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Post Office

*

By Dean F. HardyPublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 6 min read
First Place in Book Club Challenge
Post Office
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

By the time my final year of university came squealing around the bend I was dropping grades at the same rate I was dropping ecstacy.

I was done. Everything had gotten stale. My relationships, my family life, my sex life, my opinion of myself and of my country and of the world at large. It was the back end of the great recession. The great con-job. The great fuck you to my generation. In light of all that, my future and my pursuit of it was disintegrating into a disintegrated society.

I was studying history and theology and at some point in my third year, I realised the degree was constructed around shoddy lies and half truths. History was penned by the victors and if I challenged the philosophical underbelly of Catholic theology, I failed exams. It all started to feel like a tragic waste of time.

For my first two years I read what they wanted me to read and I said what they wanted me to say. Everything was black and white. Nuance was a dirty word. The stench of conformity in the university made me ill physically, intellectually and spiritually.

I began to explore other philosophical and ideological avenues in attempt to fill the void I could feel tearing open in me. But everywhere I turned I was confronted by more frauds. More bluffers. More charlatans.

I inhaled socialist, communist and anarchist literature. Communism is always an appealing ideology when your broke.

I attended meetings and at these meetings with my new 'comrades' I discovered I was the only working class person there. The rest were upper middle class students and graduates making their way on Daddy's credit card. This irony was apparently quite lost on them and raised my suspicion of the whole enterprise but I continued to read.

Marx, Bakunin, Proudhon, Chomsky, Kropotkin, Lenin. And of course, the way out of an ideology is the same way you came in. Reading. After I read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, my short love affair with such ideas became undone.

Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago

When I attempted to introduce him to my lovely comrades, they simply wouldn't contend with his reality and therefore their own. These goons were about as inauthentic as the economic and social systems they pissed and moaned about.

So there I was, alone again. The void growing deeper and deeper. Surrounded by bullshitters and beginning to feel like one myself.

I was on my journey home from university one night. The round trip consisted of four buses for four hours. I found myself on Dublin's Westmoreland St awaiting my final bus to take me home to a joint and bed. It was a typical Irish night. Cold. Windy. And pissing rain.

The bus was delayed. I was nursing a hangover and a minature existential crisis. I looked around for shelter and saw the warm glow of an old bookstore. I entered.

There is no better smell or sight on this planet. The mossy aroma of pages passed down through time. Books climbing to the ceiling in purposeful dissary. Defying laws of gravity; intellectual towers of Pisa. Dim flickering light. A silence almost holy. A cat watching your every move. An old bookclerk built like a matchstick, the guardian of ancient worlds.

I moved deeper into its domain.

The God's of Irish literature loomed over me from their mahogany podiums, taunting me.

You don't belong here boy.

I bowed my head as I passed them, one classic after another. The works of men immortalised in bronze, iron and stone on the very streets from which I came.

James Joyce - North Earl Street
Oscar Wilde - Merrion Square Dublin

Brendan Behan - Royal Canal Drumcondra

I whispered beyond their shrines until I came upon a shelf without label, without genre. Odd names of writers that had never entered my world. Ferlinghetti, Cassady, Corso, Burrorughs, Carver, McCullers.

As my eyes travelled along these titles, something grabbed my attention: POST OFFICE.

Odd, I thought, A novel about a fucking Post Office?

My Da was a postman. Of all my struggling relationships, ours was the worst. We had lost an intimacy. The recession had stripped our relationship to the bone and we could barely stand the sight of eachother. Maybe I could convince him to read it. Something for us to talk about.

I picked it off the shelf. The cover was about as uninspiring as the title. I opened it and landed on the dedication page and the first domino of the rest of my life fell:

This is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody

These were the first words I ever read of Charles Bukowski. They lay there across the page unchained, roaring and defiant. 'Presented as a work of fiction' indicated something far outside the realm of simple storytelling. 'Dedicated to nobody' was a dare. A war cry. He was saying, 'fuck you...you don't have the minerals for this book.' It was an act of rebellion with a dark comic flair that caught me cold before the novel had even begun.

I raced to the opening page.

The first line sits as a solitary paragraph. To this day I've yet to find a better opener to a novel. As writers, our job is to lay down a line that generates enough interest to read the next. Whatever happens after that task is achieved is down to the Gods and Lady Luck. I've never read a line that exemplified that creed more than the following:

It began as a mistake.

