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June 26, 2017 / hbrowne4

Sketches From An Irish Cafe by Stephen Brady

The man in the corner looked just like anyone else. He had come in at opening time and sat at the window table. He’d ordered a cappuccino, and drank it straight down. The cup was still there, two hours later, desiccated foam clinging forlornly to the rim.
Beata had been watching the man. She liked to observe the customers. To imagine who they were, their inner lives, their histories and dreams. She’d written poems about them. One day, she hoped, they would be published in a slim and tasteful volume called Sketches from an Irish Cafe.
“Miss!” A poke in her shoulder. “Stop dreamin’. Go and ask Freaky Jean there is he wants somethin else.”
Gerry was the owner. He was a heavyset man who wore Deep Purple T-shirts and was comprehensively in debt. He wasn’t bad as bosses went – Beata had had worse, especially back home – but she was keen to stay out of his reach.
“We should leave him alone, I think.” She moved away from him and pointedly rubbed her shoulder. “He looks like he is busy.”
“He finished that ‘cino at half ten. It’s nearly lunchtime. We’ll need the table.”
“He is not doing harm.”
“Go and ask him if wants somethin else, I said. If not, tell ‘im to ship out.”
“I don’t want to disturb him.” Beata still found it difficult sometimes to express herself in English. Especially when she felt… disquiet. “He is writing, or something. Maybe we should leave him alone.”
Gerry wiped the counter with a tea-towel, then flung it in the sink.
“This is not a drop-in centre. You tell Shakespeare over there, buy somethin else or skedaddle.”
Moodily, Beata complied. She went to the corner, straightening her apron as she went.
The man at the table was pale and thin, with a poor complexion. He wore loose, dark clothing, and Doc Marten boots caked in soil. He was scribbling intently in a hard-bound notebook.
Beata said, “Excuse me?”
“Yeah?” He didn’t look up.
“Um… my manager wants me to ask you if would like something else.”
“Nah.”
“It’s… well… we are going to need the table. Is nearly lunchtime.”
“I’ve no money.” Still scribbling. “So I won’t be having nothing else.”
Beata looked around. Gerry had gone into the kitchen.
“Sir… you have been here long time. If you won’t order anything else, I must ask you to leave.”
He looked up.
His eyes were deep-set and rimmed red. There was something in them that made her want to take a step back.
“You’re beautiful,” he said.
She held his gaze. “I think you should leave.”
“You think I should leave?”
“Yes.”
“This how you treat your customers, is it?”
“You had one coffee. For two hours.”
“I’m working.”
“So am I, sir. Now please-”
“Where are you from?”
She sighed. Men were always asking her that.
“I am from Latvia.”
“Your English is really good.”
“Thank you.”
“You’re a poet, aren’t you?”
Beata froze. “How did you know that?”
“Look at this!” He held up the notebook, at the first page. A pencil sketch of a young, dark-haired woman in a long gown.
“You are an artist,” she said.
“Yeah.”
“Who is she?” Beata couldn’t help but ask. “She is beautiful.”
“Yeah, she is,” the patron said. “The most beautiful thing I ever saw.”
Beata had moved closer to the table. The man was staring at the picture, an odd look on his face. “It takes real heartache to know real love. Don’t you think so?”
“Yes. I think that is true.”
“Look at this.” He held up the notebook again. “This is a series, yeah? Drawn from life. I’m gonna make an exhibition outa this one day. Look, watch.”
He began to flick through the notebook. On each page was a drawing of the same dark-haired woman. The poses varied – walking, sitting, lounging at windows. Always in the same loose-fitting dress, her hair falling free.
In the early pictures, her expression was wistful and serene. But as the pages turned, that began to change.
Her look turned slowly to one of alarm. Alarm turned to panic. Then, she was screaming.
“What is this?” Beata whispered.
… Elegant hands, bound with rope.
“An artist needs a subject,” the man remarked. “You need to have it there, you know. When you want it.”
The final picture was the woman naked, face down. Her hair chopped roughly off.
“Real heartache,” the man said. “Real love. I felt the heartache, and she felt the love. Y’know… eventually.”
“Stay here,” Beata said. She was backing away, toward the counter. She never took her eyes from him. “You don’t need to leave, sir. I bring you something else, for free. Just stay here.”
She slipped into the kitchen, where Gerry was doing sandwiches.
“I thought you were gonna get rid of Oddjob,” he grumbled.
“Gerry, listen to me please. Lock the doors and call the police.”
He stopped slicing. “You what?”
“We need to keep that man here.”
He looked at her, and saw the look on her face. Without a word, he went out of the kitchen.
Beata slipped into the gap between the fridge and the shelving. She took out her phone and dialled Emergency Services.
“He’s gone,” called Gerry. “Slung his hook. Good riddance.”
Beata held her phone, her thumb poised on Call.
“Did he leave anything behind?” she asked.
A moment’s quiet from the interior. Then Gerry said, “He didn’t leave a tip anyway. Scabby prick. Just a bit o’paper.”
She clutched herself.
Then Gerry said, “Oh wait! It’s a picture.” He chuckled. “It’s a picture o’you. Actually, it’s not bad.”

