ColinSands Sands

I’ve been a secret scribbler for most of my life.  I lived in and around Belfast for thirty-five years before moving away.  My wife and I were Romeo and Juliet over there, just another Irish couple where we live now, our Scottish born children unaware of the resonance of their surname.  Back then we paid the rent playing rough drinking clubs full of beautiful souls, frustrated talents, discarded maniacs and salty dogs, changing our names to mask our perceived religious affiliations depending on where we were.  My wife wore a rather expensive wig as a disguise and even with that, and the changed names, there were still some close calls.  I documented what I saw, what I experienced and have known for a long time that I’m more storyteller than journalist.  I have journalist friends and they bear a different kind of witness.  I hide my truths in tall tales full of little people.

Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy was the original inspiration to attempt a long work of my own.  I have three novels set mostly in Ireland.

Screenplay Type
Book Adaptation Needed
Two sisters learn of their late Irish father’s unsuccessful search for the baby of his childhood sweetheart. One sister travels to Ireland to explore this family mystery and disappears. The other follows and rescues her from a world of Sea Cowboys, Church secrets and old scores.
The Book of True Fathers
Two sisters learn of their late Irish father’s unsuccessful search for the baby of his childhood sweetheart. One sister travels to Ireland to explore this family mystery and disappears. The other follows and rescues her from a world of Sea Cowboys, Church secrets and old scores.
My Submission

The Book of True Fathers

Part I       Goldilocks    2002

Chapter 1                  The Death Of Wee Finn

Winter, Oxford, Washington State

            It was during that long stretch, the time of year where the snow sketched over slope and grassy yard, stone and hard mud track, blanketed hill and frosted treeline, a white fright of lovely smothered nothingness there to greet all, night, day or just now, early morning.  It was early morning.  Early-ish morning.  Both sisters up, both sisters warm, both sisters’ nostrils full of the scent of boiled crushed coffee beans, both sisters dressed, to a point, both sisters still impressed by the sheer beauty of the fresh fall of feathery flakes on the other side of the huge glass pane that served as a transparent wall marking the edge of the main living room in their barn.  Lisa’s barn really.  Neither sister knew that their father, their true father, for there was no mystery in that, he was already dead.  No mystery, no.  Just old and ceased to be a few hours before.

Eve felt the chill of the cold in her throat as she set the bowls of porridge down on the morning’s snow, a few tardy flakes melting as they kissed the surface of the steaming healthy grey oats.  She came back inside in time to watch Lisa pour herself the third cup of coffee of the morning.  It wasn’t even nine o’clock and once again she heard herself tutting, just like the day before, a slightly worrying involuntary judgement, a warning of what might be.

Oh yes, that noise had just come out all by its own self, as her father might say, that click and exhale being both audible disapproval directed at her sister’s caffeine intake and an aural reminder that she was in danger of morphing into their late mother.  She’d need to work on it, dam this flow of the moral mojo of mild flagging it uppiness that she’d found herself channelling more frequently since Big Sis had arrived and moved in.  She tried to say nothing, nothing more, no actual words, just leave it at the tut, she tried and she failed.

“And then you wonder why you’re jittering around all day like a … I should get you a human sized hamster wheel and you could power this whole place.”

“Where’s the porridge I agreed to eat?”

“Cooling on the back porch.  I’m throwing that coffee out and buying you decaf.  Or herbal tea.  You could get to like it you know.”

“No time to argue.  I might be on a roll here.  Great idea for a sitcom about a group of trainee nurses and I’m dying for a cigarette so cut me some slack about the caffeine.”

“Have you really stopped smoking?”

“I have.”

“No slipping out the back or down into the town for a sneaky one without me knowing?”

“The locals would grass on me.  Anyway you told them not to sell me any cigarettes.”

“And how would you know that unless you’d been trying to buy some?”

Lisa smiled.  “Pleading the Fifth.”

