FlAsH Fiction Contest 2022
The world has changed considerably since the inaugural FlAsH Fiction contest last year! People have come out of lockdown and are working again (and not just from their homes), everything has opened up a lot! We get to socialize again and see our friends! FAH have gone back to gigging and many fahns have seen them live! Many more will see them this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe for their new show, Hogwash, and on the rest of their "world tour"! But what hasn't changed, thankfully, is that people are still writing!
This year we received 27 entries: 17 poems and 10 short stories. This made competition for a winning spot quite fierce and judging even harder. I brought on board two other fahns to judge this year's entries: Squirrels for Short and Jenny Crookes, both of whom worked like utter troopers, as we tried to narrow down our choices. It was great to have Squirrels and Jenny involved in the judging process. They won spots in the contest last year in the poetry and short story categories, respectively, and they applied their excellent and thorough reading assessments skills to this year's contest. I'm very grateful for all the time and energy that they put into helping me and I think we managed to choose a diverse and interesting group of winners and honorable mentions in each category.
The range of short story subjects was quite broad, considering we only had 10 submissions from which to choose. Barry cropped up more than once, Foil Arms and Hog, themselves, made an appearance, we met La Bullshat in the pages, and the McCormacks. Like the short stories, the poetry category awed the judges with the writers' expertise in FAH, from live shows, to sketches, to Patreon references, and even YouTube comments! The excellence in writing across both categories was impressive.
Thanks to everyone who submitted their work this year, persevering with your love of FAH and devotion to the craft of creating dynamic FlAsH fiction!
FlAsH Fiction Poetry Winners
1st Place: Sue Cole
Statement of Inspiration: Barry, without a doubt, is my favourite character. Whimsical, mysterious, hilariously funny. Thus I wanted my poem to be about Barry. It had to be short, as befits his fleeting appearances. I have written poems as far back as I can remember, but I have never managed to write a sonnet, so I thought I’d have a go. I also wanted to include every Barry appearance (up to the writing of the sonnet: there have been two more since). So, with challenge set, I wrote this poem. And when it was done, I realised the hilarious pretentiousness of a sonnet dedicated to a comic character: hence ‘tra’. I have probably achieved about 80% of the sonnet form: rhyme scheme (Shakespearian), lines (14) and most of the lines are pentameter: some of them iambic.
La Sonnet du Barry (tra)
Oisin’s my friend, we’ve always been mates.
His mam’s Mrs Flanagan who makes the best cakes.
She pretends to hate me and tells me to go,
But she watches my welfare: that much I do know.
He helps with my homework, I’m not very good.
We play his computer while eating her food.
She takes me to school in their nice, shiny car.
Their Christmas tree is the biggest by far.
We went to Dunborin on the family vacation
But she won’t let us watch tv sexual relations.
I called her ‘Ann’ once, just trying it on
But she didn’t hear me, busy with her son.
With Penguins on tap, and nuggets for tea,
Voulez-vous coucher avec me?
2nd Place: Katie Smith
Statement of Inspiration: Mrs Geraghty is one of my favourite FAH characters. She is often scary and intimidating, but I also see her as an alternative feminist icon. I imagine her having lived a traditional life of an Irish Mammy, raising kids and grandkids, and has now had enough and is going to do whatever she likes. She's not interested in pleasing anyone anymore or doing what she’s supposed to do. After a particularly frustrating day of parenting and chores in my own life I mused over the idea of becoming like Mrs G in my old age. These thoughts reminded me of Jenny Joseph’s brilliant poem ‘Warning’ where she plans to be rebellious in her old age, and so I have used the form of that poem as a rough guide. In the sketches Mrs Geraghty’s behaviour is taken to hilarious extremes and there was lots of content I couldn’t imagine wanting to do when older. But I have included some of her milder, but still rebellious antics in this poem. I thought this disobedience juxtaposed well with Anne Flannagan’s need for order (another FAH favourite) and decided to imagine it from her point of view.
An Ode to Mrs Geraghty, Inspired by Jenny Joseph’s "Warning",
possibly written by A. Flannagan
When I am an old woman I shall wear emerald silk like Mrs Geraghty
And leave my hair long and grey and frizzy like you’re not supposed to.
