That Hippy Lad – A Short Story

Ya know that dickhead from Irene Moore’s estate? Got into the hippie thing first. He thought he was hot shit and didn’t we all have to know about it. He grew his hair long and got some buddie that was going to London to buy him one of those scraggy hoodies. The scratchy ones ya know that seem to be unwashable. Or maybe stinking is just their choice. Ya’d see him the odd times with a tower records bag sitting at the bus stop on Eden Quay. Before they moved it to Abbey street. I prefer Abbey now. You weren’t standing out on the river like a show for all to see. He got the bus on those cold saturdays were the sun’d heave right into your eyes. On those days where no matter what you had in you account you’d not enough for what ya wanted to get. And you’d have to sling your hook back home with a “maybe next week”. It was always that dickhead that’d be in a good mood. He would sit on the bus and look at whatever darkly coloured CD he’d bought, brimming. How’d he keep that up I didn’t know. But he did.

His mother must have been ran loose with that bleeding guitars and all hippy shit blaring out of his room from morning to night. I’m glad my kids aren’t into anything that I don’t play for them first. I couldn’t be doing with that on top of all the other shit I do be having to do with them. The last thing you want is some hippie hymns screaming at ya around the house. Did you know they played that shit to the terrorists in the torture camps. That just goes to show you. The Army thinks that’s torture good enough for the taliban. That says it all.

I’ve never known anyone that’s been in his house. His Ma is a funny one. Irene says she’s all smiles when they catch each other in the street but would sooner die a thousand deaths than invite you in for a cup of tea. She can shove herself. Irene hadn’t heard about her husband roping himself til she seen it in the paper and that was the day the hearse came. Irene was out in the street in her pyjamas, some faded set with palm trees and Miami written on it  looking like a kid that’s been sent to bed too many times that night. Ya’d think Irene, a neighbour, the woman who lives four houses down for years, would be amongst some of the first to hear about it. But no, that bitch lives in her own world. Fuck her, her and her hippy son.

Oh yeah the thing was the last time I’d seen him was in Stephen’s Green. It was a summer back. One of the nice ones. I was walking through the centre bit looking for a seat to have me burger. I didn’t find a seat so had to lean on one of the fountains. I hate that. Any drunk or cruel could push me into the water and ruin everything about me. But I’d to take the risk cause I couldn’t wait any longer for my burger. Bit samey but it was alright in the end. Not great. But yeah i seen him, the hippy, sitting over by the bushes. Typical. And he was grinning like a sinner with a couple of other hippies he must have met on the streets or in the record shop. The were passing around something I’m sure. A big lump of dope or whatever the braindeads’d be killing themselves with. He must have thought that he was king of all asunder. I wasn’t impressed.

But yeah so just this last week I was in the vinny shop looking for something. Not for me. The mother-in-law. And I seen herself come in with a box and a half of hippie cds. Just dumped them in and then walked out in a strop. Not a glance or smile I got. I’m only Irene’s oldest friend. Irene, her neighbour. The woman that lives four doors down from her. That bitch lives in her own fucking world. Lucky though I didn’t say a thing to her about her son being a hippy and a drug addict. Nope. I’m not petty like that. I haven’t seen him around the bus in a while. Whatever. No skin off my nose.

by Mark Baldwin 2016

The Death of the Deal and the Burrito Fallacy

There was a point there, back in the doldrums of the recession, where a few of my friends were giving College another bash. I was too, having put an end to my “gap year” after the fifth summer. I was doing Animation out in IADT Dun Laoghaire and was bringing my own struggles with me to that. My friends were in Trinity and I’d meet up with them when I got into town. We didn’t have enough money to do anything but hangout and, if we could, get a chicken fillet roll. The magic number was two quid. There was the main Centra on Dame Street that was leading the charge. It must have been a loss leader because the Londis and Spars could never match that price, besting only €2.50, and usually with caveats like only tomato and lettuce. And Centras further out of the city centre were never €2. But in their two shops, Dame Street and Temple Bar, you buy a roll with plain or spicy chicken and any two salad toppings and that was including cheese. Maybe they made the money back hoping you’d buy a drink, crisps or a bar. But me and my mates could only ever make the two quid and that was enough. The two euro roll was there for many days when we would have gone without. I used to always think “why’d you get anything else?” After a while the city got back into an upswing and the prices went up. Me and my friends had long since dropped out of college at that stage as the delis were rejigged to be more artisan and other fad food chains popped up as we gentrified. It seems like the best deal in town is no longer the best deal in town. They have convinced us to buy something else. Or we have convinced ourselves to buy something else.

