The Launch

IMG_9933‘You’re not to giggle when I’m reading. Breasts will be mentioned, in the context of breastfeeding, remember that? So nothing funny about it, okay?’ I’m addressing marque 5, a committed giggler, with an infectious laugh which gets all the others going. It’s a tricky parental moment. A warning with the undertow of a guilt trip. I breast fed you. Don’t dare laugh about it. It could go very wrong though. Drawing attention to it, the breast thing. He may not have even noticed. Now he’ll be waiting for the moment when he is, under no circumstances, allowed to giggle. Even I’d find that a hard one to do. 

‘I’ll just concentrate on a bottle of wine, stare at it, then I won’t giggle’ he says, staring at the bottle of wine on the kitchen table, pressing his lips hard together, trying to stifle the laugh. Great. 

I had been busy talking myself out of it, this attending the launch and reading my story. It just seemed so tricky, travelling with everyone, making them sit quietly and appreciate all the readers, someone off elsewhere with the dog, in the car, as he displays signs of acute separation anxiety and barks the town down. And then travelling on, in the dead of night, off out to Connemara. Dangerous and tricky and exhausting. Until marque 1 asked if there’s any way we could just stay over in Galway and I said of course not, we have a dog, remember? But the wheels had begun to turn, even as I spoke. This could be a little adventure instead of a little torture. I googled hotels and booked one at a good rate for the night. It could be cancelled up until the day before. Then I contacted the lovely lady we bought the dog from asking if she was around for the bank-holiday weekend and whether she could take him. Barely any time went by when she texted back with a yes, no problem. It was all falling into place with supreme ease. Can we afford to do it, we asked one another. Can we afford not to, I heard myself say. Memories. We’re big into creating memories for them. How many shots do we get at something like this?

The dog thing still niggled a bit though. Fair enough the night of the launch and in the hotel. But then we’d be off out on the wild beaches without him, pining. It niggled away until we told the boys the plan just the night before and they whooped at the idea of him going back to his siblings and other relatives for a little holiday, as they saw it. Then I was fine. Once again, the children lighting the way. 

‘You need to practise Mum’ marque 3 said. He’s read the story before. Helped with some editing even.

‘Get it now and read it to me’ he said, more than once as I made excuses, said I would, soon, very soon, just a little tired right now. 

‘Mu-um’.

The day came and with marque 5 warned about the seriousness of the evening, giggling prohibited, we set off. They were so excited about the prospect of the hotel that we hit the road much earlier than usual, getting to Galway with time to kill before check in. We shopped in Dealz, snacks for the room mainly. Oh and a Halloween costume for the dog, ah god, where is he, and a squeaky skull for him to play with. 

The hotel was super, outside the city, complete with pool, steam room, hot tub, sauna and jacuzzi. We got to the rooms – yes we had to book two family rooms for our lot – and they were fine. Apart from the melting heat. I looked around and we had all peeled off our shoes and socks, feet on fire. We threw open the windows and lay down on the bed, luxuriating. If only I could just stay here I thought and he read my mind. ‘You okay?’ 

We brought them for a dip, watching them rather than joining. Later we thought. After the launch. Marque 1 came over to us pointing to outside. ‘You should get in the hot tub later, with a couple of glasses of bubbly’ he said. Later. I couldn’t wait.

Up in the launch room above the pub we are greeted by the editorial team and a copy of the journal is given to me along with a list of readers. Poets and short story writers. The room is decorated for Halloween, skeletons dancing from the ceiling, balloons, the number 15 in a large purple. We find a nice corner, line the boys up on seats, buy the cidonas, a pint of Guinness, a fizzy ballygowan. In the centre of the floor a video camera stands. The room is atmospherically dark. Will I even be able to see the words? Should I read from my own script, large A4 pages in a nerdy folder, or should I read from the publication? Other writers meander in, smiling, nodding, knowing this space. The women are colourfully clad, flowing. I run my hands along my black tight denims. No one else has brought a clatter of children, it seems. We are standing out here, big time. The welcome and the announcement. It is also a celebration of the 15th birthday of the publication. The microphone isn’t working. Readers will have to project. The nauseous feeling goes up, another notch. No problem at all for the first few readers who perform their work, acting it out for the audience. Different accents for different characters, a lot of the script off by heart, eye contact all around, pulling the room in. As if we are at the Gaiety theatre. I could run I think. Just get up and flee. There’s no way I’m going to be able to do it that well. I should’ve practised like marque 3 said. The room isn’t all that quiet for the readers, and it’s not only my lot, moving their bums on the wooden chairs letting out loud creaks that match the Halloween decorations perfectly. I shoot them disappointed daggers, the same look my aunt used to shoot us as little girls when my Dad would play the banjo and sing loud Spanish songs and we were supposed to be quiet and appreciative but instead we’d be giggling away, her furious face making it knicker wettingly funny. The boys hang their heads now trying not to catch my eye. They’ll all be in fits by the time I get up there. An editor is announcing a poet, a guy who is to read just before me, and then there’s a hum as it’s discovered that he’s not actually here – fair play to him – and the editor moves on to me, calling out biographical details that I can’t remember submitting, but it’s me alright and I’m walking towards him thanking him, trying not to keel over. I begin expecting the low thrum of noise to accompany me, cushioning me, but it’s not there. The silence is deafening as I chime out the words, my words, how silly is this? Then I notice that I’m starting to enjoy it because I can feel that they are, the audience in front of me, silent, some with eyes closed, listening. There are gasps in places too as they are drawn into the story, realising what is taking place. I slow the pace down, take my time delivering it, wanting them to enjoy it all the more. Fifteen minutes is a long time to be reading for, and yet it didn’t feel like it, once I knew they got it. I finish to whistles and whoops and they’re not all coming from my corner. I get it now, how the other readers were enjoying themselves. Some lovely sincere exchanges afterwards with writers, listeners and editors. I float out of there so very glad that I came, took part, and shared in an evening which I hope will become a magical memory for my clan. 

P.S. Thanks to the editors at Crannog for selecting the story for this excellent publication. A treat indeed to be in print alongside the others we met as well as those we didn’t – so many great stories and poems. Copies available at 

www.crannogmagazine.com

Ellen Reading Crannog

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