Wednesday 26 February 2014

Dancing On My Waterly Grave

by joefromspace

The moon and the stars shed their glorious light, as the two free spirits danced and pranced in their own blissful trance through the motions and emotions of life, bathing amongst the mild waves of the ocean. The warmth they felt from each other's naked bodies was enough to keep them from shivering in the cold water. Their fingers were intertwined, held on tight, as they stared deep into each other's souls, reading each other's minds, silently vowing never to let go. Nothing could ever feel more perfect than that moment they shared.

Her big, beautiful eyes visually embraced his passionate gaze, as if both their lives depended on it. But something else caught his eye. He could barely see what it was, beneath the glow of the moon. Noticing how distracted he seemed, she turned around. There it was, a mere few metres away, a giant gray fin, lurking its way around the lovebirds. Instant panic.

Instinctively, they headed towards the shore. Forget about swimming technique, it was survival mode! Screams. Shouts. Cries. Yet they still held hands, only now with much fiercer grips. The shore seemed a million miles away. It was as though it kept moving further and further away the faster and more frantically they swam.

He turned around for a glimpse of the fearsome beast. It wasn't there. He stopped, panting heavily.

"It's gone," he managed to utter with whatever little amount of breath he had left. She continued crying, desperately struggling to move towards the safety of the shore.

"Babe," he attempted to raise his voice with his near-empty lungs, grabbing hold of her shoulders. "It's gone! Look!"

She held on to his arm and turned. There was no fin in sight. There was nothing but the calm open sea surrounding them. No boats, no witnesses, no fin. The sense of calm started to return.

Out of nowhere, a strong, tenacious pull yanked their feet downwards, plunging them both into the bottomless depths of the dark ocean before they could even scream one last time for the night sky to hear.

That's when he woke up, drenched in a pool of sweat. Evidently, memories of her violent death continued to haunt him even after all these years. Even after he's served his country fighting a war, seeing countless more deaths, each more brutal than the last. Even after watching his brothers in arms die in his very hands. Even after losing his hearing after a major explosion. All that never had an impact on him as great as losing his love to the waterly grave.

He was intelligent - had always been. Nobody needed to tell him that the only way to overcome a certain fear, is to face it head on. Running away, no matter how far, will always prove to be pointless. It didn't matter if he had witnessed a state as sad as the poverty-stricken society of India, or if he had scaled the treacherous deserts of Egypt. Neither did being hunted down by the wild lions in an African safari, nor did staring into the gun barrel of a drug dealer in a dingy neighbourhood in South America. All that travel, all that trouble, didn't matter. He knew what he had to do. He knew he just had to go back into the water. 

It has taken me almost 40 years.

I look far out into the ocean, keeping myself afloat as I hold my breath. Slowly, I immerse my head a little deeper into the water, levelling my eyes with the horizon. There is now nothing between me and the suppositious end of Planet Earth. I feel empowered, as though the rays of the rising Sun have transmitted an abundance of its energy into my seasoned, weathered humanly body. 

The lower half of my face submerged, my eyes wide open. I am one with the water. The Sun. The wind. The clouds. The sky. And this giant fin circling my deathless self. I've never known peace like this.

Saturday 22 February 2014


by Lyra Reyes

"Do you think they'll find her soon?"

He looked up from his cereal to see her waving the newspaper at him. On the front page was a photo of a pretty redhead.

"It's been almost a month. It's only a matter of time. This is a pretty small and quiet neighborhood and the police are still looking." He went back to eating his cereal.

"Maria Alegria. Such a pretty name. And such a pretty girl." She watched him over the paper, taking in the pallor of his skin, the mussed up hair, and the sleepy eyes.

"You look so tired, honey. You shouldn't have spent the whole night packing."

"I'm fine. I had to finish packing so we can leave early tomorrow morning."

"There's still today."

He looked over her head, out the window to the tool shed. "I want to just wrap things up today. Plus, I have to figure out where we're going next."

"Of course, you do."

He caught her tone, "what's that supposed to mean?"


"Are we going to go through this again?"

She sighed. "I don't want to fight. But this is the eighth town, the second country, in two years."

"I told you, we had to move."

"Yes. We always had to."

"I thought you liked it."

"I did. I think I still do. Sometimes. But I want a home."

"Home is wherever we're together."

