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Waiting For Mrs O`Brien to Die

by Mac 

Posted: 20 September 2004
Word Count: 357

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The kitchen window in the old house looks down over the vale of Tralee to the steeple of St John's Church and beyond to the Slieve Mish mountains. It's only a small window and allows poor light; if the house were to be built today it would be twice the size so that the new money could appreciate the view that they'd bought into. But this house was built a decade before the famine when views were ten a penny but glass was expensive. Because it's a small window the kitchen's dark but it's still my favourite room in the house. I'm moving the last bit of fried egg around my plate and staring out of the window at the view. It's not as great today because sheets of rain are cutting down the visibility and the Slieve Mish are just a suggested brooding shadow rather than a clearly defined range. Jack's sat under the table eating a bit of bacon that I've slipped to him. He won't go out in the rain; he's got more sense this sheepdog. I look at the clock and it's five to nine. I get up and put the kettle on, take out two cups, put tea bags in them and wait for the kettle to boil. It's all done by a minute to nine. I put the two brews down on the table and sit back down, taking a sip. It burns my lips so I rest it down again. The old man comes in from working outside, picks up his cup and eases himself into the chair next to the stove. "Turn the radio up," he says and I do. We do this every day. Nine o'clock. "Radio Kerry has been informed of the following deaths: Thomas McKelligott, 79, of Castleisland..." the voice drones on; a list of names. I don't know any of them. "Padraig Moran, 68, of Killorglin; Mary Keane, 84, of Dunquin; Dennis Harty, 62, of Tralee..." The list ends and the presenter moves on to the local news. The old man stands up and drains his cup. "Feckin' bitch," he says and goes back outside.

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Comments by other Members

Dee at 07:56 on 20 September 2004  Report this post
Mac, I enjoyed this. Do they really do that on local Irish radio?

You create a wonderful picture of the kitchen. I have to confess that I mis-read the title as Nora Batty. I realised straight away that we were not in Holmfirth but by that time I was hooked in and kept reading.

Love the last line!


DerekH at 10:28 on 20 September 2004  Report this post
Hi Mac, this is a great piece. I loved the line "views were ten a penny but glass was expensive"...and the ending was perfect, so unexpectedly funny and abrupt.


Account Closed at 15:53 on 20 September 2004  Report this post
Hi Mac, I too enjoyed the views debate. It really said something about how times had changed.

I liked the ending but wouldn't have guessed without the title and like Dee, I read Nora Batty - if that wasn't done on purose, I'd suggest you change the name.

Liked the use of 'brews' - Haven't heard that for a long time!


crowspark at 21:44 on 20 September 2004  Report this post
I really enjoyed this Mac. The house is entirely convincing with geographic and historic detail.
A wonderful slice of life piece of writing.


Mac at 06:16 on 21 September 2004  Report this post
Thanks all,
the reason I used "Nora Barry" is, I am ashamed to say, because the above story actually took place. And the person whose demise we were waiting for was caalled Nora Barry. It was beyond my wit and intelligence to come up with a false name.
Oh, and she's dead now, if you're interested.

anisoara at 06:37 on 21 September 2004  Report this post

I love how you've written about this window. It's just wonderful. And a lovely portrait of a ritual.


DennisJ at 13:53 on 11 May 2007  Report this post
Hi Mac

Well as my name is Dennis Harty and I did spend the first 20 or so years in North Kerry I was a bit dissapointed to hear of my 'passing over' strange I feel fine.

Anyway loved the piece , can picture the mountains now even as I sit here bound to my swivel chair confines.

Not sure if it stretches credability to suggets that a dwelling house would have the same window opening for almost 150 years but perhaps.


p.s. Dee you better believe it , the 'roll call of the dead' is our equivilant of must see tv.

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