FALL AND RISE
A short story by ANNE GRIFFIN
The call came early. “It’s your Uncle Diarmuid,” Shona, the weekend nurse on the Island, said. At least, Fiona thought as she started her car, he had the decency to fall when the one with a bit of civility was on duty. She marvelled at her uncle’s timing as she rounded the blind corner at Lynch’s faster than she might’ve were it not 3.40 in the morning. January 1st – he knew it was one of her few days off from skippering the ferry. His third fall, but the worry of him made it feel like ten. He’d broken nothing yet, but it was only a matter of time.
He sat in his pyjamas in the kitchen, his foot resting on the stool, looking sheepish but still flashing that smile. “What were you doing up anyway?” she said. “And a happy new year to you, too.” That was one thing about Diarmuid, his legs might wobble but his brain sure didn’t. “Can a man not go to the toilet any more?”
“Not if means coming down those stairs in the dark to get to it, no. What am I going to do with you?” “Leave me alone, that’s what.” “For the last time, it’s not me who wants you to go to the nursing home on the mainland, it’s them.” Her hand pointed in the general direction of the sound of Shona’s car waning down the hill.
She was tired and hungry. Who the hell gets hungry at 3.40am? As she thought about the chocolate biscuit cake sitting on the counter at home, the hollow in her stomach deepened. “What about my place?” The words surprised her, coming out before she could stop them. It’s not like she hadn’t thought about him moving in before but no matter how much fun Seánie, her son, thought her uncle was, she wasn’t sure she was ready for him on her couch every night. But there it was, the invitation sitting between them in flashing neon lights. “The downstairs room is en suite.” God, she really couldn’t help herself, could she?
“I’m not a lover of the north end of the Island.” Of course this is how it would go, her not actually wanting him but having to beg the codger anyway. Cute as a fox, this man. “The coverage is pure atrocious down there.”
Diarmuid was the only septuagenarian on Herd Island, or possibly the whole of Ireland for that matter, addicted to Instagram.
“But I’ve a booster. How else do you think my ten year old survives? He’d drive the ferry to the mainland himself if he couldn’t play Fortnite.”
“He tells me it’s good, alright. I suppose if I was down there I could give it a go. It might be nice for him to have a companion. Must be awful hard, him being an only child and all.” Oh but he was good. “Yeah, single mothers are so useless.” “Well, if you insist. I suppose I could pack a few things now.” He rose as spritely as a 15 year old, heading for the stairs. “Will there be turkey for the dinner later? And a bit of your chocolate biscuit cake for the dessert, that’d be just the thing, now.”
“We’re onto dinner already, are we, and we haven’t even had the breakfast?”
She kept close behind, his speedier-than-expected ascent making her wonder had there been a fall at all. “It pays to always be thinking ahead.” “Yes,” she said, smiling at the talent of the man, “you seem to be good at that.”
Acclaimed short story writer Anne Griffin lives in the heart of the Irish midlands. She has a degree in history and worked as a bookseller and for a variety of charities. Her debut novel, WhenAll Is Said (Sceptre), is the heartbreaking story of an 84-year-old farmer ‘who has trusted few but loved deeply’.