There was a Mondeo in Bellmullet. Test, no tax, “….she won’t need much….” after that it was all Ballina, Ballycastle and Castlebar. Passats, Hondas and heaps of Insignias. There was Insignias everywhere. All washed, looking good, but dead inside. “Engine light on, not sure, probably just a sensor…” which is Chinese for that oil seal yoke that blows the engine that everyone suddenly knows about and is dying to tell you only after you buy it. Been there, done that, burnt the fuckin t-shirt. One lad had a Skoda for sale but had no keys. The car was locked but you could look in the side window and if you liked what you saw you could tow it away. No tax, test, and no logbook “…hence the price…”
On went the dream. A Kia in Limerick. A Tuscon in Crossmolina. Cars in the North at crazy cheap prices til you add the VRT and the wonderful Nox. An Avensis in Headford. A Focus in Roscommon. Lads offering PCP. Sure PCP is easy. Almost certain to get it. Here’s one now, a nice 1 litre, affordable, reliable, guaranteed. Call today, drive away. Yours by lunch, no credit crunch. Take the wheel, enjoy the steal. Want to go far, then buy this car. Sure that’ll do, time to get out of the dregs, into the big leagues, shiny at the football pitch with the child, big shtuff. Here we went, just a case of picking it up. There was breeze, a bruised sky, and an uncertain salesman. Yeah, them deals were a while ago, where’d you read that?
-Oh right. See. Well. Let’s try.
We tried. There was paperwork. Questions. More questions. Questions about questions. Bit like giving blood. Then there was forms. Beloved forms. Upload this, scan that, make sure it’s this date and from these places only. Now we’ll think about it. Hit submit and we’ll be back within 48 to 72 hours and we might need more. Depends on if you fucked it up. No car today, no steal of a deal or fancy wheels making lunch time reels around shiny new leather roundabouts of long term debt and wonderful guarantees of reliable travel.
Back to Donedeal. Even the Skoda with no keys was gone by now.
The phone rang, then. The dealer that bought the Peugeot. Christ, Jesus, why’s he ringing me? Didn’t I tell him it didn’t work? He was hardly wondering about the weedkiller in the engine?
I answered with a tentative, hello? Like I wasn’t sure who it was. Casual, innocent, blameless in this whole mess.
He didn’t buy it, asked: ‘Have you got a new car yet?
‘Are you still lookin for somethin? I met your oul fella downtown. He said you were lookin…’
‘I….am. Well, just waiting on a PCP….’
‘I have a yoke here for ya.’
‘Yeah, two months test, tax, and in good shape. I’ll call around and show to ya.’
The beautiful broke down blue car was for sale on the side of the street. The listing on Donedeal mentioned this. Along with the fact that it had no working dashboard, no petrol or oil, and the engine was likely contaminated with Weedkiller due a misappropriated jerrycan. All up, the buyer would have to tow it away, unless they could get it started, Fatima style, and they needed to understand that there was very little chance of it ever functioning as a roadworthy vehicle ever again. Other than all this she was a beaut, a real gem, and the purchaser could expect a nice interior with electric heated seats that had never yet worked but they were welcome to try find the relevant button, fuse or lever that activated such luxury. It was, perhaps, suited to the more bourgeois end of the car enthusiast and for that reason we decided to list it for a bargain price of 500 Euro.
The oul fella said: ‘You’ll be lucky if you don’t have to pay someone that just to take it out of the way….’
‘You wouldn’t know. Someone might want it for parts.’
‘Yeah, the guards’ll be delighted with the windscreen I suppose. Was it ever taxed?’
‘No, they wouldn’t touch it without the dashboard.’
‘Is that your phone ringing?’
It was. I answered and a fella said: ‘How much d’ya want for the Peugeot?’
There was noise in the background, like kids torturing each other, I said: ‘500.’
‘There isn’t a hope of that lad, I’ll give you 300?’
‘Tomorrow. I’m comin down from Sligo, I’ll give you a shout when I land…’ there was a loud crash in the back, like one child was after smashing a huge plate off another child’s head, so he said: ‘I have to go, g’luck.’
Sounded promising. 300 quid for a ball of shite on the side of the road. Then the phone went again. Another voice, elongated and nasal, slow and dragged, old days of dead Walkman batteries, playing tapes too slow. ‘What’ll you take for pewww….jo….?’
‘I just got an offer of 300….’
‘Ah, ya did not. I’ll give you 350 caaashhh first thing in the mornin thayyrree…’
‘Sound, sure gimme a shout when you’re around town.’
Hung up. All going well. Two prospects. Interested buyers. Potential customers. Warm leads. Heavy hitting cash whales. This could be the start of a real side hustle, big business, the shitebox dealership goes live.
The next day. Nobody came, or rang, or arrived. Got a few texts offering shite money. The car looking more like useless blue rust and an expensive problem. All the passing dogs around the town were having a great time pissing on the wheels. Night came, like a bored cloud, covered everything with causal depression and friendly rain. The phone rang again. Wasn’t sure if I’d answer, could be anything, will ya swap it for a broke down JCB or some daft shite like that. The voice said: ‘How much d’ya want?’
