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March 13, 2018 / hbrowne4

Don’t Forget Your Shovel By Brid Mary Harnett

“Don’t forget your shovel,” Said Davey. His parting message after every coffee house meeting. Mind you, Harry would banter to warn anyone who did not go for coffee that they would be talked about, up and down and into running commentaries, embellished with an appreciated severity. But the shovel could never dig deeply enough at these sessions and Baile Atha Cliath needed more than a few excavations to sort out the failed HAP scheme, the homeless, Gilly and his Strongbows and visiting peers, the Jack of Nines and the knaves and the interfering others wearing heavy personal agendas.
Even USIS were strung out as Mortimer ordered one of them up to Christ Church to take out the spells deliberately put there to cause strife in the Lower Mount Street Communities and all the way up the Canal Bank. He had called together a whole team of Muslims to investigate the kampunga in the middle of O’Connell Street. There it happened as the Muslim Sisters of Eire served the tea and the coffee to the gracious thanks of the homeless, as Tommy leaned on his crutch and looked out from beneath the canopy of the GPO, the god side of the street. The sound sort of fire crackered out of a flower pot, raspy like a fire cracker, like the snap of a dry twig underfoot in the autumn forest.
Staring out of our eyes we all were as we watched the homemade incendiary device mushroom unsuccessfully out of the flower pot plant. It was like a blown raspberry in the night, without a sting!
The Sisters stood gob smacked, in line with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Scientologists at the proceedings across the road. In fact, most of the leaflets blew away in the aftermath.
“Get up O’Connell Street,” Said Mortimer to his newly formed USIS group. Investigate that!”
Well, USIS took on Dublin with a new mission, the mission to keep Dublin free from incendiary devices, in fact, manifest dirt of any kind, pollutants et al.
This would mean that the garbage would have to be checked every morning of course.
“USIS, it would be good of you.” Said Mortimer. And so, they roamed the streets in the mornings and in the evenings checking the bins. They even linked up with RIngzer in Ringsend. They had to do that because Mortimer said that if Trumpty’s submarine off the coast of Dun Laoghaire mismanaged any more intelligence that he would send the entire team to hell or to Connaught, bungalows or no bungalows.
Now USIS weren’t so happy about that, because RIngzer had taught his mob to download perpetrators on app. This was far too much for Aesop of Geralyn’s creation. Mortimer insisted that Tilly stay on board since Tilly had links with everyone, including the Mastermind Conchubhar, who had taught her how to hex a person between two words. I can tell you right now that there were more than a few heated exchanges between Tilly and Mortimer.
In the meantime, Tommy was complaining about his cup of coffee. Apparently, I had put too much sugar in the cup and he was ready to go off the deep end. Sure, his nerves were nearly shot after the kampunga and the rubbish people had left after them on the street.
“I have to sleep here,” He screamed. Keep the street clean!”
Yet another homeless man came out and complained that the only soft drink available was Budda sparkling water, which he pointed out was derogatory to Muslims in Rohingya.
“I’m Muslim,” He said.
“Funnily enough,” I said, ‘’I am Muslim too. That is the reason I dress like this. Don’t let these blue eyes fool you! But sorry, I didn’t notice the logo on the can!”
Strange happenings of a Friday evening, but fodder for next Saturday’s coffee house discussion.
Let’s hope the Unions won’t interfere with the shovel action.
And sure if they do, Pat will have a lot to say about that….

