School was the wrong shape for him. Do you know what he used to do? I’ll tell you what he used to do. He used to come home late, hair messed, muck on his slacks and no tie. And I’d say, Where’s your tie? Or sometimes it’d be the bag. Where’s your schoolbag? And his homework not done or all the books that’d have to be replaced. Ripped or missing. But he wouldn’t think of any of those sorts of things. All I’d get would be Ah, Ma. Like I was the one causing the trouble with my questions and not him at all. The number of notes we used to get home. I could’ve made a book out of them. I could’ve bundled them all together and sold it as a bestseller. Vicious notes some of them. You don’t want to read such venom about your child, you don’t. These teachers. Adults writing poison pen letters about a child. Some of them need their heads examined. The words they’d use, like Disruptive, like Uncontrollable. Somewhere along the way these teachers start to think it’s their job to parent other people’s children. Gone to their heads, the power, it has. And the marbles that I learnt later he didn’t win, they were always all over his bedroom floor and I used to hurt my feet on them and I had to have shoes beside my bed and put them on in the mornings. The windows! My poor windows. This one broken, that one broken. All these feckin’ marbles. And the bang, bang, bang on the hall door. Use the doorbell! Ah, Ma, he’d say. Mucky shoes, fag breath and now look at him.
He’s got a dog that can smell cancer. Whenever a neighbour comes up to me and tells me he’s been on this or that, as if I don’t know, I remind them he’s got Tex. I look after Tex, feed him and walk him when I can, but it’s his dog. He found him sniffing about the wasteground. I don’t know what either of them were doing out there but they found each other. They were good for each other, you should have seen them. Inseparable. I’ve a photo of the two of them playing in the snow one year though I don’t understand the shorts. I keep meaning to get a frame for it. There are frames in the walkaround shop on the main street. I should get one of them. I have a ruler somewhere. I’ll measure the photo and then I’ll know what size frame to buy. I’ve a place on the mantelpiece or beside my bed. Tex is very old now. When he was just a pup he went mad when Dadda came to visit one day. And he did the same with Auntie Monica not long after. He knew. Some dogs can smell things we can’t smell like when a badness comes into the house. I tell him poor Tex isn’t doing so good when he rings me and I’m forever telling him he should fly back to see him before the inevitable. He might do yet. He’s busy, but. He might do. I’ve always got a pack of Lincoln biscuits in the press.
He’s on a show at the moment where he’s locked in something with rats. Julie ran over to me this morning, her boobs punching the air like she couldn’t contain herself. Her excitement was noticeable. She told me all about this show with rats and how he started crying like a baby when one bit him on the lip. He’s going to get voted out, she said. I said how would you like it if a rat bit you on the lip, you stupid bitch. I said go take your headlights somewhere else and I regretted it the moment I said it but she reminded me of all those teachers criticising his reactions to things, and at the back of it all hinting at the threat of expulsion. And what would I do then? He left school of his own accord in the end, they pushed him enough, that’s what they wanted. But he did well, bless him. He fought back, earned lots of fans for a while. I have all the old clippings, the nice ones. I never wanted a life in the public eye for him. Of course I’m embarrassed. He’d been doing so well and then the papers did what they do to everyone who does well. I stopped watching the things he appears on long ago. They’re all these humiliating shows. It’s the makers of those shows we should be ridiculing not the poor souls who have to go on them. I wish he’d just come home to Tex and me.
When I was a little girl I lived in a small village near The Burren. I wish my son could have had the upbringing I had. I used to climb up there, on The Burren, and walk about and look at the wildflowers growing in the limestone. It was good to get away from people. Sometimes you’d find bones up there. I remember finding an altar made with the stone and these little candles and dried bones arranged on top like there’d been some sort of ceremony. I told my Dad and he said, “Oh yes, that was probably Mr Buckley. He sacrifices rats in the hope it does some good.” Even as a little girl I knew there are all sorts of sacrifices that go on.
The Author: Simon Webster is an Irish writer whose stories have appeared in many journals including Visual Verse, Ellipsis Zine and The Fiction Pool. He is also editor of The Cabinet Of Heed literary journal. Some of his shorter work can be found at mrsimonwebster.wordpress.com. You can follow him on Twitter @MrSimonWebster.