In Sunshine or in Shadow: Stories by Irish Women

In Sunshine or in Shadow: Stories by Irish Women


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From Dublin's suburbs to the streets of New York, women's hopes and dreams come alive in a unique collection of stories that mines Ireland's extraordinary storytelling tradition.

In Maeve Binchy's "Taximen Are Invisible" a cabbie becomes silent party to the lives of a couple who seem to have it all—until he sees the truth, and counts his own heretofore unrecognized blessings. The perfect marriage in Mary Gordon's "Bishop's House" appears to be the province of Helen and Richard, longtime friends of divorcée Lavinia—until Lavinia discovers the true nature of their bond with each other—and with her. Mary Maher pays tribute to a simple wife in "Lucy's Story" as Lucy shares her deepest secrets with a psychologist friend—and shows the steel beneath the fluff.

In these and sixteen other superb stories, Ireland's finest writers create vivid portraits of extraordinary women—gallant, sometimes foolish, often wise—who have found the courage to endure loss of innocence and love betrayed...and survive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385333351
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Publication date: 02/09/1999
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 4.89(w) x 7.65(h) x 0.84(d)

Read an Excerpt

Most of the fellows on the rank were deep in debt when it was all over. Some of them got sunburned, and had red scaly heads as well. From time to time Eddie thought of the sunny day he had driven Lorraine and Ronan across Dublin, before Maggie had come into their lives and changed them forever.

Eddie still worked long hours. It had become a habit with him. He couldn't stop. He was tired and depressed on the cold February evening in 1995 when the hooligan element that came to Dublin for the Ireland-England match wrecked Lansdowne Road. There seemed no point in a game when a minority of thugs could take it over. He sat glumly by the fire.

Phyllis asked Eddie not to work so hard.

"You're only doing it for me, and honestly we have enough. We got the roof mended way back, the house can't fall down. The kids have all got jobs. What I'd really love is if you spent a bit more time at home, and maybe we could go out to the new cinema complex once a week and maybe for a pint afterwards. I had someone check it out, and it's all on the level, no steps anywhere, wouldn't it be a great outing?"

Eddie thought how true it was that life doesn't turn out as you think. Five years back he would have thought there was nothing good ahead of them, now they had fine times. They were luckier than a lot of people. He saw Ronan and Maggie from time to time. They were like man and wife. Even more so when their baby was born. A little girl who was baptized Elizabeth. Eddie had driven Maggie's mother and sister from the christening.

Maggie's mother had not improved in temper.

"Well, I'd say the Blessed Virgin is delighted to have that scrapcalled after her own first cousin."

"Aw, Mam, will you stop, didn't they have it christened to please you, isn't that good enough?"

"It is not good enough," Maggie's mother said. "All this talk of partners and union and everything, with everyone in the church knowing that he's a married man and that Maggie deliberately set out to have a child out of wedlock."

"Shush Mam, the taxi driver will hear you."

"Hasn't he his eyes and mind on the road, or he should have," she said, and closed her mouth with a snap. Just in case.

Lorraine didn't seem to mind Ronan calling to his former family home.

Eddie took him back from there to the flat where he lived with baby Elizabeth. It was all very difficult. Eddie could tell that Ronan found the old house restful.

His children were not always free on a Saturday nowadays, there was a match or a project or a date.

They said that Daddy shouldn't be so doctrinaire, even if he lived at home he wouldn't be seeing them on a Saturday, nobody's parents saw people on a Saturday.

So Ronan did a few of those little jobs around the house, propped up the fence, painted the window frames and the hall door.

Eddie thought he seemed loath to go when the time was up.

The flat was festooned with baby clothes, he didn't get all that much sleep, probably.

Eddie didn't believe they would get back together, but things were definitely less hard for Lorraine with the kind eyes than they had been in the days and weeks when Ronan had first left the nest.

Eddie drove Maggie and the baby one day.

It was on a trip to examine a new baby-minding facility, apparently the first two had not been satisfactory.

Maggie lit up a cigarette.

"Don't tell me it's a no-smoking taxi or I'll jump into the Liffey," she said. Her big dark eyes were anxious.

"I don't mind, but is it good for the baby?" Eddie said.

"Of course it's not good for the baby," Maggie snapped at him. "Any more than living in a flat in the center of the city is, or the belching fumes of diesel or her mother having to go out to work every day."

"So what does your husband think about it all, is he a smoker?"

"No, you must be psychic, he hates it, and he says I'm damaging her little lungs at one remove, and that it's a bad example, and I'm not allowed to smoke in front of his two great louts of children. Not that he cares about her little lungs when she's bawling with them at three o'clock in the morning, he even sleeps in a different room because he has to work. There's nothing about me having to work."

"Well, could you give up work?" Eddie was interested and caring.

"No, because he's not my husband, he's my partner, and when you live with a partner you go out to work. It's the wife who sits at home and collects the money. That's reality. That's the way things are."

Her face was angry and upset. Was it five long years since he had seen her first?

