February 19th 2015 – Victoria Park, Belfast
Reggie and Karen Anderson
At first there was one goose, then two, and by the time the third slice had been chunked and cast, like tiny, breaded islands upon the surface of the pond, a whole, hosting flock. One goose, orange footed on the towpath, will appear charming, comic even; and a couple of geese, grouped will appear pastoral, like a Dutch oil painting. Two dozen geese, regardless of place or context, will always be menacing.
Gathering up our children in arms and pushchairs and small, pink bicycles, stabilized with training wheels, we fled the pond’s edge. The genuine ducks remained. The geese gave chase, pursued us for a quarter of a mile or more until, distracted by the next dumb bread givers, they let us be.
Later, we laughed, but in the moment had felt nothing but the fear of their eyes and sculpted beaks; had held our own fear more closely than that of our grinning, grinning children.
February 20th 2015 – Sydenham Drive, East Belfast
Overheard conversation, Sydenham Drive, East Belfast, early morning.
Small girl- “Why is that dog wearing a coat, Mum?”
Mother- “It’s a special dog for leading blind people around.”
Small girl- “Is that lady blind then?”
Mother- “No, she’s just training the dog.”
Small girl- “For when she goes blind?”
Mother- “We’ll talk about this in in the car. Get in the car!”
February 21st 2015 – Ballymena
Problems never before considered and, arguably, specific to one particular moment in an entire lifetime of equally particular moments; the impossible demands placed upon the scissored hands of a young hairdresser, (recently qualified), as she attempts to cut a high, blunt fringe into the forehead of a woman predisposed to tremulous, (and wildly impolite), bouts of body-shaking sneezes with no more than a twitched millisecond’s warning.
February 22nd 2015 – Ballymena
A toxic combination of Lemsip and Flannery O’Connor knocks you sideways for fifteen hours. You fall asleep with “A Good Man is Hard to Find” tucked beneath your pillow and dream of open windows and creeping beasts. The cat has caught a crocodile and is busy dismembering it beneath the kitchen table. A strange man is playing skeleton jazz at an upright piano and you find yourself clutching a shotgun in your still dreaming hands. You may or may not speak with a Southern accent. The next morning all this is once more fiction and vow, as you have in the past vowed, never to fall asleep with Flannery again.
February 23rd 2015 – East Belfast
Matt and Sharon Cameron
Removing the blue book from the shelf to shift space for another, larger book, it falls open at page one hundred and forty three where a long gone, lonelier you has underlined the sentence, “I was wondering what was the logical end of this recent business of my feeling less and less.”
You try to remember the context, the aftermath and the particularly dry taste of your twenty third year and recall how heavily you leant upon this little, blue book, leaving dog-eared indentations on every other page. You are no longer thus inclined and file it away on a lower shelf with all the other rarely read books.
February 24th 2015 – Armagh
A provincial Northern Irish library, early evening and the usual suspects have gathered for a creative writing workshop: two amateur poets, a sci-fi guy in a black t-shirt, a lady who writes letters to her sister in Australia and that one, elderly gentleman, who’s working on a biography of someone you’ve never heard of.
You read that Richard Brautigan story about replacing American plumbing with poetry.
“Well,” you say, “what did we think about that?”
“You’ve a right nerve on you, wee Lassie,” says the elderly gentleman, “coming down here from Belfast and reading us that sort of stuff.”
It is impossible to tell if he’s winding, or genuinely offended.
February 25th 2015 – Lower Old Park, Belfast
Bernie Mc Gill
All the grander houses were demolished to make way for peace, and peace walls, and streets, as yet unnamed. For weeks they sat empty as open-mouthed children on the edge of their own peculiar end. Youths came and left through their windows lifting smaller items such as keys and plates and framed Bible texts. The adults and older youths came later, putting a shoulder to the door, they lifted beds and sideboards and other antique furnishings for the bonfire.
“For badness,” she thought, and three times crawled though the back window of John Hewitt’s house, finding no piano, no picture, no left behind poems to lift for a good story; finding her own echo louder with each empty visit.