Take the Burrito that spread like a rash through out the city. It was the same demographic, students and young city workers, that wanted something for lunch that they could take, walk or sit in the park and could eat quickly and fill them with enough variety. But a burrito goes for around €6.50 to €8.50 plus. Now you’d need the guts of a tenner instead of a two euro coin. And what your getting for that is a tortilla, rice and beans, which are all very cheap. You also get your chosen meat, which could be the cheap offcuts that have been stewing in a hotplate all day. And then what we get excited about when ordering is the hot sauce and salsa. And that’s only a few drops or a spoonful. I’m not saying it doesn’t taste nice but it should it cost that much? Burritos are traditionally peasant food. What we’re paying so much for is down to having to supplement the branding, the advertising, the increasing rent. And no longer are competing stores trying to undercut each other for the best deal. It’s about the “experience” now. How authentically we must feel sitting in these dark wooden alcoves with the Mariachi music playing on the PA. And it’s no longer about getting the deal out to the most people and having a neverending queue out the door. Don’t advertise big, advertise smart. Engineer social media campaigns and strategic advertising to the right clients. The yuppiess and city trendies. Those who think it’s a good deal. Those who feel like they’re slumming it. Those that will believe what they’re told. The internet is flooded with natter of the best burrito, lists out of ten different restaurants, clickbait hot takes and other forms of native advertising. To get us all thinking that “this is what we’re thinking”. And a lot of people want to have an opinion if they think everyone else is having an opinion. And soon we’re eating expensive burritos and having little debates about the taste of beans, rice and stringy warm beef.

The other thing that’s happened is that as the economy, allegedly, picked up and there was a bit more money in the pot we graduated ourselves. I used to think that “why’d anyone eat anything else than a €2 Chicken Roll?” and that if I had six quid in my pocket then couldn’t I have a Chicken roll 3 days in a row. Or even 2 now if I was really hungry. And that’d still leave money in my pocket. But we don’t do that. If we have extra money we progress ourselves to the next tier of consumption. They’re not set in stone and the categorisation is under ongoing analysis. Roughly say you might graduate from Aldi/ Lidl to Dunnes Stores, then to M&S. Or you might drink whatever is cheapest, the Spar brand American Cola, and it’s fine cause it’s something to drink and your main impulse at that time is thirst. For less than a euro you can quench that and get a sugar hit. But then say you get a job or run into a bit of luck, you don’t buy the American Cola and pocket the difference and put that towards something better. You tell yourself that you deserve the “named” brand. The famous Coke-a-Cola. It’s twice the price but it fits in better with what the world is like. The signs, the ads, the jingles, the cups at the cinema, what you mix your rum with, what others are drinking. It’s coke, the original and the genuine. The life story you’re living and writing day to day is starting to look more legit, more like everyone else’s. It’s a step forward,and you can pretend you’ve always been standing there. The American Cola is yuk, mank, rotten. You can rile yourself up with how much you hate it. It’s a plagiarism and a fake. Fuck that. You’re better than the imitation and you deserve better, anything else is an insult. But the tier goes up again. There’s the drinks that break €2.50, these fancier drinks with their real exotic fruits and health benefits. Because now that you’re making real money you need to be giving yourself what’s best for you. Coke is sugary trash. It’s bad for you. You need to look after yourself because you’ve got a reason to live longer: money. Others will lie on the sofa and drink coke and let their bones and teeth rot away. Wasters. You’re out looking after body and mind. Being the best. And it goes up. There’s no upper limit to the price of something. All you have to do is tart it up and give enough reasoning and if it sells than you’re right. If you charge a fiver for iced tea and people buy it than you picked the right price. Only then the thought willl creep in to the seller’s mind that maybe they’d have paid six euro. The seller won’t be happy with a sale. They’ll be cursing themselves for the money they could have made. And they get into an arms race, chancing your arm and with picking the right marks. And work has been tough, you might as well enjoy spending. And, as opposed to the best deal which can only go so low, there’s always something better to buy. You can be better from buying better.

Perhaps there still is something out there like the €2 chicken roll that the young kids are eating and filling themselves up and enjoying with a cheap off brand coke. And then getting back to kicking about with fuckall else to do but plod the streets and make each other laugh. Perhaps it’s just an unprofitable passage that isn’t worth the sellers time now that they’re all focusing on rinsing the gentrified. I’m at a stage now where I’m unfamiliar with town that I feel so bombarded in the vast delis now that I get flummoxed into over paying because I can’t brave the embarrassment of asking for the prices of things.

And isn’t that the perfect state they want us in.

Mark Baldwin 2018

“Tonight We Are Young”

Tonight We Are Young

I use to always get a laugh out of myself with that song “We are young” by that band from a few years back with the un-format-friendly name “fun.”. It was very sure of itself against the fact that it had nothing much to say but with great roaring sincerity to say it. It’s about a bit of a piss up and he’s having a fit of pathos. The chorus went, with a great swell, “Tonight, we are young, so let’s set the world on fire”. They really hammer that at you, willing it to be the battle cry of the millenials or some shit. And perhaps it was. It could be what keeps some people going. Resonating with the perfectly for pivotal moments of their development of character. I’ve got some daft songs that share moments with me that I keep secret to save from the mob dismissing them

The “Tonight We Are Young” song though always gave me a giggle, perhaps in the face of that. I like anything that’s so stupid and so sincere. Makes you feel alright for not having a clue about anything. When you struggle everyday it’s tough and feels fruitless. But when look at someone that very confidently acts like they have the answers it can make you feel very worthless. But if you look long enough and see that they’re no closer to answers than you it can encourage you on. Like someone celebrating they’ve won the race when they actually have more laps to go. It gives me a smile, a little buzz of warmt. If I was in the race I’d not win but I’d at least keep my head down and keep running.

