The Visit by Geraldine McCarthy

Peggy’s transistor radio stands alone on the high windowsill. The rasping voice of the presenter echoes through the ward. He interviews housewives about the price of groceries, and politicians about the cost of petrol. She turns the volume down low.

Outside, the river churns, swollen and black.

A key clicks in the lock. The matron strides towards Peggy, starched hat bobbing, and whispers urgently. The patient in the next bed, lying with her legs crossed, strains to hear. Peggy follows the matron down the dark corridor, paint flaking from the walls.

In the good room, Peggy’s sister rises from a cushioned chair, engagement ring glistening, fiancé by her side. The women exchange awkward hugs and softly spoken words – ‘so sorry you won’t be with us’, ‘do you think the tablets are working?’

Memories rise up in Peggy – golden fields of barley, swaying in the sun; apple tarts cooling on wire racks, the waft of cloves everywhere.

After a time, the matron comes back to collect Peggy. On the ward, she sinks into her bed and closes her eyes tight to avoid the envious glances. At supper, the other inmates will say how she’s the lucky one.

Biography: Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork. She writes flash fiction, short stories and poetry in English and in Irish. Her work has been published in various journals – Comhar, Splonk, Ó Bhéal, Channel Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, The Waxed Lemon and HOWL. @GearoidinC