Writing to the Drum Beat

By Jack Taheny

So he walked home from work, right down the hill where the old man collected the floored cigarette butts. On the third street over there were the two Rottweilers that scared him just as much as the first day, despite being chained up so far out of reach. So he crossed over to avoid them like he always did, looking back at the sound of each bark. Taking the two letters he dropped them into the letterbox outside the post office.

It was cold, and his hands were tucked well into his jacket pockets. There was a large hole coming through the left pocket. He poked his finger through it thinking, “I’ll just fix it tomorrow”. Nearing the apartment, he grabbed an eight pack of beer and a few cans of tuna fish. The thought sickened him but he had better things to do than cook. Maybe tomorrow.

His street looked like the kind where families snuggled in by the warmth of a fire, but that was not his world. The key was giving him trouble again. He shoved the weight of his body into the door twice before it gave in. Someday the lock was going to give but he would worry about that when it happened. He was never a man to cause fuss and the lock was just the right side of useless that it didn’t bother him.

There was an envelope under the door. He picked it up and took it to his room at the top of the staircase. The air was colder in there than that it was outside. Inside his small kitchenette he opened a tuna can and a beer. He ate the tuna fast, standing over the sink, washing away the fishy taste with his beer. If he had tuna again he’d probably be sick. He would cook some potatoes tomorrow and make something nice, maybe even light a candle on the table.

Finally, he could sit down at his desk, so he brought the rest of the beers and turned on his small dim lamp. He took the envelope out of his pocket and left it at the edge of the table, grabbing a pen and paper to begin writing. This was his favourite part of the day. But tonight there was something about the sound of the wind coming through the gaps in the old windows. The sound cut through him. He finished a beer and cracked open another. He tried to write but the whistle of the cold wind was so distracting.

Just then the floorboards started to shake, almost making his teeth chatter. The college kid next door started blasting some heavy techno again. The vibrations shook his letter onto the floor. He picked it up and held it under the lamplight. Beneath the white of the envelope there was the faintness of bold red capital letters. He could guess what it said. He knew that whether he opened it or not he would still be sitting in the exact same seat, drinking the exact same cheap beer and writing what was probably the same story just with a different set of words. The techno became muted; he had heard this song played before. The drumbeat was coming. He opened his fifth beer; it didn’t matter what they thought.

He dropped the envelope into his wastebasket and began to write again. The words began to flow well, he was writing to the drum beat and the chair was shaking beneath him. The beer was helping. He wasn’t going to let the wind or the big bold red letters ruin his favourite part of the day. He finished far after midnight and took down two new envelopes from his top shelf and addressed and sealed them.

In the morning he woke and lay there listening to the wind seeping in. He walked to the sink and drank a large glass of water. The two sealed envelopes were on the table and he took them with him. As he walked to work he poked his finger through the pocket in his jacket and thought “I’ll just fix that tomorrow”.

Jack Taheny

Jack Taheny is a 24 year old English and Drama graduate turned maintenance man from Sligo. By day he is a plumber in training and by night he writes and makes music, drawing from his own experiences and absurdly wild job in a mental hospital for the criminally insane.

Days of Dennis

By Jack Lawton

I wasn’t prepared for the loss of my usual routine heading into college. The old rhythms and movements. I felt lost without it, to be honest with ye, like I’d lost some core structure that the rest of me was hung around. But I made up for it fairly quickly. I’ve built up a new schedule and a new me has become to form around it. Always thought it’d be the other way around.

Football training is Monday and Wednesday evenings. This is my favourite part of my new life, if only because it's the most familiar, the main holdover from my old one. Was important to me to find some sort of terrain I could navigate, feel at ease on, before I headed into the wilderness. Though I’m playing with new people it’s easy, comfortable territory. Same plays, same rhythms, if you squint the pitch could almost be the same one from Carrick. Always worried about what I’d talk to these Dublin heads about but I find myself having the same conversations with these lads as the ones back home.

That small bit of familiarity helps me face the rest of my week; busy but still filled with unknowns. Classes between nine to five Monday to Friday. Introductory geography classes where they talk to you like you’re an alien from the far reaches of space - which, for me, is useful. GEO10030 - People, Places, Regions. GEO10055 - Humans and the Environment Throughout Space and Time. Far out. Taking down every single syllable out of the lectures mouth the first week and settling for about half of it the following weeks. Doing it right this time.

