by Maram al-Masri, trans. Theo Dorgan





Arts Council




Cork City Council




Foras na Gaeilge




Cork County Council






Kevin Doyle


Kevin Doyle is from Cork. His stories have appeared in The Cúirt Journal, Stinging Fly, Liblit and The Sunday Tribune. His work has also has been included in anthologies such as Irish Writers Against The War and Pulse Fiction. He is currently working on a new set of stories and was on the shortlist for the 2011 Hennessy Literary Award.








Those Days He Was Here


I can’t fuckin’ believe that woman comin’ down here and lettin’ fly at me, the fuckin’ cheek. Blazin’ on about Billy and how could it’ve happened. Askin’ was I blind or what, why didn’t I notice, why didn’t I do somethin’? A solid fifteen fuckin’ minutes I had to listen to her, the bitch. Who the fuck does she think she is?

       I’m only takin’ in the news myself anyway. The brother rang. I’m sittin’ by the window lookin’ out at those skateboarders down under the flyover – like a pestilence they are – when the mobile rings. He’s gone, the brother said. What do you mean gone? He’s dead you fuckin’ muppet. Do you understand, dead?  What the fuck happened down there?

            I’m tryin’ to think it through, tryin’ to piece it together like. I mean... was it Tuesday Billy came? Teatime? There was a game on Sky—I figured that was the reason he was there. A Carling Cup thing—Leicester v Barnsley. Not much interest myself. But as he was there and he looked so fuckin’ lost I thought well, look, no bother. After the match and a load of cans I went to bed. I did that sometimes—left him there and went to bed, and he saw himself out and home. Except that night he didn’t go home. The next mornin’, I see him lyin’ on the sofa, nearly froze to fuckin’ death he is. That’s when he tells me. She threw me out, he says. I’ve nowhere else to go. 


Nearly knocks the fuckin’ door down, she does, when she arrives. Thump, thump, thump. Are ye in there? she screams. I’m still dazed, still thinkin' about the news, even wonderin’ if it’s true like. You know? Could be a wind-up, couldn’t it? People do those sorts of things. You think they wouldn’t or they’d have more sense but they don’t. Who is it? I ask. It’s me, she says. Who’s me? Karen, she says, open the fuckin’ door.

            She’s wearin’ a pink rain jacket—a fright of a thing. Like the anti-Christ, she is. You’re his friend, she says. Why didn’t you help him? I did, I said, I did help him, I’ve been helpin’ all week. Who d’ye think's been feedin’ him? Who d’ye think's been cleanin’ up after him? Well? I say, well?

       Oh you’re fuckin’ great you are, she says. You’re a great lad doin’ all those things for him. Feedin’ him and cleanin’ up after him. And lookin’ out for him an’ lookin’ after him. Out of the goodness of your heart too. Your big bleedin’ heart.

       She’s goin’ to explode, that’s what I think. Her eyes bulge and she comes closer. She’s a small woman, admittedly. But she’s a terrier and everyone knows it. She stops though suddenly. There she is in front of me, just standin’ there. I think she’s goin' to eat me alive. Then her eyes go all glassy.

       I help her into the chair. There’s silence. And then I hear one of them skateboarders. It’s the jowly fella that gives me all the lip every fuckin’ chance he gets. Did ye catch anythin’ up the river last night Mr Callaghan. ’Cause if you did we wouldn’t mind a few out here at the skateboardin’. We loves the fish and we’re starvin’ like. Fuck off, I shout, and close up the window.

       I’ll make tea, I say, and go to the sink. It’s a bit of a mess. There’s ten or so mugs in the dish and none of ’em are washed. I don’t mind myself but I know she’ll mind. You know the way it is with women.

       I look for the scraper and find it under the stack of pizza boxes. I give her mug a good shine and put some water in. I shove it in the microwave.

       I’m tryin’ to think too though. Was it the second evenin’? He said to me alright that he wasn’t feelin’ good. Well fine, I said, just rest up here then. There’s no bother and I’ll be in and out.

       She has fags with her. A new box. I thought you stopped those, I say. She looks at me. The look. Like I’m fuckin’ stupid. Do you realise what’s happened, she says. I do, I say. I don’t think you do, she says.

       I watch her take the plastic wrappin’ off the box and help herself. She looks at me. Her eyes are red and watery. She lights up and then takes a long deep drag. 

       He smoked grass and sat around all day, she says. Wouldn’t lift a hand. Too blasted. Would hardly go and get the children from school, you know? Are you listenin’? I’m makin’ the tea, I say. Oh you can’t do the two things at the same time, she says. I look at her. What are you talkin’ about, I say?

       She takes another long drag. My point is, I couldn’t be doin’ with it, she says. D’ye understand? I warned him. I said I can’t do another year like the last one I’ve just done. I can’t do everythin’ in the house. Work. Clean. Mind. You have to help.