March 13, 2018 / hbrowne4

Bright Eyes Burning Like Fire by Stephen Brady

He wanted her job, and it would be easy enough to discredit her.
Dermo had worked at Super Burger for three months, and he felt he had the measure of the place. He was on sanitation detail, but he knew that he was destined for greater things. His uncle had once been three numbers away from the Euromillions Jackpot. He was Alexander, he was Caesar, he was Muhammad Ali. He was Conor McGregor and the Pope, in a single skinny frame. And he was sick up to his back shite of mopping floors and swabbing out toilets. No… Dermo was marked for something higher. He wanted to be Supervisor.
The only problem was Tracy. She held the Supervisor’s role in a death-grip, clasped to her flat bosom in nicotine stained fingers. Tracy was short and thin and wore her oily hair in a fascist ponytail. She wore the keys to the breakroom on her belt like a prison Governess. She was the only one allowed look at the CCTV. They’d even given her a walkie-talkie.
“Skinny bitch,” Dermo would mutter as he dipped his mop in the wheelie-bucket for the billionth time. “Bleedin’ jumped-up spotty no-arse look-at-me-I’m-the-goddamn-bleedin’-queen-o-Europe bloody stuck-up wagon.”
And sometimes, as she patrolled the tills and frystations with an imperious eye, she would catch him staring at her. His wasted frame propped on the mophandle, the air between them thick with professional resentment.
“Yew!” she’d shriek. “Get back ta work! You’re not in FAS now, ya prick! Get moppin’ or you’re goin’ on report again!”
And sullenly, Dermo would comply.
As the weeks wore on, his obsession became to de-throne the High-and-Mighty Tracy by any means, and snatch the Supervisory crown for himself. And one weekend, after a thirteen-hour marathon of Miami Car Thief on the X Box, Dermo concocted his plan.
The key was that everything which happened at Super Burger was Tracy’s responsibility. If anything went wrong, it was on her head. All he had to do was concot some catastrophe, and lay it at her door.
And once decided on this course, the instrument presented itself.
Dermo was cycling through the park when he met Reggie. It was his day off, and he was en route to the canal to drink 9 cans of Bavaria and smoke some Camberwick Green. But when he spotted Reggie, the ten-speed ground to a halt.
Reggie had once been a squirrel. He had met his demise at a spot beside the bike path. The birds hadn’t gotten to him yet. But poor Reggie had started down the sorry path to decomposition.
Dermo got off his bike and went over to Reggie. He eyed the corpse, deep in thought.
Poisoned, maybe. Or he might have choked on something. Some kids might have fed him a screw in a handful of nuts. Dermo had done stuff like that, before he became a model citizen. But the cause of death was not germane. This was the answer, and he knew it. Dermo scooped Reggie off the ground and dropped him in his bag.
The next time Dermo sauntered into work, he brought his new friend with him. He changed into his uniform, and, stealthily, conducted Reggie into the prep area. It was early and the place was quiet. Tracy was nowhere to be seen. But the deep fryers were on, and the oil already bubbling. Dermo took his Liverpool scarf and draped it over the CCTV camera. Then, with a quick glance around, he produced Reggie, and dropped him in the oil.
“Godspeed, ya little bollix,” he hissed. It was to be poor Reggie’s only valediction.
The other staff appeared and began to shuffle through their duties. They were mostly undernourished stoners like Dermo, and barely registered his presence. Tracy had appeared, and was patrolling around giving out yards. Dermo looked down into the shimmering oil where his little friend was crisping up nicely. An evil grin spread across his features. Wait, he thought. Just bleedin’ wait. Some prick’ll order a main o’chicken and get battered squirrel instead. And I’ll be the King o’this kip.The bleedin’ King.
He returned to the mop and bucket with a spring in his step. As he swabbed the tiles he kept one eye over his shoulder. He watched Tracy stalk her kindgom, with her walkie-talkie and her keys. It was only a matter of time.
And finally, like a vision from on-high, a fat fuck in a Pokemon cap rolled up and bellowed for a fried chicken Super Meal with a Fanta.
Dermo cackled sourly. He watched as the prep staff assembled Fatso’s order. A particularly large and oddly-shaped lump was lifted from the fryer and deposited on a tray. The crew put french fries and a Fanta on the tray, and handed it across to Fatty. The customer waddled over to table, collapsed on a chair, and began to feed his face.
Dermo lingered by the counter. He didn’t want to miss a thing, now his hour was at hand.
Two minutes later, the fat fuck sent up a blood-curdling howl.
“Here! Here! What the fuck!”
Tracy shot over to the table. Mr Pokemon, batter and Fanta smeared across his bosoms, was gesticulating wildly. “What the fuck! What the fuck!”
“Sor,” said Tracy, “please keep yer voice down. Wha’ seems ta be the problem?”
Mr Pokemon yelled, “This is a rat! A bleedin’ rat! I ordered a Super Fried Chicken Meal! An’ you give me a battered rat! What the fuck!”
Dermo cackled. The holy keys and the hallowed walkie-talkie were almost in his grasp.
“Sor,” whined Tracy, “We value yer feedback. If you’ll just lower yer voice, I’m sure we can, eh… come to an arrangement?”
“I want vouchers,” said Mr Pokemon sullenly.
“O’course, sor, o’course. We’ll give ye vouchers.”
Mr Pokemon poked the squirrel with an oily finger. “I mean, it wasn’t bad like. Just wasn’t what I ordered.”
Tracy provided the fat fuck with a whole book of half-price vouchers and another Fanta. And that appeared to defuse the crisis.
Dermo retired to the corner, sulking bitterly. His chance at the Supervisory crown was evaporating before his narrow, hateful eyes. He watched as Mr Pokemon palmed his vouchers and, after a meditative belch, resumed eating. You just couldn’t rely on people these days.

