Hurricane

July 15, 2014

This week’s entry for #200v200 is for the title ‘Hurricane’.

hurricane
   It was official now. The TV news had announced that the hurricane was the most devastating storm to hit the coast ever. Not that any TVs in the town still worked. The electricity masts were obliterated early on in the onslaught. But they didn’t need TVs. The world’s press had converged on their doorstep. Reporters and journalists could tell them personally how badly fucked up their town was.   

   At first it was kind of funny. The storm being given her name was a little thrilling. She was a local celebrity in the days leading up. Down at the shops, as they stocked up on supplies, her neighbours and friends would crack jokes and comically shake their fists.

   “What are you doing to us, Hurrricane Wendy!? You’ll be the death of us all,” they’d yell at her with playful grins. But then, eventually, the storm arrived. And it was worse than expected – much, much worse. The humour and good nature was soon washed away.

   Down at the shelter, where several dozen families pieced together their shattered lives, where the 82 dead were mourned. Wendy was starting to feel uncomfortable. She could feel people looking at her – muttering and shaking their heads.

 

Poor Joey

July 7, 2014

This week’s #200v200 title is borrowed from the Blockheads track ‘Poor Joey’.

schoolboys
   “Poor Joey.” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them.

   “What did you call me?” He wasn’t angry. He was hurt. Gavin scrabbled around internally for an explanation that he could feasibly sell. But if such an explanation did indeed exist, the time to pitch it had passed. 

   Joey McCann was, in socio-economic terms anyway, just like everyone else. Middle-class. Professional parents. Two cars. Joey Quigley however, with his DIY haircut, knock-off trainers and vague look of undernourishment, stuck out from the beginning. No-one could remember who said it first, but ‘Poor Joey’ was simple, succinct and funny (in that edgy way that appeals to teenage boys).

   Joey Quigley wasn’t unpopular. In fact, everyone seemed to like him. Of course, he knew that his classmates were better off than he was – that much was obvious – but he had always felt that they didn’t care, that they liked him for who he was, not for how much his father earned.

   In five years, no-one had ever slipped up, forgotten themselves and said it to his face. Until now. Gavin would have given anything to take that moment back. But words, once uttered, can’t be unsaid.

No Reply

June 27, 2014

Latest installment of the 200v200 series. This week’s title comes from a Buzzcocks album on my iTunes. It’s ‘NO REPLY’. 

   It was six months to the day since he had sent the letter. The longest Reggie had ever taken to reply was three weeks. And that was because of a local postal strike. There was definitely something up.

   The boat was hellish. Steerage was all Will could possibly afford. Three weeks of damp, dark discomfort. And worry – three horrible weeks of sickening worry. What horror had befallen Reggie? Three weeks of terrible possibilities.

   The bumpiest of bumpy prop-planes, the dodgiest of dodgy taxi drivers and the smelliest of smelly mules later – finally Will stood before the decaying mountainside shack. He knocked. No answer. He pushed lightly on the door and it creaked open, showering the hovel in sunlight. An old man sat slumped over an ancient looking chessboard.

   “Are you… Reggie?” Will croaked. The old man looked up and squinted.
   “I am. Who are you?”
   “William. What the fuck is taking you so long? I was worried.”
   “Keen, aren’t ya?” Reggie smirked. “Well, your timing is impeccable. Knight to Queen four.” He creakily moved the piece.
   “Now, was that so hard? Let’s try and keep the pace up a bit, OK?”
   “OK.”

   Will shook his head and headed home.

Porno

June 16, 2014

I was away on my holidays last week and so missed a week of #200v200. So here’s week four’s attempt. The title was ‘Porno’. 

porno
   ‘Disgusting,’ she kept repeating. She paced back and forth brandishing the magazine in her fist, seemingly reaching for another adjective but always simply settling for a new adverb instead. ‘Utterly disgusting!’
   ‘Completely disgusting.’ He felt he should join in, show support for his wife. ‘I mean these things are… degrading…?’ He glanced over as if to confirm whether this was the correct word. He got the nod. ‘Completely and utterly degrading to women. You do know that, don’t you?’ The little crimson-faced boy nodded, slumped on the edge of his bed.
   ‘Yes, Dad. Sorry, Dad.’
   ‘It’s your mother you need to be apologising to. And… all the other women in the world. Isn’t that right, love?’
   ‘Sorry, Mum. Sorry… all the women in the world.’
   ‘Disgusting,’ he tutted, flicking through, making a big show of acting like the pages were made of physically tangible filth. ‘Would burning it be too much? Should we burn it, love?’
   ‘Eh, you can burn it… if you like, love.’
   ‘Right!’ He proclaimed, marching out.