Eve watched her as she floated back over to the laptop, displaying that tantalizing whiff of nurtured dizziness that would have charmed a Spartan into hanging out beneath her balcony, cracking his spear into a couple of drum sticks and trying to panel beat a romantic ballad on his shield.  Big Sis wasn’t beautiful, certainly not in the way she was, but there had always been something going on that seemed to bring out the lost bohemian in the toughest jock.  Something that said hold me close I’m an artistic talent even in her dark green I might be an executive suit, the one that hadn’t been out of the dry cleaner’s cellophane since the day the Studio let her go.  Something that the hot bitter burn of being dumped for a younger model hadn’t yet extinguished.  Nor had the years, the greys, the crow’s feet, the defiant forehead lines that said I will not botox or the smile echoes rippling out from her mouth across those smoker’s cheeks.  Ex-smoker’s cheeks.  Maybe she shouldn’t give her such a hard time about the caffeine.  One thing at a time.

Eve looked at her own reflection in the huge mirror that doubled the feel of space in the converted barn.  It confirmed what she already knew.  She was still the stunner.  Little Sis with the gorgeous full lips, the blonde hair, the big cartoon eyes and the lioness’s share of the beautiful English Rose features that favoured their mother’s side.

She crossed the new timber flooring and read over Lisa’s shoulder.

[TYPED] Goldilocks was setting the last of the bowls out to cool on the back steps when she heard the engine struggling to make it up the wheel rutted trail to her cabin.  She knew it was his station wagon even before it emerged from the treelined path.  The wheels were biting at the snow.

“Goldilocks?  What’s this?”

“It’s not ready to read yet.”

Eve read on while Lisa typed and wasn’t sure she liked the story tapping its way into life on the laptop screen.

“Why Goldilocks?  Are you going all Angela Carter on me?  I thought you were working on a sitcom about nurses.”

“I’m an artiste, darling, I write what the muse tells me” Lisa said in her best dodgy actress tones.

“My neighbour Carlos has a station wagon and I’ve just made you some porridge which is cooling outside.  I don’t know if I like where this is heading.”

“Go away and let me compose in peace.”

“I think I might have to hover here and veto what I’m reading.”

“The muse won’t like it.  She’ll make me write naughty things until you go away and leave us both alone.”  Lisa continued to tap.

[TYPED] Carlos pulled up in front of the cabin.

Eve laughed.

[TYPED] He fixed his sleek black hair in the rear view mirror then just sat.  Sat and worried.  Again.  Was this a good idea?  Was this a bad move?  Was it the wrong time?  Was it too early?  No, Eve would have been up hours ago with the dogs.

“Enough.  Stop”  Eve said.  “Right now.  You’re taking my name in vain.  What happened to Goldilocks?”

“You have to go away or she won’t come back.  She’s scared of you.”

“Delete that and I’m off to take the dogs out.”

“I really really want to but muse bitch is whispering in my ear and she says no.”

[TYPED] Carlos sat on in his truck, his heart pumping.  In a few moments he’d have to make his move or come up with some excuse for the visit.  He couldn’t just sit there.  She’d have heard the engine.  He was here, she was inside, just a few yards away in her big converted barn.

“Describe the barn”  Eve said.  “I want to see what you really think of it.”

“And then you’ll go?”


[TYPED] It had been a hippy commune at one time or so Carlos had told them.  Paddy George’s Haven, bought with the life’s saving of some nutty old Irish born artist who’d arrived there in the flesh as Dylan arrived in the ether on their radios.  Paddy refused to let the make love not war dream die.  Until he did.   The Flower Power posse moved on and the locals said it lay there getting worse with every harsh winter until the sale to the mystery girl from Boston.  Eight or nine months of building and renovation and then Eve appeared, a young honey of a widow, arriving with four of the most magnificent dogs anyone had ever seen.

“Right, now go” Lisa said.

“But you’re going to write about my dogs.  I can’t go now.  Go on, write some more.”

[TYPED] Magnificent dogs if you were the sort that liked yappy wee annoying Jack Russell Poodle half breeds with manky manes and …

“You’re lucky I don’t slap the back of your head the way you used to slap mine when we were wee.  Fix that or I’m here for the day.  Anyway I bet you can’t even spell Weimaraner.”

Lisa typed Viamaraner.

