I decided to have a bash at the Power’s short story competition recently. Here’s my entry:
They came. One after the one before. Each face old and unfamiliar. Then recognition emerged until they were so familiar, you wonder how you ever forgot them. These faces that once loomed large in your world, like the moon, always there.
There was Davey Boyd, the biggest gurrier ever there was. Kicked out by his own mam at 16, and fishing for more trouble by the day, until that one day I came home from school to find him and his sheepish grin parked at my place at the dinner table. Two months passed before I got that seat back and Davey was back at his own, no doubt causing trouble again from day one.
There were the Byrne Brothers from next door, standing tall in their uniforms, all three guards now. I remember mam passing plates of dinner over the back wall for a month when their own mam was sick. It must have been a winter, trails of steam busy to get away from the gravy, cutting through the air like a Bisto ad.
And she didn’t only feed the needy. She just seemed to enjoy stuffing people’s cake holes. She’d never let my own friend’s leave the house without having a bit of dinner. I’d bet a bucket of beans they had more dinners in my house than their own. A game of pool in the shed, until Ma shouted DINNER, then we’d all pile in. Polite declinations had long been disputed and lost, no more need for the Mrs Doyle routine.
There was the gang of them now. The state of them in their interview suits, and shiny shoes, each more red-eyed than myself.
Many more came that I didn’t know by name. But I remember their appreciating lips, appearing at our table for days, or weeks on end. I didn’t need to ask where she got them from, their weather-beaten faces said everything.
Sometimes, as neighbour, friend, or stranger, left with a belly of stew, I’d ask her why she did it all. She’d just toss me a wink. “Building an Army Jimmy Boy”.
It was just something she said without much thought, but there they were now, bulging out of the church grounds. An army. The army it would take to replace a great sadness with the warmth I was now surrounded with. And I can’t help wonder if she really was building an army. An army that would be here for me on this day. An army that would celebrate her love and kindness and return it on to me.
I can see why I didn’t even make the long lists. The theme was “valuing the important things in life” and the story I went with seemed to have been done to death, not surprising in retrospect, and thus completely unoriginal. Twee as fuck and all. I always end up writing something twee when I try something like this, even though most books I like are dark and dirty.
This year’s winner is well deserved I think.