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