“Not a bad effort.  Go on, write some more.”

[TYPED]…the most magnificent dogs anyone had ever seen.  Viamaraners, a breed with stature, grace and presence that rivalled the big city chic of their owner.  The barn was alive with activity that first winter as the locals helped their newest neighbour adjust to the shock of the Oxford weather that could see you snowed in on the edge of that wild wood for weeks at a time.  It was barely a half mile up the hill from the hub of shops in the square but the snow gathered deep and fast up there, deep enough to thwart most of the vehicles the locals owned.

“Now clear off to your dogs” Lisa said, “I can feel muse bitch itching to get really nasty and there’s only me here holding her off.”

Eve stood her ground.

[TYPED] Goldilocks was in a panic.  “Oh sister what shall I do?” she whined to her older but much more beautiful and intelligent sister Lisa-relli Bellebuns who was writing on her laptop, trying to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee.  “He’s here, Carlos, my heart’s desire, probably to ask me out.  I can’t let him see me like this.”

[TYPED] “Don’t worry little sister” Lisa said, “I’ll answer the door and pour him some coffee.  Now quickly, go and put on some lippy.  That’ll have to do, you don’t have time to wax off that moustache and pluck your beard, not even the big black hairs.”

“Ha ha” Eve said.  “I know I’m a hot babe.  You won’t get rid of me like that.”

Lisa kept typing.

[TYPED] The hairy lady peeked out from the side of the huge window and watched as Carlos made his way towards the barn steps, his calm demeanour masking the hurricane of Mediterranean emotions that plague good looking Sicilian men with Andy Garcia haircuts.

“Carlos is Mexican” Eve said.

“It’s my story.  He can be whatever I want.  He can be walking up your steps in a kilt if I want him to.”

[TYPED] Goldilocks watched his strong Scottish Italian thighs work hard to move his powerful frame ever closer to those Gucci Rennie Mackintosh designer steps, the ones from this year’s vintage winter range, pounding ever closer in his Moses sandals, the sight of which she found rather strange given the recent weather.  Her heart pounded as the snowflakes touched his calves, melting the way she knew she wanted to …

“I will hit you” said Eve.

[TYPED] There’d been two serious relationships in Goldilock’s life.  The first, uncomfortable, he’d been too big, the second, disappointing, he’d been too small but her intuition told her that Carlos would be just right.  She could feel it in the bottom of her …

“All right all right.  You’re embarrassing me.  Muse bitch wins.  I’m off with my dogs.  That screen had better have stuff on it about nurses and fit young doctors when I get back from a run around in the snow.”

Eve was at the back door, layered up for a play with her dogs in the fresh white winter wonderland when she heard the phone ringing and the scrape of Lisa’s chair as she got up to answer it.

“You know how they say that art imitates life” Lisa said, “what’s the bets that that’s Carlos to say he’s picked up your dog food in town and wants to drop it over ‘cause he needs to ask you something?”

“Get the frigging phone” and Eve headed out, down the steps into the snow and round the side to get her dogs from the heated kennel area beneath the barn.  She heard Lisa calling her before she’d the door unlatched and that involuntary tut and sigh combo returned for an encore, all by its own self, with a side order of what now? Give me a break as she stopped what she was doing and made her way back round to the front of the barn.

Lisa was at the top of the back steps.  She had her serious face on.  Eve was sure that she was about to try and wind her up with some nonsense.

“Eve, you’d better come in.”


She didn’t answer and Eve watched as came down the steps in her slippers.

“What are you doing?”

When she reached her she hugged her and started to cry.

“It’s Dad” said Lisa.  “He’s dead.”

Eve’s neighbour Carlos looked after her dogs for the week the sisters were away.  There was a big turnout for the funeral.  The gathering afterwards resulted in a significant number of Boston’s legal fraternity engaging in the rituals surrounding various hangover cures the following morning.

Patrick Finbar O’Riley had been Finn, two ens to the thousands who’d met him over the years and hundreds were still around to give a good send off to the man who outlived many of those whose lives he’d touched.  A fond Boston farewell to one of …

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