Another thing was that the lad in the band is going on about being young when he looks like he’s had more than a rough paper round. It turns out that he was 30 when that song came out. And I’m 30 now. I know that’s it useless to act like our age should garner sympathy from anyone, we’ll all be every age in a row until we die. That’s how it works. But I starting to worry am I being that daft and cringey now. I write a lot from that passage of my life like it mattered. It feels more interesting than now. I’m trying to make distance now with going hard and just staying home. And the mundanity of it isn’t inspiring anything worth writing about so I’m drawing back to the pool of that time. The hedonism, the spontaneity, the fullness. I’m not a complete saint now but I’m trying to take writing more seriously. It’s the business end of the season. But I worry I’m staying too late at the party and should I just move on with life. And no one wants to be the oldest person at the party.

    When I was at the other threshold, turning 20, and I’d be at parties and still taking it all in. But there’d always be the odd older lad there on his own and it was never really clear who he was. Just an auld bloke that likes to party. I was at one before, it was a birthday and we were going from a few cans in the estate into town. I was very fresh-faced and not very versed with the whole drink before, on the way, at the place and then after the place. I did take to it in my own time and became such a pro that I’d just skip the fannying about with leaving the house and just stay in getting pissed. Earlier this year I couldn’t me moved from the warmth and lack of nonsense of your own gaf. I was very tired, passed the point of the crammed smoking areas, the queues for the expensive bar and the prattle of kids.

But back at 20s it was all ahead of me. I remember we were waiting for the bus and this was at the time when I’d not even had bus money. €2.10 I think it was into town and I’d not even had that. Then there was the tenner in to Whelan’s and the fiver for the nitelink back. And then I’d still have to work out how to blag drink. So I wasn’t too sure what to do as we all waited for the last bus out of dodge. There was about fifteen of us. And as I drifted with uncertainty on the fringes the auld lad was telling me I could go back to his house on the promise of drink and pills. Just me and him like. I weighted it up then. I wanted the drink and the pills and I’d no money for all the other plans of the night. If one route works out more than the other than shouldn’t you go with that?

As I look at it now maybe he was just tired of all the fannying about too and he’d rather just chill and liked the shite I was coming out with. But it could have been anything. It could have been sexual but I could be thinking too highly about my young arse. The rest of the group ended up doing a whip around to cover us and we headed into the pub and it was all grand. Save for a few more times where he’d tried to coax me back to his gaf. He was barely coherent at that stage and would laugh at his own mumbles, in his own little world. He mightn’t have even been that old. He could of been 29 or something. But He was much older than me and he’d clearly been through the ringer and the motions too many times to count.

    There were many others auld heads throughout the years. Maybe they were newly single and were back out on the piss after years in a relationship, or back from living abroad and had just came home after years, or they just didn’t care and liked to party and there’d always be young kids to bleed into the many phases of a sesh. And really who’s to judge us but ourselves.

Drinking and nights out isn’t really a big deal. Even the most boring and cautious people can feel spontaneous and get stories to tell from messy nights out. It’s one of the draws of drinking. It pulls out the carefree person inside you. And it’s a riot when you’re young. But as you get older and you are expected to care, about work, about the family, about your life and about yourself, the draw to pull out that carefree person becomes a much bigger. Perhaps I’m missing it and I’m trying to trying to dig deeper into it than there is. I’m just bored now. The job is ebbing at me and my little jabs back I have is in recalling the times when I’d not a care and lived on a whim. They try to get talk corporate jargon to me in the office, all prim and proper, and not know about the states I’ve been in over the years. I just hope I’m not as much a laughing stock as “fun.” the band. Telling old stories of when I was young like I know what the fuck I’m going on about. I don’t know. But sometimes they’re better stories than the ones when you stay at home and watch panel shoes. I’m hesitant to stop being the wisest baby instead of turning 180 to be the noob grown up. I don’t know. You know just give me a second I, I need to get my story straight.

Mark Baldwin

“Nothing Shocks Me”

“Nothing shocks me.” I heard that back at about ten years ago. It was an American girl, I don’t remember much about her, a friend of a friend. We were holed up in a student flat after a midweek night out and it focused us all on trying to disprove it. For the next few hours as we waited for the first bus we argued with her that she was, in fact, capable of being shocked.

