Tag Archives: fiction

The Chronicle of Mr. Cogito

Señor C had made an informed judgement on every part of his body. He had in his possession a number of journals, encyclopaedias and compendia on the subject of anatomy and from these sources and others, he considered himself to be informed. He had judged his thighs, he had judged his kneecaps. He had judged his thighs and the kneecaps at their ends and found them not deficient, deficient as others, others whose judgements were not invested with the same accuracy of his own, not to speak of the textbooks from which they were derived, may perceive them as being. They were different, certainly. Striking? Of course. Unusual? Oh, there could be no doubt. But deformed?

One of the books Señor C had read was entitled On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859). Well, not the whole thing, in truth, but a good heft of’t. His failure in completing the text was pathological, and not attributable to a lapse in his academic diligence. Señor C would be overcome by fits of giggling when he reached a section, just some yards wide of the half-way point. A noble vista, if only it could be reached! The unyielding paragraph described how a combination of selective breeding on the part of the tribes of sub-Saharan Africa and just a bit of individual ingenuity on behalf of each beast, could cause the neck of a giraffe to become elongated. Señor C would laugh, and his entire body would begin to curl up into itself. His backside leaned dangerously over the edge of, and then off the edge of, his chair, leaving Señor C to keel over and curl yet further, onto the floor. His resemblance to tape turning about a spool was most uncanny. There, he would endure what remained of his laughing fit, until the memory of the Serengeti, the giraffes and tribes all had passed from his mind. After havong regained his composure, Señor C would ask himself, was that truly that funny? Was it really? Señor C was a curious sort, and no less curious on the subject of himself.

All the same, by this stage in the text, Señor C had gained some familiarity with Darwin’s thesis and thusly it was possible for regard his kneecaps as an adaptation, of potential benefit to future generations. Not that Señor C was likely to ever viviparate. Though sometimes he cultivated daydreams of producing a stolon. Stretching, in order to quell an incipience in one of his arms, there would be another Señor C, moustachioed and sodden in afterbirth, just as mystified as he, the initial incarnation of Señor C, was, at the terminus of an adnexa that had them conjoined.

Señor C’s kneecaps were reversed. His knees looked to what was behind him. Señor C intermittently regretted that there was no one else in his home to witness his adaptation. He often longed for someone to collaborate with in the combing over the finer details. In order to resolve the dilemma of his solitude, Señor C apprenticed himself, with the diligence of the isolated obsessive, in the art of naively witnessing his own life. He placed himself in rooms before he arrived in them, and watched himself enter. It was, like all skills in the making, a real slippery bastard. The key was to prevent himself from forcing his efforts, lest he jump the mark and his imagination fill the gap. This is what had happened when Señor C experienced a deceptive breakthrough which had seemed at first, reliable, as far as perceptions go. There he was, maladroitly astride the doorframe, surely himself, all angular imprecision, testing the strength of his tendons by leaning in incorrect and frankly performative ways. But then, reproducing the image subsequently, he supplanted what he truly did look like with what he thought he looked like. Perhaps it had since worked, perhaps on other occasions it had not. It is difficult to say, and more difficult still to describe what it is like to see with the eyes of an empty room.

Señor C thought often about his attic. Such a strange room. A strange room in that it was valued for its capacity to take objects, from rooms where they were not wanted. Could

the attic be regarded as existing in the same category as other rooms? If the attic was a non-room, did it feel left out? If it did feel left out, did this cause jealousy, resentment? Correlatively, is it possible the other rooms felt bloated, stuffed to their fetters with objects, desperate to unload their contents somewhere, resentful in turn of the myriadminded creature that moved in them? Could the attic conspire with the other rooms, to offload their wastage? Or would the attic conspire to distribute its space within other rooms? If such a transaction of room between rooms, would they be mindful of his position at the time of transfer? Would it be possible that a corner of a room would materialise within his body as he passed through his home? Señor C began to formulate a more deliberate gait, as if ready to fend off a part of his attic that might produce itself in the middle of his chest cavity.

Señor C found himself less capable of plying the familiar in-roads of his thoughts of pursuing his regular hobbies, becoming uncertain as to whether ‘phthisic’ should indeed follow on from ‘phthirophagus’ in the dictionary. Verifying that words in his edition of the Oxford English Dictionary did indeed appear in alphabetical order was one such pastime.

