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Dancing in Tullamore dew (2nd version)

by Heckyspice 

Posted: 27 September 2005
Word Count: 1623
Summary: This is a bit of change in style for me, so I would be interested in what you think. Added.. a few tweaks here and there in light of Nell's comments.

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Annie listens to the snow.

She also remembers the first taste of snow when it was carried across the town by the sleeping breath of the magic dragon that is the distillery. That was when she was a young girl and could not put a name to the exotic.

Standing on the steps of the Bridge House Hotel, she waits for each snowflake to join the voice of the Winter King who sings a song to remind the people of the land that this is a time as vibrant as the summer just gone.

Annie turns and sees Connor waiting for her by the door. He looks proud, he looks handsome. She smiles at him and thinks about the tone of his skin in the days gone past. When in the mornings, she planned her journey from the valley of his thigh to the plateau of his stomach. Never once did she touch the need that grew out of him, even with all his pleas that here was her final destination.

She follows Connor through the doors and into the great bay of the Hotel reception where a hundred voices call her name. Annie takes each voice and knits the threads of memory into her soul. There are so many wonderful voices singing so many joyful songs. Each one seems to be tied to a crimson rose that matches the colour of Annie’s bountiful lips.

The crowd parts and Annie sees Orla radiate from the foot of the sweeping trunk of stairs that rise to the grand rooms and pool in the heart of the Hotel. Orla shines like Annie, she is now as much as sun as Annie now. She used to be the moon, silver and haunting not warm and growing. Annie forgets why Orla wanted to be her opposite but she is glad that she gives all to the day now; it is how things should be.

Annie slips her hand into the rugged palm of Connor. The places she has been before mould into her skin and she follows the flow of memory back to the river and the hills. They were children then, she all black curls and green eyes. Connor was always beautiful even as a boy, shining like Lugh the Longhand in victory over Balor. They tumbled in the pastures until the years turned tumbles into peeking kisses and wary caresses. Orla laughed when Annie said that she would be Queen to Connor’s King.

Annie can hear the snow calling her outside.

She slips free of Connor’s grip and peeps back out into the white land beyond the door. The snow whispers once more of the past and Annie lets herself be immersed in the only true renewal she as known. Her toes and fingers sparkle with the glory of each snowflake as they blend into her and dazzle tears of glory across the delicate sheen of her skin. Her toes and fingers, her lips and eyes, her breasts, they all soak in the joy of snow.

She was a little girl, riding on high on her daddy’s shoulders when she first chased snow. As they strode past the fortress of the distillery, she caught the taste of malt, making snowflakes sweeter than fairies.

-Look daddy, I can catch them, she said with her hands reaching high.

-Go higher my poppy, go higher, her daddy laughed as he lifted her up.

They laughed so much they only stopped when they realised they were home. The smell of hot butter soaking into a grilled crumpet was caught in every move of her waiting mother who helped Annie out of her coat and scarf.

Connor comes outside once more. He looks across the road to the shopping arcade, as if he sees someone he knows. Annie pokes her tongue out at him, telling him that she is the only person he needs to look for. Together they return to the embrace of the crowd that fill the Hotel with such sounds. Annie walks a step behind Connor, so that she can reach out and rest her fingertips against his back, the way she did in joyful times. And the way she will again one day soon.

A swan flies over the canal and escapes to the warm bands of southern pastures.

Annie cries. She knows how much this day means to everyone here. Orla cries too. A pale handkerchief is in her hands, dabbing away the tears. She looks like a water sprite, all twinkling and wild. Her tears soon go and Orla starts to dance her way through the crowd. She stops near her father who is talking with Annie’s mother and she reaches out to hold their hands. The handkerchief is pressed into the palm of Orla’s mother.

Annie wishes she had bought a handkerchief or tissue to help her through the roll of emotions both happy and sad today. Only she has nowhere to keep it safe.

Eoin calls out to Connor and Annie’s heart skips a beat. Will they be friends today? Have they forgiven each other? They should do, as this is such a special day. She watches Eoin hold out a hand, it’s a banner, a white flag and Connor accepts it. Connor pulls Eoin to his bosom, they embrace like lions. Friendship is reborn. Annie waves to Orla to show her the spectacle.

Annie and Orla have known such an embrace.

Annie’s father touches the shoulder of Connor and shakes the hand of Eoin. The return of the two friends has lifted his heart with even greater joy. Annie wonders if she and Orla should embrace again and be like bookends to the wonder unfolding today.

Annie remembers their last embrace.

They dashed along the bank of the Grand canal, the smell of early morning dew mixing with the heady scent of the dragon fumes that come for the distillery. Orla was leading the way; she clutched her shoes in one hand and lifted the hem of her skirt, so she could run faster. Annie wailed as she raced to catch her friend. Annie is calling out to Orla, shouting out her secret name.

Orla stops when she reaches the bridge, laughter mixed with the exhilaration of the dawn’s chase. Annie rushes up to meet her. Orla’s laughter draws Annie’s arms closer until the two girls are hugging and crying. Annie knows she will say something to make Orla choke.

