Licking something unpleasant in the dark…A Sunday Miscellany

Licking something unpleasant in the dark…A Sunday Miscellany

Sometimes change is brutal.  It can be like licking something unpleasant in the dark and letting your imagination run riot. Things always change.  The one thing that changes as you age is you. People often say that they don’t or have never changed, but it’s not true.  If you truly do an honest introspective you will see just how far you’ve come.

But it’s the subtlety of change that makes the world today so different than the one I grew up in.  The sneaky gradual changes that we all take for granted. I’m a terrible heathen.  When I was a little chiseller, things were very different.  Mass and the church were central to our way of life.  This little Island felt it was in a competition to be holier than any other nation and the government even colluded in keeping it thus. Those feckin’ Spanish weren’t half as good Catholics as we were.  They might have thought they were but by Jaysus we’d show them and that applied to the rest of the world.

On our knees, ten Hail Mary’s and three our Father’s, we’d pray for the souls of the poor unfortunate starving children in Biafra.  We’d pray for the pope, the Archbishops, the bishops, priests and nuns in a descending cacophony of hierarchical importance, until we got to the poor auld man in the street. You didn’t pray for yourself.

Now, there are probably 5 people in the whole Island who go to mass regularly (I might be exaggerating a little but you get the drift.) Oddly, us Irish still christen our children, ensure they make their Holy Communion, get confirmed, married and so on, all under the watchful eye of the local Irish priest.  The only thing that’s changed in this regard, is that we’ve run out of what was once our greatest export and secret method of Irishing up the globe – the Irish priest himself.  These days, we depend largely on the young lads our older priests converted in darkest Africa, India, the Philippines or some far flung origin, all those years ago. The remaining faithful have to face the indignity of being preached to by people they once felt holy superior to because back in the day, we were of course the best Catholics in the world.  

It’s like we’ve lost our faith but not the church.  We’re hanging in there ‘just in case’ because God forbid what the parents of my generation believed might be true!  If it is we’re all going to hell.   It could be that the Irish just like a party and sure if you have a Christening, communion wedding or funeral – what better excuse could you have to kick off an auld shindig eh? Maybe its because the schools are better, whatever the reason, we’ve changed to a nation of convenience Catholics.

I didn’t see it coming. Here I am, sitting in my kitchen at midday on a Sunday, while the world about shops in Malls.  I am drowning in the glorious scent of a pot of mushroom soup that’s bubbling on the stove.  The crisp October air is cooling my feet by the back door and the sun warming my shoulders through the window behind me.  Sounds lovely? It is. The dogs are at my feet Jo is washing her hair and Jomammy is somehow still managing to read the Sunday papers through 91 year old eyes beside me … and I feel content as I write but there it is. I am content.   In days gone by I’d have missed mass by now and I would have had to plan to make sure I got evening mass or it would be confession for me on Monday.

My the world tick-tocks and the shuffling of my inner clock as it counts down to my eventual demise, readjusts my thinking.  To be fair I only ever went to church as an obligation.   I rebelled as a teenager and never looked back.  The Church lost the run of itself and drowned in so much scandal that the old traditional respect has long since gone, certainly in this country. When I was 16 I wrote a poem that began thus;

I’ve lost my church but not my faith

People think it’s God I hate

But I’ve lost my church

Not my faith…

I think it was my way of explaining to my parents that I was still a good boy at heart, even though I no longer wanted to go to mass.  Oddly, I never showed it to them.

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I suffered my own fair share of clerical abuse.  We boys were handed over to so called Christian men to be educated and while I am a successful product of their educational thread mill, it is more by luck than chance.  We suffered beatings and witnessed worse as fragile little innocents. Others I knew suffered more than just the obvious and regular violent assaults. While I escaped the twisted, sexual perversions of some of the brothers and priests that we were in daily contact with, it took a good deal of guile and chicanery, not to mention some good fortune to escape the clutches of what can only be described as truly evil men. I looked upon the face of darkness daily and as a child it had a profound effect on me.  I am one of the lucky ones. I found a path of strength and beauty and  mounted my charger , riding through swathes of fallen comrades and I fought my own battle to become free.

