And the winner is . . .Après-Match
POWERS SHORT STORY COMPETITION:A story about eating chips with your dad after the match took first prize in this year’s Powers Short Story Competition. The winner, Cristina Galvin, tells STUART CROSShow she interpreted the theme, celebrating what truly matters.
GALWAYWOMAN CRISTINA GALVIN has scooped the €10,000 prize in the Powers Short Story competition. A yoga teacher with a background in public health research, she finds time for her writing at night. “I write in the closet at midnight,” says Galvin. “It is where I live. I like the silence.”
Having worked in research into HIV in the US and Russia, Galvin moved back to Ireland in 2007 to carry out research on gerontology. She is currently between jobs and, despite her car going “belly-up” and struggling to make the rent, she has decided to spend the prize money on something special.
Galvin completed the MA in writing at NUI Galway three years ago and has been longlisted in the New Writer of the Year competition on the Over the Edge writers’ blog ( overtheedgeliteraryevents.blogspot.com). She hopes the Powers prize will give her confidence to be “serious” about her writing, and a sense of entitlement to write in the daylight hours too.
Galvin cites Haruki Murakami, Gerbrand Bakker and Willy Vlautin’s Lean on Pete as being among her literary favourites. Poet John F Deane has been a mentor. She admires the discipline and tenacity of her father, Gerry Galvin, retired restaurateur, who has always written poetry and stories and is now a published author. For Après-Match, Galvin says she used short story writer Raymond Carver’s style as a inspiration.
“With 450 words, you are forced to pare everything down,” says Galvin. “It taught me how to edit. Before the MA I was more verbose.”
Although the story came to her from a memory of going to the ballet with her mother in Cork, the learning of what truly matters echoes her description of the best creative writing seminars – “thinking of your philosophy, building layer by layer and getting to what was true”. It is a process that resonates with her because “there is no hiding”. Galvin says she likes when writing has a “solemnity and earthiness, but also a harmonic quality of truth and beauty that sings above the words”.
Après-Match by Cristina Galvin
It was the heady whiff of them that would get you. They could only be eaten hot, at midnight after the county final, inside a red 1981 Datsun Sunny with rusting bumper, parked with the engine running and the heater on full blast on a half-lit backstreet somewhere in the outskirts of Cork, and you both looking out the windscreen at the rain pinging the puddles, wipers going swish, swish, thwack, swish, swish, thwack . . .
You would tear open the paper packs of salt and smother the chips before biting the corners off wee pouches of vinegar for the second necessary round of liberal pickling.
Then you’d take one between thumb and forefinger, just one thick, limp chip and blow real slow. And the smell would make you all woozy, rushing blood through limbs to lips and you’d bare your teeth for the chomp, like a horse preparing to whinny, and end up burning your bloody tongue anyway but it wouldn’t really matter ’cos your tastebuds would be lepping and your belly would be swelling with a barrelful of giddiness.
And you could feel your cheeks go all pink and you’d sit there in the front seat beside your father, neither of you needing to speak, with a parcel each of the greasiest, chunkiest chips wrapped in newspaper and them warming your laps and filling the air with snugness.
It didn’t matter that your team had been trounced ’cos there you were, the two of you, and you both staring straight ahead with your heads pure empty, munching away and slurping Coke from ice-cold cans, and the hungry breath from your nostrils mingling with steam from the chips and windows misting. And it was deadly, it was – like this instant had somehow spilt outside of time and this was the only place in the whole world you and your da were meant to be right then.
“Right then,” your da would say, licking his lips and wiping his mouth on the grubby sleeve of his anorak. “You ready, Jack?” And he’d look at you and smile one of his big, generous smiles.
Then he’d pass his scraps to you and you’d bundle up the newspaper in one big ball, mash the empty cans with the heel of your boot and bung the rubbish in the back seat. The car would putter off then, rain hacking the roof.
Creaking the seat back as far as it would go, you’d squeeze your knees to your chest, rub the mist from the window and gaze out at the night-swaddled city, puddles splashed silver and orange, knowing with a certainty far beyond your nine years that this is what it means to be loved.