I’ll spend my pension on scratch cards for the grandchildren,
But keep the ones that win for myself.
I shall accidentally knock the good gin off the top shelf of the shop into my bag
And drink it in the park while ogling at Men’s Health magazine.
And learn to play Bridge,
To make up for the Whist playing of my youth.
I shall drink budget lager
And dig up the day centre’s serenity garden,
And poison the neighbour’s oak tree that’s blocking my light.
You can shout Bingo, whether you’re playing or not
And eat three packets of hobnobs in one go
Or only fish fingers and prosecco for a week
And steal all the batteries from the centre’s remote controls.
But for now, we must clean as we go
And not swear or threaten the status quo
And we are to be sociable
And be polite and eat the prawns that we’re allergic to.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too alarmed
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear emerald silk like Mrs Geraghty.
3rd Place: Jenny Winter
Statement of Inspiration: The idea stemmed from a few friends repeatedly asking me why all I ever do on Facebook is comment on FAH posts (as if this is a bad thing!). I've put an imagined answer in a poem, which ended up a bit soppier than I had intended! Of course there's a million things I haven't mentioned but I realised that my favourite thing is the happy glow you carry around with you after a FAH sketch or Patreon post!
Let Me Tell You . . .
“Your Facebook is full of these comments,
to three guys with a very odd name.
It’s something to do with a piggy,
but beyond that I don’t know their fame”.
“Well you really must let me tell you-
you’ll be quite amazed and agog-
when I let you in on the secret
of the wonderful Foil, Arms and Hog.
On Thursdays we gather together,
counting down till the video plays.
It’s always so funny, so witty.
Guaranteed to delight and amaze!
It’s fun after that to leave comments.
If you’re lucky you’ll get a reply!
Reading them all is so jolly,
then it’s off to work with a sigh.
But whatever you do on your journey,
and wherever you find that you are,
the heart in your chest is much fuller
because of the love that is FAH.
So please come along and join us.
There’s nobody quite like these three,
They’re sweet, they’re kind, they’re different,
And they mean such a great deal to me”.
Honorable Mentions in Poetry [here]
FlAsH Fiction Short Story Winners
1st Place: Lorilie Atkinson
Statement of Inspiration: The Snob in Prison--from the live stream (genius) and the subsequent Youtube sketch--was such an inspiring concept to me, I had to continue the story. While I do have some sympathy with The Snob character--given perceived or implied characteristics for him--it's easier to put myself in the place of the 'other'...the person(s) who has to DEAL with The Snob. I hope I captured the humor but also the desperation that make The Snob interactions so amazingly funny.
The Snob on the Run
Life wasn’t great at all for Charlie. It wasn’t even mildly good. And if he needed more proof, all he had to do was look at himself bouncing down this shitty, pothole-riddled, two-lane road in a twenty-year-old corrections van, handcuffed to his worst nightmare.
“Aaaahhhhh! --Smell that fresh country air!” The Snob slanted his nose toward the passenger window that had rolled itself down at the rate of one inch per five shaking, shuddering mile of asphalt. Charlie had been mentally noting every mile marker that took him closer to the penitentiary and the quiet, peaceful cocoon of his prison cell . . . where no one was talking. In the eight miles since they’d left the county hospital, his chained companion had not stopped talking once.
With an obnoxiously deep inhalation that vibrated his septum, The Snob abruptly started coughing as the pungent aroma of manure filled the cab. After the hacking passed, The Snob resumed holding court inside the cramped passenger compartment.
“What an excellent day for an outing—wouldn’t you agree, Charles?” The handcuff chains rattled as Charlie shifted impatiently.
“My name’s Charlie.”
“Quite right.” The Snob nodded agreeably. “Charles...that’s of German-French origin, am I right? Meaning . . .“free man” . . . now, that’s quite ironic, isn’t it?” The Snob attempted an awkward fist-bump in the limited space allowed by the shared manacles. The gesture was met with stony silence. “It’s quite fortuitous we had to be taken to the hospital. What are the odds of both of us having a fish allergy?”
