Any story after last week’s, “Free Fruit for Young Widows,” was bound to disappoint. “Ash” by Roddy Doyle seems more like it was published for riding on the coattails of the Icelandic volcano eruption (you know, Eyjafjallajokull throwing up an ash cloud, planes stopping) than for any real substance. It’s also wise when picking a natural disaster to use in a short story, to choose one that is a mere disruption like a traffic jam rather than something involving hurricanes or earthquakes, because those events rarely provide opportunities to explore narratives or life. Perhaps, there could be some small instances where a writer may pull out a few tales of survival, but nothing provides a better backdrop for some passive marital strife between two (three if you count the brother) emotionally vacant adults in the U.K than a big cloud of ash parked over Europe, forcing everyone to pause and wait for the wind to change direction.
At the end of the story, Kevin (the husband) talks to his wife (Ciara) and the children about the ash cloud. He explains, It’s just for a while. Things will get back to normal when the ash drifts away. Or falls. One of the kid’s asks if it will hurt when it falls. No, said Ciara. It won’t.
Overall, this is a bland, skeletal story that asks nothing of the reader. Thankfully, most of it is dialogue.