When I took to writing my very personal Little Big Boy, it was never going to be autobiographical. However I couldn’t help but infuse some of what I had lived through growing up in similar circumstances as my precious little boy of the title.  I injected in him, some of the strength that had kept me safe from the worst of the abuses and all of the vulnerability I had felt.  In a way it drained me writing that book, but in truth it also set me soaring and I flew above the glory of the cruelty of my past to witness my own miraculous escape.

Licking unpleasant things in the dark, feeling only texture and imagining taste beyond what is real, is fighting change. You hold back, fearful of the next moment your tongue engages when you need to be not afraid.  All of my books are about love as I have said before, but they are also about fear.

Change isn’t coming, change is already here.  Fearing the cold of winter is one thing, but I never let it keep me from the sun.  As I soar above my past, looking ahead to the future only one thing is certain.  Right now I am the kite that soars. Right now is what matters.  Fear is the rope that binds me to the ground, trying hard to pull me down. Fear is the thing we cling to when change is coming and we all must let it go if we want to fly free…. Have a happy and peaceful Sunday…

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One for Halloween…

One for Halloween…

When I think of Halloween, one very particular story comes to mind. In modern times, it is a day very much taken over by giant marketing machines and transformed by American culture despite its Irish origins, but it was not always thus.  As a child taught by Christian brothers, I learned of the religious significance first and foremost.  Beyond that we learned of more testing times in Irish history and how through the centuries, this day was celebrated.  What I remember most perhaps, was a cold, wet October evening when my father, uncle and I, landed in a small pub in Wexford town.

It was bitterly cold and they seemed to select the pub in question, for some special purpose.  For me as a boy, it meant a packet of crisps and at least one bottle of Coke a Cola, a rare and delicious treat.  I forget the intended purpose of that particular road trip, all I knew was that it was a long way from home on the night before Halloween and all I could think of was the Halloween party the following night.  It wasn’t a party in the literal sense, but we hadn’t yet adopted the trick or treatisms from America.  For us we called door to door and yelled out “Help the Halloween party.”  Ah dem were the days.

Candy didn’t exist, sugary confections were sweets to us and if someone gave you sweets as you went door to door, it was a near miracle.  Mostly you got fruit, an apple or orange and usually a big handful of monkey nuts.  I wasn’t a fan of monkey nuts but they came in abundance so in a time of less than plenty, we felt obliged to whack our way through whatever came for free.  I usually felt quite sick at the end of Halloween night.

Back to the pub.  I have no recollection of the name of that place; it held no interest for me.  All I recall is that it was tiny and I mean literally tiny.  The bar was located on a corner and inside, it was clear that its innards consisted of just that, it was just a small corner pub.   Apart from the entrance there was a set of double doors with smoked glass opposite the bar which was an odd, curved structure.  There was barely enough room for a couple of tables with small stools and a few high stools at the bar itself.  It is amazing how quickly a bar like that fills up.  Little me, tucked myself up in the corner and looked at all the enormous men, and they were all men that came in and stood towering above me.

Some made light hearted comments about me to my father and uncle and more than one tussled my hair and told me I was a grand lad.  One even bought me another packet of crisps and a coke.  It was great for a while but I eventually got bored as any small child would.  The last thing I remember before I drifted off to sleep, was the sound of men laughing and the smell of porter.

I have no idea how long I was out, but unlike my ill-mannered sleep these days, back then I slept the sleep of the innocent. I awoke to find myself in a dimly lit room and the noise was duller, slightly distant.  I could still hear the laughter of drunken men but they were in another room.  Someone had lain me down on a long cushioned bench seat in a small triangular shaped room and covered me with a blanket.  I pulled the blanket off and stood up, rubbing my tired eyes and I eventually got them to focus.  I was on the other side of the smoked glass doors so clearly someone, most likely my father, had carried me into the quiet side room to get me out of the kafuffle in the bar.

