Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Month: April, 2013

An Opportunity

“Ladies and Gentlemen. I know that some of you are sceptical, some of you think that this will do you no good. Well; in a way you’re right. For only you can make your own destiny only you can bring yourself success.

“You see; inside each one of us is a door, a door that opens to your inner selves and allows you to reach your full potential. I can’t open that door for you, only you can. Only you can find the inner strength that makes anything possible”

It continued on like this, the sharply-dressed man spinning his wisdom while the crowd listened, enraptured. Well; all the crowd except for Jimmy and Anto, up in the gods. Jimmy was long-term unemployed and Anto was skivving from work in solidarity. A friend had bought Jimmy tickets to hear the talk in hope of forcing him to do something with his life. Jimmy saw it as an excuse to have a few drinks with Anto. Together they sat, each with a can of cheap beer in his hand, talking to themselves.

“Hey Anto!” Jimmy whispered, loud enough to get looks from other listeners “Do ye have any idea what this gobshite’s talking about?”

“Not a clue!” Anto replied between sips “Near as I can tell he’s been talking for twenty minutes but still hasn’t said anything.” This got a shush from two rows down that the pair made it a point of ignoring.

“It seems to me!” Jimmy pontificated as he placed another empty under his seat “That this guy is just being paid to look good in a suit and spout any old bollix to whoever is thick enough to listen.”

“You’re right there Jimmy!” said Anto to keep in the conversation.

“I bet you that anyone can do this!” Jimmy raised his new can “There’s always plenty of thick people around. I bet that even I could do it!”

“Are you sure about that?” Asked Anto; smelling another scheme

“Sure! Watch me!”


Written for Trifecta Week Seventy-Five


Picture it and Write: Something More

Hi there! This my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy!

Something More

We grew up on an island. Just a barren, underpopulated rock sitting on the edge of a vast ocean. Some of us were able to make a meagre living from the ocean or by coaxing plants to grow in tiny fields. The vast majority of us; when we came of age, were forced to abandon the island and turn our backs to the ocean, heading for the mainland and its cities. With all of our friends and relatives on the mainland it was only natural that our minds would also turn in that direction, eager for news and the slow trickle of supplies and money we kind of neglected the other direction. All accepting that is was for all our purposes the end of the world, all except for Gus.

Gus only had eyes for the ocean. Every chance he had he would sit at the headlands and look out over the ocean as if trying to take it all in with his eyes. When chatting with us all Gus would talk about was what was on the other side of that vast expanse of ocean. We knew of course that there were nations and millions of people out there but growing up in such an enclosed, parochial world we never really grasped it, it was just too big for us. Gus; on the other hand acted like it was all just over the horizon.

“Joe!” I remember him telling me once “I think I’ve figured it out!” He pointed his hand slightly off center  out over the ocean “If you were to get into a boat and go straight in this direction after about 10 days you will come to a city with over twenty million people. Can you imagine that many people? All just milling around! It would be some sight to see!” Of course we would always ask him “How would you get a boat? There is no way they’ll let you loose with one for a scheme like that. What if you ran into a storm?” He would take in what we would say and continue to make his plans regardless. 

Time passed on and we all grew up. I moved to the mainland ostensibly to learn the family business of medicine but in reality to become a writer. Gus on the other hand stayed yet he could find no boat to take him west or steady work to keep him. He became insolated, an outcast, reduced to begging for what little the rest had to give, doing odd-jobs to try and pay his way. Still the lure of the ocean called him and it was at the headland that I found him, in a much reduced state, after I returned many years later.

“Joe!” he exclaimed when I made my presence known “You came just in time! This place has gotten too small for me! I think I might leave it.” I thought he meant the mainland and started broaching the subject of offering him a place to stay with me until he got on his feet but he shushed me. “You think this is it, this is all there is. But you are wrong. There is something more, so much more to the world than you know. I want to go and find it!” And with that he threw himself off the headland  and into the depths below.

I was in such shock I don’t know how I was able to make it to the edge to look down. The splash was already dissipating but I could the figure of Gus slowly starting to swim out to sea. We were alone and the nearest help was half-way across  the island but I felt for a moment that I couldn’t abandon Gus. I tried to call to him, force him to turn around but it was no use, he just kept going on.

