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“Who Won the Donkey Derby?” by Peter Jordan.  Peter is an Irish short story writer who spends his time between Belfast & Donegal.  His latest collection of short stories titled “Calls To Distant Places” was recently published in Ireland.  He has won the Bare Fiction prize, placed second in the Fish, and was shortlisted for the both the Bridport & Bath Short Fiction and Flash Fiction prizes.

He has kindly agreed to share a tale with readers in the US to help us all get through the Coronavirus lockdown.  “Who Won the Donkey Derby” is set in Donegal in Ireland’s north west.  Leave your review in the comment section below.  Enjoy.

Who won the Donkey Derby?

I open the door of the bar and stop momentarily to allow my eyes to adjust to the change in light. There are only two small windows, and they’re low set, so that even early in the day it’s dim inside.

Biddy Barr, the owner, sits behind the counter on a stool. The bar was once the living room and back room of her family house.

There’s only one other punter. He sits on a stool at the far end of the counter; his back to the television and the fire, with two pints of Smithwick’s in front of him.

It’s early. Already, he looks drunk.

– Who won the Donkey Derby? he says, to no one in particular.

The small red tractor outside, with the hand-painted number plate and the cushion inside the plastic Centra carrier bag on the seat, is his.

His name’s Magill, Ger Magill.

He drives that small red tractor into town like you’d take your car, and he owns farmland up at Quigley’s Point. But he doesn’t farm the land — something happened to him when he was a child. He drinks.

Biddy gets up off her stool.

– A pint of Heineken, is it?

– Yes, please.

I lean forward and watch her pouring. As I lean over the counter, I can see into the kitchen. It’s like the kitchen of any house in the town. There’s a combined food and water bowl for her cat on the linoleum floor.

– Who won the Donkey Derby? says Ger Magill.

            – What’s it like out? asks Biddy.

I have to think. I look down at the counter.

– It’s dry, I say, finally.

She raises her chin.

– That’s a blessing.

Biddy isn’t one for conversation. She isn’t one for anything really, but there are no snide remarks if you suddenly show up after months spent drinking up the town.

I take a gulp of Heineken and pull a face.

– Do ya want a wee splash of lemonade?

I blow out. And nod.

Biddy unscrews the lid on a glass bottle of brown lemonade that sits in amongst the other glass bottles of cordial on a circular tray. And she pours a splash of brown lemonade into what remains of the white head of the Heineken.

It goes down a bit easier with the hint of lemonade. I finish it quickly. Then I let out a sigh.

Biddy takes the empty glass from my hand and angles it under the pump. With Biddy you only have to tip your empty glass forward and she’ll rise from her stool, take the glass from your hand, and refill it.

– Who won the Donkey Derby? says Ger Magill.

I stare in his direction, then at the television behind him, but I can’t decipher a thing.

When Biddy sets the second pint in front of me it looks much better than the first.

– D’ya want another wee splash of lemonade?

– No thanks, I’ll just go with it.

– Right you are.

This one goes down easier.

When I’m on my third pint, Ger Magill gets up off his stool and walks slowly, in a stoop, from the far end of the bar to where I’m sitting.

He looks directly at me.

– D’ya hear me… who won the Donkey Derby?

I don’t know the man. I mean, I know of him. I know his father was a drunk, and a mean bastard. And I’ve been stuck behind that red tractor often enough.

– I don’t know, I say. Who won the Donkey Derby?

He stabs his thumb into his chest.

– Me! he says.

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