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28/12/2018 / Harry Browne

The Glass Apple – a Modern Cinderella Tale by Catriona Murphy

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Eyes downcast to the city calls, Alison pumped up the volume on her phone and allowed her body to be swarmed by the vibrance of her music.
Something bounced on trashed pavement, and rolled to her foot.
She frowned, and picked the object up.
Whizzing cars and chaotic beeping, dancing jingles of Christmas songs, flashing amber lights, smells of toxins were all screened out as she took in, what sat curved and refined in her gloved hand.
A glass apple.
Translucent groves etched on one side, as though it has been clawed.
She pocketed it, and upon passing a park in the frosty evening, saw a communal Christmas tree, with well-wishing cards dangling on the frigid wind.
Her boots crunched up to a branch where she hung the apple, and left.
When she got home, it was there.
Shining innocently on her study table next to a photograph of her parents before they died, before Brian ever hit her or her brother’s blame scorched her like a baptism of shame.
Never asked for, but received anyway.
Feeling uneasy, she picked it up like it was an anomaly, fearful of even touching it.
She pushed the pedal on the trash can and paused.
It was too pretty for the bin.
Days passed, and it sat next her scribbling hand each evening, like a study muse gently encouraging her on.
It knew her.
She knew it did, because each time she gazed into it’s wispy quartz depths, she saw her memories.
Her parent’s names scrawled on her bedroom wall before her brother stole her motorbike and vanished into the night.
Identifying her mother at the city morgue, her aunt Margaret breaking down in the arms of a police officer. A car totaled, ripped disjointed all over the flood, blood stained road. Discarded pieces of a broken toy unable to put itself back together.
Inside her lived a flame, the apple knew this too. It glowed at times and dimmed during trials. It grew flames in other people’s bodies, she could see it, like the triumphant wing of a phoenix before flight.
Christmas trees had their own flames too, and she saw how they glowed in children’s doughy eyes, and lit hearts of adults whose bodies encompass child spirit, but have forgotten how it sings.
It shared it’s memories with her too, and she saw a sprawling crystal tree in a bare landscape, branches like icicles were it was plucked by a hooded figure.
She rubbed her thumb against the smooth, curved edge, like an adventurer exploring a new planet, then bit on it, and tasted only cold hard roundness, her teeth sliding.
Inhaled a fragrance of peach.
Strange.
One day, it started to crack, fissures grooving it’s surface. Her mirror broke and her cat wouldn’t come into her room.
Time was running out for the apple.
It glowed warm pinkish colour now, like morning sky and she saw the same colour when she passed the park each evening.
On Christmas Eve, her wandering feet stopped at the park gate on her way to her aunts.
The apple’s fushia pink pulsed stronger, like a heart beating faster.
There was someone loitering by the tree.
No, not loitering, waiting.
Holding her breath, she trudged up the snow-packed walkway, snowdrops poked through the snow layered ground; a promise of Spring to come.
The air was fresh with renewal in the dead of Winter, when all things chirpy were still and the quiet held an untouchable magic; a Winter fairytale.
Surrounding pine trees mottled the city jam, enclosing the garden as though they were inside the apple itself.
A world within a world.
Alison’s flame brightened as she saw the face by the tree, a twin glass apple in his hand.
An early gift in strange packaging smiled at her.
An understanding settled between them like the lightest snowfall in sleep.
And now Christmas, was her most wonderful time of the year.

