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Joanne Dornan

My name is Joanne Dornan and I am a twenty five year old student of Queens University, where I am completing a Masters in creative writing. My interests outside of writing are pretty much limited to tumbling from drama to drama, and then seeking the best way to describe it to other people. I have recently had a story published in Wordlegs magazine and I am currently working on my first novel.

Guessing Games by Joanne Dornan

It all started with the big breakup, four months ago.
We’d called it the big breakup, on the quiet like, messing about, but now it wasn’t even funny. 

Marty had stopped saying it with a big grin, wagging his eyebrows, clawing the air with his hands; I’d stopped saying it with a glint in my eye, looking right over at him, already starting to twitch, waiting, waiting for it all to kick off again. 

Right from the start the whole laughing thing had reminded me of something from work, something completely different.  You see I help out in a Home Economics class and the laughing had made me think of something I did once with the kids. 

You see, they were given a competition, just for a bit of fun, to see who could make the best shape out of jelly.  They were even asked to make the moulds themselves, in the technology lab, and then later on in the week we’d set the jelly in our own classroom. 

When we were laughing about the big break-up, I couldn’t help but remember those jellies as they fell away from their moulds. 

I think that every time you laugh, and I mean every single time, a mould will be set in your chest.  It stays there, hidden, even after you’ve stopped, even after you’ve forgotten.  If you ever happen to hear the joke again you will laugh in the exact same way, and you’ll laugh the same way every time you hear it.

Like with Marty, I mean he played around with different ways of putting the joke, but it didn’t matter.  The mould had already been set. 

Yes, I suppose thinking it about it; it had been like a bond between us.   

It was Marty’s mate Mc B who had finished with his girlfriend.  Or she had finished with him to be exact.  They’d only been going out for two months, so when he came home from the pub drunk and told us the whole sad story, we’d looked over at each other like ‘oh dear’, but nothing more, we thought he’d be back on his feet by the weekend.

It wasn’t until he’d spent two weeks lying about the house that we started calling it the big breakup.  Mc B was a tiler and so his work was off and on at the best of times, but I reckon he was turning down work and everything, all he wanted to do was to lie about playing that PlayStation.

And because he was such a tiny, wee thing it looked even more pathetic.  He would sit there with one leg crossed over the other, that dirty, green dressing gown opening in the middle and showing off his navy tracksuit bottoms, his tiny feet and ankles staying perfectly still, I couldn’t believe how still, and the colour of his skin too, like a lovely warm brown, suppose he had lovely skin really, but in a strange way, come to think of it, from the waist down, he could well have been a girl.  

I had said, all along, that even if he was on the drink it would’ve been better.  I mean that you could understand.  But he wasn’t.  Just that first night and then that was it, he would lie about in his dressing gown, all day every day, stone cold sober.  It wasn’t right.

I wanted Marty to have a word with him but he said it wasn’t a good idea, he said you have to let people come out of these things in their own time.  We’d be best giving him his space, and leaving him to his own devices, until such time as he decides to wise up.  Last thing we wanted to do was to act like we were watching his every move.

Then last week something happened.

We were in bed sleeping, it was the Friday night.  We’d been watching DVD’s in bed, you know, just a quiet one, and the next thing I hear a bang.

I bolted up but Marty just slept on. Burglars, I thought to myself, it could well be, I mean the noise had come from inside.

The next thing the door was flung open and all this orange light poured in from the hallway.  Mc B flung himself into our room, like a missile, still in the green dressing gown.  He was half curled up and half straightened out, it was a mess.

He landed with a bang in the middle of our floor, showing me how he’d made the first noise.  The next thing he stood up straight and by this point Marty was sitting up in bed as well.
‘Mc B, what are you at?’ said Marty, still half asleep, while I pulled the quilt up further around my ears.  Thank God I wasn’t naked underneath.

Mc B completely ignored him, but his eyes were wide, wide open. I’ll never forget his eyes, he actually reminded me of a robot, or some sort of machine, the way his eyes were blacker than usual, and then the next thing he climbs into bed beside us.  The funny part is we all moved over to let him in, we must’ve been in shock or something, and I actually shifted right down so I was at the wrong end of the bed, as though I was terrified of him.  I mean for God’s sake it was only Mc B! 

Marty stood up on the bed and climbed out over him, it only took one step what with Marty being twice his size, and then he stood beside Mc B shaking him.  Mc B, who had his back to Marty, had curled his knees up to his chin, and just craned his neck backwards toward Marty, snorted, returned to position, and burrowed down deeper into the bed.
‘Mc B, do you see Tasha there, come on now!’ 

Marty continued with the shaking, rubbing his palms over Mc B, his fingers flexing backwards.  I couldn’t believe how calm he was, how soft.  Just get him out, I thought, inching further away from them both.

 ‘That’s Tasha, remember my girlfriend?  Come on Mc B, you’re scaring her.’

Now I really was scared.  What the hell was wrong with Marty, just get him away!  They’re gay; I thought to myself, for a minute I actually thought it, oh my God, they’re gay, they’ve been gay all this time.

Next thing, as if to prove it, Marty gathered the blankets around Mc B and then scooped him up in his arms.  There he stood carrying Mc B like a baby, there was me shivering on the end of our bed.

Ten minutes later he came in with the wee, dingy blanket that we use for picnics.

‘You’re having a laugh!’  I said as he covered me with the blanket, now using that same, bloody hand to press down against my chest.

‘He loses the plot and now what?  He’s the one in there happy with our quilt!’

Marty sat up dead straight and when I looked into his eyes my blood ran cold.

‘Tasha he has lost it.  So you can sit there and shut up.  He’s started seeing things, walking in and out of people’s rooms, doing mad things.  That’s why Kerry left.  Ok?  She told me herself.  She couldn’t take it anymore.  That’s why everyone does.  And that’s why I didn’t want you sticking your nose in.  He’s delusional, ok, he’s not right in the head.  And I don’t even know what the hell to say to him!’

‘So there you go Tasha, you don’t always know everything about everything.’

Marty dropped down on the bed and at the exact same time I lifted up. 

I watched him for a minute, pulling the pillow over his head and grinding against the mattress.

And he was right.  I did care that I hadn’t guessed.    


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