I didn’t go to college but I drank with students at that age. We’d been to a Nite that no longer exist in a venue that’s changed owners a few times and danced to music we’d be embarrassed to admit now. After we headed back with our friends’ who were in NCAD. A good few of us piled in to the shared bedrooms of the purpose built accommodation on the edge of the city. It had thick walls and harsh angles. There wasn’t much going on, we weren’t going to kip there so were waiting it out til the buses started. We smoked out the small gap in the windows and used empty wine bottles for ashtray and listened to burnt CDs. The internet was ever present at the time but it was in terminals that you sat down at and not in our pockets. We kept the music and chat low trying to not disturb the straights in the rooms over. We’d been louder and had been cautioned the weeks before. It was pretty tame and of little note.

Then the American girl said very proudly that “nothing shocks me”. With all the jaded apathy of a craggy New York cop. It was a weird shell to drop on the conversation. We were talking about Queens of the Stone Age and other tripe before hand. Me and my friends all turned on her to dispute it. I think it was the pride with which she said it that irked me. It had that air of “I’ve seen things that would make YOU sick” but she wouldn’t blink an eye. I couldn’t get over it. It seemed like a premature grasp at maturity. We were young and on still pulling the seal off of the reality of life that was hidden from us as children. That era where you’re doe-eyed to the big bad world. Perhaps life for her had been tough and she’d to grow up fast. I was a late bloomer sure enough but I still doubted her claim. I didn’t feel that was what she was getting at.

What I was getting was in relation to that craze at the time, and today, of nasty images being circulated. You’d get tricked and click on an attachment only to see a load of old blokes sucking each other off. It’s a cheap prank because even though you wouldn’t rule out that old lads in the world suck each other off. You’ve probably not gotten to the point of reflection and set out to find images out of curiosity. And you definitely didn’t think you were just going to see it when you clicked an image called “lemonparty.jpg” on the PC in you parent’s kitchen. “You got me” you say when you see the sender and they can feel like the Prankmaster General. But the craze got too popular and in the race to forward the image on to all your mates many people got send multiple times. And as a result got very blasé about it. After you’ve seen it a hundred times the thrill is so long gone that you’ve forgotten if there ever, really, was any feeling. You start to think that you’ve gone beyond shocked. That you’d frankly love to be sent something that gave you any feeling in your numb body. Clicking through slideshows on chasing a kick as good as your first time. But there’s nothing and you eventually give up and decide that you’ve passed it. You’ve plunged earth and seen the bottom and now you have gone beyond caring.

That was the assumption I’d put on her and we spent the rest of the night coming up with scenarios that would surely shock her. “Say I shit into this wine bottle. Into this tiny hole. A big plump shite spilling over the edge.” That wouldn’t change her mind. “But what if I really did it? Like right now. You’d definitely be shocked. Some lads that you hardly know shitting in a wine bottle.” Nothing. We got annoyed that she wasn’t really considering us doing it.

I feel I also took it was an insult, a superiority thing. She being the grown up and me being the baby because I am regularly shocked to my core. And I accept that because I’ve no grasp on how much I don’t know yet. The world, primarily humans, have no end in sight with how low they can go. Every time I draw the line it gets pushed further back. The notion of  “shocked” is in something happening that is so unexpected that it affects us physically. That echoey lightness inside us that can take days to pass. That feeling of having to reevaluate how we look at life as we try to heal the tenderness inside. Feeling that bit raw inside, I think, makes people feel vulnerable and most of us don’t like that feeling and brace against it by trying to exploit it in others. So we get emails sent to us by the joker that’s already beyond the initial shock, lost that feeling and is trying to provoke it in others. The softies, the weeds, the babies. Those that need shocking the most.

But what’s gotten me thinking about this again is that these days I feel like I can’t get shocked anymore. Not talking about internet nasties. But in stories in the press. These atrocities, these tragedies, the political corruption. I’ve gone beyond that feeling beyond it affecting me. The watershed moment was probably on the 11th of September. The first international nasty that was sent to us all. That was just as I’d gone from baby school to the big kids school and it was time for me to grow up. This was the big bad world. Then there was the headlines months after about those American Soldiers in Abu Ghraib following and they shocked me, perhaps even more. There was depravity on both sides. And it just went on like that. In the world of 24 hour news today’s victim could be tomorrow’s oppressor and it just gets so much work to keep up that you just have to stop caring. “Did you hear about the firebombing of that school in Philippines?” Whatever. And I just get on with my day. You can mourn, you can tweet, you can say a little prayer but it’ll change fuck all and there’ll be another thing the next week. I get bored of the news to the point that the sharing or discussion of it now irritates me. “Can you believe the treatment they gave the immigrants?” Yes, I can because there no finish line on the race to the bottom. And perhaps part of it is that I’ve seen enough cycles of it at now that it just feels like a big wheel. Like in a water mill. Shock the ones that haven’t been jaded until they’re jaded and then they can shock the next batch coming through. Making you wanna do something. But there’s nothing you really can do but find out how it unfolds the next day, and the next day. It’ll send your head into a spin until you cut yourself off and just be done with it. But where does that leave you once you’ve  opted out of cycle of shock-propelled action by deciding to stop caring? Honestly I don’t know.