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered am I

It was a mannered song. It was in the old style. The notes were embraced and theatrically uncoupled, by a vocalist who performed beneath the rasp of a big band. These symptoms of its disingenuity and more irked him, but he acclimatised. Once, it roused him from sleep to half-doze and he would lie there on his back, being confused, but it now relaxed him. He drifted off while grinding his teeth in rhythm with the drummer’s bemsha- plodding. He was content to allow matters stand as they were, until the song started to leave a sugary crust on the walls, which he picked at like a neurotic.

He climbed the stairs to the attic and there found a stack of clockwork phonographs, inert, corner into corner into corner, perfectly. Not one side of any phonograph was infringed upon by contact with any other side; they were all pristine hexagons in terrible sequences. Señor C saw himself in his dreams, running at them and being impaled in eighteen places, each point of incision exactly twelve inches from any other.

It was inconceivable to disturb even one of the phonographs, for fear of bringing an end to the geometry, the beauty of which would have brought tears to Señor C’s eyes if the affecting ballad had not in his mind, run the diapason entire from affecting to saccharine, to bothersome, to sickly to nauseating.

So he let it be for now, and allowed the crust to swell yet further.

Though, sometimes he did not let it be, and would return, full of the failure’s vigour for the resumed task, and found that on some quantum plane, the phonographs had begun to disembroil themselves from one another. In doing so, they excreted from themselves the colour brown, which was not brown, in truth, but a boiled brown.

This ooze was making its way across the attic floorboards. Though Señor C could not be certain that this melting, 0 wherefore melting, was not a discolouration of a more pedestrian sort, a mere stain in the attic’s floor, one that he had never before noticed. So he marked in the eye of his mind how far the stain halted before a particular grike in the floorboards and resolved to leave the room for a cluster of days, so that where the stain had progressed to could be contrasted with the stain as it is now.

In his dreams, he watched himself, inchoate with a rage he had been ignorant of in his real life, smash the phonographs to bits with a brass ear trumpet.

When the day finally came to trace the stain’s progression, Señor C pretended to have forgotten. He completed his morning ritual with a broadcast nonchalance, before allowing himself to remember to check the stain.

It had indeed advanced by a small, but indisputable margin. The gramophones from which the ooze emanated were increasingly reduced. Señor C knelt and asked the stain a question.

— What in the name of Christ is this?

They were not interested in his platitudes.

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered am I…

Today, Señor C was overly attendant to the process of preparing his breakfast, in order to distract himself from the man floating in his kitchen.

It was a man of ordinary height and appearance, some seven feet from the floor, and some two feet three inches from the ceiling. Apart from the general ‘wrongness’ of his manifestation (levitation, etc.), his orientation was skewed or incorrect. His front was too oriented; he looked neither upwards nor downwards, but in some 65 degree direction.

Señor C did not wish to touch the man or to address him. Or, to look at him, really. Señor C’s coping mechanism in this instance was, altogether different from the one he adopted when confronted with the loosening gramophones. Rather than generously apportioning himself periods of time during which he would pretend not to care, Señor C restrained himself from looking at the man altogether and only when in the midst of a cough, did he allow his eyes to look upwards at some glancing light off of the man’s shoe, for instance.

In spite of this austerity of glimpses, Señor C came to see that the man was slowly, slowly turning through the air, as considered and balletic as any circus acrobat. His display was far more impressive however, as he did so without the supports usually granted to the performer. One could appreciate this if one were capable of considering such things without being made to feel deeply uncomfortable, and Señor C could not.

Señor C began to wonder if there was an empirical means of verifying the man’s rotation. He supposed that the best option was to plot the angle in which his shoes were pointing at the current moment, and where they were pointing five, six days hence. He could use a measuring tape to chart this point from the shoe itself to one of the walls and mark it in pencil.

But he didn’t bother, and used the man as a clothes horse, despite the unsettling vision the man gave, swaddled in white sheets, hovering about his kitchen table like a profane and somnolent Virgin Mary, ascending body and soul to heaven, albeit at an unbearably torpid rate.

Mirrors stopped reflecting Señor C and Señor C began to reflect mirrors.

Climbing the stairs one evening, he put his foot through one of the steps.

Things that Señor C put down would disappear. Not in the quaint way that this befalls all of us, when something else confronts us as task and, oh, where did that thing I had get to, Señor C watched them, watched them, dissolve.

