Claire Loader

Claire Loader is a New Zealand born writer now living in County Galway.  Her work has appeared in various publications including Crannóg, The Cormorant & The Cabinet of Heed.

Afters

Cymbals ring like gas escaping a tin of coke and you wish yourself anywhere but here.  Fascinators bobbing in their pastel hues, they take to the dance floor as if preparing for tribal warfare. If only it were that interesting.

“God, I think I’d kill myself if this was my wedding.”

Danny snorts beside you.  “Ah now, sure what’s wrong with an ol’ show band?”

The tenth wedding this year, you watch the winking singer, listen as he makes the same jokes, convinced there can only be one wedding coordinator in the whole of Ireland, one set list – the season a blur of chicken vol-au-vents, beef or salmon, the Siege of Ennis. 

“The poor people who starved behind those walls, how little they knew we would all be embroiled in their misery.”

“Oi, you two!”  A hiss from behind, Seamus hovering like a peacock, his beady eyes darting between you and the empty Guinness glasses, eyebrows raised and twitching, stubby fingers pointing towards the door.

You follow him out, Danny trailing behind, Seamus ruffled, standing in full plumage in the entranceway.

 “You are both aware we have a wedding on today, yes?”

“Yes, Sir.” 

He shuffles as if to ready himself for the stage.  “Rachel, Danny – this hotel is like a ship. And I, I am the captain of that ship.”  He speaks with deliberate pause between each word, the emphasis pitching like his imaginary dingy.  “And if we don’t all work together…this ship could capsize.”

You feel the walls stretch with each word, the scene more and more like a part of some Father Ted twilight zone.  “Aye Aye, Cap’n!”  Do you really say it or just think it?  You can’t be sure.  Eyes too busy blinking to see were you even really there. 

“Rachel!”

You blink again. “Yes?”

“Do you understand?”

“Yes, Seamus.”

It seemed you were.

“Now get back out there and clear glasses! I am not paying you to gaggle!”

You gather empty glasses and bring them to the bar.  The three Greaney brothers already seated in a haze of Lynx, noses primed to sniff out a back bar, their honing beacon the fluorescence of WKD Blue.

“You’re looking well tonight, Rachel.”

Matt Greaney’s voice reaches you above the roiling stampede of Rock The Boat.  You raise an eyebrow as his tongue slides halfway down the bottle, hand lifting his crotch.  He’d won twenty grand in the local GAA lottery, swanning about since like he was God’s gift, just cos he bought his mammy a fruit shop and himself a 121. 

“Wanna go take a ride in my car?”

You look straight at him, trying to think of something that might make him stop talking. “Maybe you should just sleep with your car Matt, it’s the closest thing you’ll ever get to the real thing.”

“Hey, I’m all for a three way.” 

You try to ignore him as you weave your way again and again through the floral prints, the sea of drunken suits, finally sneaking out of the side door, up the fire escape to the small landing, hand searching your pocket for a light.

“Here.”

“Jesus Christ, Danny!”  His face lit like a Cheshire cat, you nearly slip on the step. “Couldn’t make a bit more noise, could ya?”

You hold his hand as your mouth moves towards the waiting flame.

“Sorry, was just enjoying the view.  It’s so frosty out there now, it’s like snow.”

You take a drag of your cigarette, exhale out over glittering triangles. “You’re right. It doesn’t look real.”

You feel Danny beside you, see his breath curl into the edge of your vision.  “Aye, it feels almost magical, doesn’t it?”

“Do you think that means I can make a wish?”

“It’s worth a shot, sure.”

“I heard Matt’s headed back to Castlerea.  I wish so bad something would happen to wipe that bloody smile off his face.”

Danny laughs, puts out his smoke on the railing. 

“Would ya not wish for something better than that?  Like maybe getting out of this shit hole instead?  Escape the reign of Captain Crazy?”

You smile into you waning cigarette, sigh as you flick the butt out into the darkness, eyes scanning the sparkling treetops.  “What I wouldn’t give to get out of here, but he just annoys me soooo much – sipping on his tampon water like he owns the place. Sure, what’s the likelihood it will come true anyway? ”

Two hours later you sit in the alcove of the main hall, fingers barely managing to fold the napkins over tomorrow’s cutlery, the night manager trying to move a sleeping guest from his bar stool.

Suddenly Danny is in front of you.

“You won’t believe what’s happened.”

“What?”  You stare up at his grinning face.

“Matt Greaney hit black ice on the bad bend near the sawmill.  Totally wrote off his car.”

“Stop!”

You barely mouth your amazement before the sound of projectile vomiting reverberates around the dance floor. The night manager stepping over it as he hoists the man out the door.

“Rachel, you got that?”

You lower your head to the table, voice scarcely audible in the crumpled napkins.  “Do you think it’s still frosty out?”  You feel Danny’s hand softly on your head.  “I need to go make that other wish.”

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