I Almost Worked for a Cult 20

Moving on up

Korean summers are hot. They’re really fucking hot, man. At home twenty-three degrees Celsius would be a heat-wave. We’d have to declare a national holiday and have ice flown in from Greenland to help us cope. We Irish cannot handle heat.

On our moving day, the temperature was in the mid-thirties.

The luggage that we had brought from home wasn’t exactly traveller friendly. We had two large rucksacks – one a cheap Northface knock off that herself had bought in Thailand, the other a cheap knock off that I had bought in Argos. We also had a giant wheelie suitcase and two smaller back-packs. These bags contained all our worldly possessions. I had read before coming here that clothes and shoes in my size would be difficult to source.  We both brought two pairs of runners, two pairs of work shoes and winter boots each. We had also bought two vintage German military coats (because we’re so fucking cool man!) at a thrift fair in Smithfield before we left. They were only €15 each. They saved our lives in the winter that was to come. (As it happens, they’re still with us!) Practical for the cold, not practical to carry around in the blistering heat.

Our luggage weighed around eighty kilos in total. I volunteered to carry the bulk of the load as herself had been having trouble with her back.

We weren’t sure what exactly was causing her these problems. The quality of beds in some of our accommodation was pretty poor. The mattresses were either incredible thin, or too soft and flimsy. We had yet to reach that “just right” Goldilocks moment. I didn’t mind doing the heavy lifting that Saturday morning. As far as I was concerned, it was going to be for the last time until we returned to Ireland.

Spatial awareness is a concept that has yet to catch on in South Korea. The more bags and awkward load you had to carry, the more people made it their business to walk in to you. It wasn’t like the streets were jammed either. I found the majority of footpaths in South Korea to be incredibly wide, I didn’t experience any of those crowded footpath crushes that I’d seen in old photos. People kept bumping in to me accidentally on purpose in the train station and knocking me off balance. I get claustrophobic in confined spaces sometimes. I get this really strong urge to break out, swing elbows, jump through ceilings like Superman. I hate being jostled and nudged when I’m in this condition. Having to carry a huge load (behave yourself) exacerbates this feeling.

I’m not proud of it, but I had to throw elbows that morning. One middle aged man shouted at me for giving him the stiff arm on a travellator. He was coming against me, the wrong fucking way, with acres of space to his right, but instead decided to walk straight in to me. At the best of times I’m my usual meek, non-confrontational self, but today with the heat, the large load (behave!), and the stress of signing up to a cult for a full year, I’d just had enough. I sent that ignorant Ajusshi flying. It felt good, man.

By the time I got on the train I was soaked with sweat. My t-shirt looked like I had taken a shower in it. Ew. I had to put up with a few stares in the carriage. I could take that. It was the pointing and laughing I had issue with.

Obviously, the travellers that morning had never seen a heavy-set Irish man carry his entire house on his back in blistering heat before.

They hadn’t lived!

Next time: Moving on out

If this is your fist time reading I Almost Worked for a Cult, catch up on the series at the below link:

I Almost Worked for a Cult…the story so far

The Barber

A Short Tale of Horror

A Short Tale of Horror

There was a queue. Peter hated queue’s. His least favourite letter of the alphabet.

A stack of magazines and tabloid newspapers sat on top of the sturdy, low mahogany table. He wouldn’t be caught dead reading any of that basic drivel. As far as Peter was concerned it was just pointless small talk in print. These cheap publications did not deal with the real issues of the day.

He had a copy of this week’s Economist tucked under his arm. Peter was a socially conscious man and wanted to make sure everybody in his local town knew it. Sure, he was a country bumpkin, but he had spent time in the big city. He was better now. He had raised himself above his station – he would command respect. Peter adjusted his thick, non-prescription glasses and unfurled the crumpled magazine and began to read.

The barber called him to the chair just as he finished off an intriguing article on the worsening situation in Catalonia. He left his magazine on the table, removed his thick woolen jumper

“What can I do for you my friend?” drawled the barber in his broad country accent.

“I’ll have a number two on the back and sides, blend it in to the length on the top, keep the length on top please. Oh, and a beard trim, with scissors.”

The barber nodded and smiled and wrapped a tight smock around Peter’s shoulders.

An elderly man entered the shop, took a seat and picked up Peter’s copy of the Economist. Peter noticed this in the mirror as the barber worked on the side of his head.

“Sorry! Excuse me! That’s actually my own magazine that I brought from home!”

The old man raised a hand in apology and placed the magazine on the empty seat behind him. The barber gave Peter a look of disappointment, which Peter confused for jealousy.