We left that student gaf with the air flattened by our insistence on driving our point home. The friends fell asleep, probably glad to be rid of us. I don’t remember if we seen that girl after. I feel bad now thinking of a bunch of lads shouting disgusting things at her to get her to admit that she was wrong. Threatening to defecate in bottles and all manner of vile things. She probably hated us. Which is deserved. And as I’ve said “shock” can be bled back and forth with “care”. When she said nothing shocked her she could have meant that she didn’t care about anything. She was beyond caring. Which would be handy when having to deal with a prick prattling on at ya.

Mark Baldwin – 2018

Slots Madaigan – A Short Story

A tattered, beer dripped tricolour whipped limply from the bedsit window of his privately run Dublin 2 apartment building. There wasn’t a match on and paddy’s was half a year away but Slots Madigan just wanted his world to know he was Irish. There were too many of “them lot” living around him now. Flats full of lads kipping after their night shifts, full families in two beds and orientals using coke a cola to cook up a hall-filling stink. You’d swear you weren’t in Ireland. People like him were now a minority in their own country. That fact, and his sweaty duvet, kept him awake at night. The New EU Order are out to dilute the continent into one mixed up race by opening the floodgates of every country and letting every Tom, Dick and Haji swarm the place. Our national identity is gone. Drowned in international waters in a blue bag poorly embroidered with a circle of useless stars. There’ll be a black lad reading the news soon enough. He didn’t have a problem with that if it was for their news but it was his news. News from his country, about his people, issues that affect him. He’s not involved with what happens in caves in the middle east, he’s got his own problems. Like them squatters in Ireland’s attic.

He’s only concerned about his safety. They could be letting all sorts of villains and scoundrels in. They need to tighten up the whole thing like in that show Nothing to Declare which he watches every day on the chipped screen of his portable. They stop them from coming in for anything. A few bags of nuts and they’re kicked out. Blinking in their passport photo: out. Coke dust on their belt: out. Even if they just look sketchy they don’t even flinch, they just throw them back on the next return flight. And that’s why Australia has the best quality of life on the planet. There they just go to the beach and slam lagers in the beaming sun. Sounds like paradise to him. If he could ever save up the money he was going to move there. No question about it. But he wasn’t going anywhere that class tonight. He wasn’t even going to head to the metro-chain shop cross the street. It was fowl out. The rain was whipping spits of rain against his only window as the dark fell on all the dredge of workers evacuating the city leaving him probably the only true Dub in a half-mile radius. It was like rats in New York. They were multiplying quicker than you could dash their heads off a wall. He pooled together the shrapnel from the back pockets of the trousers that were forming a heap under his wardrobe. Bout forty pence shy of a fiver. There goes his dreams of a four-in-one. Even a three-in-one with delivery seemed unlikely. Slots frowned at his change for only being enough for a curry chips. Nothing in Slots life ever went well. Luck was reserved for others. And that was a fact Slots had long ago accepted. Our day wasn’t going to come.

Mark Baldwin 2011


I was told that in Japan they have what’s called “Salarymen”. They’re, usually, men that have devoted their whole lives to the companies that they work for. Young men often go straight from college to the job until their retirement and it’s seen as the standard white collar trajectory. I was talking to this guy before who’d worked in Japan for a while. He was Russian and was translating games for Sega. He said he’d see them in their suits and long jackets pouring onto the trains and out onto the streets in the mornings. Then seen chain smoking outside all the skyscrapers and office blocks and then drinking heavily  at hostess or karaoke bars, either with clients or with each other. He said they were like zombies. They’d cut through the city, morning or night, the same paths they’d always made. If you ran in to one they’d just stand still vacantly and wait for you to move so they could pass.

I’m fascinated by the images of them getting messy drunk every night of the week. Those “pod hotels” that were world famous as the smallest hotels aren’t actually for tourists. They’re for Salarymen to pass out in and then head to work first thing in the morning. As an alternative to sleeping on the street or on a train. Home wasn’t that important. They’d support their families. But the main thrust in life for them was the betterment of society. It was through their dedication to the company that they were able to benefit society as a whole. It wasn’t just on being happy with your lot. There’s no individualism. They give all their life to the company. And in return the company would give them a salary. And strip back everything else about them that makes them human. Although that’s what I think.

We mightn’t have a name for it in the Ireland but we definitely have salarymen and salarywomen here. Though we try to blend it in with individualism where we spend the salary on stuff for “ourselves”. Food, clothes, holidays, movies, concerts. We get the best and we get the latest. We’ve been working hard all week, we are not going to miss out what’s to have. Yet the creep goes from what we can spend from working to working for what we’ve spent. That loan for the car, the exotic holiday, the spectacular wedding, the overpriced mortgage. Work for time you work. And spend for the time you’re not working. Spend a little after a day’s work. Spend more after a week’s work. Splurge after a years work. Let the debt spike up. And we’re happy to do it. Maybe the salarymen are happy to do it. Maybe they’ve just come to terms with it, that their life will be that office, those people, that commute. And they just get to it. They’re helping the company that is doing something bigger, contributing to the tentpoles of the economy and the society. Here we hate our companies. We don’t care what they do. We bad mouth them while we work. We take their money and we run. But always come running back for more. Work and spend and hope they balance out by our end.

