriend, a husband, maybe a close friend.

The possibilities were endless. The guessing could go on forever. All Frank really knew, is that he liked the perfume. All else was irrelevant to him, standing by his fumehood, waiting for the next addition.

It was nice to imagine though, who she was, what she looked like, the possibility inherent in a new meeting. It lifted his soul almost as much as the sweet perfume was. He breathed in deeply again. My, it was really getting strong now. Was he imagining that?

At that, Frank heard the door of the lab open and Declan’s voice shouting “Hey Frankie! I have someone here who is looking for you!” then more quietly “He’s in over there.”

The smell of perfume grew exponentially, it saturated his nostrils, almost over powering him. A light, voice came from behind “Excuse me, Doctor Walker. Can I have a word with you?”

So here it was, the moment of truth. Frank had all of these theories about the perfume, who she was, what was her story. He turned to look at her, to answer her question, the last thought in his mind “Time to put it to the test.”