It was evening in Laos. The girl outside the shop had dirty knees, a ragged dress and a newborn baby in her arms. The locals walked passed like she wasn’t there, or she was roadkill, or something else unpleasant to be avoided. The shopkeeper came from inside and shouted something angry in the local dialect but she only pointed at her mouth and made a desperate sound, then fixed the baby’s position on her shoulder as if to emphasise. He went back in, resigned, and the scene continued. She didn’t have many teeth and her hair was greasy and her black eyes were bloodshot, iron deficiency maybe, rickets, general starvation. She caught me by the sleeve, and made a sound like: Ahh…uuuuu….UUUUHHHH….and she pointed inside. The baby was awful still. Hopefully only asleep. I brought her in and the shopkeeper smiled at me, then frowned at her, then smiled back at me. Any Westerner is a relative millionaire so he wasn’t sure how to play this. We walked around the aisles. She pointed at things she needed. Milk, formula, bread, water, dry eatables like biscuits and snacks. No fruit. Canned goods like beans, and other things I didn’t recognise. Each time she’d look up and point and ask with her eyes and I’d nod and say: “Ok, yes.” And then she’d take it down and put it into a bag and run to the next thing. Her legs were thin and weak so her frame was bent and you could her ribs through the clothes on her back. When she walked, her right leg performed a barely noticeable circular motion, not unlike a limp, or a hangover from stunted development. The nails on her hands were long and black and her arms were hollow and brown. The evening outside wasn’t dark yet, but getting there. Her silhouette was an eerie mix of a teenager going into old age, young but not young, old but not old. She kept a strong palm on the baby as she moved. There was a sense she loved the child but it wasn’t hers, a brother or a sister maybe. Parents dead from digging up mines, or possibly out begging somewhere else, or maybe they just didn’t care. We got to the counter and the shopkeeper smiled at me apologetically. A “Sorry for the Inconvenience” look. Then he looked at her like she was stray cat or a health hazard he was looking for the chance to swat violently when no one was looking. She threw all the groceries on the counter with defiance and pointed at them, then at me, then at him. I left down my own stuff. Water, toothpaste, bored stuff, out for a walk to “get a feel for the place.” He put them through, smiling at every purchase for me, frowning with every item for her. The grand total came to about four US dollars. I paid and he closed the till and I pulled the door open and we stood outside. Pick up trucks on the dusty roads. Evening breeze, tourists looking for restaurants. She left down the stuff, took out a bottle of water, opened it and drank heartily. Then she picked the whole lot up and disappeared around the corner. Bag in the one hand, baby held on her shoulder with the other. Limping away.
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Fisherman’s Blues is the Best Selling new novel from Mick Donnellan.Dark and audacious, written in a distinct West of Ireland vernacular, it covers a myriad of genres from Crime Noir to comedy and an odd bit of religion. Fresh in its language, vivid in its descriptions, the book sings with the signature style of all Donnellan’s previous work, and a bit more. Delving into the lives of drinkers, lovers, thieves and scam artists, the story weaves a web of intrigue and curiosity that ends with an unforgettable bang. Not without its poignant moments, the plot hinges on the chaotic consequences of three unlikely comrade’s attempts to save their lost relationships, while unintentionally ruining the plans of a rising criminal’s efforts to take over the city. The question is: Can they succeed? And if they don’t, what then? And where have the women really gone?