April 1st 2016
In the waiting room two old men are discussing onions: the cooking, eating and growing of onions. Mostly growing. This is Ireland proper and the old men’s voices are damp spoons stirring their vowels and staunch consonants to mud and butter as they roll the oniony chat around their mouths.
I want to talk onions too. I want to say, “I enjoy onions. I specifically like the paper bag feel of the onion’s skin as it peels from the bulb and the way the onion’s flesh is both luminous and cloudy when held to the light,” but I’ve never grown an onion and I’m not even sure if they bloom above the ground or below. I don’t even have a garden. Though perhaps I could lie; fabricate a vegetable patch and the desire to grow onions therein.
I look at the fingers of the old men, all gnarled up with age and holding and they are honest like carrots, like parsnips and other muck-birthed things. It is better, I understand, just to listen.
April 2nd 2016
Tiffany and McKenzie Stubbert
Your suitcase swimming through the security tunnel will pause for a moment beneath the scanner and click. The conveyor belt’s slow grind will hesitate for just long enough to catch a grey-grained image of all your holiday crap, jumbled up together like the inside of a glutton’s stomach.
Then, all the people lining behind you –who are, for the most part, strangers with their own suitcases- will crane their necks for an eyeful of your socks and pants and various electrical cords ghost-caught in all the negative shades of bruise. Your sandals and sunglasses and paperback novels skimming the screen’s surface like unborn children on hospital machines.
They will judge you then, these strangers with their holiday tans, and wonder what your house is like inside with the doors closed and the curtains drawn in upon themselves and all the strong lights silenced.
April 3rd 2016
Somewhere high above the Atlantic Ocean, objects in the overhead lockers shifted and when they arrived on the runway, wheels screeching against the tarmac, she reached up to retrieve her little, wheeled suitcase and found it had been replaced by an entirely different bag. This one was black where hers had been covered in a jolly, leopard-print design and bore the logo of an expensive fashion brand on its handle and once again, discretely, on its front.
Opening this bag she found a laptop computer, a daily planner, a series of carefully pressed business shirts and, amongst other things, details of a holiday apartment in an upmarket Florida resort.
“So,” she thought, “this is to be my life now,” and could not imagine how she’d fit into the tight-lined confines of it. But something had shifted in her, high above the Atlantic Ocean and she was done with running and other frantic pursuits; ready now for a grown-up change. She lifted her new life down –it had a retractable handle- and strode off purposefully in the direction of customs.
April 4th 2016
The Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 was one of the last so-called spectator battles of the American Civil War. Expecting uniforms and fancy sword the locals packed picnics and settle around the edges of the battlefield waiting for the show to begin. They were not anticipating quite so many bloody deaths or the cannons, (which were dreadfully noisy), or the muskets, (which left inconvenient holes in their blankets and picnic rugs). After the battle noise subsided Abraham Lincoln stood up and said something important in a loudish voice, but with the microphone not yet invented, and over 100,000 bodies pressed between them, the locals heard virtually nothing of this address; only, that it was a particularly good one. “Next time,” they said, “we shall stay home and watch the battle on television, in the comfort of our own little home.” They were not done with war, only the nuisance of having it happen in their backyard.
April 5th 2016
We are a horse family. For as long as we can remember we have made horses and sold horses, kept horses and raced horses on brown, dirt tracks shaped like blunt rectangles. We have barns for these horses and the barns are painted yellow, as are our houses, and our sheds, and the pitched outhouses were keep our lawnmowers and golf equipment. All our buildings are painted yellow so we can remember where our empire begins and ends. We are a kind of kingdom with our barns and horses: bigger than a village but not yet large enough to call a town.
Last summer my brother painted his barn blue. He did this at night, with paint, while the rest of us slept. The next morning when we woke my grandfather said, “what the Hell, David?” and my father said, “what’s with the blue barn, Son?” and my brother said, “I just felt like a change.”
Six months later he was making cows for milk in his barn and all his sheds had turned blue in sympathy. Thankfully my brother’s buildings were on the edge of our empire. So we shifted our fences and said he was no longer one of us. We are a horse family. Our barns are yellow.
April 6th 2016
Tara McEvoy, Caitlin Newby and Padraig Regan
It looks very much like I have left my baby in a fried chicken joint.
You know what it’s like- you’re standing at the counter, pointing out the chicken leg you want, loading your pockets with little sachets of hot sauce and ranch, filling your cup at the soda fountain- you’ve only got two hands for all this doing so you set your baby on the floor for a minute, careful like, by the potato chips rack. And then you pay for your chicken and you get in your car and you drive home listening to Merle Haggard on the radio, maybe eating a leg or two on the way, tossing the picked off bones out your car window as you go. Then you get home and your belly is sleepy full from all the deep-fried dark meat so you go straight to bed still wearing your work socks and you wake in the night- somewhere just shy of five- with the fear like a lump tumour heaving in your gut that you might have left your baby in a fried chicken joint.
But no, thank the Lord, there she is, still strapped into the back seat of your Honda, Civic, pink-eyed from howling herself to sleep. It is just like that time you left your purse at the 7-Eleven and drove all the way back for it only to find it slipped between the driver’s seat and the handbrake. It is easily done, this sort of thing.
“See,” you tell yourself and your screaming baby, “I am not the world’s worst mother after all.”
April 7th 2016
Capitol Hill, Washington DC
You parked your car somewhere on Capitol Hill. You were late for dinner. Not as late as I was, walking from Union Station in my blister shoes, but still running fast enough to muddle the streets between 8th and 12th. After dinner and stiff drinks, followed by looser drinks, you could not remember where you’d left your car and we walked the peculiarly clean streets of DC for a half hour or so; you, with your electronic key held aloft, click, click, clicking, waiting for your tail light to sing out to us through the gathering dark; I, with my blister shoes in hand, avoiding the places where the afternoon’s rain had collected in the sidewalk cracks like tiny lakes and rivers. And we talked quite honestly about everything. Later, I wondered if the DC streets had conspired to keep your car hidden for just as long as we needed.