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
Ah Silence, with the volume on the TV, turned down, there was silence, time to think, but for my niece Dora sleeping upstairs, I was alone. First thing on the agenda, the fridge, check out the fridge. All unhealthy foods must be removed and consumed, it’s for my big sister’s benefit you see, she is trying to lose weight after giving birth to her ten months ago, nothing to do with my having an extremely sweet tooth and not wanting to share, it’s purely an altruistic act on my behalf for the benefit of those who live in this house. Thank god Dora doesn’t eat solids yet, I would feel compelled to bring her down and share these delights with her. But she can’t have any, she’s asleep.
My feet up now with food resting on my chest, the TV down low, being ignored for now. In all the distraction of my usual Friday, it had escaped me the fact that it had been my last day at school. It felt no different, no sudden change of priority or responsibility, no suddenly waking up with a fully grown beard. I had a little bit of doubt in the back of my mind as to if I was making the right decision in finishing school, I could still change my mind, I had until September, that’s provided I passed me inter cert, I was thinking I had done better than I expected to do, so maybe I could surprise everybody, I may put those thoughts in the back of my mind until September. Start looking for a summer job on Monday, ye that’s a plan. My attention now was drawn to a marriage photo of Mauve and Dave, I remember their reception, my first experience of an adult event involving alcohol. I remember them dating, there had been one or two before but none lasted, Dave soon became a regular feature around the house. I had good memories of Mauve growing up, she looked after me as a child and seemed to like to take me out for the day, out from under my mom’s feet she used to say. My Ma struggled to hold down a part-time job and look after six of us, doing almost everything in the house herself, as my three sisters got older they helped a bit, and the older they got they resented having to do all the chores in the house, while myself and my older and younger brother did as little as possible. As it turned out, Mauve took a shine to me and used to take me to all sorts of places, I remember when I was about ten, she had got a job in Tele Rentals and every Thursday after getting paid she would bring home loads of sweets bought in Woolworths on her way home. Other days she would bring me into the Savoy cinema in O Connell Street, never to see films that I would like, always to see Elvis Presley films, she was mad about Elvis. Other times in the summer, when dry, she would take me on the bus to the Zoo or just for a ramble around the Phoenix Park. There’s one time in particular that sticks out in my mind. She took me and my younger brother and sister into St Stephens Green for a day out. We were a right handful that day and she just about managed us without losing the plot altogether, I remember her efforts trying not to swear in front of us, using the word flip instead of another F word. She got us chips in Fortes in O Connell Street first then we headed across the bridge, up Dolores Street and up Grafton Street to Stephens Green where we sat on the grass watching the throng of people go by and wondering at the funny talking Americans who end every sentence with, “everything is just, wonderful. “Wondering what exactly was so wonderful.
Near the end of our outing, I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I ended up waist high in the pond with a gang of young boys and girls pointing and laughing at me. I was playing with my two siblings trying to get away from them when suddenly I realized I was heading for the water and couldn’t stop. Maybe I thought the floating leaves were solid and I could step across them to reach the pretty purple flower that grew in solitary splendour on the edge of the foliage. Or perhaps I just thought I could walk on water. For whatever the reason that’s where I ended up. I made my way out as fast as I could and rushed over to where we were sitting; Mauve embarrassed, but staying calm, began gathering our stuff together and had us depart as quickly as possible, telling me not to worry about it at the same time. The journey across town was hurried, down Grafton Street, on past Trinity College, Dolores Street, and instead of going down O Connell Street we headed down Marlborough Street to avoid the crowd. On now to where we were to get the bus in Abbey Street.