"But I want a place I can call ours. One where we can stay for as long as we want. One we can keep coming back to and not..." she trailed off.

"And not what? Just say what you want to say."

She was quiet for a while. He watched as she stared at her tapping fingers. She's so beautiful, he thought. Hair the color of oak framed her face and brushed at her slender neck. Full lips, a nose he thought was cute but she kept saying was too wide, large hazel eyes that bewitched him the first time he saw her. Witchy eyes that are now clouded with worry.

"Maybe you should stop," she said quietly.



"Why would you even ask me to do that?"

She folded the paper and placed it on the table. "Because I'm tired. This has been our life the past two years and I can't do it anymore."

"I thought you love me."

"I wouldn't still be here if I don't. I wouldn't have gotten in the car two years ago if I didn't."

He remembered that day clearly. He remembered the rain falling steadily, her body rocking with sobs when he told her why he had to leave, her dazed shock when he asked her to come with him. He remembered holding his breath as he waited for her answer. He remembered her brilliant smile when she said yes and jumped into his arms. It was the best day of his life.

"Are you wishing you hadn't?"


"Please answer me. Are you wishing you hadn't gotten into the car?"


He closed his eyes as pain arrowed through him. When he opened them again, she was looking at him, her long fingers wrapped around the newspaper. He can see the paper start to crumple as her hand tightened around it. "You know I can't stop."


"Okay, won't."

"Then I won't be coming with you when you leave tomorrow."

"You can't do that. We have to leave."

"I will. Just not with you. If you won't promise me you'll stop, I'll leave today."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Because I love you so much and I can't stand knowing that I'm not enough for you."

He looked at her in horror. "No! How can you think that?"

He reached across the table and cupped her face in his hands. Her beautiful face, soft, fragile. "I love you. Terribly. More than anyone or anything in the world. Don't ever think that you're not enough."

"How can I not think that when we have to move yet again? When you keep doing what you're doing?" She wrenched free and stood up to look out the window.

Staring at the shed, she wrapped her arms around herself. "I like it here. I know I can't stay here anymore but I want the next place to be my home. And it will be. With or without you."

He was quiet. He can't think. All he could see was her lovely silhouette against the light of the morning sun. He closed his eyes and he could still see her, beautiful and unmoving.

"You knew that this is what I do. I told you about it before I asked you to come with me. You said it's fine as long as we're together. You said you want to see the world with me."

"Well, I was stupid then. I didn't know it would be like this. We move, try to get settled. Then you start playing your games and before I even know what the neighborhood looks like, we have to move again. Do you know how absolutely tiring it is to wake up everyday wondering if we have to pack up and leave already? At first it was fun, it was wonderful, but now it's just so tiring."

He stood up and went to wrap his arms around her. He buried his face in her hair and breathed her in. She smelled of lemons, cinnamon, and him. "Are you trying to say what I think you are?"

"I can't keep settling and begging for scraps.You come home to me but I know that your mind is on the next conquest. I want a life with you. A family. But not like this. "

He held her tighter. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I promise it will get better. I promise I will make it right."

"Then say you'll stop. Say this is the last. Choose me and I'll come with you."

"I can't."

She turned around, looked at him. She stared at him for a long time, her beautiful eyes seemingly memorizing every inch of his face. Then she leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips.

She stepped out of his arms and walked out of the kitchen.

He slumped back on his seat and dropped his head in his hands. He didn't look up even when he heard her on the phone calling a cab. He didn't move even when he heard the front door close when she walked out of his life.

"Should I stop? Can I stop? Should I go after her?"

He stood up and walked out to the shed. His breath hitched with every step. He unlocked the chains, pushed the door open, and stepped inside. He stumbled a bit on a chair as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He dropped the chains and lock on a table and sat on the chair.

"She left me. She wants me to stop and I can't."

His cries filled the shed; gut-wrenching sobs of the anguished, guttural wails of the broken hearted. He didn't know how long he sat there crying. When he finally stopped, it was already dark outside.

He wiped his face with a rag, took a deep breath, then stood up. He walked to a corner of the shed and reached up to turn on the light.

"This is what I do and I have to leave tomorrow because of it. But if you can accept and understand that, will you let me show you the world? Will you come with me?"


"Well, then I'll take that as a no. Don't worry, they're close and they'll find you soon enough." He leaned down to stroke the dirty red hair, his sad eyes meeting fearful ones.