For some reason I didn’t notice the big structure in the centre of the room at first.  I suppose I was still waking up but when I did, my tiny little heart nearly stopped.  It was a coffin.  Worse still, the lid was off and while I was too small to see inside as it was sitting on a high pedestal, the candle light in the room was  just about bright enough, to reflect an image on a section of clear glass above the mostly smoked glass of the doors.  In the reflection I could see what looked like a woman in a wedding dress.

My little hands were clasped about my mouth and I ran back to the bench and dived beneath the blanket.  I had seen Dracula, Bride of Dracula, Frankenstein, and every other wonderful horror movie of the day.  I knew what corpses could do.

Once I had hidden beneath the blanket, I was trapped by my own terror.  I couldn’t even look out again.  I lay still and quiet, terrified that the movement of my chest as I was breathing would alert the dead woman in the coffin and she might rise up and … well I wasn’t quite sure what she’d do, but I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant.  My father was just the other side of that door, but to get to him, I would have had to remove the protection of my blanket -my new best friend – and walk within inches of the coffin.  I knew instinctively that getting that close would mean only one thing.  She would leap up and grab me.

There is no knowing how long I lay there but it must have been quite some time.  Tiredness began to overwhelm the fear and at some point it overtook it completely, for the next thing I remember is that I woke up again with quite a start.

This time when I awoke it was much quieter and there was no light whatsoever. It was pitch black.  I couldn’t see a thing and the only sound I could hear was my breathing.  There was a most peculiar smell and I stretched my foot out to push myself up. It hit something hard.  I shifted to lean on my elbow but there was something in the way.  I felt as though I was shrouded in a cloud of fabric and mesh. I reached up and found my way blocked.  Where was I?  It was so dark and I could barely manoeuvre. I pulled at the cloth but when I felt what was beneath it, I instantly stopped moving.  Wood at my feet and above my head, I wasn’t boxed in.  I was in the coffin and the thing I had touched with my hand was the cold porcelain flesh of the dead woman’s calf.  I was in the coffin with her.

I listened very intently, hoping I would hear the sound of drunken men laughing.  I strained my ears, terrified to move another muscle, not knowing if the corpse bride had already set her thoughts about devouring the little boy cradled between her legs.  What was happening to me?  I decided there were only three options. One, I was dreaming and I began to pray that I was. Two, this was all some horrible giant practical joke and I would soon hear the bellow of drunken laughter about the place or three, I had been buried alive…

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What festers in the doublings of my mind…

What festers in the doublings of my mind…

I once woke from a dream laughing, having dreamed that I was on stage performing as a stand-up comic.  In that dream I created a really funny joke which I won’t share here.  I was laughing so much that I woke my darling Jo and she insisted I share.  We laughed together in the darkness.  This morning when I awoke, it was comfort that she gave me and salty tears that she wiped from my cheeks.

I thought I had left my dark friend behind when I came home from hospital some weeks ago.  I sensed he may have followed me, but it seems he has become a somewhat more malevolent force in his period of absence.  My shadow man had all but disappeared or so I thought.  I had built a fortress of joy that seemed impenetrable, but in the quiet of the nights that have passed, he slipped over the parapet and hid among the folds of my thoughts, quietly reading me deepest fears and waiting.

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I awoke at 5.35 am precisely. My witching hour it would appear. My shadow man my Mr. Squiggles, had helped me to write my own requiem.  He took advantage of my words and used his inky blackness to rent me asunder while I slept.  It was such a thing of beauty my requiem.  Its beauty lay in the horror of the pain if caused as he drew from the memories he had read while he hid beneath those thought folds. In my dream, I recited my own eulogy.  It was not a speech of praise as a eulogy should be.  It was delivered to an unseen audience, a rather reluctant litany of the inconsequential things I do and for which I shall perhaps be most missed.

