Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Short Story: ‘On a Cold Winter’s Night’

All three regular readers of this blog will likely remember that I posted a short story by Lily last year, called ‘A Letter from Evangeline’. This year’s offering is called ‘On a Cold Winter’s Night’. Her OCD dad inserted a few commas, made two spelling corrections and changed a date; otherwise, the story is entirely Lily’s work. To wit:

‘On a Cold Winter’s Night’


Kate sank down into the squashy armchair in the living room, having just had dinner. She had eaten in silence, staring into space. This is what she did most days, since May the 4th, 1998, when Paddy had his terrible accident.
  Kate shivered. She went to turn on the radiators. She never used the fire anymore. Paddy used to love the fire. When he came home from the factory on a cold day, when he could see his breath and his cheeks were all rosy, he would love nothing more than building a fire and watching it ignite. ‘That’s a cracking fire,’ he’d announce. And then he’d sit there in front of the fire, warming himself. He was wrapped up in his own thoughts, and a fool would know better than to disturb him then. She sighed and turned on the radiators.
  It was Christmas but you wouldn’t know. Every other house in the estate was decorated festively but not this one. Paddy had adored Christmas. He would come home every night with a new decoration, saying things like, ‘This would look good up on this door, Kate,’ or ‘They are gonna look the bee’s knees here.’ Kate had loved this, she had nodded her head in agreement, or said ‘Would it not look better facing this way?’ She’d watch him get the lights on the tree just how he wanted them and say, ‘Sure you would pay for that, now.’ But those days were gone and so was that Kate. She wanted to decorate, but when she went to get the Christmas boxes she found she simply couldn’t do it. And she was very old.
  She could hear ‘Silent Night’ being sung in the distance. That was his favourite carol. He had sang that the first Christmas they were married. As he sang he handed her the star and let her put it on the tree. They did this the next year and the next and the one after that, and so on, until that fateful day when Paddy left and it all came to an end.
  She looked at the tin can on the mantlepiece. It held about one hundred euro. She and Paddy were saving up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. He was always talking about that trip. ‘When we reach the top,’ he’d say, ‘we’ll feel only divine.’
  Kate could feel the tears in her eyes.
  ‘He’ll be grand,’ she told herself. ‘He’s probably up there telling some poor stranger about that great game Wexford had back in 1940.’ She wiped her eyes. She did this sometimes, just sat and thought about Paddy all evening. She wished she wasn’t so alone. She had no children, no grandchildren, no Paddy. She rubbed her forehead. It was as if she was trying to smooth out the wrinkles. Laughter lines, she called them. But those laughter lines came from a time when she rarely laughed.
  Just then the doorbell rang. She rubbed her eyes and plastered a smile across her face. It was carollers, collecting money for charity. As they sang she felt as though Paddy was there with her, singing along. When they had finished, she patted her pockets, looking for change. Then she spotted Paddy’s armchair. She stopped. She could almost picture him sitting there, reading his newspaper. She turned and walked over to the mantlepiece, took the tin can, and emptied the contents into the collection bucket. ‘You have yourself a very merry Christmas, now,’ she said.
  When they had gone, she went and got the star out of the Christmas box and held it close. She sat down in her squashy armchair and closed her eyes.
  She could hear someone singing, it was ‘Silent Night.’ She knew that voice. She opened her eyes, and there was Paddy.
By Lily Burke, aged 10

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