When the police came the following afternoon, the house was empty. All that's left is the broken and lifeless body of Maria Alegria laid out neatly in the shed.

Realm Guides

By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga
She picked up the phone, waited a few beats. The tropical jungle pulsed next to her, the screech of birds flapping above the canopy of leaves. Hot air blew dust onto her itching skin, eager to get the call over with. She glanced back at the dirt road, at the snow-capped volcanoes looming in the distance. She could almost hear the rustle of the leaves fringing the drive, almost see herself stepping onto that dust swirling past her ankles.
                “Yes, hello,” Ananda resumed. “Who am I speaking to?”
                “Hello?” Ananda tried again.
                Another pause until finally, “Is there such a thing as too much travel?”
                Hot wind lifted Ananda’s weightless hair and her skin immediately responded with the damp beginnings of sweat. She tasted powdery dust on her lips before promptly dropping the receiver.
                “I’m hallucinating,” she said to no one in particular.
                Birds cackled in the trees, shrilled out their calls, shrieked senseless.
                “A midnight dream. Yes, that’s it. I’ve fallen asleep doing math and this is what I get.”
                Her eyes rove to the blurry colossals in the distance, blue shadows against the fluorescent sun directly over Ananda’s head. She sighed and headed towards them.
“Of all the dreams I could have had,” she muttered, “of going back to Florida, of seeing my friends – but no, here I am in yet another unfamiliar place.”
                The more she walked, the more her purpose seemed impossible, yet she knew what would happen if she turned back. It wouldn’t be that she’d find her place by the phone. Neither would it be that she’d wake up instantly.
                “I’m in a painting,” she sighed, “of all the places in the world.”
                Her voice shook slightly but her feet trudged on towards the horizon line. Her purpose seemed more possible when she thought of her destination as the horizon line. Yes, that’s right, she thought. No impossible jungle to cross, no impossible heights, just a drawing that ends at the top.
                Her hair, loose from its bun, began to stick to the back of her neck. All she inhaled was green and dust.
                A drawing that ends at the top, she nodded. Dreams can be vivid.
                Suddenly, an engine roared behind her, making her jump. Still she didn’t look back, simply moved to the side of the road.
                “Hop on!” Someone yelled.
                Suddenly, hands grabbed her shoulders, lifted her off the ground as if she weighed nothing, and swung her into a seat at the open door of a bouncing jeep.
                “Who are you?” she cried. Her heart rattled with the sudden change.
                The man beside her grinned sidelong and glanced at the front where a dark head was driving.
                “She wants to know who we are Joshua.”
                The head turned. “Ever heard of Realm Guides?”
                At that moment, the jeep veered sharply, swinging around for a whirling U-turn, and bounded back the way it came from.
                Ananda’s heart jostled while her eyes widened in utter horror at what she saw before them.
                “STOP THE JEEP!”
                More road. More trees. Dust. Not a single phone in sight.
                The vehicle came to a screeching halt and the driver turned to stare at her curiously. He couldn’t have been older than Ananda although he looked it, not with that innocent gleam in his eyes as he asked her, “What’s the matter?”
                “Just stop,” Ananda almost sobbed. “This is just a dream and you’re supposed to get me out of it, right? So why are you turning back? There’s nothing there so just take me up the mountain-”
                “Are you crazy? That’s not the way home,” the boy, Joshua, protested. “And don’t you want to explore the place we got here a bit?”
                “I just want to wake up,” Ananda sobbed out, “preferably in Florida.”
                “Good then!” Joshua exclaimed. “We’ll take you any place you want! What you got in mind, Tomzy?”
                “Any place you want,” the man next to Ananda replied. “You name it, we go there.”
                Ananda sniffed. “Really?”