He is a conundrum to me, my Mr. Squiggles.  He is my portentous demon without effect, as I have yet to see the reason for his presence in my life.  When I awoke, the room was dark with just a hint of light about the edges of the window.  He did not scurry as before.  He was neither on my window ledge watching me, nor in the corner of my eye disappearing out of sight.  He bled from my eyes.  My inner horror man, a bloody ink that filled the void before me and vanished before my eyes.

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It has been impossible to shift him from my mind since and so I sat at my laptop to write. The cursor blinked for a few seconds and I hesitated.  I could not write until I exorcised him and so I began this blog.  I know little of my dark friend, if friend be the word for I doubt he means me good.  But he has been there I know, lurking for such a long time, always a shadow on my life, a blight on my joy.  He has of necessity been hidden from the world, for no one wants to meet him, my dark shadow man. I would feel ashamed to introduce him, to let you greet him in the street under the bright light of my countenance.  What a fraud I am.

He made me speak so eloquently in my dream.  I spoke of loss and what of me would be left behind to mourn and remember. What of me? What part of me?  I would be surely missed in the smallest of things. Missed in the growing morning light as crumpled bed clothes trick the eye, missed in the absent twinkle, reborn as those that love me, remember the reason for that twinkle, missed in the scent I once wore, or the simplest of memories of bunny hair in the morning and my most foolish little foibles.  Missed most perhaps in the sound of my voice, for it fills the empty space that I know will feel emptier when I am gone.

Such a twisted, dark creature is my Mr. Squiggles that he would write not my death throes but rather my wake and that he would show me the effect on those that matter most to me.  He took away the light today and I cannot let him win. His exorcism is incomplete, my soul remains recoiled, more twisted than broken.

I look now to polish up my edit on my latest work, to push him down with distraction and to keep him away from decent folk, for decent folk don’t want to see him.  He will crawl through my fingers to the page no doubt and I will free myself from his yoke if only for a while.  My witching hour now past, the sun is climbing behind my shoulder as I write and Mr. Squiggles has retreated once again to the doublings of my mind…

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Offered to the teeth of despair..

Offered to the teeth of despair..

As boys we used to break things a lot, test them by hitting, dropping, throwing them at things, or generally just being careless enough not to notice. I personally broke a lot of stuff, rarely on purpose although sometimes through blunt stupidity. I know it sounds like a confession, but it’s not, it’s just the way things were back then.  

We caught stuff like bumblebees and spiders and watched them completely transfixed.  For some reason, I always put flowering clover in jam jars for the bees to feed on.  I was quite afraid of them really and I think being able to contain them in their glass prisons, albeit for a short time, gave me some sense of control over my fear.  We always let them go.

We caught spiders and placed them in the same box to see if they might fight a great gladiatorial duel, but they never did.  The only thing that ever happened when we nudged them towards each other was that they would scurry away. We collected earthworms and menaced our sisters with them and earwigs were the one crawling beast that we all seemed to despise.  I think it was their unproved reputation for crawling into unsuspecting ears at night and as the story went, laying their eggs in your ear wax!  We shared a lot of inaccurate rumoured facts. The grosser and more unlikely they were the better I think.

Swallowed chewing gum stuck to your heart. All bats drank blood. Drinking your own pee made you blind – I’ve no idea who developed that one or what spurious purpose it had in its origin – You got worms inside you if you handled worms, a threat we ignored. Nits only liked clean hair but came from dirty children, and every time you killed a butterfly, a child died somewhere in the world. Yes we were a scientific fledgling community of logisticians alright.  Raising your hand to your mother meant it would stick out of the grave after you were dead; the devil convinced you to spit, so if you did spit, it was the devil whispering in your left ear. Witches were real, banshees were real and on the night before all saints day, all hallows eve, the spirits were out and about and up to no good, but we all still loved Halloween.

Girls were different.  They didn’t break things like we did.  They did of course but somehow we got the blame. They caught the bumblers with us, but we claimed the credit and they let us, even when they were usually braver in the catching than we were.  They watched the gladiator spiders and the incarcerated bees, but made sure that they were freed when boys less kind than I, held onto them for too long.

