Skip to main content

O’Malley’s Reprisal

“Is this us?” she said.
“Are you a guessing person?” he replied.
There is not much to guess to be truthful. It is North Station, Boston, 06:51:38 PM. There are nine empty platforms and only one that entertains a train: Track 8. Some of those that are waiting have made the obvious assumption and have started to board the train already. The others, including O’Malley, stand swapping glances from the train to the departure board. Their train is top of the list, the 06:55 PM to Haverhill, but the track has yet to be announced and they remain unconvinced. It seems an obvious choice, as already suggested, but O’Malley doesn’t go for it. He did once, and that time he had the luxury of an almost empty train, half a car to himself: a risk taken, reward given, and he who does not take risks does not drink champagne. On that occasion, as he sat in the half empty train, he looked out the window to see a train arriving at the last minute and his suspicions were confirmed: the one arriving was the one he wanted. He doesn’t do that anymore, take risks, for champagne can make you behave foolishly.
But as he expected, Track 8 is called for Haverhill three minutes before departure. The she-said-he-replied couple dart forward and O’Malley follows, along with about eighty other non-champagne drinkers, darting too with all the gusto of a half-marathon send-off, all dartlike with intent. It’s a semi-obese race mostly, for the good seats, but O’Malley is otherwise occupied with thoughts on why they always do that at stations, leave the track announcement to the last minute. He mutters several different styles of fuck to no one in particular, his favorite being an extended rasping faaacck squeezed through his teeth. In his mind he enters a room of cameras and monitors. He imagines one of the operators in room with a finger hovering over the departure board update button as if primed to launch a missile. Making sure he has the attention of his colleagues to witness some choice buffoonery, the operator thumbs the button to start the race saying, “And….they’re off.” It occurs to O’Malley that the operators of the cameras, monitors and train departure boards have to amuse themselves somehow.
The train fills up fast suggesting there was maybe a reason for the late announcement. O’Malley grabs a seat near the door, wonders who will take the free one beside him, and immediately organizes his arse to get comfortable, planting his case tightly to his right after removing his black notebook. He pushes his eye glasses up on top of his head for he needs bifocals and these ones are useless for objects in the immediate vicinity. He opens the black book and begins writing about himself and the situation. For no apparent reason O’Malley decides to call himself O’Malley in the prose. The man in front facing him starts roaring into a cell.
“Your’re kidding me,” He says. O’Malley immediately mutters the same three words in agreement along with several different styles of fuck, his favorite this time being a long silent thought fuck. The annoyance wears a yellow sports coat with a green waistcoat on top. O’Malley wonders what that is all about, but puts it down to a fashion sense as daft as his abrasive cell phone drama. He also has a blue checked shirt, the sort that is supposed to be iron-free; a hat that falls around his ears might be dedicated to a love of Sherlock Holmes and is the same color as his thick-thread brown corduroy trousers, and at the end of crossed legs both feet tap rhythm in green Doctor Martens.