June 20, 2017 / hbrowne4

The Clever Criminal Club by Teresa Fenton

Writers Centre

Dear diary, I can only tell you this stuff. Once upon a time there lived a kind but unstable and deluded man called Harry Bo. He lived in a place called Dunny. For about 93 years, his wife had told him that he was a liar, so his sense of reality became foggy and unbalanced. His G.P., Dr. Quack, advised him to wear a purple jumper because it would raise his vibrational frequency and help to hold his now fragile mind together. Poor deluded Harry thought that every Saturday he chaired and facilitated a ”writers” group in a lovely, historic old building in the city BUT thank goodness the purple jumper cure wasn’t working and he couldn’t see that he is the crime facilitator of the clever criminal club. We all knew well that the use of i phones, i pads, i message and i pod were not open to us as communication devices as we could be triangulated, mangulated, strangulated and maybe put out of “business” altogether. So courtesy of dear Harry Bo, we can pass messages to each other each Saturday for a full hour, under the cover of our “writings”!

So, dear diary, when Rob, (the job description is in the name) reads out his funny subversive prose, we all know exactly what the weekends activities are to be, and when Ruairi reads next we know which pub we are to meet at! Next Pat reads out his hilarious lines, and while we are all, especially poor deranged Harry Bo, splitting our sides laughing, he whispers to Davey (in the valley) that we need a shovel. Of course poor blind Harry Bo never suspects a thing when holy, gentle Davey speaks of Jesus being nailed to the cross and the makes a veiled reference to “don’t forget your shovel” -shovel and nails, ha! now we have the next bit of the burial plot! Yippee!

Dear diary, I Teresa, always keep my mouth wide open, spewing verbal diarrhea- that way I will never be accused, or suspected of, having an intelligent thought, while in secret, under the radar, I help to collate the entire criminal collective!

Because the purple jumper is not doing its job, lovely naive Harry Bo has not twigged why it is that we need to meet on a Saturday afternoon! no! He has no idea of his vital role in facilitating our communication with each other about the “activities” for the next Saturday and Sunday nights! Nor has he any idea why we insisted on a splinter criminal group be held on Tuesday nights, of course, to exchange information about how the weekends “business” went, and to get the learnings from the detailed that went wrong.

Finally, dear diary, it’s hilarious that each week, our poor purple clad chairman gives us a prompt to assist and inspire our writing. They are our prompts, carefully chosen by us, to simply prompt us to prompt each other and to be used in code during that valuable hour of reading out our writings.

One week, OMG, he wore a green jumper (the purple one must have been in the annual wash). It was terrifying. His brain seemed to be regaining its balance and awareness! OMG, he looked so sane, he even mentioned the words “air of criminality”- thus rattling us to the very core. Needless to mention, that week we had to use even more code words than ever, to warn each other of the imminent danger of our cover being blown.

Dear diary, i feel weak now as i confide this traumatic event in your pages. However, the very next week, all was well again as our friend, the trusty purple jumper had returned, effective as ever and his wonderful insanity and unconsciousness had been re -instated. I have to admit that once the purple jumper made it welcome comeback we all returned to form, passing messages and plans openly to each other and even became complacent for several weeks-that is, until the formidable green jumper re-appeared and with it a very sharp, astute and clear minded Harry.

The general consensus is that this is truly dangerous for us.

So, now we have to plan our “pieces de resistance”, we have to plot, fast, and right there under his nose, how to bump HIM off!

