The Simple Things - - BEDTIME STORY -

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’.

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