Tomorrow. October 1st. Kingdom of Scars, my debut novel, is available in published book form in bookshops in Ireland.
I needed to say that on paper, as it were. Also because I have no insight as to the whimsical nature of Amazon and online ordering outside of Ireland and how long it takes.
So, I am putting up a cheeky chapter here for those who know nothing about the book, which may encourage them to buy the book. Funnily enough this is the only true barometer of a book's success. With film or tv people watch it and it doesn't directly affect me, well it does but it seems that with a book it's far more specific how I promote it, so I actually have to implore people to take a chance and plunge into the depths of my brain for a short period. Also a book is very much a singular activity, no matter how much I would like to hide behind Gaye Shortland, the wonderful woman who helped me edit this concoction of words. I think many of the readers on this blog can appreciate that.
Anyway. In the book, there is some poetry. Obligatory of course. But we cut much of it from the book because I got carried away and it was becoming a book of poetry with a few chapters of a story padding it out, so I will post some of the poems we cut here each week for fun, and again to engage in active and blatant book promotion. Apart from some truly sweet supporters on twitter, for who's kind words and efforts I am very grateful for, it's just me and some sweet friends in PR. It is odd begging journalists to do an article on me and my book and trying to find something worthwhile for them in exchange....unless we're friends and then it's kinda fun...
Anyway, below is a chapter from the book for those who have not yet read it. I am really not sure what chapter to put up, especially as later ones would ruin the story for when people do read it, so I chose a rather tamer chapter I think, and one that's a little shorter, I'm sure I'll regret it later.
Do I like reading off a screen? - Not at all, so print it out and read it with some coffee and ideally spill some of the coffee on it so it goes yellow and there's a few words you can't quite make out so you have to force your imagination to work overtime......
Kingdom of Scars.
Stealing Never Hurt Anybody
The last vestiges of the day were leaving them and the fishing floats had barely moved. On one occasion it seemed like something might be happening when Jayo’s float was briefly pulled beneath the surface and Washing Machine had leapt up in such excitement that he slipped and almost fell into the water. The float bobbed back up like it was all a big tease and when Jayo reeled her in he found the bait was totally gone and a small crab was hanging to the last bits of flesh. Washing Machine grabbed the little creature before it dropped back into the sea and took great pleasure in smashing it against the wall.
Jayo decided that he’d had enough. “Come on, lads.”
They all stood up promptly as if they had only ever been there to wait for orders from their general. Sam was the last to his feet. The sea had encroached upon much of their path back along the rocks so Jayo climbed up the wall and onto the pier itself. They all followed in his slipstream.
The pier was emptying slowly, some stragglers still enjoying the end of the sunlight. The lads fanned out abreast of each other, feeling intimidating in their little gang of five.
Jayo swept ahead with seemingly no real purpose except that he was heading the group and so had to lead them somewhere. A small dog barked behind them and then a tiny white ball of fun raced forward, skimming in and out of their legs like a fish would in coral. Washing Machine tried to kick out at it but it dodged gracefully then raced back to him happily. After a moment he bent down and patted it gently on the head.
“Sprinkles – here, girl – come here!” a nervous voice rang out behind them.
Sprinkles left her audience and rushed back to the small fat man who bent down to sweep her into his arms protectively. He had seen Washing Machine try to kick her and he caught his eye accusingly.
“Nice dog, mister.” Mouse nodded in greeting, all sarcasm.
“That could protect you from all sorts of birds and frogs. Ferocious!” Jayo added.
The lads laughed, even Sam. The man stood up on creaking legs, clutching Sprinkles tightly to his chest. Without a word he walked brusquely past them.
“Take care of her now,” Mouse warned.
“Yeah, don’t let any squirrels eat her!” Washing Machine added.
Mouse looked at Washing Machine. “Why the fuck would a squirrel eat a dog?”
“I dunno, whatever, fuck off.”
Mouse flicked Washing Machine’s ear and he flicked him back, then Jayo slapped them both like he wanted to play too. Banter always ended whenever Jayo joined in though – they were all too afraid of his schizophrenic switches.
