Lady Penh

Lady Penh

Short Fiction

Kenneth Nolan



‘Last night in a dream
I returned to Lady Penh
Hustle and bustle
all those accosting smells
available to enjoy again
It was on my last visit
where I feel I left something behind
My peace of mind
My anchor beer
My whiskey
My life of happy madness
A madness which pumps the blood
through the veins
at the speed life’s blood should truly travel
She is a crumbling beauty
And I a stumbling, shambling brute
Perhaps we were made for each other
My futile fears
that only this city can smother
One can enjoy a peaceful melancholy with
Lady Penh
No need to crave success
or forward movement
Only the bill
to be paid at the end of the day
You will eventually shout
Kot Loi!
Only to awaken at home
An ordinary boy’

I remember the first time I came to Phnom Penh. It excited me more than any other place I have ever been to. The very minute I arrived here I was smitten. I immediately fell in love with the chaos, the smells, the ramshackle beauty of the old French era architecture. It felt like the perfect marriage of chaos and calm. Upon arrival, when I set foot off the bus, there wasn’t the expected barrage of hassles from rickshaw drivers, or people forcing themselves upon me as I would have dealt with in the other cities I had been to in this part of the world. I was allowed to calmly walk down the street, get my bearings and approach a driver to take me to my hotel.

That was nearly 10 years ago now. I was on a trip which was supposed to end in Australia on a ‘1 year working holiday visa’, the Irish young adult’s ‘rite of passage’ of the day. I never got to Australia. I took a job in what was then the only Irish bar in the city. ‘The Irish Rover’, a nice little place, run by an affable Meath man. It was a medium sized bar, which had guest rooms upstairs. 5 rooms rented to travellers, and 2 rooms which were living quarters, 1 of which I stayed in.

It was my job to keep the bar open until the early hours. Sometimes I’d go above and beyond the call of duty, and keep serving past 5, 6, 7 in the morning. This was usually dependent on how good a time I was having myself. I loved it. I loved being carefree, wild, and away from home. At that time, Cambodia had not long emerged from the shadows of ‘Khmer Rouge’ tyranny. It was a burgeoning ‘Asian Tiger’ economy. A new wave of foreign investment hit Phnom Penh, followed by a tourism spill-over from neighbouring Thailand, a very popular destination. The city was brimming with western visitors.

I met an American girl named Valerie, we hit it off and became a couple. She had come to Cambodia to teach English, and she loved Phnom Penh as much as I did. In the daytime I would just wander through the city streets, trying to familiarise myself with every corner of the city. I loved to walk by the ‘Tonle Sap’ river. I could spend hours meandering through the ‘Central Market’. My favourite place to hang out was ‘The Olympic Stadium’. The stadium is open to the public on a daily basis, and is a good place to get a flavour of local social life. Often I’d go for a run around the track. Mostly I just liked to sit on the steps, in the stands and people watch. You could find all sorts of activities going on there; exercise classes, ball games, even cookery classes. I used to like mixing with the local people, many of them would practise their newly attained English language skills with me. I felt part of the city.

At night I would serve drinks in the ‘Rover’, and entertain the tourists. Valerie would sit at the bar, until it got late. Eventually she moved into the room upstairs with me. Things changed when the boss got tired of the fact that I was drinking as much booze as I was serving to customers. I got the sack. Valerie and I went our separate ways, my money ran out and my visa expired. In no time at all I was back in Ireland, wondering what the hell had happened and trying to rebuild my life.

Things went from bad to worse back home. The recession hit, and misery was in the air. There was an unavoidable undercurrent of negativity, it permeated every conversation. I spent a few years going from mind numbing temping job, to mind numbing temping job, people would tell me how lucky I was to be doing so. I fell deeper and deeper into depression. I passed through the mental health system, the professionals whose care I came under advised me to deal with my alcoholism. I continued to drink, and lost interest in maintaining relationships with my family and friends. My father passed away last year. He left behind a substantial sum of money to be shared between myself and my sister. I can’t say I felt his loss to any great degree. I could only question why he wasn’t so generous when he was alive.

I did not realise it then, but I had died myself in some way. I had become heartless and thoroughly selfish. Nevertheless, I knew exactly what I would do with the money I received. I could hear ‘Lady Penh’ calling.

