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He looked past her and up at the mahogany cupboards with their glass fronts, and he noticed for the first time the height of the ceiling, the size of the kitchen, the depth of the bay of the window and the thickness of the curtains. He saw no sign of a Sacred Heart or a Blessed Virgin.

Short Stories: The Prisoners by Nicolas Travers

It was a Protestant house, he suddenly knew. He rose to leave. I have to be away now. I thank you for your hospitality and for attending to my feet. She seemed taken aback by the abruptness of this, and her eyebrows moved upwards, and something flashed in her eyes, and her mouth opened as though she was about to speak, and her lips, he noticed, were red and full, and her eyes now were the colour of the farthest part of the sea, the blue just below the horizon, and her hair was coming loose again and a strand of it was curled against her cheek, and something happened in his chest, some kind of tightening, and his head felt woolly and his lips were dry, and he wanted to sit back down but now that he had stood he could see no way back to his previous position and his two feet burned beneath him and neither of them would move for him.

Short Story: Fractured Masks

What kind of a person sets off walking from Wexford to Tipperary? What sort of an impulse overtook you? There was no going back. And so he stayed. And she told him what her notebook was for. She was writing a play and had all the tools to do so except for one: an idea. She was going to Paris to live on the left bank of the Seine, to be among bohemian people, who had a different sensibility to the people she lived among now.

She wanted to hear his story, all the things that happened to him up to the point where he had lain down beneath a willow tree to die. So he told her all the things about himself that he could think of that might interest her. Every day she wore the same blue dress.

It never seemed to crease or grow shabby or worn. A round and red-faced lady cooked for them and did for them each morning and evening and she spoke little but when she did her voice was soft and refined, and he grew ashamed of his frayed clothes and awkward manners and his accent that must have seemed strange and rough. Please, Michael, stay. He was after twisting his back and had hardly the use of himself at all. The man dropped him near Nenagh and wished him a peaceful Christmas and sent regards to his parents and his family and he walked the final miles as the sun reached halfway along its short winter arc.

And finally he stood at the cross of the four roads at the top of the hill and looked down into the valley. A neighbour drew beside him in an ass-drawn car, a man who laboured summers for his father years before. A Christmas babby, begod. Have you no bag? And he hupped the ass and gave him a lick of the switch on his matted rump and they moved off across the brow of the hill and down into the valley.

Go on ahead without me. Tell my mother and father you met me and I was well. Tell them that, all right? With my wife. And before the man could form a reply he slid off the car and onto his feet and started again to walk, back up the hill and onto the main road.

A waxing moon lit the earth and the North Star blazed above it. She was sitting in the window looking out. A candle glowed on the low sill, lighting her face and her loosening hair. His feet were blistered sore. He was home. The title story won the Writing. Morten Morland is a political cartoonist and illustrator. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.

We use cookies to personalise content, target and report on ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. For more information see our Cookie Policy. Donal Ryan. Illustration: Morten Morland.

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The Discworld Novels (in chronological order by publication date):

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We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication. Subscriber Only. My Seditious Heart: Arundhati Roy at her most unflinching. As I did, I remembered something from the days when I was called to the training college. I began. The nerves were never great.

I was in and out of the Gorman by the new time. One day, I just left a note on the Formica kitchen table and walked away, like Matt Monro. That broke my heart for a long time, so it did. I was sleeping on the streets, until two nights ago. I know some good doorways and shop-windows. The odd time in the very cold weather, I might chance sleeping in a skip. In spite of things, I try to keep myself to myself and as clean as possible. I stay out of the hostels. Most mornings, I hide my sleeping bag and stuff and after having tea and a cut of bread over in Bow Street, I cross the river and head to the reading room in Pearse Street.

For the newspapers and books. On a good day, the walk takes about a half an hour, but I take my time. I have lots of it. I read all the papers, even the English ones. He lost his balance and landed on his backside. You might have heard on the news about that young fellah whose rabbit was thrown into the Liffey.

I have a little transistor radio as well. I listen to it at night with my earphones to block out the noise and the mad thoughts that sometimes run around in my head. Some nights there are people ringing in to the talk shows and saying the homeless and refugees are all chancers and scum. My hands steadied and I addressed the judge directly. I am sorry, your honour, if I have upset anyone. But I did what I did to make a stand. It was to bring attention to all of the empty houses in Dublin and Ireland. I did this to protest for the people sleeping in doorways, under bridges, in Lidl tents above in the Phoenix Park.

I did this to tell the journalists that homelessness is not just a Christmas thing. They drop in like parachutes to see us eat our charity Christmas dinner, once a year. I did this to complain about the number of families living in hotel bedrooms. Families have to go in the back door of hotels. Children are embarrassed to tell their friends where they live. I did this to protest against all of the people being made live in those Direct Provision places.

Sleeping eight to a room in dormitories with only a few euros a week. The big companies making huge profits out of misery. Most of all, I did this to tell the politicians to stop making empty promises about the homeless. Last year, the Taoiseach said that it would be the last Christmas ever that anyone would have to sleep on the streets. All they have ever asked for is somewhere small and safe where they can sleep for the night.

The judge raised his hand to interrupt me. This court must be seen to uphold the values of public decency. However, as you have not been in trouble before, I will try and be fair with you. I am sending you for psychiatric assessment before sentencing. Guards, take him down to the holding cell. They brought me down and now I am waiting to be brought to the mad house for the once over.

It might do some good to hear about being homeless from someone who actually lives on the streets. We get enough of the over-fed college professors and social workers giving their opinions. I know what lies ahead of me. More prodding and poking by doctors. Back to hiding my sleeping bag and radio every morning and wandering between Bow and Pearse Street, just putting down time. Eoin Devereux is a Professor at the University of Limerick. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber. Please subscribe to sign in to comment. We use cookies to personalise content, target and report on ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic.

For more information see our Cookie Policy. Eoin Devereux. Eoin Devereux lectures at the University of Limerick. He writes short fiction and poetry. More from The Irish Times Books.