Hour breaks in between for study, assignments, talking rubbish outside lecture halls, trips to Centra for chicken fillet rolls. Mayo, lettuce, and tomato every time, and a can of Sprite. This lad Vinny has started calling me the Creature of Habit which I hoped wouldn’t stick - but it has, and I’ll never admit it to the lads but it feels good to be known enough to have a nickname.

Out on Wednesday and Friday nights to the nightclubs, and any other night I can get away with. These are the most unreliable parts of the routine - anything can happen. Different places every night, different people every time. But a routine begins to emerge here too, some sort of structure to contain the chaotic element. Drinking in the student residences til some poor soul of an RA has to become our villain and kick us out. Staggering into the nightclubs until those of us who are drunk enough to realise what horrible places they are leave, while those lucky bastards who are drunk enough to enjoy it sally on into some questionable decisions.

This is a wildness I never had back home. I drink a bit but I don’t like to lose control. Prefer to watch everyone else explode around me. It’s fair entertaining, and I’m always able to remind them of their crimes the next morning when they can’t remember.

Film club screenings Tuesdays night and meetings Thursday mornings. Science society right after on a Thursday and regular events on Mondays. Student union meetings throughout the week. Political organising on a Saturday, when I have the time. Was never much into politics before but this war in Iraq craic sounds fairly stupid. Met this one Alicia at a rally who wants us to do a radio show together.

This schedule keeps me moving and rolling over and through different moods and personalities, but it keeps me from thinking about back home so I’m throwing myself into it. I can’t move fast enough.

February 3, 2007

The last year. Where the fuck did that come from? Snuck up on me like an assignment due date. I’m viewing the end of this year with a similar feeling of nausea. Like I haven’t done near enough. But I’ve kept busy. Working parttime at Harvey Normans off campus. Shite fucking craic with a group of pricks but it puts money in my pocket. And I’m only there two days of the week. Miss a few classes for my Monday shift but I make it up just about. Still counting down the days til I can leave. On the positive side I can offer girls deals on dining tables, chairs and stools, cabinets, DVD players and much more, see in store for details! This tactic is rarely successful. Vinny calls me Go, Harvey, Go now and I want to hit him.

The rest of my schedule is as hectic as first year. Dicey’s on a Tuesday (always shite). Workman’s on a Wednesday (50-50 chance of shite). Dtwo’s on a Thursday (pure shite with occasional showers of dry shite). Pub crawling on a Friday (shite clearing up with occasional craic spells), usually, and Hangar on a Saturday. Alicia gets us some x on the odd weekend, just so we aren’t abusing the alcohol too much. Variety is the spice bag of life, as Vinny is fond of slurring to me at 3:30 on a Thursday morning. This one he likes always goes to Workman’s and he always gets blitzed due to the nerves. An unhealthy relationship with substances, as I’m fond of slurring to him while anxiously rolling something at 4:19 on a Thursday morning.

Yeah, the college work goes by the wayside. But I’ve worked last minute essay panic attacks into my regular schedule, so I can handle it. They say the best two thousand-word essays are composed in under thirty-eight minutes and are about 80% quotations. I get everything in on time, don’t I? Been to about half my classes this semester, which is good for me. Sure, when will I have a routine like this again?

October 16, 2009

Usually in work around nine thirty or so, I’m often late though. Out around five, or just before. Might smoke a bit, have a Lidl microwave dinner (they have a new roast beef one that tastes like whoever made it almost gave a shit). In my defence neither Mam nor Jamie Oliver have done their jobs correctly and taught me how to cook. After dinner I might go for a few casuals with Alicia and Vinny. Head back to ours and watch a Blue Planet or something. Show us something different. Fucking mad stuff under the sea. Get through a bit more of the weed. Stay up too late for work in the morning but sure, fuck it. Don’t need to be in top form for Harvey Norman’s anyway. Sometimes I catch meself thinking in the Harvey Norman voice and get genuine fucking scared. It’s only for the time being anyway.