March 13, 2018 / hbrowne4

Earth Turn By Judy Moloney

The earth breathes
When waves shatter
And rake back the medley stones
On Killiney beach
Where we go to remind ourselves
Of the rhythms of water and light.

The earth breathes
When morning light appears
To break dark fast
Heating our frail bodies
Waking from mini coma
To stumble
Into day fray.

The earth breathes
When petals open
Their colourful faces
Leaning towards light
Bees gather nectar
Humming their summer lullaby
Of life’s short lease.

The earth breathes
When jackdaws bustle
And cawk in the beeches
Jostling for space
While bats use dusk
To flit fly
Catching midges on the wing.

The earth breathes.
It turns.
We live another day.

March 11, 2018 / hbrowne4

Grand Canal first night on the boat. Ronnie Moore

Michael and John were good friends by marriage as it were, John was married to Michaels sister and they had become friends over some forty years, Michael had bought a fibre glass boat shaped in the style of a caravan and he had spent the last summer repairing the interior and removing the old engine . He had made great progress with his repairs and asked John if he would go down to the boat with him to on Saturday to help him clean out his tools and pieces of wood and items he had used for repairing his boat. The idea was to tidy the boat from a workshop project to look more like a boat for the start of the boating season which generally starts on St Patrick’s weekend, when his wife the ‘Memsahib‘ and his children would wash and shine the boat and fit all those little bits and pieces that make it a home from home.
When they arrived on Saturday the boat was on the bank of the canal among a colourful collection of other boats.
The canal had a boatyard on the other side of the canal with about two hundred boats. The boatyard was in Lowtown just past the village of Robertstown in Kildare. It was a very busy and significant junction when the canal was at its peak in the 18’ hundreds when the waterways were the main means of heavy transport to and from the small town and the cities and their sea harbours. Michael’s boat was a small cruiser of 23 ft and looked very like a caravan with a wide flat hull

The wide hull was essential in order to avoid the boat moving too much when someone boarded the boat and spilled the Memsahib’s glass of wine.

They tidied out almost all of the spare parts and Mike’s tools then they fitted the outboard engine that Mike had collected from the service mechanic and connected it to the back of the boat.
Most of the morning was spent talking and they had a pleasantly long lunch with Mary and Peter who were tiding their boat next to Mike’s boat.
Theirs was a 27’ Seamaster and they had their gas cooker connected to boil some water for tea.
Mike and John had bought some sandwiches on their way to Lowtown So they brought them over to have for lunch.
The tea tasted particularly well as it always does after a little work and drinking it outside in the fresh air.

The conversation turned to what they might be doing later Mary asked Mike and John if they would be staying overnight and going for a drink later as she planned to go with Peter and some other friends later that evening.
After lunch they finished putting the working gear into Mike’s car and spent some time dusting and washing inside the boat to clean away the heavy dust as the finer washing and polishing would need the supervision of the Memsahib to do this properly.
Peter called over with a pot of tea “for the workers “ he said to announce his arrival, The three of them sat discussing the canals and interesting things they had seen and done while on the canals and the waterways.
The talk then turned again to the Barge pub which was a short walk from the boat to just pass the lockkeepers house.
They all agreed that there was enough sleeping bags and mattresses for Mike and John to stay. And so it was that they decided that it was just a matter of calling home to see if they could get the necessary passes to stay over night.
Peter went back to his boat and mike and John telephoned home. Mike went outside to call and John stayed inside the boat.
They were both successful and they would get to spend the first night on the boat although it was on the bank of the Grand Canal.