As The Snob droned on about the harsh, unflattering fluorescent lights and less-than-800-thread-count bed linens found in the emergency room, Charlie stared out the grimy side window, thinking back to better times. Like last night, when he had been curled around the porcelain toilet, emptying his guts of the “Cook’s Surprise” which had turned out to be a medley of ichthyological specimens. At least then the combination of his heaving and the ceramic bowl had insulated his ears against the endless chatter coming from the other side of the room.
Charlie closed his eyes and leaned back against the head rest, trying in vain to block out the mindless drivel coming from The Snob. The corrections officer, named Fred Wilkins, according to the “Celebrating 29 days of Accident-Free Driving” sign affixed to the dashboard, had turn on the aged, factory original AM radio before they’d even left the hospital parking lot. The only station the radio tuned in was classical music—although it was hard to tell as the worn speaker wires cut out every time the van hit another pothole, giving the songs a strange, stuttering, rap-like quality.
“This song reminds me of a concert I attended last summer. I’m quite a devotee of THE ARTS, you know.” Charlie heaved a loud sigh as The Snob launched into another long-winded oration. “I had a slight altercation with a 3rd bassoonist with the Rathfarnham Concert Band. Although he denied it, I know an F sharp when I hear one!” The Snob paused reflectively. “He had quite a reach with that bassoon.” Leaning forward as far as the partition would allow, The Snob angled his face until he caught the eyes of the corrections officer in the rearview mirror.
“I say, Driver, could you turn up the volume?” Fred glancing irritably into the rearview mirror before leaning down to fiddle with the peg where the volume button had been. With his attention on the radio, he failed to see the warning sign posted along the shoulder of the road just past mile marker twelve as it flashed “Tunnel Closed for Repairs. Mind the Badgers”. As The Storm from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony No.6 burst into the cabin, Fred’s tufted head resumed its place behind the wheel in time to lock eyes with a dark shape along the side of the road. Fred hit the brakes and jerked the steering wheel to the left then the right. Amidst a spray of gravel, the van careened to an abrupt halt.
The silence that filled the van was broken only by Fred’s labored breathing. Charlie and The Snob picked themselves up from the heap they had landed in, each turning to peer out the dirty, cracked rear window. The driver side door scraped open, assisted by a shoulder shove from Fred. He put one reluctant foot onto the pavement and with a fortifying breath, he heaved himself out of the vehicle toward the furred lump lying still in the middle of the lane. Fred stood over the animal, lamenting “Just once, I’d like to make the 30-day safe driving mark!” At that moment, the badger’s eyes sprung open and he chittered badger-curses at Fred before mounting his defense.
Watching the badger chase Fred into the ditch, Charlie saw his opportunity. Reaching across The Snob and sending his unshackled hand through the open window, he popped the exterior door handle.
“Right. Let’s go.” Charlie vaulted out of the van, pulling The Snob with him toward the opposite side of the road into the shrubby vegetation, which closed behind them like a green curtain.
“On the LAM, as they say” ---The Snob laughed uncomfortably, struggling to keep up with the fast pace set by Charlie. “I once conveyed a lamb in the back of a Toyota Yaris. He was quite confused, as we both were...victims in what I can only conclude was a case of false advertising. You wouldn’t think the Toyota would handle livestock, but I found the back cargo area quite conducive for ovine transport. And I told the salesman that when I brought it back from the test drive.”
Any further observations from The Snob were cut short as the duo crashed through the underbrush, branches slapping The Snob into silence as he struggled to keep up. They plodded along as the vegetation grew more and more tangled. Bursting through a particularly ferocious set of brambles onto a cultivated field, Charlie paused to catch his breath and assess the situation.
“You are in luck, Charles! I recently completed a comprehensive study of Boreal Tanga vegetation! It’s quite amazing--medicinal herbivory. Take this,” The Snob plucked a leaf from a low growing clump, “Leaf of the Lambs Quarter!” The Snob eagerly rubbed the leaf beneath his collar, “Ah, soothing! Immediate relief! Here, try it!” The Snob tried to press the leaf into Charlie’s curled fist.