“I have to bring that with me when I get my hair cut at home man, you know? I mean, the Mirror and the Sun? I couldn’t read that shite.”

The barber smiled. “Oh yeah? Why’s that?”

“It’s just so blaah! You know? Like, why would I care if some celebrity was doing coke off a midget’s head in a nightclub? That doesn’t concern me. I pay attention to the real issues. I pay attention to political situations in the world man, I pay attention to society. Leicester drew one all at Stoke? Who cares, man?”

The barber uh-huhed and ah-hahed, all the while working his razor on Peter’s head.

“People are starving in Sudan! Leo Varadkar runs half marathons? So what! Donald Trump is destroying America! These issues need to be paid attention to, you know?”

The barber grunted. Peter knew that he was educating the man. The barber placed his razor back on its hook.

“How’s the hair look?” he asked.

Peter turned his head from left to right. It was a fantastic hair-cut. If he did just as good a job on the beard, he’d be getting a tip, or maybe even a positive Google review.

“Perfect man!”

The barber took out his scissors from the sterilizing glass and commenced work on Peter’s balm-softened beard.

“What about people who read tabloids? What do you think of them?” asked the barber.

Peter mulled this over for a second.

“I feel sorry for them, man. They’re asleep, you know? They just live their mundane lives, not aware that there’s a whole world out there for them to explore and shape to their preference. They prefer to take it at face value. That upsets me, man.”

The barber nodded to the elderly man waiting for his hair cut. The old man got up, bolted the door of the barber shop and pulled down the blinds.

“Closing early?” asked Peter.

“Just not taking in anyone else until after I have my lunch. Now, I’ll just edge the rest of this with the straight razor.”

Peter was impressed with the authenticity of this beard trim. He couldn’t wait to tell his friends about this experience after work the next Thursday while sipping some micro-brewed nitro stout.

The barber finished off the shaping and asked Peter his opinion.

“I love it!”

The barber smiled. “Great, oh wait, I missed a bit!”

He grabbed Peter roughly by the hair, pulled it back and dug the blade deep in to Peter’s neck severing all his major arteries. The mirror was covered in blood. He turned to the old man, brandishing the razor with a manic grin on his face.

The old man chuckled, “Jaysus, you dragged that out Sweeney. Now, bring him downstairs and let’s eat. I’m starving!”

He took the copy of the Economist with him and threw it in the bin.

Check out some more chilling stories from The Gammy Eye here:

Sean Nós-feratu

Love, Vacuously

Three Short Tales of Horror

 

Half-Nelson, Full-Nelson, Willie-Nelson

Part 4 in A Brief History of My Sporting Failures

Will I ever successfully defend the WWE Heavyweight Title at Croke Park?

I don’t know.

I might.

I’ve a lot on at the moment.

Like, the missus has to be dropped in to work and collected later on. The bins need to be put out. The bloody cobwebs in the utility room need doing again.

I’m just so busy right now that a title defence is the last thing on my mind…

I’ve previously spoken about embarrassing moments on the Gaelic football field and the soccer field, mainly involving my stupid big head. This chapter is going to deal with a sporting pursuit (hobby?) of mine that the majority of the civilised world finds embarrassing – pro wrestling. It won’t necessarily deal with personal public humiliation. I know that’s what people want, thankfully I’ve never done this publicly! However, when you look at the overall content it probably will satisfy your urge for schadenfreude.

IT’S FAKE!”, you scream.

“I FUCKING KNOW IT’S FAKE!”, I scream back, followed by a perfectly executed figure four leg-lock. WOOOOOOOO!!!

My love for wrestling started at a young age. It was handed down to me by an older townie cousin who had cable television.

I remember seeing Hulk Hogan for the first time and thinking, “Who the fuck is this guy? He’s got a moustache and receding hairline like Dad, but he’s fucking huge!” His energetic gibberish was hypnotizing my seven-year-old mind. He was flexing his huge muscles and screaming at the camera to some ‘oul boy called Mean Gene about prayers and vitamins and training and other nonsense. I couldn’t follow it, but I liked all those things. I mean I was an altar boy, I loved those tangy orange vitamins and football training on Saturday mornings. It felt like this Hogan lad was speaking directly to me!

Of course, as I got older and began to understand more about wrestling, I realised that this was a promo. He was talking to the audience, not me personally.

My Dad hated wrestling. Despised it. Knew it was a fake construct designed purely to take your money, and reminded me and my brother of the fact constantly. However, he made us go to mass every Sunday and gave the church a portion of his wages every month. The cheek. The irony. He was a monster heel – The Irony Sheikh.

