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16/07/2019 / Harry Browne

The Devil, Wednesday Night. by Stephen Brady

There were only two of us left, and it was four minutes to midnight.
The party hadn’t exactly been a success. Only twelve people had turned up, and I’d found, once it got going, that I didn’t really want those people in my house. I’d managed to get rid of most of them: now, as the witching hour approached, there was no-one left but Tom.
“What are you at?” I groused, as I filled a bin bag. “You’re supposed to be helping me clean up.”
“Relax the crack, amigo.” He actually spoke like that, which made me wonder why I’d invited him in the first place. “You got some doozies in here, and no mistake…”
He was going through the vinyl. As I watched, he pulled an album out and tossed it on the floor.
“Watch it!” I said. “I told you, they’re not mine.”
“No?”
“No.”
“Whose are they?”
“Paul’s. And if he comes back and finds one out of place, it’ll be my ass.”
“You don’t say.”
“I do. He’s like this monumental tight-arse. He didn’t even want me throwing a party. And I’m trying to conceal the evidence here, and I’d appreciate a bit of help.”
“Look at this!” He held up a record sleeve. In the dim light of the living room I could just discern the words ‘Fleetwood Mac.’ “This one’s a classic.”
“Put that down.”
He’d flipped it over and was studying the back. “Hey! This is the one with ‘Black Magic Woman’ on it.”
“Which…?”
“You know the one. ‘I got a Black Magic Woman,’ she’s gonna make a devil outta me…'”
“Oh. Yeah. So what?”
A strange look had stolen across his bleary features. Almost… a thoughtful look. I should have known it meant trouble.
“Hey, Martin…”
“What?”
“Guess what I heard?”
I flopped into the armchair. “I don’t know, Tom. What did you hear?”
“I heard, right, that if you play ‘Black Magic Woman’ backwards at, like, the stroke of midnight… the Devil will appear.”
“Tom, that must be the dumbest thing I ever heard.”
“Naw, man, it’s like, an urban legend! Like the way Dark Side of the Moon is timed perfectly with The Wizard of Oz.”
“Yeah, that’s bollocks as well.”
He was looking at the clock on the wall. It was two minutes to twelve.
“Will we try it?”
“No.”
But he had already pulled out the record and slipped it on the turntable. Now, he was fiddling clumsily with the needle.
“Hey!”
I stood up, and was hit with a wave of dizziness. The room was swimming. I tried to focus on the figure of him, skinny and ginger in his Stereophonics T-shirt, bent over the turntable. “The player is Paul’s as well! If you break that we’re both dead!”
“Relax the cax, man.” He moved the needle to the place he wanted. Then in a a low voice he said, “Turn the lights off.”
“This is stupid.”
With a sigh, I flicked the switch.
The room was plunged into darkness. He became a shadow, hunched in the corner. The clock on the wall stood on the stroke of midnight.
“Here we go,” he whispered.
He dropped the needle on the end of the track. The darkness was filled with a moody, Latin-tinged outro. Then he started dragging the record backwards. The speakers issued an alarming shriek.
“Hey, be careful!”
“I’m doin’ it, shuttup!”
He dragged the disc backwards along the needle. Stange sounds emerged. First, it was a kind of hiccuping. Then a series of warped moans, like an incantation.
“Enough,” I said. “You’re wrecking it, take it off.”
“You’re no crack.”
“No, I’m not.”
“You used to be Party-Marty.”
“No, I didn’t. Take it off.”
He lifted the needle, and the room was plunged into silence.
“Whoa,” he breathed. “That was a bit spooky, wasn’t it?”
“Shite.”
“You were scared, admit it.”
“It did sound a bit weird.” I realised that I had begun to feel a vague sense of unease. “But anything does, if you play it backwards.”
A loud POP! sounded in the darkness.
“The fuck was that?” he yelped.
“It was just the speakers,” I said. “They do that. Turn the player off.”
“Can’t see the switch,” he muttered . “Pitch dark in here.”
“Wait a second.” I groped for the lightswitch, and flicked it.
The room remained dark.
“Turn the lights on,” he said.
“I did, you thick.” I tried the switch a few more times. But darkness prevailed. “Must be a power-cut. Fuck it anyway.”
“It’s not a power-cut.” By his voice, it sounded like Tom had sobered up. “The record player’s still on. How can it be a power-cut if the record player’s still on?”
That stumped me, I have to admit.
“Look,” I said. “Maybe we should-”
BANG!
We froze. The sound resounded through the darkened house.
“What the fuck was that?” said Tom.