Señor C had placed great dependence on the constancy of the rules which governed the basic tenets of his life and did not know why they were being razed so frequently of late. He did not know why he had not left his home in many, many years. He did not know why he hadn’t seen another person in an even longer span of time. He longed to take an iron to things, to straighten out the world’s bunching wrinkles.

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Wastepaper Basket Part II: Radio Play #1

***Content warning: Usual disclaimer about quality, putting this online because I no longer feel it to be of publishable quality***

Weatherwoman: (cheery and ebullient) –be seeing a cold front crossing over from the east, making its way over Leinster into the midlands, there encountering a front of an indeterminate temperature, the effects of which will resonate for a period of time. Listeners in certain parts of eastern Connacht should be aware that if their homes have recently been touched by death, it is likely that these fronts will deposit a light sprinkling of orange silt on outdoor windowsills. It is advised that both children and the elderly refrain from consuming this powder, regardless of how pleasing it may appear to the eye.   

Finally, Met Éireann have issued a weather warning that the Western winds coming in from the Atlantic are likely to cause in persons of an intemperate disposition, ideations of an unsound sort. It is advised that people likely to be affected remain indoors until further notice and that contact with affected persons, be avoided. 

Oliver: Thanks Linda!

[a jaunty radio jingle is played on a xylophone for five or so seconds. the pause after it concludes is too long.]

Voice: (furtive, as if confiding) Being loved and accepted for who you are is not a guarantee. For those of us who- (cuts off abruptly)

[there is a pause and then Vince Hill’s ‘Look Around’ plays, for about ninety seconds. the song fades slowly out.]

Oliver: (jocular, overly familiar) Now, we have in studio with us, Saoirse Ó Murcú, who has in her hands an altogether, ah ha ha, suspicious contraption, now, why don’t you, for the listeners at home, tell us what you have in in your hands there now Saoirse.

Saoirse: Well this is a camera that I came upon one of the days-

Oliver: Tell me this now, is it a family heirloom?

[they both laugh]

Saoirse: It is not! I just found it recently and I have to say that I’ve gotten great use out of it altogether.

Oliver: Now, I believe that there’s something quite unique about this camera, why don’t you tell the listeners what it is?

Saoirse: Well, this camera has the ability to photograph so-called dark matter and for those listening who maybe don’t have the technical know-how, dark matter is a halation of matter proper, which imbathes us all in an invisibly funereal wreath.

Oliver: So, let me get this right Saoirse because I can see the listeners scratching their heads at home, do the photographs that come out actually display dark matter?

Saoirse: Oh no Oliver, quite the opposite, the photos in fact reveal a nullity-

Oliver: A what?

Saoirse: A nullity.

Oliver: Oh, beg pardon, I thought you said something else altogether (!)

[they both laugh]

Saoirse: The photographs, when developed, reveal a nothingness that is fulminating on its own hypotheticality and the fact of our existence as a romantic contrivance, or an extended circling of the drain, if you like.

Oliver: And I believe you have a selfie that you took earlier on that shows the phenomenon that you’re describing rather well.

Saoirse: I do indeed, I have them for you here.

[rustling sounds]

Oliver: Lovely stuff, lovely stuff…god, it’s true what they say isn’t it, it does look back at you alright. Now, the listeners can get involved at home as well can’t they?

Saoirse: They can indeed and also online, eh, all they just have to do is just enter their emails at the bottom of the form and we’ll be in touch.

Oliver: That’s fantastic, that’s fantastic. Now there’s a listener here, or a texter should I say, who has a response to what you’ve been talking about this morning, he says, ‘Dear Oliver, that woman you have on is guilty of high treason in her enquiry into the divine plan and were it to be up to me I would see to it that she be hanged from her neck until she is dead so that she may atone for her blasphemous desire to penetrate into things beyond her rightful station,’ have you anything to say in your defence to that Saoirse?

[there is an inaudible muttering]

Oliver: Saoirse wishes to preserve her dignity on this occasion, and why not?

[jaunty radio jingle of a few seconds on light horns]

Oliver: Just coming up to high noon now, we have Áine speaking to Father O’Connell, the parish priest in Ballyclough on the tragic events of Wednesday last.