Jesus, that was a terrible pun. I apologise profusely.

Most of my early consumption of wrestling was either in my cousin’s house or on VHS. It wasn’t until 2001 when we got satellite TV at home that we were able to watch Raw and Smackdown regularly. The sports package was initially added as a means to watch the British & Irish Lions tour in Australia that year. Wrestling was just an added bonus.

I was sixteen in 2001. My brother was fourteen. Nu-metal, Jackass and skateboard fashion were really popular in 2001 for some reason. Pro-wrestling also seemed to embrace this at the time. Entrance music had a nu-metal flavour. Some wrestlers wore baggy jeans. The matches sometimes had a stunt-like feel to them. There were lot of bandanas and motorbikes knocking about too.

I liked nu-metal music and the ‘ol baggy jeans and skate shoes. Could I skate though? Could I fuck! I had a skate-board for a bit, but we didn’t really have the smooth tarmac required to master the skills required. Gravel paths just didn’t allow you to gain enough velocity to perfect your balance on a board. I mostly just stood on it in the kitchen, holding the back of a kitchen chair and moving left to right. Tony fucking Hawk.

Wrestling had become ultra-violent. Blood, weapons, heavy metal etc. and I loved it. Although, being a source of ‘entertainment’ from America, they were constantly warning you to not try anything you watched at home. What a pointless warning! That was the best part, practicing moves on each other.

After a couple of years with satellite TV and access to wrestling around the clock my parents made a terrible error.

They bought my youngest sister a trampoline.

They may as well have enrolled us in wrestling school.

Adding fuel to this, WWE had just screened two seasons of the show Tough Enough where they put prospects through a gruelling training regime to become the next big WWE superstar. They showed you how to do the moves, then warned you not to do them. Bit of a contradiction there lads!

Our back garden was now Madison Square Garden.

Dreams were realised on that trampoline. Hearts were broken on that trampoline. Every move you can think of was executed on that trampoline. Power bombs, spine busters, moon-saults, back body drops, DDT’s, and if someone didn’t have the manners to call a move before performing it – there was always room for a good old-fashioned puck on the jaw.

One time we recorded our own pay per view. We had a camcorder and a CD with all the wrestlers theme songs. We took turns being King and JR when not ‘performing’. We even went north to get fireworks for the entrances. It was the most fun I’ve ever had, although watching it back now can make for disturbing viewing.

Not that anything disturbing actually happened.

The ‘main-event’ between my brother and I took place late in the evening. We didn’t have a light in the back yard and our camera didn’t really adapt well to the lack of one. Visually the match looks like two shadows jumping around the place. It’s the audio that is disturbing really. My brother’s voice was still in the process of breaking and was quite high-pitched when excited, whereas I had my deep manly man’s voice that I still have today. What was actually a high-octane, edge of your seat grudge match between two battle-weary competitors, sounds awfully like a sustained sexual assault thanks to my brother’s pleads of “No!”, “Stop!”, and “Jesus, that was too hard!”.

The commentary team of my little sister and cousin didn’t really help to tell the actual story either. For some reason they were very quiet throughout the match. I assure you this was due to the quality of the performance, and we’ll leave it at that.

Every good wrestler needs a proper enemy to be successful. The Rock had Stone Cold, Hulk Hogan had André the Giant, and Chris Benoit had his mind.

My enemy was my brother. Well, we weren’t enemy enemies, we just clashed a bit – like all brothers do.

My favourite move during our adolescence was ‘The Sly Dig’. I usually administered it when he was concentrating on reading or something. It drove him mad. His signature move was a combination of Rhino’s ‘Gore’ and Kane’s ‘Chokeslam’. He usually administered it after being provoked by me.

One time he nearly killed me. Well, no, I’m exaggerating here. He ‘kayfabe’ nearly killed me. (He actually just winded me!) He was looking for something in a cupboard beside our bathroom. I was in the kitchen getting a glass of water and asked him what he was doing. He didn’t respond. I took that as disrespecting his elder and proceeded to administer ‘The Sly Dig’. I regretted it instantly.

He fucking burst me.

A point to make before explaining what went down. We both played rugby. At the time, I was lanky for my age and played in the back row. The brother wasn’t yet at his full height, but was at full strength. He played in the front row and was used to dishing out pain and suffering in close quarters. I was more into being creative and dishing out pain from a distance. The brother had a serious temper on him when crossed. A bear that did not like being baited.