I returned to Phnom Penh 11 months ago. When I arrived I felt free again. Free to be myself. I was relieved in the knowledge that I didn’t have to be a part of anything anymore. I did not want to be identifiable. Oblivion was to become my life, my future, and I saw no reason to fear it. I had no desire to meet new people or make new friends. I wasn’t interested in the Khmers or their culture, like I had been previously. I saw no reason to seek mental stimulation of any kind. I decided not to engage with anybody, beyond that which was necessary. I wanted only to drink. I had effectively retired from life, and I was comfortable with my choice to do so. Until last night.

I live at a place called the ‘Weekend Guesthouse’ in a suburban area behind the Olympic Stadium just off Sihanouk Boulevard. It is about a mile away from the main tourist area Sisowath Quay, and what I suppose could be described as the city centre. ‘The Weekend’ is run by a very nice Sino-Khmer family. The family consists of: mother, father, two teenage daughters and one teenage son. Gech the eldest daughter, is the only one I have any dealings with. She is 18 years old, very pretty, with perfect English. She has been educated in London and Shanghai and is effectively the manager. On the staff are Pim and Fon, a married couple who are the cooks/kitchen staff. There are 4 other staff who act as drivers/porters/tour-guides, of which Heng my preferred driver is one. All of these people are poor peasant Khmers. The rate is $7 a night. I have managed to cajole a deal from Gech. I pay $35 per week.

The clientele of ‘The Weekend’ consists of 10% long stay ex-pats and 90% backpackers. I try to avoid the backpackers if I can help it. They tend to get on my nerves. You know the ‘goodie two shoes’ type. They arrive in Cambodia, and the first thing they want to do is visit an orphanage. It seems like they want to help, though it is purely voyeurism. Secretly, they thank their God or their well-to-do parents that they themselves, don’t live in grinding poverty. There are slums, ghettos and orphanages in their home cities that they would never dream of setting foot in. They believe poverty and despair is entirely a third world phenomenon, or in this case a ‘phnompenhmenon’. I am the only alcoholic living at ‘The Weekend’ on a regular basis.

In fairness, Cambodia does court ‘genocide tourism’. People come to learn about the Khmer Rouge era atrocities.

2 of the biggest attractions are ‘The Killing Fields’ and ‘Toul Sleng Genocide Museum’. And much less informatively, there are bars here which serve strong alcoholic beverages named; ‘Mortar Rounds’ and ‘Landmines’. You can guess which of these attractions I am more familiar with.

Against my better judgement, I have made an alliance with another of ‘The Weekend’s’ regular residents. He is a Dutch chap named Ronald. Ronald is mainly here for the dope. He grew tired of his life in Amsterdam, and believes Cambodia is the next best place to get stoned. Ronald spends half the week in Sihanoukville, the beach resort 3 hours south of Phnom Penh. Sihanoukville is another great spot for getting wrecked, though it is small, and much less hectic. I go there myself for ‘recoup time’ occasionally.

Ronald is an eternally cheerful fellow and is very good at the art of yarn spinning. I often find myself chuckling, whilst listening to one of his many drug ignited tales of depravity. He has a terrific sense of humour, like most Dutch people I have met, this is always welcome in the company one keeps. For some reason I have always got on well with Dutch people. His drug consumption is excessive, by anybody’s standards, Ganja is his regular companion though I have witnessed him consume: Yaba, Cocaine, Ecstasy, Heroin, Morphine, and all sorts of powders, capsules and tiny vials of strange appearing liquids. I have got high with Ronald many times, and he has got drunk with me, but drugs don’t really do it for me. Alcohol is my drug. I’ve always believed, with a sort of ridiculous arrogance, that drug addicts are people who haven’t got the grit to be alcoholics.

Ronald is fascinated with my alcohol intake. He is forever trying to understand how my unimposing physicality can withstand the abuse it takes. His observations amuse me greatly; “fuck man, how can one guy drink so much bersh”, “fuck man, this much whiskey will screw your brain up forever”. I guess we all take pride in being good at something, however self-destructive the talent. I have a very similar fascination with his drug abuse, however, he can’t see the correlation.

I value my friendship with Ronald, though I’m reluctant to admit it. However, our association could disturb my comfortable life at ‘The Weekend’, due to his insatiable appetite for Phnom Penh’s prostitute community. Gech has warned him on numerous occasions not to bring those girls back to the guesthouse, as they may offend the ‘normal’ clientele. Ronald cannot understand the problem. I understand the problem. Most definitely. Recently, whilst I was sitting in the common area at ‘The Weekend’, he joined my table accompanied by a girl caked in clown makeup, wearing little more than a bra and hot-pants.

