A writer's jealousy of a more successful rival runs to pathological levels.


1. New chapter


The writer Grudgeville got most of his inspiration sitting on Dublin’s Liffey boardwalk, pen and notepad in hand, observing the scene. Each morning, he would make the short journey from his apartment and position himself on the wooden bench that ran the length of the structure. Generally, he liked to sit by the O’Connell Bridge end of the action. All human life was there—teeming; from the high and noble to the low and base, and everyone else in between.

At any given moment, Grudgeville could look around to see glamour models posing on shoots, legal eagles scurrying to the courts, minor and major celebrities taking daily walks, mothers with prams, women with boyfriends, shop workers, office workers, business folk, and the ever present junkies—obsessing on their fix—and willing to do anything required to sate their need.

Also gliding by with considerable frequency was a far more famous writer than Grudgeville: the renowned MacGnaw. MacGnaw—a firm believer in rotating the crops—had published screenplays, plays, poetry and novels, and had recently won a prestigious international award for a volume of his flash fiction. He was acclaimed widely throughout the land, and envied pathologically by Grudgeville. He was, in fact, everything that the lesser wordmonger had always hoped, but never managed, to become.

The sight of MacGnaw, proud as a peacock pounding the boardwalk, never failed to smite the heart of Grudgeville. Invariably, it drove him deeper into his jottings where he would devise scenarios of shocking violence involving his rival’s demise.

One day, though, to Grudgeville’s great delight, art and life seemed to merge before his eyes.

A junkie, crazed with craving, approached MacGnaw—uttered something threatening—and lunged at the great writer with what looked like a blood-filled syringe. The terrified scribe recoiled against the boardwalk’s railing, in mortal danger of falling into the choppy waters below.

Narcissistic envy stopped Grudgeville from getting off the bench to help in any way. He was more than content to hang back and watch, with a supreme sense of schadenfreude, the unfolding scene. In the thoroughly modern fashion, many passersby averted their eyes, pretending not to notice what was going on.

The junkie, patently out of his mind, lunged further at MacGnaw, this time connecting the syringe to the writer’s neck. MacGnaw, pressed against the railing by his attacker’s frame, squealed in horror before—to Grudgeville’s amazement!—flipping over into the river.

Too late, somebody called the police. A strapping young guard appeared and pinned the junkie to the ground whilst radioing for help. A crowd formed by the railing and looked aghast at the writer sinking in the current. Someone threw a lifering but the Liffey swallowed MacGnaw without mercy.

Presently, the fire brigade arrived and fished out his corpse.

Grudgeville smiled and began scribbling notes with renewed resolve.

It amazed him to think that, like a piece of MacGnaw’s experimental fiction, it had all happened in a mere flash.

Ó Brian Ahern 2012

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