   The little boy looked up at his mother. She offered a conciliatory smile as she kneeled down and produced a fiver.
   ‘I’m so sorry. Thank you. Mummy really appreciated that.’

 

 

Flawless

June 1, 2014

For this week (week 3), the #200v200 title was ‘Flawless’. Below is my attempt…

Flair. Scissor. Circle. Effortlessly out of the Kehrswing. This is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m going to have to give him a ten. I really think this is ten material. Him and the horse. The horse and him. They’re one. There’s no doubt about it. We’re in ten country here. Not on the border. Slap bang in the middle of ten country.

Nine point four. That’s the highest I’ve ever given. I saw a guy give a ten once, but that routine was nothing compared to this. Oh my goodness. Look at that Wendeswing! I have to give this guy a ten.

That judge who gave that ten. He was a laughing stock after that. No one took him seriously. You can’t give just out tens. We might as well pack up and go home if we’re just doling out the tens. But this is a ten. Isn’t it? I mean, if it isn’t I don’t know what is.

Please fuck up. Please don’t make me give you a ten. I can’t. Oh, fuck! Perfect dismount. They’re looking at you. Do something. You have to do something.It was flawless. But I can’t. I’m sorry. I can’t.

Bird Mad Girl

May 20, 2014

It’s week two of #200v200. The title is ‘Bird Mad Girl’. Below is my submission…

If she had been sober, I don’t think she would have been able to do it. If she had all of her mental and physical facilities working to their full, uninhibited capacity, I don’t think she would have made it that far. Yet somehow, blind drunk, barely able to stand, she snuck past security and then scaled the eight foot high fence, without killing herself. 

Karen liked birds, sure. She certainly didn’t dislike them. But I don’t think she ever really thought that much about them. Why on earth had she ended up here? 

The gates were already open by the time Karen was first spotted by a keeper. It was a Summer Saturday so the zoo was already pretty full.

“Hey! Hey! You! Get out of there!” the keeper screamed. Karen lay dazed in the centre of the main aviary, caked in mud and lined with discarded plumage from above. She looked like she’d been tarred and feathered. “What are you doing in there?!” 

“I’m mad for the birds, so I am,” she slurred. “I’m… bird mad, me.” Bird Mad Girl, the internet quickly dubbed her. Bird Mad Girl, she would forever be known as from here on in.

Starting this week and hopefully every week from now on, myself and @Kneelsea are randomly picking a title and challenging ourselves to simply write 200 words on that title. We’re calling it #200v200. It’s just a little exercise to keep ourselves writing. This week’s title is ‘Accidents and Compliments’ (a Soulwax track taken from a random iPod library flick). Below is my entry. 200 words on the button. Feel free to join in!

Jenny absolutely hated when she got put on shift with Gerry.
“He’s harmless,” she would begin every rant with. “But, oh God, he’s just so annoying.” Every one of Jenny’s friends knew about Gerry. Frankly, they were getting tired of hearing about him. Every conversation would invariably drift back to Gerry; how so infuriatingly nice he was, how uncomfortable he makes her feel, the way he always just… watches her drive.
“What?!”
“Nothing,” he replies. “You’re such an excellent driver. It’s just a pleasure to watch you work. So commanding, yet so unassuming. That’s a tough balance to strike.” But it wasn’t just her driving he admired. He loved how she dressed. “Most people can’t pull off green. But you… you look great in it. It’s definitely your colour. Although I’d imagine every colour is your colour.” He loved how she treated her patients. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a neater bandage. I don’t know how you do it. And with himself swearing and cursing at you? Amazing. You’re a marvel.”
Jenny had been waiting three months for her transfer to come through and, although Gerry had often complimented her on her patience, it was starting to wear thin.

