4 pieces of very Irish flash fiction by Camillus John

Camillus John was bored and braised in Dublin. He has had work published in The Stinging Fly, RTÉ Ten, The Lonely Crowd and other such organs.

Bishop Brennan Style Castration

I couldn’t distinguish between any of them. I had to concentrate hard on their faces. For they were all going to do good – magnificent even – things for me. If only. They were around me now on all sides. Who to believe?

‘Are you sure? I don’t need to do anything to get all these good – magnificent even – things you’re offering? Is that true?’

‘Yes. We’re sure,’ they said one after the other or was it at the same time?’ 

‘Au contraire,’ someone else said. 

It was like leaving your glasses at home. Blurred vision and a constant low level headache that makes it very hard to focus on anything sentence-long. They held me by the arms. 

‘You’ll have all these grandiloquent things in your life, Sir, very soon indeed. In a big pile. You’ll be set up for life and so will your kids if you have any. I hope you have because -’ – the middle bloke broke in – ‘Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. He doesn’t need to know that yet. Don’t.’

He put his arm up into the air to create a silence for him to fill.

‘In fact Sir, we can start doing some of those magnificent things for you right this minute. If you want.’

I wasn’t quite sure. Two of them, well I think it was two, were holding me in place with their hands while the remaining third of this trio (I think it was a third. It may have been something else though) pulled down my trousers and whipped out his razor blade. 

‘Magnificent things kind Sir. You’ll have a job for life. Good pay too. You’ll work hard for it, of course. But it will all be good. A house. A job. Money in your pocket. What more could you want?’

He sawed at my penis with his razor blade while talking. Blood spurting. 

‘All you have to do is let us do this one thing and you will be happy-ever-after. Everything will work out happily ever after.’

Obviously I had to extract myself from this situation Bishop Brennan style or else I would be castrated. So I looked at my left foot. It looked up at me and grimaced. After taking a basketball-sized gulp of air I used the massive adrenaline circulating my buzzing head and blood-spurting cock to lift myself up, up, up and away from these strange individuals and boot them up the hole one by one by one (three – I counted again – definitely – there were three of them. No more or less) through the nearest window like gangrene tennis-balls. Bishop Brennan Style. The sound of breaking glass each time was massive relief.  

I never voted again. Just in case like. Just in fucking case.

If You Haven’t Died For Europe You’re Not Getting In, Róisín

If you don’t tell me what you died for then you’re not getting in. I haven’t got all day to be trying to coax information out of a dope. Now tell me, what did you die for, Róisín? It’s quite a simple question.’

            She dropped her Tesco’s shopping bags and sent fruit and veg skittering in every direction. The security guard flicked his pen and paper onto the ground and octopussed all over the place trying to pick up her tomatoes, apples, oranges, lemons and cauliflower in case they rolled out into the road. When he’d shoved a particularly small bunch of grapes back into one of her bags, something pinged inside and he said, ‘You didn’t get squashed or anything did you, Róisín?’

            ‘No. Of course not. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.’

            He huffily chased all the fruit and veg back into her bags with the exception of one squashed plum that looked like Elvis, which he handed back to her. Aiming for her face, he picked up his pen and notepad once more.

           ‘Now Róisín. What did you die for? You’ve got two skinny minutes before I’m off to the canteen for a full-fat cup of tea. It’s nearly 11 o’clock. What did you die for? Please tell me.’ 

           Róisín gulped and stroked her chin.

           ‘Look behind you – through that window – all my sons are already inside at the bar near the snooker table over there – waving to me. They’re in already. They all died for Europe, guard.’

            ‘Are you telling me that you died for Europe too, is that it? Why didn’t you say so in the first place. Just show me your death YouTube clip and I’ll tick the form and send the email right this minute Róisín. You’ll be able to salsa right in. Come on. A buttered scone with no jam is waiting for me downstairs right this very minute and a scalding cup of tea. My stomach is a rumbling volcano. I had no breakfast this morning. Let’s get this over with pronto, please. Let’s move on.’

            ‘If all my sons died for Europe surely that means Róisín herself can get in free gratis? That should be on the statute books. Come on, I need to talk to Patrick about Sunday dinner.’

            ‘Hold on – that’s against the rules. I’m afraid you’ll have to show me your death YouTube clip or else you’re not getting in. I’d lose my job and be thrown out of the building on my arse if I didn’t tick that off my list and you know it.’

            She took out her phone and started scrolling down and down and down and down.

            ‘It’s here somewhere. This’ll prove conclusively what I died for – look at this here now.’

            It was a YouTube clip of a cat on the side of a road playing with a large ball of wool outside someone’s front garden. Five seconds into the clip and Róisínruns out and karate-kicks the cat up the hole. She sends it flying across to the other side of the road. A car comes from the right and squashes Róisín like the Elvis plum that had fallen from her Tesco’s carrier bag a few moments earlier. The driver in the clip looks like Elvis too. 

The guard looked up at her and said, ‘So you did get squashed, Róisín. You can’t come in – I’ll get sacked I will. I told you before. Sorry. You didn’t die for Europe. Saving a cat doesn’t count. It’s not on my checklist.’