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19/12/2018 / Harry Browne

Crashing Santa – By Katie Keeley

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All was quiet in the small village of Jinglton. Everyone was tucked up in bed all nice and warm, while outside the snow quietly fell. As if it knew to be quiet, covering everything it touched in a white blanket. Now, you might think that this is just an ordinary winter’s night, were nothing unexpected could ever happen. Well, you would be wrong, this night just happens to be Christmas Eve night and everyone in this town is about to get a much unexpected awakening. What none of the sleeping people know is that Santa Claus is somewhere in the distance and he’s in quite a bit of trouble.
“Come on boys” Santa shouts, to his nine reindeer. “You can do it”.
He slapped the reins twice, making the bells jingle. But no matter how much they tried, the sleigh continued on its descent, at a rapid pace. Suddenly, in the distance, Santa could see a small village amidst this entire empty, snow covered land.
“Look boys, a little bit of hope, head for that town over there” he told his struggling reindeer. With their last bit of strength, Santa’s reindeer were able to carry the falling sleigh towards the sleeping village. Finally, it crash landed right in the middle of the town square.
In a house nearby, a little girl woke abruptly, at the sound of the loud crash. She knelt up on her bed and pulling the curtains back, looked out over the snow – covered town. It just so happened that this little girl’s bedroom was at the front of the house. It also just so happened that her house faced the town square. The scene she saw before her was nothing like she could ever have possibly imagined.
“Wow” she said. Standing in the middle of the town square, was Santa Clause, looking a bit dazed and confused. He was standing in front of his sleigh and there was smoke rising from underneath it. It looked to the girl, like they had to make an emergency landing. Without thinking, she pulled on her slippers and her dressing gown and ran into her parents’ room.
“Mam! Dad!” she said excitedly. They hadn’t heard Santa’s sleigh crash.
“Santy’s outside, right in the middle of town square” she said, as her mother and father unwillingly woke up.
“Now Eimear, you know Santy won’t come until you’re fast asleep” her mother yawned.
“But I was fast asleep. This is what I’m trying to tell you. His sleigh crashed and that’s what woke me up” said Eimear, desperate for them to believe her.
“You were just dreaming, Eimear, go back to bed” said her father, rolling over to go back to sleep.
“I won’t go back to bed, Santy’s outside, and he might be hurt, so I’m going out there to see if he’s all right” said Eimear. She jumped down off the bed and marched out of the room. Hearing the front door close behind her, Eimear parents dragged themselves out of bed and followed her. Eimear slowly made her way over to the middle of the square, where Santa stood, petting one of his reindeer.
When she got close enough, Eimear asked “Are you ok?” Startled, Santa turned to see this little girl standing before him.
“Eimear” he said, surprised. “Did I wake you?” he asked “I’m sorry”
“You know my name” said Eimear, wide eyed.
“Of course, I know your name, I know everybody’s name” said Santa, smiling. Just then, Eimear noticed that Santa had a terrible gash on his forehead.
“You’re bleeding” she said, concerned.
Santa rubbed his fingers over the cut and seeing the blood, he said “Oh, so I am, I wondered why I was feeling a bit dizzy”.
“My mam’s a nurse, she’ll be able to stitch that up” said Eimear, smiling.
“Why thank you that would be much appreciated” said Santa. He took out a handkerchief from inside his red and green coat and dabbed at the cut with it. What Eimear didn’t notice, was that all the other children of the town had also heard the crash and one by one they appeared in the town square, dragging their sleepy parents behind them, to see what was going on. When Eimear turned back towards her house she saw her mother and father standing at the gate with a look of amazement on their faces.
When she sprinted back to them, she said “See, I told you he was here” They just stayed frozen in the same place.
Turning to her mother, Eimear said “Mam, he has a pretty bad cut on his head”.
“What?” she asked realizing that Eimear was talking to her.
“Santy has a bad cut on his head, will you be able to take a look at it?” asked Eimear.
“Yes, bring him inside” said her mother. She turned and went back inside to get the first aid box ready. Eimear rushed back over to Santa, followed closely by her father. Everyone was standing in a big circle around Santa Claus and his sleigh. Some of the children had ventured further then all of the adults. Some were sitting in the sleigh, some were standing by the reindeer and some were speaking to Santa.
“My mam told me to bring you inside so she can clean up that cut” said Eimear.
“Oh, thank you” he said, smiling down at her.
“John, would you mind watching my reindeer, for a few minutes?” he asked, turning to Eimear’s dad.
“Sure” he said, not knowing what else to say.
“And I’m sure these very nice children will help you” said Santa, looking around at all the awe struck children.
“Yay” they all cheered, excitedly. Santa Clause followed Eimear into her house, were they found her mother in the kitchen, rooting through a first aid kit at the kitchen table. He sat down on one of the kitchen chairs and Eimear’s mother proceeded stitch up the gash on Santa’s head. Eimear watched quietly, as she knew not to disturb her mother while she was working.
“Thank you very much Anna” said Santa, standing up, when it was done. A very clean, bright, white plaster covered the spot where the carefully stitched up cut was.
“You’re welcome” said Anna.
“How does he know my name?” she whispered to her daughter.
“He’s Santy, he knows everybody’s name” Eimear whispered back, with a beaming smile on her face. Back out in the square, everyone had come to their senses and were talking excitedly to each other. The children were very happy, helping look after the reindeer and John was walking around the two lines of reindeer, looking in awe at these extraordinary beasts, and how well built the sleigh was.