Hitting him ‘The Sly Dig’ in a close quarters situation was a massive error of judgement. He spun on his heels, got in to a low crouch, grabbed me by the shoulders and engaged. There was no pause. He was ahead of his time in that respect. Pushing off from his legs he rammed me through the closed bathroom door and through the glass shower door. Thankfully the glass didn’t shatter, just came free of the runners. I think the force of what he’d done shocked him more than it had shocked me, he just pointed at me and said, ‘I’ll kill you next time’. He meant it too. He had a crazy look in his eye that told me not to mess with him again. I considered it, but of course in my heart of hearts, I knew that I’d tackle him again.

Unfortunately, this incident occurred on a Saturday. A wet Saturday. That meant Dad was in the house. And he heard the commotion. How could he not? His six foot, fifteen stone (those were the Halcyon days!) first born son had just been rammed through two doors by his Tasmanian Devil second born son.

Well the brother had disappeared, I was just catching my breath and trying to figure out a way to spin this story in my favour if he ever told anyone about it, when Dad came in to the bathroom and witnessed the destruction. Man, I don’t know what’s worse, getting your ass handed to you by your brother, or the look of absolute bewilderment and disappointment that a parent gives you when you’ve been involved in something completely idiotic.

Dad blamed wrestling of course. I blamed letting the young fella play rugby. That accusation only made things worse.

That Friday night we couldn’t watch RAW, we had to watch the Late-Late show.

The ‘oul boy could be a monster heel when he wanted to.

Reading this back, it is pretty embarrassing actually. What the fuck was I at buying a skateboard?

 

Read previous chapters in this series here:

Full Kit Chancer

Ollie & Folly in The GAA

Should I have been a contender?

Full Kit Chancer

Part 3 in A Brief History of My Sporting Failures

Do kids still ask their parents (Santa) for full kits for Christmas? Or has modern society evolved correctly? The concept seems ridiculous to me.

I had a couple of Manchester United kits as a child. I was a ridiculous child to be fair.

I don’t really support Manchester United anymore. My interest in soccer has diminished over the years. I like it just fine, but I’d never lose my shit over a result, or change plans to see a game. I’d do that for rugby, but only the international side. Soccer is something that I like to stumble upon and pleasantly enjoy now and again. Like a random café on a wet Tuesday, the film’s of Vin Diesel, or a chipper on the way home from a night out.

I’d be more of a well-wisher now than a fully fledged fan. I don’t own any memorabilia from the current era, but I wouldn’t say no to an ‘aul vintage jersey if I was offered one.

Why Man U you ask? Well, I suppose my earliest memory of Man U involved a Kevin Moran red card and me shitting myself. Actually, I was only four months old, and I don’t remember it. Family members like to tell the story though, as if me defecating in my own nappy as a baby would somehow embarrass me now. It doesn’t.

You need to have actual self-esteem in the first place for it to be lowered.

Anyway, what happened was, Kevin Moran was sent off in the 1985 FA Cup Final for fouling Peter Reid who was through on goal. I think Dad, a massive United fan, took umbrage with this decision and made his feelings known to the referee. I disagreed with both, and promptly shat myself. I think I also may have voiced concerns after Norman Whiteside scored the winner, I’m not entirely sure.

So, the love for Manchester United came from Dad. My Mam’s side all supported Liverpool and Tottenham, and a couple of slow cousins were Everton fans. The Liverpool fans always like to remind me and my brother of Liverpool’s previous successes, and laughed when we’d get frustrated and cry. The same cousin’s phone never seemed to be in service if I wanted to call for a friendly chat after a Liverpool defeat to United. This was incredibly strange as their dad, my uncle, was an engineer for the phone company.

Playing soccer. Now this was a different story.

Most of the soccer I’ve played was either in someone’s back garden, or on a tarmac yard in school. Oh yeah, indoor soccer and astro-turf 5-a-side. I’ve done that too. The walls and fenced in enclosures of these settings can be very forgiving to someone with an awful first touch.

Like Gaelic football, I was either a defender or a goalie. I’s not that I didn’t want to play up front, I just loved a theatrical dive or a big slide tackle. Nine times out of ten these manoeuvres were performed no-where near a ball. Ankles and shins were usually targeted in the back garden. That’s mainly because I fancied myself to come out on top in a scrap with my younger brother. I shouldn’t have. He fought dirty, like every younger brother does. It’s their right I suppose. The fucker was strong too…

I’ve only ever played 11-a-side soccer once. And this was as a 27-year-old adult. My college had a Northside v Southside charity match as part of RAG week. I played centre-back for the Southside team (my campus was on the Southside of Dublin).

