GSRMA Short Story Competition- Winners & Prize Ceremony
Thank you to all the members who entered the first GSRMA Short Story Competition this year.
Congratulations to the final 4 winners ,as per adjudication panel decision of the GSRMA Short Story Competition.
Patrick Daly ( Cork City Branch), Brian Kealy ( Limerick City Branch) , Bill Kelly ( Dublin North Branch) & Hillary Murphy ( Naas Branch)
The Prize Ceremony was held on Friday 18th November 2016 7.30pm at the Skylon Hotel Dublin, in Drumcondra.
Below are two of the winning short stories….
THE HOMECOMING by: Hillary Murphy (GSRMA Naas Branch)
Amy crouched inside the sittingroom window keeping her eyes firmly fixed on the narrow laneway leading to the house. She had butterflies in her stomach and she was tense with anticipation. She wiped condensation from the window periodically and drew shapes of animals to pass the time.
Amy’s older brother, Tom, was due home from the United States that very day, having left Ballydeery eight years earlier when she was a mere child of three. He was six weeks short of his nineteenth birthday when he emigrated. She could vividly remember him and the fun they had. Each evening when he’d arrive home he would hoist her into the air and twirl her about. Some mornings she would find sweets in her coat pocket as she prepared for play school – Tom was very thoughtful in that way.
Amy spent many nights over the previous eight years thinking about Tom and wondering what had caused him to leave – she knew that something unusual must have happened and perhaps it was better that she did not know. She asked herself many times why he had never written or sent a card. She could excuse him for not writing to her mum or dad as they could be nasty at times. She found it strange that they never mentioned his name in the house. She was curious too as to why people in the village never asked about him – it was as if he had never existed. However, Tom was her brother and she loved him dearly.
The house had been a dreary place since his departure – there was rarely any fun or laughter. He was due to arrive sometime between midday and two o’clock in the afternoon. The bus from Cork city was anything but reliable but at least it did make the forty five mile journey most days. She wondered if he had changed. She realised that, after eight years, there might be some physical changes, but she hoped that his devilish ways and sense of fun would have remained with him.
Amy’s two sisters worked in Dublin. Maura was twenty five and Helen was twenty three. They rarely came home except at Christmas. There was nothing for them in Ballydeery. At least in Dublin they could socialise to their hearts content and be free of the doom and gloom that hung like a cloud over that part of the south of Ireland.
As Amy continued to peer out the window she suddenly noticed a movement on the roadway. Was it the bus she wondered! Yes! It was – she could see it through the gap in the cherry blossom tree. A few seconds later she could see the bus driving off and her heart began to pound. She then noticed a tall elegant looking man walking purposefully up the laneway. He carried a large suitcase. He had thick black hair combed back. He wore a dark grey suit, white shirt and red tie with a gold coloured tie pin. She had never seen a person wearing a tie pin in real life, only in the cinema. He was very distinguished looking but, if it was Tom, he certainly did not resemble the person she had known as a child.
She began to wonder if it was some stranger coming to tell her that Tom couldn’t make it. She opened the front door and when she did he put the suitcase down and shouted ‘Amy! Is it you?’ He held his arms out and she ran to him without hesitation. He lifted her high into the air. He laughed and when he did a flood of happy memories surged through her. ‘I forgot to bring the sweets,’ he said. She held him tight unable to speak and unable to let go. Eight years of pent up emotion engulfed her and she cried profusely. ‘Let’s go inside,’ Tom said, ‘there is so much I have to tell you.’
Tom began to tell her of his time in New York and of the people he had met. He explained how he had been terribly lonely in the beginning but, over time, and with the help of the Irish community, he eventually settled. He outlined how he attended college at night eventually qualifying as an accountant. He now worked for a top Manhattan firm. He said he that he was materially wealthy but that there were many things still missing in his life. At night, in the heat of the city, he often lay awake yearning for the village of his youth and the comfort and support of family life. He said that he had not spoken or written to his parents since he left but he was sure that they had no desire to see or contact him either.