“I don’t know why you do this to me,” The Garish repeats into the cell phone. O’Malley agrees, and pushes himself back into the chair to seat himself upright hoping the body language says “Oh please shut up,” and looks outside at the damp evening wondering how much longer he will have to suffer the talkative clown. Much to O’Malley’s chagrin, a quick scan of the car of the train reveals it is already quite full. Opposite is a large lady who resembles a circus balancing act of three large balls on top of each other. Her mouth is arched in an almost perfect depiction of those sad face emoticons used in text messages; the sheer weight of the sides of her face pulls the edges of her mouth southwards. She is reading a book and O’Malley thinks that there is a possibility that the sour outer belies a happiness within. She has propped her as-big-as-they-come cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee at the corner of the free seat beside her. O’Malley considers himself an expert at recognizing the strange ways some folk have of marking the seat next to them as unavailable. He didn’t even have to see the coffee to figure that she was a wannabe lone-seater. He thought the better of moving; it did not bother him to be rude and tell her uncouthly to move the coffee and no one would get hurt, but he weighed up the options and figured that his spot in front of the garish goblin G’noof’noof was the better one. Besides Sourmouth’s coffee was teetering on a fall.
Just as O’Malley is about to take his attention elsewhere Sourmouth spasms, and her head jolts back with a little snort rasp from the back of her throat. O’Malley realizes it is the manifestation of her amusement at a particularly funny line in her book. “Sn’gghh-gghh!” she snorts at the bonus funny line that follows.
At that moment, a character from a Kundera story tries to enter this tale, scissor-fingering his extremely neat and conservative looking brush-to-the-right bangs. O’Malley knows it is Thomas and decides to have him scan the car for a free seat, turn, and walk to a different compartment of the train. Before Thomas turns, O’Malley wonders if he suits the argyle sweater, and as he leaves, and O’Malley lingers on the ponderance of the diamondular pattern, the toxic odor of a fart dangles over O’Malley’s vicinity. O’Malley suspects that it was Thomas who assaulted olfactics and fartened the atmosphere with skatole, but that deduction creates a predicament, for the others have not seen Thomas. O’Malley immediately scrunches a who-farted nose and frowns to signal to the others that he recognizes the presence of a fart and under no circumstances should they suspect it belongs to him: fart-free O’Malley. The others pull similar scrunched noses but their scan of O’Malley from top to toe suggests that their noses are more the I-know-who-farted kind. Sourmouth sn’gghh-gghhs.
O’Malley is startled by the old man standing beside him looking at the free seat next to him. The look proclaims ownership but doesn’t seem to bear any recognition of an offensive odor. O’Malley shuffles a few inches almost knocking his glasses of his head where he forgot they were perched. He takes to the task of furiously writing in his notebook as the old man sits beside him.
“Poor bugger,” O’Malley thinks, “still commuting at his age. Looks like one more clean shirt will do him before the Grim Reaper retires him.”
“I don’t know why you do this to me,” The Garish repeats into the cell phone. Sourmouth sn’gghh-gghhs. The old man has the color of extremely weak tea with milk, and his face is polka-dotted with liver spots. His hair is a cliché of white and he is wearing surprisingly trendy spectacles. He props a briefcase on his knees in an obviously well practiced maneuver and folds his arms on top, tucking the cuffs of his red pinstripe shirt back in to the sleeves of his Lieutenant Columbo-style raincoat. He smiles at Sourmouth and The Garish G’noof’noof and they return the greeting, and O’Malley knows he is gate-crashing the space of train buddies. The old man notices O’Malley furiously writing.
He half-turns and says something to O’Malley he will regret for the entire journey in the company of the writer.
“Hello,” he says, “you are doing an awful lot of writing there. What are you writing about?”
O’Malley can’t resist, and in a malevolent tone befitting of Nicholson in The Shining slowly turns to the old man, raises eyebrows and says, “You. I’m writing about you.”