‘Don’t forget your shovel “

June 7, 2017 / hbrowne4

Big Deal by Mary Oyerdiran

“Why do you have to make a big deal about everything “Jay said trying to control his anger.
“Big deal! Big deal! You lost your job”
“And you are telling me it is not a big deal” Jasmina retorted losing control and raising her voice.

“I haven’t stopped applying for jobs since I was laid of work! You know I am a good worker and I WILL get work very soon” Jay replied calming down with deep breaths.

“6 months! 6 months! No work and we have wedding invitation printed and sent! May I remind you that some of my relatives including my mother will be flying in from Africa, Seychelles, Canada and Belgium?” She was hysterical, loud and confused. Jasmina was unimpressed with his current state of unemployment
“God will provide! “Jay said firmly. He was sure this was a test of his faith. Had he not fasted and prayed with Jasmina? Did the wedding committee of the church not agree wedding date? “God is never wrong” he was assuring his doubting heart.

Jasmina’s outburst landed like sharp fiery arrows into is innermost being, her words were designed to destroy all his trust in God. This was an attack in his FAITH!

“GOD WOULD PROVIDE! GOD SAID IF YOU DO NOT WORK YOU MUST NOT EAT. YOU NEED TO GET WORK NOW OR THE WEDDING IS OFF! “She was sobbing, yelling, shaking acting out of control.

“Jasmina! What are you saying? Have I not made applications, Did I not attended interviews for several jobs? Will you just walk away from me just because I don’t have a Job? Is this it Jasmina?” fixing his gaze on her, he was questioning her loyalty.

“Well my dear man. I thought I was marrying a “man of God “who would take care of me and our children in the future, FOREVER! I must be dreaming you aren’t thinking about tomorrow. Wedding invitations have gone out. There are bills to be paid. I have many things to organise. I need cash! You have stopped thinking about tomorrow!”

“Jasmina have you forgotten, that we agreed to take one day one day at a time? We decreed “let tomorrow take care of itself.”. Have you forgotten that?” His dark eyes pieced through her being. His voice was so strong, clear and affirmative. He took a good look at her and perceived that unreasonable fear had gripped her soul.

Now she was sobbing, full of guilt for breaking her part of their covenant.
“Someone has to think about tomorrow!” She insisted” What are we going to do if you don’t get a job?”

“Jasmina”, he stressed her name “let today’s worry be sufficient for today. The bottom line is this; we have to trust God daily that he would provide. He cannot LIE!”

“He knows about our wedding! He knew about my redundancy. Why should He let us down?
Jay ‘s voice dropped to soft tone almost a whisper. “Why should God forsake us? Let us trust Him, He put us together.”

Silence! They both stood still you could hear the tweeting of the birds in the garden. Jasmina kept a bird table and often the birds will perch to eat and sing her happy tune. They could both hear the birds now!
They were being thoughts lesson, a spiritual lesson. “Look at the birds in the air … ”

Jasmina was ashamed of her thoughts towards God. She felt guilty that she confronted her faithful fiancé with her doubting heart of unbelief. Despite her witty, charming attitude, and a cheerful personality that people admired her for. She was full of doubts with a tendency to waver in her faith especially times are tough.

Once she had a childlike faith. Her faith began to dwindle when her brother died of Leukaemia. She had prayed, she fasted and did all that she could caring for her brother John but nothing worked! He died! She was gutted!
God let her down then. She kept Him far from her heart suspecting that He can do it again! She was afraid. She needed to figure out about tomorrow just in case God did not provide. She felt justified for her behaviour but disgusted by her untrusting attitude towards God. She needed to rebuild her faith! She was wrong and Jay was right!

“Jay, I love you and want to be your wife. You need to get a job Now! I give you to the end of this month that is two weeks from now!” That was her compromise. TWO WEEKS!

Jay walked over to her towering above her in his 6 ‘3 slim frame. He took her hand looking at the engagement ring!

“I love you! You are the woman for me! I have no doubts about that. Thank you for giving me two more weeks to prove that I am your man – “man of God ” I know it will be Ok! God will not let us down! I trust Him!”

Jasmina bowed her head as he prayed for God to guide them and grant him favour with the applications he had made.

They both agreed declaring loudly “AMEN!”

“THANK YOU JASMINA FOR GIVING ME A SECOND CHANCE.”