I remember re-reading it as I stood there, multiple times. I checked over my shoulder as if I had come across the rarest ruby and risked exposing it to others. There was nobody there. I was alone, with Charles.

I read on, nestled at the far edge of the universe. The prose were sloppy, they were smeared onto the page like dialouge. And he was spitting bullets. Each sentence rattled off like machine gun fire. It was crass. It was ugly. It was funny. It was real. It was honest. It was fucking magic.

I felt I was sitting beside the man at a bar while he shoveled pints and peanuts in his face. I knew this old geezer. I grew up surrounded by men like this. I may as well have been in the pub with my aul' fella and his mates, shooting the shit about work, women and the football. Take this for example:

I think it was my second day as a Christmas temp that this big woman came out and walked around with me as I delivered letters. What I mean by big was that her ass was big and her tits were big and that she was big in all the right places.

This was not the writing I knew. It was unpolished and nasty. As I read on I swear I could hear Samuel Beckett cry out for mercy behind me on his shelf. Joyce was nodding his head in shame as Yeats turned over in his grave and I laughed and I laughed.

I walked back down the aisle, with Charles in hand. As I approached the howling shrine of Irish deities, this time I held my head high. They were right, I didn't belong with them. They were Irish but they were not from my Ireland.

Go fuck yourselves, lads. See yas soon.

I was nineteen. A new world had opened in front of me that day. I realised there was a place for me on the shelves of history, but that I would have to forge my way onto them in my own way and in my own voice.

It's impossible to overstate the significance of finding Charles Bukowski's Post Office at that time in my life. A time when all I needed was to be reminded that there was still truth to be found. A truth, ugly and without pretense that touched the heart of humanity and that that truth could be professed in the voice of a working class nobody, if they had the metal and guts to chase it.

Post Office was the master key to every locked door slammed shut in my life. Behind each door, were new writers, long dead that had lived and died by the word.

When I graduated, it wasn't before long that I decided it was time to leave Ireland and commence the allusive search of oneself as a writer. And ten years later, I'm still searching and Charles Bukowski has been right there with me ever since.

Charles Bukowski 1920-1994

Fiction

About the Creator

Dean F. Hardy

Writer from Dublin, Ireland.

*All work here is owned by Dean F. Hardy*

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Comments (50)

  • Shirley Belk5 months ago

    I can't tell you how much I loved this story! And I needed it...just like this part of your story: " A time when all I needed was to be reminded that there was still truth to be found. A truth, ugly and without pretense that touched the heart of humanity and that that truth could be professed in the voice of a working class nobody, if they had the metal and guts to chase it." Thank you!

  • Joyce O’Day10 months ago

    Totally worthy of first place!

  • Stephen Legler10 months ago

    Dean. Excellent story. I felt it. You had me right at, "Communism is always an appealing ideology when you['re] broke." I thought that was a great dose of reality and common sense, especially here in the good ol' USA (as many are starting to find socialism and communism ideology more appealing). But, it was the rest of the story that I really enjoy. Congrats on winning. Well deserved.

  • Congratulations!

  • ARC10 months ago

    Dean - mate. I just... I don't even know where to begin. Any chance you're available for about 6 pints tonight so we can talk this through together? Brother you are - truly - something so very special. I could not be more delighted that you - and this glorious piece of yours - won this challenge. 'Moving' does not begin to touch on what you've accomplished here. 'Soul revealing' gets closer, but still ain't quite it. Pure magic. Forgive me for quoting your entire work back at you but, well, it's your own fucking fault for writing something so brilliant. Here we go. "I was studying history and theology and at some point in my third year, I realised the degree was constructed around shoddy lies and half truths. History was penned by the victors and if I challenged the philosophical underbelly of Catholic theology, I failed exams. It all started to feel like a tragic waste of time." Fucking YES. Every goddamn word of this. YES. Shoddy lies and half truths... penned by the victors (usually the bigger assholes in any given competition/war - big exception being WWII... at least in some regards.) And then the bit about how you failed exams when you began questioning things - uggh - mate... IT'S SO FRUSTRATING, isn't it. They (society, parents, well-meaning (usually) authority figures in general) tell you to go to Uni, like it's this important thing... and at Uni, they supposedly teach you how to think... but then when you turn that thinking on the ideas that Uni presents... "Oh well, we didn't mean for you to question *us*!" What the actual fuck. I've got more. But I've gotta run. I'll be back. God this is fucking awesome. I'm so jazzed right now. You rock brother.