All the Northsiders were in the college of engineering and construction. Real men. Men who could play ball. All the guys on my team were from the college of Media, Arts and Tourism. Dreamers, poets… saps.

RTÉ were also there to speak to our student union president in relation to fees and student accommodation. The pricks recorded some of the match and showed highlights on the news that night.

One of the highlights shown? Me scoring an own-goal with my massive fucking head. I swear to God; this melon gets me in to more trouble than it’s worth.

Philip Bromwell, the reporter, had set up the camera behind our goals as we were defending a corner. I happened to be the tallest guy in the box, I was close to being the widest as well. The ball was floated perfectly in to the area by the Northside full-back. Our “coach” screamed: ‘GET YOUR HEAD ON THE END OF THAT BRADY!”

I was incredibly hungover. (It was RAG week after all!) The previous night was €2 bottles in Dicey’s. The fact that I’d drank around 12 bottles of Desperado’s followed by some shots meant that it was a miracle I even got my head through the jersey that morning.

My severely dehydrated and cramping legs decided to leap with all the power I possessed to meet the ball. I got my head on it alright. I just wasn’t facing the right way. If it had have been up the other end, it would have been a finish that Duncan Ferguson would have been proud of. I blasted it past our keeper, and took him and several defenders out in the process. If it was possible to win the game by knocking members of your own team in to the goal, the ref would have blown it up there and then.

Philip Bromwell from RTÉ was absolutely pissing himself behind the goals. He nearly knocked over his camera. It’s a pity he hadn’t been standing closer to the goal mouth. If I had collided with it, I would have made shite of his equipment. I would have made sure to have destroyed the footage as well.

The fiasco of my only ever 11-a-side game aired on the six-one news that night and was repeated on the nine o’clock news. None of my clearances, my big tackles or my probing balls (behave yourself) were featured. Just my big, clumsy, oafish own-goal.

Fucking RTÉ, man. Just knowing that footage exists in their archive makes me very uncomfortable. If I ever get caught for not paying my TV licence, I’ll get my solicitor to have the footage of my performance erased as part of my plea bargain.

As sporting failures go, it doesn’t get much worse than having one broadcast on national television.

Or does it?

Yes, yes of course it does.

Find out how next time on A Brief History of My Sporting Failures.

Brains

The year is 2039. Ten years ago, the cash strapped Irish government were searching for an alternative energy source (that they could sell to America), and accidentally discovered alien crystals off the coast of Louth.

A Kerry TD (that’s MP to you English readers, congress man to the Yanks), who made his money from scalping gullible American tourists, financed research into the strange crystals. It was discovered that by ingesting a small portion of crystal powder the subject would become super intelligent.

A company was set up to productise the discovery. Brain Dust (I never liked the name) became the most popular product in Ireland since the Joe Dolan sex doll craze of 2022. Parents re-mortgaged their houses to buy a dose for their kids and have them attend the best universities. This led to Ireland having the best educated work force in Europe, and then the world. When foreign leaders enquired as to how we became so smart, they laughed at the suggestion that we had access to alien pharmaceuticals.

My parents did the same for me as every other family in the country was doing for their kids. They burdened themselves with a massive debt to pay for my Brain Dust. I promised that once I graduated and started earning the big money I’d pay them back with interest.

I took what was supposed to be my only dose of Brain Dust shortly after my fifteenth birthday. The impact was immediate. I instantly understood the relevance of Maths. I appreciated literature. I understood that while there was no God, the state needed religion as an excuse to keep the people under control.

My education was a huge success. I attended a prestigious university and got a very good job in the world of finance. I repaid my parents for their sacrifice and invested money wisely for them so that they could retire young. Everything was going great until one day I woke up and realised I’d forgotten how to count.

I don’t know how it happened. My wife reckoned that it had something to do with my heavy drinking over the years. I wasn’t so sure. The fact that I couldn’t figure out how it happened was worrying. I was supposed to be super intelligent. I thought that maybe the Brain Dust had worn off. She asked how many pints I’d had the night before. I broke down and cried. I knew I’d had some, but I couldn’t bloody get the exact figure right.

It was clear what I needed to do. Another dose of Brain Dust would have to be administered. I got my wife to call the local dispensary. After pleading my case on my behalf, she told me that it was agreed that I could receive a second dose at three times the market value. I wasn’t sure how many three was. I assumed it was low.

