Doorbell rings, Garda’s
face says it all…
Irish Times Shortlist, Prose
Irish Times Shortlist 2020
Part One // Amanda Smith
My daughter Lucy is such a pain most of the time. She never listens and I can’t even remember the last time she came home straight after school. This morning she left for school, surprisingly cheery, for once.
But at six o’clock I start to get worried, since school ends at four. You’d think I’d be worried earlier but she’s always home by half seven and texts if she’s going to be late.
Almost shaking, I check my phone every five minutes… nothing any time. I try to calm down by turning on the TV, the news just finishing when it clicks on.
At half eight I call her for the twelfth time, still no answer, straight to voicemail. I start crying despite myself and shaking uncontrollably.
The doorbell rings and I perk up, but when I answer, it’s not Lucy, it’s a policeman.
He looks at my running makeup and says “I’m assuming you know then?”
I shake my head, but I wonder if he can distinguish it from the rest of my shaking.
He must have because he continues with, “There was a shooting at your daughter’s school, she’s among the casualties, I’m very sorry.”
I slam the door on him, even though he was being so nice. I walk into the living room to see the nine o’clock news starting. I pick up the remote and fire it at the TV as the newsreader mentions the attack.
I slide to the floor against the wall trembling.
Part Two // Arthur Rose
I pick up my sports bag as I stumble out the front door. I’m supposed to have P.E. today but it’s not full of sports gear this week, I’m so excited for people to finally see me! I down some pills as I wait for the bus to arrive. When my parents died, the doctors gave them to me; for my “feelings and thoughts” as they had said.
My mother called me her “little soldier” when I was younger, so in a way, I guess, I’m honouring that nickname.
As the school bus turns the corner, I get a nervous tingle in my stomach. People are finally going to know who I am, they’re going to know my name, they’re going to give me the attention I crave.
To my despair, I couldn’t afford anything automatic so my weapon is only small, but I can hide it under things easier.
First class is maths. I hate maths but I’m waiting until lunch to do it, when there’s more people closer together. But I’m just saying I had tons of opportunities to waste teachers, but never took them.
At lunch I sit down put my bag on my knee and unzip it, I look around and no one is looking back at me so I slip it in between my pants and my leg.
I’m not stupid like all those bank robbers and things in movies, I’m not going to shoot thin air three times and threaten people, no, I’m going straight in.
My first shot goes off and I hit a boy. He hits the ground blood spewing from his chest, he writhes for a minute then stiffens.
Everyone screams and I grin, I start sneaking down the hallways I saw the most people scatter to.
Part Three // Lucy Smith
I run straight down the left corridor, I don’t want to die, or to see any of my friends die for that matter.
I upturn every table I see for people to hide behind but keep running, up the stairs and into the Home-Ec. Room. I hide in the cupboard and I hear two girls talking in the cupboard next to me, I can’t make out who they are or what they’re saying.
I hear bangs and screaming, no, no, no, go away from here, skip this room, please…
It’s not even that I’m really scared of death, I’m scared of what my mother will do, she’ll be all alone.
I hear the door open and footsteps, slowly, calmly approaching, I’m shaking. I hear him open the first cupboard, which conveniently means he’ll have his back turned to me, I leap out as silently as possible and hide under the table. I can just about hear what the girls are saying now, “I wish I never told the–”, but they’re cut off early when he opens the door cutting her off and there’s a gunshot, I see a body hit the wall and slump down.
The lights flicker and go off, the emergency lights come on one at a time, a dim red, adding to my fear somehow. I wouldn’t have thought it could get much worse. I close my eyes tightly and open them to see the boy’s face looking at me, “Boo” he said.
How childish can you be? There’s a flash and a bang and I scream, but if I can scream, I can’t be dead, so I open my eyes to see a faint smoke coming from the ground beside my arm.
I jump past him tackling him to the ground and sprinting as fast as I can, turns out my tables weren’t too effective, there’s bodies and blood everywhere. He shoots once more, his ammunition whizzing past my ear, then there’s another bang and I collapse, my vision going fuzzy. I can’t feel anything, so maybe I’m imagining it, or maybe I can’t feel anything because he hit me.
My eyelids feel like bricks, like when you’re trying to stay awake but you’re really tired and your eyes keep shutting.
My vision fades in and out, and I think of my mother. Looking at my stomach I see I’m oozing blood. He’s standing watching me with a horrible grimace on his face, I give up fighting and go limp…
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