[the atmosphere shifts to one of an on-the-scene report]

Áine: (mannered, slow tone) Father O’Connell, calamitous. Destructive. Atrocious. Disastrous and overwhelming. These are all synonyms for ‘devastating.’ Could you, Father O’Connell, in your own words please, address each of these adjectives in order, choosing the one that you think is most adequate for describing the particular way in which the fabric of this community has been subject to rending, and again, in your own words, why the other four words do not wield the matter as you see it?

[as áine has spoken, there are sounds of the priest sneezing, once, extremely nasally and liquidly into the microphone. he blows his nose, again, obtrusively, twice.]

Father O’Connell: Good jesus, you’re really putting me in the hot seat there now. Ah, well, I suppose ‘calamitous’ has its merits, but it’s the kind of term you’d want to hold in reserve in case something worse happens in the next while or something. Em, ‘overwhelming’ doesn’t quite measure up, because of the extent to which the people of this community have really come together in the wake of the tragedy…is ‘devastating’ out of the running altogether yeah?

[pause]

Yeah, righto, em, ‘atrocious’ wouldn’t quite work for me, it conjures in my mind’s eye a tsunami or something…just leaves us with ‘disastrous’ I suppose. It’s been disastrous.

Áine: Father O’Connell, thank you, your words will be a great salve to the families of the victims of last week’s tragic events. While you’re here I wonder if you’d be willing to say join our listeners in a prayer or two?

Father O’Connell: I would of course.

[pause. Father O’Connell snorts and expectorates.]

Father O’Connell: Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. Let your kingdom come, this is done on earth as in heaven. And lead us not into temptation, but the day that is before us, amen.

[reverential pause]

Áine: Father O’Connell, thank you so much.

Father O’Connell: Thanks for having me on.

[no jingle, just an expectant silence of fifteen or so seconds, during which a sharp inhalation can be just about discerned once or twice]

Oliver: (ebullient) Four score past the noon hour now, so we’ll be joining Liz for our traffic update, how are things out there Liz?

Liz: (deeply solemn) Well Oliver, I am reliably informed that from an aerial view one can see the vehicles clogging the aortae of Dublin’s urban hinterland as an obscure species of inorganic gelatin, clumped together in granules of pus which, when placed in close proximity to one another, congeal into themselves yet further, a sure symptom of an infection of which we humans are the cause.

Oliver: (echoing Liz’s downcast tone) Sorry Liz, I’ll just ask you to repeat that there because the connection we have at the moment isn’t the best, did you say that the cars on the road are essentially granules of pus, of inorganic gelatin, and are symptoms of an infection of which we humans are the cause?

Liz: (the same again) I did indeed Oliver, that is essentially what I said exactly.

Oliver: (reverts to chirpiness) That’s great Liz, thanks for that.

Liz: (responds in kind) No problem Oliver, have a good weekend.

Oliver: You too, you too. Oh wait, sorry Liz, just while you’re there, have you ever seen the film Memoirs of a Geisha?

Liz: I, haven’t, actually. I read the book though, loved the book.

Oliver: Did you, yeah? Well you’ll have to give the film a watch so.

Liz: I will, I will. Though it’s rare enough that the film is better than the book, the book is always better.

Oliver: Well it’s something to do over the weekend, enjoy your reading. Or viewing, rather, or watching? Would you say viewing or watching?

Liz: Sure, I dunno! (pause) Viewing, I suppose.

Oliver: I think you’re right there Liz, I think you’re right there. Alright, listen, Liz, thanks again for that, enjoy your weekend.

Liz: Thanks again Oliver, you too!

Oliver: You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome. Ha ha ha, oh dear oh dear.

[there is a long pause]

Oliver: (tortured) ohgodohgodohgodohgod

[pause]

Academic: (venerable) This week on Into the Archives, we, just short of the 85th Annual Congress of the Living Light of the True Lord Jesus Christ, take a look back on the occasion of the first Congress, in 1932.

Eamon de Valera: (scratchy with the aging of the recording, in a mode of public address) We have come to a point in our national history, where we, having asserted our national sovereignty, may now assert our spiritual collectivity, and togetherness, and be clasped closer still to the bosom of our mother church.