February 22, 2018 / hbrowne4

Return of the Starchild Extract by Catriona Murphy


For a moment, none moved. An uneasy, anticipating silence settled over the courtyard. Something else came from the sky this time, something massive, bulky and black. A chunk of concrete smashed into one of the tower’s steps, crushing faeries beneath its hulking structure. Dust and debris spewed everywhere from the rocks implosion. Part of the tower disintegrated and collapsed into chunks. Some bounced outwards like footballs, crushing more faeries. They howled and trampled over one another to get away from the concrete’s terrible path that left more destruction and carnage in its wake.
Iliana looked at what had been thrown in.
It was the drawbridge, now leaning in a lopsided upright position against the tower. She could hear the cackling and crinkling of rock raining down amongst the smoke of dust, which rippled throughout the courtyard. It washed over Iliana’s skin, leaving a thin film of dust, making her look like a bomb attack victim.
Iliana looked down at her greyed hand, and turned it over into a fist.
All she had been doing her whole life was just surviving, surviving through the daily turbulence at home, surviving through school and exams and competitions. She felt done with living in the lowest tier of existence; living to just survive. Living out of fear.
Iliana ignored the soldiers pointing their weapons at her and stared at the Xinger. She stared at it the way she was told to stare at her opponent before sparring. It was to project fearlessness and strength. Old habits die hard.
From the crowd, a familiar face pushed his way through.
‘Out of my way!’ Sires exclaimed, as he broke into the circle. He gawked at Iliana and Clio like they were an apparition from the faerie forest.
‘Iliana! Great goddess, is that you? Where have you been?’
‘Not in the Black Spot with those slavers I can tell you that much,’ she responded. Her eyes stayed on the Xinger, whose head was now tilted in her direction. She knew it sensed her, and it doubled its efforts in bringing down the portcullis. Boom after boom echoed in the already cacophonous courtyard; the faeries squealing rose a few octaves.
Sires hugged her, catching Iliana off guard. ‘You have no idea how glad I am to see you girl.’
‘The Xinger,’ Iliana started.
Sires turned and gestured to the guards to lower their spears. His face was streaked with green blood and Iliana’s forefinger moved of its own accord to wipe it. A rage seeped into her bones that she didn’t know was there before.
‘It’s here for me.’
‘Aye,’ he said forlornly, ‘it came back through another arch before his majesty could stop it. Followed us here,’ he looked at her, ‘looking for you. Your timing is—’
‘Perfect.’ Iliana looked around slowly at the petrified faces of women and children, their large purple eyes filled with a fear they didn’t deserve. The unjustness of it pushed her rage higher.
‘Open the portcullis.’
Sires gaped at her. ‘What? Are you mad girl?’
‘These people are dying because of me – look at your face, Sires! It wants me, and if it wants me, it can have me.’
Clio roared in agreement, incisors and teeth showing wide enough for families to stare into his throat. The soldiers whipped their spears back up at the beast.
‘This ends now,’ she hissed. The words had more impact said aloud than merely echoing in the confines of her mind.
She pushed past Sires, who stared after her in dismay. A line parted like the Red Sea in the crowd for Iliana and Clio to reach the portcullis easily. She felt a thousand eyes on her, faerie and sprite alike. But her eyes were for one creature only. She glared up at the Xinger through the bars, and unbuttoned her coat to let it fall into the muddy, trampled snow.
And it saw her. She can’t say how she knew because it had no face, but a rush of black swam in her vision, and she knew it found her.
She raised her face to it in defiance; she wouldn’t run this time.
Faerie guards stood ready with spears and swords. At the very back were the archers, releasing round after round of arrows. Their green faces were solemn masks, hard and focused.
The Xinger through the portcullis had grown to nearly three times its original size. It loomed at the gate like a restless demon through the bars. Tentacles whipped lightly at the steel mesh, testing the gate.
Sprites teetered, squealing like a horde of locusts as hundreds of them crushed together to try and squeeze through the bars. Iliana wasn’t sure how the Xinger managed to get these creatures to help it storm Faerie Guard HQ, but she was getting irritated listening to their screeching.
Without a second thought, she began firing fire shots at them through the bars with her index finger. Glowing tennis balls hurled at them like speeding bullets.
They didn’t stand a chance and their tittering quickly fell to screeching as they fell back in fear. Soon, a lot of them were aflame in blue fire, and a steady stream spread down their ranks from the towered fortress and down the laneway where thousands shrilled in agony.