“I don’t know.” I licked my lips, which were bone-dry. “It sounded like the front door.”
“Uh… what do you think it was?”
“Could’ve been the wind.”
“It wasn’t the wind.” He had moved closer to me, and was speaking in hushed tones. “Not a breath of wind out there tonight, aimgo. Just… dead air.”
We waited, listening.
“It was nothing,” I said. “We were hearing things.”
“Jesus..”
“Yeah.”
“Do you think-”
BANG!
The second noise was louder. And it definitely came from the front door. Tom grabbed me, and at the touch of his clammy fingers I almost screamed.
“Get off!”
“There! Again! D’you hear it?”
“I heard it! Let go o’me!”
“Wait. Sssssh.” He was standing still now. And even in in the dark, I could see the gleam of sweat on his forehead. “Listen!”
“I don’t hear anything.”
“Jesus, Martin! Listen. D’you hear it?”
I listened.
At first I heard nothing, but his ragged breath and my own, glutinous heartbeat. But after a minute I became aware of another sound. It was coming from the direction of the front door. It was a kind of low, bestial wheezing.
“Jesus Christ,” he said. “There’s something at the door.”
We were staring down the dark hallway at the front door of the house. From behind it, came the sound of guttural, slobbering breath. There was something there, alright. Some massive thing, panting on the threshold.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Three slams on the door. It shook it on the hinges.
Whatever was out there, it was losing patience. And I had no doubt that, if left unsatisfied, it would smash it’s way into the house.
“What are we gonna do?” Tom whimpered.
I leaned close to him. “I’ve got an idea.”
“Yeah?”
“I think you should answer the door.”
“Fuck you, amigo. It’s your gaff. You answer it.”
I was struggling, in all my cold terror, to marshall an argument.
“You put that stupid record on. The whole thing was your idea. Your fucking urban legends. Whatever that it out there, you fucking… summoned it, or whatever. So go on. Answer the door.”
We were at an impasse. Then a new sound came, from outside the house.
I can only describe it as a grunt. But it sounded like the thing that made the sound was bigger than the house itself. Some hot beast, whose blood was rising.
“Do it!” I shoved him. “It’ll be worse for us if we don’t. That’s how these things work, I think. You have to, like… face it.”
Miserably, he began to edge his way towards the door. He was shuffling, like a man on the deck of a ship. Halfway down the hall, he stopped.
“Problem?” I asked lightly.
“I have a question.”
“Yes?”
“What exactly are you going to do?”
“I’m right here, Tom. You have my full support.”
He wasn’t reassured. But, all credit to him, he stepped up to the door. Whimpering, he put his hand on the handle.
“That’s it,” I said. I was crouched, tensed to run. “Good man yourself.”
“Martin?”
“What?”
“Grab something, will you? A lamp or something. If it gets in, hit it a slap.”
“I will, yeah.” Such heroics were the furthest thing from my mind at that moment. “Listen, I think we’re… running out of time. You’d better open the door.”
He was muttering something, rapid and precise, under his breath. It took me a moment to realise that he was praying.
“Too late for that,” I muttered. “Do it.”
His supplications done, Tom turned the handle and opened the door.
At that moment, I shut my eyes tight. And I waited, for what I could not even imagine.
But there was nothing. No crash, no scream, no sound of rending flesh. Nothing. And I knew, even through my clenched lids, that Tom had opened the door to find there was nothing out there.
Thank God, I thought. Thank God thank God thank God. God, I am going to start believing in you again. Forget all that stuff I said about you in college. You do exist. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I opened my eyes.
Tom had come back into the room. He was standing in front of me. The open front door admitted a little light from the street. Just enough for me to see him by. He was standing there, head bowed, arms limp by his sides.
“Tom?” I said. My voice was small and lost, the voice of a child. “What’s going on, my man? Hey! We all good?”
He raised his head.
Something had removed all the skin from his face. I was looking at a skull slick with blood. Naked muscles worked around the lipless mouth. His eyes had been torn out and in their place were ragged holes, black
pits that showed me only the coldest, most impersonal version of Hell.
It stared me in the face, the thing that used to be my friend. And in a voice that sounded like the grinding of rocks beneath the Earth it said:
“YOU CALLED?”