  • Carolmae Hinrichs10 months ago

    Sorry I forgot. Love this too..

  • Carolmae Hinrichs10 months ago

    Felt this. It was perfectly precise in describing the chaos within. Questions and the answers are found in many words. Getting stuck on the appropriate or inappropriate words. Is so mundane. Thanks for the honestly and fearless writing style.

  • Kristen Balyeat10 months ago

    Dean...Dean! This piece is so incredible! I honestly had goosebumps as my eyes darted from line to line. I was commenting on this last week, but got interrupted and just remembered that I had not submitted my words to you. Sorry about that! Your writing is so incredibly immersive, I felt like I was watching over your shoulder. I love your voice– it's unique and powerful. I'm so happy this won– it is beyond deserved! Massive congrats!

  • Beth Sarah10 months ago

    I haven’t visited vocal in a while and wondered over here this evening to see what’s new. I audibly squealed to see your name as winner of a challenge- so well deserved for this piece (so relatable as ever - like a window to my soul); and in general. You are easily one of the best writers I have come across on vocal. Keep it up, the world needs your words.

  • Mariann Carroll10 months ago

    Congratulations, it’s so cool to know I have been reading your stories and you got first place 🎉🎉🎉🎉🥳

  • Christian Lee10 months ago

    Very cool story. "Communism is always an appealing ideology when you're broke." This made me darkly chuckle. And the opening line is a great paradox. Minus some grammatical mistakes, I highly enjoyed reading this piece. It's organized, coherent, and doesn't climax till the metaphor about the 'master key' a.k.a Post Office book is mentioned. Nice to hear a fellow writer speaking of Yeats, Bukowski, and James Joyce. Reminds me of my reading list I hope to get through one day. Haha! Congratulations on winning first place.

  • Adewumi Seth10 months ago

    Excellent choice of words and telling of emotions. Congratulations

  • Kayleigh Fraser ✨10 months ago

    Huge congratulations Dean! 🙌🕊️🤍✨

  • OneWithPen10 months ago

    Outstanding! The way you described the settings to smooth transitions from one place to another, from one emotion to the next. Your story reminded me of something buried in me that's returned with blazing passion! Thank you for posting!

  • This was a well deserved win! Congratulations Dean 😁❤️

  • Novel Allen10 months ago

    I fell in love with this from the first F#$% you. Books saved my sanity, I adore Bookshops, hope to own one in this life or my next life. You are a true writer at heart, an authentic being. There is always something calling out to us, that bookshop was your something. I adore the penning and honesty crawling all over your story. A better choice could not have been made. A very hearty congrats Dean.

  • Ejimmadu Marytovia 10 months ago

    Congratulations 👍

  • Morgana Miller10 months ago

    Congratulations, Dean! Vocal picked the right one. :) This completely drew me in. I hope you'll do more personal essay/long-form bits in the future, your voice in this piece is resonant and lively.

  • Mackenzie Davis10 months ago

    Fantastically crafted, Dean. I sincerely adore the journey from Catholic skeptic turned communist-curious, to full blown ugly-truth seeker. You weave so much into this, from literature, national identity, personal crises, economic failings; it's rich with meaning, and a brilliant take on the challenge. Making it big and small all at once. That epitomic moment of discovering Bukowski. is just marvelous to read after all that buildup. Wow. "'Dedicated to nobody' was a dare. A war cry. He was saying, 'fuck you...you don't have the minerals for this book.' It was an act of rebellion with a dark comic flair that caught me cold before the novel had even begun." This was my favorite line, but that whole scene, with the iconic Irish writers staring at you and then judging your choice...the description of the bookstore...just all of it. Well, well done. Congratulations on your win!!

  • Dana Crandell10 months ago

    Congratulations on the win, Dean! Well earned!

  • Laur F.10 months ago

    This is, no exaggeration, my favorite thing I’ve read on vocal. Absolutely sick.

  • Donna Renee10 months ago

    Huge congrats, Dean!! This was such a great read that I might have to actually find and read the book too!

  • Rachel Deeming10 months ago

    There is no doubting the honesty of this. What would have happened if you hadn't entered that bookshop and found that book? A worthy winner. Great writing.

  • Lynda Spargur10 months ago

    This was awesome. Congrats on the win! Well deserved.

Dean F. HardyWritten by Dean F. Hardy

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