They had their own urban legends and myths but mostly they were of less interest to us, much like most of their games but every now and then through boredom, necessity, or just because we accidently discovered the fun in it before we remembered our self-imposed apartheid, we would play together and then we had the best of craic.  Ah happy days.

Then we got bigger, smelt ourselves, posed, became cool or not, fell stupidly in love every second minute, had crushes crushed, our mushes mushed and never really got to grips with the whole transition thing until it was too late.  It seems teenage lessons are best learned in hindsight.

Adulthood meant maturity, growing up and leaving behind childish things.  We all took on responsibilities – well some of us did – and then the pressures of life really kick in.   The girls mostly rediscover their way and the boys theirs.  I still pretend to know what I’m doing with manly looking tools and wait for the pretty one in our house to tell me how to use it properly.

Ah yes the dichotomy of life. Boys and girls, men and women lads and lassies. We all do our best to pretend we know what we are doing at every stage of life.  Some do better than others, but really for the most part there is a vast chasm between the sexes that can only be forded with the faith to let go.  As boys, we challenge the girls, fight them, struggle to best them and usually lose until we realise that they are starting to become interesting.

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When they finally become interesting things only get worse.  Interesting makes them confusing and when we mistakenly think we have them figured out it is too late, whatever damage we have done by that stage is well and truly done.  Those who escape swinging a wrecking ball through their early relationships get off lightly.  Heart breaks, tears and tantrums now all long behind me thank God.  Beyond that, if we get lucky, we figure out the truth of relationships.

It requires a step from the ledge, the brutal truth that you have to open your deepest wounds, expose your worst nightmare of your own personal vulnerability. That you must trust someone not to thrust a pitchfork full of spite, anger, laughter or derision straight through it.  Or worse, for them to ignore it or simply not recognise it for what it is and trod all over your heart and soul as if it doesn’t matter.  To be bitten once, truly makes one twice shy to offer yourself to teeth again. Such is the scale of the gamble it requires to find true friendship or genuine love that is lasting and meaningful, it can feel elusive. For many it is a dream to be dreamt in moments of romantic flights of fantasy.

Thus great songs are born and great books are written and a word or a note can touch our souls. Me? I’m a glass box with a bloodied heart thumping away inside for all to see.  There are cracks, scars and a constant leak of sorrow gathering to a pool on the floor below while a dark shadow lingers and sniffs around the cracks in the glass, trying to find the entrance.  I found my love.  I found my joy and that is the one blessing I can count every day.

But what of the drip, drip drip of my beating heart?  If you look closely at the pool where it gathers on the floor of the glass box that I am, you will see – if you look closely enough – an eddy, a swirl, an almost imperceptible whirlpool always bleeding away.  To where?  To my next word, my next line, paragraph, page and book, and always watching, always present there alongside the love I bleed, is that dark shadow man.  He has yet to find a way to fit through the glass, but where there are cracks, and there surely are, he squeezes in a little of his own darkness, his own melancholy, sorrow and danger and I never truly know as I bleed to the page, just how much influence he really has on my…  …next…written…word.

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Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy

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Life lesson #212… and the worst word in the world…

Life lesson #212… and the worst word in the world…

I’m obsessed with words. Some words because they sound beautiful or roll off the tongue but others for no reason other than their peculiarity.  Growing up in Ireland and in Dublin to be more precise, I have an even more important connection with the English language. Every place has its own special claim to uniqueness, but I have yet to hear the twisted, masterful lyricism and wit of Dublinese bettered, no matter where I go.

“I’ll be dug owa ya,” C’mere ‘till I tell ya,” or “I’ve a pain in me hoop,” are singular and simple common expressions, that come to life with a giggle and a hint of affectionate sarcasm behind the lips of a Dub.  We were all of course discouraged from cursing as kids.  My mother would have reddened me arse if I’d used that very expression and I’d be left waiting for my father to get home for round two, which seldom if ever came.   Giz for give, me for my, yisser for your, mot for girlfriend, fag for cigarette, the language and sound flows and dances to its own unique rhythm.