Academic: The occasion was a great opportunity for the new Free State to present itself on the world stage. The occasion of the Pope’s visit and his extension of forgiveness to the fairer sex for their having sinned against the light were just two among many of the happy occasions during the week-long ceremony. Tune in this Friday at sunset, where we will play some never-before-heard recitations of the 1932 Maynooth catechism from the Rutland Street National School.

Teacher: (totally uninflected) Did Adam and Eve obey the command of God?

Young Girl: (unselfconscious, stuttering over words, lisping mildly, in the manner of one articulating a rote learned exercise) Adam and Eve did not keep the commandments and, and committed our ancestor crime in eating the forbidden fruit of Satan.

Teacher: Have we, the children of Adam, suffered because of his sin?

Young Girl: (mispronounces some of the bigger words) Yes, we, the children of Adam have suffered because we are of evil, and, and we are of darkness; and we are of death, and we endanger the aspirations of our own souls and succumb to pain and death, cos we lost our sanctifying grace. 

Oliver: Next, we have in studio our Minister for Fisheries and Children. Now Minister, I was just curious-

[a series of skirmishes of crosstalk occur where both Oliver and the minister speak over each other staccato. they both start talking at the exact same time, and stop speaking again, at the exact same time. One can just about discern that the texture of their gibberish is made up of ‘sorry there,’ ‘if I could just’ and ‘to make the point.’ This happens four times.]

Oliver: And if I could just ask a final question minister, if you’d be willing to speak on certain allegations made in a memo that was recently leaked from your department as to whether or not your building is filled with unopened boxes of job applications for a recently vacant position.

Minister: (ambling, circulatory) Hahah. Well, Oliver, I think that, the important thing to eh, remember at the moment, is that, that is obviously something that did not happen.

Oliver: Minister, pleasure as always.

And it’s just past time to spare, we’ll be handing things over to the Sunday Salmagundi.

[somnolent horns in a regal manner for about fifteen seconds. it dissolves into asynchronous and discordant cataclysm]

Woman’s Voice: Time now for Sunday Salmagundi, a showcase of the finest prose, poetry and essays currently on offer in the land of saints and of scholars.

Second Woman’s Voice: (Speaks plodding, primly) I have always found myself to be spurred by a deep and profound love for the invasive species of the wild boar, sosis scrofula, a recent visitation on this little island in the middle of the Atlantic that we, and now happily, the boar, call home.

I can still remember the first time I made the acquaintance of this noble animal in my back garden. It was a gorgeous summer’s day and my dear husband was just getting ready to attend to the pesky weeds that had sprung up in our garden.   

—Won’t be a mo, he said merrily, already donning his thick gardening gloves, packing his trusty trowel into his sturdy steel bucket with a noisy clang. 

I watched him pulling the weeds up by their roots from the kitchen window, while washing the dishes left over from breakfast. They were the fine bone china plates that my grandmother left me, when she passed away so tragically, only the year before last. I looked at the beautiful patterns that ran along their outsides, made of little Celtic Crosses weaving in and out of themselves, like a mysterious tapestry from long ago. When I see them, I think of the big mahogany cabinet my granny kept them in when I was a little girl, and how big it seemed to me at the time, looming far above my head when I visited her with my mummy and daddy. I didn’t know then how fast the years would pass me by. I can still remember the hazy morning sunlight slanting through the cabinet’s glass door, making the plates shimmer like virtual reality.

I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I didn’t see the boar step out inquisitively from the hedge on my husband’s side, and gear up to charge at him. The first thing I noticed about our little visitor was how quickly he moved, his feet were like little brown rockets, a far cry from the stubby little implements that you’d mistake them for at your peril. His shiny white tusks aren’t just for show either though, as my husband found out when the little fella dug an eight centimetre hole in his thigh.

-Ah! Ah! Jesus, Cathleen! Ahh, Christ, my husband said, struggling to his feet. With his injury, he was finding it difficult to move quickly and ward off the animal at the same time. A big red wound was clearly visible, as the boar had inconsiderately torn my husband’s pair of jeans. The wound was a deep passionate crimson colour, like the first rose of summer.

I could see the boar was locking onto him to make another charge. I tapped at the window angrily to ward him off.

—Cathleen! Cathleen! Jesus, help, oh god, ah,  he said.

Just as the boar was about to make a run and gore my husband’s leg for a second time, he stopped and looked up at me through the window. His eyes looked into mine, and I had then a strange moment of sympathy and understanding with him. Even though we were from different worlds, and the boar was unlikely to have a memory like the ones that filled my head up to the brim like those of my granny’s china cabinet, were we really all that different? It was almost as if we knew each other well, that we were old friends from our school days. 