Soon, the driveway was engulfed; becoming a river of flame and the night air was jarred with the despairing wails of the sprites as they burned alive and charred.
It took several minutes for them all to die. And even when a disturbing, ghostly quiet overcame the lane like a cemetery, and the odd sprite’s finger or head twitched in the mounds of incinerated bodies with the wind rustling through the still courtyard, soldiers and families stiff to the bone in shock, the Xinger’s and Iliana’s gazes were still locked.
‘Open,’ she whispered, ‘the portcullis’.
A faerie soldier scurried away and yanked on a large lever to one side.
The sound of a clunk and a bolt sliding into place, and the portcullis slowly creaked upwards. Everyone apart from Iliana, Clio and a handful of soldiers moved back.
Clio, I don’t want you—
I’m not. Moving. He growled.
He roared defiantly at the Xinger, daring it to enter the courtyard.
In the background, the bubbles continued to hover down and ferry families out, they pressed their faces against the glass to stare down even as they disappeared above.
The hush continued in the courtyard, in the grip of a vice called dread that imposed a kind of deadly silence. It created the kind of space where you were so stiff that you forgot to breath.
Tentacles slithered forward, feeling along the sides of the courtyard like growing vines bursting forth from an infectious seed.
A few whimpers escaped the trembling bodies of faerie children, and Iliana watched as some brave soldiers regrouped and charged at the tentacles, even as they were being tossed away like toys.
I am the heart of the star.
Iliana jumped as the words whispered in her ear, like the soft murmurings of a new mother to her baby. Or had it been in her head? Had that been her voice?
I am the heart of the star.
Iliana looked around, but all she saw was the familiar sight of distress, faces streaked in despair.
Another tentacle whipped out and this time, caught a few soldiers in one lash. They were crushed against the courtyard’s interior wall. The Xinger hovered forward with murderous intent and spat out acidic saliva.
She took a step forward.
I am the heart of the star.
Iliana stretched her senses to hit a line of low thrumming energy from somewhere beneath her feet, like a pulsating tree root. Frowning in concentration, it whooshed up to her stomach. It now felt like she stood waist deep in water, lapping around her gently.
The moons were out, just barely, behind some clouds. She looked to them and felt rather than saw herself draw in its light, whatever little it was giving off. There was a sense of wrongness, like she was stealing something that wasn’t hers.
The light soaked through her face to run down and meet with the root energy from the earth. They met in a chemical combustion, and combined to make something together that Iliana grasped hold of.
For a moment, the courtyard and the clamour that came with it faded, like the moment when a film finishes in the cinema before the lights glare on. She was floating amidst a cosmic background of nebula, lights and galaxies, arms outspread, feeling a oneness with all that existed. Feeling the pulse of the very universe pump through her; there was no difference between her and it.
Then the courtyard rushed back.
Shaking herself, the energy recipe she had fused was ready and pounding. She took in a deep breath and when she exhaled it moved up to her chest, like a waterfall flowing upwards. It started to pulsate with a quickening power. She could feel the strength of the energy searing in her chest, like a power engine purring before flight.
A tentacle caught a faerie by the ankle and pulled it upside down. It arms flailed uselessly.
The heat pressed in Iliana’s chest, sizzling like the heart of a star, burning for release.
Instinctively, she raised her arms up, palms facing forward, as if she were about to practice one of her Tai Chi movements.
What happened next, none could agree on. There was too much uproar and chaos for anyone to recall accurately how the Xinger was destroyed.
First came the blast. A white pristine light blinded everyone in the courtyard, as though a hydrogen bomb had gone off. Everything turned to a comic strip of black and white, and shadows were thrown on the walls, flickering like lightening.
A high pitch screech cut into the night, dying screams making eardrums nearly explode everywhere. This part, everyone could agree on.
When most of the people in the courtyard blinked their vision back, the Xinger was gone, and there was only the cadence of confused squeaky voices, dazed and inexplicably drained.
Iliana stood within a snow melted crater, the earth blackened at her feet. A single, curtain fold of aurora light shimmered an inch above her skin, the last tenderly wisps of an energy long gone.
A familiar figure emerged stumbling from the pressed crowd.
He staggered in front of Iliana, while faeries in the background began vomiting and convulsing.
He looked at her not like he was seeing the sun this time, but something more elusive and dark; a black hole.
Iliana rasped, ‘Hello Terrence.’