“What happened?” asked John, when Santa arrived back at the sleigh.
“I don’t know” said Santa, puzzled. “I think something may have given up in the engine” he added.
“Do you want me to take a look? I am a mechanic” said John.
“That would be great” said Santa. He led John around to the back of the sleigh where he slid open a door to reveal the most unusual looking engine. It was full of little lights, contraptions, levers and bits and bobs that John had no clue what they were or what they even did.
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you with it” said Santa, seeing the bewildered look on John’s face.
“Eimear, can you go and get me my tool box, it’s under the stairs” said John, not taking his eyes off the less than normal engine “And be careful……”
“Not to drop it on my feet, I know dad” Eimear said and doing exactly what she was told, she ran back into her house.
“It’s a magical engine, the elves helped me build” said Santa. Moments later Eimear was back, dragging the heavy tool box behind her, leaving it down on the ground beside her father. At this moment Santa turned towards the large clock hanging just above the door of town hall. He held both his hands up in the air, whispered something to himself and the clock suddenly stopped, ten seconds to midnight. Everyone looked in amazement that Santa had just paused time.
“There, that should help” he said, relaxing a bit.
Turning to the children, Santa asked “My reindeer are a bit hungry, I wonder if you’d be able to find something for them to eat?”
“Yes” they all cheered, their faces lighting up. The excited children, as well as some of the adults, left the town square, in search of some carrots. Eimear went inside her house and got the plate of biscuits and a glass of milk that lay waiting in the sitting room. She brought them out and left them on the seat of the sleigh.
“Thank you” said Santa. It wasn’t long before the other children were starting to come back, with carrots in their hands. Eimear walked up to one of the reindeer and started feeding it a carrot. As she did, Eimear noticed the name Donner, written on its harness.
All the reindeer had their names written on their harness. There was; Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. What seemed like hours, nobody was sure with time being paused, went by and Santa and John still hadn’t found the problem with the engine. All the onlookers had started amusing themselves, going about the town, tending to things, but never strayed too far away from the square. Some of the children had grown tired and had fallen asleep in their parent’s arms. The reindeer had been let off their harness to roam around the open square and they were loving all the attention they were being given, especially from all the children.
All of a sudden as if lightning had struck, Santa shouted, “Aha, here’s the problem”. Everyone looked up and gathered around. Eimear went to the back of the sleigh, to see what it was.
“The Jingle Juice container has a hole in it. The juice has leaked out of it” said Santy, as if Eimear and John should know what that was. He took out a small empty container, made from glass. It had a small hole in the bottom of it.
“It’s lucky I carry extra Jingle juice with me, but I have no spare container” he said. Santa opened one side of his coat and lining the inside of it were a dozen small round bottles filled with this glittery liquid. What made it even more amazing was that the colour of it changed every few seconds, from red, to green and it glittered as brightly as the stars in the sky.
“I have just the tape strong enough to patch it up” said John. He took the container from Santa and bent down to his tool box to fix it. Santa gave the bottle of juice to Eimear to look at, while he waited. When the container was fixed, Eimear saw Santa empty the juice into the container and push it, until it clicked, into a gap in a pipe.
“This juice is what Christmas magic looks like” said Santa “And it’s a vital part of helping my sleigh to fly”
He closed the engine, turned to John and said, “Thank you John, for all your help”.
“No problem, next time you break down, you know where I am” said John, smiling. The two men shook hands and Santa turned to Anna.
“Thank you, Anna, I don’t know what I would’ve done, if you hadn’t of been here” Santa said to her.
“I was glad to be able to help” said Anna, giving him a hug.
Santa then turned to Eimear and said “As for you Eimear, if you and the other children hadn’t of heard me crash, I would still be out here wondering what could’ve happened” very grateful, as he gave the little girl a hug. Santa stood up onto his sleigh, turned to the clock hanging over town hall, raised his hands towards it and started time again.
“I must leave now” he said, loud enough for everyone on to hear.
“There are a lot of children waiting for my arrival” Santa continued, with a smile. As he settled himself in the seat of the sleigh, the clock started to chime midnight. It was officially Christmas day.
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night” said Santa cheerfully, waving to everybody. The reindeer, with a little run, kicked off from the ground and Santa flew into the distance, away from Jinglton. Everybody cheered, waved and shouted, ‘Merry Christmas’, as Santa Clause flew away. They heard bells jingling and with a whoosh, Santa disappeared, magically leaving presents under every tree in town for everyone to open that morning. Snow began to fall as if on que for Santa’s exit.
“Well, this is a Christmas i won’t forget anytime soon” said Anna, as all the people of Jinglton walked in the direction of their houses, still full of excitement. Everyone eventually went back to sleep and Christmas was made that bit more special, by Santa Claus’s accidental visit. No one ever forgot that Christmas Eve. Santa even made it a tradition to visit Jinglton every Christmas Eve at midnight.