Charlie inhaled sharply through his nostrils, willing the red cloud of anger away. “That’s Poison Oak.” The Snob dropped the crumpled leaf. Charlie pinched his nose, trying to tamp down the throbbing headache making itself known just behind his eyes.
“All of this fresh air works up an appetite. Too bad we don’t have a cheese tray—it would have paired quite nicely with these parsnips, don’t you think?” The Snob stooped to tug on a parsnip top which refused to budge. The Snob tried once again, with a firmer grip. The parsnip rocketed out of the ground. The momentum propelled The Snob backwards, pulling Charlie into the foliage behind them. The duo cartwheeled through underbrush, tumbling down the blind hill before bursting through the shrubbery. Charlie lay on the cold pavement, the neon from the flickering advertising sign dancing across the inky puddles. The roar in his ears died down. Then, finally, blessed silence. Until into the cold darkness . . .
“Well! That was quite a tumble we took! It reminds me of the time I gained entrance to a Patagonian bird exhibit. I managed to enter the habitat of the Caracara Plancus – the Southern crested Caracara. Marvelous plumage...interestingly enough, its orange beak patch is the exact same color as this poison oak rash. I was attempting a night viewing of the mating ritual - which is quite secretive - to which the male took exception, and became quite aggressive. Unfortunately, the zoo placed the Caracara house disastrously close to their cacti exhibit. Once I was released from the First Aid tent, I wrote them a very severe letter, expressing my displeasure. Although I’m not allowed back in that particular zoo, I am now a part of their permanent safety exhibit.”
An icy cold settled within Charlie. He cranked his head around, surveying the cars lined up in the drive-in parking lot. Struggling to his feet, he unsteadily wove his way toward the Burger Hut, pulling The Snob with him.
The diner door swung open with a shrill bell clang and a bang, causing customers’ heads to swivel toward the mismatched duo. Charlie paused briefly, sweeping the crowd before his eyes alighting on his prey. He took a menacing step toward the end of the counter where a worn man leaned his elbow on the faded Formica counter, flirting with the tired waitress. As the man straightened, the tarnished badge on his shirt pocket caught the light from the flickering Pepsi sign. Before he could reach for his sidearm, Charlie grabbed his shirt front in one fist, pulling the man nose-to-nose, eliciting a squeak from the waitress.
2nd Place: Leah AKA Wordy Nerdy
Statement of Inspiration: The concept of regular office activity taking place all around FAH while they dress up and sing and do all very ‘unoffice-like’ things, has always tickled my fancy, I decided to explore this in this short story.
The Office Next Door
Hello Facebook, Greg here, how ya keepin? I’m not too sure this is what Facebook’s for, but thought I’d fling it up on here and see what ya think. I’ve only been at the new office a couple weeks now, but there’s something off with the place, just weird stuff like, that don’t make sense, odd goings on like, don’t quite know what ta make of it. I’m a mind yer own business kind of fella, but this is getting too much. Maybe I’m just old. Anyways, so yesterday, I’m in the middle of a zoom meeting with corporate and look up to see a fella with a woman’s shirt and big mole, darting past in the hallway, scared the life out of me it did. Now I’m an open minded fella, you can dress how ya like, free expression, no rules, no judgement like, but it startled me, ya know, for the first instant I thought me dead Mammy was standing there, I tell ya, she had the exact same shirt, and the mole, knock me down alright, she had a mole, hurts me head I can’t for the good life of me remember if it was on the right side or the left side, but anyways it fair knocked the words out me chest. Don’t go judging this old fella for being old school, if this is what all the young fellas are wearing then good for them and I’ll send up a prayer no old fella dies of heart attack thinking his missus or dead mother has risen from the dead. Anyways, bye for now, God bless, going to knock back a few, set the nerves right again.