We arrived at the clinic at some stage in the day, afternoon maybe? My time telling ability was also suffering. The waiting room was full of teenagers. There were at least seven hundred there I think. Which was strange, it was a fairly small room.

I was called in to see the chemist immediately. I was told that my case was extremely rare, but that once the dose was administered I’d be back to normal straight away. This put me and my wife at ease.

Because of my age I had to receive the dust intravenously. A needle was inserted into a vein in my neck. It hurt like a bastard. I passed out from the pain.

When I came to, the room was gone. All that remained were ashes and charred bones. It seemed that the second dose had given me some kind of telekinetic energy blast ability. The trauma I experienced had caused me to set off one of these blasts in the clinic. I was told the blast had obliterated a seven kilometre radius. The death toll was high, or maybe it was low. I don’t know.

I still can’t count.

Love, Vacuously

A tale about dating in modern Ireland

There’s usually a valid reason why people in their late thirties are single.

Perhaps they were the victim of a dishonest partner. A messy breakup. A bereavement. Mental health issues. Or, they haven’t just met the right person.

There are many reasons. Shay’s reason for being single was; he was a massive gobshite. A harmless gobshite, but a gobshite nonetheless.

Shay was the type of gobshite to go on a date to an expensive Mexican restaurant and pretend he left his wallet at home so the lady would pay. He’d get that second helping of guacamole, but not a second date.

He was the type of gobshite that told dates truthful answers to rhetorical enquiries about how they looked. ‘Well the dress does accentuate your huge boobs, but I hate the colour. Makes you look anaemic.’

A gobshite that took the phrase “be yourself” to the extreme, and was far too honest and open with ladies on his first dates. Nobody wants to hear the answer ‘I spent it mostly googling celebrity sex tapes’, to the question, ‘How was work today?’

His parents were worried. Shay was their only child. His father yearned for a grandchild that he could dote on. Someone that he could teach to run the farm, seeing as Shay was so bloody useless.

His mother, Celine, wanted him to settle down so she’d be finally able to boast about it in her ladies club meetings. All the other haughty bitches had their kids married off to solicitors and primary school teachers from the big town over. She was sick to death of the faux sympathetic looks Anne Smith gave her when she explained Shay hasn’t met someone, but was happy. ‘Well, as long as he’s happy!’ Anne would say, tilting her head to the side and clucking her tongue. ‘Fuck you Anne’, Celine would think, ‘Everyone here knows your husband is riding the parish priest. Everyone but you, you silly bitch.’ Celine would take solace in that, and hope that Shay would get his act together soon, if not for her sake, but for his own.

Shay wasn’t a bad looking fella. He was tall, broad, lean, and had a full head of thick black hair that he kept at a length that was long enough to put in a ponytail if required, short enough to look neat for work.
He wasn’t short a few bob either. He helped out on his dad’s farm at the evenings and weekends, and had a well paying office job with the department of agriculture during the week. His uncle, a disgraced former politician, had got him the job back in the boom. Nobody really knew what he was supposed to be doing there, including Shay, but too much time had passed, so nobody thought to ask. He carried on showing up every day for the past few years, always twenty minutes late.

Shay was now 38. All his friends were married. Some even had kids. He was running out of people to go for pints with. But more importantly, he was running out of local women close to his own age that he could ask out. He had tried chatting up some girl in the village pub the last bank holiday, but was informed that she was a 5th year in the local school. He was a gobshite, but he wasn’t a creep.

An article in the local paper recently had said that rural single men would be better off moving to the city to fìnd love. Shay couldn’t comprehend living in Dublin. The thoughts of it terrified him. Double decker buses, the Luas, concrete and steel everywhere. It was like something out of science fiction. Shay needed greenery, wide open spaces, the ability to do a u-turn on public roads without using your indicators. Traffic lights and stop signs. That’s what you had in the city. Too restrictive. Too alien. Too expensive. €6.50 for a pint of Guinness? Fuck off!

And the women. Jaysus, the women. They knew stuff. They knew stuff about sex. They talked about sex! Openly! Sex wasn’t supposed to be discussed openly. It was like money, your aunties nervous breakdown, or how many acres you had – that shit was private, and had to be kept to yourself. Society would break down otherwise.

No, Shay wouldn’t be going to the Big Smoke to find love. He’d have to find it in a fifteen mile radius. But who? And more importantly, how?

One Tuesday morning, Shay was sitting in the canteen having his usual two hour coffee break. Phil from finance came in to replenish his water bottle from the filtered tap.

‘Hey Shay, just the man!’

