Author: Mick Beville

A child of eight deals with abandonment

“Shackleton! Jesus� that’s all you ever fekin hear around here so. If the truth was told, Shackleton wasn’t an Athy man at all.” Jack Clark placed his long neck stout bottle on the top of the oak kitchen dresser and had started with some agitation to rummage through the drawer in search of an audio cassette tape. “Fekin Elvis, the drawer’s full of fekin Elvis” he said, scattering tapes in all directions.

“Who were you hoping to find in there?” asked Gerry Toomey, as he casually topped up his glass of stout at the kitchen table. “Aw for feck sake� I’m looking for Liam O’Flynn. The feckless bitch has smothered me Planxty tape with her pile of Elvis shite.” “How is Maurine by the way?” “Hear it is�” continued Jack, without paying any mind to Gerry’s prying.

Jack Clark had inherited the forty acres with the house and horse business from his father and likewise his father from his before him. “The good times will come again” Jack had pleaded, when Maurine got frustrated trying to balance the household debts with the pittance that came in from the riding school. When she finally told him ten weeks earlier that she’d had enough and was leaving, it was like his world had ended.
It had been less than two years after Jack’s wife Bridget had died from breast cancer that Maurine approached him in Ryan’s Bar. At thirty seven Maurine was four years older than Jack’s youngest son Tom, and that in itself did nothing to ease the tension that had already existed between father and son. When Padraic was born two years later Tom had left the farm to join his brothers Jimmy and Mat in London.

Eight year old Padraic snuck out of his bedroom and sat in the dim light at the head of the stair, leaned his shoulder against the corner of the wall and listened intensely as his father and Gerry Toomey talked through the drone of the uilliann pipes in the kitchen below.
The tears that had soaked Padraic’s pillow after his mother’s departure had now for the most part turned inwards. He would wake sometimes to the shock that her leaving him hadn’t been just a bad dream. Under his pillow he kept a book of Poems by WB Yeats that had belonged to her. Although he had no understanding of its content, the book itself was her. He would look at the word “Yeats” and hear her voice saying it. He would smell the pages and imagine her in the bed along side him reading it to him. He remembered the night that Gerry Toomey had gone into his mother’s bedroom room, and how they had argued about his father who was asleep downstairs. And later after Gerry Toomey had left, his mother had come into his bed, held him in her arms and sobbed.
His thoughts were jolted and he scurried back onto the upstairs landing. It was the shadow of Gerry Toomey crossing the foot of the stair, on his way to the toilet. He knew Gerry’s shadow better than he knew the man himself. The toilet was directly underneath the bare floorboard of the landing and Padraic could now hear the plastic seat being lifted and the sound of Gerry’s piss as it hit and missed the bottom of the porcelain. He held his breath and kept him self as still as a stone until the cistern started to flush. He thought some more about how his mother didn’t like Gerry Toomey coming into the house. And then he thought about how grown ups’ thoughts were a mystery, and how their conversations, like the pages of Yeats’s poetry, were somehow calling out to him and that if he reached hard enough, their mysteries would reveal themselves.
The Planxty tape had stopped now, and he could hear the clinking of bottles as his father reached into the pantry for replacements.

“He’s not an Athy man at all so” said Gerry sitting back at the table.
“Who are you talking about?” Jack asked.
“I’m talking about Liam O’Flynn the piper. He’s no more an Athy man than Shackleton. At least Shackleton was born less than a mile down the road…” Jack said nothing. Instead he took the bottle opener from the drainer and opened the two long neck bottles. The subject of Shackleton had festered between the two men since the pub trivia on the previous Tuesday when Gerry had ridden Jack over his lack of general knowledge.
“You do know the Gardai will be asking questions sooner or later so,” said Gerry without qualification. Jack knew that he was referring to Maurine, and was taken aback by the brazenness of his tone.
“What’s that supposed to fekin mean?” he snapped.
“It means that people in this century don’t just disappear off the face of the earth. Not without someone asking some serious questions.”
Padraic’s attention sharpened with the mention of his mothers name and he quietly slid down two more steps.
Jack thumped his fist on the table. “You just can’t feking leave well alone so. It had to be ” said Jack. “The whole town’s asking about Maurine� For Jesus sake there’s even talk up in Ryan’s bar, that you have her buried up here in the fields”
Conscious that their conversation may be overheard, Jack reached and pulled the kitchen door closed. “That’s all them fekin gobshites ever want to do is to talk about the things they know nothing at all about. She’s gone, and good riddance to her I say. She could be in Memphis weeping over his feking grave for all I know or care.”
With the kitchen door closed, Padraic returned to his bed. The words “buried up here in the fields” ran around inside his head. He tried to make sense of the words being associated with his mother’s name. He took out the book of poems from under his pillow and randomly opened it somewhere close to the middle. The word “Death” struck him like a hammer. He had heard his mother telling a woman who had quoted the marriage vows to her, that “there was more than one kind of death. There was death of love; death of respect and worst of all, death of hope.


Nor dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all;
Many times he died,
Many times he rose again.
A great man in his pride
Confronting murderous men
Casts derision upon
Supersession of breath;
He knows death to the bone-
Man has created death.

A shiver passed through Padraic’s body and he slammed the pages closed. He had reached out as he had reached out many times before for an understanding of the text. But this time was different. This time the text had answered him. “His mother really was in Memphis� It all made sense now. Why she always called him by his middle name, “Aaron.” and why she kept telling him that she would take him to America one day to meet the King.