-You bitch, says Annie.

-Let go of me, wails Orla, You left Connor, you did, for Eoin.

-He is mine, says Annie and she slaps Orla.

-He is not, shouts Orla,

-I can smell his come, says Annie, you let him do it on your face.

Orla pushes hard and tries to break Annie’s grip. She feels like a hare caught in a snare. Annie was always the strongest one. She gets one hand free and snaps it up to punch Annie.

-Let go of me, screams Orla.
Annie’s beautiful mouth is a whirlpool of blood. The words that come out are shredded like the fragile skin of her lips.

-I knew I would catch you sneaking home, roars Annie.

She lunges out and grabs Orla’s throat. Perhaps she can squeeze out the confession and make Orla feel better and see that Connor belongs only to Annie. And in case Orla thinks otherwise, Annie will make sure she understands that Eoin belongs to Annie too.

A pair of swans lands on the canal, scattering the ducks that forage in the waking light of a Sunday morning.

A pair of swans fights on the bridge. Annie and Orla twist like iron being spun. They can feel the breath of each other fill their lungs. The smell of whiskey taints the air and then…

They scream.

The cold water of the canal has joined the dance. The water is now leading the embrace, making the girls friends once more. They share the silence, they share the calm. They share the wonder of a new journey.

That was such a wonderful return to friendship. Annie hopes that Orla thinks the same too. She watches the crowd in the Hotel march up the sweeping staircase. For a moment, Connor stops and looks down to where Annie stands and then to the door before being led onwards by Annie’s father. Eoin never looks back once.

A violin plays somewhere high and far away. Annie beckons Orla to follow her up the staircase.

At the top of the stairs there is a room filled with flowers and people. The sound of the violin welcomes all into the room. Annie and Orla enter and see that everyone they know is sitting down and facing the front of the room, where Annie and Orla are already enshrined. They see their faces smiling and carefree surrounded by flowers and teddy bears, held high by the trestles that are draped with silk ribbons.

Father Dugan walks past Annie. She touches his arm. He stops for a second then continues to walk to the front of the room. He stops between the trestles, between the faces on the photographs.
Connor turns his head to look where Annie is standing. Annie knows he can see her, he will join her, he will forget Orla. He shifts from his seat and gently stands up, He walks toward Annie. She reaches for him. Only he reaches for the door and closes it. Connor turns back to face Father Dugan, to let him end the story that bought them here today.

Annie walks across the room, not caring what people think, she does not care what Orla thinks. She stands before the window, her head resting on the frosty glass where she listens to the snow.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 17:19 on 28 September 2005  Report this post
David, this is so mystical and beautiful. Mysterious too, until a second reading this afternoon when the story became clear. I love the writing which seems perfect for the hints of myth and legend - in fact it reads like one of those stories from Celtic myth that I always seem to glimpse a vestige of very real truth in.

In the notes I made this morning I suggested that perhaps just a touch more information was needed, but with the second reading I decided that if you changed the easels to trestles all would be clear yet retain that lovely strangeness.

The description in para 3 is genius.

There are a few typos - notes below.

Love the idea of listening to and tasting the snow - liked the repetition of it at the beginning but thought it would be improved without that 'also'.

Felt that 'winter king' and 'hotel' and 'Lugh the longhand' needed caps, also feel that '...Winter King who sings...' is better than 'that sings'.

...she is now as much as sun as Annie now...

You've a 'her self' (herself) in para 7 and also '...she as ever known...' and 'some one' and 'no where' later on.

...when she faced chased snow....

...her Daddy laughed... (daddy), although it does seem very Irish to use the upper case with the possessive pronoun like that.

A Swan flies... (swan?) I couldn't see a reason for the capital.

I had a tense-change moment at The handkerchief pressed... although a second reading showed the possible sense of it. You might like to adjust though, as it interrupts the flow a little.

Annie says something that makes Orla choke... having the following words as Annie's made me wonder if those were the words. Maybe have Orla speak next - see what you think.

I'd cut 'of her mouth' in the the para beginning 'Let go of me...' as 'mouth' is a repetition and it seems unneeded.

A pair of swans land... (lands, as it's one pair). There a rep. of 'fill/s' in that para too.

A pair of swans fights each other... seemed awkward - a pair is one thing so 'fights' is correct, but 'each other' makes two of the pair and seems like grammatical contradiction.

...up sweeping staircase... (missing 'the'?) and I wanted a stop after 'friendship' - see what you think.

Magical story David, quite beautiful too and I thought what Annie said to Orla was well-judged for its shock-value after the first rather lovely description of sex in para 3. It helps to show so beautifully what happened to the two girls. Love the parallel with the swans too.


Heckyspice at 10:01 on 30 September 2005  Report this post
Hi Nell,

Thanks for the comments, I have made the changes as you suggest and agree that the story works better for them.

I think that stories in Ireland have many mystical echoes and roots. There is something about the celtic world that enourages the reader (and writer) to peep behind the veil and see what magic can be found.

I had better stop before I end up sounding like a bad review of a Clannad or Enya CD.