He had been annoyed with her then, home wrecker, selfish. Yet here she was a forty-year-old with a baby, and very little security.

"Roll on November," she said, and inhaled her cigarette down to her toes.

"November?" asked Eddie.

"The referendum, the divorce referendum, twenty-sixth of November," she said and looked out at the traffic. In Eddie's house there was a bit of aggravation about which way to vote.

Phyllis was voting Yes. She wanted people to have the right to start again if they made a mistake. She didn't want to punish them.

Eddie wasn't so sure. If you made things too easy, fellows upped and went. He was going to vote No.

"Women could up and go just as soon as men," Phyllis said with spirit. Phyllis, who would never get up and go from her wheelchair and would never want to be a day without Eddie.

"I've seen a lot of unhappiness as a result of divorce and people leaving their homes," Eddie said, shaking his head.

"Well, if you have, you haven't seen it in Ireland because there isn't any divorce here yet." Phyllis spoke with authority.

They debated not going out to vote at all, since one would cancel out the other, but neither of them wanted that.

"My side needs it more than yours," Phyllis said.

"I'm not totally convinced that you're right," Eddie said. He had been listening a lot in his taxi and thought that a No vote was much less than certain. On the day of the referendum he had Phyllis neatly tucked in the front of the taxi.

They saw a woman with long hair struggling with a baby.

She hailed them and seemed very disappointed when she saw it was engaged.

"I know where she's going, I think I'll stop for her," Eddie said.

Maggie and young Elizabeth fell gratefully into the back of the cab.

Phyllis talked to everyone that she met, and Maggie was no exception. By the time they got to the apartment block she had discovered more about Maggie's life than Eddie would have discovered in a decade--that Maggie's mother had her heart scalded, that her boss was getting very cross about time off to mind the baby, that she had hardly any friends left these days and had just voted Yes, and that if the referendum passed, her life would change.

"Good luck to you," Phyllis said. "That man's marriage is well dead by now and he can start again properly instead of just messing about."

"Yes, that's what I say. I suppose it will take a year or so, but then the world will settle down."

"I expect the two of you are planning it already?" Phyllis said eagerly.

"He hasn't said anything, but I expect he's thinking about it." Maggie was biting her lip.

"Well, of course he is," Phyllis said. "Of course, what kind of a man wouldn't want to look after you and the little girl properly?"

Maggie's face was troubled.

Eddie suddenly agreed. "Ah yes, of course he'll marry you, what else would he be living with you for and having a child with you, if he weren't going to marry you?"

Phyllis looked at him with surprise. You never knew what way Eddie would turn.

"And why isn't he voting with you?" Eddie asked.

"He has to see his big dreary children," said Maggie. "He won't be home until late tonight." From his vantage point at the rank Eddie saw Ronan going into Lorraine's house. He had a tray of winter pansies. She brought him out a mug of something as he worked. They laughed together as old friends. There were no signs of the big dreary children that he was meant to be visiting. Eddie smiled to himself.

He would work late tonight. Phyllis would watch endless television discussion on the referendum, and then as far as tomorrow was concerned he would be glued to the results nonstop.

He thought about Maggie alone in her flat.

He thought about how life never turns out like you think it will. On November 27, Eddie saw Ronan coming out of his office.

By now Ronan sort of recognized Eddie and would say, "There you are again," to show that he was aware they had met.

"It's going to be close," Eddie said.

"Too damn close," Ronan said.

Eddie looked puzzled. "Well," Ronan went on, "it would be better if the whole country was one way or the other, this way it's divisive."

"That's true. Anyway I expect even if it does pass, most people won't bother getting divorces at all, most people have their own arrangements made by now, perfectly adequate arrangements." Eddie could sense Ronan eager to agree.

"It's interesting that you should say that, it's my own view precisely. If it ain't broke why fix it, that's what I say, or am going to say if the matter is brought up."

Eddie paused for a moment to think. What he said now could be quite important. It might even make a difference. He could come down in favor of fair play for the wife or the partner, but not both.

He nodded sagely. "Of course, if you're in a proper relationship it doesn't need bits of paper, and registry office marriages and amendments to the Constitution. Any reasonable woman would understand that."

Ronan leaned forward.

"Could you say that again? I'm going to have a bit of an ear-bending tonight."

Eddie said it again and added more. There was a lot of celebration in the kitchen, Phyllis and her friends were raising a glass to the New Ireland.

But Eddie wasn't thinking about it, he was thinking of the people who traveled in his car.

He knew that he must not be foolish about all this. Ronan would not return to the redbrick house where he had planted the winter pansies, but he would visit it often and easily.

And Lorraine, the woman with the kind eyes, would not have her husband back to live. But there would surely be a little unworthy feeling of satisfaction that there was no second wedding day, no second wife, even though the law of the land had changed to say that there could be.

And Eddie smiled to himself, thinking of the small but not insignificant part he had played in bringing more peace to the troubled gray eyes of Lorraine.

He decided not to think at all about the dark, anxious eyes of Maggie. He wasn't God, he couldn't solve everything.

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