Gordon Ferris is a Dublin writer living in Donegal for the past thirty-six years. He is a member of the Dublin Writers Forum and has had poetry and short stories published in A New Ulster, The Galway Review, and poetry in Hidden Channel.
By Gordon Ferris
Approaching the front door, a brand new looking solid mahogany door or just varnished recently. It had a letterbox but no door knocker. I rapped the hardwood causing my knuckles to hurt forcing me to lighten my knock somewhat. The brother in law Dave came to the door barefoot in overalls with straps dangling loose about his waist.
“Ah Dougy, how-ya, why-an-ye use the doorbell,” he said, walking back into the living room to the right. On the other side, the stairs led to the three bedrooms upstairs. Straight-ahead I could see my sister Mauve in the kitchen, fag stuck in her mouth, stirring pots while her eyes were focused on the newspaper. I said hello as I closed the front door behind me and followed Dave into the living room.
My year and a month-old niece Dora who was going around on her bum, planted herself at my feet when I sat down, arms in the air pleading with those big brown eyes to be lifted. How could I resist that rosy-cheeked smile, a smile that seemed to be perfect. Before this, my first ever experience with an infant, I often wondered what all the fuss was about. Babies up until then, all looked alike to me, I guess Dora was the first baby I had any close-up experience of, the first I had ever really seen. She pulled herself on to her feet gripping the leg of my jeans. So I stooped over, lifting her onto my knee. She immediately made a grab for my hair.
“Stop that” Dave said to her in a half-hearted cross voice.
” She’s going mad after people’s hair lately, she took her first steps last Monday too”
Dave added, completing Dora’s progress report. Mauve stuck her head in open door dividing the living room from the kitchen-dining room, smiling and saying,
“ah ye made it, Derek left the pools there for ye, a hundred and eighty is there, Heel collects the money in the morning. (referring to the pools round I did for Derek at the weekend)
“Howayas all do-in out there in Finglas, any more horses on the street “. She said laughing. She was always in good humour, even when times were hard, she kept a smile on her face.
“All’s well out there, Ma was asking for ya, she told me to tell you something and warned me not to forget, I didn’t forget, it will come to me in a few minutes. Oh, and there’s no horses on the street except when Angie’s mate visits her.” I said, mentioning my other older sister, trying to avoid my sudden bout of amnesia.
“Ah ya bugger, would you say that to her face would ya, what did Ma want you to tell me anyway,” Mauve said, jeering, knowing rightly I had forgotten.
“I’ll tell you when it comes to me, I’m trying too hard to remember at the moment, it won’t come to me when my brain is under pressure”
“I believe you thousands wouldn’t, dinners ready, did you have anything to eat yet, there’s plenty here, sure yill have some.
”I Did have a bit before I left but I wouldn’t say no to a bit more, it smells delicious” I replied trying to ease Dora’s grip on my hair without upsetting her. I released her ever tightening grasp by tickling her and proceeded to stand up carrying her into the kitchen, Dave was dozing on the chair,
“get up you dozy git ya “Mauve scolded from the kitchen, she could see in through the open door. Dave jumped up with a start,
“I wasn’t asleep, just resting me eyes.”
“I’ll take her off you in a minute,” she said to me ignoring Dave with a smile in his direction.