Living for the weekend like one of those motivational cat posters your divorced aunt always emails ye these days. Break out of the bonds of the routine then. Take a tab of something and hit the nightclubs. Run wild around the streets. Getting into fights over positions we never held until that moment. Doing impressions of one of those blowfishes off of Blue Planet that no one else understands. Laughing at jokes we don’t entirely understand. Tell girls in bars that we’re David Attenborough's illegitimate children. Making friends with tomorrows strangers. Screaming and shouting, making and erasing memories almost simultaneously. Recharging something drained by the week and tossing away something accumulated by it, too. Richard Attenborough is my Dad, I swear to fucking God. Thought it was David? Ah, fuck.

Spend the next day spiralling on the couch and eating a carbon copy of some burger first cooked in 1986 freshly delivered by the local chipper. Reading a look of pure disgust in the delivery man’s eyes as he sees my 3:30 pm pyjamas. Worth it though, because these nights deliver some kind of satisfaction my not quite nine-to-five doesn’t deliver. We take the fourth weekend of every month off the drugs, y’know, so it doesn’t become a habit or anything. Taking something harder every now and then. Only on the odd special occasion. Didn’t believe it could get any harder before. But it does.

June 6, 2013

Find the drug. Use the drug. Then a blank space, a big empty cozy blank space.

Repeat ad nauseum. Every day is the exact same, variations on a single droning melody that didn’t offer much room for variation in the first place. Vinny has a lead, or Alicia has a lead. We’re all sick of the sight of each other at this stage.

Scrap some money together, somewhere, always eventually finding something. Pay the bills somehow, pay the rent somehow. Owing money to almost everyone we know. Sometimes not paying the rent but always finding some new place to disintegrate in. Every time panicking that last time really was the last time, that this is the one where the wheels finally come off and the whole thing reaches the inevitable crater we all know we’re careening towards. Secretly hoping that it will finally all fall apart and be over. Unable to truly believe that it could be over, that there could be anything else.

But somehow, we always keep going, for another couple seconds, minutes, hours. Years have passed this way. I do not allow myself to count how many. Keep searching, keep scrapping. Find, consume, find consume. We have regressed to hunter-gatherers. Don’t stop to think what's next beyond the next step - finding it or using it. No future, no past. Only this. Haven’t spoke to Mam in a few weeks - wait, let me check my phone - five months? When did that happen?

Place is a kip. Place is always a fucking kip. Where am I going to fit cleaning in, or anything else? I’m swamped.

April 9, 2017

I divide the day into breaths. One in, one out. On the good days, activities grow in the cracks between each. I count ten breaths, I walk into an NA meeting. I count thirty breaths, I might get five hours of sleep. I get up very early these days. In the end, breath was the only thing I could depend on to come with any regularity. So I set everything by them - trying to build the bones of a routine around them, that soft pull in, that emptying release out. I go for a run three times a week now. I am awed by the size of this achievement and ashamed that something so small has come to mean so much to me.

Also reached a point where I can eat three times a day, almost every day. These are the events I can plan around. They are easy to manage and see coming. Mam comes by for dinner twice a week. Go to the cinema the odd time. Coffee with my sponsor now and then. Therapy once a week. Still getting used to this. What’s to tell? It’s the same old story.

Texted Alicia when I saw Blue Planet 2 was coming out. She didn’t text me back.

I’m left with a lot of time to myself, unfortunately, which I attempt to fill with cooking or cleaning. Maybe a phone call if I’m feeling adventurous. I keep ringing Vinny out of habit, before I even know what I’m doing, sometimes even get through the dial tone before I realise the size of the mistake I have made, stumbling through a wrong number conversation, sorry, sorry, well right number, wrong time, sorry… Few minutes of deep breathing after that.

On the bad days old things begin to crowd around again. The old routines. So I focus on the new one. In, out. In, out. Dependable. Like clockwork.

Jack Lawton

Jack Lawton is an English and Film graduate from UCD. Originally from Waterford, he is Galway’s problem now, penning screenplays.