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28/06/2019 / Harry Browne

My Four Year Old by Eimear Grace

Walking along, her hand slips into mine.
She does it without saying anything.
Her tiny hand fits mine so perfectly,
so small, so soft, so comfortable. She’s
looking for a sense of security
in my grip. I can offer her that. I
can keep her safe, for now anyway. I
know I will dream of her delicate hand
firmly rooted in mine, for years to come.
When I pick her up she wraps her little
legs around me, making it effortless
to carry her. More supported I am
for having her straddle me, arms and legs
tight. She’s the one who provides me with a
sense of belonging and I become the
child, clinging on, feeling safe in her hold.

23/06/2019 / Harry Browne

Inkslingers in Bath

23/06/2019 / Harry Browne

In Extremis by Stephen Brady

26 His and Hers

The woman in the bed had grown quiet again. A Spring breeze blew all through the house at Chawton, bringing with it a hint of chill. The maid placed water and a dish on the bedside table. She was about to return downstairs, when the woman in the bed suddenly stirred.
“Marie. Pray shut that window.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
The woman in the bed was deathly pale – the only colour in her complexion was the spot of fever on her cheek. Beneath the nightcap the skin on her brow was gleaming. The sound of her wheezing filled the little front-bedroom and put the maid’s nerves on edge.
Marie shut the window and stood by it, her hands folded.
“Is the lady quite comfortable?”
“She is not,” the invalid replied, her voice a feeble croak. “I am all aches and agony. I am tired of it. To be quite candid, I have longed for death these six months past.”
The maid was chilled by this talk. She busied herself arranging the drapes and longed to be dismissed.
“You turn away from me,” the lady said. “Everyone turns away. No-one of sound mind wishes to be confronted with mortality.”
The maid stopped fussing with the drapes. She found she was now compelled to speak, even if it might be out of turn.
“Begging your pardon, ma’am, but I was always taught that ’tis a Sin to wish for death.”
“To live with such pain is the greater evil.”
“But what would your late father, the Reverend Doctor, say to such talk?”
The woman in the bed fell silent. Marie began to collect the things from the bedside.
It was then that she noticed the paper and pen that lay there. The pen bore a new tip, and a pot of ink beside it. The paper was quite blank.
“I see your instruments,” the servant said. “Has the lady been writing?”
The woman in the bed weakly waved a hand.
“My mother leaves those things there. Every day. In the hope that I may be moved to set something down. But I have done with writing. I laid down my pen this April last, and shall never take it up again.”
The maid said, “Begging your pardon, ma’am, but I heard one of the gentlemen downstairs say that you were a keen hand for the writing.”
“I was once.” The lady coughed. “It was some small matter. None of it bore my name, and I am certain that all of it will be forgotten.”
The maid could not summon a reply. She lingered by the door and fussed with her apron.
“Will the lady be requiring anything else?”
The woman in the bed was silent for a moment.
Then she said, “How old are you, Marie?”
“Nineteen, ma’am.”
“And you are come to us from Ireland, are you not?”
“That’s correct, ma’am.”
A strange wistful look settled on the invalid’s features. “I knew an Irishman once… at one time I believe that he was dear to me.” She coughed again.
Then she said:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that whatever one has done in life, for good or ill, it ends always in the same fashion. Alone, on a bed of sickness and of pain. Had I the strength to write another line, I should write upon that.”
A Spring breeze blew through the cheery house at Chawton. The maid lingered, waiting to be dismissed. But the woman in the bed did not speak again.

 

 

 

11/06/2019 / Harry Browne

Infernal Contraption

BMW S 1000 RR, International Media Launch, RACETRACK CIRCUITO DO ESTORIL

There are men and there are women and then, as an entirely separate subspecies there are motorcyclists.