Jay pulled himself away from her, He did not plant a kiss or a fuzzy hug. He knew he loved her and did not want to break his promise. He will wait till the wedding day!

Jasmina was proud of him. He loved her and did not take advantage of her, she was vulnerable and hug could have diffused the tension but not sought out the situation – lack of FAITH.

Jay opened the door quickly,
“I am going to check my mails when I get home. Please stop thinking about tomorrow!” He smiled gently

The birds must have been feasting as a chorus of tweets could be heard again!

“Yes, I promise! Ring me if anything turns up. Thank you Jay! You are so special!”

“Expect my call”

QUCKLY HE DEPARTED FOR HIS FLAT!

“That was close!” as he sat in his car.
“I need this wedding more than she does! Next time I come I will bring my junior brother “

June 7, 2017 / hbrowne4

A stroll down memory lane By Mary Oyerdiran

School bell rings
Ding -a-ling- ding
Play time, fun time
Hop, jump, skip and Sing.

Gotta you, Janet FREEZE!
Tag you! RUN! RUN! TURN!
Quick Jane Under my arm
Wind on our face, FUN, RUN!
Ha ha ha! Can’t catch me!

Let’s go skipping, Yeh!
Dashing fast across
“All in together girls, this
time together when is your
Birthday please jump in.”
January, February …December
Jumping, stumbling, bumping!
Clapping, chanting, chuckling.

Last one to the taps is it!
Dashing across the stony ground,
Sprinting faster like greyhound
Head bend tilting to one side,
Hand on brass tap, mouth open wide,
Torrent of cool water flood the throat
Refreshing the soul, small curb hand
Catches precious liquid to wash face
Splashing and spluttering feeling no
Shame, so young, having fun
that is grace!

Let’s play Hop Scotch,
No! It is time for dodge ball,
No! Hide and seek please.
Duck, Duck goose or loose!
Last one is it! Yeh!

Quickly sitting in a circle
Duck! Duck! Goose! RUN!
Running with all your might!
Playing, so much fun, no fights!
Duck, duck, goose Jane you’re it!

Ding -a -ling! Ding-a-Ling
The play bell from afar rings!
Oh No! The playground cries!
Ding -a-ling! Ding-a-Ling!
Time to go in! Till lunch break!
Thank God for childhood memories,

May 17, 2017 / hbrowne4

An Caoineadh by Brid Mary Harnett

220px-Banshee_by_Philippe_SemeriaAn caoineadh, finality, a shriek, a wail of odes, some of which may never be told. The caoineadh, an gol mar a deirtear, unleashing the souls of those dearest to the earth of Ire, of tribes long forgotten, combed out and whittled by the banshee until all cultural marks of identification transpire and evaporate into the moist gentle air of this same island, a sister land to the land of the smallest most lithe gazelle, crowned with antlers, who watches, turning its well-formed head, until it is caused to flee. Then it escapes. L’echappe, and this is the nature of the people of the natural sense of being of Ire, lauded, not reviled and pedestaled in quietude.

I am home, the daughter of Cuchulain, of Dedriu, who beckons from heights around our land. An caoineadh, signifying the finality, for when a woman in pain shrieks from the deepest place within, her release is irretrievable. It reaches the sky and befalls those lurking to cause her harm. And silence aches the staring white cat and the frivolity of the goose as the banshee’s scream shrieks into the night and the soul is signposted home. And so I rub my hands with the finest perfumes of Arabia to sweeten them- just a little- and delight may sing no more for me.

Sin a bhfuil, sin a bhfuil, sin a bhfuil. Fling the smoothest white pebbles to the sands, for perhaps they may never cleanse the essence of the cry of the soul of the banshee. Moladh go beo le Dia. I ask God that my last release will filter out of my mouth in a silken wave of the sweetest smelling musk and flare into the brightest light, that there will be no screech for me, daughter of Mc ConMidhe. And this mark cannot be erased from me, not even with salt.

May 15, 2017 / hbrowne4

A Crisp, Clear Winter’s Day by Bernadette O’Reilly

Pink clouds were giving way to blue
The day dawning promising to be crisp and clear
A pet winter’s day
My mind formed the words.
I did not know what this day would hold
A new phenomenon for me.
Tired now after walking the city
My companion
The echo of my once expensive shoes
Familiar faces
Laughter, restaurants, hotels,
Bars, clubs, the best cars, houses,
Floated in front of me.
That life now dead.

