Somewhere in a parallel universe, a large function room in Co. Kill Dare was brimming with hope, excitement, and alcohol, wherein the Blogerati had gathered, in glorious fancy-dress, for the Oirish Blog Awards.
At Table 1, smiles were sweet. At Table 22, three people were – ironically – playing Connect 4. At Table 666, Mara was spitting fire.
“She’s a bloody commoner, Tark!”
“She didn’t acknowledge you AT ALL!”
“I told you that lending your genius to some countrified twonk’s blog would do you no favours in the long run!”
Tark placed a manicured hand gently over his wife’s, stilling the tremors which were rocking the table, and forcing other guests to hold on to their quivering, over-full glasses.
“Keep your voice down, my treasured little ice-cream headache. It doesn’t do to be heard to be ungracious.”
Mara took a deep breath and leaned forward, unwittingly causing the 20-something blogger seated next to her to flinch. The young man had been confused as to why people 20 years his senior were blogging at all, let alone attending a blog awards event in some sort of vintage 1980s Jean-Paul Gaultier couture which exposed every skeletal contour of an impossibly gaunt frame. The young man wondered if Mara had eaten since the 1980s; he suspected not. He was glad he wasn’t competing in the Best Food And Drink Blog category, if this was the way things were going.
“I don’t know why you’re so bloody calm,” Mara hissed at her husband. “You’re the one who has been cheated out of their rightful position as Blog Lord by that dreadful Sparkling woman, but I’m doing all the righteous indignation here.”
“I’m taking a long-term view on this, darling.”
“How long-term, Tark? Another decade? Lest we forget, in ten days of guest-blogging for that plump, pastel plonker up there, you hoisted a grossly unpopular blog out of a swamp of nothingness, gained it 304,000 followers, used it to bring down a government, and now some utter nondescript is taking all the credit for it. Look at her there, all trussed up like a Dynasty reject. It would make me sick, had I eaten anything in the last 96 hours.”
“She does look dreadful. I didn’t know anyone could wear so much plastic.”
“Grinning ear-to-ear like an imbecile, with her candyfloss head.”
“Peach and pink could not be said to be her colours, that is true. I’m not even going to mention the blue eye-shadow.”
Mara averted her gaze from the monstrous vision on the stage and turned back to her husband. “I know what you’re doing. But I won’t be distracted by pin-point criticism of the worst outfit in the room.”
“But nobody can say that we haven’t stolen the show, my little firestarter. Between your 64-inch shoulder pads and 10-inch waist, and my channelling of the fashion-forward tennis legend that was John McEnroe, we showed them all, when you think about it.”
Mara sniffed. “I do look amazing.”
The final awards were being announced from the stage, to the sound of whoops and whistles. Mara grimaced. “It should have been you, Tark. I looked it up. No blog has ever before managed to be shortlisted for more than 5 categories in the same year, let alone in each of Arts & Culture, Fashion, Politics, Photography, Controversy, Wealth, Character Assassination, General Scoffing, and Defamation. And to think that you only started your own blog last week.”
“I must admit, even I was a little taken aback at the rapidity of my achievements. Still, it was unlikely to be a clean sweep. Which is why I arranged for that silly woman to win this award.”
“You planned this?” said Mara, uncharacteristic hope infecting her monotone.
“But of course, darling. Could you doubt it?”
Mara thought for a moment, sipping from her Bloody Mary as she did so. The petrified 20-something next to her watched with morbid fascination, unsure whether his eyes were deceiving him, or if he was really able to see the red drink slipping down her throat, colour suffusing erstwhile blue arteries. It was like watching a living X-ray. He began to take surreptitious photographs of her with his phone. It would make a cracking blog post the following day. He’d call it “The Disintegration of Generation X”.
For her part, Mara was struck by how a perceived slight had momentarily blinded her to the fact that her husband would infallibly, unfailingly win. She had forgotten herself. She had forgotten Tark.
“I should have known.” She sighed heavily, managing to lose one further dress size in the process. “How bourgeois of me.”
Tark grinned wolfishly at his wife and adjusted the sweatband holding down his mullet perm toupée. “Don’t worry, my little wasp. Just wait until I take down this Sparkling woman, bit by bit, starting with that ghastly spiked fringe; and her blog will be mine. All mine.”
As always, when Tark spoke in italics, Mara shivered. Tark whipped out the cocktail napkin (from the 6-star Dubai hotel he’d taken her to in September, to make up for their Irish beach holiday) upon which he had scrawled his strategy.
“Tomorrow, I will begin by praising her blog for its courageous mastery of the humble-brag, and a contrived disavowal of success. The following week, I’ll say that I’m eagerly awaiting her first novel, despite the fact that there are still no indications of when, or indeed what that will be.”
Tark reached for his gin and tonic and raised a glass to his newly-delighted wife.
“She’ll be toast by November.”
** Pic courtesy Damien Carroll Cearbhuil Studios