Learning the Art of Writing

Archive for October, 2005




Kathleen Quinlan


She looked up from the desk. The telephone began to ring a hollow sound. She could always sense who it was on the other end. Was it him?  Yes He was not giving in, the telephone rang on. Her body stiffened suddenly, she felt used- spent; her hands trembled as she reached to the table that housed the noisy telephone.

“Hello Jessica Lewis here, who am I talking to?” she enquired brightly.

Total silence, her voice lowered and she asked again “Who is it?” The silence was enveloping her, her mind racing. “Hello hello who’s there?” still no answer,

Jessie felt sensations of anger rising in her body, as the anger moved up into her throat it gathered momentum as it reached her tongue and lips, it exploded through her teeth “WHO the hell is it and WHAT do you want?”  No one answered. She already knew the answer. A niggle of fear appeared on her brow. It was all too much, she slammed the phoned down, her fists clenched she began beating the wall in frustration as she pulled away. The telephone rang again, she jumped and reached for it almost in the same movement. “Who is it” she repeated but unlike the previous question, there was a lack of conviction that she would be answered. There was an immediate answer, obscenities she shouted aloud “You dirty bastard” and slammed down the telephone. Her heart was beating fast and her blood pressure rose significantly. Tears racing down her face.

Dialogue screamed in her head “How many times do I change my telephone number?” She knew then who it was, but the voice sounded different so could it be him? She began looking around the room and felt as if an unwanted intruder had entered her space. She walked to the windows scanning the street she looked down at her front door. Just checking she thought. She stopped in mid-flight, adrenaline surging thorough every pore and a strong realization nestled in her head.

She smiled a grim smile at her new understanding about control freaks. Jessie picked up her coat and walked out on to the street, no cowering in the depths of an empty double bed for her. No one would intimidate her ever again and she decided she would go hand to fist with who ever it was that was attempting to control her feelings, in such a cruel way. “ There is nothing to be afraid of but fear itself” She repeated several times each time diminishing fears its grip on her emotions, she could not relax she needed to act and act swiftly and as she moved through the night air, into the unknown, a shiver ran through her. “Nothing ventured nothing gained” “There’s nothing to fear but fear”.

Her head tumbled as she attempted to control her feelings as she walked to confront her Jailer.

2.Her feet had started to quicken, as she reached the corner house, not far now, she strained to see if there was any movement any sign of life at the third house on the left.

The front bedroom light was on. She could hear the television in the sitting room blearing and laughing spontaneously.  Shadows moved on the bedroom ceiling a man drying himself with a towel. Her imagination didn’t have too far to travel, she began to wonder how this man who would not communicate in the normal would feel if he knew she was there is his space watching him. The shivering stated again. The shadow receded into the depths of the house. She found a piece of dry wall to place her body next to and waited.  She still wasn’t sure why she was waiting, but wait she would! Sometime later she was not sure how long it had been there was the sound of the front door being opened.  Milk bottles were placed in a rack and a ginger cat appeared at the gate.  She began to get bored with it all, when the light of the garage flickered on.  A car door sounded, and the echo of the engine became a full sound as the car climb the ramp and into the view of the street. She moved quickly, standing just off the pavement in direct line of the car. She waited for him to see her, she held a small smile, knowing he wouldn’t understand what she was doing.  She looked hard at the car as it swung out of the drive, but she couldn’t quiet see who it was in the car.  It stopped suddenly in front of her, a small white face surrounded with frizzy blond hair was in the drivers seat. Suddenly Jessica Lewis felt silly!  The young woman was looking very quizzically at her, through the window shield. In embarrassment Jessie began to shout repeatedly  “Where is he?” The younger women swung the car door open “What’s a matter, what do you want” Jessie overcome with anger just wanted to get away as far away as she could, but she could not help looking over her shoulder at the house. There he was, standing looking out at the scene on the street. She swung around on the ball of her foot and ran toward the fence, which she jumped on her way to the front door. “ Come out you coward, I know you are in there” She started banging loudly on the front door using the doorknocker and bell together. The young women had left the car engine on and the drivers’ door wide open to follow Jessie down the garden path. House lights began coming on in the street and front doors were opening. Each with a lively curiosity it looked like it was going to be a good fight. The red door in front of Jessie began to give way under a constant barge of beating, a crack appeared and a gruff voice said something through the crack, she was impatient and wanted to see him face to face. There he is trying to control things again. She an immediate reaction her fist came down loudly on the door and it shot open.

The man she wanted to confront was standing with just his dressing gown on looking unsure and vulnerable not knowing what was going to happen next.


