I must preface these stories with the fact that some are loosely based memories of Ireland. But as a writer I will expand or embellish to make it more interesting.
My glasses steamed up as I opened the door and I groaned in disappointment as I sniffed the air. There wasn’t any dinner made. But the distinctive smell of hairspray heralded the fact that mammy was going out, again.
My body was sore and thrumming with exhaustion. I folded over a slice of dry bread and shoved it in my mouth followed by a sliver of cheese to ease my growling stomach. The kettle whistled and I poured the scalding water over the tea leaves in the already full tea pot.
My mammy held her hair up in strands back combing it angrily and glared at me.
“Don’t ye be looking at me that like,” she said with a hair grip wagging between clenched lips.
“I have no life. Do ye expect me to stay in this hole all day? “She sliced the comb around the scullery in a vicious arc.
In my head I answered, ‘ No I don’t, but dinner would be nice after working hard all day.’
I didn’t know what she did all day. I would often come home and find her in bed sleeping, the fire gone out, and the inside of the house as dark and gloomy as the outside. But I knew to speak of this out loud would incur a fight that I wasn’t prepared to face.
“There are some sausages in the fridge, a can of baked beans in the cupboard and a bag of spuds under the sink. Plenty there for the three of ye.”
She spritzed another sticky mist over her head with her eyes clenched shut, a lit cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth.
My brother and sister would be coming home soon from school. They would be freezing and starving and ready for a warm dinner themselves.
I watched me mammy brush mascara on her lashes, mouth ajar in avid concentration. Finally she circled the ‘o’ of her lips with magenta gloss and dabbed her throat and wrists with perfume.
“Wait ’til I get out the door before ye start frying those sausages, girl.” she said smoothing down her lilac blouse. She spat on her fingers and rolled fluff off her black pants with them. She opened the broom closet door and appraised herself in the full length mirror. Seeing the look on my face her expression softened.
“Ach, girl, sure I’ll only be a wee while. Don’t wait up love,” and left in an aura of aromatic smoke.
I swung the chip pan out of the cupboard onto the gas ring, tutting as I saw teeth marks in the lard. I made a mental note to put mouse traps down again. Using a spoon I scraped off the top layer of fat and set the pan back down on the gas ring.
The door opened and my brother and sister bustled in, steam rising off their wet clothes and soon the sound of ‘Dr. Who’ started on the television.
KABOOM!!!! The world cracked and split. There was the jarring noise of breaking glass, followed by a silence, deep and dark.
I switched off the gas ring and ran leaving the door wide like a gaping mouth. On Harryville Bridge the traffic had stopped. People stood with their hands at their throats. A pall of black smoke spiraled from across the bridge.
“Mammy, mammy!” I screamed running hard and fast through the fear stiffened crowd.
Mammy,” I fought my way through solid forms, and then I saw her. She was crumpled against the glistening wall of the bridge. One hand was clawing the pavement; her handbag clasped to her chest.
Her whole body was trembling. “It’s the Raglan Pub, people are dying. They blew it up. Oh, my God. I should have been there. I should have been there…” Tears and mascara tracked down her dusty face. I slid down the wall and squeezed beside her.
Chaos erupted with the sirens wail, boots thumping loudly, people ran, gasping for breath. Normality shattered on every level, shock vibrating each being. There were screaming women and angry men. Saracens blocked off the end of the bridge with policemen and soldiers in flak jackets forming a barrier. The people came together as a wall of pulsing humanity. Their emotions rippling in waves down the line.
On the street corner at the end of the bridge stood my brother and sister, ashen faced with our dog. Getting to my feet I helped my mother up and with arms entwined our bodies leaning into each other we headed towards them.
We both put a lid on our terror and went home, for there were windows to board up and glass to shake out of our bedclothes.
A riveting story, Dee. That you can write about it so well after all these years tells me how terrifying it was but most of all what a wonderful writer you are that you can bring the rest of us into the moment. Keep writing, girl!
Wow Dee, I wasn’t expecting that! How can such a sunny darling Irish girl have hidden that for so, so long? Just amazing. X