Consider their mode of transport, it can hardly be described as a vehicle, Collins English Dictionary describes a vehicle as “A machine such as a car, bus, or truck which has an engine and is used to carry people from place to place” Nowhere in this definition does the motorcycle fit, it’s an outlier, a rebellious construct from its inception. It’s inherently unstable, relying as it does, on two wheels rather than, like any decent vehicle, a stable four. To mangle George Orwell in Animal Farm, “Four wheels good, two wheels bad”
If you exit your car and leave it on the side of the road, in neutral and without handbrake, it will be very likely be in the same place when you return, unless you are foolish enough to leave it in the above condition on a hill, in which case you deserve all you get.

Try the same thing with a motorcycle, it will fall over causing damage, at the very least to its expensive paintwork, and at worst to passing traffic if it falls the other way.

Yes, yes, I hear the cries of the aforesaid bikers. “You have a kickstand to prevent that” but then it’s not a true two wheeled contraption, it’s a two wheeled contraption with a kickstand
One hesitates to describe the riders of such a contraption as being similarly unstable; though there are days when one wonders.

Picture the scene, it’s a cold Sunday morning in early spring and all decent minded citizens are sound asleep in their comfortable beds when the tranquil neighbourhood silence is shattered by the racket of a high powered engine being revved to a screaming crescendo before the miscreant in the saddle puts the bike in gear and roars off down the road for his Sunday constitutional in the mountains.
Shortly afterwards he, or she, is joined by a horde of like minded individuals, dressed as extras from a Star Wars movie, Then in a cloud of noxious fumes and multidecibel exhaust cacophony they head off in an untidy column, occupying much more than their share of the road space, to cavort along the twisty highways and byways of Wicklow, causing anxiety and upset to any decent minded other road users, unfortunate enough to encounter them on their peregrinations.
Meanwhile as our gallant heroes struggle through pouring rain and freezing winds their neighbours back home are just rising and starting a hot breakfast, Which would you rather be?
It is an extraordinary thing, but no motorcyclist ever falls off their bike. Sometimes the bike “Goes out from under them” but it is never their fault. There may have been loose gravel, or ice patches, or oil on the roads, or even the “Fat bastard in the Mercedes'” causing the bike to “Go out from under them” but it’s never due to pilot error.
Consider, if you will, the sad plight of the parents of one of these deranged people, The phone rings at the worst possible moment of the day or night,
“Hello, are you the parent of Paul Browne?” Instant palpitations Of the heart!
“Yes, who is this calling?”
“Its Sister Hynes, Vincent’s Hospital , Your son has been injured in a motorcycle accident and he is in A&E”
“Dear God, how is he? Is it serious?”
*’I’m afraid I can’t answer that. GDPR, you understand. You can come in anytime”
“Thank you”
Forty panic stricken minutes later, after a drive at reckless speed from out of town the distraught parents arrive in the A&E to find the victim lying, bloodstained and half naked on a trolley and in a semi coherent state.
“Dad, Ma, is that you? They cut my good Furygan jacket off, it’s RUINED”
“Not to worry Son, we’ll get another one. What happened?”
“1 was at a track day in Mondello and I was out in front and going well hit a patch of loose debris on the track and the bike went from under me. I was winning Dad”
“Son, in order to win you, and the bike, have to cross the finish line together. Not as two separate incidents. Now go to sleep. We’ll talk more tomorrow”
The next day he’s excitedly talking about the new, bigger and vastly improved bike, which he intends to buy and the new Furygan gear which he will get to go with it and his distracted parents are shaking their heads in despair.
Years pass and he’s now a professional motorcycle guru with a motorcycling wife and two small sons and the scars of several episodes of bikes “Going from under him” having emigrated to the far North West Any reasonable person his circumstances would be considering settling down and retiring the infernal contraption. Not so. I would refer you to paragraph five above. This is a bug which looks like it will cling to him until he shuffles off the mortal coil, hopefully at an advanced age and not because his bike “Goes, catastrophically, out from under him”
On pondering on the genesis of his aberration one might consider genetics. His paternal great grandfather, Maurice, was the proud owner of a small fleet buses in the early years of the 1900s. His father was raised on stories of Maurice and his sons in those halcyon days of free enterprise before the advent of CIE.
Stories told of races with competing bus companies driving recklessly out the Drumcondra Road in an effort to scoop up passengers before the rivals and arguments, sometimes leading to fisticuffs, as to who had first rights to routes abounded.

