In parallel to a professional life in design and education Jon has been writing fiction and poetry. From 1990 most of his output was non-fiction published in various journals and magazines. Adopting the pen name (Jon Gregory) he has devoted more time to short stories, novels and plays. In 2011 The Lightning Field was shortlisted for the Francis MacManus Short Story Prize (RTE) and Vapour – Edge of Existence received the Silver Prize for a screenplay at the International Independent Film Awards (2016). He is interested in how different perspectives intersect in the world.
Quanta – a collection of short stories – looking for a publisher
Cardinal – Novel (Historical Fiction) – looking for a publisher
20 – Novel (not a love story) in progress
Secrets of the Boom Boom Room – Novel in progress
from; The Lightning Field (short listed in Francis McManus Short Story Prize 2011)
Darkness was palpable now, its tentacles deep within each room. Lights had been switched on, defending the house from the pressing storm. Blinking, their uneven pattern heralded the march of crooked legs across the world.
It was late now and the darkening storm brought the evening to an early close. The fence makers had pulled taut the wire and with more than half of the posts stapled. The men looked anxiously to the sky, pausing each time before hammering the staples into the soft wood. Without warning they stopped, picked up their tools, shirts and jackets, bundling everything into the back of the cab of their truck. He warmed to the electrical catharsis to clean out the atmosphere. The lights flickered again. The field was no longer bathed in light. A deep grey pallor hung over everything.
When the flash came the radio corresponded, then the roar, a rolling thunderous throat clearing growl. It rumbled at the navel of things. He reached out with his hand to feel the vibrations as the sound moved its way through the glass. Somewhere down the network the grid was absorbing static and redistributing the static throughout the world. He imagined the human network of towns, houses and people girdled with this static, even his home in the city. There the storms came and went without disturbing much.
His mother returned with candles and a flash lamp, placing them on the coffee table.
‘Just in case’, she offered as she turned to leave. Breathing deep into his lungs he listened for the exchange as it rushed his nostrils, picking up the faint smells of the past. Tightly he closed his eyes, putting images to smells when the ringing telephone brought him back. Holding his breath with the first ring he released it on the second.
His mother returned busying herself with small things. ‘I think we are going to lose the electricity, can you pull those curtains?’
Adam picked up the telephone but only a faint crackle. ‘The phone is dead’ he volunteered, but his mother had already left, checking the rooms, a continuous ritual. She followed a well-worn path, from room to room, following a circuit back to the kitchen.
The sky darker by the minute he switched on the electric light, casting a yellow glow over the room. Adam shivered at the memory, at the half remembered dull glow of evenings at home. It provided poor comfort. For the first time since arriving he felt awkward, uncomfortable.
The light flickered, followed by crack and rumble. He sensed that the window itself vibrated in unison with the sound. He imagined the lightning digging a way to its home, electrifying the spaces. The hair on his arm stood up pulling on the skin beginning a run along the length to his spine.
The curtains remained open. Over the eastern sea a small patch of blue appeared. Turning out the light the scene became clearer, the outline of hedges, trees, fences and cows. Looking from East to West he sought to determine the range of the storm. The lightning sparked across the county in the West and North. The thunder came in rolls from different directions. He placed his hand against the cold pane around it a warm mist condensed on the glass. Time slowed, his hand grew numb. There he followed the lightning streaks set their crooked legs on the earth.
Lightning walked its way across the land, dancing along the fence line, the newly erected posts directing the current down into the earth. High tension shafts of air imprinted on his visual cortex. Then the thunder crashed his ear drums but the afterimages still burned on his retina, inversions of the world outside. He watched as each wave moved from left to right. The sky became light, the world, light, the interior light, the yellow light banished.
Adam imagined God taking a snapshot of his sleepy people, recording their misdemeanours perhaps to waken them from their slumber. God he thought had long left the world to itself. Where was the evidence of his passing?
His hand stiff with the cold he pulled back drawing the curtains over.
The lights flickered one last time before going out. The radio silenced, his mother returned with a lit candle. From this spark she ignited the one left on the table.
‘How long do you think that will the lights be out?’ he asked.
‘About 30 minutes depending on the storm. There haven’t been many outages in recent years’, she replied carefully placing the candle on a saucer.
‘I should unpack, am I in the old room?’ he asked.
‘Yes, be careful with the candle.’
Outside the light sparkled at the edges of the curtain. Taking the saucer and candle he moved towards his old bedroom. As he passed his mother, she reached out to touch his arm. Stopping momentarily he took her hand, a spark of static crossed from his finger to her knuckle.
He volunteered a thank you. She responded by grasping his hand squeezing it tightly. He saw in her eyes sadness and gratitude.
‘It’s good to home, it has been too long,’ waiting until her grip released.
Only the bed remained familiar. In the middle he placed his luggage placing the candle on the nightstand. Unzipping the bag he opened up the interior and took out a sweater. A deep chill was moving deep into his bones, burrowing a way towards his marrow. He wrapped his arms around his body willing heat into his body.
In the distance he heard the radio; power had returned. By the time he had extinguished the candle and opened the curtains light had begun to return to the sky.
He grabbed a coat from the hall closet.
‘I am going out for a walk, the storm has passed.’
‘Take a brolly with you,’ his mother shouted from the kitchen.
In the open he welcomed the freshness of the wind and stood surveying the horizon, watching the storm continue its walk across the fields. Breathing deeply memories cascaded through his mind. In the field some of the posts had fallen over. Crossing the ditch by the worn sty he strode over to the meridian. Touching post after post, he felt the twisted remains. On the way through the lightning had split the post opening a path in its way to the iron core. Kneeling down he brushed the sand aside uncovering the fragile crooked stick of sand. Carefully raising the fulgurite he felt its lightness as he watched the last of the storm cross the far horizon.
He looked back to where his mother stood at the living room window.