Hello Facebook, it’s me again, thank you to Dave and Sean for the well wishes for the dead mother in the comments, and to yours fellas, and to yours, God bless, see ya tonight for a cold one! Anyways, there’s been more odd goings on at the office today. So, I’m fixing meself a cuppa tea and nearly scald myself on the shock of all the clanking and banging, so I look up, and I’m not messing with ya, there’s a shop display moving past my window, holy mother of Mary, this is madness, I take a few steps closer and it’s mad to say it, but there’s display cases full of cards, like greeting cards, and birthday cards and the like, moving past me window, I was thinking to call the Gardai to me it looked like a robbery, but you’d have to be the thickest criminals to rob the stuff with the bloody display shelves, and anyways what would you want with all them cards? Maybe they’re opening up a card shop, but this is not a retail complex, it’s just bloody commercial offices, how are the customers to come by them? Anyways it’s very odd, I was thinking to speak to Murphy the fella who vacuums the offices, but he’s not the very chatty kind, keeps to himself and his mops like, don’t fancy getting on the wrong side of him, maybe he’s in on it, whatever funny business is going on, anyways, I’ll keep ya posted, bye for now, God bless!
So help me God I think I’m leaving. If there’s one thing that gets me going it’s balaclavas, it’s too much for the nerves, puts my head in a bad place. Lost me uncle and me best friend from when we were young uns lost his da, he was only seven, little squinter, barely had his first tooth out and he’s had to be sat down in the good room and told that they’re very sorry but his da’s been killed in the fighting on the Main Street, and he’s got ta be a brave lad for his mum and wee Mary who was barely walking and didn’t understand nothing of the troubles and the fighting and why all her aunties were suddenly living in the house and sobbing into tea towels. Lord it was a bad business, and I don’t scare easy, but this knocked the breath outta me. I’ve made it a habit to take a little leg stretch during me lunch break, feel rather stiff otherwise sitting at the desk all day, so I’m out having a little wander up the corridor, keeping me eyes to meself like, but just as I’m about to reenter my office, I happen to look in the window of the office next door and nearly wet me self with the horror, didn’t see it for long, had to scurry back into me office and have a sit down, but there was them balaclavas, moving around, bloody hell, scared flat I was, and I’m a big lad too. There’s something going on here and it’s giving me the creeps like. Anyways I’m off to the local, need something for the nerves, I’ll see ya there Dave, Sean says he’s staying in with a cold, must be bad to flatten a tough un like him! Anyways, I’ll let you know any further developments, bye now, God bless.
Well Facebook, I know I’ve been a little quiet on here, but to be fair there hasn’t been an awful lot to report, not much odd goings on here after the balaclava scare, well, that is, until today. So, I’ve got me head down, straightening the accounts for the quarterly period, and something catches me eye. Well, I tell ya, I look up to see a giant nutcracker, giant like, stupidly massive like, moving past me window! Now look, I’m all for getting Chrismassy and celebrating, put up my tree and tinsel and bits every year in me flat, but those were just taking the piss, I mean they was bigger than me, and I’m not a light fella! What would they be wanting with Christmas decorations like that, where do ya even get them from? Going to all that bother, I tell ya, they’re going to have to be dragging those back down the three flights of stairs by the time they get them set up, left it a bit tight they have, my tree’s been up since November, something to say for being organised! Anyhow merry Christmas all, see ya at seven Sean and Dave, drinks on me tonight, spreading the cheer like!
Hello Facebook, well, this has gone too far, I’m on me lunch break- this couldn’t wait until I got home, has everyone gone mad like? So you know I’ve been carrying on about strange goings on at the office next door, well, this just bloody takes the cake! So I’m on me little leg stretch up the corridor and, keeping me eyes to meself like, but mother of Mary I can hardly say it, guess what I see, there’s two lads standing in the middle of the office and they’re starked, naked as the day they was born! In the middle of the day! In the middle of the office! Now I’m all for embracing the beer belly or what have you, but this is not bloody Europe, and it’s freezing cold, bloody hell, I’ve just cranked up the thermostat, and they’re standing there at two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon with everything hanging, not a care in the world! Is everyone going mad or is it me? I’d speak to that Murphy fella, but what would I even say? How do you start a conversation like that? Bloody hell! Hope this day passes quickly, I need a pint or three, this is doing me head in.
