Watching Feet

Watching Feet

Little Big Boy coming soon from Max Power

Just a teaser

…..“Aaaaah shut up your shaggin’ moanin’ will ya”

I knew the signs.  It is hard to remember them all, but some arguments stick in my mind.  There were so many, they often blend together in a mush of loud voices, fear and sometimes outright terror.  This particular one was most certainly not the first one I had witnessed, but it sort of marked the beginning of what was to come.  I think this was the start of the decent for me.  I’m not sure why, but it felt like a transition.  There had been some kind of truce after Lo-Lo was born.  Everyone got along and it was like a golden age in my little world.  Dad resumed drinking again after a few months of course, but then when my brother died, he stopped again and our house was a calmer place for sure.

The transition I speak of was a change in my sense of security.  It coincided with the move to big school and all at once, I went from feeling safe and protected by my doting mother, to a sense of abandonment.  It wasn’t entirely true but it just felt that way.  My brother Eamonn had discovered rebellion and was already on the receiving end of brutal beatings.  Lo-Lo had taken my place as the one in most need of protecting.  The loss of my baby brother changed Mam. I think prior to this particular argument, I had been kept away, spirited away sometimes, but now Mam had Lo-Lo to keep safe.  Sometimes she didn’t seem to see me.

“..You’re disgusting.  Look at you.  You’re drunk.  I don’t know why you drink when you end up like this.  Did the neighbours see you waltz up the path like that?  You should be ashamed of yourself…”

I didn’t want my Mam to fight with Dad.  She was going to make him angry and he frightened me when he was angry.  While it was my father I feared, I was annoyed at my mother for rising him to a row.

“Feck the neighbours!  That auld bitch next door should look to her own family… and where’s my dinner?  A man shouldn’t have to listen to this tripe after a hard day’s work.”

He was slurring his words and his voice was getting progressively louder.  Neither of them seemed to notice me.  They were in the kitchen and I was in the sitting room, but the door was open and I could see them.  His body language frightened me.  Dad seemed to be moving menacingly, constantly turning toward and then away from my mother, as if confused about where to go.  I sat on my Mam’s chair and hugged my knees.  I was wearing short trousers and they felt cold against my warm cheek.  It was strange, but even in the height of a crises, my mind could wander to find curiosity in the smallest of things, a distraction if you will and for the tiniest moment, I wondered why my face was warm and my knees were cold.

“Work?”  Why did my mother use her angry voice, she was going to make matters worse?  “What work?  You were in the pub all afternoon.  Look at you, you reek of drink, you should be…”  Whatever she planned to say was cut off by my father turning towards her and slamming his fist down violently on the kitchen table.  He was so drunk it made him loose his balance slightly and he wobbled.

“Shut up…shut up… SHUT THE FECK UP!”

“Don’t you raise your voice like that to me in front of the children?”

I couldn’t believe she was admonishing him in that way.  He was breathing heavily and I knew the signs.  She was making him more and more mad and he was going to explode.  Lo-Lo was upstairs asleep and the others were out, so I was the only one in the house to witness the unfolding agreement.  Something bad was going to happen.  I wished I could stop them.  I wanted to stop them.  Fear grabbed me by the throat and I tried to fight it.  But this wasn’t like Mark O’ Connor picking a fight with me in the school yard.  I couldn’t stand up to… this.

I ran over to the sofa and dropped to my side, sliding underneath between the legs like a cowboy sliding for cover.  Once underneath, I shimmied to the very back against the wall and lay on my belly.  From there, I could see into the kitchen, but all I could see were my parent’s feet.  Even they told a story.  I covered my ears and tried to block out the sound, but it was impossible.

There was a brief silence, as though my mother had capitulated or my father had got fed up.  In a bizarre ritual of normality, he sat at the head of the table and I saw my mother’s feet take her to the cooker.  His dinner was in the warm oven covered by another plate, waiting for his inevitable return that day.  She retrieved it and placed it before him.  I couldn’t see from my vantage point, but I knew she would be taking the top plate off and that she would put it in the sink before getting the salt for my dad to shake over everything.

“What’s this…MUCK?”  I heard the sound of his knife and fork hit the table as he tossed them down in anger.  “It’s all dried up!  What sort of woman are ye?  You’re useless!”

“Well if you came home in time, instead of drinking away my shopping money in the pub with your drunken pals, your Dinner would be fine.”

That escalated matters.  I watched in horror and squeezed my hands harder over my ears, trying desperately to make myself invisible beneath the sofa.  His chair was pushed back as he rose and in the next moment, I saw his plate, dinner and all come crashing down onto the kitchen floor.  He had thrown it down in anger and began shouting at my mother.

“mmm …mmmmm…mmmmm…mmmm”

I hummed and squeezed my eyes closed and the nonsense humming sound I made, sounded really loud in my head as my hands covered my ears.  Mam was screaming at him and he was roaring back, but I didn’t want to know the words.  I didn’t want this to happen.  Inside, my stomach hurt.  I felt lots of butterflies but they weren’t nice ones.  Then I opened my eyes, but I wish I hadn’t.

Watching feet doesn’t tell you everything but some things are unmistakeable.  I saw Dad’s feet stagger back a little in his drunkenness, to establish a stance from which to strike.  I watched my usually fearless mother’s feet, shimmy back a little in nervous anticipation.  There was a shift and a twist in my Dad’s stance and in my horrified trance, I released the pressure I had been applying to my ears, just in time to hear the sound of my father’s hand strike my mother on her face.

I instantly clamped them back again, but the damage was done.  My mother’s feet quick stepped backwards as she reeled from the blow.  Then everything stopped still.  I opened my eyes and I didn’t even know that I had been crying.  Little boy snot rolled onto my upper lip and as I tried to sniff it back, I felt that uncontrollable breathy sob that comes with little boys tears.

I took my hands from my ears and watched the feet……..

Little Big Boy by Max Power. Coming soon…

Max Power’s other books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn and Bad Blood, all available on amazon to download or in paperback. You can find more details about Max Power’s other books here : –

Twitter @maxpowerbooks1


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