McGahern Knew His Dead Animals

Irish author, John McGahern, known for his simplicity of prose, writes the following in his 1990 acclaimed novel Amongst Women: The cut field looked completely empty and clean. As Rose and the girls were crossing the grass to the tractor, they almost stumbled over a hen pheasant sitting on her nest. They were startled that she didn’t fly until they saw the feathers on the cut grass. The legs had been cut clean from her while she sat.

Not a pheasant nor missing legs…but on its way out

Her eyes were shining and alive, a taut stillness over the neck and body, petrified in her instinct. “The poor thing,” Rose said. “Still sitting there.” Neither could bring themselves to look again. All that was left of the hen the next morning was a little scattering of down and feathers on the drying grass. “A fox or a cat or a grey crow. Who knows?”

Miserable? Don’t Talk About it.

“How are you doing?” Yeah, well, I have this thing with the night sweats and being unable to stop my brain and not knowing what the hell is going on with my life and thinking I’m just not where I should be. But aside from that, well, yeah, all is good.

No one wants to hear about it. I sure as hell don’t. Nobody does. Not even the Facebook algorithm. (They blocked my previous post about the Anti-Wilhelm Grunt, implying that I was suicidal. Got to think about that one.)

I knew a guy from Croatia named Milan who complained about everything.

“How are you doing, Milan?”

“Well, I’ve got the rash on my arm. And my knee is a little tight. And my digestion. Never been worse.”

I never asked him again. It’s just a pleasantry and we should just all get it together and move on. It’s a new day. We’re alive and the sun is shining. Even if it isn’t.

Post a lovely picture of food and talk about an exciting new series. And what about getting laid! There’s music and dreams and amazing new things to come. And what about getting laid?!?! Who cares if we all sound like cows in the field waiting to get slaughtered? Relax. Look on the cud side.

So, yeah, it’s okay to be down. It’s okay to talk about it. Just nobody will listen. Including me.

Good Ole Death

I left, half expecting her to be beside me, but she wasn’t and I found myself alone on a darkened path going toward the harbor. I listened to the sound of my shoes on the cement, sharp and clear and then gone.

There was always death, an expiring, a no longer. The world as only I know it – my memories – all of that done. Then nothing, a stone, dead and gone. Whatever I did, good or bad, it was just some story.

“Anori” Extract: A Father’s Death

I’ll tell you what I did when he died. Do you want to hear that misery? I took sleeping pills. I drank, like my father. I shut everything off. And then I was in Grand Central, waiting for the train. I had a beer. I was at the stand at Track 106. There’s a stand there. It’s called Bar Car. I had a can of Budweiser, a 16-ounce can.

I took that 16-ounce can to that old marble counter against the wall, with the brass railing, working guys talking about their wives and installers, checking their phones, and all of these people walking past, old men racing to catch their trains, little trolleys wheeled around with broken wheels, the tabloids arriving in stacks, the shoeshine girl staring out.

I had another beer, another 16-ounce can. I stood and watched. There was this crazed guy with a perfectly trimmed beard and then these lost ladies from Japan, a woman floating by, her portfolio tucked at her breast. I was completely still, drinking my beer. That was it, the moment I knew he wasn’t there. That’s when I understood, or I should say pretended to understand that he wasn’t coming back.