atomicelroy said…
nice tale!
why on earth would anyone want to go to Haverhill?
Tink said… was the champagne, AE. hehe.

Okay. Fart-free O'Malley. lol
"...whoever smelt it, dealt it"
---Orion, age 10.

You have seized my complete and utter fascinated attention! Around age 17, I would have selected garb similar to that chosen by G'noof noof. As garish as described, it was also oddly appealing. Cool work, Paul!
O'Malley said…
The Ahvarahn: if I may be so bold I would like to answer these comments.

The end of the line is somewhere I rarely go and besides, a train to Haverhill was my only choice after missing the one to Lowell, an old haunt of yours I believe, The Atomic Elroy, or so The Ahvarahn has led me to believe. The Haverhill train goes through my neck of the woods and that’s why I took it.

That garb might look okay on a midsummer’s morning, The Tinkaling, back in the early eighties, might even substitute for a jolt of coffee and might get the endorphins swimming, but during an evening commute in late autumn it’s quite an assault. We’re strictly black and black here in eurotrash New England.

I thank you.
O’Malley, The
Tommy D_____ said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tommy D_____ said…
Hi Paul, it's about time.

"Oh no,” I thought, "not another fart story!" But I read on and I was pleasantly surprised, if not overwhelmed.

So, you got O'Malley writing about the old man, eh? Scribbling like a maniac, no coffee, no cup - heard about shorthand, but never took it up! (To this day I wish I’d taken the time to learn shorthand. Had a girl that worked for me once; I was her supervisor. And oh boy, she knew how to take shorthand. She could write, and then read what I had said no matter how fast I talked. I think “Shorthand” should be a mandatory course when one enters high (secondary) school – Grade 9. No ifs ands or buts about it. Another mandatory course would be Keyboarding (typing skills) and of course, Spelling, Grammar, and Mathematics. Optional courses could run the gamut, from “Music,” and “How To Use a Recorder,” to “Quantum Mechanics.” Another mandatory course, while I’m thinking about it, might be “Chess.” Not an after-school club, but rather, chess taught in a classroom environment. A conversation between Teacher and Students, while discussing Mark and Matthew’s play, might consist of this:

Teacher: Yadda, yadda, yadda, and how can we best describe this game between Matthew and Mark?

Students: No response.

Teacher: Nobody? Well, would y’all like me to elaborate?

Students: Nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, nod. There were 27 pupils in all.

Teacher: “Okay,” he said, after counting all the nods. “To be more specific, what can we deduct from Matthew’s endplay? Can we now appreciate his early gambit and pawn sacrifice in order to gain position for his Bishop and Queen during the final assault?”

Students: Still no response.

Teacher: “Now listen up! Can we not clearly see that Mark’s early advantage ultimately became a disadvantage and lead to his eventual downfall?”

Pupil One was the first to respond. And as all students must stand when they speak, he rose abruptly to his feet.

Pupil One: “I thought Mark could have easily overcome the disadvantage with an aggressive attack up the middle but he chose to retreat like a little girl.”

Pupil Two: “I agree!”

Pupil Three: “Bite me, both of you! In my opinion Mark’s retreat was a titless move, it was typical of a man. No woman that I know would turn back and try to hide like that.”

Pupil Two: “I disagree.”

Pupil Four: “Yadda, yadda, yadda, and how best to describe this game between Students, One, Two, and Three?”

Teacher: “I don’t think it’s necessary for anyone to respond to that question. I think it would be advisable if we did not include gender in this discussion. The term, “little girl” has no place here. It tends to fan the flames. So please, each and every one of you, please don’t turn up the heat.

Pupil One: “I have no problem with that. I’d like to amend my statement and replace ‘little girl’ with ‘sniveling little leprechaun.’”

Pupil One looked directly into the eyes of Pupil Three. “I hope that suits you,” he said.

Pupil Three looked down at the clothes that she wore, and she burst into tears.


Your Good Friend,

Tommy D_____

ELF - WORD HISTORY: Nothing seems more Irish than the leprechaun; yet hiding within the word leprechaun is a word from another language entirely. If we look back beyond Modern Irish Gaelic luprachán and Middle Irish luchrupán to Old Irish luchorpán, we can see the connection. Luchorpán is a compound of Old Irish lú, meaning “small,” and the Old Irish word corp, “body.” Corp is borrowed from Latin corpus (which we know from habeas corpus). Here is a piece of evidence attesting to the deep influence of Church Latin on the Irish language. Although the word is old in Irish it is fairly new in English, being first recorded in 1604. (

