Tag Archives: The Glassblower

“The Glassblower” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

St. George - Hans Acker, 1440 "Ulm-Muenster-NeithartKapelleFenster-061209" by Joachim Köhler - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
St. George – Hans Acker, 1440. From the Lutheran Cathedral “Ulm-Muenster.” Photo by Joachim KöhlerOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

From our Winter 2015 issue, Brendan Byrne‘s “The Glassblower” is an anti-serial killer story with industrial post-punk undertones.

{ X }

THE SLOW, WET, GAPING PULSE of Chew Stum Valley morning.  I place the cup of crap hotel coffee, cold, on the front porch and lift the crime scene tape, blue and white on this side of the ocean. The door is unlocked behind it.

The hallway is boring; the siderooms are boring. They look kitted out by some mid-century landlady, keen on boiled breakfasts and bachelor boys, all of life justified by air raids. This, despite the fact that Thorne lived alone and unaided for the past several decades. I skip rooms, ignoring the outdated TV, the slack bookshelves with Protestant classics bound in imitation leather, dull watercolors of sheep and boulders and sheep. True Arcadia kitsch.

I treat the home like a canal, cut through it straight. Out the bookdoor, down the pseudo-quaint little cobble-stone steps and through the dead, knee-high garden (how is it that I’m sweating?), straight to the door of the old small chapel, which sits at the edge of the property. No caution tape here which, if I pause and force myself to smirk, I can see the irony of. This is where Thorne really lived. This is where the Glassblower, whoever he was, was born.

I open the door.


Earlier, Nailsea


Hanging in the air of the small club is a special kind of exhaustion. Post-synth drainage and slow throb the color of headaches. The patient mold of the interior of an orgasm on the screen behind the stage. Two white-suited henchmen disassemble the two hundred-odd pounds of equipment, exchanging quiet, sick little stories. A squat and beautiful young woman with deliberate scaration decorating her shoulders picks crushed plastic cups and discarded drug delivery systems off the floor.  Edward sits on the small, high stool propping open the emergency exit, smoking Silk Cut. A heavy, though not fat man, he has shed his own straightjacket and now wears a gray hunter’s flannel above leather pants. His beard is russet and dirty snow, but he does not sit like a mage, more like a Catholic schoolboy, tilted as if to avoid notice and suggest other perpetrators. He exhales a plume of gray, which then leaks out the door where hot scummy rain pounds the twist of a convoluted alleyway. The resultant battering on concrete is almost a nothing sound. It is distinct, but as if you are always hearing it and have only just caught on.

“Where do you live?”

“Me?” I adjust the glowing iPhone on my right thigh, the digital read of the recording time running what seems impossibly fast.


His voice isn’t the soft, unstrained tone it is on the more lunar tracks, nor does it approach his dead bandmate’s abrasive, churning yowl, once over-described very well in the NME as the final screams of a fetus about to be eaten by its twin. It is moderate, a cast-off discursive tone, flowing and clipped simultaneously. I don’t know enough about England to place it, if its origin is in fact geographic.

“I live a bunch of places.”

Edward tightens his posture, legs crossed, knees snug together. Back straight, barely inches away from touching that metal door. He watches as I light my own cigarette, eyes following my movements. I find myself secreting from some kind of self-conscious gland.

“Berlin. Sometimes. I lived in New York longer than anywhere else. My parents live in Roanoke. Thought you’d like that,” I say, even though he’s given no sign he recognizes the name. “CROATOAN and all that. It’s a one-story beach house. They have most of my library, but it’s wilting. Salt air.” I drink some of the Powers he prefers. His is still untouched. “I have an ex in Austin.”

“But you never lived there.”

“No, not really.”

“We lived,” he inclines his chin out the door into the alley, as if Silence was out there, spectral and soaked, leaking fetid ectoplasm from his wounds. “In the same place for nearly 19 years. A few miles west of here, actually.” He accentuates the directionality with the inverse of a hiss, taps ash onto the floor with absent deliberation. “But you knew that.”


“You work with Hélène?”


“I like her.”

“She speaks of you highly. We got extremely drunk once, and she said how much she enjoyed visiting your… chalet.”

His laughter is an immediate, reserved thing, not trailing off but ending with extreme deliberation. “Is that the word she used?”

“Yes, not without some irony.”

“She wanted to talk about sex, so we talked about sex, though I don’t think she got quite what she wanted. But you don’t want to talk about sex.”

“No. I don’t think so at least.”

“You don’t want to talk about music either. You want to talk about James.”

“Never made a secret of it. It was in the email.”

“I never read the email.”

“It was in the subject line of the email.”

He smiles once, the muscles’ contraction and relaxation forming feral movements. He is still heavily avuncular, without the attendant smarm.

“You don’t want to talk about it. Fine. Let’s talk about The Quartered Man’s commitment to spontaneity.”

“There was no commitment to anything.” And then, before I could figure out exactly what the fuck to say to that: “At times, we could have been spontaneous.”

“‘Could have been?’”

“We were capable of it.”

“Your choice of recording spaces seemed to have been fluid.”

“Choice?” Someone else’s laugh runs wild in the alley. “I cannot remember, dear boy, the number of places we recorded. I believe I slept, shat, ate, and fucked in all of them though. If that helps you.” His cigarette has not gone out yet. I find this difficult to believe. Perhaps I simply did not notice him light a new one. Shafts of remembered cinema history: Cigarettes, despite their prevalence, were always a bitch for editors to keep track of. Whether they were lit, how far they had burned down. It makes me light another of my own, for continuity.

“Do you know much about the Vietnamese culture?”

“I read a bit, knowing I’d be talking to you.”

Co bac?”

I shake my head, sip my whiskey. His is almost gone. Another continuity problem.

“It’s not a test. Ong bac are spirits of the ancestor. Co bac are spirits of strangers. But neither is given preferential treatment. They are obvious, in a way nothing is obvious to the Occidental mind, which needs proof.” He says the word as if shitting with his mouth. “They are equal. Even if the particular co bac was, in life, an aggressor. Such as an American service-man. Each is acknowledged and granted a social existence.” His spent cigarette arcs into the alley; it is struck down by droplets.  “That is why I am going to Vietnam.” Soft, dignified smile. “They will know how to look after my spirit.”

So, I manage not to say, it’s not just the boys then. Instead: “You mean the English are incapable of tending to it?” Continue reading “The Glassblower” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne