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époque press
pronounced: /epƏk/
definition: /time/era/period


Haulie has a nose for money.  It doesn’t come his way no matter what he offers up, but he can smell it.  There’s a right smell off money. Paper, tobacco. Coppers, lambing season. Silver, vinegar.  Money is his godhead.  He believes in it though he’s never seen enough for proof.  Faith is believing what he’s sure isn’t so.  Ticket out of Polgarve for good this time.  Home again since the building work dried up a year back. All grand at first, no rent and the Da not minding the company though he’d rather rattle round on his own.  Doesn’t pass comment on the odd female brought home, t-shirt and knickers at the breakfast table, half a blowjob one very disappointing morning. No comment, either, on Haulie’s hints the last few months about getting money together for Australia.  No wiser words than no comment.  Haulie flushes twice, slips on a t-shirt and jeans, a biker jacket from richer days, and hits the streets.



Jesus Christ oh God God God oh Jesus Christ Jesus and Haulie’s in a state he doesn’t know if he’s praying or beyond prayer and it’s all coming back the room the vase her wheezing and oh Jesus Jesus fuck what now



Souring stomach wakes Haulie to morning quietness.  Ten on the nose.  Roll out of the scratcher, trip over jeans hung up on the floor, just it in time to spew Saturday’s beers down the toilet.  On the nose.  Scaldy.  On his knees a roaring in his skull.  Mouth rinsed, looking in presses for the cure, sees the washable marker scrawl on the fridge.  Palm Sunday, Micheál, if you’re up.  Long mass of a Palm Sunday, near two hours of holy show in the Friary, the whole town at it.  Time to relax, empty house, empty town.  Empty stomach somersaults. Doubled over in the downstairs bog, beery spittle earths him to the toilet, electric jolts make light pictures behind his eyes.  Sober, he’d laugh at drunks as bad as himself and knock back another Jaegerbomb. Drinking canned piss from the offy so long the joy of real drink is legendary.  Brandy and port the cure and damn the chance of it.  Unfairness buckles him again and the light pictures take shape. Fat Face’s moony good morning sliding down city nose at the peasantry. The wife in her Nike vest jogging through town early of a morning, mighty breasts bouncing from side to side – just do it, absolutely he would.  She’ll be running now, and he’ll be putting on his golf shoes down the club.  Sunday morning taking shape. One press-up from the bowl, exercise enough.  Find the cure.  Just do it.



It was a vase Haulie upskittled on the wooden floor.  Noise and crystal everywhere and flowers in a pool of water.  Moment of panic.  Someone must have seen him on his way, a curtain twitcher, CCTV somewhere, or they’ll guess by process of elimination.  His name in the wrong ear is a whisper waiting to take flight.  Not his name alone, sure what’s a name only a borrowed reputation, a handle to say you’re cut from your Ma and Da and them from theirs, back all the generations and not a spanner in the gene pool till now?  Haulie’s name, his nearest and dearests’, will fire up the gossips.  Pollen on his trainers, footprints on the floor, not to mention all the rest of him there.  Deed and seed, he needs to get out, before the sound of the whisper that’ll kill the Da, have the Ma turning.  First though, deep breaths, get the head right.  The bones of an idea coming to him.



… so quiet.  And still.  Haulie unwinds himself from her and puts his hand on broken glass. It’s a small cut for so much blood only he’s not the one cut – not that badly – and she must have landed on it, or twisted on it, but there’s a piece of glass ground into her thigh and the wound stops gushing as he watches.  She stares into space, accusing, so quiet and still.



They’re rolling on the lounge floor, her clawing and screeching, name-calling, shouting that her husband is only out for the Sunday papers and he’ll be home soon to beat seven shades out of Haulie if she doesn’t first.  Grabbing, restraining, he knocks something on the floor, then somehow her singlet’s torn and his clothes are loosed and she’s up against a sofa and he’s mad because she’s home early from her run.  How is this his fault?  Ten minutes.  He’d have been gone and no-one any the wiser, but here’s this blow-in, bucking and threshing under him and in his head they’re both shouting yes yes and he’s excited at the notion that she wants it too and he’s doing things he can’t remember doing but he must have done and afterwards she’s getting quiet so, so quiet so…



She snatches the box of photos from Haulie and pushes him hard, calls him a thief and all sorts he doesn’t expect from someone who usually gives off an air of being bred not raised. No use saying he hasn’t taken anything and her photo in his pocket makes it a lie anyway.  She pushes him again and he breaks away not wanting to make it worse, shouting it was all a mistake – he heard a noise passing and this is the thanks he gets, is it? – and he retreats up the corridor towards the lounge.  There’s hesitation in her pushing like she’s having second thoughts that maybe Haulie is telling the truth. Into the lounge and she’s stopped swearing and pushing and he’s smiling hard to convince her and almost has when the bottom rips out of the plastic bag and out falls the Remy Martin and she screeches you scummy little fucker, launches herself at him like a rocket with claws and teeth and tits, and them the most dangerous of all.