                “Yeah,” Joshua replied softly. “So don’t you cry about a thing.”
                It was strange, hearing this from two muscular men, dark in their African terrain, when normally Ananda would not have felt safe in that kind of position. How could she know they weren’t kidnapping her? Of course this was a dream but still, “What are Realm Guides?”
                Joshua smiled crookedly. Tomzy laughed.
“Here we go again!”
                The jeep’s engine roared to life. After a few seconds of yelping at every bump and holding on for dear life to the back of the driver’s seat, it came to a squealing halt.
                “W-where did you learn how to drive?” Ananda asked shakily.
                The question missed the driver’s ears. “We’re here!” Joshua exclaimed instead.
                Ananda raised her head and there was the coast. Down to the bits of seaweed scattered in the piles of brown sand, an entire beach stretched out. Crashing waves ate more of it and simultaneously spit it back, pulling Ananda’s heart with the tide.
Stepping out of the jeep she all but raced for the water, taking in the lapping waves and twirling around in a circle, cupping water in her hands and throwing it in the air, so much did it feel like cool salty goodness. The waves were exactly as she remembered them.
“Keating Beach!” Ananda exclaimed. “You brought me to Keating Beach!”
She faced her guides and they simply shrugged in return.
“Don’t know how this compares to Miami Beach but,” Joshua grinned. “If you’re happy we’ve done our job.”
“Not exactly,” Ananda replied. She gazed left and right where the coast stretched endlessly on either side. “Where is everyone?”
“Not here,” Joshua shrugged.
“But I wanted to see my friends,” Ananda’s voice trailed off as Joshua shook his head.
“No, you wanted to go to Florida. You didn’t say anything about friends. Besides, we can’t really take you to see people, only places you have strong attachments to.”
“Well, that’s just dumb,” Ananda snapped. “I have strong attachments to those places because of the people I know there.” Her heartbeat quickened as her temper mounted. “Florida is nothing without my friends!”
Joshua shrugged instead of rising to her pitch. “Then let’s leave Florida. Anywhere else you want to go?”
A dark crater fissured and swallowed Ananda’s anger as she realized something she never considered. Turning her back on Joshua, she stared out to sea, trying to steady her breathing with the rhythm of the lapping waves over her ankles.
“I want to go home,” she replied softly, “but I’m afraid of where you’ll take me: whether it’ll be back to that telephone or another empty shell like this one.”
She waited a minute but Joshua didn’t reply – which was just as well, she didn’t expect him to know how to answer. She stood still until she was sure no one was there to comfort her – Tomzy and Joshua had gone so still they must have vanished as her dream changed scenes – and sighed.
Suddenly, a hand touched her shoulder. Ananda jumped as it felt surprisingly solid and warm.
“Don’t you think home is where the heart is?” Joshua murmured. “That it always stays in one place, yet travels vast distances? Carries one soul yet many others that will always remain inside where you need them and they need you?”
Ananda’s fingers began to bite into her crossed arms and she turned sharply. “No-”
Her head knocked on something hard and she saw only darkness. Her eyelids fluttered and she realized that they had been shut. Slowly Ananda felt for her forehead, somehow pressed into the lightening black that she still viewed through sagging eyelids. She frowned. Why is it so hard to push myself off? She thought. Finally, her body regained feeling and Ananda pushed off using her elbows. She blinked several times as a blinding light seared her sensitive pupils.
When she finally adjusted them, an explanation began to form.
She had indeed fallen asleep doing her math homework on her laptop. Instantly, her eyes diverted to the blinking dot on her Skype account.
She clicked on the mouse and her friend’s chat page came into view.
Still up all night doing math?
Get it done so we can chat this afternoon!
Okay, love ya~<3
Gtg to school
Ananda blinked several times before tears sprang to her eyes. Her monitor read 11 pm, Tuesday night which meant the message was sent (go back twelve, back three, minus thirty...) at 7:30 am of the same day.
Her fingers sped along the computer keys.
Since when are you a morning person? ;)