17/12/2018 / Harry Browne

LAST CHRISTMAS by Pat O’Rourke

Winning entry for the Inkslingers Christmas Story Competition

Dear Linda,
Light snowflakes fall from a threatening sky and tip off the window as I sit at my desk putting thoughts into words. What an incredible 12 months it has been since last Christmas. Now that we’re on the cusp of another, I feel compelled to write what’s on my mind.

There were so many highlights: My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, siblings and cousins marked milestone birthdays, a big party was held for me when I returned from the hospital – all great occasions where so many wellwishers wanted to shake my hand. I felt so humbled.

The biggest thrill, though, came on a sweltering day in May when Mia made her First Holy Communion. Oh Linda, she was stunning. Her framed picture is hanging on the wall in front of me as I write. The cheeky grin. The freckles dotting her nose. The purest skin. The flowing blond locks hanging down over narrow shoulders. And then, of course, the white silk dress adorned with the most beautiful design.

Her mam and I are still paying back the money to the Credit Union. But the whole day was worth every cent. I could never put a price on the happiness it evoked within me. It’s a memory I’ll treasure forever.

Outside the church as camera phones clicked in a frenzy, Mia whispered in my ear: ‘Daddy, I knew you wouldn’t die. I knew you’d walk with me into the church on my big day. I told you’.

A lump is forming in my throat as I write these words even now. It was a day I thought I’d never see. And I wouldn’t have Linda, only for you. Because last Christmas, you gave me your heart. Quite literally. Through organ donation, you bestowed on me the ultimate gift, one person could ever give another. The embers of my life were slowly fading until you rekindled them with your timely intervention.

I was never told your name. Confidentiality and all that. They said you were a young woman who died in a traffic accident. But I just had to give you a name. I couldn’t go through the rest of my life referring to you as ‘anonymous’ with your priceless gift beating under my shirt. You deserved more than that. So much more. I eventually settled on Linda. I dearly hope you approve.

Mia and her brother Jack are in the kitchen now helping their mam make the Christmas dessert. I brought them to see Santa yesterday. They still haven’t come down off the buzz. And either have I. The radio is on in the background. They’re playing our song. George Michael is singing ‘Last Christmas’ and I’m indulging in a little poetic licence with the lyrics… ‘Last Christmas, you gave me your heart..’

I’ll sign off for now Linda but will write again. And tomorrow at Christmas Mass I’ll search for the biggest candle I can find and light it in your memory.

Sleep well Linda. Sleep well. Wherever you may be!

 

03/12/2018 / Harry Browne

To Whom by Geralyn Rownan

‘Talk to someone. Tell someone. If you are feeling low, reach out, reach out, reach out.’
This is the message coming to us from everywhere, every day. From billboards, from bus-stops, from notice boards in colleges, libraries, doctors’ offices, the rest rooms of pubs and clubs.
‘If you are feeling low, talk to someone. Tell someone. Friend or family, teacher or counsellor, colleague or coach.’ A kind stranger. Just please; reach out to whomever you can.
In this epidemic, this tsunami of anxiety and unhappiness that is battering us and claiming lives on a daily basis, we find this message posted everywhere.
‘Talk to someone.’
And when sorrow has closed your throat, write the words you are unable to speak to anyone. Write them. Reach out, reach out, reach out.
It is a privilege, when someone trusts you enough to do just that.
There is no judgement on you if, overwhelmed by your own difficulties, you are unable to hear it, to bear one more sadness, to listen to one more thing.
Quietly, step back. It is not your time, not your task to help. Not this time. There are others who can. Quietly, step back and look after yourself.
Yes, private response to a person who says publicly that they are in difficulty may be the most appropriate. But public response is more than a reply; it is a call from one, to others. ‘I’m in. Are you?’ It is a call for the group, the herd, the tribe, to come together: to encircle and protect the wounded one, the one whose steps are faltering, until the faltering steps grow stronger. That’s how the world survived. That’s how we survived.
‘It’s ok. We have you.’ That is the unspoken message.
Yes, our purpose in coming together may be to write, to play, whatever – to develop our abilities, to become the best of our creative selves. But aren’t we are also people wanting to be the best of our human selves?
I hope that no one will be deterred, no one will hesitate to reach out, to speak out, and when they cannot utter the words that will ask for help, that they will write them and send them, knowing that loving kindness will come in return and that they are not alone in their despair or loneliness.
There have been too many notes left, of the other kind.
‘If you are alive, you need help.’ That quote holds true of all of us, at some point in our lives.
‘Talk to someone. Tell someone how you are feeling. Reach out, reach out, reach out.’
There are hands willing to hold yours, arms willing to hold you up when you cannot hold yourself up.
Reach out, reach out, reach out. Because this is not just the way we help each other. This is the way we save each other.

