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Read an extract from Orla Mackey’s debut, Mouthing

Read an extract from Orla Mackey’s debut, Mouthing


by Sarah Gill
29th May 2024

An unsentimental love letter to rural Irish life, Mouthing is narrated by several generations of villagers in a town full of people only too happy to oblige in spreading the bad news.

Set in the sleepy rural village of Ballyrowan where gossip is something akin to a currency, Mouthing is narrated by several generations of villagers, tracing the fortunes of one small community from the mid-20th to the early 21st century in a series of highly confessional and darkly hilarious monologues.

The good people of Ballyrowan delight in twisting the knife, in tormenting one another, in perfecting the art of schadenfreude. And, it becomes clear, none of them are entirely reliable witnesses.

Orla Mackey is a writer and teacher based in Kilkenny in Ireland. She studied English Literature at Trinity College, Dublin. Mouthing is her first novel.

Read on for the extract below…

Seán Trehy, 1996

Stephen’s the son. The eldest. Stephen’s twenty-four or twenty-five. Something like that. He had a twenty-first there about five year ago or more. Now that I think of it. So work it out for yourself what age he is. That wasn’t a night you’d forget too easily.

The boys from the Ballyrowan hurling team organised a stripper for Stephen as a surprise. The night of his twenty-first. Right f*ckin’ friends to have. You’d swear it was a pair o’ rosary beads and a prayer book they were after giving him. The way the f*ckers said it. As a surprise. Well, ’twas the wrong surprise they organised for the wrong fella, that was for sure. Stephen hasn’t hands to warm himself let alone warm the bare arse of a stripper.

And some surprise for the mother. Stephen’s mother. Some surprise for her when this brassy auld wan showed up with not so much as a stitch on her. Did they think of that? The little f*ckin’ bowsies. Stephen’s poor mother. My f*ckin’ wife. Say what you like about the woman but she was never into strippers. Never showed the slightest bit of interest in them. But they didn’t pay any heed to that. The hurlers. Oh no. Nor did they think about who’d have to listen to her wailing and craw thumping and bawling in the months after the f*ckin’ stripper. Be f*ck they didn’t.

Jesus, she was ripping that night. The night the stripper walked into the pub below in Ballyrowan and nothing on her only a thing. Is that what you call it? I’m not well up on these yokes. Stephen’s mother. My one. She’s still not the better of the stripper, truth be told.

She had the sisters brought in from two parishes up for the occasion. For the young lad’s birthday. The Bergin sisters were all reunited for the night. Sitting up prim, drinking their ginger ales. Like three little plump ducks so they were. Taking it all in. It wasn’t long before they had a lot more to take in than they’d bargained for. Their eyes nearly fell out of their heads, the same women. Fell out and rolled around the floor of the pub below in the village. That went down well with the locals. To see the Bergin women so discombobulated. And they the ones normally used to doing the discombobulating themselves.

I said to her after. Back in the house. I said to the wife. Wasn’t it a sign he was well liked by the boys that they thought to gather up the money to pay for a stripper for him? Our Stephen. It wasn’t everyone on the hurling team got that. I followed up by saying that I thought the stripper was all right in her own way. She could’ve been worse like. Never went in for the baby oil or any of that stuff. It was a fortnight before I was allowed back into the bed. Another week after that before I got a hot dinner. Three f*ckin’ weeks with-out a spud all because of that gobsh*te and his stripper.

‘Mouthing’ by Orla Mackey is published by Hamish Hamilton and is available in bookshops and online from 30 May.