It was 1:30 in the afternoon. I was eating egg sandwiches, washing them down with Solpadeine dissolved in water. I was desperately trying to stop my hands from shaking, trying to give my system some respite. I felt terribly uncomfortable, the girl was no more than 18 years old. I asked him to show decorum. He laughed in my face, incessantly, and began to recount the various times when I have been asleep at the very same table, mindlessly drunk, drooling and slobbering. His ‘Pots & Kettles’ look always puts me in my place.

Gech has asked me to have a word with Ronald. It seems every week when I go to her, to pay for my room, she mentions his behaviour, but what can I do! It’s not as if he is really anything to do with me. Maybe she makes the same requests about me, when he goes to pay for his room. I don’t need such hassle. I just want the bed and shower in the place, and for people to let me be while I go about my business. However, I would miss Ronald if he were no longer permitted his stays at ‘The Weekend’, as it is nice to look at somebody else, comparatively, and imagine that you are not as much of an abhorrence as you may appear. He is also a million times preferable to most of those, smarmy, characterless backpacker types.

My room is very basic, though as I mentioned before, it’s a bargain at 5 quid a night. It has a huge double bed with a single quilt that barely covers half the bed size. The bed itself covers about 70% of the room, and also serves as my sofa, wardrobe, and general living area. I have a small ‘en-suite’ that includes a sink and a shower cubicle. I am content with my living space. I particularly treasure the shower. It has been responsible for resurrecting me on many occasions, despite the fact that the water pressure is very weak. Fon, as part of her duties, attempts to clean the room each day. I try to communicate to her that she need not bother, she carries on in her efforts regardless. She just looks at me like I’m from outer space.

‘The Weekend’, is never more than half full during the week and 3 quarters full at the actual weekend. Perhaps that is why they put up with undesirables like Ronald and I. All and all I think I have a good relationship with my landlords, or at the very least I’m an interesting guy to have around the place.

I generally keep myself to myself in the bars or the city streets. I rarely make new friends, just acquaintances. Well to tell you the truth, making new friends becomes very difficult when you are drunk most of the time. My memory does not allow new people entrance to its inner chambers. Consequently, I tend to go through a type of courteous charade when people try to make conversation with me. Perhaps they have met and spoken with me before, but it is basically the first time for me, more often than not. I may nod and answer politely, refer to them as ‘mate’ or ‘pal’ etc. However, they are just vacant shadows.

I try to ignore the waves of paranoia, and my brain’s horrible instinct to query what state I was in, if the person in front of me is speaking to me like we have already met.

I have regular periods of doubt as to whether what I am seeing or hearing is real. I no longer trust my eyes and ears. This has left me with a feeling of terrible dread, a foreboding awareness that my time here in Phnom Penh is nearing its end. Maybe my time in this world.

Last night I left ‘The Starlight Bar’ at 11:30. I remember refusing a number of offers of cheap sex and even cheaper sad luck stories. Just another drunken night in Phnom Penh, though this one is punctured by frequent bouts of sobriety. I can see 2 hookers on the other side of the street, not an unusual sight for Phnom Penh on any night of the week especially approaching the midnight hour. Confused and disorientated, I begin to wonder, “Where the fuck is Heng?” He usually waits out front by the door so I can get to the next bar quickly, without any unnecessary delay. I have a pressing need to puke, and I can also feel a nose-bleed coming on. The horrible mix of whiskey and ‘Anchor’ beer is winning the battle over my stomach. I need to get to a toilet. I have no desire to partake in the indecency of vomiting in the street.

I stumble into the Phnom Penh night, eerie and mysterious, an elegant shambles, flavoured with a thousand smells, piercing darkness, coloured with an ever-present risk of danger. I am always acutely aware that something terrible can strike from the darkness at any moment. Or something beautiful may appear, something tantalising and life-affirming could be waiting around the corner, perhaps market-sellers at their stalls laughing, friendly dogs aimlessly roaming, or kids happily playing games amongst some debris.

I become quietly enraged at the absence of Heng, he has totally screwed his chance of a decent tip tonight. I am well aware of the girl getting closer, sounding off the usual catchphrases: “Where you go” “I go with you” “Wery cheap” “No Ploblem”. I know the drill, if she gets much closer, make sure to keep your hands in your pockets when she makes a grab for your balls, you must have a tight grip on your wallet and phone. She has followed me alone, probably a turn take deal agreed with her partner. I brace myself and turn to face her. I speak in my politest ‘drunken Irishman’ voice and inform her that I’m not interested, maybe some other time. Suddenly I hear Heng’s voice and the sound of his screeching motorbike.