27/11/2018 / Harry Browne

Coffee Economy by Shea Walsh

Moustache

He was in a hotel in Rwanda
The genocide of the Tutsi people
And the Pygmy Twa had been stopped
But there was still anxiety
And apprehension that the
Uneasy peace would collapse
The United Nations and world powers
Were anxious to rebuild the
Rwandan economy
That was his mission in Rwanda
Coffee was grown there but
The management and infrastructure
To make it a viable business
Had to be built from scratch
The growing processing and marketing
Had to be organised
Experts were brought from
Ethiopia to teach about
The drying and roasting
The best coffee to grow
Was called Arabica
There is great skill needed
To blend the different roasts
Producing marketable coffee
Marketing managers
Were brought from Europe
The benefits of this effort
Were that jobs would be
Provided skills would be learnt
In a renewable resource
The workers were fast to learn
Progress was rapidly being made
A good example of this
Was the Mustache Coffee Club
They had learnt well
How to give good descriptions
Of their coffee
That made it sound attractive
He was to have a meeting
With Benjamin their representative
They ran into each other in the lift as they chatted
The lift stopped on another floor
Another Rwandan got on
Benjamin whispered to me
My God he is a Hutu
I am a Tutsi
The Hutu scowled at Benjamin
Are you a Cockroach?
And turned towards him
That was when we saw
The machete

15/11/2018 / Harry Browne

Two pieces from the pen of Shea Walsh

Natural Causes Number One

Inter Galactic Tasting: 
Floating around in the Space Station
Can become quite banal
There is a lack of a sense of escapism
One inventive mind had a notion
To assemble a cellar
To store the recycled urine
Label it by nationality
Then sample each
To evaluate its different quality
From time to time the Astronauts
Would congregate in the cupola
Pass the samples around
These are some of the comments
That we found
American bright cheery
With a beefy aftertaste
Russian body bouquet
With undertones of borscht
Japan austere suggestions of sashimi
Overtones of teriyaki
Canadian syrupy
Having a maple indication
Kazakhstan meaty
With indications of mutton
Swedish serious Smorgasbord sensations
Brazil full bodied nice legs
Hints of steak and Mate
South Korea good nose
Notions of Kim chi
Belgium dry smokey
With a scent of beer and Brussels Sprouts
German potent hoppy Bratwursty structured
France fragrant bouquet
Suggestions of Goose Pate
Italy lively generous taste
Tones of espresso and
Pasta Bolognese with garlic paste
Spain Serrano Ham
Indications of olive oil
Suggestions of Sherry
This simple pastime seems
To keep the whole crew merry

©Shea Walsh 2018

PS This is the list of Nationalities that were
On the Space Station up until 2016
There may be further additions in the future

Natural Causes Number Two:
Owed to Regularity
To go or not to go!
That is the question
Whether it is nobler in the mind
To suffer the sorrow and strife
Of outrageous misfortune
Or to procure the curative potion
To diminish the heartache
The thousand un-natural yelps
Take arms anon! To heal the howls
To sleep not fret enduring the
Painful pangs of those impacted bowels
With a bare bodkin the fardels loose
No more to grunt and sweat
Under a weary life
To medicate and there’s the rub
With this in mind
Release!
In the name of action
Soft you now!
Go forth with an easy mind
And a rapid reaction
W. C. Shakes
Bodkin: A large blunt needle
Fardel: A bundle
©Shea Walsh 2018

04/11/2018 / Harry Browne

Irish Prayer by Simone Sav

1

Stop and pray.
For the Irish sky to host the sun a little bit more often.
For the Titanic to be glued back in one piece
and miss that iceberg altogether the second time.
For Saint Patrick not to take a dislike to snakes.
For the Magdalene Laundries to use washing machines instead of female hands.
For the North and South to be nothing than cardinal points.
For Oscar Wilde and James Joyce to write beyond the grave.
For this island not to have two capitals.
For children not to be forbidden from learning in schools
unless a man in a robe sprinkled ordinary water on their infant heads.
For dancing to be compulsory during lunch breaks.
For the hard-working not to be worse off than the the poor living on benefits.
For IT companies to start coding in Irish.
For straight people to feel at home in The George.
For CEOs to undergo psychological assessment every two weeks.
For the An Post workers to dress as clowns during the dole-collecting days.
For the able-bodied beggars on Grafton Street to start handing out change to passers-by.
For betting addicts to open a museum dedicated to greyhounds.
For people to row to work.
For immigrants to receive ‘A Guide to Irish Banter’ upon arrival.

Stop and pray.
But do not hold your breath.