Goodnight, Suzanne by J.A. Callan



Photo by Luca Calvani


‘Goodnight, Suzanne’ by J.A. Callan


I can feel the warmth of the sunlight coming through the kitchen window. Suzanne’s hand is on mine. She is smiling. Her face is glowing, basking in the powerful yellow sunlight which illuminates the room. A stark contrast to the mascara-running mess she was the night it ended. Now, she’s more like she was the night I met her. Dancing on a table while the decrepit bar man tried to get her down, her blond hair a radiant halo, her face full of love.
The tele up on the wall bears the headline: Gavin Brady Hero. I don’t know what I’ve done to be called that, but it doesn’t matter, because Suzanne is home, she’s smiling, and we’re together.

This is the dream I keep having; this is what torments me.

I wake up. I’ve slept with the window open again and I’m naked. My body is numb from the cold. I can hear the birds outside taunting me. My mouth tastes peculiarly like vomit and taco sauce. Then the smell hits me. I lean over the side of the bed and the vomit-crusted pizza box rears its ugly head to say good morning. I close my eyes in a feeble attempt to recapture the fading remnants of my dream to achieve a few more moments of bliss.

This is what it has come to; opting for the dream world over my reality. I check my phone. It’s the afternoon, and Declan has been trying to contact me. I call him back, while entertaining notions of a shower, and maybe even some breakfast.

– Gav? Declan murmurs with trepidation, like I’m dead and am calling from beyond the grave. His voice always reminds me of broken glass. I don’t know why. It just sounds like there’s a copious amount of glass in his throat breaking up into tiny diamonds whenever he speaks.

After some bullshit, he asks me, – Ready for round two?

Sure, I tell him. Bring it on. But it’s only for the want of having nothing better to do now that Suzanne is gone. I’m a nomad wandering a desert of alcohol and madness, searching futilely for that oasis of love, and peace, while Declan stands in as Lucifer, goading and jeering me.

I hang up and return to the sanctuary of my bedroom. I feel like I’m alone in the world and the feeling brings me a strange sense of calm; like a man stranded alone on a deserted island, I have grown to not only yield to my current predicament, but to also revel silently in it. I look at the pale square patches on my wall with the dark outlines around them, and think about Suzanne. After a while I can’t smell the vomit on the pizza box.

Declan’s bedroom is slightly bigger than mine, but only a thin pathway is accessible from the door to the bed, and from the bed to the TV. His bed is a raft on an ocean of desolation. But there is never a lighthouse in the distance to guide you home.

Food packaging, clothes, mouldy food on plates, runners, and tools and other bits and bobs, are piled high like wounded soldiers in testament to some war that was fought and lost.

Bags of stolen merchandise line the wall like sentries guarding them. Everything from tampons to garden hoses, you name it, Declan steals it, and more than likely has it stashed in his inventory. But he rarely steals anything of conceivable use. He could tell you where the cameras are in every shop in this town. He tells me that it does not matter what you steal, it’s all about how you defeat the security system that is in place. Which is why he stuck that cacti plant down the front of his trousers one day.

I’d put money on there being a dead cat amongst the debris. The black one with the missing eye. The one that always snarls at me. It’s gone missing and is presumed dead, possibly devoured by the mouldy offspring of dirty socks and maggots.

Declan is sitting beside me on the bed, playing the Xbox, gesticulating and cursing vehemently; you’d swear he had Tourette’s. A cigarette dangles over his bottom lip. The tendons in his neck bulge. I’m on edge, anticipating an outburst of violence.

An overflown ashtray, stolen from a pub, sits dangerously on the edge of his beside locker, staring mockingly down at the floor. Declan’s character dies. He curses and kicks, hits the locker, and sends the ashtray falling. It hits the manky floor and sends up an ash cloud that makes me think of Pompeii.

– Shit! Declan roars, and looks at me as though it were my fault.

We pass an hour taking turns dying while passing a cheap naggin of vodka back and forth like a peace pipe. It’s kerosene to my wounded stomach.

We scrub up and head out looking like animated corpses that have escaped from the funeral home. En route towards town, we spot road kill on the side of the road veering off to our left. It could be a fox, it could be a dog. It is that badly decomposed that from where we are standing it defies a clear categorisation.

