THURSDAY: The Viewing


Copyright is held by the author.

HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA! I hear something! They are coming! They are! What will they think? What will they think of me? Oh, I can’t wait! I just can’t wait to see how it is all going to turn out! What fun! It’s not half as bad as I thought. You would think it would be a lot worse than this, much worse. The way people talk about it! But really, it’s not bad at all. Not bad at all. I’m delighted Jeremy did everything he was asked. Good boy. Everything completed as I detailed. Jeremy has had his demons. But he is not a bad boy. Not a bad boy at all. And now he won’t mind me talking. I can keep talking as much as I want. I never get tired. Never. Not a bit of it. I don’t feel anything bad now. All those aches and pains, sores and boils. Gone forever.

Never a twang. All gone for good. If I’d known all this, I wouldn’t have been in the least worried! Not in the least! Uh-oh! What’s that out there? There’s more movement. There is! They’re outside the inside now. I just know it. Oh-ho-ho-ho! What will they think? What will they think of me? But listen . . . listen! Ha-ha-ha! Of course, I don’t listen. But now I know people are out there. I just know. I know it all now. I know the double entrance doors are opening. Now you see! See . . . ha-ha-ha! Of course, I don’t see. Thanks to Father Wills. He wouldn’t let me have that one. But I don’t mind now. I just know.

They are all coming now. What will they think? What will they think of me? My plan. My way of doing things at the last. I was so afraid of leaving it all to Jeremy. He can be so jumpy with that…thing he has. I was afraid he wouldn’t do what I wanted. He wouldn’t follow my instructions. I was afraid Alice would get involved as she tends to do, silly girl, and ruin everything. Or that slithering snake. But it has all worked out beautifully. And none of them are here. Not yet.

More footsteps. Entrance doors opening. They’re here! They are! Now the room doors. Oh-ho-ho-ho! Voices. Someone is close. Wait . . . the brass knobs are turning! It’s happening! It is! I am so happy! I’d be breathless if I could breathe! The metal is coming out of the wood. The lid comes off . . . the light comes in . . .


McGregor nods as we get to the entrance door. He gets out and adjusts his cap. “Ron. Teresa. Good to see ye.”

“Never good to see you, Mr. McGregor,” I say, before I think of it.

“Ronnie!” Teresa elbows me.

“Oh. Sorry. I just meant —”

“Not a bother, Ron. Jeremy is within. He was here early.”

“Jeremy is always very early, isn’t he, Ronnie?”

We follow McGregor into the lobby outside the viewing room.

“He said there wouldn’t be a lot of family,” McGregor says, his voice dropping to a whisper.  “I didn’t think ye would want many empty chairs. So I just put out four. Isn’t there another relation coming as well?”

“Yes, her first cousin, Sidney. He’s been looking after Saoirse’s house since she went into the home.”

“He must be in it eight years now, Ronnie?” Teresa says.

“Alice might be here for the service too.”

“Ronnie!” Teresa elbows me. “Alice won’t be here!” Teresa tuts and shakes her head. “That’s Jeremy’s wife, Mr. McGregor. But the marriage is dead now.”

McGregor takes his hat off and puts his hand on the Viewing Room door handle. “So four chairs should be about right then.” He leads us inside.

Jeremy sits on the first chair. He is dressed in a black suit and tie. He taps his heels, his hands are clasped tightly on his lap. “Hello there!” he says when he sees us, and jumps out of the chair, hurrying across to the doors leading to the toilet lobby.

We sit in the last two seats. “Sweet Jesus!” Teresa blesses herself. She looks over to the coffin. But there is nothing in the centre of the room.

“Where’s Saoirse?” I look down at Jeremy, who stares blankly back at me. I look around the Viewing Room. I eventually find the coffin, upright against the far wall. It is painted a glossy green. My sister stands within.

“It’s what Maum wanted,” Jeremy says, as he examines one of the toilet door hinges. “To be able to look people right in the eye at her funeral.” He nods at me and then presses one of the hinge screws. “In case she wasn’t . . . you know. Fully dead.” Jeremy smiles and goes out to the toilets.

“She wanted her eyes left open too,” McGregor says, in a whisper. “We had awful trouble in the morg. But in the end Father Wills wouldn’t allow it.”

“But what if it falls over?”

“Ronnie!” Teresa elbows me. “Mr. McGregor has taken care of all that, I’m sure.”

