BOOKS IRELAND FLASH FICTION
Klepto’s Week, by Bryan Conlon
Mam told me I was less than useless in her hour of need, and not for the first time. I responded by thieving her hairbrush and dog-eared copy of poems by Robert Frost. (She whipped it from the Alzheimery one in the loopy ward).
I slipped them into my trench coat when she was phlegm-hacking over the side of her hospital bed. Later, I burned them, voodoo-like on the fire grate.
Unable to scrape together the price of an Americano in Tony’s Grill, I plundered his tip bowl to cover it. I pocketed a knife and fork too, a lad can never have too many weapons.
When the doorman was waffling blarney to the yanks, I sidled into the Imperial Hotel. Knocked off a fancy hand lotion from the jacks and swiped three biros as I passed the unattended concierge desk. One of them was a dud and I saved it for mam, keep her busy with something new to whinge about.
The Public Museum is a treasure trove and knickknack supply-chain for my cache in the bedsit. The ancient unsupervised cabinets are easily accessed, mam doesn’t call me nimble fingers for nothing.
The Black Crackle Zippo Lighter in the WW2 display excited me. There was an army whistle, key-chain adjacent and curiously twelve keys still attached, those incongruous things are now oxidising below the ripples of the river Lee.
Slim pickings at the pawn shop skip on McCurtain Street, but it surrenders a small china dog and an aged and wrinkled photo of a man in uniform. I took it so I can tell anyone who’ll listen that he’s my grandpa. I never knew either of mine, and I like the look of this fella, he has my nose. The china dog, perhaps a homecoming gift for mam, she HATES dogs.
Any other bric-a-brac of interest from Dawn’s Pawn was too bulky to shift.
Mam’s going to respite, miles out in the western ‘burbs, so the burning of her stuff on Monday half worked. Word at the nurse’s station is that she’ll be a “long termer” – her final address. She’ll have a conniption when she’s told.
I can’t visit as often, I’ve no travel card and there’s only so much I can pinch from Tony’s without him barring me to fuck. I’m putting a hamper together and I’ll include the dog ornament, a working biro, and the hand lotion. If I hadn’t burned the book, I’d have gouged out its innards so she can hide her fags and lighter in it.
The treasured photo of Grandpa is in a frame now and I’m considering giving it too, but that remains to be seen. She’d want to lose the attitude and start treating me with a little respect.
Just before they locked up St. Michael’s, I pocketed a handful of votive candles for when the meter runs dry. The churchy aroma makes me feel not so shitty when I’ve been specially bad.
Bryan Conlon has been published in From the Well anthology, Cork Words 2 anthology and shortlisted in the Wild Atlantic Words Short Story Competition. He is currently wrestling with the plot of a thriller, his first book.