Martin Fennell

Martin is someone in Ireland who has helped me in my quest for lost plays. He also does a little bit of writing on the side.

Other writing by Martin:
"A Gun in the Hand" - First chapter of a detective novel.


Every day for about a year now , the old man had been walking down the main street with his twin battered brown suitcases. It always happened at the same time.People could keep time by him because he was so precise. If he was a particular spot, then you would know what time it was. If he was at Cleary's chemists, it was 9.17. If he was at the local barbers "cut n shave" it was 9.23, and so on.

He was a tall gaunt man of maybe 75. His dome was completly bald, but straggles of thick white hair clung to the side of his head and came down to his shoulders.

He walked with his bare head bent . No one knew who he was,or where he was going. Over the course of time, people had learnt not to speak to him, as when they did attempt communication, he always ignored them. As he had become such a familiar sight, many wondered what was in the suitcases. On two separate occasions, a different person offered to carry one of them. They hoped to either get information on what was in them from the old man, or from the weight of them. He was having none of it.

But today was different. Today he walked with his head up,and with a broad smile on his weatherbeaten face. There was a briskness to his pace,which belied his years. Although even in that instance he seemed at least ten years younger.

The first person to approach him was a middle aged man who worked as a caretaker in one of the local schools. Although he noticed a difference in the old man, it wasn't enough to make him say "Hello" After all he had lost count of the number of times he had said it, and been given no comeback. So when the old man said "Hello, how are you?", but also gave a smile so wide that it looked as if his jaws might burst,the caretaker was so taken aback, that the stutter he had between the ages of 9 and 18, came back for a brief moment "I'm, I;m I'm. I'm, I'm f f f f f f f, fi, fi, fi, fi, fine.

How, how, how, are you?"

"I've never felt better" said the other, and his smile became even wider, if that was possible.

For the rest of the walk down the street, he greeted as many people as he could.

He even shouted across to those on the far side.

Of course many were too preoccupied with talking on their mobiles. So to gain their attention, he waved one of the suitcases in their direction.

Most people answered back in like manner, but some who had been annoyed by his attitude on previous occasions ignored him. Yet. he on with a cheery smile. Even the two suitcases didn't look as antiquated. It was obvious that they were still the same ones, but the handles had been polished so well,that sunlight bouncing off of them, almost dazzled passers by. The old man stopped outside the nearest phone booth. As it was occupied, he laid both suitcases flat on the ground. Then he placed one top of the other,sat down and began to whistle. Then he began to sing to himself "She's gone, she's gone, she's gone. Hurray, hurray, let's have a holiday,Everyone stay in bed,the wicked witch is dead" He went on like this for another two or three minutes.

When the phone booth was free, he went in, dug into his grey cordouy trousers, and came out with a piece of paper, which must have been folded over the maximum seven times. He unfolded each section slowly,careful not to tear it.

When it was finally open, he laid it on top of the phone box and dug into the opposite pocket.

This time he brought out a pair of thick reading glasses. When he had put them on, he picked up the piece of paper and read aloud, slowly and precisely, 063-45917, 063-45917,he repeated it a few times, then dialled.

"Hello, is this Blue Cabs? My name is George Taylor, and I need someone to drive me to the train station.

How long? ...Thank you very much. I'm just outside the phone booth opposite O Connor's pub."

Five minutes later, a blue taxi came to a halt at the footpath beside George Taylor and his two suitcases.

The driver was a tall well built man of about 50 with close cropped blonde hair. George got up from sitting on the suitcases, stretched a hand out to the taxi driver and said "My name is George Taylor, and I'd like to go to the train station"

The taxi driver took the hand, and said "John Evans. He indicated the suitcases "I'll put those suitcases in for you."

But George said firmly, but politely. "No thank you, I'd like to hold onto these".

John opened the door at the passenger side, and helped George into the taxi. The latter held the suitcases firmly on his lap.

When the car had started up, George asked "Are you married, John?"

"Sure am, 20 years next April"


Yep, 3, and one grankid."


"Yeh, well you know, I'm all right"

"Is that the same thing as being happy?"

John thought for a moment. Jeez, When was the last time someone had asked him if he was "happy.

Maybe he shouldn't have cut out of those philosophy classes in college.

Then he said, although he didn't really know if he meant it, "I'm happy to be alright".

If The taxi driver had stolen a glance at George, he would have seen that his smile was what could only be described as beatific. "I'm happy, John. This is the first day of my happiness".

"I'm glad" said John, just to be saying something.

"Thank you" said George. " I'll tell you how happy I am, John. Imagine seeing the sun for the first time. Oh you knew the sun was there,but there was always something stopping you from seeing it. Then one day that obstacle is gone."

John nodded his head, and said " I see" but was thinking "Jesus, this guy is nuts. He's gotta be on drugs, probably one of those acid casualties."

For a minute or two, there was silence, then George spoke again. "My wife's name was Esther.

She was beautiful, ambitious, and a bitch. Of course I didn't find out about the bitch part until after we got married. I was manager of a large car hire firm, she was my secretary. Well first she was just one of many in a pool of secretary's, then she became my personal secretary.

"So she was the best one".

George laughed, well it was more of a light cackle . "No, she wasn't the best. The best was an overweight pakastini woman with a hare lip. I guess you could say that she insinuated herself on me. Well I didn't put up much resistance. She was 22, blonde, and with a body, she made sure was always noticeable. Anyway one day, i asked her out. Well I tried asking her out, but before I'd even finished the sentence, she had her tongue so far down my throat, i thought it would take a pliers to get it back out . I mean i was flattered as hell. To be honest with you, I was already in my late 40's. I was thin as I am now, timid, and I had about as much hair as I have now. But anyway everyday, at lunch break, our lunch would be each other. Well, six months later, we were married. Almost immediately, things changed. The first sign was the wedding night. She was in bed before me. I went out to the toilet to relieve myself, and to freshen up a bit. When i got back to the bedroom, there was a note attached to the pillow. I can remember the wording exactly: "got bored waiting, gone out for some excitement".

