FLASH FICTION CONTEST
I NEVER DIE
by Séamus Scanlon
At dusk I scan Emmet Avenue to make sure it is clear.
I only go out at night when Galway sleeps and dreams of a better day.
The street is shrouded with a heavy fog drifting in from the far sea.
I step out.
I am in my bare feet.
The chill of the path caresses me.
I drag my club foot behind me as best I can.
* * *
Squalls from the Atlantic have been passing over Galway all day.
The narrow grey streets are slick with rain, the way I like it.
The moon is obliterated behind heavy low lying clouds.
Broken fronds of seaweed are thrown up on the Prom.
The smell of iodine-scented sea air fills my lungs.
When Lord Haw Haw was about to be hanged in Wandsworth Prison in 1946 he dreamt on his last sleepless nights of walking Salthill’s Prom, of the gales rushing across South Park, of the rain cascading off Lynch’s Castle and the tall townhouses of the Crescent and Nile Lodge, of the alms bell from the Poor Clare’s on Nun’s Island carrying faintly on the wind, of the feel of his palm against the smooth limestone walls enclosing the university, of the noise of the Corrib in spate crashing towards the Claddagh Basin, of the still deep canals that hid many secrets, of the shrouded trees lining Eyre Square and of the Tinkers in their canvas tents off Grattan Road.
He is buried now in New Cemetery in Bohermore. Reinterred in his home town from his unmarked prison grave. In Ireland we welcome home all our dead. Both heroes and horror merchants.
* * *
I am a horror boy myself.
Club foot, blind in one eye—but with perfect skin—a cosmic trick.
Girls stop me on the footpath—they run their pale cold hands over my cheeks.
They would die for that fucken skin they tell me.
They tell me it is wasted on the likes of me.
I know this already.
* * *
They tell me they would like to tear that skin off of me so they could be Miss Galway 1972.
They tell me secrets about carnal treats.
They tell me why do I not kill myself?
Did I forget to mention I have a stammer as well? I have it all.
I want to hammer them or at least myself.
They push me around.
They boss me around.
They float around me.
They are affronted by my muteness.
I am the SS Lusitania of Sorrows—holed below the water line. All hands lost.
* * *
I walk slowly up Cemetery Hill Road on my nighttime walks.
I hear the heft of the trawlers’ diesel engines leaving the docks for the green-black sea.
I hear the faint sound of the Dublin mail train easing across the bridge over Lough Atalia into Ceannt Station.
I walk past The Great Southern, down Mary Street, Abbeygate Street. All is calm all is quiet. It is my time to shine. If a car comes along I crouch down in the shadows. I walk along the docks and watch the tethered boats creaking against each other.
I reach the Salmon Weir Bridge. I get up on the slick parapet and walk across with my eyes closed.
I can feel the pull of the cascading water below me urging me to falter and sail on down. It never happens. I am as sure footed as a mountain goat even with the crippled foot. I could have won gold at the narrow-treacherous-bridge-parapet-walking competition. Many have jumped from there. Lost forever into the black Atlantic deep troughs. Boys who wanted to be girls, girls tainted with dead babies born in grottos to the Virgin Mary, women fecund with malignancies, men with dark angels hovering above them. I jump down onto the path when I get across the Corrib and keep walking—past the Court House and Hidden Valley and up Prospect Hill and onwards up Cemetery Hill Road.
The hyena gangs from Bohermore used to hunt me down on Cemetery Hill Road.
They would lope beside me as I ran with my fucked up foot. Hurry up hopalong they would shout. Bootboys with their German Shepherds running alongside them. Balletic street fighting kings.
* * *
In the end they would fell me. On the wet footpath they would kiss me with elbows and kicks and kneecaps. Their skinhead girls watched it all with insouciant delight. Their sallow skin sleek with sweat. Silk Cut cigarettes in their long fingers.
Waiting for their boys to finish up. To finish me off. They could have done it themselves but they knew their place. All the time they wondered at my perfect skin in the pale Galway moonlight.
Then they would all run off whooping like a Comanche raiding party. I admired my tormentors. Their long strides. Their girls. Their shiny Doc Martens. Their parallels. Their shaved heads. Their thin bomber jackets. Their vacant looks. Their good looks. Their perfect limbs.
Once they had disappeared I stood up. The pain was immense.
I checked for broken bones. I tasted the blood. I tasted the end. I longed for the end. It never came. Inside I was broken already where it counts. I spat out blood.
* * *
At the top of Cemetery Hill Road I climb over the gates. In the Protestant section, I check the grave of Mister Moon of Moon’s Emporium and Rex Dark, my friend gone forever and waiting for me, and Lord Haw Haw’s simple gravestone. I remember how he loved Galway and how it loved him back.
I go over then and lie on top of Michael Bodkin’s grave.
I wait for Nora Barnacle’s ghost.
She never comes.
I wait for consolation.
I wait for consumption.
It never comes.
The dawn comes.
The long day lies ahead of me.
I never die.
Séamus is a writer from Ireland (who once won the Gemini Magazine Short Story Competition!). Recent accomplishments include a Queens Foundation Award for bilingual version of “The Long Wet Grass” (English/Irish) at the Moore Jackson Community Garden in Woodside, Queens; winning the One-Act All-Ireland Drama Festival in December 2022 with his play Dancing at Lunacy; inclusion in the Fuel Poverty Anthology (February, 2023), The Flash Fiction Day Anthology (June 2023), the Americas Poetry Festival Anthology (October 2023) and the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology (December 2023). The Spanish translation of The McGowan Trilogy will be published in 2024. A short film based on his story “Wanderlust” will be shot in Ireland in Spring 2024. www.seamusscanlon.com email@example.com