Emerging Writer Member Profile
A regular reader at and a big fan of the Irish Writers Centre bi-monthly Taking the Mic. Pushcart Prize nominee. Looking for a publisher for my recently completed novel. Interested in supporting other LGBTQI+ writers.
Summer of Unrequited Love: A story about Cathal McClean’s name
“Given my God-granted rights and responsibilities as your father, I hereby name you Cathal Niall McClean,” the man said leaning over the improvised cardboard cradle. He put his pointing finger in the baby’s tiny fist; “your name is Cathal,” he whispered, “You’re a lovely boy Cathal. My lovely son.” And as if to seal his pronouncement, he wet his thumb in his mouth and signed a cross on the baby’s forehead. “Cathal it is.”
On the day Stanley Henry Nigel McClean’s mother went into the nursing home in Birr for her confinement, his father was thinking about the inaugural conference of De Valera’s anti-treaty party in Dublin. The unreliable trains were the problem, but his elder sister heard of a spare seat in a car, told him it was meant to be and sent a telegram to his hotel on 23rd March to announce that a forty-hour labour had resulted in a beautiful ten-pound son. And when he phoned her at the family seed business, she said:
“Ah sure so long as you’re back to bring them home, Peggy will understand.”
But a week passed, and the new republican party had been named Fianna Fail before he got away, and by then his wife had registered the child’s name.
“Your pique is over now Peggy. No harm done,” he said when he was home. “We’ll get the certificate reissued. He will be Cathal Niall, after my poor murdered father.”
Her refusal resulted in him referring to the boy as “son” in his wife’s presence and becoming “Cathal” when she was absent. The town and the surrounding farmers took an amused or a rigid view about the rights and wrongs of it, depending on where they stood on the privileges of a head of household, not to mention their thoughts about the recently attempted violent separation from England or the suffering they’d endured when the liberators set about killing each other to prove who among them had the best plan for Ireland’s future.
In Cathal’s growing up years, a farmer who was big enough to take the value of his custom for granted might ask the boy his name, especially if either of his parents were presenting a statement of the farmer’s account or instructing the labouring boys to load up so many bags of seedling potatoes into the tractor-pulled trailer in the yard. But a farmer with a more modest holding who saw the boy sitting up on the counter in his short pants and the hand knit jumper that itched around his neck might say “and how old are you now young man?” The farmer would already know the story of his father’s abandonment of his wife during the final days of her confinement.
“Is it five or six you are?”
And the boy would say, “I was born on the same day as Fin Fal. We are the same age.” The whole country could date the commencement of De Valera’s party with the same certainty as they could recall “the night of the big wind.”
Even when he was old enough to pronounce the party name properly, the same farmers, getting ready for the planting season, would ask again, and smile and ruffle his hair when he answered, listening out for any response from the parents standing at the yard door watching the labourers counting out purchases.
“Now Peggy,” his father said on the afternoon of his sixth birthday, “it’s time we gave Cathal his proper name.” The three of them were in the upstairs dining room overlooking the main street, the curtains drawn early to make the tiny flames more impressive. The lingering smoke of the blown-out candles picked out by the shaft of sunlight coming in where the curtains didn’t quite meet.
“So you can have him join the Irregulars and go about the country killing for Ireland?” his mother said.
“De Valera wants peace.”
“Oh, he’s finished “wading through blood” then? Is he planning to take the oath of allegiance?”
“Ah that’s all in the past Peggy, and remember it wasn’t the Irregulars that killed the boy’s grandfather.”
The knife that cut their wedding cake - only brought out for celebrations, would need to be cleaned, put back in its box, and returned to the sitting room cabinet.
“I’ve brought a son into the world, and I’ll not have him murdered in his bed, or dragged from the same bed to lie in ambush for other men.” Red candle wax had dripped onto the white tablecloth. She would let it set hard before she picked it off.
“Do you think his Sasanach protestant names will make him immune if it all flares up again?”
“His name is Stanley Henry Nigel.”
“I won’t stand for it Peggy. I am your husband; I demand that you defer to me on this matter.” He gripped the massive dining table as if he was going to upend it.
The boy got down from his high chair without anyone demanding that he excuse himself, and left the angry silence, his face smeared with birthday cake chocolate. The hissing and glaring was unchanged when he returned with his father’s old Luger. He wanted to lift it up over the table and to push the butt into his father's table-gripping hand, but the chocolate cream on his small fingers made it difficult to hold upright, and he was tired from missing his afternoon nap because of his birthday.
There was nothing he could do to stop the gun from falling to the floor. The ear-hurting noise louder than anything he’d ever heard before reverberating inside the mahogany underworld as he followed the gun to the floor. Then he could hear nothing, not even them arguing.
Dolly Considine doesn’t mind when her aspiring writer cum lounge boy Julian Ryder begins sleeping with the guests, but when she finds out he is making up stories about her family, her staff, and the politicians who treat her hotel as their very own after-hours drinking den, it becomes clear that if she doesn’t get rid of him, somebody else will.
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