‘Phil, well? How are you? Biscuit?’, Shay slid over the packet of chocolate fingers he was methodically devouring. Phil patted his stomach and raised a hand to politely decline.

‘Nah man, I’m looking after meself. Which is what I wanted to talk to you about.’ Phil said, with a big grin on his face.

Shay made a big show of getting up out of his seat, walking to the sink and rinsing his cup. He pulled back his sleeve on his left arm and glanced at the watch that he didn’t have.

‘Ok, make it quick, I’ve to go on lunch now in fifteen minutes.’

Phil chuckled. ‘Jaysus you boys in…what team are you on again?’

Shay shrugged.

‘Well, you boys have it hard, eh?’ Phil winked. ‘What I wanted to ask you was, are you free on the 21st?’

Shay looked up at the calendar over the coffee machine. That was a Saturday. He would probably have to help his dad on the farm. So yes, he was free.

‘I am, yeah. Why?’

‘It’s my wedding. John and Alice from my team just found out they were having a baby. They’re flying to Glasgow that weekend to tell her parents. We’ve room at the work colleagues table. I’d love if you could come. A plus one for you too!’

Shay knew he was sloppy seconds here, but he didn’t really care. Weddings were great for two things – drinking and riding. And he loved both.

‘Ah, fuck it sure. I’ll go.’ Shay reached out to shake Phil’s hand. Phil took it, obviously relieved. ‘But, my present to you is filling the seat. You can forget about a big lump of cash in an envelope.’

Phil grimaced, lifted his water bottle and walked out of the canteen mumbling. Shay thought he heard ‘miserable bastard’, but he didn’t care. This plus one invite was exactly the kick up the arse he required to get himself a lady.

He was so excited and determined, that instead of going for his usual three hour lunch break, he went home to research wedding dates. How do you get them? Where do you get them? Will the internet help? How much money will they expect?

According to the internet, the best way to get a date these days was through an app called Tinder. To register required Facebook. Both were supposed to be used on a smart phone.  Shay had none of that stuff. He drove in to the big town and bought the most basic smart phone he could find. The greasy man in the phone shop tried to convince him to buy the latest and greatest device on the market. But Shay saw right through him. €700 for a yoke to make phone calls with? Madness. You nearly wouldn’t get that for a bullock these days!

Shay set up his Facebook and Tinder profiles that evening. It wasn’t long before he got his first request. Mia Tan. She was stunning! And according to her profile, she was only five kilometers away. Shay thought this odd at first, he’d never seen her at mass. Maybe she was Church of Ireland? Anything was possible, and he’d no time to be fussy. The wedding was three weeks away.

Shay sent her a quick flirty message:

U ave nice round arse sexy baby. Want 2 meet up? xxx

Shay thought it best to go with his a-game straight away. No time to be wasting with pointless small talk.

She replied:

Hi there! You have no profile picture, but I can tell you’re gorgeous from the way you’re typing. I’d like to meet tonight. Where are you?

‘Profile picture? What the fuck is a profile picture?’, thought Shay. He’d figure that out later. A meet and greet in Mulcahy’s would break the ice.

I’m 5km away from u. Cn meet u in Mulcahy’s in the village f u like? 8 o’clock? I’ll bring my profile picture.

Shay tapped his fingers nervously on the table. Maybe she wouldn’t reply. Maybe it was a wind up. Five minutes passed. He forgot about it. He got up to make a cup of tea. The phone buzzed.

Be outside Mulcahy’s at 9pm. Wear a green shirt. I’ll meet you outside. Can’t wait to see you. I’ll buy the first drink. xxx

‘Yes! This is too easy. A date and a free pint’ Shay jumped up, ran in to his bedroom and had a look for a green shirt. He found an old Irish rugby jersey from the 2003 world cup. It was faded to bits, had a bleach stain on the front, but was the only green shirt he owned. It was a wee bit tight, but all the hipsters were wearing tight things these days. Shay didn’t know that. He had no idea what a hipster was, and if he did, he probably wouldn’t have liked it.

He called his mother.

‘Mammy! Will ye drop me to Mulcahy’s later? I’ve a date with a woman.’

Celine was only happy to oblige. She arrived at Shay’s house at a quarter to nine. She was horrified when he came bounding down the driveway in a tattered old rugby shirt.

‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Seamus! What are you wearing?’

‘Look mammy, it’s part of the date. I have to wear green, ok? This is the only green shirt I own.’, Shay whined.

‘Could you not have gone in and bought a new one in town? Of all things to be wearing!’, clucked Celine.

‘Didn’t have time. Only organized the date an hour ago.’