Realizing I was useless where I was. I started running to get help, looking back as I went to make sure I could get a good idea of his bearing. The last sight I got before the sea went from sight was the image over the calm waves of Gus’ head, bobbing steadily in his forward motion.

This was the last that I, or anyone else saw of Gus, he was never found. I went back to the mainland and as my fame grew I was given the opportunity to travel across the ocean and visit the many lands and cities that until then were only manifest in Gus’ words.

Often on my visits I would stop and watch the crowds pass by, imagining somehow that I might see Gus’ face in the throng, happy, like I became, to know, as he had always said, there was something more.



Horoscopes 9

Capricorn (22 December-20 January): You know love is a funny thing. But with you it is also sick, twisted and probably illegal. The odds are even on the anatomical aspects too.

Aquarius (21 January-19 February): They say the whole world is a stage and we the actors in it that would explain how everything you say seems so damn contrived.

Pisces (20 February – 20 March): You said you always wanted a body to die for and now you will when you’re turned into a zombie next week.

Aries (21 March – 20 April): You may not be an oil painting but that doesn’t stop you dissolving away when turpentine is thrown on you tomorrow.

Taurus (21 April – 21 May): You will find happiness with a new love. Yes! A man can love a vintage motorcycle. Let no one judge you.

Gemini (22 May – 21 June): We live in a world that is always changing and leaves little constants to hold on to. That makes your habit of always getting drunk and making out with Janice from accounts so important. Carry on the tradition!

Cancer (22 June – 23 July): You, matches, and a bottle of kerosene. You know that’s going to end badly without the stars having to tell you.

Leo (24 July – 23 August): The stars regret to inform you that they lost your prediction for this week. They swear it was around here somewhere but it has just disappeared. They can’t remember what it was but they think it was important and might involve an act of violence and some ferrets. They’ll get back to you as soon as they find it.

Virgo (24 August – 23 September): Your penchant for double entendres will be you undoing when you die from exhaustion after passing through a sausage merchant’s convention.

Libra (24 September – 23 October): You’ve loved, you’ve lost and all you have to show for it are some tales, some scars and a big pile of money. You’ve done well.

Scorpio (24 October – 22 November): You took a hell of a beating but you were willing to do anything to be named ‘Johnstons ugliest employee’ three years running.

Sagittarius (23 November – 21 December): Monday to Friday will be a nightmare of monsters both from without and within but you will have waffles on Saturday so that will make everything feel all right.

A Night Out

The night out in any club begins at 11 when the doors first open. First in there is usually the regulars, perpetual partiers who make it their business to be in first so that they can look, or be looked at. The DJ usually starts with a light set, nothing too fancy, just enough to make sure that everyone is comfortable. And they are; they spend their time chatting, getting to know one another.

Between 11:30 and midnight as the regular pubs close the club fills with punters, some who are very, very drunk and the club becomes a hive of shouting wavering throngs. The DJ senses the change in mood and plays music with more of an up-tempo but still no dancing.

Until one person; there is always one, starts to bust a move like a turkey vulture learning to fly. Shaking their limbs with wild abandon they dominate the dance-floor.

This is the catalyst. The rhythmic swaying spreads throughout the whole club like wildfire. The DJ keeps everything going with catchy dance-tunes that sends everyone into a frenzy.

As the night ploughs on; a curious thing happens. People become more in sync as the music gets simpler, more primal. Soon it is only a beat and the crowd sways in ecstasy to it. It’s no longer separate people but a mass, moving together. Incidentally this is the time where people are most likely to hook-up as reason goes out the window and passions run high.

Alas time and licensing laws wait for no man and when the clock approaches half-two in the morning the DJ is forced to switch to a slower set, to drag everyone back to the abyss.

Ending with the national anthem. The lights are turned on and the revellers are forced to abandon their posts and head out into the dark early morning, heading to their own home, maybe someone else’s. The one thought on their minds, how were they now going to top such a wonderful night out.


Written for Trifecta week seventy-four.

Picture It and Write: Mementos

Hi There! This is my offering for this week’s Picture it and Write from Ermilia’s Blog here. Once again the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway; Enjoy!


They say our faces, our whole bodies, tell our story, that each crease and line and scar is a testament to what we had to go through to get where we are. In the case of Janet Smyth the story on her  body was of a more unique sort.