Amy, who had been listening attentively, asked what had happened to cause him to leave and why could he not come home and restart his life here. He looked at her for what seemed like an eternity, and then said, ‘I suppose you are now old enough to hear my story – goodness knows I have never mentioned it to a living soul these past years.’
He began by telling her that before he left Ireland in 1959, he had been a member of an illegal organisation. He had joined because he supported the idea of a united Ireland. He outlined how he and a number of other volunteers had been instructed to burn a protestant home while the family slept. They were given their instructions five days before the operation. His fellow volunteers did not seem to have an issue with carrying out this act, but he did. He knew that there were three or four children in that house – children that had never harmed him. He was acutely aware that this act would in no way help to achieve a thirty two county republic and would be a cloud of guilt that he would have to carry to his grave if he participated. He had always been taught to do what was right in life and this flew in the face of all his principles and beliefs.
He said that he did not sleep in the nights beforehand – he tossed and turned and wrestled with his conscience. A number of hours before the deed was to take place his conscience got the better of him and he decided to tell a member of the garda whom he knew from the local GAA club. He did not go with the other volunteers – he made an excuse that he had sprained his ankle. They went ahead without him. As they were about to douse the outside walls and doors with petrol, a group of armed detectives pounced catching them red- handed. They were all in possession of loaded handguns. The organisation later held an inquiry into the circumstances of the arrest. Tom was held to be fully responsible and was sentenced to death. He was devastated – how could somebody, who had performed a noble and merciful act, be now in this situation. He quickly realised that all is not fair in life – that those who perform meaningful tasks or do good, are not always acknowledged or appreciated.
He had to act quickly – he was almost nineteen years old and too young to die. He discussed the matter with his mum and dad. They were very angry with him for what he had done and told him that he would have to leave the house and area forthwith. He had hoped for their support and sympathy for doing something which, ultimately saved innocent lives, but alas he was naive.
Amy sat there speechless – she was rarely lost for words but at that moment silence seemed appropriate. Just as Tom finished his story both parents came into the room. Tom stood up immediately to greet them and to shake his father’s hand but instead of a handshake his father pointed towards the door and said, ’get out, we don’t entertain informers in this house.’ His mother had her eyes firmly fixed on the floor – she never raised her head. A moment or two later she turned sharply, and left the room. Tom was devastated. He glanced at Amy but did not speak. His face was ashen. He slowly picked up his suitcase and left the house.
Amy ran to her bedroom and cried bitterly for the rest of the day. By evening time she was emotionally drained and she wondered if there would ever be a worse day in the years ahead. As evening closed she returned to the sitting room and stood at the window where she had earlier waited for Tom – it seemed like a lifetime ago. She thought of the condensation and how it had blurred her vision earlier but not her joyous expectation. Now that the window was clear, she was in pain. She couldn’t help but think of how it is often better in life to have a little condensation and fogginess, as it helps to mask reality. Reality can be cruel and unforgiving. She now noticed, for the first time, that the cherry blossom was overpowered by a large beech tree. She also noticed that leaves had begun to fall and realised that autumn and winter were on the way. Dark clouds had gathered overhead and the evening grew dark. Before leaving the room she took one last glance through the window and at that moment she felt a chill in her bones.
Collage Romance by: Brian J. Kealy (GSRMA Limerick City Branch)
Matt was far, far away when his phone sounded, again. Had he hit snooze button already? What time was it anyway?
His head hurt, he closed his eyes for a moment. Christ!! What time was it?
He looked at his phone again and saw that it was already 07:50, Jesus, he’d be late – he’d already got a bollocking from his skipper about timekeeping and he really didn’t need another one – that had been made clear to him already.
He jumped out of bed and realised why his head hurt, that empty Johnnie Walker bottle on the floor beside his bed told him that.
He hit the shower deciding he didn’t need a shave, saved the ten minutes, into the car and shot off down the road. Traffic didn’t help but he made it to the station with four minutes to spare. He glanced at his phone, saw that he had missed two calls from Ciara – what the hell did she want now?
