A short story by John Mee
We are Oonagh’s treasure, her doubloons and pieces of eight. She likes to count us: twenty-two now. Oonagh’s sadness is dull sometimes – uuuuuuuuuuuuh – and then it’s sharp – aaaaaaaaaaaah. But we are oooooooooooh. We are the anticipation of pleasure, pleasure itself, its aftermath. We want to help her but there’s nothing we can do. We’re telling this story backwards. We like happy endings.
The door of the wardrobe opens and the light comes in. It’s Oonagh. She’s crying. Hello, Oonagh. We haven’t seen Danno for a long while. Oonagh’s carrying something large. It’s Big Red and he’s stained with blood. Ooooooo. She’s trying to push him in. The wardrobe is very big but so is Big Red. The rest of us shift about as she wrenches him around. She’s crying harder now. Then he’s in and the door closes again. Big Red won’t answer our questions at first, like he’s too traumatised. We stop asking and, ten seconds later, he comes out with it.
Red letters against the sky: _ pera House.
Big Red is in a transparent plastic sack, leaning against an office wall in the Opera House. ‘Thank you for seeing me,’ Oonagh is saying to the manager. ‘It’s a strange thing I’m asking.’
‘Take your time,’ the manager says and gets her to sit down.
She tells him about her and Danno. She starts to explain about Danno’s collection but the manager cuts in.
‘Wasn’t the whole town talking about it, wondering who it could be? He
was quite the boy, your Danny.’ He looks confused for a second. ‘I’m sorry for
In the end, he lets her take Big Red. They’ve ordered a new sign for the
roof and a review of health and safety. He gives her a hug as she leaves.
‘I stayed with him to the end,’ Big Red tells us. He wants to make it about himself. Big Red couldn’t have moved if he’d wanted to; spontaneous rolling is just a story we tell the smaller lower-cases. And isn’t Danno holding him tightly, across Danno’s chest and over Danno’s head? ‘Like a halo,’ says Big Red.
Danno is lying on his back on the footpath outside the Opera House. It’s three days before Big Red will join us. Four-thirty in the morning. Danno’s bleeding from the head and he’s moaning. No one comes. Now he’s not moaning any more.
It starts to rain a little. At last, someone comes around the corner. ‘Oh, God.’
Earlier that night, Danno and Oonagh are fighting. We wish we couldn’t hear but the wardrobe is in the bedroom. ‘You’re going to get caught,’ she says. ‘If you don’t stop, you’ll get caught.’
Danno laughs. ‘They’ll never catch me. I’m The Liberator. Dan O’Fucking Connell. Hawaii-Fucking-Five-O.’
There’s a picture of him on the wall. We can see it when he opens the wardrobe and someone new joins us. Danno’s always talking about that picture. It’s from the free newspaper and Oonagh got it blown up for him. He’s smiling up at the security camera. We can’t see his mouth under the scarf that covers his face. We can tell from his eyes.
They go quiet for a while. Then Danno says something we can’t hear and laughs. Oonagh is laughing too.
‘Okay, fuck it, it’s time to quit,’ says Danno. ‘Just one more.’
W _ rld of Sp _ rt. T _ y T _ wn. New L _ _ k.
‘There’s no blue ones,’ says Oonagh one day, looking into the wardrobe.
‘No,’ says Danno. ‘I don’t like the blue ones.’
‘They’re not fruit pastilles, you know.’ Thank you, Oonagh.
There’s just four of us, the first four. Oonagh is lying on the bed, looking up at Danno. She doesn’t have any clothes on. He says, ‘One for your left tit.’
‘Cold,’ she says. ‘Go easy.’
‘And one for the right.’
Of course, we like it when they’re happy, when we make them happy. But
we can’t feel it like them.
‘This is for your cock.’ She hoops one of us over him and he lays another
down where he wants to put his cock.
Oh. Oooh. Oof.
And maybe we enjoy it a little too. For a while, just to be a shape.
Danno folds his ladder and picks up his box of tools. It’s still dark but across the river the sky is brightening above the convent. He walks us back to the van, whistling to himself. The sign says: S _ uth C _ unty F _ _ ds. We think we’re going to like him.
John Mee won the Patrick Kavanagh Award 2015 and the Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition 2016, which led to the publication of his first poetry pamphlet, From the Extinct, with Southword Editions. He works as a legal academic in Cork.