“Leave now Mr James, lady no good.”

The girl realises that her last chance of a customer tonight is about to throw his leg over the back of a scooter and drive off into the night. She grabs my butt and delivers a most amusing sales pitch, “Come with me sexy man”. I can’t help but laugh, considering the state I’m in, I am anything but sexy. I brush her hand away and turn to face her. I look directly into her eyes for the first time.

My eyes are met by one of the scariest sights I have seen on any dark Phnom Penh night. She has a purple, hollowed out face, with blank eyes and cheekbones you could hold like the handlebars of a bicycle.

My first thought is of the drink, and how I have been hitting it really hard for quite a while now. Had I been propelled into a face to face meeting with one of those awful Banshees from Irish Folklore? I used to read about such horrors as a child, and they scared me senseless. The Banshee. The old Gaelic forewarner of death. Surely not. Am I dying? I’m in Cambodia for Christsake! There are no Banshees here.

The girl is not aggressive, nor loud nor threatening. She just seems desperate. She is pleading and begging, the sadness in her voice is irritating. I have never heard such grief in a voice before, it renders my own melancholy minuscule.

Heng speaks to her in Khmer, harshly and firmly, and what I presume to translate as go away or words to that effect. I dismiss him, and usher him away from the girl, still angry with him for not keeping his post. I also have a developing fascination with the girl, born out of shock. Her appearance is startling. She stands about 4’10, in inches. Painfully thin, no more than 6 stone, you could imagine that a strong man could probably squeeze her to death without much exertion. She is wearing a white dress down to the knee, with a green krama (traditional Khmer scarf) wrapped around her waist. She has no womanly shapes that offer any sex appeal, her legs look like they could buckle at any moment. Still, it is her purple face, which is her most dominant feature.

She eventually simmers down a little, and stops quoting the slogans at me. Now she is just trying to talk with me, asking me the usual questions I get asked by a Khmer with a little English, when they meet me (the man from foreign country). “What is your name? Where do you come from? How long you stay Kampuchea?” I am now involved in a conversation with this creature. Heng leans over his scooter, he is obviously agitated, he waits patiently for this unnecessary encounter to come to an end.

“My name is James. I am from Ireland. What is your name?”

She tells me that her name is Srey Arb, she is 27 years old and that I should stay together with her tonight because she will “take care me”, “make me wery happy” and “be good girl”. As she is speaking, Heng delivers some news; news which I’m sure he thinks is a complete revelation to the silly drunken foreigner he is paid to safeguard.

“Mr James… girl… no good! … HIV/AIDS, wery sick.”

I am sobering up considerably, perhaps my initial childish analysis was wrong. The girl is not a banshee.

This was not the first time AIDS had made its way to the forefront of my mind during my time in Cambodia. You become very aware of the enormity of the HIV/AIDS problem in Cambodia almost as soon as you arrive in the country. Billboards encouraging safe sex, adorn all of the main boulevards in Phnom Penh. Clinics with striking ‘red ribbon’ signs saturate the cities and larger towns. I had some personal experience of one such clinic after a very reckless, but none the less enjoyable night I spent with a lady I met in ‘The Heart’, about a month previously. The next day the girl insisted that we take a test together. This made me think that she was infected. The 24 hours I spent waiting for the results of the test were very sobering and uncomfortable hours indeed, regardless of the number of ‘Anchor’ beers and Long Island Iced Teas, I managed to imbibe.

At the time of that encounter, I was aware of the risk I was taking, though maybe it was the alcohol that made me ignore it, or maybe I am just passively suicidal. That said, when the penny dropped, on the street outside ‘The Starlight’. I was for the first time standing before someone I knew to be an AIDS sufferer. She looked like she was near the latter stages of this awful illness. She was obviously desperately ill, there was no way for her to hide that fact.

My initial feelings of shock, curiosity and pity towards her, are now gone, they are replaced by feelings of anger. Why is she selling sex when she’s in such a position? I decided to take the encounter further by inviting her to eat at my usual late night snacking spot ‘Noc Moys Cafe’ a few blocks away. It takes me a few minutes to convey to Heng that I realise the lady is a “Bad Girl”, and that I have no intention of having sex with her. He is also quite reluctant to allow her on the back of his scooter, probably fearing he may catch something. However, I insist, I inform him that I will hire another driver, of which there are many on most street corners in Phnom Penh, thus losing him his night’s fare. He reluctantly agrees to take the lady with us as an extra passenger. I make the universal ‘spoon to mouth’ sign to the girl, inviting her for food. She agrees, she then crosses the street to inform her friend that she is leaving on what she most probably believes will be for more than a meal and a chat.