Into the locker room and into his uniform, noticed from the slightly stale smell that his shirt was passed it’s sell by date and hoped the skipper wouldn’t notice.
He got to the parade room and tried to slip in quietly, was lucky that the skipper was busy and didn’t notice him. He nodded to some of the others and settled in for the briefing.
He knew that he had to ring Ciara back, she’d only get more pissed off if he appeared to ignore her.
He wondered, not for the first time, how the heck it came to this at all?
All their plans, hopes, enthusiasm – they’d begun in the College and despite all his mates telling him that College romances never last, they got married after two years.
It was all planned, study together, sit the exam together and both get promoted together but then baby Colm (named after her daddy of course) came on board before they had a chance to catch their breath.
OK, that meant an adjustment, he dutifully went to work and Ciara took advantage of her maternity leave to study for the Skipper’s. How did she manage Colm, the breast feeding, the nappies, the cooking and cleaning, he had to admit, hated to admit that she was capable alright.
However, that brought him to the fact that it was 10.10 and he hadn’t rung Ciara back – was he stupid or what? She could be a real hard ass when she thought he was ignoring her.
He was on a break then so with a mental sigh, he picked his mobile and dialled her number.
No reply, no, he didn’t want to leave a message, damn, she rang him didn’t she?
Just then, wondering if he should try again, he got a radio call – his skipper wanted him back to the station, now.
When he got in, he went to see the skipper and it was exactly what he thought; where is the McDonough file? It was supposed to be in last week and it was already five month old. Then things took on their usual dance sequence, he tried to pretend that he had things in hand and was just waiting for the results of the forensics and when he got them he would put in the file.
That got him exactly nowhere with Phyllis, his skipper.
“I checked with the Exhibits Officer and he gave you those forensic reports and his statement over a month ago” she said.
Oh, it took off from there. Same again, late files, late timekeeping, slovenly appearance, poor working relationships, lack of engagement (what the heck was ‘lack of engagement’?).
She was a newly appointed Sergeant, so he guessed that this was some fancy Templemore bull that they learned.
Even Ciara talked like that sometimes now – oh shit! He was supposed to ring her back – if only the bloody skipper would let him go but no, he had to suffer on with another ten minutes of this – then it came, written warning, copy to the Supt., appointment to be made with the Supt. to discuss his ‘performance’, ‘dereliction of duty’ figured somewhere in the one sided conversation.
That was the end of his hopes for this years Sergeant’s Interviews – not that he expected to do any better than last year – never even got out of the Division – seven years trying.
Not like Ciara, exam done while on maternity leave, flew the first Regional interview, did the national and then guess what? Made it onto the Sergeant’s List, first time –wow, amazing NOT!
Once again, he began thinking of what had happened, not for the first time he pondered over where it went tits up for them, well for him really, she’s gold all the way, as you’d expect, even had the bloody Inspectors done and had had her first interview didn’t make it first go, but give it a year or two and she’d be there, no doubt.
He finally got away from the skipper’s office and went to the hall to ring Ciara, it rang out a few times, but he kept trying. Got her, at least. Yeah, what do you want now? Crap, hadn’t meant for it to come out like that, she had that ability to really cheese him off at times, even when she didn’t know she was doing it.
It was her solicitor, narking on about not getting his statement of means – looked for it about three months back – Matt had been putting it off, again.
Ciara was all sweetness – funny how she sounded like she actually was on his side but then again, he also knew the other side of her, just like her frigging dad.
He vaguely blamed his solicitor for not sending it on – thought truth be told, he hadn’t seen or replied to his solicitor in months and promised Ciara he would get onto it straight away.
When she thanked him and hung up, it dawned on him that he hadn’t even asked about Colm, his birthday was a week away and nothing said about him attending or coming up to see him – Christ, what had he become?
Then the old bitterness washed over him again and he thought of Ciara being excited and overjoyed at her promotion – like it was a surprise – yeah.