Hello Facebook! Hope you’re all well. Sean and Dave think I should relocate, but it’s too much hassle for an old fella like me, I’ve only just got settled. Anyways, I’m putting it out me mind now. Sean and Dave have got me to go along with them to some comedy show tonight, at Vicar Street. It’s alright the pub there, bit pricey for a pint but ah well, inflation and all. Very odd name, the act, something with tin foil or something, can’t quite remember, anyways should be a bit of craic, help get me mind off all the crazy office stuff. Dave thinks they’re local lads.
3rd Place: Toinette93
Statement of Inspiration: There was a discussion in the YouTube comments of "When Your Parents Get a New Phone", where Arms talked about how Anne could help Barry with a job interview (I quote "That could be a fun sketch, Anne trying to get Barry ready for a job interview or something "). I ran with the idea. (Also, have I mentionned I really, really like Anne?).
Barry’s Job Interview
It’s been one long day, Anne thinks to herself, as she is plumping up the couch cushions on a Thursday afternoon. Work was loud and ran overtime, and now she’s got all the cleaning to do. She takes the hoover from the cupboard and turns it on. She’ll only do that tonight, the dusting will have to wait, she still needs to cook dinner for herself and Oisín.
Speaking of which . . . he should be back from school anytime now. In fact, he’s a little bit late. What he gets up to roaming about the town like that . . . but he doesn’t want her to pick him up from school anymore, and really, she hasn’t the time.
The sound of the hoovering isn’t enough to mask Oisín slamming the door. Someday, that lad is going to take it off its hinges, and who’s going to have to pay for it then?
“Oisín, the door!” She yells in his general direction.
She hears the sound of the lad taking his shoes off and then he comes into the living room, followed by the tall and perpetually slouched form of Barry Kiernan.
“Sorry, mum,” Oisín says.
“Hello, Mrs. Flanagan!” Barry adds.
“Hello, Barry,” Anne answers, and she sends her son a Look. He’s supposed to ask before inviting people over for crying out loud, even if Barry is only there half the damn time.
“Mum, can Barry stay for dinner?” Oisín asks.
“Oisín,” she says in a low voice, “You should have asked earlier, I’d have planned the dinner for three.”
“Please, mum! Barry’s got a job interview tomorrow and you always cook enough food for a regiment anyway.”
Anne sends her son another look, but really, she was never going to say no. Any time Barry spends away from his home is probably good for the lad, his mother is one nasty woman.
“Thank you, mum!” Oisín says, and, from Barry “Thank you Mrs. Flanagan”
The lads are about to get out of the room, when Anne suddenly does a double take.
“Wait a minute, a job interview you said?”
“Yeah,” Barry answers, which isn’t exactly providing any more information. Have to drag it out of him every time with that one.
“What kind of job, Barry?”
Barry grumbles something entirely unintelligible under his breath.
“The hotel is looking for a receptionist for the summer,” Oisín answers.
“Oh, isn’t that nice now,” Anne says.
“Interview’s tomorrow,” Barry adds, “Oisín’s helping me with it.”
“Tomorrow!?” Anne says. Why do these lads always keep everything to the last minute? She takes one good look at Barry and, god bless him, the lad looks genuinely nervous. Her son is being a good friend and offering to help but hasn’t worked a day in his life, let alone gone through a job interview. Her decision is made.
“Right. Oisín, there is some leftover pie in the deep-freeze. I’m counting on you to warm it up and set the table.”
“But...?” Oisín starts.
“There are no buts,” Anne answers, putting down the hoover and taking off her cleaning gloves. “Barry, come with me, I’m taking care of this.”
Oisín doesn’t dare protest further, and leaves for the kitchen. Barry follows her in silence, dragging his feet towards the dining room table. They both sit down.
“All right, now. Show me that job offer of yours . . . Now . . . Let’s see . . .”
Receptionist job, has to be welcoming to visitors, possibility of some night shifts . . . being the first good impression.
Anne is not sure she’d hire that lanky lad as an outward facing anything, but she’s here to help him out, not dampen his spirits so she thinks of all the job interviews she’s ever had and all the questions she’s been asked. Well, at least he won’t be asked if his having children will be a burden to the company like she was asked that one time. A few ideas in mind, she turns back to Barry, who is slumped in his chair, looking at his hand and decidedly unlively. That won’t do.