The boar then took a run and smashed himself into my husband’s ankle, knocking him to the ground.

—Ohohohogggohrbna, he said.

The boar then beat

his retreat

so I watched him depart

with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

Myles: You’re very welcome along to the one programme left on the radio for the serious discussion of the arts. In the studio with me today are the three authors of the latest collection of essays written on Irish Sculpture and Architecture, the book is called Modern and Contemporary Sculpture and Architecture in Ireland and it contains over thirty essays written on various significant works within Irish Architecture and Sculpture in the past hundred and twenty years. The authors are Susan Fogarty, lecturer in University College Dublin’s department of Installation Technology and Plastic Arts, Paula Clarke, Associate Professor in the National College of Art and Design and Simone Webster, a beneficiary of a grant from the Arts Council in public sculpture whose work has appeared in many towns throughout the country as well as in galleries and public spaces both at home and abroad. Now Susan, I’ll start with you, I was curious as to whether you’d be able to provide us with your sense of where Irish Sculpture and Architecture is at this moment in time. What kind of movements can we see in the field, are we seeing a traditionalist outlook, a more innovative landscape, what have you learned from your time spent researching and editing these essays?

Susan: Well Myles, I suppose what strikes me about contemporary Irish sculpture and architecture today is both the extent and scope of its variety. There is a vigorous traditionalist movement within both fields today, certainly, and a lack of shyness or bashfulness about coming from a traditionalist milieu, so that while they remain rooted in the essential practices of the past, it is a moving backwards in order to advance in a way, almost as if you need to return to the basics in order to see things in a new way.. 

Myles: The variety of what’s going at the moment is certainly an interesting part of the book and the essays all come together under thematic titles rather than chronologically…why was that and how do you think it affected the structure of the book?

Susan: Well this was an ordering principle that was decided on quite early in the process, what we wanted to achieve by doing that was to define what was happening at the moment through pluralities, rather than as a monolith. It’s a very diverse and disparate field with a number of points of entry, so we wanted that to come across as strongly as possible.

Myles: Now I’ll turn to you Paula, you write in your introduction about this sense of diversity that Susan has already mentioned, and you put it very well about the, the extent of artistic responses that the plastic arts have generated in Ireland, not just within the sector itself, but beyond it, throughout the arts and throughout the continent in fact.

Paula: Yes, I think that the meeting point or meeting points of architecture and sculpture remain very fertile territory in Ireland; I think we’ve come a long way since the Millennium Countdown Clock, if anyone still remembers that.

[mild laughter]

I still think of the Motherhouse in Dun Laoghaire and this quiet challenge it made to our expectations of sculpture and what it’s supposed to do in its architectural setting, how it allowed people to gather, and to witness, and when the piece had been decommissioned to remember, how it takes on a different life in all of those who were there to see it at the time, how its life cycle doesn’t necessarily end when it is taken down or decommissioned.

Myles: That’s very true, I still remember a wonderful sculpture trail set up in Achill about thirty years ago now and…I’m not quite sure thinking back whether it was funded through IMMA or the Arts Council, or whether it was a collaborative project, but either way I was lucky enough to see it while it was still active, just to see that series of mirrors that they had out on Corrie Lake sitting like petals. Or like lily pads, like lilies drifting over the face of the waters.

Wastepaper Basket Part II: Les Mortes

***Health warning: I’m putting this here because I realised it’s unpublishable, and I’ve recycled the good parts into a different thing***

Les Mortes

There’s a football match on tomorrow. Or a rugby match the day after. There is a sporting event of some kind to be staged in the near future, of this I am certain. The occasion itself is unimportant though; the result is that the pub is empty. The yuppies are conserving their testosterone in their settlements on the commuter belt, rather than crowding the place, by their stances making even standing, or holding a drink, seem like contrived things to be doing. The bartender is leaning easy, either against the bar, watching the newsreader’s mouth flap, or against a wall behind him, polishing a glass. I sit at the bar and I order a coffee. Drinking coffee after five is what writers do, in lieu of getting drunk and going mad.  