Naturally she was transferred, couldn’t have his wife, as a skipper working in the same district.
Just as naturally, she didn’t get sent far, could commute most days, but with the quick swing shift, she sometimes had to stay over – when this happened, he, not she, had to make the changes to mind Colm. He did win some brownie points but after six months of this, he felt that he was being taken for granted – she stayed over more and more for work related issues – had been moved into the Drug Section, plain clothes and irregular hours and then the short notice for him to mind Colm.
At first, she was full of chat about her new station, the people she had to work with, the unit she supervised, and the characters she met. Then, she started sharing less and less with him about her new work. Was it jealousy on his part, lack of interest or was he fed up with being very much the junior partner in his marriage? Maybe if he was being honest, a bit of all three.
He used to pick up her phone and make calls if it was closer or his own was out of battery, he’d get a cheery ‘you answer it for me’ if she was with Colm, they had that easy familiarity with each other but it soured sometime about the time of her promotion and move to the nearby city and then into the Drug Section.
Then it came to a head, he challenged her about the extra hours she was working and her not seeing Colm and leaving him to do all the fetching and carrying. She was, at first, apologetic and promised him that she’d get a transfer back to somewhere easier and quieter and they’d get back to more regular sharing and spend time with each other – she’d get the transfer at the drop of a hat alright, if she sought it.
He began seeing that she kept her phone on her at all times, he wasn’t privy to her calls any more – she said it was only work. When, several months later, he raised a row about their work arrangements, she was no longer apologetic and even came out fighting saying that she needed to do this as part of her CV building and why couldn’t he just support her for once? That was bloody rich.
The break came when he and Willie, his (only?) mate on the unit pulled in a dealer with a bag of ‘candy’. They were unsure of whether to play the drug dealer or just seize all his gear and charge him – then Willie suggested that he ring his missus in the city, sure wasn’t she a D/S in the drug squad, she’d know what to do.
Matt, reluctantly, agreed and then tried her phone several time, getting no answer. He told Willie that he couldn’t get her and then went down to chat the prisoner again.
When he came back, Willie told him that it was sorted; there were two Drug Squad lads on their way out to ‘assist’. Matt wondered how Willie had arranged this and Willie said he had rung Ciara on her official mobile and got her straight away.
Jesus, Ciara never even told him she had been given an official mobile or even hinted that she had one. Trying to cover up his embarrassment with Willie, he left the Day Room.
When she got home the next morning, he let her sleep while he replayed all the distance that was now between them.
Colm was now seven years old and going to school in the city, his in laws were back living in the city and they collected Colm and kept him, sometimes overnight after Ciara dropped him into school on her way to work in the mornings – he was not even in that loop anymore. When Ciara got up, he said he needed to talk to her that, this couldn’t go on any longer, that they had to sort something out. Ciara was a bit edgy and pleading her need to get to work, she turned to him at the front door and agreed that yes, they did need to sort something out, that they’d talk later that evening.
He headed off to work himself shortly afterwards thinking, amongst the usual thoughts of what shit would be waiting for him in the station now, that Ciara and himself would get things sorted at last.
He was ready for a row when he got back to the house ten hours later but no Ciara. He got himself a glass of his Johnnie Walker – it was only one glass for God’s sake. That was another thing she was nagging on at him for, his drinking when he was supposed to collect Colm.
He then got a call saying she had to work late and that she would stay with her parents in the city and that she would see him sometime tomorrow – she rang off when he began shouting at her. He grabbed the near empty bottle of Johnnie Walker and angrily poured the last of it into his glass – that surprised him, the bottle shouldn’t have been empty so quickly, should it?
It broke apart the next day, an emotional call on his mobile to say that Colm and she would be staying with her parents for the time being and that it may be better if they had some time away from each other. That was the start of it, downhill all the way from there.
Now, living out of a bedsit, his life in tatters, his career non existent, with no wife (separation slowly grinding it’s way forward – bloody solicitors), limited access to his son, he wondered again at the wisdom of having married the Chief’s daughter.