“Oh yes, it’s very secure, Ron. Six-inch plug-and-screws bolted into the wall. She’ll have left her mark when she goes, that’s for sure. The only trouble we had when we got here was . . . well, you know we had to take her out. Fr. Wills was here though. He OKed us to sit her on a chair while we were drilling. It was a quare sight. You’d think she was looking at us. I was glad when we got her back into the box.” McGregor folds and unfolds the cap in his hands. “We lidded her again straight after, just in case.”

“In case of what?”

McGregor nods at an opened drill case in the corner. “We’ll have to whip her out again when we’re going.”

“What the blazes?” We turn around. Sidney stands at the lobby door. He stares at the coffin. He looks at us. “Where’s the man himself?”

A toilet flushes out the back. “Ah, don’t tell me. Counting the tiles in the jacks, I suppose. I’ll go out to him.”

“I better open up for the public,” McGregor says. “It’s gone five.”

We sit alone with Saoirse in the Viewing Room. “We should say a prayer.” We walk across to the coffin. Saoirse’s eyes are shut tight. Her skin is surprisingly smooth for someone in their 90s. Her lips have been gummed into a smile by the mortician. She seems taller. She is dressed in a green cardigan, her wedding ring scratched and loose on her ring finger. Her hands are clasped around emerald rosary beads. We bless ourselves and stand silently for a few moments. I try not to look directly at her.

“I didn’t think she was so patriotic,” I say, rubbing the glossy green on the lid.

“I think she just liked the colour, Ronnie.” Teresa elbows me. “That’s the colour of the house too.” She looks to the toilets. “You should say something to that fellow, Ronnie.”

“What can I say?”

“Tell him to get out of your sister’s place for one thing. You saw the state of it the day we were there, Ronnie. There must have been a hundred beer bottles in the front garden. Every room packed to the ceiling with papers and cartons. Three dogs roaming around the halls, foaming at the mouth. I’d say it’s riddled with bugs from the dirt. And the way Saoirse and Michael used to keep it. It was like a show house. I wouldn’t say there was a day she didn’t hoover or polish. You should say it to him. Sidney knows what he is doing. He doesn’t keep his house like that. He’s devaluing the place. Remember, he already got two other places the same way, Ronnie. A big farm with one. Twelve years and he’ll have squatter’s rights. It’s only a matter of time then before he makes a claim. That’s all he’s been doing since he left the army. And Jeremy isn’t able for him with that . . . that thing he has. He won’t take his tablets, Ronnie. Poor old Saoirse. If she could see it now. It’s just as well she was offside these last few years.”

Jeremy and Sidney emerge laughing from the toilets. “Isn’t that the way of it, Jerry?” Sidney is saying, his arm around Jeremy’s shoulder.

“It is, Uncle Sidney, oh, it certainly is,” Jeremy says, wiping his eyes. “It is indeed.”

Their smiles fade in the Viewing Room. Sidney coughs and walks over to the chairs. Jeremy follows and sits in the first seat. He taps his heels. We return to our places. Jeremy jumps out of the chair and hurries across to a painting by the toilet doors.

McGregor comes in from the street. “Are you expecting many, Jeremy? I’d say we should close at six, if that’s okay. Father Wills will be here then for the prayers.”

Jeremy takes down the painting. “You know your business better than me, Mr. McGregor.” Jeremy tests the hook on the wall. “But I don’t believe there will be a large crowd.”

McGregor takes off his hat, folds and unfolds it in his hands. He walks across to the coffin and peers at the back.

“He’s right there,” Sidney whispers to me. “Most everyone that knew Saoirse is gone ahead of her. Michael the same. He’d be near a hundred-fold if he was still in it. And them being in England for years will keep numbers down too.” He looks at the coffin. “Nice bit of engineering that.  Bolted top and bottom, Jeremy was telling me. Plug-and-screw. Couldn’t have it falling over.”

“But what’s keeping Saoirse up?”

“Ronnie!” Teresa elbows me.

“They didn’t bolt her too?”


 “Lord knows how they’ll fill those holes in the wall after,” Sidney says. “Such an idea. I tell ye, people give death too much room. Ten years in Lebanon teaches ye about death. It has no place in life. But if you don’t mind me saying, Ronnie, she being your sister and all, this trick doesn’t surprise me. Herself and Michael came back from beyond with the mad-land fashions from over there. They were years trying to keep that house like something out of one of them poshhoor magazines. Sure she was up shining brass knobs from six in the morning. Him out in that snooker table garden, measuring the grass blades.”

“It’s not much of a snooker table now, Sidney,” Teresa says.