Standing Self-consciously at the bus stop between The Metro and The Shakespeare pubs where the bus drivers went for their liquid breaks, leaving the doors closed and passengers standing in the cold and rain. My trousers had dried a bit from the brisk walk across town; they no longer dripped leaving a trail of water after me. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity the driver emerged from the Metro pub humorlessly getting on starting a rush towards the door. Mauve paid the bus fare, paying just for herself, saying the kids were underage, staring into the driver’s eyes with a smile, the driver let her away with it. We got a seat on the long seat inside the door and before long the bus was full and we were on our way. Relieved to be on the bus and on the way home, I settled into my daydreaming, but it wasn’t to last long with the ranting of this fat breathless old bat standing in front of me, sweating in her winter heavy coat, her grey hair emitting droplets of water onto her nose. She moaned about how the youth of today had no manners letting a lady stand while they took up a seat. Mauve tried to explain to her that she wouldn’t appreciate the seat, but the big women just wouldn’t listen until Mauve fed up listening to her made me stand up saying to her, “there you are now, I tried to tell you that the” but before she could finish the women cut her off scolding me for not giving her the seat, Mauve just told her she’s welcome with a grin and a wink towards me. I moved out of the women’s sight in the pram well at the middle door, behind an old man smoking a Sweet Afton, I knew it was a Sweet Afton because my dad smoked them. I could see the women sitting proudly in her seat, nothing strange yet, but suddenly I could see her shift in her seat, slight movement at first, gradually showing signs of more discomfort as she realized there was a reason for me not giving her the seat, I was looking straight into her face when she suddenly looked in my direction with disgust in her eyes, as if I was dirt she had trod in, I smiled in her direction and her face seemed to turn purple and she got up in a rage to depart the bus at Glasnevin, “ Getting off already, hardly worth your while sitting down, was it. “Mauve said, with a friendly sarcastic smile, “you knew rightly that seat was wet, “the women said, but Mauve said, “well I tried to warn you but you wouldn’t listen, serves you right, you might listen in future”. She went on her way and before long we were home. I could hear Dave and Mauve cheerful entrance, the muffled chatter, the held-in laughter, trying not to wake Dora from her peaceful slumber, but it was the smell of the fish and Chips smothered in salt and vinegar that roused me from my reflections. I jumped up from my stretched out position on the couch into a seated position expecting their entrance at any minute, they went straight through to the kitchen, trying to wind me up knowing id be sitting up in excited expectation, or maybe I never a caused them a thought. I went straight into them through the adjoining doors, Dave was taking his brown pinstriped jacket off and throwing it on the hooks on the back of the door leading to the hall. Mauve was brushing her wind-tossed blond hair with a Rothman cigarette in her mouth. “Ah, there ye are, thought you were gone to bed! Did madam wake? “. She said without looking at me, not wanting to spill the ash on the table as she brushed her hair. “Not a sound out of her, not after I hit her with the wooden mallet,” I said, waiting for the good-humoured telling me they’d kill me if I dared. She asked me if I wanted bread I could get up of me arse and get it myself. She said this through a mouthful of fish or chips or both. There was a bag of chips and a bit of fish there for me so I got two slices of a batch loaf and buttered it thick to build up cholesterol for my future heart condition. I joined the two of them in the living room where we munched in silence while we watched TV muted, not knowing what we were watching. I reminded Mauve of the invitation for dinner on Sunday. To which Mauve corrects me, “she’s coming out for a drink on Sunday, ma and da are going to the club on Sunday, not for dinner, ya eejit ya.” “Oh, I know that, just testing you”.
There was a few moments silence now, just the sound of falling and rising jaws in the process of eating ecstasy, funny how all pleasurable consumables are bad for your health. Some music on TV so Dave puts some volume on, not too loud, just right, so we could still talk, he asked what time I was going home on Saturday, if I had time I could give him a hand with a car he was fixing. I was secretly delighted with this but didn’t show it. An extra pound in the back pocket, although me Ma would go mad if she knew I had accepted payment for assistance given to family. One thing me Da thought me growing up, was never to say no to money because if you get a reputation for saying no to money, people might stop offering it to you.
I could feel my self-getting tired now and after being seen yawning, Mauve suggested I go up to bed, I needed no second telling, in minutes I was in bed replaying the day over in my head, it still hadn’t sunk in that this was my last day in school, from now on it was to be a new world, I should be leaving all childish things behind now and start living the life of the long trousered ones, and then there was blackness, sleep had caught up with me.