Saturday, 2 November 2013

After Rubicon

By Andy Hamilton 

         “Off... Off!”
         She looks ahead blankly. Silently. His orders, barked from the far corner of the room, do not penetrate her numb shock.
          “Turn it off,” he shouts.
         “What?” she replies at last.
         “Turn. The TV. Off.” His words are slow and cold. You heard them," he continues. We have twenty minutes, that’s it. So just turn it off.”
         “But there might be more... Something we could do... something...,” she says in a sudden flurry. “Or maybe the Russians or the Chinese might do something?”
         “Nobody is gonna to do anything. You know that. Just turn it off.”
         She looks at him for a long, silent moment, lifts herself from the couch and walking to the large television in the corner of the room. A red box in the corner of the screen is flashing 18.54, 18.53, 18.52… She presses the large square button on the side of the television and holds it as fire and light flashes across the screen. There a click, and the image shrinks slowly to a single dot, that lingers for a moment in the centre of the screen and then dissolves.
         All is silent.
         “I can’t believe this is happening,” she says as she half-runs, half-falls back to the couch.
         “It’s those fucking governments,” he spits, from his seat in the opposite corner. “Those bastards. They God-dam think they’re God or something.”
         “Oh stop it. Just... I don’t want to hear anymore. What does it matter anymore?”

Her face is plunged deep into a damp cushion. He stands over her, his eyes searching the room wildly. Looking for something… anything. The room is filled with muffled screams.
         “What about them?” she says, nodding towards the sitting room door. “We should wake them. We should let them know.”
         “Wake them? No. Why should we? No. That wouldn’t do any good.”
         “They deserve to know. They are part of this world. They deserve something.”
          “Let them be... the deserve to be spared all of this.
         She tries to stand but he grabs her tightly on both shoulders.
         “You want them to come to you,” he says. “You want them to put their hands around your neck and tell you that they’re scared. You want to comfort them.”
         “And what’s wrong with that?” she shouts. “They are my children. What is wrong with loving my own children…”
         She stands up quickly, breaking his failing grip.
         “They don’t deserve this,” he pleads. “Just let them sleep.” His hand goes to his forehead. “Oh God,” he says. “We don’t deserve this.”

A minute later he is lying flat on the sitting room floor, this arms outstretch, his body formed into the shape of a crucifix. She is pacing the room.
         “Water!” she shouts, and jumps over his motionless body.
         Quietness takes him. Lying on the hard floor, staring at the whiteness of the ceiling, his mind empties. He can see brown fields and scorched mountains, grey cities with no people in them. He is the world, and the world is utterly empty.
         A noise enters his dream. He springs up suddenly, gasping for air. The bathroom, the shower, the children.
         “What are you doing?” he shouts, pulling back the shower curtain. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
         “Water,” she says. She gulps down mouthfuls of the off-white liquid. “Water. If we can get enough water, maybe we can get through this. Maybe we can…”
         “We’re not getting through this,” he says through gritted teeth.
         “If we drink enough water me might be okay. Maybe we can…”
         “We’re not getting through this. Nobody is getting through this. Do you hear me?”
         She spits out a large mouthful of water. It lands on his chest, wetting his shirt and his trousers. She starts to cry.

They walk slowly to the bedroom door.
         “Ready?” he asks, reaching for her hand.
         “I’m ready.”
         He pushes the door gently open. The light from the hallway revealing two tiny children, their bodies pressed snugly together, in the centre of a large double bed. They remove their wet cloths and climb silently into the bed, one on either side of the sleeping children.
         “Good night,” she says, as she closes her eyes.
         He does not answer.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Interview... Colm Tóibín

Tomorrow, October 15, Colm Tóibín could be Ireland's latest Booker Prize winning author. In this interview, which took place way back in 2006, I spoke to a refreshingly funny Colm about his writing process, his struggle with short stories, and the joys of walking around in mental pyjamas.      

EVERY walk of life has its unique lines of etiquette. Thin lines, almost invisible to the oblivious eye, but there nonetheless, lurking ominously in the long grass.
Never, no matter how tempted, reach to brush away an avalanche of dandruff which has collected temptingly around the collar of a nightclub bouncer.
When speaking to a member of An Garda Siochana, never follow the word ‘listen’ with either ‘mate’, ‘boss’ or ‘pal’ and expect to get away unscathed.
And never ever, when speaking with an author, ask how the new book is looking.
“It’s looking awful, now that you’ve asked,” said Colm Tóibín with a smile.
“I mean, I’ll give you the draft of it and you can re-write it for me if you like. I wrote the first chapter a good while ago and then just left it. Recently I’ve found a way to add to it but not by much.