In an office job I’m working at now there was talk about this six horse accumulator that had won the night before. 20 quid would have gotten €62,000. The fact that it had been won let us all believe that we could also win. And we all started to dream. My dream was, and still is, to quit the job. Just not turn up the next day. Stay in bed and try stretch it so you can live on little and you’d not have to work for a few years. But I was the only one. Everyone else was talking about it going on the weddings and the deposits for the mortgage. If they won sixty two grand most people would go to work the next day. The money propels the spending forward. It’s not a prize at the end it’s a boost forward. The race still to be run.

My ideal self would be having enough to be able to work on creating stuff and experiencing what others have made. But I got carried away with that lifestyle. I had a show, a cartoon called Ends Meet, on tv a few years ago and I lived the dream. Only the dream ran out of petrol and now I’m working in a call centre in an industrial estate. I fantasise about being able to quit everyday. Yearning for the second that I can walk out the door and never have to listen to a customer get snippy with me at nine in the morning. I hate the company. I won’t even admit to my artistic friends what I’m doing. The money is just going towards me not having to work there. I get home worn out and I’d rather just relax when I get off but if I do nothing creative then all I’ve done that day is work for the company. And I hate the company. I’m not going to give myself 100% to the company. I have to leave something for me. A few hours of making something that I’ll enjoy and can try to get me out of the job again. I’m working so I can hopefully work really hard again on something I’m passionate about. The TV show took the best part of three years , from pitch to airing. And there was no clocking out at 5pm every day like there is in the job now. And I’m reconditioning myself into thinking that it’ll all be better once again, the early mornings, the repetition, the drawn out decisions, the stress that you’re making the wrong decisions. The weight of it all will be better because I care about it.

Maybe that’s what the Salarymen do. They care what they do and that helps them do it. Is it better to take the money and have the decency to have gratitude to the faceless corporation that’s giving it to you? Accept my role in the day to day, week to week, year to year. Be proud of being that necessary cog in that mammoth machine. I could just adopt that thinking. I should go to work and slot in and help the bigger cogs turn. It’s me there and I’m helping something bigger than me. And be proud of that. Focus on my purpose. And if anyone gets in the way as I head to the office in the morning. I’ll just, politely, wait for them to move aside and continue on my way without a fuss.

Mark Baldwin 2018

Deb Byrne – A Short Story

You’d need a fucking long distance gun with the scum on tinder. Fucking army of chancers. You get fifty lads with photos of them and their arsehole mates swilling pints and covered in sweat from their limp haircuts to their mangy beer bellies. Fucking Give-it-a-go dopes. Yeah I know I’m not some stick insect skinny bitch but I can guarantee I’m a better ride than them frigid bony moaners. So after you get the fifty saps you get about five benders that just don’t know it yet. You know the ones with their beards and long hair, Who’d want a lad that takes longer to get ready than you? And then there’s some business turds that look like they’re just trying to save money from fucking brazzers. Not this bird mind. I’m not that kinda street scum. It’s so hard to just find a lad that’d want to romance you, to be on his toes around ya, that’d put up with my mood swings and that’ll know what I want before I ask, or before I even know I want it. That’s what I want. I wanna be adored and cherished. The lads that you get that do match with ya, nine and a half times out of ten, they turn into creeps. Creeps think that just cause there’s “more of you to love” there’s less effort they’ve to make. They think that a big girl must be delighted with getting their attention that the bird will let them do whatever fucked up shit they want to do to ya. This one lad sent me a picture of his two mates, asking if I fancied a bleeding bukkae with the three of them. No chance twats. And then bounces from my rebuttal with “Go on ya fat bitch. You’d love to eat our cum ya cow”. I’d love to smash a pint glass into his nose.

I’d been on the dreaded thing for about five or six months. On and off like. The odd spurt and binge here and there if there was a promising lad but usually they all turn into the same arsehole. But just when I was giving the app the ultimatum, I was going to delete it in the next month, this lad comes out a nowhere and is chatting all sweet and that. It could be a long con, don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of that. But I’m not sending him money or making any daft promises to him like. I’m just seeing where it goes with me guard well and truly held up.

His name was Murphy. Don’t know wether that was first or last. He worked in an office. Something to do with a bank but not actually a bank. He looked decent enough too. He was salt and pepper. Like if Clooney had an irish cousin and I will admit I fancied him. He seemed to be chirpy enough. But like I’m all smiles and rainbows online and around people but when I’m alone I’m a big sour mess. So I’ll take that with a pinch. He’d been chatting me for ages, like the day after valentine’s day. Probably the busiest day on tinder. But we found each other. He wasn’t too good to be true. Like he always said “Ya better believe it” and that ran me up the wrong way. He would act like I was a fool sometimes and was looking like a slapped arse baboon in shock at all these “Mad Things” he’d say. But to be honest I didn’t give a fuck what he was talking about the majority of the time. I don’t think passed the tip of me nose to be honest.