– That better not be my cat, Declan pines, with a look that reminds me of that statue out on Rosses Point, the one of the woman holding her arms out to sea.

In the crummy McDonalds I do not eat anything, writing it off as being unnecessary expenditure. I can’t afford to be buying food simply to line my stomach. It won’t be down there long enough to serve any other purpose. I watch Declan eat while I drink coffee.                                 He gorges on a Big Mac, while telling me about some Lithuanian woman he is trying to ride.

– Lithuanians, he says, spewing lettuce in my direction and nodding pedantically.

– They are up for anything. He sounds like a misogynous Richard Attenborough when he says that. I stare into the murky abyss of my coffee, feeling the onset of a head ache, as Declan goes on to tell me about visiting our friend Francis in the psych ward the other day.

– It’s not bad, so it’s not. He says the food is ok, and sure he does be fuckin zonked all day that even if the food was bad he wouldn’t notice.

As if that makes it all ok.

Francis had a bit of a break down over the summer. The years of pot smoking and glue sniffing took their toll one clammy night and he went charging down the street naked at 2 AM, screaming and clawing at his skin. He told Declan that ants were burrowing into his skin. The cops hauled him in for his own safety and marched him straight up into the psychiatric ward of the regional hospital, where he has resided ever since.

– God speaks to him now, Declan says, eyeing me curiously. I just grunt and glance over at a bunch of boisterous teenagers in the corner booth. One of them catches my eye. I look away. But then Declan turns around and exudes a wave of hostility at them all. The one who caught my eye now turns away. Confrontation with Declan is usually inevitable on a night out, and I’m expecting something to kick off here. But Declan just mutters something under his breath about your man being a ‘pussy’, and starts reminiscing about Francis. This makes me uncomfortable. I’ve been friends with Francis for as long as I have been friends with Declan, but lately there’s just something that chills me whenever he’s mentioned in a conversation. He’s almost like a taboo to me, and I want to quickly change the subject.

Declan laps the fucker up, though. Probably because he isn’t too far behind him in the race towards complete psychosis.

How I do envy them both.

We are no longer admitted into the majority of the pubs.

Alcohol is the scissors that cuts the frail ribbon holding Declan’s mind together. He picks fights with doormen simply because he hates them. Like a white supremacist seething at the sight of minorities, Declan sees red whenever the black coat, the ear piece and the armband come into view. We manage to get into one pub called The Jack’s End, because they have a new doorman working and he doesn’t recognise Declan. He will recognise him next time; Declan sports a self-maintained Mohawk, he is anaemic, which gives him the pale, withered look of a junky, and his eyes have this abnormal tendency to water profusely when he’s been drinking.

The barman recognises Declan and gives us our marching orders. He’ll never forgive Declan for throwing a bar stool at some guy he was arguing with last year. It might not have been so bad had Declan not missed him and instead took out half the bottles on the shelf behind the bar. Declan makes some strange remark to the barman about his dead mother doing it with Hitler down in Hell, but I’m already out the door.

We head towards the spotlights of the nightclub, and I see Suzanne thirty-seven times along the way.

We get the usual trouble at the entrance with the bouncers. One of them eyes Declan suspiciously when he hands him his ID, and proclaims matter-of-factly, – This isn’t you.

– It fuckin well is, Declan reiterates, staggering a little.

– It isn’t, the bouncer shakes his head.

I’ve been let through by now, and I lurk in the doorway like it’s a saloon in the Wild West, anticipating a shoot-out between the Law and the bandit. I can understand the bouncer’s confusion; it is hard to place the baby-faced young man in Declan’s ID with the monstrosity that he is today.  But somehow, Declan is let in, and we head straight for the bar. Declan demands vodka shots from the twelve year-old barman, slapping his hand onto the counter for affect. I see Suzanne grinding with some fella out on the dance floor.

– Get that into you, Declan hisses at me when the shots are lined up, sounding like a drug dealer. I grimace as it hits my empty stomach and sets fire to the lining. I never drank vodka until Suzanne left. I’m not sure I even like it. Declan orders pints, leaning across the counter and shouting, competing with the mind-numbing, fist-pumping beats being dropped from the decks on the platform suspended over the dance floor. From a distance it must look like Declan is threatening the poor bar man, who is covered in acne.

