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Project Hamlet

A ghost train ride through Dublin's nightly underbelly.

Night Shift - Dermot Bolger

"I've been riding on a ghost train where the cars, they scream and slam; and I don't know where I'll be tonight, but I'd always tell you where I am." – Mark Knopfler, Tunnel of Love.


It's a dull, dumbing and exhaustive routine, that night shift at the run-down metal factory, and it's only society's losers who are working there; those who no longer have the hope of a better life and of a future to speak of, and who now live from night to night only, trying to beat the graveyard shift one bleak weeknight at a time: Duckarse, the chargehand, never introduced by any other name than that of the nickname which the men have given him, and which seems to sum up his entire existence. Dan, the lonesome old man who has spent his life running away from and simultaneously following from a distance the pitiful fate of the woman he met in post-World War II London, and whose image now haunts his sleepless days because he abandoned her, and because his guilt-ridden conscience has convinced him that he is responsible for her fate; although he has long since lost the ability to do anything about it – or about anything else, for that matter. And Frankie, who spends his weekends in pubs and bars, unsuccessfully trying to build a career as a rock band promoter, and for whom paradise consists of one idea only: to delve head-first into the limitless stashes of Amsterdam's drug market, and never to re-emerge.


And then there is Donal, who does not seem to fit in with this group. Donal, who married his girlfriend Elizabeth after high school because he truly loves her – not just because they found out that she was pregnant and marrying her was the honorable thing to do. Donal, who now lives with his delicate, beautiful and very pregnant young wife in a trailer in the backyard of her parents' house. Donal, who actually has the hope of escaping the dull routine of his nightly work, and of all the days not spent awake with his wife because he is catching up on the sleep he did not get at night. Donal, who only took this job (which his childhood friend Frankie found for him) because he quickly needed a source of income after they had found out that Elizabeth was pregnant. And Donal, who is caught between his loyalty to Frankie and the life that he represents on the one hand and his love for Elizabeth and their shared, fragile hope for a better future on the other hand; desperately trying to hold on to their one chance at luck and happiness and to defend it against the bleakness threatening to encroach their life from all sides simultaneously in the post-industrial streets and neighborhoods of blue collar Dublin.


Read more on my own website, ThemisAthena.info.


Preview also cross-posted on Leafmarks.

Source: http://www.themisathena.info/literature/bolger.html#NightShift