The Plate by Roddy Doyle

Photograph: Wassink Lundgren

“The Plate” by Roddy Doyle

This is the first piece I’ve read by Roddy Doyle and I across it quite by accident. I was searching for “summer short story” and one of the results was a Summer Short Story Special at The Guardian. This was one of the five contributions by established writers whose most well-known books were also listed, and though I haven’t read Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha the title rang a bell.

The first line grabbed my attention.

I love you but I think I’m dying.

Maeve watches her husband, Jim, walk back out of the house, staggering and clutching his stomach, like he’s been shot. Concerned she asks him what happened and eventually loads him into the car to drive him to the hospital.

We learn about the couple by their actions and conversation that night, but more through a flashback to the night before, the night when a plate was thrown during one of their usual drunken arguments.

The relationship between Jim and Maeve has seemingly settled into a pattern, one that leads to regret even though I think they care about each other. Once again, the thing I truly enjoy about short stories is how much authors’ can tell us about their characters just setting us down in the middle of these people’s day. We get to know this couple, know how they argue, why they fight, why Jim had to tell her he loved her even though he was in major pain.

I’ll let you read the story to see if Jim does die. I will say though, that the last few paragraphs really caught me off guard. Just when I thought I knew about this marriage, Doyle threw in a bit of a surprise.

I read this story at guardian.co.uk.

John hosts Short Story Monday at The Book Mine Set. Head over there to see what he and others have been reading.

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