I once caught my nethers in the zip of my trousers and as a consequence, was subjected to the indignity of being exposed to an audience of well-intentioned, advice giving auld ones and that episode has lived long in my memory. Granted I was a little boy at the time, but it was such a traumatic experience that I have been extra careful to avoid that costly mistake ever since. If you are a man, this might bring a tear to your glass eye. If you are a woman, please remember… men can cry too…
We grew up in a small house and the toilet was semi-outside if that makes sense. You had to pass out through out through our kitchen, into what was originally an open porch and the toilet was located just off the porch. My father’s version of making it an indoor lavatory, was to put a wooden door on the open porch, but as there was no heating and in the winter, it was a virtual trauma to have to pay a visit to that little room on the periphery of our house. The door to the W.C. was a solid, heavy, wooden affair and it was secured by means of a bolt that was painted over so many times, that it took a massive effort for me as a little boy to open or close it. Unfortunately it was the only privy in the house and I valued my privacy so I always bolted it shut.
On the day in question I was having a little boy wazz and no doubt, I was singing some song to myself as I tended to do, completely out of tune, away with the fairies. I probably even wrote my name in the water as I stood there emptying my bladder. I was such a fidgety, never sit still, imagination running a mile ahead of me sort of boy back then. I probably still am if the truth be told. No doubt I was so distracted by my head full of nonsense, that I was reckless in putting away my delicates. I honestly cannot recall what was going through my head, but I will never forget the pain when my little man-sack became an integral part of the zip.
My first reaction was to try to pull it free, but I was so disabled by the pain, that I could do little more than hold my doodlums and squeal quietly to myself. Yes that’s right…quietly. I was a very private boy back then and the horror of exposing my predicament to anyone else, was an overwhelmingly horrifying notion. My first instinct was self-help. However that fantasy was short-lived. I could neither stand up nor sit down and it got to the point, where I was terrified to release my two hands which were clasped tightly around my twinkles, for fear of the pain increasing. There was no choice, I had to call for help. I screamed for my mother in a voice that must have sent shivers down her mammy spine.
Within seconds she was outside the door, trying to get in. But I had bolted the door shut and I had to at least take one hand from my jewels, to try and unbolt the door. Lord knows what went through her head. My screams descended into uncontrollable tears of relief that she was outside the door and then descended even further into unintelligible sobs, as I tried to talk to her through the door. She had no idea what condition I was in or what had happened. My babbling was of little use to her and I couldn’t control it.
In her special mother way, she first calmed me so I could regain my grip on the English language, before asking me what was wrong. I told her through the sobs that I had caught my willy in my zip. It was untrue strictly speaking as it was my testicles that were swelling up by the second, not my penis. The problem for me was that my mother never referred to that particular little goody bag. I had no appropriate word for testicles, but she did have a near enough acceptable word I could use for my phallus, which was willy. My friends called testicles balls, but if you think for one second that I might dare say that word in front of my mother, you don’t know Irish mammies of a certain vintage. Had I said balls to my mother, she would most likely have solved the problem there and then, by cutting them off. As I had no other word to use, I just said willy. It was close enough.
Eventually after much cajoling and careful pleading, I managed to use one hand to very slowly ,jiggle the bolt up and down, over and over again, for what seemed an eternity I tell you, until finally, she could open the door from the outside.
My mother was greeted by a sobbing mess, clasping his scrotum tightly as if letting go might cause it to fall off. She removed my hands and had a look. Then she tried to release the grip that cruel device had, on some of the softest tissue on my little body. No chance. All she managed to do, was drive me into a state of even more heightened panic and another fit of screaming ensued. She told me not to move and disappeared. I had no intention of moving. After a couple of minutes I heard voices and I freaked. It was both neighbours from either side of us. My mother went to call on Mrs. D on one side, who coincidentally was chatting to Mrs. M from the other side. I reserve the right to keep them anonymous to preserve my dignity and theirs.
Now to say what followed was humiliating would be the understatement of the year. I now had three bescarved women, bent down, studying, pointing at, occasionally applying gentle pressure to and openly discussing options to free my chonklers from the metal vice, as though I wasn’t there. In fairness, I kind of wasn’t there. I’m sure I left my body and floated above the scene to escape the horror of the complete destruction of my most private space. They hadn’t just invaded my privacy; they had ruined any notion I ever had, that some things should never be shared. It was I believe, one of the great low points in my childhood, for I knew it would not be forgotten. They would discuss this, with every other bescarved woman they met on their daily gossip runs to the local shops and eventually, the news would filter down through family grapevines, until someone in my class got their hands on this most vile humiliation.
To this day I have no idea which one resolved the crises, for once it was over we never spoke of it again. There was a multi-handed grappling, a swift flick of a wrist and I was free. I couldn’t look at them. Those neighbour mammies left us alone again and my own mother cleaned and checked the wound, which was in truth not really anything of significance in the end, but the damage was done and it wasn’t to my wobbly bits.
When I look to write books, I invariably recall such moments and they are a vital part of my process. It is never the actual story, the events per se, rather the emotions that I feel when I recall them. Even now, I suck air through my teeth at the thought of that day. It is the clarity of those feelings and memories that I draw upon to infuse the fictional people I write about with some sense of reality…. At least I hope I do…..
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Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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