I suddenly feel anxious, so I head for the bathroom. Inside, I squeeze in between two other men and hold my shrivelled penis. I can’t piss. I can’t go when there’s people around me. I just shove it back into my trousers and turn around to see a good-looking, brawny man with his hair combed-over slam another man who looks identical to him up against a cubicle. His face goes purple as the aggressor’s grip tightens. I never thought someone’s face could actually go that colour. Behind the cubicle, a man vomits aggressively and then pines for Sharon. A black man, looking desensitised to it all, sprays aftershave on me when I’m washing my hands at the sink and then tries to charge me for it, manically chanting,

– … girlfriend… you have girlfriend, she like!

I feel like crying. I head back out into the madness. Declan is nowhere to be found. His seat at the bar is now occupied by Suzanne. I stick to the wall, pass groups of rowdy men and scantily-clad drunk women, and escape out the door. I hear commotion round the corner. It sounds like Declan. He’s squaring up to some small guy in a chequered shirt. Two women stand back, gripping their handbags and staring at Declan with ferocious intensity, stilettos and fake nails at the ready. I save the day. I grab Declan’s arm and tell him to come with me, just as he pushes your man into the wall. He looks familiar. I think we went to school with him somewhere down the line.

– Fuck you, man! Declan shouts back, determined to get the last word in as I drag him away.

We get down the road and he stops to take a piss. Against a car. I’m painfully sober, so I’m conscious of people being around. But there’s no one.

– Did you see her? Declan slurs, shaking his prick and leering at me.

– Who?

– The Lithuanian one.

– No, I didn’t, I shake my head. He’s full of it. But not for much longer, because he buckles over like he’s just after taking a bullet to the gut and starts retching. I pick him up, and we walk arm-in-arm like two lovers back towards the town, to wherever will take us.

I wake up in Declan’s bedroom with the familiar taste of vomit and blood and with no recollection of the events that transpired after we left the nightclub. My back is stiff from sleeping on the floor and my stomach feels like it has taken a few punches from Tyson.  I smell like a hamburger that has been left out in the sun to become a bed for maggots to fornicate upon. Declan is face down on his bed in a pool of crusty vomit. I turn and I’m face-to-face with the one-eyed cat that’s been missing for weeks. It meows. There’s nothing but utter spite for me in that meow. It soars through the air like a bat, and then winds around the door like a snake and disappears.

I check my phone for the time. The screen is smashed. All I can make out is Suzanne’s blond hair. The centre of impact is right on her face. I stick the phone into my pocket, stand still until the room stops spinning, and then leave. My knuckles are tender and when Declan turns over in his sleep I notice he has a black eye. My phone dies from its injuries on the way home. I get a call from Declan, telling me that Francis has been released from the psych ward. Plans for a session are impudently made. But I tell him I want no part in it, knowing deep down in my gut that by the time the lonely hour approaches I’ll be back out into the thick of it all.

I return to the comforting silence of my bedroom. Only the taco-vomit pizza box is there to welcome me home. My face becomes wet. Suzanne is never coming back. I’m realising that now as my mind succumbs to notions of intergalactic space travel, because Australia wouldn’t be far enough. I sit on the floor in the corner of the room like some neglected plant, and I wait there. But for what, I do not know.

Did you like the story? Opinions? Praise? Please leave a comment below

J.A. Callan


J.A. Callan is a 20 year old male from Naas, Co. Kildare. His principal influences include Stephen King, Irvine Welsh and Hubert Selby, Jr. He is particularly interested in, and influenced by, Transgressive fiction. He writes about the mundane and about people on the margins of society, be it by their own will or through a wrong turn. Misfits, criminals, drug addicts and the disenchanted are all found throughout his work.

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7 Responses to Goodnight, Suzanne by J.A. Callan

  1. Julia Callan

    Really enjoyed reading this-leaves you guessing at the end as to what happened Suzanne,did she just leave him or did she die??
    I look forward to reading more from this writer.

  2. A new and strong outsider voice – authentic and powerful.

    • Roadside

      Glad you liked it, Howard. The writer will be delighted to hear that!

    • J.A. Callan

      Thanks Howard!

  3. Great story, I really felt the bleakness of those mornings after the night before.

    • Roadside

      Indeed, Teresa. Bleak is the word!

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