“I like a nice garden,” I say.

“Gardens are artificial, Ron,” Sidney says. “Nature isn’t meant for that type of pruning.”

“But Sidney,” Teresa says. “Saoirse’s house. The way it is at the mom —”

“Ah, don’t talk to me! I promised her I’d take care of it when she went into the home. Like them all she thought she was only going in for a few weeks. I told her I’d keep the thugs out. But do you have any idea how much it costs to keep a place like that? When you have to look after two other places as well as your own shack? Yer man over there has all old Michael’s money flattened with them crazy schemes he comes up with. A radio station last year, import-export the year before, a fish farm is the new idea, he says. What the blazes is he at now?” Sidney nods across the space. I look over, Jeremy adjusts the painting. “And now he’s working his way through the mother’s. I’m expected to be covering running costs. I wouldn’t like to show ye the electricity bill. Them lawns would need a team of skins at it full-time.” Sidney shakes his head slowly as he watches Jeremy. “He pays no heed. It’s all left to me. You say you like a nice garden, Ron? If you ever get the notion for doing a bit, let me know.”

Jeremy nods at the rehung painting and comes back to his chair.

“Seems quiet,” McGregor says, now at the double doors.

“It’s a shame really,” Jeremy says, tapping his shoes. “Maum would have liked an audience.”

“Oh, here comes someone now.” McGregor fits back on his cap. He goes out to the street and speaks to the mourner. He takes off his cap and leads them into the lobby.

“The family are all in here,” McGregor points to us.

“I am family,” Alice says, coming around him. She looks over to the space where the coffin should be. She then scans the room as I did, finding Saoirse at the wall. Alice blesses herself. She turns to Jeremy. “Jeremy. Sorry about your mother.”

“Hello, Love. Thank you for coming. How’ve you been?”

Alice walks by Jeremy and stops at Sidney. “If you don’t mind”’

“Hello, Mrs. Boyle. Good of you to eventually join us.”

“I’m not Mrs. Boyle anymore.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“I think that is my chair you are in?”

“You’ll have to go down the end, Mrs. Boyle.” Sidney looks around. “Ah. No more seats. You’d better see Mr. McGregor. He’s in charge. There might be a stool in the toilet.”

“I’m Saoirse’s daughter-in-law. That’s my chair.”

Sidney looks at the back of the chair theatrically. “You know, I don’t see your name on it, Mrs. Boyle.”

 “Just because a name isn’t plastered all over something doesn’t mean you can take it as yours. That’s what the cuckoo does.”

Sidney smiles broadly. “There’s always eggs in the nest when the cuckoo comes, Mrs. Boyle. This chair was empty.”

“You can sit here, Love.” Jeremy jumps out of the chair. “Maum would prefer I stood anyway. She wanted me to look people in the eye as they came in.”  Jeremy hurries across to the toilet doors. Alice sits beside Sidney on the first chair.

Two teenagers in hoodies stop outside and walk in the lobby to the entrance. They peer across at Saoirse. Jeremy folds up a corner of the floor mat. Teresa elbows me. “I wish he would take his tablets, Ronnie,” she says, in a whisper.


Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Quite the crowd in the end! Started off very slow, but I knew word would get around. My little idea! A popular one in the town! Michael would have enjoyed it. Standing room only at the finish. The punch-up was a bonus. Surprising what little Alice can do with a fist, and not a pick on her. I thought Sidney would be better trained in hand-to-hand combat being an military man. And Teresa pushing Ronnie’s nose into the middle for a smack of knuckles! Poor old Mr. McGregor and his silly hat! What fun! But Sidney the snake won’t be free for long. I know all that now too. He will soon be the centre of attention here. Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho! Well done to Jeremy. What a good boy as it turned out! What a life this is! What a death this is! I would clap my hands if they weren’t clasped in beads!


Image of Martin Keaveney

Martin Keaveney has written five books of fiction, all published by boutique
publisher Penniless Press. His short fiction, flash pieces and poems have
been published in many different literary magazines. His play Coathanger
was staged in NUIG in 2015 and later performed at the Scripts Ireland
playwriting festival where it was selected from a national competition.
His screenwriting has been produced and broadcast on national television
and his films exhibited throughout the world at many film festivals. He has
several academic qualifications including a PhD in Irish Literature,
Narratology and Creative Writing. He operates MKCW, a provider of creative
writing and literature courses working with hundreds of students annually
from all over the world. He is Director of Studies at Writers’ Isle. Learn
more at

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