We set off, all 3 of us on Heng’s bike, in the order of: Heng, myself in the middle, and the girl on the end. Heng made it perfectly clear that he does not want the girl to touch him at any point during the course of the journey.

Noc Moys is a little place just off Norodom Boulevard. I usually end the night there. I very rarely arrive before 2am. I order the same meal every visit: red snapper fish with sticky rice, and 2 large ‘Anchor’ beers to cure my thirst during my stay. Moy is the name of the girl who runs the place, I think she is the owner’s wife. We always chat for a while when I arrive. She is trying to learn English, sometimes if I’m not too drunk, I answer some grammar questions she might have on standby. As he does with the bars I frequent, Heng will wait outside. He has never accepted an offer of a meal since he has been my regular taxi-bike driver. On this occasion I insist, as I will need his translation services.

The restaurant is almost empty as we enter, apart from 2 tourists sitting by the door. It is 12.30am. I shout ‘Soksaboi Moy’ across the floor, ‘Soksaboi James’ she replies, this is ‘hello’ in Cambodia, it literally translates as ‘peace & happiness’. I can see that Moy is taken aback by my company this evening. She is not so talkative, she has a worried look on her face, and she fails to ask; “how you n’joy your day?” as she would every other night. We sit in my favourite spot in the corner of the café, beside the Buddha shrine. The loveable mongrel dog comes over to me for a pat, he thinks his belly will be full with my leftover food in a short while.

Srey Arb orders a traditional ‘hot & sour’ soup, I order my usual, Heng refuses to eat.

“Ask her what her name means Heng.”

The girl answers the question herself. “My name in Cambodia means lady.”

I knew this already, ‘Srey’ is like a prefix, it just means woman. I have heard it used many times, Srey Moy, Srey Gech, Srey Fon.

“How far away is your country? Do you have ladies like me in your country?”

The last part of her question amuses me. “Yes. My country, Ireland is very far away. And we do have many different kinds of ladies there. Some like you, some not so much like you.”

“No, I think you have never met a lady like me before.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

“How much you give me tip for come here with you?”

I feel saddened that she’s back to her ‘business speak’ again. I had thought that we had developed an understanding, a rapport even. I don’t know why, on this night of all nights, something inside of me is bubbling to the surface, the ‘Good Samaritan’ perhaps. I have notions of paying for the girl’s medication, proper treatment in a good hospital. I am behaving like one of those ‘goodie two shoes’ backpacker types, the very people I had come to despise. Heng, is leaning into me, he says the same dramatic words twice, “Girl die soon”. It seems like he thinks the girl can’t hear what he is saying to me, though he is speaking audibly.

“Yes I know Heng, but not until she has her dinner.”

I can see Moy is summoning me to the counter. The food is ready and she wants me to come and collect it. Usually, she would deliver it to the table, as would happen in any restaurant. She has also sent the dog away, into the living quarters at the back of the restaurant.

I am disappointed by this, I’ve grown very fond of the dog. It occurs to me that maybe part of the reason why I come here is to play with that dog. It is obvious that Srey Arb is the elephant in the room. Heng comes to collect the food with me.

“Eat then kot loi. We go!”

He is adamant that she and I, eat quickly so we can leave. ‘Kot Loi’ basically means ‘cheque please’. I try to reassure Heng.

“Don’t worry, you won’t catch HIV from the girl just by sitting at the same table.”

“She is here to kill you,” he replies.

I can’t help but find Heng’s amateur dramatics amusing. I chuckle aloud as we carry the food and my beer back to the table. Moy gives me a dirty look as we do so.

“How long have you had HIV?” I ask her, she looks up from cooling her soup.

“3 years already.”

“Do you live in this part of the city?”

“I live near the hill, not too far from here, I come here only for work.”

“You have sex with men for money.”

“Yes, I need the money for my family. In my home there is only my sister, my brother and me. My father and mother they die.”

“But if you have sex with men, maybe they will get HIV too.”

“Yes I know this. They kill me, now I kill them. They deserve to die.”

Chillingly, I realise that her English is almost perfect now. The pigeon English she spoke, when we first encountered each other outside ‘The Starlight’ just over an hour ago, has comprehensively improved.

Heng is redundant as a translator. All he can say is “Kot Loi. Now we go!”. She is revelling in her words as she speaks them. Across this small table from me, now sits an imposing figure, taller, wider in physique, her purple face is turning grey and stony, those handlebar cheekbones firming up, appearing more like the edges of a cliff.