Best wishes,


lang-lad at 16:06 on 01 October 2005  Report this post
Hi, David,
I want to tell you what happened to me reading this because I don't know any other way to comment on it - it is too haunting (no pun intended) a piece. First reading - I was completely at sea. Is it a hotel receptionist whose soul and heart is detached from the mundanity of her ordinary life? Is Orla a hotel guest whom she despises yet is linked to in some way? My brain tried to make sense but I knew I was being too rational. The lyricism of the language told me to let go and think of it as a poem and work harder to see what I was being shown. It started to fall into place and be easier to read at the point where she was on her daddy's shoulders. I wanted it to start there ... but that was before I twigged and the last paragraph brought such a smile of recognition and closure to my face I went right back to the beginning and read it all again and I could see what a fine, crystalline thing it is afterall. A tear comes to the eye and you've captured that brittle, charged quality in the air that you get at these solemn occasions that are the so often the expression of an aftermath of ugliness and a salve of something violent. It has dignity and poise. Well done.

Heckyspice at 10:37 on 02 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Eliza,

Thank you for such fine and moving comments, I consider it an honour. This was a difficult piece to write and it is gratifying to learn that it has touched the readers of this group as much as it did me when I was writing it.

Thank You.

Best wishes,


ashlinn at 13:31 on 02 October 2005  Report this post
Hello David,

When I saw this title, I thought I was seeing things. I am from Tullamore and all of the things you talk about seem so familiar to me that I couldn't believe it. Tullamore Dew is, as you know, a whiskey and the word DEW comes from the intitials of D.E. Williams, the grandfather of a very good friend of mine. It felt strange to see so clearly the locations (the new Bridge House steps, the Bridge Centre across the road, the canal bridge near the distillery) in so mysterious a piece. I think I knew straightaway that you were talking about a wedding (but is it because of the Bridge House or the writing, I don't know).

Aside from all that, I enjoyed the piece. It is abstract and yet full of emotion. There were some minor references that didn't feel authentic (poppy, the crumpets) but I'm nit-picking there and I don't know if that the kind of feedback you want.

"Annie and Orla enter and see that everyone they know is sitting down and facing the front of the room, where Annie and Orla are already enshrined." Is that a mistake?

Is this a stand-alone piece or part of something bigger?

Well done, it's a very evocative piece (even for me, who finds it hard to see something 'mystical' about my home town.)


Heckyspice at 08:24 on 03 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Ashlinn,

I visted Tullamore on business a few years ago and stayed at Bridge Hotel. There was a wedding going on when I was there( as well as the Rose of Offaly contest), so there were lots of details and scenes that I shoved deep into to the old brain box for future reference. I tried to capture the scene as if it is a wedding before the truth is revealed.

I did not know about the initials of the DEW, that's news to me, so thanks for that. I liked the name and thought it was a good idea for something mystical in the early morning. I was concious of the fact that if I tried to put too much detail about the town in, I could get a lot of it wrong, so I hope the balance is about right.

I will have to plead artistic license if references to poppy and crumpets is not true to the area, I was trying to evoke a feeling or hazy memory.

Thanks for reading,


davedave at 08:45 on 03 October 2005  Report this post
Hi David,

I think this style suits you, and it suits the story, though I will admit to being confused. Perhaps the amount of names so early on, and not much physical description to go on, didn't help. Or perhaps (and this is entirely possible) I'm a little bit thick.

The opening sentence is great, and the confrontation works well - very snappy dialogue.

A few times your use of adjectives smacks a little of romantic fiction - rugged palm, bountiful lips.

Sometimes a little bit of cliche, too - 'pulls him to his bosom' 'has lifted his heart'

I know 'a pair of swans fights' is grammatically correct, but it does jar a little.

I'm not sure about lions embracing.

It's nice stuff, though. I guess I feel it's not quite there, yet, but it's not far off, either, and I agree with Eliza that it works well in a kind of poetic way, conjuring up emotions and sensations very nicely.

Looking forward to more,

Heckyspice at 13:42 on 03 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Dave,

It's the voice of Orla that hold the story together, so any gushing Mills and Boon style adjectives were supposed to represent her wishful thinking - until the confrontation.


davedave at 15:49 on 03 October 2005  Report this post

Yes, point taken (about the adjectives).


Myrtle at 21:34 on 18 October 2005  Report this post

I think this is a piece to be delved into in more than one sitting, and I love it for the way it has made me work a bit harder. The moment it clicked was very satisfying indeed, but that was just the big picture and I think there is more for me to discover yet, between the lines. I know you've said in reply to Dave's comment about the romantic language that it's intentional, but I still wonder whether some of the more cliched phrases could be given a slightly more left field approach - they can still convey a romantic view but perhaps a more unique one. Overall the language is very beautiful.


Heckyspice at 09:45 on 19 October 2005  Report this post
Hi Myrtle,

I am not sure how I could change some of the phrases to be more left field - could it be that it would end up as more of a pastiche? I know what you are saying and can appreciate how you can see this piece evolving. I will have to give this some serious thought.

Best Wishes


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