Text Box: Short Story 2016/2017  Third Place


In the Orbit of Pluto by Kieran Marsh




























The waiting is the worst part. You and Billyer are in the car, outside a chipper on Dublin's North Strand. The coke is going to your head. Your heart pounds, a slick of sweat is forming on your forehead. You watch a little girl sitting on the ground while her ma buys chips. She's playing something on a smartphone, wearing a tatty tracksuit that might be her school uniform. She looks up at the car. She can see your face. Your head reels. You remember the windows are tinted to fuck, she can't see a thing. Probably looking at the reflection of the clouds.

The text comes in and your stomach kicks your arse.

Billyer checks the phone.

'Good to go,' he says. 'All set?'

You're anything but all set. You're ready to be sick.

You're ready to run. You nod.

Billyer pulls the car into traffic, forcing a taxi to swerve. The taxi horn screams. Fuck he shouldn't attract attention. Dickhead.

Billyer pulls down his balaclava. You realise you must do the same. The world outside is moving too slowly. Billyer drives like a madman, yet you are so slow that people are walking past you. It's taking too long. You put your hand in your pocket, feel the cold shape of your Glock. You think again of the child outside the chipper.

You're there. The Canal House. Billyer pulls in, slamming the tyres up on the pavement. You expect the alarm will be raised but the half dozen smokers just watch on.

'Go on to fuck, will ye,' says Billyer.

You climb out. There's an edge of fear now in the smokers, but they are wary, not afraid. They edge backwards from the door but they keep on smoking.

It's packed busy inside. Communion day. Kids climbing the walls. Nobody's noticed you yet. You push through the backs.

Jacko is at his usual table. The spotter has done his work. The kids are out of the way, just his women with him.

You point the gun. Jacko sees you now, but he's not bothered. His eyes say 'come on, if you're big enough.' You have a moment, magical, feral. Your life is pinned.


You didn't even notice you pulled the trigger, but Jacko's going down. Two caps to the head, you remember. You pull the trigger two more times. His women, spatted with his blood, begin to scream.

Behind you the crowd has parted. You walk, calmly, to the door. The jacks door opens and there's Wello. Wello was in school with you. He sees the balaclava. He sees the gun. He looks in your eyes. Slowly, so slowly, he backs out of your way, shaking his head. Two caps, you think, but then you run.

You're out of Canal House and in the car. Billyer pulls the car howling back into traffic. Just like that. It is done.

As you pass the chipper, you see the girl again. She is watching you. Everybody is watching you. Now, you are the man.


You and Billyer burn the car out and Pluto picks you up.

Billyer takes the battery from the phone. You go and sit in the bookies. The staff are paid off to say you've been there all afternoon. They've held onto your real phone, in case the pigs check the location.

Pluto is the Boss's eyes and ears, hands and mouth. He's the enforcer, the consigliere. He did time for the 'Ra, now he's doing time for himself. Billyer is the driver; there's no blood on his hands, only petrol. Two tough men, shaven headed and scarred; you feel like a hard man yourself.

You watch the racing in silence until Pluto gets the call, then you leave. He takes the gun, hands over the cash and drives you home. You stand on the street shivering. You look down at your hands. They ended a man's life, now they hold the key to your ma's flat.

'Get the fuck home,' says Billyer.

'You did good, kid,' says Pluto. 'You've got a future, like. The Boss won't forget. Keep your head low, right?'

You sit at home with your ma for the night watching Say Yes To The Dress. When you go to bed, your hands are still shaking.


In the morning, you call to Robin's flat.

'How'r'ye?' she says. 'Coming in?'

You follow her. She was lucky to get the flat with only the one baby. There's a load of women out there on their own with two or three sprogs and the Corpo says there's nothing doing. She probably knew somebody.

'Ye want a cup of tea?' she asks.

'Ah, go on.'

'Davo,' she says, turning to you. 'You weren't involved in that thing last night?'

'Jesus,' you say. 'Where'd ye hear that?'

'I didn't, no. I just... Ye look a bit, I don't know, excited.'

'Don't be stupid.'

'Cause if you were, like, I'm not having ye around Jasmine, ye can fucking forget about that.'

'Nah, that's not me, like.'

She makes tea and you sit and chat like you were still together.

'Are ye taking her for a walk then?' she asks.

'Yeah go on.'

Jasmine smiles when she sees you and reaches her arms out. You give her a big hug, feel the warmth.

Robin puts on her jumpsuit and straps her into the buggy, you push it out to the lifts. Robin gives you a kiss on the cheek.

'C'mere,' you say on a whim. 'I'm having a party tonight, in the Motorway. Ye can come down if ye want.'

'A party? What's that about.'

'Just family, friends, like. Just saying, but.'

'I'll think about it.'

Outside in the street, walking along with your baby in the buggy, you feel like a king again.

One kid from a gang kicking a ball shouts: 'Is that yours, mister?'

You pull up your sleeve to show him the big tattoo that says Jasmine.

'Too fucking right,' you say.


Poppers, coke, Blue WKD and Fat Frogs, it is open season in the upstairs room of the Motorway. You're throwing fifties around like they were betting slips. All your family are here, even your da has turned up, first time in three years you've seen his face. Your ma is full of tequila and hugging him like he'd never left, but tonight all is good. Five of your brothers are here, only Spudser, who's away in the slammer, is missing.

You're on top of the world. Mary Feegan drags you into the ladies and straddles you in the cubicle. You do lines off her boobs.

When you come out, Robin has turned up, and she's got Jasmine with her.

'Get away from that slut,' she yells. The buzz in the pub dips as everybody tunes in for the scandal.

