Saturday 26 June 2021

'Drawing Dead on the Road to Athlone' by Fiona McKay

In a small room, more of a cupboard really, Sr Mary Bridget taught a group of us older girls to play poker. She called it ‘Maths Club’, to keep the numbers low, and only invited her favourites. We got good at it, quickly, because we knew we shouldn’t, and she entered us in a competition somewhere down the country. It wasn’t exactly Vegas, more like Athlone. I can’t recall it now.

We brought packed lunches with us – cheese sandwiches sweating in plastic bags – and in the breaks we ate outside. The other players went to the pub without us; Sister didn’t hold with drink and wouldn’t let us smoke. We popped warm cans of coke and laughed as they gushed, shoving each other’s dripping hands away. We made jokes of our nightclub adventures and underage drinks, slyly hoping to shock our teacher, or impress her. She didn’t seem to listen, though she looked a little sad.

On the way home, we tried to get her to talk about her time before the convent, but she kept her face turned towards the road and drove steadily into the dark, stopping just outside Kilcock to make us put our winnings in the poor box of the Church. She kept the trophy, though.

She was only in our school for that one year. The following September she was gone, replaced by a lay Maths teacher who frowned over his glasses: his hair, his skin, his teaching – dry. We never heard where she went.

Last year, I gave a lecture at a conference on game theory. I thought I saw her, in smart-casual clothes, there at the back of the crowd, though there was no Mary Bridget registered and I couldn’t find her afterwards.


  1. Oh Sr Mary Bridget - sent for a reason :-)

  2. Gorgeous, I can hear your accent. 😊

  3. Lovely, Fiona. Always felt slightly envious that I had no nuns for teachers...

  4. Great piece ‘ It wasn’t exactly Vegas, more like Athlone.’ 😄


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