The game was obviously over so Jayo walked on. Sam strode alongside him. The light was almost gone by now as they reached the train station near the laneway leading back to their hideaway and their respective streets.
“Who’s got smokes?” Jayo asked the group.
Jayo smoked more than anybody else but he never actually bought any: this was Washing Machine or Jesse’s job. Mouse would buy his own and reluctantly share if he was in a good mood. Jayo hadn’t said it to anybody in particular but somebody would answer.
“I’ll get some, Jayo.”
“Good man, Washo.”
Washing Machine glided over the ground towards the shop in an excitable fashion similar to the little dog’s. Sam watched him go, and put his hands in his pockets again. He was feeling a little better, the thought of school quite distant now. They leaned against the wall, each in his own fashion, and waited.
Mouse began carving into the concrete of the wall with a pocketknife.
“Gimme a quote, Jayo?” he grunted.
“Something, anything, I dunno.”
Mouse began carving into the stone with difficulty.
Sam leaned in closer. “Whatcha sayin’?”
“Sammy’s a fag.”
“No, you’re not!”
He was. He had begun on the ‘S’.
Mouse looked at Jayo and they shared a smile. Jesse was drifting off, eyes vacantly gazing at the train station.
“There’s that dog again, lads,” he mumbled.
Sam looked up. Jesse was indicating the little white dog tied against the railings of the pub beside the DART station. The fat man was nowhere to be seen.
Jayo’s eyes narrowed and he stepped forward, suddenly alert. “Let’s take her, lads.”
“What?” Mouse replied.
“Let’s take the fucking dog.”
This was where Jayo’s nasty streak came into play and when he was in this mood there was nothing that was going to stop him.
“Who’s going to do it?” Jayo challenged the three of them but nobody answered.
“Pussies.” Mouse glowered at the other two.
“You want me to do it?” Jayo asked.
Mouse continued staring at Sam and Jesse, trying to avoid having to say no to Jayo himself.
Again nobody answered which was the same as agreeing. They all knew that Jayo wanted to be the one to do it but by including them he made them accomplices for not arguing against it, or it at least felt like they were.
“I’ll do it then.”
Jayo was in cahoots with himself. Without waiting for a response he strode forward on the balls of his feet, scanning for any sign of the small fat man. He must have gone inside the pub, for a piss maybe. Sam hoped for the small fat man’s sake that he didn’t come out before Jayo had robbed the dog because Jayo didn’t react well to being confronted and in this kind of mood he was liable to do anything. Jayo was across the street in a few brisk strides. Sam watched transfixed as the little dog yapped and flirted brazenly with Jayo – it really didn’t know any better. He grabbed at her lead, pushing her away from him with his other hand. Then once she was free he grabbed her roughly under his arm. Sprinkles yelped with pain at his heavy touch but he ignored her and began marching back across the street at the same time as Washing Machine came back with their cigarettes.
One of the barmen from the pub was standing outside having a cigarette. He was a few years older then they were, perhaps nineteen. He watched the whole event and seemed aware of what was happening but Jayo shot him a look and he averted his eyes. Jayo had that effect.
“I’ll trade ya a shite dog for those smokes, Washo?”
“Sure the box of smokes is bigger than that thing!” Washing Machine whooped to Jayo.
Jayo winked at Mouse as he strode past them and into the lane. He was playing it cool but you could see his nervous excitement. They all quickly followed. Sam was the last in line and he chanced a look back but the small fat man was still absent. He would regret leaving his dog alone later but who ever thought that their dog would get stolen? Sam felt sympathetic towards him, knowing the upset that he would surely feel. There was nothing that he was going to do, though. He’d had enough of being a social pariah lately so he wasn’t going to do anything.
Once inside the safety of the laneway, the trees and the wall shielding them from view, the lads broke into whoops and cheers. Jayo held the dog aloft as a prize. Sprinkles seemed to enjoy the attention.
“Fuck you, fat man, we got ‘Sprinkles’!”
