THE CARRIGDHOUN SHORT STORIES 16TH FEBRUARY, 2008
An Early Grumpy Old Valentine Be My
By ELAINE RHYS-DAVIES of Ballea Writers
Valentine Not everyone, married, partnered or with their eye on someone,
By MIKE WHELTON of Ballea Writers welcomes Valentines Day as a day of affection and hope for their By MICHAEL MERNAGH
relationship. And the widowed, divorced, those in dysfunctional of Ballea Writers
‘Hop up pal,’ said the centurion pointing to the relationships and the perpetually single are not the only ones to dread its
raised platform on which stood a wooden block. arrival on February 14th. It was Saint Valentine’s Day. My heart
A large double-headed axe rested against the sang. My thoughts turned to things of
Just take a look at the glum faces, those with forced smiles and the
splintered block, its blades shining in the Roman
distant/frozen body language in restaurants. It would seem that some youth. I waited with bated breath for
couples dine out together more from obligation than desire. And for what the postman.
‘I beg your pardon but please address me more
do we put ourselves through this charade: to get encased in a crucible A large shoebox clunked through my
politely or I will report you to the Consul. And I’ll
for at least two hours and get landed with exorbitant bills for the privilege! letterbox. I tore off the shiny red
have you know that my Uncle Julius is his
In theory the couples eating out are most likely to be those that are wrapping. Inside, a duckling danced
‘Well your contacts in high places haven’t done avoiding the intimacy of a stroll in the woods or a candlelit dinner at on a tin drum. ‘Quack! Quack,’ said
much good for you,’ said the executioner. ‘There home. Added to that are the ones that feel the need to show others their the duckling. He was beating out a
must have been a lot of black bile in the chicken togetherness, somewhat ironic when what they often show is their rhythm faster than an Orangeman
he cut open the day you were sentenced. But estrangement. beating a Lambeg drum.
have it your own way, how would you like to be Though some tell us that Valentines Day has its origins in ancient Then I saw it: an orange envelope. I
addressed?’ legends it is nothing more than a moneymaking scam that originated in tore it open. The picture on the front
‘Well my mother calls me Valentine.’ modern America, much as Mother’s Day did. I first realised the negative showed seven vestal virgins doing the
‘Ok Val up you come. It will be all over aspect of Valentines Day when, as a teenager, I helped out in my dance of the seven veils in various
before the sundial changes its shadow.’ Mother’s flower shop in Belfast. Men would come into the florists stages of undress. Profoundly
Valentine pulled up his toga and began to trembling and be unable to speak coherently because they were terrified encouraged, I opened the musical
mount the steps. Suddenly a woman’s voice of getting the flowers wrong and getting an earful or worse from the card and an electronic voice sang out:
rang out from the crowd. girlfriend or wife. Roses are red, my love…
‘Don’t you dare call him Val; his name is We had special gold presentation boxes for Valentines flowers. Violets are blue…
Valentine Cicero Aenaes.’ They looked like miniature coffins and had cellophane windows Sugar is sweet my love… But not as
‘Mother,’ called Valentine, ‘I thought you had displaying the flower heads, rather like West African coffins that display sweet as you.
missed my big moment, come and give me a the face of the deceased. As I lined each coffin with out of date flowers I was struck by the philosophy of
hug.’ and put a few fresh ones on top, and charged an extra £1 for the ‘casket’, these words. Amo, ergo sum, I
‘Hold on there,’ said the centurion ‘only I probably packaged the death of many a relationship. I gave no care to thought.
Principles are allowed on the execution platform. the recipient or the poor man that was likely to be hit over the head with Roses are red. Yes, roses are indeed
But what did you say his name was?’ the fading blooms. But I got my pay back: I’ve since been the recipient red, like a red rag to a bull. Didn’t red
‘Valentine Cicero Aenaes,’ said the mother as of miserable Valentine’s flowers and have had to exert extreme discipline
signify mad passion? Wasn’t I like a
she tossed her raven curls. not to take revenge on the man that sent them.
Valentine’s Day is for many husbands and partners a loose-loose rose? Don’t roses have thorns that
The centurion frowned and looked at his pierce our hearts to make us bleed on
scroll. It says ‘Valentine Augustus Lupercullus, situation for it can seem impossible to please some women with enough
flowers, enough chocolates and enough of everything else that they our journey through life’s encounters?
Bishop of Termi, are you not he?’ Quack! Quack!
The woman erupted in laughter. ‘You expect. Give a thought for the men this Valentines Day. It is an incredibly
sexist, outmoded and unjust society that expects men, who are Violets are blue. Whoever had sent
miserable excuse for an officer, its not my this card was no shrinking violet. They
handsome Valentine that you want but his notoriously bad at choosing presents at the best of times, to suddenly get
it right on Valentines Day. And do the men complain when women get the were blue with unrequited love. If only
second cousin in Ostium, the fat, pompous, oaf they had signed their name, I could
of a man.’ presents wrong? I’d venture that only the exceedingly brave or madmen
would dare! respond with red, burning passion.
‘Watch your manners woman when addressing Quack! Quack!
a Roman soldier,’ scolded the centurion. ‘Sorry Valentine’s Day is known to precipitate an increase in domestic
violence, to prompt marital break-up and deterioration in mental health Sugar is sweet. Yes, indeed. But why
Pretty Boy Valentine, mistaken identity, you can is sugar so sweet? Because the
go now but maybe I’ll see you later,’ the so maybe it could be recognised as generally bad for our health and
banned. Absurd idea maybe but a decade ago a smoking ban would sugarbeet plants are uprooted from
centurion said with a wink. their home ground, thrown onto a
Valentine scowled at his mother. ‘Why did you have been thought of as equally absurd.
If I were a man I’d rebel and tell the women to get their own flowers and truck and transported to a factory
have to ruin it for me? I was looking forward to
presents: now there’s a thought. If we bought Valentine’s gifts for where they are hosed down,
becoming a martyr.’ Valentine blushed and
addressed the centurion.‘ Can’t you just go ourselves we would have nobody else to blame. A win-win situation, scrubbed and boiled. Maybe I could
ahead with it anyway, nobody will know the don’t you think? do with some hosing down. Quack!
difference.’ As we grow older the Valentines Days mostly seem to roll into one Quack!
‘Strictly no can do. Its more than my job is and only the exceptionally positive and exceptionally negative stand out. But not as sweet as you! I wondered
worth to execute the wrong man.’ But the passing of Valentines Day does at least bring us closer to St about the sender’s sincerity Quack
‘Well I’m dashed,’ said Valentine. ‘Here I am all Patrick’s Day, a day that a great many of us enjoy. Quack.
hyped up and ready for the off and now it’s My Valentines survival tip would be to think of something original and, The duck stopped dancing on the tin
cancelled. How embarrassing is that?’ as laughter is healing as well as fun, think of something potentially drum. I closed the card and found a
‘Down you get Valentine,’ said the centurion ‘but amusing. My husband and I are thinking of flying lessons so, as you’re reminder note on the back that
don’t fret, your day will come soon enough.’ dangerously close to the airport, staying indoors on February 14th could warned me to pay the next
And so it did, on February 14th the following be something to be considered for safety as much as for romantic maintenance cheque on time.
year. reasons. I never did like that Valentines verse.