Aimed high with: ‘I have two offers above 400.’
‘Be hard to let it go for any less.’
‘I’ll give you 200 and I can be there tonight. I’m not far away at all. And that’ll be it gone out of your way and 200 cash in your hand.’
‘Did you read the ad?’
‘So yo know the craic? It’s good for nothin.’
‘You’re sure? Cos I don’t want phone calls tomorrow asking why it won’t start.’
‘That’s no problem, I’ll do a deal with ya and there’ll be no more from me. I have my own truck and everythin to take it away.’
‘Sound, how’s 10 O’clock?’
‘Suits me. I’ll meet you there. Bring the logbook and I’ll bring the money.’
Set in Athlone, the heart of the Irish midlands, The Naked Flame is a story of love, loss, betrayal, and passion. John joe is engaged but doesn’t want to get married. He’s not sure how to break this to Karen. Then it’s time for the stag party in Madrid. There he meets Marilyn. They spend the night together and everything changes. Now the wedding is cancelled, the police want to talk to him about a double murder and the phone is ringing with mysterious requests to come to London. John joe suddenly finds himself in a surreal world, full of unusual characters and extreme danger, with no obvious way out. Met with impossible choices he can only trust the alluring woman that offers all the answers – but at what cost?
Mick Donnellan’s fourth novel is rich in comedy, tragedy, hints of the absurd and undertones of a man in existential crisis. The story thunders along with unexpected twists and ominous turns that culminate in a devastating climax. A unique tale, it strikes an emotional note, and is guaranteed to supply an entertaining read.
The Naked Flame was completed during a retreat at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in late 2021.
When not writing fiction he works as a successful Playwright and Screenwriter. Film credits include Tiger Raid (2016) adapted from Mick’s Play Radio Luxembourg. He has recently received the Agility Award through the Arts Council of Ireland and the Mayo Theatre Bursary through Mayo Arts Office.
His most recent Play Nally was supported by Westmeath Arts Office and aired in May 2021 as a Zoom/Youtube performance. It was attended by over two thousand viewers on the night and many more since.
In May 2020 Mick had a monologue (The Crucified Silence) chosen as part of the Scripts Ireland Play festival. After a week of intensive workshops with Playwright Eugene O’Brien, the monologue was directed by Jim Culleton (Fishamble) and performed by Aaron Monaghan.
Mick Donnellan completed the MA in Writing at NUIG in 2004. Since then, he has worked as a novelist, travel writer, teacher and Playwright. He completed his first novel, El Niño, in 2004 and immediately secured a literary agent. He left Ireland soon after and went on to live in Spain, Australia, and Canada. While traveling he worked as a journalist and co-founded the Arts Paper – Urban Pie – in Vancouver. Upon returning to Ireland he went on to work with Druid (2009) and RTE (2010) and El Niño was published in 2012 with excellent reviews.
Later, Mick established his own theatre company, Truman Town Theatre. All Truman Town Plays are written, directed, and produced by Mick. The company exploded on to the theatrical circuit in 2011 with their hit Play – Sunday Morning Coming Down. Following a national tour, they went on to produce (and tour) two more hugely successful Plays Shortcut to Hallelujah and Gun Metal Grey. These dramas eventually became known as the “Ballinrobe Trilogy.”
Moving slightly from rural settings but not themes, the theatre company toured a fourth Play, Velvet Revolution. Set in a stark urban landscape, it created interest in Mick’s work among the film industry. He followed Velvet Revolution with his fifth Play – Radio Luxembourg – and it was immediately optioned by London Film Company Dixon/Baxi/Evans and adapted for the screen.
While the film was in development, Mick’s second novel – Fisherman’s Blues – was published. As it rose up the ranks, and enjoyed positive reviews, Mick was taken on board as screenwriter on the Radio Luxembourg project. After some months commuting to and from London, the script was complete, and a shoot was organised in the Jordanian desert. Titled Tiger Raid and Starring Brian Gleeson, Damian Molony and Sofia Boutella, it was accepted into the Tribeca film festival (New York) and was also seen at Cannes and Edinburgh. The Irish Premiere was screened at the Galway Film Fleadh. You can read more about Tiger Raid and watch the trailer here:
Other exciting projects include the screen adaptation of Shortcut to Hallelujah with Florence Films. The screenplay is titled Sam and is based around the gypsy curse supposedly set on the Mayo Football team as they returned home as All Ireland Champions in 1951. Set in the present day, Sam is drenched in Irish lyricism and modern-day dark humour. The script has been met with keen interest by film producers and actors throughout the industry.
Mick has lectured part-time in writing at the AIT (Athlone Institute of Technology) in County Westmeath. The course has enjoyed an exponential increase in numbers since its inception in September 2017. April 2019 saw the release of the well-received Tales from the Heart which is a collection of creative work from the students. It was launched at the college by bestselling author and esteemed politician Mary O’Rourke.
Mick has worked as a writing lecturer at NUI Galway.