Those “Good Old Days” finally came to an end when, after couple of cases of arson involving their buses, the government of the day stepped in, nationalised the bus companies and founded Coras lompar Eireann or CIE, and put a stop to their shenanigans, There might be something genetics thing.
It must ‘be acknowledged that, whatever the opinion of the more stable members of the community, these outlaws appear to enjoy their difference. Without exception when questioned they wax lyrical as to the benefits motorcycling. A common theme amongst them is that whilst going by car is travelling, biking is a transcendental experience.
It’s not by coincidence of the most famous books written about motor cycling is Robert M. Pirsig’s and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Pirsig’s thesis is that to truly experience quality one must both embrace apply it as best fits the requirements of the situation. According to Pirsig, such an approach would avoid a great deal of frustration and dissatisfaction common to modern life.

It may be that, consciously or otherwise, our bikers are buying into this philosophy, thus indicating a possible explanation for their offbeat approach to life, the universe and everything, There may be something in this, but it seems to have escaped the more mundane of us in the general population.

To paraphrase our hero’s Great-Grand-Mother, a country lady born on a tiny farm in the Wicklow mountains in the latter part of the nineteenth century:

“There’s a little bit of sense in the wildest of us, and a little bit of wildness wisest of us, so as wild as I am, and as wise as you are, I’m as wise as you are as wild as I am”
So perhaps we can best tip our hats to the outlaws and acknowledge that room in the world for all of us.
June Issue 2019 BikeBuyersGuide

 

 

28/05/2019 / Harry Browne

Capuchin Day Centre for the Homeless

27th May 2019

Prayers for God’s Blessings and Sincere Thanks To

Harry Browne of Inksplinters

For your Donation of €1,000

Wishing God’s love, peace, hope and joy

To You and all who support our work with people in need.

 

Dear Harry,

Just a brief note to acknowledge your very generous donation of €1,000. This will be a great help in offsetting our costs for providing this vital service.

As you can see from the media, our numbers are increasing by the day and more people are falling into poverty. We try to help by providing meals and grocery parcels to supplement their food needs. While it is a constant challenge to keep up with demand and plan for the future, we Capuchins know that with the help of God working through kind people like you, we will continue in our apostolate to those most in need.  Every day we thank God for your generosity, and it strengthens our own Christian commitment to the work.

On behalf of the people who attend the Centre and the Irish Capuchin Franciscan Order, we offer renewed thanks and our prayers for God’s blessings on you and all you hold dear.

BkevinBro. Kevin and Bro. Sean

28/05/2019 / Harry Browne

Text Message by Eimear Grace

Cassie knew she was not the intended recipient of the text message, but she also knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was the subject of the message. It was sent by David, the facilitator of her writing group, but who was it meant for? With whom was he talking about her, behind her back?

She looked around at the friendly, smiling faces of her writing group… Butter wouldn’t melt… Who was it? It must be someone with a similar name to hers. ‘Cassie’ – So it most likely was someone whose name began with ‘C’. Maybe it was Clara or Carrie or… Wait a minute – Caspar! Yes! Caspar – Cassie – Easy mistake to make if you’re sending a quick, sneaky text. Now that she had figured it out, she wanted revenge – How dare they discuss her writing in such a derogatory manner! I’ll show them, she thought.

After the writing session, she went home and typed out the mistakenly sent text message and cut it out, so it would exactly match the size of the weekly prompts. She did this 65 times, as her feelings really had been badly hurt.

At the following week’s writing session, she schmoozed and mingled for the half hour beforehand, but all the time edging closer to the prompt bag. Finally she got her hands on it and carefully replaced it with her own bag of written prompts – The said text message. Upstairs in the writing room, David and Caspar were actually sitting beside each other and she sat directly opposite them in smug anticipation. David reached into the bag and unfolded the prompt and began to speak – “So folks, this week the prompt is … ‘Her poems are a load of shite’.”