A collection of short stories The Shorts of Arthur Shilling will be available soon. In the meantime, here’s a taster. The below is a short story that was recently selected to appear in the City of Stories anthology.
Unshackled then Freed
Work hard all your life and then retire. Be happy. Finally. Do what you’ve always wanted to do. Buy a boat. Live on a boat. Escape the life you never escaped from. Mum dead. Dad dead. Wife dead. No one to judge. No one to offer advice that is in truth opinion. Narrow opinion.
Buy a boat. Buy a narrow boat. Irony our one faithful friend? Laugh. Ha. No. Don’t. Don’t fake it. Don’t revert to the safety of cynicism. Not anymore. Don’t allow it. Don’t sully the dream. Sell the farm. Buy a boat. Sail away. Or stay in the Bay. But have the option. Allow the possibility. Buy a boat.
The north-west of Ireland is rich only in folklore. The land is rocky, barren, boggy. The mountain folk tough but traditionally impoverished. Sell the farm and buy a small boat. But sell the farm.
He did. Jason did. Jason Midwinter Reilly. He sold the farm at the age of 73 and he bought a boat. The locals laughed. They mocked him gently at the bar and savagely when he left. When he escaped. He knew they would. He knew the rules. He wasn’t living in Dublin. Or even Cavan town. He’d done what none would do. He’d bought a boat in Bantry Bay. He’d traded security in favour of the unknown.
Jason knew nothing of boats. He wouldn’t sail until he was ready. He lived aboard a boat that stayed moored. September. October. November. Sea air and bracing walks. Cigarettes and seagulls. Ma Murphy’s for occasional libation. A quiet pint in a quiet corner. Contemplation under the shadow of Wolfe Tone’s statue. Reflection on rebellion. Jason missed his horses but it had been fairest to release them too. On Tuesdays he bought sausage rolls from the Box of Frogs bakery.
The storm came on a Thursday. Market day back in Leitrim. The boat was moored in a very summerly fashion. Jason Midwinter Reilly took his first voyage at 3 am on Friday. The wreckage was found six weeks later. Jason had not been reported missing.
News eventually spread and glasses were raised back home. They were pints of two halves. Jars of salute. Jars of satisfaction.