Giz one a yisser fags, me mot’s gaspin’.” Pure class.

But it’s more about the accent and the cadence than anything else, more about the attached quick wit that falls from a Dub’s lips so effortlessly, which is hard to match. Curses abound but without offence, and sure the word feck. could only have been an Irish invention, to soften the blow of the F-word, and make it palatable for common usage.

But of course there are some words that are still always unpretty, even to my hardened ears.  The local equivalent to the C word, is the equally unpalatable G word in this neck of the woods.   For the non-inducted, it is pronounced exactly the same way as Indian Clarified butter is pronounced, but spelt without the h.  The reason it comes to mind, is that it is a word that caused much anticipation when I was a young lad when it suddenly popped up, quite unexpectedly in one of our text books.

We were studying the wonderful Silas Marner and while most boys read only what they had to, my fascination for the book, meant I trolloped ahead instead of reading Shakespeare in class. Out of the blue, the word appeared, shocking in the delight that it was in a school book, innocent in its context, I was nonetheless flabbergasted.  George Elliot had never thought when she wrote her wonderful book, that a tool of an Irish teenage schoolboy, would someday nearly choke on the word when he saw it.

I literally sniggered in my pubescent stupidity.  I knew instantly what it meant, not the word but the consequences of it appearing in a text book.  Every day our brutish English teacher who we all feared, asked one boy or other to read a section of text and that meant only one thing.  Some poor innocent gombeen, would have to say that shocking word out loud.  It didn’t matter the context or meaning within the book, it just mattered that by the time that day came, every last one of us would be praying it wouldn’t be us and delighting  in the moment that some other poor beggar would have to read the worst word in the world  – out loud.

My desk neighbour whispered to me, desperate to know what I was sniggering at and I pointed to the text.  He almost choked.

“O’ Connor! Unless you want my foot up your arse, zip it!” 

Like I say the teacher was not a man to mess with.  He sat there, for the most part picking his nose with his finger or rooting out wax from his rather large ears with a blue plastic pen top.  He was uncouth, unpleasant and under an illusion that all one had to do to teach, was make boys afraid of you and occasionally get them to read a passage from a text book aloud.  In between, rummaging through his orifices and reading the Irish Independent were pretty much the only other things he did in class.

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By the end of class that day, the word had spread as if by osmosis and we stifled our mirth until ‘Barney’ as our teacher was known behind his back, had left the classroom. Of course the word in question was in a passage a good three chapters ahead and Barney only forced a few pages per class out of us.  It was torture, drip feeding that book, counting the pages left to the deathly day, counting the words almost. I’m sure I recall Brendan working it out precisely on more than one occasion.  Imagine that pique of interest for a lad who could barely count without using his fingers, to go to all that trouble.  One thousand two hundred and forty three words to go he told us! Jesus it was one of the most anticipated events that we had known since starting in that God awful place.

English class which was much hated because of the imposing figure that bestrode the lanes between the desks, though only occasionally when he wanted to stretch his long legs, became a veritable hotbed of anticipation.  Ten pages to go, eight, three, one… Tomorrow!  Oh yes it finally came.  We sweated for so long waiting for that moment.  It was like a lottery.  No one knew just who Barney would pick. I seldom got picked to read, as I had a strong ,clear reading voice and Barney liked to pick boys that he could correct and shout things at like, “Its Trrrrott…TING boy – not Trotten! What are you an imbecile? Speak English boy! You are not in whatever pigsty you were dragged up in now!”

I felt safe but there was always the chance.  We all had our favourites for the task.  I fancied Seamus to do it. He was a world class messer and would surely swing out of the word when it came.  Marko had a stutter…Jesus…if he came to the G sound it would be criminal!  So we waited.  On Thursday morning, first class of the day, the moment finally came. I looked at the book.  There it was.  I checked to make sure and there was no doubt.  Two more paragraphs and whoever was the victim, would hit it and there was no doubting it was going to be that very day.  I was to witness history in the making, no… more… a legend could be born that day.