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Time to see the world

By Diana Gitau

It was mid January; the sun was out with a vengeance. Scorching, brutal, exacting its force on everything underneath it.

However, I was freezing cold. My skin was covered in goose bumps and I couldn’t stop shivering. An odd day it was.

I woke up with a single thought on that day. I had to go to Kingston, Jamaica! 

This had nothing to do with cold. I had always wanted to go there. Or Seychelles, I don’t know why but those two places had always intrigued me. When I started my first job fifteen years ago, I came across beautiful pictures of Kingston and started saving up to a vacation there. Years later, I made enough money but then had no time to take the trip. My career consumed all my time. The clothes that I designed got to see the world. They were in fashion magazines, movies and all over the internet and were being worn worldwide but I just couldn’t leave my office.

However, I made up my mind. For the first time in fifteen years, I was finally going to take a vacation. I couldn’t wait to get away for a few days.

I wanted to tell my sister about it. Mukami would be excited. For years, she complained that I worked too hard and needed to take a break. She simply didn’t understand how hard it was for me to get the time. She used to complain that I didn’t even have time for my family. I knew she was jealous though. Mukami had settled for being a mother and housewife. I was sure that she wished she had a glamorous career like mine.

I knew that she was still upset because I hadn’t been home in years. I had missed so many Christmas holidays that I lost count. I hadn’t yet seen her kids. I knew she had a son, or was it a daughter? I really didn’t know but just knew that Mukami was a good mother.

I quickly scanned my phone to get her number but to my surprise, I realized that I didn’t have it. I was using a new phone and had lost most of my contacts with the old phone. Well not all of them, of course I still had the numbers of all my important clients. I knew Maryam Chele’s number off head. She was a loyal client, a movie star who had put my name on the list of celebrity designers in the continent. Maryam was the most important person in my life since she held the keys to my success. 

I felt bad about not having Mukami’s number but she would understand. Career women always had much tougher and more important responsibilities than housewives.
I thought of my brother Chege, I wondered what he was up to. I hadn’t seen him in ages. The last time he had visited was months ago, he needed something but I was caught up with Chele’s new gown. She had won another award and had asked me to design a ball gown for her. I had to focus; the money that she was paying was enough to buy me a new house. In addition, awards meant publicity. Once again, my name would be all over the media, Maryam Chele dressed by Ngina Mato. Then I would spend days going through every news coverage and read every single thing that people wrote about my designs.

Maryam’s awards seemed to always come at the wrong time. Last time they were announced a day before my mother died. I couldn’t even make it to the funeral since once again I was swamped by work. Maryam was my key to being the top designer in Africa. The secret to helping me stomp out all the competition and run a fashion empire. My name was going to be mentioned alongside other famous designers like Versace and Dior. Money and fame required sacrifices. I loved my mother but hadn’t seen her in ages. I knew that she would understand though. After all, she was the one who had encouraged me to become a designer.

Anyway, back to Chege, I really wondered what he had wanted to tell me. I should make plans to meet him up someday. We could do lunch and a movie. I hadn’t even watched anything in months.

I needed to pack for my vacation; there was so much to do. I planned to call that assistant that I had recently hired. She had a name that started with J but couldn’t remember what it was.

The chill, now why was it so cold! 

I rubbed my hands together trying to get warm.

“Thank you all for coming…...” I was interrupted by a voice.

I knew that voice, it was Mukami’s! What was my sister doing in my house?

I followed the sound of her voice right to the living room. The room looked so different like it had been re-decorated. I never did that! What was going on? There were people seated in the room all looking so solemn. 

Who had invited them in?

Wait, was that my brother Chege?

“Mukami, what is going on?” I asked.

She looked right past me like she didn’t even see me and walked to the front of the room.
“Ngina would have loved to see you all here,” she solemnly said as she started sobbing softly. 

It was getting ridiculous! I stood at the back of the room, watching the drama unfold and wondering what was going on.

“Is there anyone who would like to say a few words?” she asked again.

Nobody said anything, they all just looked down. 

None of it made sense.

“I can say something….,” I heard her say. It was Jane, My Personal Assistant. 

Yeah, Jane, I think that was her name. Oh wait, or was it Janet, it was hard to tell. I have had so many assistants. I thought of telling her about my vacation but first wanted to hear what she had to say.

“Ngina was…hardworking, she always came to work very early in the morning and left late at night,” Jane mumbled and quickly sat down.

That was odd! What was she going on about!

“Anybody else?” Mukami asked again.

I watched as Chege walked to the front, he looked so grownup. I didn’t remember him having a beard. My little brother had become a man without even me noticing it. He was holding a baby in his arms. That was confusing, was he some kind of a baby sitter?

“Ngina never got to meet my son, Njamba, I don’t even know if that’s a good or bad thing.” He said as I watched him in shock. 

Was Chege even old enough to have children? Son? When did that happen? What had he meant about me not meeting his son?

“I don’t know what to say about my sister because honestly, I didn’t even know her,” he quickly added as he took his seat.

I was confused. Why would my family, assistant and a few strangers have met in my living room to talk about me that way? It didn’t make any sense.

“Ngina was a good person, that may seem hard to believe, but she really was,” Mukami muttered defensively.