Friday, 20 September 2013


By Andy Hamilton

The boy sits at the kitchen table, huddled over a book.
            I circle the room slowly, slippers klitter-klattering on the cold tile. I pass the sink, again, scrubbed clean this morning with bleach and a metal scourer. A glass of water on the next lap. Definitely on the next lap.
            “Sir. What about the conflict between Collins and…”
            “Stuart. For the last time, this isn’t school. You don’t have to call me Sir.”
            “Sorry Sir. I mean, sorry Mr Walsh…”
            “Yes. Of course. John.”
            His smile is delicate. Thin, like ice forming in a birdbath.
            “Well? Out with it then.”
            “I was thinking about Collins and de Valera.”
            “A worthy topic Stuart. One that many an Irish boy has spent useful time in contemplation.”
            “The thing is... am... John, I don’t understand why they had to be enemies. In the end I mean, they wanted the same thing after all. Didn’t they?”
            “Well, yes and no Stuart. If you ask me, I think it’s about desire. All men are born with it. In many ways, the fact that they wanted the same thing made their conflict inevitable.”
            His eyes narrow and then turn to large kitchen window – searching the clouds for a sliver of understanding.
            “I don’t get it," he says at last. "If the Irish are free, then they both get what they want. They should both be happy.”
            “It’s true that they both desired freedom but, and this is the real point, they both also desired to be the man to win that freedom.”
            For a moment he is silent. He exhales deeply, in acceptance rather than agreement, and returns to his book. I return to my circumnavigation.
            “Besides," I say after a moment. "None of this will be on the exam. You stick to the topics I’ve set you. Okay.”

The water was a mistake. I’ve finished two full glasses and now I need to urinate. This wasn’t part of the plan. I'm a fool.
            “Stuart, you’ll have to excuse me. I must…”
            “Look at this Sir. I’ve finished the US history essay. In just… in just 38 minutes!” His face lights up.
            “Good man Stuart. Good man. Let’s see it.” 
            I walk to his chair and place my hand softly on his shoulder.
            “Read it Sir. Tell me what you think.”
            I lean over him until my chest is resting on the back of his head. He smells of adolescence – rich, intoxicating, fermented. His breathing is quick, I feel his body bobbing against mine.
            “What do you think Sir? Will this get me the B? Will it Sir?”
            He is vital, exhilarating. A quiver of excitement forms in the tips of my fingers, electricity coursing through my whole body, a wet warmth is running down my leg.
            “Stuart! It’s time to go. Now. You must leave.”
            “But Sir, can’t you just read the essay first – I think it’s good.”
            His words are intoxicating, alluring. I grasp the table.
            “No Stuart. It’s not good. It’s not good and it’s time for you to go. Go!”
            Breathing. Footsteps on wood. A door slams.
            The kitchen is silent.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Upset [Podcast version]

Set in the near future, The Upset tells the story of Harry, a former priest, who returns to his visit abandoned church. To read the original story click here. [Excellent music clips used with the kind permission of Sanzkrit -]

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Cowboys and Indians

By Andy Hamilton

The crosshairs track from the windscreen of one car to the next. Silence. She sits in the centre of a large double bed, folding strips of paper into smaller and smaller shapes. He is crouched behind the open window, watching everything that moves.
“Daddy? Daddy!”
“Yes sweetie?”
“Look,” she says as she lifts a triangular piece of red paper high into the air. “I’ve made a party dress. Just like one of Mommy’s.”
“Okay,” he says, his eyes still fixed on the window. “That’s nice.”

From the second story window he can see everything that approaches the house from the road. He can see a truck or large van from a mile away or more. He can see the gate, and behind it apple saplings, long ago strangled by hungry weeds. He can see the tiny stone well, were they had once tied twine to willow branches and pretended to fish. He can see the two black cars that sit in the driveway.
“Are we like cowboys?”
“Cowboys? What do you mean cowboys?”
“Like on the telly. Are we like those cowboys?”
“Do you mean, are we the good guys?”
"Ya… I suppose that’s sort-of what I mean.”
“Okay. Then yes, I think we’re cowboys.” He forces a smile. “Tha’ okay wit’ you part-ner?”
She nods and returns to folding paper.
“Yes sweetie.”
“Do you think that Mommy can see us?”
“Mommy. I think she can. I think she’s watching us right now.”
A mobile phone begins to ring underneath the giant white pillow at the head of the bed.
“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’ll get it.”
“No!” he shouts and grabs for the phone. “No. It’s not for you. Okay, not for you.”