For all his trouble, there’s nothing he dares take afterwards. Too risky getting drunk and flashing the cash and no way he wants a keepsake, not even the photo. Haulie knows it has to end with bleach and he wipes her down gently though it’s a fierce dirty job. She stares at him with an awful angry look when he goes to work around her hips and belly like she’s going to jump bolt upright and bollock him out of it over what he’s thinking. He’s thinking maybe if Fat Face hasn’t gone golfing then maybe nobody knows where he is.  Haulie’s watched enough crime shows to know the cops always pin it on the husband because that’s who everybody thinks of first so why let the lynch mob down? He breaks more glassware and ornaments so the house looks like the afters of a domestic.  He rips the photo of her in two, gives himself a pat on the back for that, and phones the Guards anonymously from the payphone in the village.  If someone has to swing it won’t be him. All he has to do is sit tight and ride it out and everything will be grand, and he can see himself on the evening news talking with a nodding reporter, it’s such a quiet place nothing like that ever happens round Polgarve and he seemed so normal you just never know it’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it? No sweating, sit tight, Haulie, it’ll be just fine.



The stuff Haulie finds in their bedroom!  Fat Face has an eye for a photo.  Haulie can hear him out with the golfing lads, lads the wife’s an internet porn star she’ll kill me if she finds out, and them all laughing, even if every one of them is wishing he could have a go all the same, and Haulie’s imagination runs wild.  He pockets a photo from a box, pawing at more of her, lingerie on, off, lying, sitting, pouting, kneeling, staring down the lens, over her shoulder, standing, glaring, one ear of her headphones slipped between the sweat-glistening valley of her breasts in the Nike vest and hears her voice what the actual fuck are you doing in our house and there she is in the flesh and the spicy unwashed scent of her after her run hits him like the rush off of dexies and there’s nothing nothing in this world or universe he wants more than to get high so totally out of his mind and body on her.



Fat Face and the wife moved to Polgarve six months back.  Bought Doc Shield’s Georgian pile on Doctors’ Road, three acres of gardens, a coach house and a year renovating before moving in nudged the price to record gossip levels.  Made their millions as landlords picking up property Haulie might’ve wired in his apprenticeship, black mould painted over, mouse-shit included for free.  No-one in their right mind would rent them.  Like no-one in their right mind would live in Polgarve.  But one day there was Fat Face and the wife skiting round with their Maserati and Gucci, flaunting it, asking the hotel barman for prosecco and the barman blowing shite till the wee lounge girl ran back from Lidl’s with a bottle for a tenner he charged them forty quid for and them knocking it back good-oh saying how subtle it was on the palate.  The barman told Haulie they were spending money like it was going out of fashion, best of everything in that house – cheaper paper it with cash than the wallpaper they ordered from abroad – and Haulie nodding in agreement that he’d like a bit of that for himself.  And there he is now, hands in his jeans, nothing to jingle only his balls, sauntering past the Friary church, down the back lane behind the primary school and he’s going to have a peep in the window just to see, like, that’s all, but the duct tape in his jacket and a stone are handy finds, and the utility window breaks too easily.  Nothing to see there, rank bang of detergent, a bottle of bleach on the counter.  On into the house gawking at their stuff, please, sir, can I have the plasma TV and iPads?  Crystal vases of orchids and lilies, a wine-rack in the kitchen will do if they’ve nothing stronger, but in the lounge the jackpot – Remy Martin in an open cupboard, Jameson Twelve Year Old as well.  A wallet and purse on the coffee-table.  He could just take the money, but these are the dogs. Valentino and Radley, smell that leather promise of a lifestyle. Into a plastic bag from the kitchen, along with the booze.  Off he goes exploring, flopping on sofas, flicking crystal bowls with his nail to hear them ping.  Down a corridor he finds the master bedroom, tests the bed, opens and closes drawers and wardrobes, admires the heft of a Breitling, ah too hot, and puts it back in its box.  Haulie appreciates the good things, the house, the car, the trophy wife.  He’ll be a self-made man, someday, revelling in his own creation.  It’s all about desiring the right stuff, having faith, bending the universe to his will.  He’ll get what’s due to him, someday, the whole kit and caboodle of it.  Won’t he just.


Kevin Hora has written two academic books and a chapbook of short stories which won the inaugural Roscommon County Council Chapbook bursary award in Ireland. He has been shortlisted for several writing awards, had stories in anthologies alongside John McGahern and Brian O’Doherty, and been broadcast on radio. He lives in Dublin.

Of the story featured here, Kevin says:


‘Destructive desire is the theme of From Fire and Cloud and Darkness Given. The title borrows from the origins of the Ten Commandments: the story can be read using the sequence of the commandments, to create a narrative with a fractured chronology that mirrors the main character’s inner chaos; or as a linear narrative using the time indicators. The idea of deconstructing came from a writing class with Mike McCormack, and his story A is for Ax.’

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