Monday, 22 September 2014


Thanks to Nerilicon,, Mexico City

As if someone had clapped their hands an inch above my face, I wake up fast, my back arched, muscles gripped.

I’m alone in a small single bed, tucked in tight by a dark brown hessian blanket. The room is sparse and tiny, dusty bare floorboards leading to a door not two foot from the end of the bed.

My first waking breath brings the stench of death. Gripped by terror, with no idea where I am, I feel a primal need to locate the Snapper; make sure she’s safe. 
Trouble is, I can’t get out of bed. This heavy hairy blanket is holding me down as if it has a life of its own.

Taking a deep breath I rip the bedclothes off me and in one movement rise from the bed and open the door.

A vile cocktail of putrid smells engulfs me. There’s a short landing leading to a staircase, all dusty bare floorboards, ingrained with faded white paint stains.

So profound is my fear my legs fail to move. I call out for help.
Louder, again. Help!
Again. Somebody! Help me, please!

I wake up.
Phew. That was a nasty one. Hope I don’t go back to that little number.

Generally I dream three about times a night, often revisiting the last dream after waking, which can be lovely, but after a nightmare like that, well, I hope it’s nearly dawn.


Going off to the loo I find the house still awake. The Snapper’s watching TV, Lady is getting belly tickles beside her. All is well with the world.

“Blimey love, nasty nightmare!”
“Oh you poor thing!”

In much the same way that suppressed memories of childhood horrors filter up through more confident adult psyches, I’ve noticed over the years that nightmares visit me when my brain feels safe, and we’d just returned from a three day holiday that was several days too short.

“It’s probably my brain dumping pooh on me because it thinks I’m still on holiday.”

Back to bed, straight to sleep.

I’m standing in the rambling overgrown garden of a huge white house. Although it’s in the countryside, it resembles a dilapidated and shabby version of Washington DC’s own, marbled by swathes of dark green ivy.

On the gravel driveway is parked an old Bedford van, the like which of I haven’t seen since Ford introduced the Transit.

The huge black front door of the house opens and a couple of 1960s Disney/Enid Blyton criminals run out carrying sacks, jump into the van, and drive off at high speed, rear wheels spinning a cloud of grit and gravel.

Walking into the house I realise it’s my home. Everywhere I look there are people lounging on sofas and chairs but I don’t know any of them, so I go to my office, only to find the shelves broken: books, files and scraps of paper strewn as vomit.

Rage builds within me, fuelled by the discovery that my office chair has been dismantled. The Snapper walks in and we have a blazing row, which even though I know I’m dreaming, I watch with interest, as it’s something we’re not very good at in normal waking hours.

She turns to me.
“Where’s the van?”
“It’s gone.”
“Gone? But don’t you see, those blokes put Lady in a sack and now they’ve scarpered!”

Before I have the time to ask her why she’s talking like somebody from 1957, I’m dashing out the door, only to find myself back in my Townland.

Running up the road stark bollock naked, I’m chasing the van, my exposed flesh feeling the heat of a strong sun under a ridiculously blue Irish sky, not particularly giving a damn about the neighbours who stand outside their houses, jaws dropping in unison, tutting and nodding and muttering didn’t they always say how that English fella was a quare one and just look at him now.

Having failed to outrun an internal combustion engine, I return home to find Kevin Healy has popped in for a cuppa. For the second time that night I think lucidly while dreaming, wondering how strange this is, given that I rarely see my friend. He plays no further part in my dreamly proceedings

The Snapper holds a perfect white geranium in a pot up to my chin.
“It’s dying!” she wails. “They’ve taken the dog and now perfect white geranium is DYING!”

She screams the last word so loudly it wakes me up.

06:58. Thank god. Slipping into trackies and a T-shirt I take Lady out for her morning peeper. Had enough of nightmares now. As the dog eats grass I chuckle, realising why my mind is so addled.

After my last Craft of Writing Course at The Galway Arts Centre, some of my students asked if I’d run a follow-up course, so I’ll be teaching them the art of editing, through the writing of a short story each. I always write alongside my students, so to reacquaint myself with this most demanding of forms, I’ve been revisiting the short stories of Bukowski, O’Connor and Macken, a cocktail of talent and darkness well able to mess up any mind.

(By the way, if you’d like to have fun while improving your writing skills, I’m running another Craft of Writing Course at The Galway Arts Centre, from Wednesday 1st October for 8 weeks, 7:30 - 9:00pm. €110/100 concessions. Numbers are limited, so please contact The Galway Arts Centre now to book your place: Phone: 091-565886; email:

Doggie’s done her doings and I’m back in bed by 07:20. It’s Sunday, so I’ll read a while, doze and -

My brother’s arm is reaching out of the helicopter. He’s yelling at me to grab his hand, but I can’t leave. The world is filled with noise, dust and turbulence and ... and here we go once more.

Freud shmoyed: eat your heart out, Sigmund.
It has been a long night.

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