She presses her head into the great white pillow. Scraps of paper have settled on the bed, the floor, the windowsill. His ears are filled with silence.
“Sweetie,” he says. “Sweetie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. I just need to concentrate. Sweetie?”
She sits up and wipes her cheeks with the sleeves of her jumper.

“Maybe they’re asleep?” she says, at last.
“You think?”
“Ya, I always get sleepy in the car. Maybe they’re just having a little nap?”
“I dunno sweetie, it’s a funny place to fall asleep.”
“Not really actually, Mommy was always falling asleep in the car. Wasn’t she?”
The mobile phone, now on the floor beside his knees, starts to ring.
“For Gods sake!” he shouts and throws the phone out the open window. The tiny missile strikes the bonnet of the car closest to the house, and shatters into four pieces. “Shite,” he says, peering after it. “Shite”

A car door opens and a large man walks slowly to where the fragments of plastic and metal have collected. He kneels to examine them, tossing pieces carelessly here and there.
“Who is that?” she whispers.
“That’s the sheriff.”
“The sheriff! But we’re the cowboys, shouldn’t the sheriff be on our side?”
“You would think so, wouldn’t you,” he mutters.
“No sweetie, he’s not that sort of sheriff. He’s a bailiff.”
“I don’t get it?”
“That’s ‘cause it’s complicated. He is a sheriff, but he’s a different kind of sheriff from the ones in the Wild West.”
“Is he like a bad sheriff then?”
“I don’t know sweetie, maybe?”
“Hum, I still don’t get it.”
“I know,” he says. “I don’t really get it either.”
Four men are standing in the front garden. A tall man in a black suit looks up towards the bedroom window and shrugs.
“What’s it going to be?” he says.
She is crawling on the bed, stuffing small pieces of paper into her pockets.
“Why don’t you lie down behind the bed?” he asks. “Like when we play hide and seek?” His finger hovers over the trigger. “Pull the duvet down over your head. Go on now.”
They hear a knock on the front door.
“Daddy, I’m scared Daddy. I don’t want the bad sheriff to come into our house.”
“Don’t worry sweetie. I don’t want that either. Now you just get under the duvet. This well all be over soon. Go on now.”
“Daddy?” she says from underneath the duvet. “Do you think Mommy can see us?”
“I don’t know sweetie. I just don’t know.”

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Controls

By Andy Hamilton

“We should have left a note,” she says, watching him struggle with the oversized steering wheel.
“Will you stop with the note already!”
“It’s just, I’m just saying…”
“I know, but you’ve been ‘just saying’ every five minutes since we left.”
She folds her arms tightly and peers through the windscreen.
"Listen,” he says. “We’ve practiced for this, haven’t we?”
“Yes but…” 
“We’re ready. You said it yourself. We can’t learn anymore from practicing, we need to start doing. You said that yourself.”
“I know, but this is different; this is dangerous. If we’d just left a note, then if something goes wrong, someone might…”
“What could go wrong?” he interrupts. “We both know what we’re doing. Right?”
“Yes but…”
“Okay then. Lets go.”
“Look!” he says, pointing at a grey spec through the windscreen. “There it is.”
“There? Really, are you sure?”
 “Look around, this is exactly what the map described.”
 “It doesn’t look like much,” she says.
 He exhales deeply, allowing his cheeks to puff out. “It doesn’t look like much… yet.”
 “Yes,” she says. “Of course, ‘yet’. Which one is ours?”
 “Ours? Let me double check.” He rumbles through a stack of crumpled papers on the dashboard. “Here we go. Ours is number three.”
 “Number three,” she says, pressing her index finger against the windscreen. “One. Two. That’s it. That’s our spot.”
“Are you ready?” he says, taking her gently by the hand.
“I’m ready. If we pull this off, we’ll get A’s for sure.”
“Okay. You first.”
“Me,” she says, holding her hand to her chest. “Why don’t you go first?”
“You have to go first. HELLO! You’re the planetary expert. I can’t do my thing until you’ve done yours.”
“Oh yes, I suppose you’re right.” She takes a small laptop computer from her bag and begins to type. “I decided to take a little bit from all the models I’ve coded before and combine them into one brilliant supermodel.”
“Okay,” he says, peering over her shoulder.
“My inspiration was motion. Not only will our planet orbit its sun, it will also spin and sort-of bob on its own axis.”
“I know! But that’s just the start. The landmasses and seas will move as well…”
“Exactly, and it will also have an orbiting moon with its own gravitational pull, just to liven things up even more.”
“And weather?”
“The same idea, a bit of everything. There will be cold places, hot places, calm places, stormy places, all sorts of places. And the weather will change too. Different times of day, different weather; different times of the year, different weather.”
“That’s insane!”
“I know. But I think it’ll work.”