A Review of 2018 - 2038

By Fionn Phelan

I couldn’t get any border of Brexit

2018 saw another chapter of the most nihilistic erotic novel ever written: “Pulling Out, Hard or Soft? A Brexit Story”. Nearly two years on from Britain’s infamous vote to leave the European Union, it still dominates Irish news every day. The same stagnating story has been stuffed in our ears and smeared across our eyes – I sincerely feel as if no one cares anymore. It’s painful to watch. I rather watch a teenager’s withdrawal campaign from heroin than Britain’s withdrawal from the single market. There are still a lot of questions yet to be answered. The first one being: Why? Why is it ever dominant in the daily lives of the Irish people, when we had nothing to do with the decision made, and furthermore our opinions were not sought after? Why is the freshly healed wound of the war-rtorn north of our country at risk of a jagged scalpel abrading the delicate scab of compromise and diplomacy, inevitably resulting in the laceration reopening in quite a horrendous fashion? To answer these questions, we must first establish the mentality of the Brexiteer. In doing so, I will cite the lyrics of the song, in which the extraterrestrial worm (one of many, who have taken Theresa May as their host) at the head of the ‘Human Assimilation Department’ chose to employ in order to relate to the people. This worm was undoubtedly fired, as she didn’t as much relate to “people” as she did to a scarecrow with Parkinson’s. The song is of course, Dancing Queen and the lyrics read:

“You're a teaser, you turn 'em on

Leave 'em burning and then you're gone

Looking out for another

Anyone will do”

Believe it or not, but ABBA have perfectly assessed the inner-psyche of a Brexiteer. Simple, they don’t care...leave ‘em burning and then you’re gone. This is obvious in their attitudes towards Northern Ireland. This is the first time in decades that, the ghastly business across the Irish sea has properly imposed on the daily lives of the British public – and they don’t like it. The Irish Question?!? Questions such as, what’s an Irish? And who gives a fuck about them? The empirical braggadocio which seen Saxon armies siege most of the world’s lands and treasures still pumps through the veins of the Brexiteer – along with a high percentage of Strongbow and little chunks of pastry. This is echoed in a study recently published by the Future of England organisation. When asked whether “the unravelling of the peace process in Northern Ireland” is a “price worth paying” for a Brexit that allows them to “take back control”, 83% of leave voters said yes. Is this surprising? Not really. It’s like that one uncle at Christmas who has one too many ‘Whiskey sours’ and starts talking quite colourfully about the Kebab restaurant owners down the town. We all knew he felt that way and it was just a matter of time until he said it! Furthermore, the ever melancholic mantra concerning the strength of the Union, from the DUP falls on deaf ears, as the same study concluded that a meagre 25% of Brexiteers believe tax raised in England should be dispersed to Northern Ireland to better their public services. That’s got to hurt, right?! The DUP must feel like a red-haired stepson at this stage – unwanted and unloved, no matter how hard they try. Given all of this chaos, I can’t help but think of the future.

Land of the free

The year is 2020. The ‘Reeling-in-the-Years’ episode portraying this remarkable year, will be rather short. It will begin with a montage of Conor McGregor’s most recent and most remarkable super fight. Between his meteoric rise to fame accompanied with the constant influx of vast amounts of money, Conor naturally lost his mind. I’m sure being followed from roomto-room with a wheelbarrow of cocaine can’t help, but there were other mitigating factors to the unravelling of his sanity. One day, while ‘pulling handbrakes’ in a Lidl carpark in his brand new Bentley, the former ChampChamp heard a news report on the radio. Irish rail were plugging a new express rail service from Dublin to Cork which they shamelessly coined as ‘unstoppable’. Conor took personal offence to this. He felt he could stop the unstoppable (as he had done so many times before). He demanded a one on one against the train. Irish Rail ran with it. “Conor is a master of promotion, this being one of his most humorous outings yet ”, a spokesperson for the rail service announced. However, McGregor was not kidding. After a 4-month long press tour and numerous sponsorship deals, the superfight was on. The ‘Unstoppable Express’ was set to depart for the first time from Heuston station at 9.15am and Conor was due to intercept it on the tracks between Portlaoise and Portarlington. He planned to “Knock it out in the first”, whilst avoiding being “taken to the ground”… by the forthcoming train . All of his fans, still thinking this was just some kind of promotional joke for his latest brand of whiskey, came in their thousands to watch the spectacle. Conor fuelled by the desire to be the best (and cocaine), was ready for his latest challenge. He had never been more serious in his life. Unsurprisingly, ‘Reeling-in-the-Years’ didn’t televise the collision and not to spoil it but the train won. First round TKO. The ‘Reeling-in-the-Years’ producers poetically concluded the montage with the Johnny Cash classic – Folsom Prison Blues.