I often thought of how perfect the two of them were together; they seemed to bounce off each other with ease like two parts of the same person. You could see the furtive glances, the look in the eyes, given to each other without thinking. Little things like this were how love manifested itself in my teenage eyes. These were strange thoughts to be having before feasting on mushy peas and smoked cod. Dora was taken off me and put into a bouncy chair with a Liga biscuit to distract her, or as Mauve said, to shut her up. Dinner is eaten with a casual chat between mouthfuls, and with attempts to get me to retrieve from the lowest depth of my memory, the message Ma had given me for Mauve. She questioned me and questioned me but to no avail, I just couldn’t remember, I said I was sure if it was important I would remember, so it must just be some kind of casual remark, like, hello or how’s it going, must meet for a drink some night. Then it came to me, that it is exactly what it was, she was coming out on Sunday for a drink. Now, do I say anything or not? I asked myself, no ill keep it to myself for a while, didn’t want to admit my guilt yet, I thought, keep this going for a while longer. But Mauve was way ahead of me” What are you like, your heads away in the clouds half the time and empty the rest, Ma rang me already and told me about Sunday, said you’d forget”. That was me caught out, always one step ahead, typical women. “I knew that already, I was just winding you up,” I said with my giveaway half grin. “Ye I’m sure,” she said distractedly reaching down to wipe Dora’s snotty nose and Liga covered chin. “Are you watching the time there Georgy boy, we are heading out at eight” So I got up saying id better be off then grabbed my pools sheets and the list, on went on my way.
The grey cement path on the street outside had chalk markings where girls played hopscotch and other such games. I tried to clear my head to stop myself thinking of how far I had to go, or how long it would take. No point in thinking of this until I was at least half way done. Then I knew the distance and length of time I had to go and it was downhill from there.
I adjusted my gaze and cleared my head before crossing the main road, don’t want to be getting hit by a bus and rushed to hospital without having a clean pair of underpants on, now do I? What difference would it make, the first thing that happens when your hit by a bus is you shit yourself.
On now straight across the Old Bawn Road, the main road in that part of Tallaght, it leads to a very short road with one house on each side, this, in turn, leads to a cul-de-sac left and right with ten houses on each side. This is where my round started, I had eight customers here then it was out on to the main road again and continued on my way through the Seskim View’s, the Tynon’s, the Groves, the Way’s and the Old Bawn’s, all the road names I passed until at eight thirty I was returning with hands in pockets holding on to the bundle of coins I had accumulated.
For once it was an uneventful journey. No dogs barking or skin heads bullying in there black Crombie coats who you avoid making eye contact with, or you’ll be asked,
“What are you looking at”. The last thing I wanted was to be stopped and hassled by them. Not when I had cash on me, and especially when the cash did not belong to me. No excuses if I didn’t come back with the money, Derek may be a quiet, unassuming, even a shy man, but when it came to money he had tunnel vision, absolutely no reason to lose or be short of money. If something cost a pound, you are paid a pound, put it in your pocket and when you get home, you have a pound, very simple. “You should have been more careful, you shouldn’t have walking past them scumbags, drawing attention to yourself”, all my fault if it happened of course. Anyway, it didn’t matter now, I was home and dry, and Mauve and Dave were busying themselves upstairs getting prepared for the night out. Dora was in bed all ready, chatting away to herself in her own happy little childhood world.
I bagged the money, taking my own share, which amounted to 1 POUND 60 PENCE, that added to my babysitting money and pocket money should leave me with a fiver in me pocket for the weekend.
I could hear Dave and Mauve’s’ shuffle down the stairs, they both came into the room Dave smelling of Brut and Mauve smothered in her fancy named perfume, both which were Christmas presents and usually lasts the year when there refilled. That were both dressed casually, Dave in navy slacks and open check shirt with a prominent red colour in it. His hair was short and tidy, but not skinhead, showing his always smiling face. Mauve wore a purple three-piece trouser suit and white blouse, her blond hair flowing over her shoulders. Mauve told me to help myself if I wanted tea and that there was cake and biscuits there if I wanted some. She also told me that there was no Late Late show, which I was glad to hear, Gay Byrne , that voice makes me feel like he was giving out to me, he has that scolding tone. Thank god that there was a film on instead. “Right that’s us, were on our way, behave yourself, see ya later.” Dave said exiting the living room door. Dora should be all right, she’ll sleep now right through. You know what to do if she wakes anyway.” Mauve said making her exit. “I knew what to do all right, biscuits, give biscuits, that’ll keep her quite”. I said as they departed, “don’t you dare, see ya later” she said closing the door.