“Your turn,” she says, handing him the laptop.
“Me? Well, mine isn’t nearly as elegant a code as…”
“Quit stalling. I showed you mine.”
“Okay,” he says. “Okay. I decided to write a quite basic evolution programme…”
“Evolution! You must be kidding me.”
“It’s a rip. Your evolution programme is just going to copy and paste the code from my model. Your lifeforming is going to rip-off my terraforming.”
“Hang on,” he says. “You didn’t let me finish. I started with an evolution programme, but I tweaked it.”
“Yes really, I changed a lot actually. This code will be 100 per cent original me. Totally in my image.”
“And how do you figure that?”
“Because of the controls.”
“The controls?”
“Ya, I coded in a load of controls to make sure that everything evolves in its own random way.”
“Oh ya, like what?”
“Well I engineered love.”
“Love! Great, that’s going to get us an A.”
“Not just love, I coded hate too; and jealousy, anger, lust, compassion, grief. I’ve coded all sorts – stuff that’s never been done before. Spirituality, religion.”
“But that’s mad. Anything could happen? The whole thing could crumble into chaos.”
“Don’t worry,” he says, as he taps his forehead softly. “I also wrote a code for the sun. So no matter what evolves – after about five billion year – it all goes kablammo!”
“Oh God,” she says, as the oceans begin to fill with water. “We should have left a note.”

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Condition

By Andy Hamilton

I place my head between his legs. It smells good here, warm and sticky. If I close my eyes and lay very still, maybe he won’t wake. Maybe I could just lie here forever and nothing bad would have to happen. I close my eyes.
I can’t sleep. He’s going to find out. Now, or later, or tomorrow if I’m lucky. He’ll see what I’ve done and then he’ll know that I haven’t changed - that I don’t want to change. Not yet. Then he’ll beat me.
He’s not a bad man. I’ve met plenty of bad men - men who don’t have a thing in their heart that isn’t angry. He’s not like that. Not always.
And I’ve loved him too, for my part. I’ve loved him the same way that I’ve loved everyone in my life. Unconditionally. The good times with the bad, the cuddles with the beatings.
He is waking.
I could jump all over him. Distract him, play with him, lick him from head to toe. I could remind him of all the fun we have together. Show him all the ways that I make him happy. Then. Maybe?
No. Sooner or later he’d see through me. Then he’d make me pay double for trying to fool him. He’s not a man who likes to be fooled. Besides, I’m not afraid of a beating. Not anymore.
It is time for me to be brave. This has happened because I want it to happen. I need it to happen. When he sees it, when he knows, maybe then I can start to change.
He is sitting up on the bed, rubbing his forehead and his wild brown hair. I can hardly breathe. I wait for the room to shatter, but nothing happens. I walk backwards to the corner. I wait.
He is putting on his trousers. The blue denim ones, the ones he always wears with the brown leather belt - with the heavy steal buckle. He looks at me.
“Hey,” he says absently. “Come ‘ere girl. What have you been up to?”
I stare at him from the corner. Through my eyes I try to communicate everything that I could never say. I try to make him understand what I did and why I did it. How I need him to love me in the same way that I love him. No matter what I do.
For a moment, nothing moves.
I see something. It’s in his eyes, somewhere behind the sleep and the hangover. I can see something small and new, something almost happy.
He understands. Finally, after all these years of loving him despite everything, he is ready to love me back. No matter what I do. I’m so happy. I could howl, but I don’t.
I step to one side and reveal the mess in the corner of the room.
He takes a slow step forward.
 “Come ‘ere you piece of shit dog. I’ll teach you to shit on my floor.”
He grabs me by my collar and lifts me one handed. I run but it’s no use. My legs spin, searching for the ground, but there is nothing there. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
“Now,” he says, as he opens the door to the garage.
“Now you’re gonna pay.”

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Stories Coming Soon

Greetings, You may have noticed a lack of stories here in recent time. I have been sending my last few stories to different publications and competition - which require that submission have not been previously published. But, as these stories are accepted or rejected, I'll be able to update this blog at least once a month. So, you can expect a steady flow of stories again as soon as this clock strikes March. Cheers Andy