The second part of the episode will begin with a camera attached to a drone hovering above Washington DC, reinforced by the musical stylings of Bruce Springsteen as the soundtrack. Then a caption will appear on the screen and will read “2020, the year democracy died”. After staying awake for a 72 hour period, binge-watching Game of Thrones and living off a diet consisting of energy drinks, chicken nuggets and the blood of children – Mr Trump grew paranoid. Fearful of the growing popularity of superstar and allround nice guy Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – POTUS had him beheaded on the steps of the White House like Sean Bean at the end of season one (SPOILER!!). It was live streamed on all platforms; I was appalled and gave it a thumbs down, viva la resistance. However, it was not a picturesque beheading, if there is such a thing, due to the sheer size of the Rocks neck it took quite a few swings of Trumps now notorious “Celebrity Execution Sword”. Dwayne Johnsons renowned and revered slogan made famous during his wrestling career, “the peoples elbow” was tarnished forever as Trump literally threw his sawed-off elbow to the people. The irony was lost on the President.

That was to be the last episode of ‘Reeling-in-the-Years’ as reliving the events of the past no longer had a warm nostalgic feeling. It hurt too much. Now, the year is 2038. You’ll be relieved to hear Donald Trump has stepped down as president after nearly five terms in office and has rescinded his delusional desire to construct a wall across the Mexican border. You must be thinking, how relieving it is to hear that Mr Trump has by the grace of God found enlightenment and stumbled across a dearth of humanity. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. Trump resigned not out of humility, the only reason for the Donald stepping down as President of the United States is because he has adopted a new role as the leading Russian General in the brigade, which Overlord Putin has so poignantly named, “сестры дяди Сэма” (The Uncle Sam Fister’s). But why give up on the wall you ask? Trump is spearheading a much more pressing infrastructural feat, the construction of a bridge from Alaska to Russia out of materials imported from China and the bodies of those who oppose him…and those who don’t follow him on Twitter.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf Act of 2032

However, more domestically, Ireland faces its own challenges. The gap between rich and poor has become unfathomable. The pale has returned and I don’t mean there has been an influx of ex-pats. The homeless crisis once crippling our nation is no more, thanks to some bold policy formulation by Fine Gael. Taoiseach, Daniel O’Donnell made the decision to end homelessness once and for all… by ending all the homeless. The country music legend and now dictator made the judgment to reintroduce the Wolf into the Irish ecosystem. Alas, this was not just your regular wolf, these were genetically produced wolves. You know, smarter than your average wolf. There were variant other idea’s like, “Increase expenditure on social housing by taxing huge transnational corporations” or “restrict foreign aid and invest it into domestic catastrophes” etc., but the wolf idea cost less money. “WOLF! WOLF! WOLF!” they chanted in the Dail. Accompanied with a curfew for all of those whom had homes of course, “The Homeless Boy Who Cried Wolf Act of 2032” went swimmingly. Now with the plight of the poor rid from public view the elite’s rejoiced, by composing a 30ft effigy of Brian O’Drisscoll composed of avocado skin and bonded together by the chunks of hair coughed up by the wolves. However, what was to come would have the bourgeoisie of Baile Atha Cliath choking on their pumpkin spiced lattes in horror. The hundreds of genetically mutated wolves who had done the bidding of their masters were now exiles. They had served their purpose. Now homeowners could stroll from boutique to restaurant without worrying if the stench of the poor will latch onto their garments like leeches to a vein. The wolf community was vilified and forced out, into the margins of society. It was here in the peripheries of acceptance, the wolves made a formidable ally – the boggers. They too had been discriminated and mistreated. Both communities felt the metaphorical whack of the elitist backhand. “How can one’s soul grow and flourish, if constantly cloaked in a shadow of snobbery”, Wolf B. Yeats wept, the orator of his pack.

The Bogger Community (i.e. People of the bog) desired recognition as a minority group, accompanied with adequate facilities and support from the state to maintain and celebrate their heritage. The Wolfs wanted to eat people. A beautiful friendship was forged!