They passed the little dog around triumphantly and she licked them each in turn, proud to be the centre of attention. Then Jesse carefully put her down on the ground. She was oblivious to what was going on and she barked cheerfully at them, demanding more attention.
Mouse sneered at her. “Little slut, she doesn’t care who she’s with.”
“Bet she loves peanut butter!” Washing Machine laughed.
“Yeah, dirty bitch,” said Mouse.
Sam didn’t understand and he looked at Jesse who wasn’t really paying attention. Mouse caught him glancing at Jesse for support.
“The fat man makes her lick peanut butter off his balls, Samantha – don’t pretend that ya haven’t wanted to try it?”
“Now he can use her. Here, try it out!” Washing Machine picked Sprinkles up by the scruff of her neck and shoved her into Sam’s crotch.
Sam tried to push away but didn’t want to hurt the little dog. She didn’t like this game and turned her head, squealing a little.
“Shut up, ya stupid dog,” Washing Machine growled as he jostled her through the air.
Jayo had lost interest already and started walking up the laneway. Mouse quickly followed and Washing Machine looked lost with the dog in his hands.
“What d’ya wanna do with the dog?” he asked, needing direction.
Jayo shrugged. “Leave her – she can find her own way home, that’s what dogs do.”
Jesse finally piped up. “We can’t, lads – she might run across the road and get knocked down.”
Jayo indicated that it wasn’t his problem with a dismissive wave of his hand and Washing Machine handed Jesse the lead.
“You take her then.”
The dog was thrilled to be back on the ground again. Washing Machine followed the other two boys up the laneway leaving Sam and Jesse with the dog. She sat on her haunches and looked at them expectantly.
Suddenly a voice broke out shrilly. “Sprinkles! Sprinkles! What are you doing with my dog?”
The small fat man had found them and he was waddling towards them as fast as his stubby legs could carry him. The dog turned towards his voice, but seemed nonplussed about his arrival to save her. As he got closer it was clear that he’d been crying. Sam felt guilty, as if it had been all his fault.
“Oh, Sprinkles! You’re okay! Why would you take my dog – why? Did you hurt her?”
Neither Sam nor Jesse had anything to say so they just stepped back and let the man take the dog. He didn’t appear angry – he was hurt and confused that somebody would do something like this to him.
“She’s fine, we didn’t touch her,” Sam reassured him.
The man swept the dog into his arms, clutching her as if it were their last moments on this earth together. It was a little dramatic. The dog even looked a bit embarrassed. Sam nodded to Jesse that it was probably time to leave and they turned away.
Now that he had the dog back in his grasp, the man’s eyes blazed and he almost spat after them: “Who do you think you are, taking somebody else’s dog? Little pricks!”
Jesse raised his eyebrows but shrugged – fair enough. Then the man pushed Jesse. It was a relatively feeble gesture but Jesse had to take a step back, more out of surprise than anything else.
Unfortunately this was the moment that Jayo and Mouse chose to turn back and call for Jesse. Jayo had an almost brotherly affection for Jesse. He never picked on him, and seemed attuned to his sensitive nature. They had a quiet bond which the others never understood and declined to comment on for they couldn’t quite explain it. If the man had pushed any of the others Jayo would possibly have ignored it, but he would always jump to Jesse’s aid. He immediately broke into a run, racing towards them.
The fat man saw Jayo approaching at a sprint and for a moment seemed to consider standing his ground, then thought better of it. He had probably not run as quickly as he did then since he’d been a teenager himself, if ever.
Jayo caught up to him easily with the athletic nonchalance of youth and then stopped short inches from his back, letting the man scurry in fear at how close he was, his breath literally on his neck.
“Keep running, fat man.”
Jayo was generally a purveyor of few words, but what little he did say usually was enough. He waited until the fat man was out of sight before he relaxed his body and turned back to the lads. They all waited until he had reached them before following him up the laneway.
For some reason the fat man made Sam think of Antoinette and, fuelled by illicit thoughts, he left the lads at their spot by the swing to carry on home.