“Why do you say you want to kill? I’m sorry, I know you must have been treated very badly, by many men, they use you and make you ill.”

An intense glow begins to emanate from the eyes of Srey Arb. Shock and fear envelop me.

She starts to weep and laugh, then weep again. I look around, there is no sign of Moy. It’s just the 3 of us now. Sickness hits my stomach and shivers run down my spine as I realise something terrible is happening. Something beyond my control and comprehension. She speaks:

“I am Lady Penh. I am 700 years old. I have watched for a long time as many people come to my home, some come to kill some come to die. So many of my children have died. Many killed by their brothers and sisters, many killed by people just like you. James McNeill you are so sad and lonely. I can hear your spirit cry for freedom.

“You came here to Phnom Penh to die. I will take you, and you can be with your family. All of your sadness will soon be ending.”

I can’t believe what is happening. I wish I was at home in Ireland. The place I couldn’t wait to get away from all my adult life, I just want to go back there now. I am in the middle of some astoundingly vivid, alcoholic hallucination. I want to scream for the comfort of my childhood. Something familiar. I am desperately trying to wake myself up from this nightmare. I can feel myself being pulled to my feet from behind. It is Heng, he takes the bottle of beer from my hand, he holds me up, and steadies me on my feet. He leads me towards the door.

“Mr James the Krasue has come for you. The Dark Lady of Phnom Penh. She is the bringer of death, you must leave, go home to your country.”

As we exit I look back to our table. The original girl sits there, alone, head in her hands, crying uncontrollably.

I arrive back to ‘The Weekend’, it is 2am. I remember Heng bringing me home on the back of his scooter, though as I walk through the gates, I notice that Heng has disappeared, I am alone. The neighbourhood dogs are barking wildly. I turn my key in the front door and walk through the common area as softly as I possibly can. There are no residents around, everything becomes deathly quiet. As I pull myself up the stairs, a young Khmer lady comes bounding down, almost knocking me over the bannister as she passes. She frightened the life out of me.

“Somtoh Excuse me,” I snap.

She is standing at the bottom of the stairs giggling.

“Srey Arb! Is that you?”

“Somtoh,” comes the reply, she stops giggling and runs out the door.

I need sleep desperately. Maybe somebody spiked my drink, I know if I can get to bed quickly, everything will be okay in the morning.

I reach the top of the stairs, I can hear the sound of a woman weeping. It’s just a soft, mournful, almost melodic sob. As I get closer I realise it is coming from my room. Number 16. The door is open and Gech is sitting on my bed. She seems very upset, and is praying I think. She is ignoring me, refusing to acknowledge my presence. Heng is standing at the door to the en-suite. “What’s going on Heng? Why are you in my room?”

He is looking down at the basin of the shower cubicle. I enter, and look to where Heng is looking. I see Ronald lying there naked. There is blood congealed at his nose, and he is covered in his own vomit. A green scarf is wrapped tightly around his bicep, with a syringe still inserted in the vein dangling beneath it. I am looking down at him. What a pathetic waste. I feel so angry with him for doing this. I can’t stop myself from shouting down at him; “How could you let this happen? You fuckin’ idiotic ridiculous boy.”

Heng gets a towel and removes the syringe from Ronald’s arm. Gech takes the quilt from my bed and covers Ronald with it. They close the door to the en-suite and leave my room. I go to sleep.


Kenneth Nolan is a Writer from Tallaght, who now lives in Blanchardstown. He is the founder of 2 regular literary events in Dublin, ‘Dreaming without sleep’ which is held in Dublin Castle and ‘The Merg Sessions’ held in Tallaght. He holds Higher Diplomas in Creative Writing and Cultural Studies. In 2012 he won first prize for poetry in the ‘CDVEC Sports & Cultural Awards’.

He has been shortlisted twice for the ‘Jonathan Swift Award’ and his work has been published in Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, Tallaght Soundings, Brilliant Flash Fiction-Online, Headspace Magazine, The Echo Newspapers, Ink Splinters Anthology, Phoenix Ink Anthology, Creative Talents Unleashed, Flare, Live Encounters Magazine. He has appeared as ‘Featured Writer’ on Dublin South FM ‘Rhyme & Reason’ show and Near FM ‘Writers Block’. His radio play ‘The Twang Man’ has been broadcast on Dublin South FM.

You can learn more about Kenneth’s work online at the following:

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