From an early age Janice had been fascinated by tattoos. Maybe it was her grandfather, who sported a large anchor on his bicep and would use it to start off tales from when he travelled the world. Maybe it was simply the beauty of colour against skin. Whatever it was on her sixteenth birthday Janice rushed to the tattoo parlour to sample her first taste of ink.

Janice had put a lot of thought into what she was going to have. A tattoo was going to be there for a long time after all so she had to be sure that she was going to like it, appreciated it years down the line. She thought that the then current trend of eastern lettering to be too pretentious and far too open to the chance of a mistranslation. She rejected words as being too bland. And Celtic symbols were far too common. Instead she thought she would go with an image, something beautiful in its own right but which would have a meaning for her, a memento of the time she had it done.

She started small, a bird on her ankle, bursting into flight as a symbol of her taking her first strides of independence from her parent’s control. It was her first true act of defiance. Definitely something worth commemorating.       

To say that Janice’s tattoo was greeted with trouble at home would a gross understatement. There was shouting, demands to have it removed followed by a grim acceptance that could devolve into catty comments at anytime. It was in fact such a tumultuous time that she decided that her next tattoo would commemorate it. A series of Koi pools with water falls flowing from one to the other, showing life can be both calm and rough at times.

It went on like that. Butterflies symbolised her final emergence into adulthood, a piece of driftwood on the ocean showed how she felt when working in the real world for the first time. She used a fallen cherry blossom to remember her grandmother, a subtle anchor in its folds showed how close her grandparents had been. A flower, first blossoming and then withered showed the change of a relationship first from beautiful beginning to rotten end. The tattoos grew in number and each told a story.

In years to come, when she was alone, Janice would sit and look at the stories on her body. Sometimes she would need a mirror to see what was there, to appreciate it fully. But that was alright. Each image brought back a flood of memories, the mementos opening new doorways to her past. Not all of them were good but they were her stories, her life, her way of telling them.



Good To Go

Francis inserted a fresh battery and checked the charge.

His rover was ready again; something of a miracle considering it was over a century old.

A long time searching the wastes.

Searching for what was lost.


Written for Trifecta Trifextra week sixty-four

Keep Going

Ben and his daughter Susan made their way along the abandoned road. There was no one else. No signs of life at all. Even the grass alongside the road was slowly dying, just like everything else they had come across before. This was a dying world, but Ben had Susan to take care of, he had to keep going.

As they walked under the smokey-dark sky Ben’s eyes darted around trying to pick out anything suspicious. So far there had been nothing. This was a good thing, the last time they had met other people it did not end well.

Occasionally they would find cars left standing there on the road, out of fuel and abandoned. Ben would leave his daughter well back while he would investigate, just to make sure that everything was clear, and if there might be anything worth scavenging.

It was behind one such car that Ben found him. Coming around he saw the boots first; as if waiting in ambush. Ben waved at Susan to hide and took out his gun. Whatever he was going to find; Ben would be prepared for it.

He needn’t have worried. The body was long dead, there was no colour left on skin draped over bones. A quick glance told Ben what he wanted to know. They body had not been stabbed or shot from the looks of it, that meant there was not anyone liable to shoot or stab them in the vicinity, for now. It seemed like it had just collapsed there from exhaustion and hunger, common enough causes of death now.

The body itself had nothing useful on it, even the clothes it had died in were so rancid that Ben couldn’t bring himself to touch them. Instead he left it where it was and calling to Susan quietly he directed her around so she could not see and headed back down the road. They had a lot of ground to cover before nightfall. They had to keep moving.


Written for Trifecta week seventy-three.

Doctor Joe: Agony Uncle 12

Doctor Joe: Agony Uncle, the final stop to sort out your problem*

Dearest Doctor Joe,

All my friends have been eating on my nerves to start dating. I’m not the stereotypical librarian with the demure pearls and bland sepia outfits. But it seems like something is wrong with me or it might be my habit of randomly quoting lines from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and correcting grammatical mistakes.
The girls roll their eyes at this and threaten to chain me down and drag me shopping and man hunting. There must be something I can do before they carry out the threat (as they’re apt to do!).

Hesitant and hightailing Librarian.

Dear Hesitant and Hightailing Librarian,

I am saddened to hear about your problems with dating. While I may question their methods I cannot argue with the fact that you are missing out on a wonderful opportunity.