He’d arranged a date. Well he’d arrange a few but like if you come across to eager you come across like a panicked spinster. So I rain checked a few of them but looked like I’d to meet him now or I was going to put him off and he’d drop off the radar. We were going for drinks, I said the Gin Palace cause I’m a G and T expert. He knew that already though. If he ordered a beer I’d probably walk out after he gave me fare for a taxi. But when I arrived, at my own time, he was sitting there in the corner with two G and Ts. His was half empty and mine was sitting there.

“How longs that been there?” I asked.

“Oh only about fifteen minutes”

“Get us a new one, that ones probably gone flat and warm.”

“No problem Debra.”

I took off some layers as he went to the bar. He came back with a fresh one.

“Thank you Murphy.”

“Not at all.”

“You not giving them that one to throw out?” I says pointing to my old drink.

“No I’ll drink that.”

“But it’s all warm and flat.”

“I don’t mind.”

My alarm bells were ringing. What does he mean when he says he’d drink a gone off drink? Was he an alco? Or has he just got really low standards? If he’s on a date with me he better not have low standards with the effort I put in to me hair, garb and slap.

“Don’t be mouldy Murphy”

“It’s grand. I’ll have it.”

Ding-a-ling went the bells.

“Just throw it away and get a new one for yourself.”

“I don’t like wasting drink and it was about eight quid.”

“So money’s a problem with ya?” I all but grabbed me coat.

“Nah, it’s just waste I hate.”

“Do you not use bins? Does your house look like a tip?”

“Hahaha. No it’s pretty clean.“

“It’d fucking better be. Excuse my language.”

“No worries. So how was your day? Were you working?”

“Yeah I was in the call centre.”

“Oh nice.”

I wan’t liking his tone. He was trying to butter me up for something I could just tell. He was like one of those creeps the reads about tricks and stuff online. All these little subliminal scams and cons. They act all nice and normal. Supernatural normal that it’s subnormal. And get right under your skull without you realizing it and then you end up with them doing ya up the arse. I’ve heard tales of this too many times and I was not going to fall for it. So I turned the table on him to see what he really felt about long term.

“Were you ever married?” I ask.

“Not yet. No.”

“But you’d like to?”

“Of course, is that not what everyone wants?”


“Not that I know.” and he gives a dumb grin.

“What’s that mean? You fuck every girl in town once and then never see them?”

“Not at all, it’s just a joke, I’m pretending to brag about prowess. Badly.”

“Do you want kids?”

“Of course. Wouldn’t you?”

It felt like he all but was measuring up me womb and judging if it could incubate all these children that he wants.

“I’ll have kids when all the pedophiles are dead.”

“Oh… right”

“Sorry but that’s just my stance. There’s no point bring kids into this world with all those pedos lurking behind every bush and tree.”

“Ah no I get you. But isn’t that going to be a bit difficult?”

“I don’t care.” I start putting me phone and all in me bag. “That’s how I feel and if that’s not something you care about then we might as well leave it there.”

I get up and put me coat on.

“Oh I’m sorry if I was curt. I didn’t mean anything judgemental.” He goes.

“Well… ya did.”

“Please, I’m sorry.”

“Well.” I swing me bad on to me shoulder, “Maybe you can cry into your stale drink, ya alco.”

And I head out with my head held high. I don’t wanna hear another thing from him. I get a taxi home and order a curry. It was an absolute waste of time. I’d gotten new clothes, used up a ton of slap and slept on curlers last night. And all for some twat that doesn’t know a thing about me or what i want. I deleted tinder that night. I don’t need that shite. Fuck them all.

Mark Baldwin 2018

Snot Nose Sullivan – A Short Story

Little snot nose Sullivan had all grown up. Well by law anyway. Since his birthday last month he could now be tried as an adult. That’s the state telling you you’re a man. It had been a nothing day for him so far. But the night was kicking off. “The boys” were on-form, hanging at the back of the bus. Four porn trained shaggers ready to set aim on Dublin city’s sweaty humping nightlife. They were heading in from City West dressed in their shitty vests. A pink tee that hung on him like the wrapper on a Wham Bar. He had lost the scally fringe from boyhood and was banging the slick rick military jobby look. He figured himself as a bit of a solider in the war of crushing that pussy. The vodka and Jolt on the bus was giving him the sweats and making his skin red like a freshly slapped arse. But oh boy was the craic mighty. The banter bus was breaking all the red lights and bombing towards the perfect night out. There was that glittery fizz in the air like speckled yips that crumble before you touch them. This was going to be The Night. The boys were looking like Jack Jones models, even Trevor was looking good and he usually looks like buff bar lizard.