I spend forty minutes being dissatisfied with what I’m writing, watch my ideal gather itself into existence, maybe just for a moment, before slipping again into just a crust of ink left on a page, over which I gibber in apologetics. I scribble, doodle idly, rage against the feckless muse stewing herself in some lake. I can see her now in a hushed glade blasted by yellow light. I wonder what she’s waiting for.

Eager for distraction, I watch the threshold of the public house; I feel its presence to be tinged with an accusation, like a blank page setting its mute face in mine. I wonder who will be the next person to walk through that door.  Whoever it is, perhaps they can redeem me, redeem all this, the differengenera in ink into a fluent jaunt. I wait with the bartender, my unwitting accomplice in the itch of expectancy, for ten minutes, before a young-ish woman walks in.

If she is older than me it is not by a wide margin. Some inferior novelist might refer to her as ‘willowy,’ ‘lithe’ or ‘svelte.’ She makes an enquiry of the barman before sitting or ordering: have you a socket around that I could use? He says that he does and after settling herself in the corner, she orders a glass of red wine. I watch all this happen while giving the impression that I am absorbed in the first volume of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. In the original French of course. Have I neglected to mention that I’m reading Proust in the original? I rarely do.

The woman types intermittently, leaning into the screen and then sitting back to consider. The screen’s light illuminates her face bluely and makes her expression of placid disinterest seem improbable. She has disturbed the library air of the pub; it smells like outside now. With a sadness that breaks inside me, tectonically, I realise that she is quite beautiful. I would attribute it to the light from her screen, it is autumnally – no, wait, it is, soothing, perhaps oceanic in ways. But this impressionistic crossword of description is tedious, I’ll confess that I noticed her attractiveness already, when she first came in, I just didn’t mention it at the time, it would’ve been uncouth. Courtships are much more admirable before they’ve happened, before all the dithering starts.

I get excited for a moment, realising that my sadness might yield something worth recording, something that could be wrung out. The pen is ready, but the feeling doesn’t give anything up, it just sort of, sits there in the chest, obstinate and fat. I order a beer.

Unreason, or the rude stupidity of jumping the gap into action, is something that has to be done. One cannot think one’s way into doing. This is because the mind is a catastrophiser, an enemy of acts. It is a poor compatriot. It is in tribute to this turncoat, thought, that of my doing, I will remain silent.

The conversation is in its moderate, early stages. Where she works, what her name is, these sorts of things. Noticing my book, she produces her own, a slim novel. But I am not deceived, it is one that I have read, one of my favourites.

—Do you like it?

—Yeah, I love it. It’s so good.

She places it, cover down on the table.

—It is a little grim though.

—Grim?

—Yeah, just, a bit too close to the bone sometimes.

These are astute enough, not incorrect observations. Seeing this line of enquiry reach its natural end, I point to her computer.

—What are you working on at the minute?

—I thought you’d never ask. Breakthrough stuff.

She turns the laptop around so that I can see the spreadsheet that she’s authoring. I look at it without reading, for as long as I assume it is polite to look at a spreadsheet.  

—Looks heavy. I can’t deal with that stuff myself.

—Oh, it’s not too complicated, there’s no functions or anything.

—Doesn’t look that way. These cells here are overflowing.

She laughs.

–No, really, look, they’re just long because they’re full addresses.  It is a list of the constituency offices of sitting TD’s.

—That is exciting. Why would you be working on something like that?

—Because I am competent enough for my boss to trust me with the most important job in the whole company, to verify the addresses that we send our branded calendars out to at the end of the financial year.

—Must be complicated to keep track of that many, I say, letting her go out of focus as I take a drink. The liquid has reached a point a little past the glass’ half-way bulge.

—Yes and no. It’s all on Google after all. The only thing is I have to make sure that I have their old addresses in there.

I make my face register puzzlement, just a dash.

—Old addresses? Why’s that?

—Well, I’m, dead, and that makes it a bit more…difficult.

—Oh.

She looks at me.

—Is that a problem?

—No. Course not, why would it be?

—Because of the way you said ‘Oh’ like that. Like you thought I was…weird or  defective or something.

—No, no, I don’t think that.

Her gaze is still on me. If I couldn’t see it, I’d be able to feel it. It might be time to concede.

—Really, I don’t. I was a bit surprised. …this’ll sound bad, but you are the first dead person I’ve ever spoken to.