Ems

April 1, 2014

“How long do you think I have?” asked Emma. She was concentrating on sounding dispassionate and business-like, but her trembling left hand betrayed her. David looked across to Ian, who furrowed his brow and sat forward.
“Three months. Four perhaps. If we’re lucky. We’re already picking up a noticeable downturn though.”
“Is that all?” she sighed. Ian and David nodded grimly.

Emma peered across towards the office window as she sipped Diet Coke from a glass. She turned back to Ian and David to see them both gazing idly at her breasts. She didn’t bat an eyelid.
“So if I don’t go ahead with this. What do you envisage happening?” she asked. David leaned back on his chair, with a creak.
“We always knew this game-plan would reach a point where it simply wouldn’t be a effective anymore. Didn’t we?” Emma looked back towards the window. Ian cleared his throat.
“It’s worked really well for you up to this point, Ems. But we’re now very quickly approaching a time where it will start to hurt you more than help you. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Emma put her glass down and walked over to the window. She stood there in silence for a few moments before turning and folding her arms.
“And what if I refuse to go ahead with it?”
“No-one’s going to force you to do anything, Ems” Ian said. “It’s entirely your choice. All we can do is give you our opinion.”
“David? Will you still look after me if I don’t do it?”
“Of course, love.” He fell silent for a moment. “Of course.”

Emma turned back to the window and looked down at the street below her. It was still rush hour and all the traffic in the one-way system lurched forward together in slow, inevitable, unison. She could feel herself starting to well up, but she stopped herself. She had long since developed a little exercise to bring herself back from the brink of weeping.

Ian stood and joined Emma by the window.
“Look, Emma. This whole… never showing your nipples. I think it’s great. It’s wonderful. It’s a statement. It’s empowerment. It’s your… thing. But it’s finite. The truth of the matter is, your popularity is waning. You can see it in the sales figures. People are tired of waiting. They’ve been patient, but you have to give them something new.” Emma looked over at David. He smiled and nodded back.
“This magazine,” Ian continued, “employs nearly a hundred people. I have to think of them. Honestly, Ems. If I had my way, none of our girls would go topless. And listen, I understand that you’re scared… or uncomfortable, or… whatever. But the sad, cold, hard truth is… if you want us to book you, you need to start going topless. Fully.” Ian put a reassuring palm on Emma’s shoulder. “Do you know what I mean, darling?”

Emma started going through her exercise again. But she could tell it wasn’t working.
“OK” she nodded. “You’re right.”
“Good woman.” Ian smiled and winked at David. “We’ll schedule in a shoot for Friday. Does Friday suit Ems OK, David?”

“Friday’s good for us, Ian” replied David, looking at the floor.

The Wizard/God Dilemma

March 5, 2014

Last year, myself and a few friends were ludicrously lucky enough to get to make a sitcom with our formative comedy idol, Graham Linehan. In the UK. For the BBC. In a proper TV studio. With a massive crew. And an actual budget. It was, to say the least, a little surreal. We shot last December in Teddington Studios, on the banks of the Thames, where the art department had created the two floors of our fictional family’s, fictional house.

We had dressing rooms. We would’ve happily changed in the corner. Perhaps taking turns to hold up a beach towel for each other. But nevertheless, we had dressing rooms. So on day one, I went to find my dressing room. I say I went to find it – I didn’t – I was shown there by the 3rd AD, but that’s another day’s mind blower. The point is, I could have found my own dressing room because it had my name on the door. You see, that’s what they do. They put the actor’s name on the door – just in case we’re not the best at remembering places or numbers. So as I entered, I glanced to my left to see who was in the dressing room next to me. And guess who it was… No don’t, that would take all day. Piers Morgan. It was Piers Morgan. Piers Morgan was in the dressing room next to me. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof.

