WEEK 5. WINNERS
We had a large number of superb entries this week and after long and careful deliberation, we would like to announce the winners in the following categories :
CATEGORY 1: Previously Published Writers:
Poem, Familiar Company by Emer Foley
We have our occasional ritual at 4 a.m.
I lock eyes with something ancient
In the dead of night, on the edge of sleeping reality
A brief, red flare dashing in and out of streetlights
Familiar hustler on the prowl, carrying mystery in her fur
Come in search of a bone, skinnier than her country counterpart
Magic grown bitter, scrounging out the den, no beggar
She owns her dugout piece of the world unlike the bully brand of seagull
Or the drunk lying on the footpath, and the towers of tenants above
Slipping in and out of the hard times in this city
Paws deep in the plastic debris, breathing in the fresh decay of the bins
Hunting for her throwaway cut, her pound of flesh
Zooms across the road, shadowy as the ink clouds above
She is carnal life on desolate streets, freedom in these night time minutes,
A mangy lady of opportunity
In another life, killed as a baby to be worn
Around the neck of an old woman, trophy body
Pound of flesh claimed by the dainty hands of the monied
Madra rua, no subservient dog, this skulk, two vixens in the moonlight,
We pray goodnight to each other, for luck on our sacred hunt
CATEGORY 2: Unpublished writers
Our winner is Lesley Conroy with a short story, Cleaner
I’m packing up to go when the Sheridan’s young fella, Cillian, traipses in from training…filthy boots all over my…their freshly mopped hall. That’ll have to be done over. I stand against the wall, let him pass, ‘is there ever any food in this house?’ he shouts up from the kitchen. Mrs Sheridan, clucking after him, her golden boy. If she only knew… Bag full of Es stuffed in his sock drawer – off to make a killing in Wes tonight. You learn a lot cleaning people’s houses – emptying pockets…overhearing phone calls. Job’s done, 10 past 6.
Thank God it’s Friday – chipper, the soaps, foot soak...
Keep every single key in this box, even houses I haven’t cleaned in years. Feels nice in your hands…other people’s keys. Walk up their drives like I own them…the houses. I look after them well. Never less than 5 stars on the forums – ‘you wouldn’t believe how clean she gets our toaster, smiley face’, ‘so that’s the real colour of my kitchen tiles Lol’ - crazy how people can trust a virtual stranger with their keys… to their homes like. Could totally let myself in at night, hide the remotes, watch them sleeping in their beds. Make myself a nice cup of tea and no one would ever know...
Very Mairead that… ‘Nice cup-of-tea’.
Met her at the notice board in Supervalu, back in January – the pair of us scrambling for the last thumb tack. ‘Snap’ she says, ‘ser-en-dip-i-dous’ she smiles, taking the card from my hand. ‘You’re a cleaner, I’m looking for a cleaner. Fantastic! I’ll text you the address.’
Just like that.
A month or two in and it’s ‘will you stay for a cup-of-tea?’ Kettle clicking on before I can say no. Sitting in her kitchen, kitchen I just cleaned, her chatting about everything and nothing, the kids tugging out of her with their drawings.
The ‘cup-a-tea’ sessions get longer. Just us in the kitchen. The cool marble of the counter - feels different when you’re not cleaning it. Himself is never there, John – only know him from the wedding photos on the sideboard. Her eldest’s the image of him. The new breed - next generation off to conquer the world. Mairead’s changed a bit since the wedding, older, more tired looking. Kept the figure though. Tried on her jeans when I was doing the laundry one day. Just about got them over my thighs when didn’t I hear her coming down the stairs. Hopping around the utility room like a loon trying to get them off. Stupid. Take a sniff at her bed sheets before I put them in the wash, no sex being had in this house. In her kitchen one day the phone rings, ‘one sec,’ mouths Mairead, then back into the phone– ‘I can’t talk long, I’m with a friend’. A friend!
The kids get their summer holidays so she ups it to two sessions a week, I’m delighted. Mondays and Fridays – makes the jobs in between feel… bearable.
Tea turns into homemade lemonade…sitting out the back...the patio. Grace, the youngest pulling me on to the trampoline, me letting her, laughing at the good of it. Flying up and down, up and down…up… ‘I’ll throw on a burger for you, will I?’ says Mairead.
Me launching myself higher and higher with each jump.
‘Angela!’ Grace’s little voice ‘you’ll fall out!’ Up and up and up…
The kids are flaked out up in bed. It’s still bright and me and Mairead are lying on the trampoline – lovely and warm from the sun. We’ve moved from lemonade to gin. I’m lying on my back, she’s on her front like she’s sunbathing, head twisted to one side, lolling the ice around in her glass – I’m looking at the soft dip of her back, the gap between her vest and her white jeans showing a band of downy tanned skin. She turns her head around, catches me. Her eyes looking at me…no words… she’s taking in my face like it’s the first time she’s seeing me, her eyes asking me to stay… a wildness there, I hold her gaze, feel her breath against my face…don’t say anything.
Then a few weeks later Mairead’s acting a bit shifty, busy – not at home as much when I’m there. That’s alright, I let myself in, do what I’m here to do, clean. Collect my wages, crisp white envelope, from the counter. One day, locking up, I notice the envelope’s a bit heftier than usual, clock there’s a wad of 50s inside. I stand there, shook. Sit on the front steps and wait for her to come back. It’s getting dark when the car pulls into the drive, John at the wheel…she’s padding up the steps, ushering them all into the kitchen, ‘I’ll be in to you in a sec, just settling up with the cleaner.’
She’s in the doorway, me standing there like a salesman, an inconvenience. She’s dithering on about getting some work done ‘the house…’ looking at her shoes, the door, anywhere but me, ‘so we… won’t be needing you’ - makes no sense. My heart thumps, all I hear is settling up…the cleaner ‘I threw a bit extra in - till you fill the lost hours’.
I’m down the steps before she finishes her spiel, nearly trip on the way down - horrible caught feeling in my chest like I can’t breathe, can’t swallow. Keys in my hand still, squeezing them, squeeze, squeeze, her keys digging into my palm, cutting me. Tears start coming. Hurl her keys over a wall.
Getting chillier now at night, go to fill the kettle to make a cup of…but pour myself a glass of water instead. Breathe heavily into the glass, catch my reflection in the window… looking down on to the empty street.
CATEGORY 3: Young writers
There were no winners this week.
Congratulations to the winners of our Week 5 Creative Writing competition. You will be receiving a €50 One4all voucher and a book voucher from our partner, Books on the Green, Sandymount.
Week 6 of our Creative Writing competition is now open. Please see details for our competition here.