The young women appeared at the side of her, she looked angry and scared and in shock, she didn’t move to his side she stood at the side of Jessie so they were both looking directly at the Jailer. The words escaped her lips “Why why, what have I done to deserve your attention in this way”

All at the same time they were talking no one listening and in each breath was getting louder and more brutish. Suddenly the young women pushed her forward and she found herself beating her fists on his head and neck. The tears began to run down her face and he began pushing back to push her out of the house. It did not work. She hit harder and he moved backward to get out of her way into the hall. By now it had become clear the young women “Jo” was her fathers daughter and in a vain attempt at defending him. She had started the whole thing off and was now just following the whole proceedings into the calm warm house she had just left not ten minutes ago. Jessie looked at the man and she could see his contempt for her and her reacting this way. He could still control her, which is what he had set out to do. What happened next wiped the smirk off his face. She saw the telephone and reached for it, grabbing the housing she ripped off the wall, next she quickly and stamped on the fitting connected to the wall, breaking the thin coloured wires, disarming the telephone totally. Jessie gasped out loud, and the young girl beg “ Please tell me what is it what’s wrong?”  Jessie just stared into space. As suddenly as it had started it was over and she moved to the front door.  She answered “Ask him frightening poor defenseless women, making them frightened of their own shadows” Then she was outside on the pavement walking down the street looking at the open doors and smiling to herself. He would have some real explaining to do. He would call her mad, deny it all, pretend he absolutely didn’t know why she had attacked him. She doubted that he would involve the police and there would be a memory of a poor defenseless women fighting back. The little matter of explaining to the Telephone Company how their equipment got in such a state, knowing he was lying through his teeth. She wondered if she should go to the police and admit to criminal damage. No perhaps next time

She knew he had won again in a sense because she had reacted. She felt better though and her reaction had left no area for discussion. These acts of total control on his part was unacceptable she felt a little sad at how much her personality had changed in the past two years, since all this start was unreal.

He would retaliate. He always did. She just had to be one step ahead.

She was nearly home, and very weary. The feeling of being under a gigantic weight left her and by her actions she felt recharged. She reached her door, the answer telephone was flashing has she entered the hallway, she ignored it and walked to the stairs and sleep. Deep sleep dreamless sleep seamless….  sleep.







Blue Bell wood



Kathleen Quinlan


I can just see over the grass, the scent of blue bells fill my senses and I lay in fields of long grass until the sun hides its face in the earth.  Feeling safe.

Today was good

I have had my fourth birthday and it is not for the presents I received for there were none, but for the special day when we all walked. My Father too visits the sacred wood in the heart of Sherwood.  The fact that the small Irish woman who we call “Mammy” has remembered to make it special. 

We sang at the top of our voices such harmony, all four of us as we walked back to the tower made of stone. It is a large forbidding building with rubble littering the pathways. I could not call it home, for we move, like the wheat in the fields. Some nights I have gone to sleep in one place and woke somewhere else.  Itinerants, they call us and look down their noses. I will never care they will never hurt me; I am happy playing in the muddy lanes and being hungry.

I can hear her humming “Oh what a beautiful morning” absent-mindedly.

I watch her steely brown eyes follow me as I dance

I am wearing a red dress and I have little blue shoes with buckles, my hair is black, long with a blue ribbon in it. I look different today because she dressed me this morning and I know she has tried. I feel loved.

Mainly she is tired and empty, so many children in such a short time.

There is a glass jar and she places the blue flowers that the younger children have picked, in water. There are small sponge cakes and meat paste sandwiches. A small parcel with my name written on the brown wrapping paper ‘Katie’ in large letters waiting for me.  I had just learned to recognize my name I become excited I can not ever remember getting any other present before. She makes me wait, siting the others down to eat, they start to sing “Happy birthday” I can only here her voice; the others are too young to know it.

She smiles at me “open it then” she says in the strong Irish lilt that she uses when she is pleased. It is my first book, I look at the pictures there are horses, pigs and ducks. I understand the pictures but can not read the words. She reads as we go to bed and talks and tells us stories. It has been a bright sunny October Day, with blue flowers, food and happy voices. No clouds, or raised voices nor tears, not today.  A remarkable day. Father was here. He was sober!


 As I write I hear the voice and  the Story of a child who’s reality and understanding beyond her years are standing at the side of her like Guardian Angels.

In one so small, much sensing and using of experiences to survive the dramas of how things are in her own world. “Who’s in control “ I hear the echoes of grief and sound of tears stretching down the years. So much fear.

These situations appear repeatedly and she learns to gain control helped by people closest to her. Well mainly her parents those who life took them in to a place not made for her. Who had forgot she is only four years old.

She panics and frets, these parents are her world, finding them on some days proved very hard.  Good at disappearing and reappearing worst for wear

As she walks the country lanes to get out of the way.

She experiences the outdated map, the cultural trap.

Anyone with any problem solving skills could see the thing was never going to work without some kind of stability. “It’s the road less traveled “  I think and sees it spanning for the next millenium. A sneaky idea of some thing else came into view, another way of thinking so handy for four-year-olds.

Find a love object, and transfer a “little love” and has these things come naturally, it is easy and there he is youngest son a golden child, small and vulnerable and loveable she pours her attention on to him and some thing is saved. A soul.

Memories of this remarkable time play in her mind for she knows they will stay forever, when those few short hours were hers.  Of the walks in the Forest, dew, spiders webs, the mists and silences of tense wood  haunted her dreams. The sounds of laughing voices, excitement and exultance. She remembered the smell of woodsmoke hot red-hot fires burning to keep warm, and was central to the camp. And later ached to be there again.

There is something about the open air that gives life a different feel.

The feel of the air and birds, always birds, she loved them there was something magical about them. She knew their freedom.

I love listening to this small voice and as these memories unfolded they touch me deeply. The highs and lows of dysfunctional families are created out of joy and grief.  For now I am just glad to listen and know that the small child’s voice is still as strong “They didn’t shut her up.