A Window To The World


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& Other Stories

By Aubrey Malone

ISBN: 978-1-78382-133-4
Published: 2014
Pages: 208
Key Themes: Mental Health, Short Stories, Family, Relationships


The title story of this collection deals with a young man’s relationship with
his parents after his father runs off with another woman. Many of the others
also deal with dysfunctional relationships and the price they exact, which is
sometimes too high for the people involved to pay.

Aubrey Malone has published one previous book with Chipmunka,
The Foggy Ruins of Time. He lives in Dublin.

Book Extract

The trees are wet. I sit listening to Joan Baez singing Bob Dylan’s ‘Love is Just a Four-Lettered Word’ on my fifth-hand hi-fi. It’s at maximum volume to drown out the tears of my daughter crying upstairs. My second wife has just served me with divorce papers.

My first marriage lasted the proverbial five minutes so there’s not much point dwelling on that. The next time I tried the institution I promised myself I wouldn’t make the same mistakes and I held to that. I just made new ones instead.

We’d been in college together, Sandy and me, and I felt that would be an asset. But sometimes you can know someone too well. It spoils the mystery of finding out how horrible you both are.

Maybe we weren’t horrible, just deluded. We foolishly believed ‘Love me forever’ wouldn’t translate into ‘Help me make it through the night’.

After graduation we hawked around France picking grapes but I preferred the wine they turned into afterwards. ‘You’re boring when you’re drunk,’ she informed me. I told her I was even more boring when I was sober. She tentatively conceded that might be true but she still agreed to marry me. ‘It will be an interesting experiment,’ she said. It was, but it was an experiment that failed. Sometimes we made the Borgias look like Walt Disney.

When she was moving out she used a line that might have come from Oprah, a TV show she liked: ‘We’ve been growing apart for a long time’. This was a bit of an understatement. If we were any further away from one another we’d have been in outer space.

We divorced soon afterwards, which shocked me more than anything else. I’m a Catholic and we believe in the perpetual state of masochism. Murder maybe, divorce never.

She told me I was in love with my suffering. Suffering, of course, was another excuse to drink. Not that I needed any of these. Being alive usually seemed enough.

After she was gone I chucked in the job,. This was often the way things went with me: once one part of my life fell apart, another one followed. I lost pride in my appearance and started hanging around the house in clothes a hobo would have discarded. I knew I couldn’t go on like this forever. There was also the small matter of a mortgage to be paid. And children to be fed.

In desperation I started driving a taxi to make ends meet. In time it became a liberation of sorts. Being constantly on the move stopped me having to think about the fact that I was going nowhere fast.

I tried to convince myself that each passenger I carried held the secret of eternal life to give me a reason to get up in the morning. For a while it worked. I had, after all, always been good at obsessiveness. Obsessively in love with first wife (for five minutes), obsessively in love with Sandy (for seven years), obsessively in love with booze (forever).

I wrapped the taxi around a lamp-post one night while drinking on the job and that was the end of both of them. And nearly me. The people in Casualty called it a miraculous escape. At the time I could hardly see any escape as being miraculous. Sandy’s theory was that I was probably trying to do myself in. That was probably closer to the mark. ‘The ultimate loser,’ I announced, ‘a failed suicide.’

Sandy did flexi-time in a property developer’s firm to put bread on the table. Meanwhile I signed on and became a house-husband. ‘The New Man,’ she snorted, ‘bonding with his children through a haze of cocktails.’ She had a venomous tongue but I could hardly blame her for it. She had, after all, inherited it for me.

She eventually met another man. I accused him of being a nerd but of course I would say that, wouldn’t I? The first time she came home with him I told him it was way past his bedtime. He looked that young. Or was it me growing prematurely old?

I wanted to hit him and I think she did too. It would have brought some kind of closure to what we had. (‘Closure’ was another term she picked up from Oprah). But I refused to give her that luxury. A few nights later she bundled some gladrags into a case and bade me adieu.

That was eight months, three weeks, four days and about fifteen hours and thirty-seven seconds ago. As you can see, I’ve almost totally forgotten her.

She muttered something about coming back for the children but she never did. Maybe that threw me more than anything else. She once told me she never had the maternal instinct, that having children was just ‘something people did’. I didn’t believe her then and I’m not sure I do now. Maybe her new boyfriend is messing with her head.

When she takes the kids out for days she’s odd with them. Why? I don’t look for explanations anymore. All I know is I have them now and they keep me sane, at least some of the time. And I keep them sane, at least some of the time. (But we have better fun when we’re all being insane together).

How does she not miss them? Sometimes I think of Meryl Streep in the film Kramer Versus Kramer, peeping out at Dustin Hoffman and their son from behind bushes after she walked out on the marriage. Does Sandy do the same with me? Sometimes when I’m walking down to the shops with them I get the eerie feeling she’s nearby, keeping an eye on her bewildered ex to see how he’ s faring out. Or better still, not faring out.


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