Piers Morgan? I’m not a fan. He’s sort of somehow managed to bundle up all the snide, cynical, slimy, smug, irresponsible, disingenuous, smug, smugy smugness that I hate about the modern world into one human shaped shape.

Have you ever daydreamed about horrific scenarios? You know the type where an evil wizard or some sort of God type entity puts a gun (or his magic staff) to your head and says: “You must pick one person in the world that will die this instant. But if you refuse, I’ll pick instead. And I’ll probably pick someone really lovely, like an inspirational life-affirming teacher working in the inner city or a gifted researcher on the brink of curing cancer or a hero fireman father of eighteen.” Ever imagined that sort of thing, while sitting on the bus? I bet you have. I think about it all the time.

I keep trying to get myself to brush up on current affairs, so that when the day comes (as I’m almost certain it probably will), I’ll know the name of a terrible warlord or a dreadful serial killer or perhaps someone currently fighting a high profile ‘right to die’ high court case, whose name I can submit. Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give up any other human being’s name with anything other than horrible, horrible, anguish, but I’ve got a magic staff to my head here. And I forgot to mention, I’m not allowed submit my own name. That’s one of the wizard/God’s rules. 

The thing is, I’m embarrassingly bad on current affairs, and even worse when it comes to peoples’ names. So even if I did research someone I should pick, I’d probably forget his or her name or mispronounce it (landing some other poor innocent sod in the shit). I know, deep down, that when this day comes, with the staff to my head, sweat dripping down my brow, wizard/God shouting at me to hurry up, I’ll be reaching for a name and, in the heat of the moment, with all the stress – I’ll probably just blurt out “Piers Morgan”.

So knowing all this, how would our inevitable meeting in the Teddington Studios hallway go? Would I take the opportunity to tell him how I feel? How I don’t like him very much and to act otherwise would be hypocritical on my part? Or would I just be polite? Offer a cheerful, cowardly ‘hello’ and a smile? Or would I apologise for how I’m likely to shabbily treat him in the outlined-above scenario?

What I’d love to do is offer my hand to shake, but then pull it away at the last second with an optional “Psych!”. But the truth is, I’d feel too guilty to do that. The truth is, I feel sorry for Piers Morgan now. Sure, he’s a total cock. But that doesn’t mean he deserves to die. No one deserves to die.

The next day I bought a fruit basket and an ‘I’m Very Sorry’ card, that I planned to anonymously leave outside his door. Unfortunately however, I learned that the recording of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories had finished and he was no longer in the building. 

I promise though, that I’m going to buy a newspaper today, find some really awful, evil warlord – I mean really awful and really evil – and learn the hell out of his (or her) name. That’s a promise I’m making to poor Piers. Take care, buddy, OK?

 

Shane is a part of the comedy team Diet of Worms and their show ‘The Walshes’ begins on RTE ONE at 10.15pm on Thursday March 6th and on BBC FOUR at 10pm on Thursday March 13th.

This piece was written for HeadStuff.org.

The Good Bench

January 30, 2014

Written for headstuff.org

“This bench meant the world to old Paul. Every day for nearly twenty years, without fail, he would sit here and watch the world go by. There isn’t a regular of the park, who didn’t know Paul. Whether we knew him merely to nod to and exchange a quick ‘good morning’ with, or to sit alongside and pass countless minutes chatting about the big match. Everyone knew Paul. Sometimes it was hard to know where Paul ended and the bench began.” The assembled dozen or so people chuckled and nodded.

“But seriously though, we all adored Paul. Didn’t we? He was a constant source of cheerful banter and always happy to lend an ear if you had a problem. And as much as we loved Paul, he loved his bench. Nineteen years. Every. Single. Day. Can you believe that?” Everyone shook their heads. A little overzealously perhaps, as if it were a competition to prove just how incredulous they were?

“I’m sure there’s a bench just like this in heaven with his name on it. And now, forever, there’ll always be one down here with his name on it too.” The Park Ranger pulled away what looked like a velvet dishcloth, to reveal the gleaming golden plaque that had been screwed into the back of the bench. It read: ‘IN MEMORY OF PAUL SHERIDAN, WHO SAT ON THIS BENCH FOR NEARLY TWENTY YEARS. WE WILL NEVER FORGET YOU.’ A short period of squinting, fawning and clapping followed.