There was an air of camaraderie that we seldom felt so strongly.  In a way we knew that one of us would be sacrificed for the pleasure of the rest of us and each one of us took it on the chin.  We all went to school that day like World War Two pilots climbing into their Spitfires, knowing that at least one of us was going to be shot down.

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Barney entered the room. There was a strangled hush and he did a slight double-take as if he sensed something was wrong.  We couldn’t laugh too soon.  I went red and I thought for sure Barney would see my shamed face and work out what was coming.  He looked directly at me and for a moment, I felt sure he could read my mind.  Dear God what if he actually did pick me? For the love of Christ…I began to pray.  I couldn’t face it; all my bravery deserted me in that moment.  I felt sick. 

I looked around and I saw the same look on the faces of my comrades.  We weren’t battle hardened as we thought.  This was Barney.  He would hear the word and wait for the giggle and then we were in for it.  For the love of God, I thought, why hadn’t we seen this coming?  He would crucify the first boy who even sniffled and how could we not sniffle when the word came.  We had built this moment up and there would be an explosion, an outpouring of titterment – an uncontrolled release of all that pressure.  I had a sudden urge to go to the toilet but Thomas Walsh put his hand up and beat me to the punch.

“Toilet sir?”

Barney simply nodded assent and Tommy looked back at us with a smirk.  He had forsaken the opportunity to hear the word being read aloud, to escape the absolute certainty of Barney’s ire.  Why hadn’t I thought of it before him? Baxtard!

Barney opened the book…”Where were we?”  Three boys volunteered the page number in unison,  trying desperately not to be too obvious in their enthusiasm and he turned to the page in question.  We were already way ahead of him, waiting with a desperate terrified need to witness this moment we would never forget and yet none of us wanting to be there.  Not one of us turned a page in the book.  For once we were already there ahead of the teacher.  He opened his mouth and his voice boomed across the room.

“Right… read on through the next two chapters by yourselves…Quietly!  I’m going in next door.  If I hear a sound by Christ I’ll tear a strip off the first boy that catches my eye.”

In the next moment Barney was gone and with him our moment of triumph and defeat.  All and nothing, won and lost.  Our hearts sank as a collective and though we didn’t know it then, we had just been outfoxed by a man of experience, a man who had seen it all, been there and done that, a man who had also it seemed…read the book. Life lesson #212, never underestimate your enemy…

REMEMBER TO EXPLORE THE WORLD OF MAX POWER ALL AVAILABLE ON KINDLEUNLIMITED SEE LINKS BELOW

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Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy

You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –

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Read free previews here;

Little Big Boy https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00WRP0J8E&preview

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Bad Blood https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00Q39HGEK&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_8ZOMwb0R

 

A smuggled grin and kissy lips…

A smuggled grin and kissy lips…

 My mother kept me on the straight and narrow and me auldfella did his best to set me astray.  Mam was always my moral compass.  Dad was … well I’m not sure he was but his morals were often a little sketchy despite his best intentions and I don’t think even my mother would have wanted me to follow his direction at times.

My da was a bit of a rogue.  He was far too clever for the mundanity of his daily work and it showed in the stuff he got up to.   I never truly got to know him the way a son should and that makes me a little sad.  He died way too early, much like my mother and I think it’s often only later in life that one comes to appreciate one’s parents.  He’d have never said “One” so he’s probably turning in his grave.

Girls, according to my mother were trouble.  Dad was a flirt, something I’ve inherited.  I’d flirt with a traffic warden if it could get me out of a ticket.  But we have one thing in common and that is that our flirtation is harmless.  I guess we just like women for company.  It wasn’t always thus.

Take my first ever girlfriend for example. I was just a tot of a titan and looking back I smile when I remember my smaller self.  I was like a wild blonde pony, all hair-flowy in the wind, sparkling with delight at every blade of grass that I trampled beneath my feet.  I had no direction or care and I ran free before any corruption of my spirit could take hold.  My father gave me the spirit to be free and my mother occasionally tugged my reins in, but for the most part I was a tiny, free flowing skinny little stallion, only interested in what the wind carried my way.