‘Well it should be on it. I saved a cat for God’s sake. That’s a good thing.’

‘Well, that’s that then, isn’t it, Róisín?’

           Róisín plucked a grape from her bag and threw it at his head. It bounced off and hit the ground. Neither of them picked it up.

‘Leave me alone. I’m only trying to do my job.’

As he walked away from her towards the canteen his belly growled for his jamless scone. 

She slumped down the street with her grocery bags in one hand and her Elvis plum in the other.

           Once the guard was inside the building though, she about-turned and ran back. She pressed her nose up tight against one of the huge shiny windows. She saw him talking to her sons at the snooker table in the distance. 

‘No way – none of you are allowed out. Alright? So don’t ask me again. Right? It’s against the rules without the necessary YouTube birth clip. I told you all before. Get that clip, and it’s grand lads. Without it, and it’s a fuck-off. I didn’t make the rules. You know that. There’s nothing I can do. You need to show me your YouTube birth clip first.’ 

Róisín squashed the Elvis plum against the window and let it dribble down the glass and then onto the pavement below like blood.

          Halfway down the road again, Róisín stopped, turned around and waved her fists in the air.

        ‘I don’t want to get in anyway. It’s a fucking kip. See if I care.’

No one heard her.

The Bishop Came In And Pointed His Finger

The bishop came in and pointed his finger at the ceiling like John Travolta in a white suit. Staying alive. Staying alive. Then he brought his finger down and it came towards me excoriating. Night Fever. Night Fever. It poked the area just outside my bed’s airspace six times. Then two steps forwards and his finger pricked and poked closer, closer, even closer, inching towards my chest. 

I pulled the blankets up to my neck but I knew I had to present my underpants and hang them off his finger and move to the wrong side of the bed. His finger went up to the ceiling two, three and four and down again poking at my chest five, six, seven up to the ceiling two, three, four and down poking at my chest five, six and seven. 

I stood on the bed and hung my underpants on his finger as was the routine. The lights blinded me as usual. His disco was too loud. I could just make out the colour of my pillow and the green mould on the corners of the ceiling. I ran around him, pushed him out of the bed and reached the sound system in the corner of my room. I pressed stop, flipped the cover up and his disco CD shot up into the air and stuck to the ceiling. I replaced it with something of my own concoction made from old toilet roll inserts, cornflake packets, The Sex Pistols on Anything Goes in the late seventies, and soggy sheets. 

My music fitted perfectly into the slot. I clamped it shut and pressed play. It filled the entire room. The bishop threw his rosary beads at the sound system but they missed. He stood on the bed. I pogoed in front of my spinning CD watching it splash me with colours. Colours that started to feel warm against my naked skin and cover my every pore like new clothes which I could possibly walk the streets in if I avoided this bishop’s powerhose in the evenings. 

The lights got too much for me. I had to close my eyes. I woke up on the right side of the bed the next morning very sore and with a strange taste in my mouth. 

Pass The Hankie

No one had caught cold in five years. But in year six the whole country did. A really nasty virus. It was time for Pass The Hankie. Me and Jimmy trapped six staff members with extra runny noses into the canteen and locked all the doors. We forced everyone to stand around a table with a white paper hankie on top. A chance for a house didn’t come around that often.

          Jimmy was at the far end of the room, eyes closed, like it said in Pass The Hankie’s rulebook. He started singing. Musical chairs, a variation on a theme not by Paganini. I turned to the firm’s accountant and pointed to the hankie.

          ‘Pick it up and pass it around the table.’

          ‘Please Jessica, no, don’t make me do this.’

          I said nothing still pointing to the hankie. She picked it up and passed it to Tracy, the firm’s solicitor. Jimmy sang louder. Tracy passed the hankie to Sharon from HR and Sharon passed it to Frank from Facilities Management and Frank passed it to me. I passed it to Michelle from Translations. But before Michelle could pass it on, Jimmy’s mouth music stopped. She was left, holding the hankie.

          ‘Please Jessica, no.’

          ‘You know what you have to do Michelle, so just do it. Anyway, it’s easier for you being the first – it’s a clean hankie fresh from the pack.’

          Michelle lifted the hankie to her dribbling nose and blew. It remained intact. The music started. The hankie was folded and passed around and around the table. 

           When the music stopped again Frank was left, holding the hankie. Like ripping a plaster off in one fell swoop, he lifted the hankie to his frothing nose and blew. The hankie remained intact.

          Jimmy’s mouth music started up again. The hankie was folded and thus it trundled around and around the table. This time when the music stopped it was with Sharon.

          Sharon lifted the hankie slowly to her sniffling nose, hands shaking. And blew. The hankie exploded into smithereens leaving sodden fragments on people’s clothes, faces and psyches. No more hankie. She had won.

          The selection process was complete. Sharon would finally be granted a mortgage from her employer, Big Bank, the first employee in 5 years to get a house. Her homelessness was over. She sneezed. Her ears didn’t fall off. She was glad.

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