February 11, 2018 / hbrowne4

Spuds trip to Paris by Ronnie Moore


Spud had arrived in Paris for a meeting with the French supplier of software to his company just to finalise some small details and the meeting went very well so after a stroll through Bastille he went in to an cosy bar close to his hotel on rue Charonne.
He was sitting in the corner of the bar sipping a white wine and enjoying the ambience of the bar with the music of Edith Piaff in the back ground and two loud black men talking French with the bar girl who would break occasionally into a small dance with one of the men to the music.

They were all in good form and so was Spud. He was hoping for a pleasant evening in the company of happy strangers.
Outside some smokers sat in groups on the terrace in lively conversations.
Two traffic wardens arrived on black moped scooters and started writing and photographing a red car parked on two yellow lines.

It’s 8.15 now and people are beginning to arrive for their evening meal. The chef and his assistants have been preparing for this next two hours all afternoon
The bar and waiting staff are changing from their relaxed atmosphere to their next level of readiness.

Spud decides to have another glass of white wine before the happy hour finishes at 8.30 .

A small tow truck arrives and is towing the red car away with it’s parking ticket behind the windscreen wiper.
When the tow car drove away it had yellow and red flashing lights flashing and it was lighting the whole road with colour.

As it disappeared up the road a long white limousine with four doors on each side arrived and glided in to the space left on the two yellow lines.
A tall chauffer dressed in a white uniform a white hat and boots to his knees stepped out of the car.
He opened two of the back doors beside the path and the car was fairly crowded with about fifteen girls in their mid twenty’s .
There were lots of party lights in the car and each of the girls looked very elegant in their party dress and had extremely long legs.
When they got from the car they were stood between the car and the door to the bar.
The maitre d’ left the bar and stood beside the bar door to greet them. He left two waiters inside the bar to hold the door open and guide them to their seats in the dining area of the bar.The chattering of the young ladies and their perfume filled the bar with a lively atmosphere .
Their coats were taken to the coat racks at the end of the bar and they took their seats at their long table.

Spud was pleased with his choice of bar for his evening meal and a few drinks before bedtime he could see the sign of his hotel from his window seat.

He went to the bar for another glass of wine.
“Another” he said to the bar man holding up his glass. La meme encore the bar man said as he started to fill the glass again. “Thanks” Spud said and he took the glass to his table.
He put the glass of wine on his table and made his way outside to have a cigarette.
He sat on a chair on the terrace at the side wall of the bar and the limousine pulled away as he lit his cigarette.
As he put the lighter in his pocket he noticed a small man in dark clothes standing in the middle of the road facing the big window where Spud had just put his drink
He was lifting a pole from beside his right leg. He opened fire with what Spud had thought was a stick and the black machine gun was spitting fire with a loud repeating noise.
He sprayed it back and forth through the shattering window at the people in the crowded bar.
The dark man ran off down the street in the same direction as the limousine had gone.
Spud could not believe what he had just seen there was now panic in the bar, the window was gone there were bodies lying in unnatural horrific positions all about the bar.
Spud could hear the gun firing again in the distance as the gunman had found another target.

There was the sound of police sirens filling the air.
People were helping each other in the bar.
Spud was in a state of shock there were lots of police all over the bar and the streets now with blue flashing lights from lots of police cars there were ambulances arriving before Spud got to think a little clearly what had happened and just how lucky he had been to leave his seat beside the window which was now gone and his space was covered with lots of thick pieces of glass, also he would have been in the line of fire had he not gone for a cigarette




February 5, 2018 / hbrowne4

Dead, Right?

Dead, Right.

A short play in Smock Alley theatre.

Tickets are now on sale for my short piece, Dead, Right?, which is being staged as part of Scene+Heard Festival in Smock Alley Theatre next month. Get yizzers tickets here