They taught them how to hunt in packs, how to kill a man with their teeth and how to avoid detection – and in return the wolves taught the cuclhies how to howl. The armies of the damned had arrived at the Red Cow. So, it had begun. One warm winters evening (remember - climate change!), the people of the bog rode in on wolf-back wearing nothing but vests and a new sense of pride within their community. It was a spectacle like no other, as if it was a forgotten story from the Book of Revelations or as if they just left it out because it’s just too mad to describe. Inevitably, they took the city. Pah, son of Pah, spoke on behalf of his fellow countrymen and women post-battle:

“Now we own a city that was both symbolic and instrumental in our previous marginalisation and discrimination, however unlike our predecessor’s this land is free to all people…and beast alike”

A single tear rolled from Pah’s black eye, slid down his cheek and landed on the tongue of one of the wolves. It could have been Wolf B. Yeats, I don’t know, they all look alike to me. Nevertheless, it was a striking moment. “My first act as King of the Bog….as King of all men”, Pah continued, “is to supply every man, woman and child with a hang sangitch”. The crowd erupted with a deafening cheer of elation. I was unaware to what a ‘hang sangitch’ was. Perhaps some sort of culchie sexual act, I pondered? In order to fit in, I immediately grabbed the closest man to me and began choking him and vigorously rubbing his crotch. He kindly informed me a ‘Hang Sangitch’ is a type of bogger cuisine – notably, he took a good 6 or 7 minutes to correct my mistake.

Nare a cow nor heifer here Pah”, I heard a woman bray. “Tis more meat on my hole than there is in this place Pah!” another gentleman exclaimed. The newly appointed King of all Men and Beast received a dart of reality like an arrow in the chest. With no meat for ‘sangitches’ he would of lied to his people and they would soon perish. Pah knew what had to be done. His eyes slowly diverted to his fatigued and wearied companions resting on the steps of the GPO. All 10,000 of the boggers instantly acquired the same thought, but all were too reluctant to say it. Except for one, Pah’s son – Patrick (he prefers to be called Pah). He stood upon the mound of bodies, that the Wolves had helped his people manufacture and said the infamous line which would exemplify the boggers forever… “Lads!!! The Wolves!!” he thundered to his people, “Maybe the Wolves know where we can find meat!!” The hordes of culchie folk screeched in agreement. Surprisingly, the wolves did not know.

The boggers soon starved to death. The wolves then ate there remains.

Please donate to NI Relief fund

Now years on, up and down the country bionic Healy-Rae-bots infest our cities and patrol our streets encouraging people to drink-and-drive, all the while criticising the validity and even the existence of the technology which created them. The Healy-Rae-bots are temperamental and completely incoherent, as are all Kerry people irrespective of their possession of organs or not. The Midlands are a barren wasteland, where those who possess remorseless aggression prosper and the weak fall into the peripheries to starve and subsequently be eaten by their offspring. Brothers marry sisters, all the while serving Pagan God’s – so it hasn’t really changed within the 20 years since 2018. However, thanks to the fortuitous and impeding gift of Climate Change, Ireland enjoys the weather of the Philippine’s now. The average Caucasian Irish man now has the skin complexion of a varnished hurl; absurdly we are blindingly pale from the elbow down, like a sort of reverse farmers tan. We haven’t coined a word for the phenomenon yet. Britain (or what’s left of it) now sails around the globe avoiding every other country as much as possible, all the while powered by the tired arms and legs of the immigrants who remained post-Brexit. The Good Friday Agreement has been held up well throughout all of this, held up by physically pinning the document to the entrance of Stormont by the sharpened bones of Gerry Adams and Arlene Foster as a reminder to how futile peace is. The scenes of Northern Ireland resemble that of a nightmare once more; however, families in Aleppo and Palestine have been kind enough to take in refugees from Edenderry as far as Newry.

Don’t worry, 2039 will be our year.

Fionn Phelan

Fionn Phelan is a mid-kind of man from a mid-kind of land. I come from a long line of orators, such as Oscar Wilde-Phelan, WB Yeats-Phelan and more notably, Donald Trump-Phelan.