She raises her glass,

—Well you could start by maybe not using the word ‘dead,’ thanks.

downs it.

—I’m sorry, I don’t mean to offend. ‘Person of post-living’ isn’t it?

—Yes. It, is.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person-of-post-living. There was a PPL society around campus when I was in college, running mixers and balls and such. And I’ve read a take about how Goths who wear pale make-up are appropriating necro-culture for its cachet, without having to deal themselves with any of the structural oppression that comes of being a person-of-post-living. Is there something in that for a conversation? I don’t really want to find out – I’d rather get us away from all this in truth.

—How, how is it?

—Being dead?

—Well, yes.

She sighs, looks tired and past me, regarding the empty glass and the news beyond it.

—You don’t have to, and it must get annoying to have idiots like me ask, but I’d like to know. What do you do all the time? You don’t sleep, right?

—We can. We just don’t really need to.

The conversation is bereft now, it’d almost make you wish the match was on, to have some man screaming advice at an athlete, maybe have the edges taken off the silence.

—Since I am still here, rather than somewhere else, wherever somewhere else is, I must have made some sort of mistake while I was alive. Since I spent so much of my time in the office, I think it must’ve been some oversight in work, somewhere. So I go in every day, take care of a couple of new things, then, after closing my boss lets me use the place to go over old paperwork, spreadsheets, adjusting the gutters in some of the documents on my old computer, scan old paperwork to adjust my spelling, grammar and,

She taps her laptop.

—checking addresses.

As she runs over her tedious itinerary, counting them off on her fingers, she over-enacts how her surplus of tasks outnumbers the fingers she can count them off on, with a jollity that mocks me slightly. I like it.

Another article I read broached the idea that persons of post-living exist in order to right a wrong during their lives was morally toxic and propagated the idea that the post-living must be in servitude to the living and to their prior selves. I decide not to tell her this, no lifesplainer I.

—It must be hard to keep track of everything that you could have made a mistake in. Do you have some kind of system of rotation?

—No…I just have a feeling about this spreadsheet. It was the first thing I did when I got the job. It used to be for the interns but my boss had me do it every year as a sort of, in-joke.  

—Lucky you.

She smiles in acknowledgement.   

—What if, what if your mistake isn’t around anymore?

—Pardon?

—Well, you said you’re looking at paperwork going back. Isn’t some of that stuff shredded by now, or, haven’t the computers been replaced since you were there?  

She thumbs the table’s edge.  

—I guess, I try not to think about that sort of thing.

—Would you like another drink?

I pull out my wallet and we both look at it. There’s something obscene about it in my hand, it looks like something that should be sheathed out of decency.

—No. No, I better be…getting off soon. Thanks anyway.

But she doesn’t move, and we sit there for a while, roasting in the quiet. I start to panic, and make the promise to help her with her spreadsheet, send it along. Sure I know my way around Excel. She laughs and says that she will, but she isn’t sure whether someone else rectifying her mistake would work. So I say, with a lack of tact that I blame on the beer, that the history of literature has many examples of the dead enlisting others’ help to correct their mistakes. Hamlet was one. She thought about it and agreed that I was right. She would send me the file. My phone gave an obedient ping. (Ping!)

This little exchange was the last one of note and I began to gather my affairs about my person. She began shutting down her PC. I, jacketed (Ping!), sort of hovered at the table, at the door, outside, depending on her progress. She wore a thick box-coat, belted at the waist with a furred hood. I kept noticing these details, because I was quite out of my mind in panic over what to do next.

Whoever moved first, we were kissing. I’d wondered what it would be like to kiss a person of post-living, to kiss her, whether her mouth would feel differently from someone who was alive. So I was too reflective, more in interior monologue than the physical, trying to quantify the difference. But there was none to be detected. I allowed my mind to numb, and waited for it to be over.

I left her, she walking out of town, me having to go back through. I opened the email while rounding Merrion Square’s first corner, and appreciated the tree branches that crowded through and over the black railings, protruding over the gutters in my sight into the park. Because I did not stop to take my glances, I allowed myself to enjoy the filmic intermittence with which the foliage parted, the way it swam past, or turned into itself, like tar being churned. The emptied square seemed grand in the dark. The spreadsheet looked in order, but I wouldn’t be able to check the back-end till I get to a desktop. I probably won’t, I realised. Male desire is a tragic thing.