Celine groaned her disapproval. ‘Well, who is she anyway?’

‘Mia Tan is her name. Protestant girl I think. Lives over the road.’

‘Oh.’ Celine sighed. This could cause scandal at the ladies club. Nobody in modern Ireland really cared anymore about religion, but there were a few of the older wagons that would use this information as a stick to beat her with. Shower of old fashioned crones that they were.

Celine pulled up to the pub. Shay went to get out, paused, looked back at his mother.

‘You hardly have €50 on you? I forgot to go to the ATM.’

Celine groaned, reached back for her purse and handed Shay a crisp €50 note.

‘Look after that girl now. Use some of this to pay for her taxi home!’

Shay took the note and got out of the car. ‘I will mammy…’ he closed the door, ‘…in me bollix.’ Shay put the €50 in his wallet, adding it to the other ten notes inside. Shay felt naked without at least five hundred quid in his wallet at any time. He was never going to spend it, but just knowing it was there made him feel safe.

He assumed his position outside the pub. Fifteen minutes passed and no sign of Mia. Shay was beginning  to think he wasn’t going to get that free pint.

A battered looking transit van pulled up in front of Shay. A guy in the passenger seat rolled the window down.

‘Sorry bud, are you waiting for Mia?’ he shouted.

‘No, I’m not waiting for you, mate. I’m waiting for Mia. A woman.’ Shay called back.

‘That’s what I said you thick fucker! Come here, I’ve a message for you.’

Shay leaned in the window of the van to ask the lad what he was talking about. The last thing he felt was a pinch and pressure on his neck.

 

He was cold. Very cold. The coldest he had ever been. He couldn’t feel anything between his chest and his knees. His arms were ok, and he could wiggle his toes.

Shay looked around. He was in a large, mostly empty room. It was lit with the type of lamps you normally see on construction sites during the winter. There was a low hum of a generator, possibly powering the lamp. The door to Shay’s right resembled the entrance to a butcher’s store room. It was a large steel door on tracks, and had plastic strips reaching to the floor. As he gradually became more aware, Shay realized that he was completely naked and in a bath full of water. The water was a pinkish colour and had the remains of ice cubes floating around the top.

Shay begun to panic. There was a sutured red line on his side above his hip. Someone had cut him open and taken something from him. Or put something in him. He looked to his right again. Where was he?

Now he was really panicking. Where were his jeans? He tried to stand, but couldn’t. He looked to his left, but all that was there was a sink and some medical instruments. There was a blind spot behind him that he just needed to see. He had to figure out what was behind him. His life depended on it.

Shay took a deep breath. He gripped the side of the bath in the middle and pushed with all his strength. He managed to rotate himself, like a sloppy gymnast on the pommel, and face the previously blind spot.

Then he saw it and knew that everything would be ok.

Draped across a chair were his jeans and t-shirt. Sticking out of the jeans was his wallet. Still full of cash.

‘Oh thank fuck’.

 

Three Short Tales of Horror

The Ageing of Youth

When it happened he was 22 years old. Up until that morning he had been content. He was a powerful, confident, young man. The world at his feet. 

He discovered it after his morning shower. 

A grey pube. 

Death had finally made it’s presence felt.


Flipped

The last Tuesday before Lent. Shrove Tuesday. It was Laura’s favourite day of the year. She bloody loved pancakes. All the ingredients were bought the day before. Eggs, nutella, marshmallows for the kids and lemon juice for her husband Brian.

Brian came down to the kitchen and yawned and stretched. ‘What are you making, Laura?’ Brian asked through the yawn.

‘Pancakes babe. Sit down and I’ll make you some.’

She would take Brian’s chilling reply to the grave.

‘No thanks babe. I think I’ll just have toast.’


Time to take out the bins

John hated doing the bins. It was the most annoyingly tedious job that he had to do in the house. Their driveway was a full kilometre and a half long and he had to drag the heavy wheelie bins down the rough gravel every Sunday night before the early morning Monday pick up.

One week he just couldn’t be bothered and he was fined the following week for an overweight load. Apparently one of the binmen had injured his back.

From then on John religiously dragged the bins to the road on Sunday nights. He wasn’t willing to risk another fine.

This week’s load was particularly heavy. They’d had a party the night before and someone had knocked over the crate for glass recycling. All the broken glass would have to be thrown out instead of being ethically recycled.

John reached the end of the lane. He pushed the bins into their slots and let out a sigh of satisfaction.

‘That’s it now for another week!’

It was at this point he was murdered by an evil clown.