The Spy Who Taught Me


LIONEL STEELE (35) stands at the top of his class. He is plain looking, chubby and shabbily dressed. It is a classroom of Russian students. They stare at him, waiting for him to begin the MATHEMATICS lecture. Time passes slowly. LIONEL is frozen. He has forgotten what to say. An attractive young woman at the front raises her hand. She smiles. She knows she is beautiful. 


Sorry. What’s your question? 


Are you a British spy?

LIONEL (obviously flustered)



We’ve all been wondering, are you a spy? You remind us of Mister James Bond. 

(The class laughs.)

LIONEL (Trying to distract. He can’t believe he’s been found out so quickly)

What’s your name?


My name is Alyona. (She flicks her long dark hair over her shoulder)


No Alyona. I am not a spy. Not everyone from the West is here to spy on Mother Russia. My wife and son are Russian. 


I suppose we’ll have to take your word for it. But we’re watching you. 

(She smiles showing shark like teeth) 


OK. Let’s start with some simple algebraic equations…

                        LIONEL STEELE WILL RETURN…                              


Out Now. Fallout: Short Stories by J.O’Brien

Exciting news.

My first collection of short stories is now available on the Amazon Kindle store. See link below.


A boy who tries to derail a train.
A superman who cannot fly.
A husband attacked by a vacuum cleaner.
A childish game cut short by nuclear disaster…

In this twenty story collection I experiment with memories and dreams that radiate out of the unconscious—childhood, family, faith, death, love—small moments contaminated with the universal.

These stories are for those who like the philosophical mixed with a shot of strange humour.

This is my first attempt at independent publishing. I would greatly appreciate your comments on the stories and if you could share the link.



Poem: Drunken Bicycle

This poem is true, more or less…

Drunken Bicycle

As I fell out upon the street
The crescent moon I caught asleep
A whiskey mood controlled my feet
As I shuffled home to its broken beat
The roads and paths seemed to spin
I wondered would I get home again
Trees and bushes seemed to speak
Dark visions to haunt my sleep
Headlamps on the cars they shone
An omen of oblivion
Till I came to my neighbour’s door
And stole his bike to take me home
I cycled out and I cycled in
The road kept up its evil spin
Then up ahead a saw the sign
My sweet village of Palatine
The village fell in a steep incline
I said a prayer and cursed the time
And made my way down the hill
Falling fast and wobbling still
But one thing that I failed to see
A sixty sign in front of me
Next thing I’m laid out
Stars above with the ditch about
And the first thing that occurs to me
Is have I lost my property?
With no thought for the bike or me
Broken bones or injury
I crawled out of the ditch that night
And pushed the bike with all my might
It wasn’t as it used to be
The wheel was bent into a C
I fell to sleep and thanked my luck
Till next morning when I woke up
I had to walk the bike to town
And explain to my friend what I’d
He took it hard and that is sure
He’s not a friend to me anymore
And I’ve decided from now on
I won’t cycle drunk in the dark alone.


Attack of the Machines

This flash-fiction was written in response to a prompt inspired by a Raymond Carver story. The goal was to write a science fiction story using the first line. It was previously published under a different title in the Carlow Writer’s Co-Operative Anthology What Champagne Was Like.

Attack of the Machines

Robert was running a vacuum cleaner when the telephone rang. He turned it off and picked up the handset. There was no voice, just a high pitched noise that burst his eardrum. He screamed in pain. Blood poured from his ear and he fell to the ground in agony.
​Behind him the vacuum turned itself back on and leapt into the air like a mechanical cobra. He turned when he heard the noise.
​The vacuum attacked. It wound its pipe around his neck, choking him to the point of asphyxiation. He could not move.
​Hearing the commotion his wife came out of their bedroom. She stumbled into the room and glared at him.
​‘What are you playing at?’
She plugged out the vacuum cleaner.