The Writing’s On the Wall
You’re walking by the sea even though it’s forbidden. When the waves shush you, you shush them back. Mammy says people get up to filth behind the sea wall but you never see a soul. Today there’s letters on the wall, big as a house: Seamus O’Roirdan is a gobshite. They spelled the surname wrong, but it’s Da. You hug your shoulders to stop shaking. They’re wrong about him too.
With this Ring
Mammy’s ring is as thin as thread. She could sew with it like the girl who spun straw into gold. Da comes home with sweeties and says he has something for Mammy as well. He gets down on one knee but Mammy has no time for his foolishness. Da opens his fist and drops a ring on the table. It has a proper wee diamond. You laugh and clap your hands. Sure your luck will change now. Mammy sits down and puts her face in her apron. When she looks up her mouth is twisted and she says, “Did he not give you back my money? I swear the bastard’s after raiding his own mother’s coffin.” Then she throws the ring at Da and asks how she’ll pay the landlord.
Drowning His Sorrows
On Friday Da gets his wages and goes to the pub. Mammy sits at the fire and polishes her arguments. You lie in bed and pretend to be happy. Tonight it’s Da’s turn to cry. You burrow under the pillow but he’s too loud. “You don’t give a shit if I drown myself.” A door slams and there’s a loud splash. Mammy’s screaming now. “For the love of God, Seamus, you can’t swim!” He’s begging her to save him, but she can’t swim either. You have your Level 2 certificate, but you stay in bed treading water while Mammy runs for a rope. They make you sick, the pair of them. The river doesn’t even reach your knees.
Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
She’s dragging you up the road and you’re begging her not to make a scene. “Sure it’s him making a scene with that whore.” The way she says it rhymes with sewer and you chant “sewer, whore, sewer whore” in your head. You don’t think Sister Angelique would like this example of exceptions to phonetics. Mammy bangs on a red door and shouts, “I know ye’re in there.” Then the fight falls out of her and she slides right to the ground, crying into the mail slot, like she’s at confession. “Think of the child, Seamus, think of your bloody child.” You are not a child. You are not a bloody child.
Da comes to the school gates at morning break and calls your name. Your stomach is bubbling but you go over and look at him through the fence. He smiles at you and there’s more teeth gone. When he says he’s proud of you, you pinch your wrist hard so you don’t cry. Why does he have to be drunk to say anything good? Sister Angelique comes to lead you away and says it’s Dutch courage. You say you don’t know much about Holland and Sister Angelique says actually it’s the Neverlands. And you think that sounds about right.
Damhnait Monaghan is Canadian who now lives in the UK. Her flash is most recently published in the ‘Flash I Love You’ and ‘Flash Nonfiction Funny’ anthologies and online at Brilliant Flash Fiction, Fictive Dream and Reflex Flash Fiction. She’s a reader for FlashBack Fiction and tweets @Downith which is also how to pronounce her name.
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