Before the Ink is Dry by Michael McGrath

Logs on the Tracks

Logs on the Tracks

Photo by Luca Calvani


‘Before the Ink is Dry’ by Michael McGrath

Treaty Stone. Arrow. Funny how the little clouds sit so close to the river. I wonder are they clouds or something from industry or maybe a shop or a bar. The water looks really pretty at this time of the morning with sunlight scattering in all directions and once upon a time I walked here as a child, mother was there with her hand in my hand and a face all sticky with the sweeties and my fingers sore and sweaty from being held tight so that the bad man wouldn’t take me away. Same river now, same person looking into it and I suppose the same water in a way since it goes around in a kind of a cycle like maybe I’m the bad man now and mothers should be wide of me and go home to their husbands in their cars and say there was an awful strange looking fella walking along by the railing at O’Callaghan Strand this morning, all on his own with a funny oul look in his eye.

Maybe if I’d tried more at school or whatever and went on to be a business man of some kind then I could have owned one of those shops across the bridge and have had staff and a suit and a case against me for financial irregularities and then all my dreams would be turned to smoke and I’d walk out of the shop and into the river or maybe I would have been a cop and driven the NeeNaws up through the island and chased ponies and tracksuits every night through the flashing red and blue lights and then they’d be the bad men and I’d be the good. So when Cathy rang me last night I could have said sorry love I have work to do, gotta bring home the bacon, which is funny because I’m a cop but still I would have had a job and so she would have been like oh that’s great Hun keep going and I’ll have a nice cup of tea waiting on the table in the morning and my arse in your side of the bed to keep it warm for you.

No, now she’s all tick like because I stayed at Johnny’s house last night, time to grow up and cop on and figure things out because there’s responsibilities in this world and like I might have to go to England or something to find work and post money back and shur wasn’t it good enough for the generations before us and they didn’t complain, only drank themselves into the ground and ended up in little bedsits all quare old and with nobody to look after them and their eyes all watery thinking about the old sod and cold cups of tea in their hands with a smell of piss off the armchairs, but she doesn’t want to hear that side of things at all.

Still, I shouldn’t have left in a huff that way because I suppose like she has a right to wonder how we’re gonna manage with the bills and the rent and thank God we didn’t buy the house and be mortgaged up to our ears as it’s hard enough just renting like and I told her that but she wouldn’t listen and was all red faced and I’ve never seen her that cross before so I kinda met fire with fire and left nearly taking the door off the hinges and I’d say I kinda frightened her and fuck it though and fuck it fuck it fuck it.

What time is it anyway? Twenty past eight. Suppose I’d better go back and see what she says now and I’ll say nothing about maybe needing to borrow a tenner off her until Thursday when the dole payment goes in. No, best cross that bridge when I get to it and I wonder how old that Sarsfield Bridge is and wasn’t it called something else before? I suppose before independence or whatever because the English would never call it that because like Sarsfield blew up an arms dump or something and was involved in the treaty on the Irish side, which is why the stone is called that and he died in France and was like betrayed by the English who went back on their word before the ink was dry on the paper or so Mrs O’Donovan used to say and I bet she wouldn’t like Ireland now so she wouldn’t with me having to go overseas and I bet she wouldn’t like the bridge either because there’s homeless people hanging around it and I’ve heard that the Limerick ones go to Cork in the summer for a few months for like a holiday and that but shur I don’t know and their a dirty oul lot really.

Wonder what she’ll say to me? I hope she’s alright and she won’t leave me because I don’t know how I’d cope and don’t know how to cope and like that trouble I had in my head might come back again and then the wheels might really come off this time and I’m in trouble now Cathy with all this and I can’t tell you how much I need you but I really do and I promise I’ll go to England if you just stick with me and I love you and please don’t leave me and hurt me and stop it and stop it and stop it. Stop.

I’ll have a seat for a minute and I’ll feel better. Oh this bench is nice. The metal is fresh and cold beneath my hands. Look at the river. Isn’t it nice? Few swans there this morning. Mate for life. There’s those little clouds again by the water, where do they come from? All so quiet. Feels as if the city forgot to wake up. All souls tucked away behind the stone walls and glass. Their clock radios are telling them that today is another day. Signals like wind blowing through the whistling bridge. The bridge. Sarsfield. Ha-ha! Dreams written off by the Treaty Stone.


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Michael McGrath
Michael McGrath is an upcoming writer of fiction and poetry who has been published locally and nationally. His most recent achievement was claiming an award in two categories at the University of Limerick Arts Awards 2014: 1st place in the Short Story category for his work Entropy and 3rd in the Poetry section for The Trouble With Atoms. He is currently working on his first novel. He works as a second level English teacher and lives in Cork City, Ireland.

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One Response to Before the Ink is Dry by Michael McGrath

  1. I really enjoyed this story, the pace was brilliant, put me right in the narrator’s head.

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