Showing posts from August, 2021

Strength to Resist

Adventure writer Sebastian Junger sat alone at the Au Rendez-Vous des Belges , just across from the Gare du Nord, as instructed. The somewhat disembodied voice over his hotel phone had claimed to be Kirk Douglas’ ghost. It was early in the evening so he’d decided to see what was behind the cloak and dagger. A couple got up and moved over to his table. “Excuse me,” the man reached out to shake Sebastian’s hand, “I’m Kirk Douglas.” And he was. “Thank you for coming, I’d like to introduce you to Ms. Andr é e De Jongh.” “ I’m glad to meet you, Mr. Junger,” said Andr é e , shaking his hand. “I’ve been keeping up on your adventure journalism.” Shaking her hand, Sebastian looked more closely. “I’ve heard your name before.” “ Ms. De Jongh was twenty-three years old, when the Nazi’s invaded her country, Belgium.“This 100 pound girl led soldiers and airmen south 600 miles through enemy held territory, across the Pyrenees to the British consulate in Bilbao.” “ Look,” Sebastian h

Shoes, Colour of Sand

‘ Those shoes she wears. They’re stained and grubby and the laces aren’t tied right.’ ‘She’s always been messy.’ ‘Shows an untidy mind.’ ‘Lazy, more like.’ ‘ I have more important things to do in my life . Did you hear her say that?’ ‘Yes, I did. She should sort out her priorities.’ A soft pair of shoes, colour of sand. Like the faded highlights in her hair. Flecks of dried mud on the soles, a few stalks of grass. Spots of grease on the fabric. The laces loose and uneven, the zips at the side of the shoes half-undone. The shoes abandoned in the hall. One talking to the other. At primary school the class teacher droned on and on. Let me show you. Oh for goodness sake, try a little harder, it’s not rocket science. And she did try. She tried and tried and then she gave up and she still can’t tie laces all these years later. Give her a map to read, a mountain range to navigate - not those knots, the complications of unders and overs. Comfortable shoes, walking shoes,

They Will Let Him Know

    Sleek corridors, the windows long gone. Around a corner, a cool inhuman room. To the right of the bed is the hospital’s equivalent of a dessert tray: cylindrical containers, a vial of clear liquid, a long syringe. “Relax,” the doctor says. “There will be more pressure than pain.” And there is—a positive sign, or maybe something close.  His cells are bottled, sealed, and labeled for a lab in an adjacent state. He imagines them the next day shuddering on a shelf inside a crowded fridge, the ominous thump of tires against pavement below. “Where are we going?” they cry aloud. “What could be wrong?”      At the parking kiosk, he decides to ask for help.   “You ready for the holidays?” the attendant wonders, inserting his card, plopping buttons with a fist.  “No.”  “Tell me about it.”  Tempting—but he’s surrendered enough of himself today.  “Would you like a receipt?”   “No. Thanks.”  The attendant smiles. “Then you’re good to go!”  He heads to the c

Black Boot

  My hand gropes the wardrobe floor. Unseeing, it feels for what it needs. A black boot. My hand roots at the arch and the instep, and a memory drifts to the surface, inchoate, like smoke shifting and forming. I am holding the black receiver of a telephone, the cord coiling at my wrist. My father has handed it to me, defeated, diminished. There is a question. I have no answer. None that I could make. The handset, heavy, I place back in its cradle, walk away. My father's face is stricken. Now, I grasp my black boot, memory's stick stirring the waters.  Siobhan O'Sullivan.