‘Animal Needs’ by Kevin Barry

I often give Kevin Barry’s books to pals who don’t read much. They love him, and so do I. This story, from his first collection, is absolutely mad. The central character, John Martin, a farmer and remorseful swinger whose chicken operation is under inspection, spends the day driving around town in a state of existential desperation. It’s hysterical, and features many such lines as “He didn’t know how he finished that sausage sandwich but by Jesus he finished it.” But the brilliant thing about Barry is the way he sneaks in the devastating lines, too: “You imagine the whole wife-swapping business would take four decisions but really it only takes three.” Oh God.

First published in There are Little Kingdoms, Stinging Fly, 2007

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