Sullivan swallowed gob-fulls of his jazzy cocktail between rounds of loudly regurgitating mangled jokes they’d heard on a panel show on tv the night before which they thought they were the only ones who watched and were therefore happy to pass off as their own. The bus was empty bar a few foreigners but they don’t count. The heave-ho of the trundling bus made Sullivan’s gut-juice tsunami but he’d be fine once he was on terra-firma.

But this stop was worth it. Two girlos with legs from the floor to their arse bambi-walked up the stairs and sat in the middle of the bus. The boys were obviously sitting at the back, prevailing their authority like the Kings they were. The girls were noticed. Cueing the hollers from the boys. Cue the look back and the tutting. They were now involved in the game of sexes and hoes. Sullivan and The Boys were split between two camps. Most of the boys were fine with the banter for banter’s sake but fuck it going anywhere beyond the 65b bus. Ya pull a bird you’re going to be wineing and dining her all night and it’s only half eleven. That’s a shit load of vodka red bulls and she can get back on the boat if she thinks you’re going to share your shoulder of Huzzar with her. She doesn’t plan ahead she can go and shite. Warm up a few slappers in the club, secure the after party and sign the deal there.

But Sullivan was feeling like tonight was special. Like the brew of a British tramp. He could do anything his grisly heart could dream of tonight. He was going to get the ride before he even hit the queue of the club. It’s never been done in his circle of lads but that only meant he had to do it. Sullivan was going to become infamous after this. He’d be up there in a part of legend-dom only reserved for VIPs with bottle service on the mother fucking house. He gave his plastic silver bottle of wicked piss a swirl and poured three swallows worth of swag petrol down his throat. Gave the boys the divel eyes and sauntered up the aisle to the seats opposite the girls almost out of earshot of the whoop and wooes of the party peasants down the back.

He got a closer eye full of the pretty little things. They were both decent looking but if he had to give the hottest bird award to one of them then it would go to the one with the bigger tits, hands down. But he’d settle for either. After all this is just the bang before the blowout. The queen of the sheets will be at the club once he’s vetted the riff raff by wearing the face off a couple of frogs. The girls roll their eyes to each other. As girls have a tendency to do to him these days. Where the fuck do birds get off? He thought to himself, then took a fresh swig to stop thinking so negatively.

He asks them where they’re headed tonight and starts the ball rolling on that. The pre-ride tennis match begins with the balls flying back and forth. Sullivan chats real casual with them while slowly amping the familiarity. This could actually happen. He thinks to himself. The giddy cock-numskull in his head even make him feel he could get a double team going on. That would mean he’d never have to do anything else of worth in his life. He could float down the Liffey in a boat as the whole city salutes him. That would be so fucking class. He thinks and drinks. The caffeine and alcohol are now working in tandem to keep a steady supply of words coming out of his mouth. It’s too easy. He says things and they answer and the bus is only half way there so all he got to do is keep it up til town then get off with them and then “get off” with them. That phrase made him smile but then sad that he couldn’t use it on them. There’d be others he assured himself.

The bus jerked him mid-thought. He lost track of the formalities he was spinning but fuck that it was time for a different tact. He got hush and asked them did they want pills. They huddled in. He had yips alright. They were his for the night but he could spare two anyway. Well maybe a half each. They wanted them. Grand job. Now he had a reason for taking them down an alley.

This was easy as fuck. Two blowies, a poke with a warm up poke, the club with the boys, burp, banter to the extreme, all you can meet buffet, burp, fill the balls back up, get yipped out of it, squeezing away for the right arse, an after party with a stunner, burp, then riding rotten for hours, then work tomorrow. But he could worry about that later, that was tomorrow’s problem.

But what was with that wobble? The bus was spinning around like a Guinness shit that won’t flush. Oh don’t think about drink. Fuck. That fucking driver needs to stop jerking the bus. His mouth shut tight. There was bulging in his mouth-to-gut pipe. Serious stuff. A swig would send it back. His eyes watered from the nasty fume of his potion. Down the hatch, quick as fuck. Time needs to start moving forward. There was a stone silence. The bubbles trickled down his tongue but it felt like the dribble fuckers had shown the rest of the belly soup where the exit was and like the gush of a broken rain pipe the sick came pouring out.

He didn’t hit the girls, he didn’t think so anyway. Critical mode kicked in. He was vertical. Staggering off the bus through the fragments of vision his gee-eyes could make out. The driver didn’t stop immediately. The second empting did that for him. And Sullivan was off the bus in fuck knows where. There was grass by the curb. That would now be his gurney. The cold damp muck felt great and there was enough of it to shift around in as the rest of it seeped in sick.

When he felt the damage was done Snot-Nose Sullivan rolled his head upwards. The night sky was clear and there was a fresh chill in the air. He looked up at the stars. It was just him and them, if there was anyone out there. He didn’t feel so alone. It was almost a beautiful moment. Almost til he accepted that he was not going to stand for the foreseeable future so he let it go and tried to enjoy the warm trickle that started flowing through his boot cut blue jeans.

Mark Baldwin 2011