Pearse Murray is a native of Dublin, Ireland and lives in Upstate New York. He has had several poems published in a variety of Anthologies and in on-line and print magazines. He was recently one of the award winners in the short story series The Lonely Voice sponsored by the Irish Writers Centre.
A quiet boredom sets in and your seven-year-old mind starts scheming some innocent mischief. Your brother, two years older, has similar designs with his friends from the neighbourhood out of their summer idleness. You tag along with them and soon discover that his scheme is born out of much more than the dull day-to-day dreaming that comes from unmeasured time.
“We will dig a tunnel to Australia in the back garden”; his triumphant words set the goal for the day. There is some concern from your mother but she is a real softy so his gang gets the shovels and off you go on the tunnel digging. There must be a gold mine in your brother’s dreams or perhaps it is trenches -- no doubt he heard of his great grand Uncle George, who was in the trenches at the Somme in the Great War and earned the Croix de Guerre for his bravery. You start early and keep going and make great progress and soon you are deep down six feet and in under about nine, just below your dad’s lovely climbing rose trellis with their petals blooming a full colored wine red. There is a huge mound of earth building up towards the rose trellis. This is the trellis your dad built for your mother on their tenth wedding anniversary – a gift and measure of their time with each other. A summer rain starts in the early afternoon and your dad will soon be home from a day’s work, only a block away. Your mom tells you to fill in the hole before he gets home but then that would spoil the day’s memory. Soon you are left alone with your Australian tunnel. The rain intensifies and the cave sides begin to slough in and the thought of having to shovel the now very wet gluey mud is too much to contemplate. Your body resonates with your brother’s words: “ah hell, feck it, let ‘s go somewhere else.” It is your first swear word that you have uttered, having just learnt it from the gang and you like it because you know it is a forbidden word and so you repeat it several times.
Dad comes home and the uproar begins and you get an earful of the “Jeesus, Mary and Joseph” and “bloody fecking eejits” into your sleepy body from your father. The Holy Family is invoked as many times as you use the forbidden swear word earlier. You spend the next day moving very heavy mud and you continue with your brother’s echo of cursing and your brother does most of the hauling as he is seen as the ringleader, and he is. The poor bugger. Your dad’s roses survive and for many years they climb and bloom for the soft pleasure-time they offer to your parents. You move on to other ancestral trenches.
Your nine-year-old body starts to fence in the small dining room with your younger brother of seven. It is a dripping wet summer’s day and the television is on the blink. Your dad will not get it fixed as he is on the warpath claiming that you are watching too much of the “damn thing” which is true. You beat your brother blue in the pillow fight of the night before and he is clearly out for revenge.
After some back and forth around the table, knocking a chair or two down, jumping up on the table, invoking the bravery of one of the three musketeers, you push your sword very forcefully upwards towards the ceiling against your brother’s sword which in turn strikes the chandelier bowl, one of the few fancy upper-crust adornments in your house, and your mom is proud of, delicately simple with some floral display on its thin shell. It all comes crashing down in tiny little sparkling pieces on you. What a crash! At the very same instant your daddy, or now it is your father, is walking in the back door of the kitchen from where he can see directly through the dining room opening. Your father runs into the room with the mandatory “Jeezus, Mary and Joseph” remark and no expression such as “are yeez alright?” But “what on bloody earth are you doing fencing with my fishing rods? You have ruined them. Look, Bent! And this one here is my good fly fishing one. You feckin’ eejits, bloody pure stupid ones too.”
Your mother joins in and utters a “Holy Mother of God . . .”
And you have been fencing with your parents, your brother and the Almighty ever since.