May 6, 2017 / hbrowne4

Christine by Livia Bartolome Vergel

I put some rouge on my lips looking at my reflection on the mirror. I take my time, enjoying that moment, checking that the lipstick is applied evenly. Tonight, I want to look perfect, this is my farewell gift to the place that has been my home for the last 20 years. I hear a voice at my back telling me that the show will start in 15 minutes. I look at myself at the mirror for the last time and exit my dressing room. I walk to the backstage and think about all the memories contained between these walls. I saw you for the first time in this theatre. I was just a child back then. I remember being a little bit bored by what was happening on stage until you came and faced the audience. I had never heard anything as beautiful and powerful as your voice. You captivated me, there was something in you that talked directly to me. From that day on I asked my dad to take me back to this theatre. I needed to see you, to talk to you. I wanted to be like you. You liked my energy and enthusiasm and you asked me to sing to you. I was embarrassed, I felt that I wasn’t deserving, but you were gentle and patient and saw my potential. You became my mentor and my friend, you taught me all the secrets of the trade. You supported me the day of my debut. I was so nervous that I was afraid that no sound would come from my mouth. But you told me to take a deep breath and to start my song whenever I felt ready. You made me realise how these words on a paper could come to life and turn into something meaningful.

So many characters have lived with me during these 20 years. I have transformed myself into different women. I have laughed, cried, loved, hated, lived, died. They have been my companions, different skins I wore and took off every night. I have been a young opera singer torn between two lovers. A young girl incarcerated by an evil judge whose dream is to fly away like a bird. A bride who longs to know who her father is. I have been an ambitious actress who wanted to seduce and manipulate a powerful politician. A mother who gave her life for her son. A cockney flower girl who turned into a proper English lady. A factory worker turned into a prostitute who longed for that youth love she once had. A veteran dancer who sees her dancing days coming to an end and doesn’t regret what she did for love. A young woman who is torn between her loyalty towards her family and community and the man she loves. A witch who is despised by everyone for being different. A prisoner whose dream is to become a singer. A woman whose desire is to become a mother. A teacher that travels to foreign lands with her son to teach the children of a powerful king. I have loved each of them for different reasons. They have taught me about strength, hope, love, sacrifice, honesty, mercy, forgiveness. I have seen parts of myself in them, things I loved, things I hated and had to accept. All of them had walked beside me even in my darkest times, and reminded me the reasons why I loved this life when I was about to give up. I started believing that my profession was my outlet, a beautiful fantasy that allowed me to keep going, but it was actually the place I found myself, the place where I conquered and learned to live with my fears, where I found my support and my strength. But I am afraid that these memories will disappear as soon as the theatre is demolished. And that when this place disappears so will you. I need to sit down for a moment, overwhelmed as I am by these sad memories. My partner is also pacing up and down the hall but he stops when he sees me and sit by me. He doesn’t say anything, he knows exactly what I am thinking about. He also misses you. He takes my hand and kisses me on the forehead as he whispers into my ear ‘The show must go on!’. The show always goes on, no matter how hard life beats you up, once you are on stage you must play your part and smile, smile, even if your heart is breaking, even if you feel like you are dying. I don’t know if I will be able to keep doing this. Not without you. I am not as strong and confident as you were. There are more theatres and stages, but none of them will feel like home.

5 minutes for the show to start. He wants me to audition for a new show, we can even try to move to a new place. He’s been in so many different places that he will forget this theatre easily.

The stage director looks at me. It’s time. I get up and prepare mentally to get on stage. I hear the audience cheering and when I get on stage they all fall silent. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I see your face, smiling at me and take my time before I feel ready to start to sing. I look at my audience, people from different ages who look at me expectantly. But tonight, I won’t sing for them, I will sing for you, as a farewell and as an appreciation of everything you have taught me and done for me over the years. And I hope that my voice will still resonate once these walls have turned into debris and that these people will remember about this marvellous place full of magic long after its gone. I smile as the music starts playing:

Wishing you were somehow here again

Wishing you were somehow near

Sometimes it seemed if I just dreamed

Somehow you would be here[1]

[1]Lloyd Webber, Andrew. The Phantom of the Opera. 1986. London, 2005. Print.