PS; Your use of champagne really hit the spot. Nice.
atomicelroy said…
Dear The O'Malley,
Indeed, I've been to Lowell, the place of my birth. Having been in the Wild West for 35 years, I forgotten some times Back East one must go to places that are only along the way. I miss the Merrimac River, green and gross a it was. I spent many a day on the Tyngsborough Bridge seeing how long it would take for my spit to hit the river.
ginab said…
Really (quiet f thought) great writing! When you're on, as you are here But as he expected, Track 8 is called for Haverhill three minutes before departure. The she-said-he-replied couple dart forward and O’Malley follows, along with about eighty other non-champagne drinkers, darting too with all the gusto of a half-marathon send-off, all dartlike with intent. It’s a semi-obese race mostly, for the good seats, but O’Malley is otherwise occupied with thoughts on why they always do that at stations, leave the track announcement to the last minute you're upfrontal.

Man I love the twist at the end.

But in here, I'm the one to say it: seems weird not seeing that one really famous bloke hangin' about with us. You cannot even replace him with two kind of famous blokes (one lives at home, one ran astray).

great writing.

I have your other out of sequenced moes in hard copy on the floor of my room in my apt. how apt? NO. Just I was wanting to read them but I had an issue of the New Yorker and then so much work to do of so much more i'm putting off right now.

How does that work?

Tink said…
Ah. I understand, O'Malley. Thank you for the added visual. (very glad you did not type dingaling.) (which has been known to occur.) :o)
Anne-Marie said…
Great story, Paul!

The things I miss just walking to work with the iPod on...


Popular posts from this blog

miss valentine

Tucker Tom walked my brother and me the mile and a half to school for according to Ma, we couldn’t be trusted, and besides, the civil unrest in Northern Ireland –what we called ‘The Troubles’– was two years old and about to enter a prolific period of murder and violence. Two years was enough for most people to be already accustomed to The Troubles, and most kids our age –me five, my brother six– didn’t have a Tucker Tom to walk them to school, no bodyguards or bullet-stoppers, but ours was more evidence of Ma’s attempts to wrap us in cotton wool away from the absurd reality that was ready to ambush us.

Although he was only a few years our senior, Tucker Tom looked much older. The sides of his face sagged, but his head was shaped like a trophy with cow-like lugs for handles that made me just want to grab one in each hand and lift his head aloft in celebration. He had innocent rose cheeks and hair that stood astonished like the bristles of a toilet brush. He came from a family of cons…

The Science of Sameness

The conversation to accompany the rich Italian food was proper chirpy, boasting of the good things in life, and while we gulped at a Chianti that worked (sometimes they don't), a sentence started by one was finished by another without feeling like interruption. It was the sort of occasion often punctuated with darted comments like "isn't life great?" which was strange, for we had just returned from a tour of cemeteries, and had been met at each solemn grave by dreary rain. Flowers were planted, and small pines (oh, how you have grown since we saw you last) resisted trimming, but the hedge clippers were mainly to blame for they were blunt and lazy. We tousled the pines instead to shake them to attention and, all the while, gardening, we sheltered beneath large bright golfing umbrellas. Content with our lot for this brief period --who would blame us for wallowing in the moment-- we sat around the table in the noisy Italian restaurant, with an open kitchen like a stage…

an occurence at an intersection

It’s unusually warm for 6:30 in the morning, October, 12th, in what will be confirmed as the warmest year on record. A few people jogging with the hope of lowering their anxieties do so in attire more suitable for summer. They check gadgets on their wrists, run on the spot, and breathe deep to sooth knots within. A tall gangly man grey as the ash-end of his cigarette leans on a wall. He stubs out the butt on a sidewalk speckled with gold autumnal leaves, and is cynical of the beauty for he knows the humiliation of slipping on their slickness. He pushes his bright yellow mountain bike forward, hops on.

Aaron Fisher maneuvers the bike through an intersection near Harvard University. The 45-year-old law professor’s helmet exaggerates his features, makes him look older, and serious. Not expecting high temperatures, he’s wearing cotton sweat pants and a red waterproof jacket one size too small. He’s fearful of a silver station wagon navigating the intersection alongside him and allows it …