Tag Archives: excerpt

John Kelley’s Wake

Back in the main room of the pub they were playing “Auld Triangle” on the speakers — The Pogues version, as if there were any other. It was sundown, and in the distance you could just make out a halo around the crown of the Prudential Center. Spires of frosted orange sunlight shone through the bay windows at the far end of the bar, the silhouettes of panes framing all the faces that turned out to say farewell. I wasn’t in much of a mood for talking — Irish funerals also make for massive social events — but looking out at the crowd that had gathered at the bar, it was nice to see the diversity of lives that John had touched over his however-many years.

Before the sun had set, it had been one of those beautifully grey New England days that bugged my knee, so I’d been using my da’s old shillelagh as a crutch to help me walk. A few folks tried to offer me their stools to get me off my feet but I ignored them, not wanting to deal with all the small-talk conversation that would surely come along with it. The more funerals you find yourself at, the less inclined you are to go through that same dance every time:

“What’s good, brotha?”

“Ah, ya know, hangin’ in there. How ya been?”

“Good, good, yeah. Besides, you know.”


“Fuckin’ shame, y’know?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I think he woulda liked this though. It’s a nice way to honor him.”

And so on ’til you puke. “No, he wouldn’t fuckin’ like it,” I always wanted to say, “‘Cause he’d still be fuckin’ dead, and having the corpse of the recently deceased prance around the funeral would really do a number on his loved ones, don’t you think?”

But instead the conversation shifts to some nostalgia, as if you and who you’re talking to have any kind of bond worth catching up on, besides being spat out on the Earth by your mams in or around the same zip code. Of course, it’d be rude to say, “I don’t care where you’re living now, I haven’t seen old-so-and-so, and I don’t care that she’s fat but since you asked I think it’s pretty fuckin’ rude of you to say so won’t you kindly piss off so I can grab another drink and drown the pain.”

It would take me at least another dozen pints until I got that honest.

What Happens to Jenny

Excerpt from “There Are Too Many,” a work in progress.

Reynold has seen people give up before, has come to recognize the way the shoulders stoop as though something has been placed atop. There is an almost visible effort following each step and subsequent motion, trailing behind like a cartoon dust cloud. He saw it in Jenny weeks before he said anything, weeks before the inkling in the back of his mind became unignorable. When he broached the subject – a can of half-opened soup in one hand and the other around the crank of the can opener – something had flickered in her eyes, some mix of guilt and relief, one following the other as though he’d just tapped her out in the ring.

She left two days later; packed up a tiny suitcase that she’d used numerous times to go visit her parents. So many of her things are still in the drawers – the jeans she’d probably fit again by now. The dresses she didn’t take with her are pushed to the back of the closet; Reynold stuck a heavy snowsuit between his things and hers. She promised to come back, and he understands now her need to make that promise should have tipped him off that there was a chance she wouldn’t. Her own inklings sitting in the back of her mind revealing themselves.

Finding the money cleared from their joint account was the beginning of his realization that he should worry she wouldn’t return. He’s called her parents so many times, and at first they were complicit and worried along with him. He’d ignored the tinge of blame in their voices for having let her drive off four months pregnant. Then they stopped answering his calls, and he knew she’d been in touch with them.

The last message he’d left on their voicemail had been through a closing throat, aching head, clenched fists, knotted insides: Please. Please. Tell me they’re okay. Just let me know you’ve heard from her and that they’re fine.

He hasn’t called since then, hasn’t heard anything. He doesn’t know his rights, other than those he feels in his gut; his natural rights accompanied by the instinct to find her, kill her, cradle her. His right to know the name of his child, the color of its eyes, whether it’s a boy or a girl, the way it feels so small against him.