I found the book How do you know YOU are Falling from a Great Height when your Eyes are Closed? (40ft Press. Dublin. 1971) at the bottom of a huge bin, under cookery books, romances, children’s books, books on home interior, books on chemistry, math, How to Speak English, it was onionyellow and dogeared, the spine was broken, the front cover was missing. I took a punt; I like books with long titles. I took it home and read it.

I think that Larry Caomhánach was a nom de plume, it has been a futile search for information, I know that he was not Irish, nor was he an American, I have a tenuous belief that he was Norwegian; this tenuous belief has the foundation on Larry Caomhánach’s superfluous use of Faen ta deg. The phrase peppers the book.

I know it is a bad book compared to other books, I know that Larry Caomhánach is a terrible writer, the math gives it away, after all, he published only one book and the publishers were small, lackadaisical, and went out of business shortly after publishing the book, but still I cannot put down Larry Caomhánach’s one and only book, when I get to the end I start again, this is not down to some Joycean trick, but simply through the joy I experience. Being a writer, myself, small, lackadaisical, and penurious, I used the first page of How do you know YOU are Falling from a Great Height when your Eyes are Closed? for a short story, the story was never published, and so like the failed magician irate at the world I now want to reveal my secret.


How do you know YOU are Falling from a Great Height when your Eyes are Closed? (40ft Press. Dublin. 1971).

It was hot and the game was nowhere to be seen. It was still fashionable to shoot tigers, lions, and other dangerous animals, so Harry Black held his rifle tightly since he knew that the game was out there. Harry’s guide kept talking, but Harry was at a loss as to what Ozondjahe was trying to communicate. Ozondjahe was very tall, much taller than Harry was. When he laughed, which he did often, he showed the whitest teeth. They were so white Harry was lost for words. Ozondjahe carried a shotgun. The shotgun was Harry’s idea. At first Ozondjahe refused to carry the shotgun. Ozondjahe said all he needed was his walking stick, but Harry wouldn’t hear of it, for Harry the shotgun was better than any damn walking stick, after all, they were hunting tigers, lions, and other dangerous animals. Ozondjahe was deeply upset about having to leave his walking stick at the camp and carry a shotgun. The shotgun was heavy. Ozondjahe also had to carry three bottles of wine, a full meal consisting of roasted chicken, cheese, crusty French bread, and black olives. And the coffee pot, two mugs, and coffee makings. Ozondjahe led the way through the thick bush. The bush made a lot of noise. The bush was dry, so was the land, there was much dust in the air, and the dust turned the sky red. Harry had never seen a red sky. The dust also looked like big insects. It was too dry and so there were no real insects. Harry followed Ozondjahe through the thick noisy bush. The bush was reduced to dust under Harry’s boots.


The Whistling Between Your Legs (Unpublished. 1987.)

It was hot and there were many girls walking up and down the Boulevard. The girls were not naked, but the miniskirt had not disappeared. Harry Black sipped his coffee outside the café Loulou and watched the girls walk past. When a beautiful girl walked by with an ugly man, Harry sighed pensively. This happened a lot. Harry smoked a cigarette. It was 1972 and smoking was still considered chic. The year accounted for the number of beautiful girls with ugly men. Harry had visited the Seine, the Eiffel Tower, and the Palais Garnier. He had walked up and down the Avenue de Clichy. He had paid his respects at Père Lachaise. He had sat down at Honoré de Balzac and broke crusty bread and swigged wine. He had seen the Arc de Triomphe. Now, Harry wanted to trap a philosopher. They were out there, lots of them, Harry had read all about them and seen them on the television, sitting outside cafés, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, and spouting their ideas. The hotel concierge told Harry which café attracted the most philosophers. It was the café Loulou. It was the best watering hole in the city. The philosophers were always to be found there, drinking coffee, smoking pipes, showing off, and tapping up the young girls. Harry was very excited when his waiter told him that Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir always stopped at the café Loulou for a coffee and a smoke.


How do you know YOU are Falling from a Great Height when your Eyes are Closed? (40ft Press. Dublin. 1971).

Ozondjahe stopped and dropped the rucksack that carried the roasted chicken, cheese, crusty French bread, black olives, coffee pot, two mugs, and coffee makings. Before he had a chance to lift up the heavy shotgun, point the heavy shotgun, a lion had him by the throat. Harry stunned fell back. He watched, numbed and paralyzed, as the lion reduced Ozondjahe into a number of nouns, too many to count. The lion finished off Ozondjahe and stalked Harry. Its eyes were enlarged and its mouth was awash with Ozondjahe’s blood and guts. The lion approached. Harry’s legs refused to carry him as his arms refused to lift him. Although, Harry’s body refused to work, his brain worked amazingly. Harry experienced a thousand deaths, all very violent. The lion metamorphosed into a thousand monsters all vile and terrible. The panting lion became a locomotion that would not stop. Harry saw his funeral: the attendance was good. Harry was able to look into the nailed shut coffin, something his family was unable to do, and he saw the thick mush sealed in a plastic bag. Harry screamed. The lion matched the scream with a roar. The sun was a golden disc that was beautiful, romantic, and at the end of the day, impassive.


The Whistling Between Your Legs (Unpublished. 1987.)

‘Look over there,’ said the waiter, pointing to a table at the other end of the café. Harry looked, but all he saw was a typical Parisian doing his usual thing, smoking, drinking coffee, and being coquettish. Harry shrugged his shoulders. ‘Don’t you know who that is?’ said the waiter. The waiter was an American student who thought a year or two in Paris would rub off on him. ‘No,’ said Harry. The student laughed, it was a mocking, mirthless laugh. Harry not one to be laughed at stood up and punched the young man on the nose. The young man wiped the blood away and looked, stunned and paralyzed, at Harry. ‘I know his philosophy is frustrating but there is no need for violence,’ said the young man. Another waiter appeared. « Vous at-il touché? » asked the waiter. He was a big man with a big mustache.  «Oui», said the young man, now with a bloody face. ‘I am going to teach you a lesson,’ said the big man with the big mustache to Harry. ‘The lesson will mean more to you than any logorrheic epistemology.” Before Harry could respond, the big man knocked him onto his bottom with a right hook. Those in the café reacted in a myriad of manners, some screamed, some were tongue-tied through shock, but most laughed. Harry managed to get back to his feet. The big man produced two hairy fists as a magician will produce a white rabbit and a white dove. Harry threw a left. The waiter collected it like a paltry tip and threw a right. The right sent Harry back against a table that refused to budge. ‘I think you should leave,’ said the young man who was no longer bleeding from the nose. ‘I have never backed down from a fight in my life,’ said Harry, but before he could attack the big waiter with the mustache but with even bigger fists knocked Harry Black out cold.

I am fascinated with how a writer writes. I write sitting down, smoking, drinking wine, lots of wine, my endings always suffer. I know Larry Caomhánach liked to write naked with a long piece of string traveling through his intestines.



 Paul Kavanagh lives in Charlotte.