While the Maria Edgeworth Festival of Literature & Arts takes place annually in early May one aspect of the Festival- the competitions (Poetry and Short Story), begin earlier on in the year when people are invited to submit their entries, these are then adjudicated by our guest Judges and a celebratory night is held to announce the winners.
Click on the links below to read the winning entries from our Competitions – Please note that these are published with the permission of the authors and they may choose to revoke or not grant that permission.
Our Short Story judge was David Butler who, among his many accomplishments, was a previous winner at the Festival. Our Poetry Judge was Noel Monahan. Noel was born nearby in Granard, County Longford and is both a poet and a dramatist.
Black Mulcahy by Bernadette Furlong
– reproduced with the permission of the author.
Black Mulcahy, our grandfather, did something terrible once.
We learned about it in school. On the bus home, Eoin, my twin, took my hand and asked if it was true. I told him it might be. We were quiet at dinner. Too full of questions to eat. Ma asked what was wrong, but we knew better than to say. She did not want to know. Not really.
She sawed at her meat. Told us to eat up.
That night, in bed, I could not sleep. Just before dawn I went downstairs. Eoin padded after me. Asked if I was all right. We were nothing alike, my brother and me. A waste of twins, Ma often said. I told him it was a long time to not know something. Eoin sat with me on the couch. It sagged with the shapes of others, and we struggled to get comfortable. I wondered if Black was among them. Trapped in the upholstery. If the house remembered him better than we did. For really, we did not remember him at all. Could not. He was dead before we were born.
I can’t believe they never told us, I said. I can, Eoin whispered.
We fell asleep and Da came in soon after. He worked the nightshift at the bottling yard. Was like a bottle himself. Longnecked and delicate. Dangerous when he broke. Eoin slept on and I told him that we knew about Black. Da fingered his keys as though he might leave. Step out, into the darkness, into what he knew best. Instead, he said I should get to bed. He was pale in the hall light, his hair a mess. He didn’t like mirrors. Was tired of glass. Of endless belts that clinked and clattered. I asked him who she was. The lady Black had done the terrible thing to. He dropped his keys on the hall table. Woke Eoin. Get to bed, he said.
Eoin didn’t want to go to school the next day. Complained that he was sick. Ma clamped a hand to his forehead, turned his face this way and that. Her jaw hardened and she cuffed him. Told him to get dressed. We walked in silence down the lane. Eoin’s bag smelled of pencil shavings. Smoke and toilet floors. His pockets clacked with marbles, and I ached for him. For his quiet ways. His crooked tie. When the bus came, I boarded first. Stayed near the front. Didn’t look behind. Didn’t want to give them faces. Eoin crumpled in his seat, knees up, fingers worrying the zip of his bag. A ball of paper landed in the aisle. Another sailed past to thwack the back of a seat. The next struck my shoulder. Eoin told me to ignore them. And I did. Until they hit him. I didn’t know who threw it. It didn’t matter. They were all laughing. I walked to the back, the ball of paper a question in my hand. No one would claim it. I lashed at their smiles. Caught one in the jaw. They were on me then. A howling mess. I dug into their flesh, unlocked vessels with my mouth. Blood and bruises and the bus skidding to a stop. The driver screaming at us, pulling us apart by our hair and collars. I was thrown into my seat. Eoin looked for me, but I ignored him.
We arrived at school. The driver told us to wait and climbed heavily out. Tittering in the back. Whispers. A hiss. The promise to kill me. To kill us both. I told them to get stuffed. Someone warned them to be careful. We were Mulcahy’s after all. No telling what we might do. I was marched to the principal’s office. Principal Kennedy said he was ashamed of me. That what I had done, fighting like that, made the school look bad, made him look bad. But most of all made me look bad. It was unbecoming of a girl, he continued, to act like that. To get angry. I nodded and yes sir, kept my eyes on the carpet. He softened then. Liked me cowed. Told me he wouldn’t take the matter any further. Sent me to the nurse to get patched up. The nurse pressed a cold compress to my mouth. Told me to keep it there. Split lip, she said and made tea. I sat and watched. Swung my legs and tried not to mind the heat in my knuckles, the sizzle of my scalp. What happened? she asked. So, I told her. They know more about our family than we do, I said. The nurse opened a packet of Ginger Nuts and shook it at me. I pocketed one for later. Your father should have told you, she said. At least, some of it. I thought, she doesn’t know Da nor the shame he feels. How he started working nights to escape it. And how it followed him. How all his monsters sound like glass. I looked at her. She cleared her throat. Ellen was local, she said. Her father used to breed pigs and that’s how your grandfather, Black, met her. She was fond of him, but in a pitying sort of way, so I was told. He was older. Much older. And his wife was work. Ellen was a bit of brightness in his life. I asked the nurse how she died.
Trampled in a pigsty. It was Black who found her. I nodded. Took a moment to go over what she’d said. So, he loved her. In a way. They said he dug her up. That he stood over her corpse and shot himself. The nurse frowned and checked my face. Said I’d do. I asked for another biscuit. For Eoin. She offered the packet. Don’t smile for a few days, she said. After school, Eoin and I walked up the lane for home. He found a stick and began lashing at briars. I watched until he was red and out of breath then I gave him the biscuit in my bag. I didn’t want mine. Thought it would taste of all the wrong things. Eoin split his. Was used to things being halved. Broken. Da is strange, he said. I looked at him. Like father, like son, I thought. A family tree full of apples, only some did not fall far enough. And when they struck, they shattered like glass and hurt people. I started to run and so did Eoin. We ran though we knew we could not outrun each other. We were matched in every way. Except our faces. A sad waste.
Which one of us looked like Black?
Which one of us looked like Da?