"Jesus" said John. "What did you do?"

"Oh i waited up for her. It was about 4am, when she came home. She was drunk, but she also wasn't alone. Of course when the guy saw me, he left. Well, not straight away, she tried to persuade him to stay, telling him that I was nobody, that I didn't matter, that I was to quote her exactly 'just a bug on the rug'.

When he had gone, she laid into me, calling me dirty name after dirty name. She told me that after our clandestine meetings at the office, she would put her fingers down her throat to make herself gag, and that when she got home, she would scrub herself so hard to get the stench of me off of her, that sometimes she broke skin. But I just put it all down to the drink, thinking that everything would be better in the morning. That better morning never came.

"So she just married you for a better life.

"Well yes. As I said before, she was ambitious. She started telling me, that I was wasting my time where I was, that I'd better off striking out on my own. She had ideas, big ideas. She wanted to open a jewellery shop.

Well of course I agreed, i thought that this might change things. But it didn't. The business was sucessful for while. But we got robbed on a number of occassions. On the last occassion, the robber just came in as we were closing up. There was just the three of us there. The robber wasn't even wearing a mask. He was just a kid of about 17. I'll say this for Esther, she was afraid of nothing.

She told the kid, that if he didn't get out, she was gonna take that gun, and beat him so hard with it, that he'd be crying for his mother.

"So the kid turned tail and ran?"

"No. he didn't. He threw a little black bag to me and told me to empty the jewlry into it. As he was throwing it, and giving me instructions, she ran towards him. I found out later that he had fired three bullets into her.

"What! your wife was murdered?"

George shook his head. "No, but she was paralysed for life, from the neck down. I kept the shop running for a while. At first it was a place to escape to, to get away from her.

But then she began wanting me around all the time. She began to get paranoid. She said that the staff were stealing rom the shop. Then she accussed of me spending more time in the shop than with her."

"Christ" interrupted the taxi driver, "how come you never tried getting a divorce" "I was wondering when you were gonna ask me that. I guess it's the same as beaten wife syndrome. I kept thinking that things would change. Anyway I let the staff go, and soon after closed the shop. Then we couldn't afford to live where we did, and had to move into a cheaper neighbourhood. I was barely able to pay her medical bills.

Well I got depressed, very depressed. I ended up on welfare. A few times I thought about killing myself, but I guess 'm not the type. But i had to do something. So every morning, I'd pack some clothes into these suitcases, and pretend that I was gonna leave her. But I knew I wasn’t. It was just a way of keeping me sane. I'd walk every day as far as that phone booth, you picked me up at. I'd go in, take out the piece of paper with the number of your company on it.

But I'd never ring that was not until today."

For all this time, the old man had been speaking in a low grave tone. Now his voice lightened up again.

"Today, I made that phone call. The bitch is dead. At last the bitch is dead."

"How? asked John.

"Well as usual, before going out for my walk, I checked in on her. I*'d tell her, I was going out for a walk. She'd ask where i was going, and tell me not to talk to anyone. Well it had gotten to the point where I didn't care to talk to anyone. Only this morning, she was saying nothing. She was lying in bed with her mouth open, and dead as the proverbial doornail.

They had reached the station now, and John drew the cab to a halt. George reached into a pocket to pay him the fee. As he did there was a tap on the cab window. John let down the window, and a young man of about 33, lowered his head to the glass, and said

"Hello George. Are you ready to come back now?"

George looked at the young man and that same beatific smile that John had seen before was there once more.

"Hello, Dr Vincent. Esther's dead you know. The bitch is dead"

Dr Vincent smiled benignly at him. "Yes, George, I know. Come on back with me. Your friends are waiting for you."

He opened the door and George got out of the cab. "Here," said the doctor. Let me carry those suitcases for you.

The old man handed them to the doctor without protest. Then the two of them walked to a waiting blue and white sedan.

George got in, and the doctor walked back to where John was. He was so dumbstruck as to what was going on, that the idea of starting up the taxi hadn't occured to him.

The doctor leaned down once more to the still open window. "Hello," he said. " I hope George wasn't too much trouble".

"No, no, Christ what the hell is going on? He said his wife just died".

What did he tell you?

John briefly recounted what George had told him.

The doctor shook his head.

" No, she died 20 years ago. You see he strangled her. But he was declared not guilty on reasons of insanity. I guess something just snapped in him.But he still imagines she's alive. So every morning he does what he used to do, before he killed her. He walks out with his two suitcases, goes to the same phone booth, and well you know the rest.

But every year on the anniversery of her death, he calls a cab company. This would be the first time, he called on in this area, because it's been less than two years since we opened. That is, since the mental home opened.

"And the suitcases? asked John. "he has clothes in them?"

"No" said the doctor. "The suitcases are empty. Oh, he makes the motion of putting clothes in them. I don't even know if there were clothes in them, before he killed his wife."

I feel sorry for him" said John.

"Feel sorrier for his wife," said the doctor. "She's dead."

They shook hands and said goodbye.

As the doctor walked toward the sedan, John looked and saw George looking at him. Well he seemed to be looking at him, but when John waved at him, there was no response. There was no smile on the old man's face now.

John gazed at him for a few more seconds, then started up the taxi, and wondered if next year, George would see the sun again.


copyright Martin Fennell 2010; reproduced by permission / ND.

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