“Sit up, love” she tells him. “You can’t get a job slouching like that.”
Anne sits up straighter as well, rearranges her glasses and her necklace, and scrunches up her face in a stern and professional expression.
“All right. Welcome to this job interview Mr. Kiernan, thank you for coming. Can you start by telling us a little bit about you.”
Barry doesn’t answer anything and there is a confused look on his face.
“I’m playacting as your interviewer, Barry. So now, what would you answer to that?”
“Oh, eerrr . . . Right. I’m Barry. Errr . . . I’m 16 and . . .”
“You need to enunciate Barry. And I’m sure there is more to say than just your age, pet.”
After pushing him for a while, they manage to figure out something to say. Anne explains to Barry he’s not supposed to tell the interviewer he just wants the job for the money, yes, even if they both know that’s the truth, and no, explaining that he’s used to staying up late because of playing Call of Duty is not a good argument as to why he would deal well with working nights.
Mid-way through that last exchange, Oisín enters the room.
“Good lad. I think we’ve covered everything. Come on, let’s have dinner.”
Over dinner, as Barry wolfs down the pie like he hasn’t eaten in days, and Oisín has to be told twice to not look at his phone, Anne suddenly notices she’s forgotten something important.
“Barry, what are you planning to dress like for your interview?”
Barry looks up just long enough from his plate to look confused. “Dunno. Jeans and a shirt, like.”
“What are you talking about. You need a suit. With a tie. And polished shoes.”
“Mum, are you sure that . . . It’s a student job, you know.”
“Yes, I’m sure. You listen to me, young man,” she says, turning to Barry, “if you’re going to a job interview, you wear a suit.”
“I don’t have one though,” he says.
She’s about to ask if he could borrow one from his father, but of course, his father is in Portugal. A look at the two boys makes quite clear there is no way he’ll borrow the one she bought for Oisín when her cousin Nora finally got married last year at 55 – and to a woman, no less – and her own husband is quite a bit shorter than her son, so no luck with that. Maybe one her older son, Daniel, left here when he moved out? He’s quite a bit rounder than Barry, bless him, but he’s the only one to be maybe tall enough. With a few pins . . . And if she detaches the hems . . . A plan is forming in her mind, and before she’s really had time to question doing that for somebody else’s son, she’s offered.
“It’ll never fit, mum,” Oisín protests, though Anne assures him it will.
In fact, Oisín is right. Even at her most optimistic, Anne has to admit that the suit doesn’t fit, even if she wouldn’t have said that he looks like a sad parsnip.
“It’s fine, Mrs. Flanagan, I’ll just wear black jeans.”
Black jeans. Does the lad even own black jeans? She doubts it. She surely can’t remember him wearing them. A few measures taken, Anne shoos Barry out of the house before she has time to remember how annoying she finds him most days and tells him to come back in the morning before she leaves for work. Oisín is sent to his room as she tackles the ill-fitting suit.
When Barry shows up in the morning, fifteen minutes late and wearing black jeans that have surely seen better days, Anne hopes the modified suit will fit.
With some help from a grumbling Oisín tasked with polishing the sorry excuses for shoes that Barry has brought along, Barry’s outfit comes together. He turns flush red when she adjusts his collar, but surely, he can’t be mad at the result.
In front of the mirror, in his now reasonably well-fitting suit, hair styled like a 60s movie star, there is something of Cary Grant in the lad, even if his gangly limbs and pouty face are still those of a bored and embarrassed 16-year-old.
“There you go,” Anne says “You look like a fine young man like this, pet.”
Even Oisín’s mocking ways don’t find anything to say to that, and he just nods with a slightly faraway look on his face.
With a last pat on the shoulder Barry is ushered out of the house, and sent to his interview.
That summer, more bored than he’s ever been in life, playing with his phone on a night shift, the scratchy company shirt chafing at his neck, Barry almost regrets putting on the suit. Then he remembers the pay, and the planned holidays, and can’t help but think that for all that Oisín complains about her, Anne Flanagan is quite sound.
Honorable Mentions in Short Stories [here]