But soon, a slow, sarcastic clap emerged from the din. As it became louder and more pronounced, the earnest applause fell away as the gathered few turned to see where this cynicism was coming from. It was coming from Terry.

“In memory of Paul Sheridan” the old man sneered. “Who HOGGED this bench for nearly twenty years!”

The crowd parted as Terry approached the bench.  He was a spindly, scruffy looking ninety something year old – raggedly dressed with the kind of scowl that could ruin your day.

“Ah, hello Sir. Is everything OK?” The Ranger nervously stepped forward, but quickly retreated as Terry waved his knobbly walking cane threateningly.

“How many of you… sycophants… know who I am?” Terry sat down on the bench. One or two people limply, uncomfortably raised their hands,. “Hah? One? Two of ye? Yeah? Thought so.”

Terry surveyed the gathered dozen and shook his head disdainfully.  “Twenty one years. That’s how long I’ve been coming to this park. Nineteen? Pfft! No. Twenty-one. Every. Single. Day. For two years I sat right here. On the good bench. Having the chats with the people that passed. Smiling and being all those disgustingly lovely things you said about Paul. But then this… blow-in… arrived.” Terry awkwardly dragged one leg over the other so that they were crossed and started filling his pipe with tobacco.

“He always seemed to get here first in the morning. It didn’t matter how hard I tried. He’d always beat me here. For a few days we sat together. I told him how I’d been coming here… sitting right here… for two years… on the good bench. I joked that perhaps one day, after I’m gone, they’ll put my name on it.” Terry produced a Zippo lighter and ignited the pipe. “I could see his ears prick at that alright. That’s when he changed.” He inhaled deeply.

The Ranger stepped forward again. “OK sir, well we better…” but Terry raised his cane again and continued.

“Intimidation. Sometimes it got physical. Your… gentle genial saint… had an edge, let me tell ya. Oh yes. A ruthless edge.” Terry stiffly shifted. “This was his bench now. And under no circumstances was I to come near. I was banished from the good bench. All that was left was that one over there.” The gathered dozen or so turned to where Terry pointed. But they couldn’t see anything. “You won’t see it from here” he puffed. “It’s too overgrown and secluded down there. It’s mossy and damp and removed from all footfall and traffic. If I wanted to exchange a cheerful ‘good morning’ or talk about the football, I’d have to make do with the earwigs and the snails… over on the shit bench.”

The unease around the bench was palpable. Some cleared their throats awkwardly and shuffled their feet in the grass.

“That’s where I’ve been. For nineteen years. Every. Single. Day. Waiting for the good bench to free up. Nineteen years. Biding my time. And now that he’s finally gone, you’re telling me I have to sit next to this.” Terry eyed the plaque, shook his head mournfully and sighed. “He’s even hogging it from beyond the grave.”

The Ranger’s polite smile had all but faded. A dour cloud now hung over the assembled dozen or so. A deflated silence followed, only broken by Terry’s abrupt slapping of his knees with his palms. He rose to his feet.

“But life’s too short for such ill feeling. Right? For nineteen years, I thought I wanted the good bench more than anything. But now that I’m here, I dunno. I think I prefer the shit bench.” Terry smiled for the first time. A wave of relief washed over the gathered dozen or so. This unfortunate episode was almost over, it seemed.

Terry strolled away and down the hill, towards the hidden ‘shit bench’. They all watched him go. Then he stopped and turned. He was still smiling, but it was a different kind of smile. He suddenly had a hipflask in his hand and he raised it aloft.

“To Paul.” The dozen few nodded and smiled politely. Then there were a few sniffs.

“What’s that smell?” someone asked. Then they heard the crackling sound. Then they felt the growing heat. They turned just in time to see the bench really catch fire. It went up in seconds.

They screamed, fled and dithered. Sheer chaos. Terry couldn’t see the ensuing pandemonium from his place back on the shit bench. But he could hear it fine. He chuckled heartily and raised another toast with the earwigs.