Early one evening a few weeks ago, Declan Meade handed me a copy of my book, just back from the printers. We were in a bar. Tom, The Stinging Fly’s assistant editor, was there too. I took the book to the door for more light, and to escape their searching gaze. I didn’t feel anything, certainly not elation. ‘I suppose I should cry, or something fitting,’ I said, when I returned.
During years of semi-secret writing I had long abandoned any expectation of publishing a book. A young niece down west, a nephew too, have shown some writing promise, and I thought that whatever small gift or urge for words resides in the genes might manifest itself in the next generation. I had insulated myself against hope. That evening I left the book on the bar table, stealing furtive glances at it, trying to fence off fear—the way a new mother might eye her firstborn, the strange creature in the crib at the end of her hospital bed. Thinking… ‘Jesus, what have I done?’
But it’s only a book, not a person. And a book of fiction, at that. And a book of short ficton at that-that. So what’s to fear? Its reach can only ever be modest. The worst that can happen is that it will not be read, or reviewed, and that it will simply… fade. No one will die.
But I was keenly aware, that evening, that a door joining the public to the private was inching open. So far, only Declan and Tom had read all of my stories, and read them closely—Declan knew them inside out. We had culled seagulls and counted suns together. These two alone, in the whole world, were the only people who knew the people that had come out of my head, and understood them. We three, our own little tribe.
For a while there was the vague sense of an ending, a leave-taking. What would I do in the months ahead if I was interrogated about these stories, these characters? What if I said the wrong thing? What if I’m asked a question with a word I don’t understand? Who will I turn to?
Later, at home, I left the book on the kitchen counter and went to bed, distracted, mildly burdened. I couldn’t sleep. How long would it be before I was found out? Downstairs, the book sat alone and apart in the dark. Nearby—on the table, on the floor—other books lay stacked or leaning against each other, long acquainted under this roof, their characters conversing nightly, there in the dark. And now there was a new arrival, a blow-in. Like a new animal brought into the farmyard or field. How would it fit? How would it fare?
I don’t think I dreamt. Overnight, something shifted, and I woke up in a new country. I woke up, thinking: What is today? Am I getting married? Perhaps they had all met downstairs. I walked into the kitchen and there it lay, still, slantways on the counter. In the daylight it looked lovely. Further along, among a small pile stacked against the wall, my eyes fell on a title: Too Much Happiness. We’ve no idea, do we, why some days are diamonds.