Times were different back then.  It was a simple life with less pollution for the soul to absorb.   TV only mattered when you were dragged in off the street to have dinner and it was the streets that were my wilderness, my frontier and the freckled faced fillies that swooped about me were enchanted by my mane.  My hair fluctuated through those early days.  I went from wild, free flowing blonde wavy locks ala Leif Garrett, to skint, bowl headed short back and sides, ala my auldfella’s eventual impatience with hair beyond the collar line.

My brother was older and wilder than I was and his shenanigans allowed me to sneak under the radar from time to time.  Hair was always an issue.  My dad had a preference for Boland’s barbers and there, a strange man lay in wait to destroy all hope.  The barber had three styles that he was competent with, short back…and sides and he had a way of convincing you, that you could have anything you wanted.  Turns out you could, as long as it was a short back and sides.  He had a gloriously shiny bald dome, interrupted by a splendid comb-over, lacquered beyond what could be regarded as decent. 

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He would sit the small boys up on the big leather chairs, boosted to his height by a wooden plank resting across the side arms.  I liked it when the chair spun and he pumped on the foot pedal to raise the chair up.  Although I hated the Barber shop for what it represented, I gloried in its splendour of red leather and chrome and the strange smells and manliness of the place.

When I dodged it long enough, my hair flowed past my shoulders and I was a pony again.  I was a skinny little thing, maybe even a little handsome, but ultimately I guess my unfaltering, unimpeded spirit shone through somehow.  Girls liked me and I did my best not to show my absolute terror in their presence.  Mam made me believe that girls neither broke wind nor indeed did anything impolite or improper and there was a certain shiny quality to them that kept me a little in awe.

They never walked or ran, they bounced and flounced and I bounded and strode among them oblivious to my own gentle charms. Acquiring my first girlfriend in such circumstances should have been rather more challenging than it was, but you see back then there were rules to everything.  Things happened in a certain way and all you had to do, was what you were told. 

Her name was Rose and her friend Sheila told my friend Michael, that she wanted to go out with me.  She asked him, to ask me, if I’d get him to ask her, if her friend would go out with me.  Try following that.  It was the way it worked back then, we all knew how it worked and somehow, it made perfect sense.   Now I didn’t know what made a good girlfriend, nor did I know what it entailed, but I’d never had one before so I told Michael, to tell Sheila, that I wanted her to ask Rose, if she would go out with me. Sheila told Mick that she would and that we were now boyfriend and girlfriend. All the other kids were told and I received a lot of “ Whooo you’ve got a girlfriend” comments sung to me for a few days.

That being said, that was pretty much that.  We never actually did anything together.  We walked up to each other and sort of stared at our own feet, saying more or less nothing and then went about our business.  She played ‘beds’ with the other girls and I went back to being a pony. I don’t think we actually spoke after that – sounds like some marriages I’ve seen. Still she was my first and I guess that counts for something.  Life sure was simpler back then. Girls … My Mother thought me to respect them, my father thought me to make them laugh and somewhere in between, I muddled through from that day to this. 

Thinking back I miss my parents most I guess but there is probably one other person I miss just as much.  He’s the little wild pony of a boy, running, skipping, a free flowing creature of the street, a boy without a care in the world, smuggling a cheeky grin into every room with kissy lips at the ready for those that loved him most….

REMEMBER TO EXPLORE THE WORLD OF MAX POWER ALL AVAILABLE ON KINDLEUNLIMITED SEE LINKS BELOW

img_6156

Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy

You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –

http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower

https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com

fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks

twitter @maxpowerbooks1

IASD - globe 2

Read free previews here;

Little Big Boy https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00WRP0J8E&preview

Darkly Wood https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B004DL0PMU&preview

Larry Flynn https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00MZGSY3M&preview

Bad Blood https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00Q39HGEK&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_8ZOMwb0R