Let me break it down for you. As you claim to be able to quote Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings you have revealed yourself as that most elusive of creatures the female nerd or nerdette if you will. Male nerds, of which there is a gross abundance, dream about finding a woman who can quote line after line from their favourite program or movie in fact it is a must (I divorced my second wife over a Firefly misquote; I think it was harsh but fair). These are the kind of men who would suit you, the kind who would follow you to the end of the Earth. I’m going to tell you how to exploit that.

What the average nerd lacks in style, looks or rudimentary social skills they more than make up in that most elusive of qualities, potential. Yes! a nerd is far more likely to strike it rich through the judicious use of their technology skills or in-depth knowledge of mathematics. By getting them early Hesitant you have a chance of striking it rich, and in the mean-time you can ensure that all your tech-support gets done for free.

Of course for any given population of nerds maybe only one or two will eventually strike it lucky. How can you know which one to go for? You don’t Hesitant but this is where dating nerds comes into its own. These socially inept magicians of the keyboard will be so wrapped up in their own world that you will be able to keep several of the most promising ones on the go at the same time, there is no chance they’ll see you with one of the others, you’ll probably hardly ever see them yourself.

Of course if you don’t want a nerd for a boyfriend and instead want someone “normal” and are concerned about scaring them off with your nerdiness don’t be troubled, all you have to do is shut the hell up and you’ll get on just grand.

Whatever course you decide the very best of luck.

Take care,
Doctor Joe

*Editors Note; it is amazing how low people will sink when they are desperate.

To read more of doctor Joe or to ask your own question just click the link here.

Picture It and Write: Fallen

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway; Enjoy!


I am amazed how quickly it happened. For years I was on top. Captain of the team. The most beautiful girlfriend in the town. Loved and admired by all. Who’d have thought it was built on sand?

I’d have to say; it appears that a great many people must have resented me behind closed doors. I am amazed now many of my so called “friends” have abandoned me, they now spit at me when I walk past them. How many formerly adoring fans now refuse to serve me in the store. As if anything has really changed.

But everything seemingly has. Their star is a “Faggot!” They cheered on a “Queer” all those years. As if they were tainted by my contagion. They look at me as a pariah, like nothing I did before matters.

Though that is nothing compared to the ire of my teammates. If I revealed myself to be Satan himself I don’t think they would have been any less angry at me. I got into a few fights. But that is not so much, I am still one of the biggest guys on the team. It is usually more subtle. The odd comment or word scrawled onto my locker.

What really shocked me was Jason, formerly my best friend. We used to be as close as could be until at a party last week we got drunk and I told him how I really felt. Everything then changed in an instant. The hatred in his eyes has been palpable since then. I’m not absolutely sure who spread the news about me but I just know he had something to do with it.

In fact the only person who has treated me with anything close to normalcy has been Melissa. In private at least. In public she has acted very much the hurt martyr. But that is an act, it has always been an act with her.

I’m walking back to my locker; it probably has ‘Faggot’ written on it again or maybe they will have something more inventive this time like ‘Sodomite’, the preacher taught them that one, but they can’t get me down. I may have fallen but I am still higher than all of those bottom dwellers.

And I am not alone. I knew that from yesterday when I opened my locker and I found the note slide under the door. I thought it was going to be more abuse and was about to throw it out when I took a look. It was only a few words, a short sentiment but it made all the difference.

Hang in there. We’re with you.

At Peace

Grandfather fought until the end. Everyday was a struggle, a fight to wake up, an endurance trial to move his limbs, a marathon to cross the room. He had been fighting as long as I knew him. He had lasted longer than most but the writing was on the wall. No matter, the fight, no matter the fancy new weapons used . It was soon going to end. He never let on, never told us anything, never said how much it hurt or if he was scared. He was a fighter and fear was for wimps. He tried to carry on as much as he could until right to the end. Didn’t know he had gone until the call from the hospital. We visited him in dribs and drabs.
He had been so defiant that I was surprised to see the look on his face. Features that had for so long been a beacon of resistance had instead mellowed. He looked contented almost happy, as if a great burden had been shifted off his shoulders. In essence it had. The last decades of Grandfather’s life had been a great battle. But that was over now. He could finally rest. He was at peace.

All life’s a struggle
A constant war to survive
In death we find peace

Written for the Ligo Haibun Challenge