Why was she even defending me? Of course I was a good person. Didn’t I send money to them all? When she told me that she had a son or daughter, I sent her a cheque! I was a good person. 

Come to think of it, why were they talking about me in past tense, were they planning to cut me out of their lives? I needed to make amends.

Anyway, the circus needed to end, they all needed to leave. I wanted to ask Jane or Janet to start working on my vacation. Jamaica, I couldn’t wait! I could plan and see my family and ask them about the weird meeting but after my vacation.

“You will all get a chance to say your goodbyes now.”

I guess they had decided to leave! Good riddance!

Just then, a door that I had never seen before opened at the front of the room. An old man wheeled in a coffin as I stood watching speechlessly.

“Who died?” I screamed but nobody answered me. A photographer rushed to the front and started taking pictures of the casket. 

In a daze, I walked towards the open coffin. Looking at the body was like looking into the mirror! I found myself looking at myself lying there stiff. I tried to touch my face; the dead face, but couldn’t feel anything. 

It dawned on me that I was at my own funeral.  I had a sudden urge to look around the room, searching for one face. She had to be there. The most important person in my life had to be at my funeral, right? Devastated of course but she wouldn’t have missed.

Maryam Chele was not there!

Saturday 1 February 2014

Maureen Mac Consaidin

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014

     Maureen Mac Consaidin had always considered herself blessed as a result of her rearing, had always thanked The Lord that her childhood had been completely happy. This natural joy she had bequeathed unto her own three children, Padraig, Eleanor, and Giselle. These three children had grown up valuing work, and had always been keen to chip in chores to their happy household. Maureen’s husband, Grandpa Tadhg, served in the Irish Army, and so wasn’t at home as often as he or his family would have liked.
     Alas, Maureen had one foible: cigarettes. It was the only vice that she had ever indulged in and she had allowed them to herself after Padraig’s, the eldest, birthday party when he had turned one year old. She had heard that cigarettes could be very relaxing and since she was slightly stressed from looking after all of the children at the party she had tried one from a friend who had stayed behind after the festivities had finished. The first cigarette had made her extremely dizzy and somewhat nauseous, not at all relaxed. She stubbed out half of it, saying to Siobhan, the friend who had supplied her,
     ‘These things are only sickening.’ She soon craved another one though and after Siobhan had left her place Maureen conjectured that a small packet of smokes would be a better experiment, the more likely to allow Maureen to better judge their efficacy.
     Her second cigarette she smoked completely and the only thing that she had liked about it was the grandeur of blowing out a large cloud of smoke at regular intervals. Apart from that she didn’t really like them, didn’t like the dizziness and sickness, but she had bought a pack now so she may as well smoke them. She smoked them over the course of that week, disgusted with every sickening puff, but she had resigned herself to allow this vice as it was her only wicked indulgence. ‘None of us are perfect’ she would invariably think as she stubbed out another smoke. Besides it was probably good having an evil habit as no person could be entirely clean, noble and healthy. A bit of filthiness was part and parcel of the human condition.
     This then was how she continued, even fifteen years after the last of her brood had left home, filled with self-loathing at each puff on the cigarette, vowing to herself that she would give them up tomorrow. The net result was that she was diagnosed with emphysema at the age of sixty-three (never having formally exercised regularly) and was told that she would have to spend the rest of her life on an oxygen tank. Naturally she would have to rid herself of the smokes instantly.
     Grandma remained without any smokes for the next week and had started on the nicotine patches, having purchased two weeks’ worth on the way home from the doctor’s. She was back on the smokes on the eighth day after her diagnosis of emphysema. She had awoken that morning after a dream where she had been pleasantly smoking, blowing out plumes that seemed to envelop her in warm security, promising her greatness with clouds shaped as castles and palaces. The cravings were virtually undeniable when she awoke and she reluctantly gave in. Her first smoke while on the oxygen tank, in her car just outside the local shop, did not live up to the expectations of her dream, not in the slightest. She finished the cigarette anyway, promising herself that it would be the last, a foolish piece of business, the rest of the pack would be destroyed the instant she got home. Instead though when she returned home she turned on the TV, made herself a strong tea, and lit up another smoke while the tea was brewing.
     ‘Forgive me, Father, I know not what I do.’