'Fuck off,' you say. 'You don't own me.'

'You fucking tell her,' says Mary.

You turn to Mary. 'And you keep your fucking mouth shut,' you yell.

'This is your daughter, Davo,' says Robin.

'And this is me hole,' you say. There's hoots from the lads at the bar.

'What's that supposed to mean?' she asks.

'Well, it's not like you've got a padlock on your knickers.'

She looks at you, her face turning dark. 'Alright,' she says. 'Have yer fucking slut so, but ye'd better be round at nine tomorrow to pick up Jasmine. I'm going off for the weekend and ye'd better have some money for me.'

She wheels the buggy out the door.

'And fucking stay out,' says Mary, but the crowd has lost interest and her words are drowned out.

A little later, you see Pluto by the door. He nods to you, then disappears out. You pull out your fags and head for a smoke.

'C'mere,' says Pluto. He pulls you round into the alley.

He double checks both ways, then pulls something out wrapped in a Lidl bag and shoves it under your coat.

'What the fuck's this?' But you know exactly what it is.

'The Boss says to give it to you. That fecker Wello is out for you.'

'I had me fucking balaclava on.'

'Ye'er too fucking pretty is yer problem.'

'What if the pigs pull me? This ties me to Jacko.'

He nods at the pub. 'Not like you're keeping a low profile.'

'Fucking Jaysus!'

'Right,' he says, 'Billyer's out front in the car. Youse go back in and kiss yer ma and all, then get yourself gone.'

'This is me fucking party.'

'It'll be yer wake if ye don't cop on. Billyer will be there for ten minutes. Ye're not in the car then ye're on yer own, right?'

He starts to walk off, then turns. 'And listen, somebody fucking recognises you next time, fucking two caps in the head, right?'

'Yeah, but.'


Billyer takes you to his gaff. It's a real shithole. There's only the bedroom with a kitchen in it so you have to sleep on a chair while he takes the bed. You wake early. It says six on your phone. Your back is stiff as hell. Billyer is snoring away, so you're up and out the door without a sound.

You get some breakfast in Micky-Mac's, there's a lot fewer fifties in your pocket now.

At nine you turn up at Robin's. She's happy to see you. Happier still when you pump the last of the hit money into her hands. Easy come, easy go. She bundles up Jasmine, still half asleep, and you kiss her goodbye.

'I love you, Robin,' you say. 'Really, like.'

'I know, but,' she says. She smiles but it's sad. 'Look after her, will ye.'

Outside, you're about to start into feeling good when Billyer pulls up in a screech.

'Get in to fuck,' he shouts. 'There's been a turn.'

'I've got me baby,' you say, pointing.

'Stick the buggy in back,' says Billyer. 'The Boss wants to see ye.'

You have to balance the buggy behind the passenger seat.

You put it facing backwards because you saw on the telly that was safer.

'You'll be alright, Jasmine,' you say as you kiss her.

'I need the gun from ye,' says Billyer as he pulls away.

'Pluto gave it me.'

'Can't see the Boss if you're packing. Hand it.'

You pull out the Glock and pass it over. He sticks it in his jacket. He's wearing gloves.

Up behind the Traveller's camp by the motorway there's a big field. You've been here before, you know the score. You climb out of the car at the spot where the wire has been pulled back.

'C'mere,' says Billyer. 'Don't leave that here.' He nods at the buggy.

'I have to see the Boss, but?'

'Do I look like a fucking babysitter? Take it the fuck with you.' He starts revving the engine.

You pull the buggy out. Jasmine is awake, despite the journey, she's laughing as you twist the buggy through the fence, roll it across the rough ground.

Fifty yards from the road there's a spot, a clearing between some rough scrub and a burnt-out car. Pluto's standing there, pulling on a fag.

'Boss wants to see me?' you ask.

'Yeah, whatever. You got the Glock?'

'Billyer took it.'


He pushes two fingers into his mouth, screams a whistle.

Two figures emerge from behind some bushes.

You run, but you're going nowhere with the buggy. Pluto kicks your legs out. You're face down and Pluto's on your back. He's a strong little fucker.

The buggy has toppled, Jasmine is crying. You can see her arms reaching.

'How're ye, Davo,' says Wello, walking up to you.

'Fuck off,' you say.

'That was me brother ye done,' he says.

'It was the Boss called it.'

'I've no grief with the Boss.'

'Now listen,' says Pluto. 'Wello's running their gang now, the Boss has called a ceasefire, but there's a balance to be set.'

'I need me pound of flesh,' says Wello. 'I can't be looking like a puff, can I?'

'Only, we need all hands on the Costa,' says Pluto. 'It's nothing personal, Davo. Two birds, one stone, like.'

Wello walks over to the buggy. Jasmine is screaming now, that pure panic call. He pulls it upright, Jasmine hangs by the straps. He twists it towards you. You struggle hard. Pluto has you tight. Billyer appears. He hands your Glock to Wello.

'Fuck it no, fucking take me, fucking shoot me, Jesus, no, don't fucking...'

There's a bang. Your eyes close instinctively. You don't open them. A second one. The unmistakeable song of the Glock.

Two caps to the head.

Pluto's weight lifts off you. Something clangs on the ground beside you.

'There's a shovel,' says Pluto. 'Best bury her.'

'I've got your tickets to the Costa in the car,' says Billyer. 'Fifteen minutes, then I'm gone.'

Your eyes are still closed. Footsteps walk away from you.

You hear the distant traffic, the barking of dogs from the traveller camp, the silence of your daughter, the last ringing echoes of the Glock.

First: Losing Worlds by Tessa Byars

Second: Injunction by Dan Brotzel