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Joseph Lapping

Dublin, Ireland

I am a 40+ Irish male who has always secretly harboured a desire to write. Recently I acknowledged that desire and I have now started to produce short stories, ranging from 600 to 9000 words.

I hope to have some work published (probably online, being realistic) by the end of the year 2002. I am aware that I have much to learn in my craft so feel free to critique the following short, short stories which I have recently written.

(1) Cents and Sensibility by Slapping Joe
COPYRIGHT February, 2002

The boy shifted uncomfortably in his desk, wiggling the cheeks of his arse in a demented posterior-bound samba dance. The new, irritating Euro coins, and their inferior cousins ‘the cents’, bugged the hell out of him.

They accumulated so quickly! And besides, they required so much concentration just to keep them safely corralled in his pockets. Life was so much simpler pre-Euro (a little over a month ago, for God’s sake!). He could play football, and regularly did at the drop of a hat. Or at least at the drop of a couple of coats for goalposts. He could hang upside-down, fearlessly, on the rail beside the bus stop. He could play ‘chasing’ with his mates in the schoolyard and freely, easily, swerve and avoid being caught. Because his pockets then were oases of bill-laden, coin-free calm.

But no more! His mother seemed to have nothing but coins in her purse when doling out the day’s largesse these mornings. Two Euro coins. One Euro. Bloody 50 cent’s; 20’s; 10’s; 5’s; even 2’s and 1’s for God’s sake! And that was it. With a pocketful of change to start the day he was always going to be playing catch-up.

The daily torment! Two Euro to the bus-driver and, lo and behold, a clatter of smaller coins, in the guise of ‘change’, eagerly clink and clatter their “Hail fellow, well met!” greetings to their corralled comrades. And then, of course, the inevitable mini-Colditz! What else would dozens of imprisoned coins do only seek to find devious means of escape? Somehow, tiny holes in the further-most corners of pocket-lining are surreptitiously reconnoitred and mined. Furtive, drainpipe-hugging, shinning of shins are attempted at the most inopportune moments.

Sometimes the escapees succeed and, in so doing, attain numismatic immortality. They coin their own phrase and become ‘successful escapees’, signalling their delight at achieving freedom by gleefully tinkling and rolling their way down the nearest drain. Other times, they are foiled. Unexpectedly, by discovering their escape route has been too gravitationally influenced, leading to further incarceration in the boy’s sock or shoe. At least there is some temporary consolation to be obtained then, by manoeuvring into the most awkward and corrosive foot-bound crevice of their reluctant host. A minor victory was once attained when a particularly determined 2-cent coin negotiated its way right into the boy’s small toe region and stubbornly lodged there. In attempting to recapture and replace the offending article the boy got a severe telling-off from a none-too-amused Economics teacher. The irony of the topic under discussion at the time, unfortunately oblivious to all, ‘The Redistribution of Wealth’.

And so, our troubled student soldiers on. The thought of throwing the damn coins away has often been internally debated but dismissed. It’s a long walk home without bus-fare. He must suffer on in baleful silence, his carefree life never to return. No more kicking of soccer and tennis balls at will. Robbing orchards – a thing of the past. Scutting on the back of slow-moving, traffic-bound lorries – a fond but distant memory. No! He is now a changed person, literally and metaphorically he realises wryly. He has become responsible. He now has to be sensible. Life (at least Euro-Community-regulated life) has dictated that.

The only bright spot on the horizon which he can see - virtual money. E-money on a card with a non-jingling, coin-free microchip. “Roll on e-commerce!” the young boy finds himself earnestly wishing as he steps onto the bus and braces himself.

“One to Rathfarnham” he mutters darkly while simultaneously wrestling with the unruly mob which scatters noisily as his fingers descend into the cauldron that used to be his trouser pocket.

(2) Coffee To Go by Slapping Joe
COPYRIGHT February, 2002

I was lucky for once. Ballsbridge parking is notoriously difficult. That day however, Lady Luck shone and I found a space right outside the coffee shop. Fortune radiated solo that day however. It was late February and, in traditional Irish fashion, it was raining ‘cats and dogs’. But that presented no problem. Just jump out of the car and straight in for a caffeine fix. Sussed!

He was not so lucky. It’s one thing being able to avoid the elements by playing car-to-coffee hopscotch. It’s another thing entirely to be squatting, begging, on a sheet of sopping cardboard. It’s no picnic panhandling pennies at the best of times but doing so in Spring sheets of rain must really suck. This guy was young. Aren’t they all? I guess their chosen profession is not conducive to long life. He was young and he was typical. He had the familiar paper cup extended prominently. Hard to miss and easy to hit. Just the right angle of elevation to be noticeable without being a hazard to pedestrians. To his clients.

He was well versed in the art of soliciting. There were clues for those who cared or dared to survey. His position outside the coffee shop - designed to capture ‘Impulse Donations’. The paper cup - specially reinforced. A paper cup enclosed within a paper cup. Less risk then of continuous rain, and small coin friction, bursting the bottom and spilling the booty. Then there was the dingy, ladies’ umbrella that he wielded pathetically. Spokes protruding, ladders in the canvass, raindrops abseiling. Practically useless as a defence against the weather, but an eloquent advertisement of his plight. ‘Resourceful yet pitiful. Please help!’

And I did. Be it guilt or generosity I could not order my tall skinny latte without some appropriate action. The easy option presented itself readily. I could throw my caffeine-fix change into his cup. ‘My cup runneth over’ and all that! But that just didn’t sit right. And that’s how I found myself ordering a ‘Grande Americano with two sugars, to go’. And that’s how he found himself clutching a double paper cup in each hand. One for dipping. One for sipping.

I smiled to myself as I reversed out. True professional that he was he never lost a coin nor spilled a drop as he deftly relocated the umbrella stem with his elbows. Securely, solidly, into his lap. He shifted slightly, gauging his new position, ignoring my departure. All without disturbing the perfect angle of extension. And symmetry was restored in my rear-view mirror. A car gratefully slotted its way into the rare parking space in ‘notoriously difficult’ Ballsbridge.

Interests: Writing, Music, Soccer, Regularly doing something different!

Published writer: No

Freelance: Yes