     My mother, Giselle, was the first to find out that Grandma Mac Consaidin was smoking again, having called over for a weekend a few months after her mother began using the oxygen tank, to celebrate her landing an executive job with a very prestigious Dublin law firm, the result of many years of highly praised legal work and, of course, her very high marks at university. Giselle had found a dropped piece of ashen tobacco in the kitchen and, suspecting that her mother was ignoring the doctor’s advice, she had went into Maureen’s room and found half a packet of cigarettes tucked well under her mattress.
     When Padraig was told he was livid. He rang his mother and read the riot act to her. He denounced her in such strong terms that Maureen swore to him that she would give the fags away again. She convinced her eldest son that she was not ready for a premature death and, indeed, destroyed the last of her cigarettes the instant she got off the phone with him. She put a nicotine patch on, prayed to Christ for guidance and strength, and passed the rest of that day without a single puff.
     Christ must have been Waiting for her prayer because I dreamed He had He Visited her that night in her dreams, Having Come with the requested Guidance.
     ‘My sweetest Maureen,’ He Began, ‘leave the ill omens of this befouled burning bush, sunder their ensnaring invisible hold, for My Sake and you and your loving family’s.’
     ‘My Lord I have tried, tried so very hard, but I just can’t do it.’
     ‘My Promised Kingdom is open only to the worthy, to those who daily add to all our joy, but not to those who daily poison the gift of life. Ware! Maureen, that cankerous weed pushes thee further and further from your just Paradise.’
     ‘Surely You wouldn’t deny me my Heaven?’
     ‘You deny yourself. Pluck this offending bush from thee and your just reward is assured.’
     ‘Just one more smoke? Then I promise I will quit for good.’
     Christ Considered this for a little under a minute, then Deciding,
     ‘Another cigarette is an abomination before My Father. Three breaths of this noxious curse alone can be granted. But a single intake thereafter will banish thee from Me throughout eternity, with no recourse for return.’
     ‘Thy will be done.’
     Grandma, or so I continued to dream, then awoke suddenly, bolting upright in bed feeling both very, very frightened and very, very ecstatic. She then got out of bed and turned the light on. She selected a cigarette, and stared at it intently for two minutes, seeing herself poised between perdition and Paradise.
     ‘Three puffs, that’s all, three puffs and this sickness will be finished.’ She lit the cigarette and took three long draws. After the third she viciously stubbed the rest and once again broke up her remaining smokes and flushed them down the toilet.
     ‘Amen,’ she said, watching once more as the unwelcome bane was flushed away.
     She went back to bed, first kneeling by its side and praying for courage. She felt Christ listening whilst also feeling a growing euphoria. She got under the blankets, her euphoria steadily growing and she went to sleep soon after with a wide, joyous smile.
     Grandma was found dead the next morning by Padraig, having called over to make sure that she was verily off of the smokes. When his mother hadn’t answered his knock he had let himself in with his own key. All of the children still had a key to their parental seat. He called an ambulance when he couldn’t find her pulse and when the paramedics arrived they soon pronounced her dead.
     ‘No signs of struggle, rigor mortis is normal, and no signs of any haemorrhaging, she’s even smiling. She must have peacefully passed away in her sleep. I’m sorry,’ said the paramedic who had examined her.
     Grandma was buried a few days later and there were about one hundred people at her funeral. Giselle took it the hardest and cried almost constantly throughout the entire day of her mother’s funeral. It took her a week to recover and from that day forwards laughs a lot less. Maureen’s husband, Tadhg, was informed of his wife’s passing away and was allowed back to Clare for the funeral. After the coffin was lowered and the clods heaped upon it he decided to give up his service, with nothing now to work for, and to spend the rest of his days at home. He would always wonder if he had somehow caused or contributed to Maureen’s death with being away so much. If it hadn’t been for the army and too much travel he could have been a strong force to prevent that first experimental cigarette of hers. He misses her greatly, feeling unaccountably responsible for her death, and visits her grave every Sunday.
     I miss you too Grandma, we all do.

     If you've been enjoying Denis' stories on this blog you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me, available on Kindle for US$3.87 at The novel tells the story of Tonia Esqurit Ailbe, a mathematics professor, and her unusual Saturdays ritual, staring at herself in her dressing table mirror and actively socialising with friends and family. It is the only way, for one reason or another, that she can achieve her life's dream of having her home as the centre of a vibrant social hub. If you don't have a Kindle you can download the app for free.