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The Short Form

“John Duffy's Brother”

Flann O'Brien


He arose one morning–on the 9th of March, 1932–dressed, and cooked his frugal breakfast. Immediately afterwards, he became possessed of the strange idea that he was a train. No explanation of this can be attempted. Small boys sometimes like to pretend that they are trains, and there are fat women in the world who are not, in the distance, without some resemblance to trains. But John Duffy's brother was certain that he was a train–long, thunderous, and immense, with white steam escaping noisily from his feet and deep-throated bellows coming rhythmically from where his funnel was.

Moreover, he was certain that he was a particular train, the 9.20 into Dublin. His station was the bedroom. He stood absolutely still for twenty minutes, knowing that a good train is equally punctual in departure as in arrival. He glanced often at his watch to make sure that the hour should not go by unnoticed. His watch bore the words “Shockproof” and “Railway Timekeeper.”

We read it in The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien.

Originally published in The Irish Digest.