       Why are you tellin’ me all this? I say.


I nearly burn my fuckin’ hand off in the microwave. And there’s no milk. I’m just gonna pop out for some, I tell her. You stay here and I’ll be back in a jiffy.  Oh I will, she says, I’ll stay right here, that I will.

       The fresh air feels good. I look up at the few clouds rushin’ across the sky.  There’s jet streams too. Centra is empty. The Polish girl behind the counter smiles at me.

       You know, I say, the fellow that I was buyin’ all the Lemsip for? He’s dead. D’ye know that? She doesn’t know and she doesn’t remember me or the Lemsip either. Come to think of it I’m not sure if she’s the one was on the counter at Centra durin’ the last few days. They all look alike to me.

       She hands me me change and I go and stand outside. One of the nights alright, the third one or the fourth one, I’m not so sure which one it was, we did get bollocks-ed drunk. I remember that. I thought it would be good for him, just what he needed, to get him out of himself, what with herself throwin’ him out and all. So I got a crate from Lidl and a bottle of vodka. Some pizzas too. I remember that. We ate the lot. He didn’t say much though. Just drank. And then got sick. Got sick all over.


When I return the gaff is full of smoke. From her. Haven’t seen that for a while what with everyone bein’ so careful now not to smoke in anyone’s place any more. Well tobacco like, the other stuff’s fine.

       She glares at me. D’ye know somethin’? she says. He was in a bad way for awhile. For four or five days at least, the doctor said. She looks at me... Well? Well what? I say. Well, was he Timmy, was he in a bad way for four or five days?  How do I know? Well? she says in that accusin’ voice of hers, he was here with you, wasn’t he?  Well? Well what? I ask. Well, she says, was he or wasn’t he? Here with me? In a bad away, she asks. I don’t know, I say. You don’t know, she says. No, I don’t know, I say.

       I zap her mug in the microwave again for good measure and drop in the tea bag. Do you like it strong or weak? I ask pleasantly. As if you don’t know, she says. I wait awhile and then fish out the bag and place the tea in front of her. I watch her add the milk.

       The doctor asked, she says. Asked what? About the situation. About what situation? I say. Well, she says, whether Billy was on his own or not. I look at her. I told the doctor that he was with you Timmy. I told the doctor that for the last while his best friend was lookin’ after him. Know what the doctor said, she says. No, I don’t know, I say. He said, well some friend. I mean Timmy if you had eyes in your fuckin’ head surely you would’ve seen that he wasn’t well. Surely you would’ve heard him coughin’. Did you hear him coughin’ even? I mean he was like a fuckin’ hacksaw blade.

       I was fishin’, I say. My fishin’ days. Those were my fishin’ days, the days that he was here. I have to go at certain times. I get into the mood and I have to go. So I went out the Lee, past the dam. I go to a spot there where there’s a nice rock pool and I camp. I camp overnight and I wait. Sometimes I catch a brown trout or two. Other times nothin’.

       She shakes her head. Not once but continuously. And lights another fag. I suppose you just drank yourself stupid with him the rest of the time, is that it? No, I say. She looks at me. No? Well sure, I say, we had some cans but never too much. One night we had a few too many alright. But that was just the one night.


I sip my tea and she sips hers. After a while, she says, I just don’t understand.  She says this in that womanly weary sort of way of hers. I’m sick of it to be honest. Well, I say, what is it exactly you don’t understand? Men, she says, nearly spittin’ out the word. I don’t understand you men, she says. Well, I say, what is it exactly about us you don’t understand? Fishin’ is it? No, she says, it’s not fishin’. I don’t care the fuck about fishin’ or you fishin’ or anyone fishin’. It’s not fishin’. Well, I say, what is it then?

       Well, she says, did you ask him at all what was wrong? she says. Did you talk to him? It seems to me as if you didn’t even notice that he was dyin’ from fuckin’ pneumonia. It seems you didn’t even notice that. Even though it was starin’ you in the face. So, did you ask him at all what happened? Between him and me. Did you ask him what was wrong? Did ye?

       You know Timmy, she says then and she looks up at me with those pale watery eyes of hers, he looked up to you. Did you know that? No, I say, I didn’t. Well, the thing is, he did. You were his hero, she says. And she went quiet after that. And so did I. We just sat there and I thought she was goin’ to cry again but she didn’t. Instead she just got up and left.


Actually, I realise, thinkin’ about it now, there was one day when he was cryin’. One of the mornin’s I came back. It was fuckin’ embarrassin’. Not that I said that. I just left the room when I saw it. Waited a while. When I returned I gave him a can. Drink that down, I said, it’s good for ye. He looked at me. Come to think of it he didn’t look too good even then. Afterwards we watched the Simpsons film. I love that film.


©2011 Kevin Doyle





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'Capricorn': story by Doyle in Irish Times

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