“On Eating Grass” by Jamie O’ Connell

Sinead was awful jealous of me and I remember her rubbin me face into the ground and Mam wonderin what the rash was until she caught her after ages. I remember it cos Mam was tellin the nurse when she was givin Mam some exercise for her dead legs.

Like, I can’t actually remember it happenin, as in, I don’t remember it in me head, but it definitely happened cos Nan said I did it. That was how the week ended, wasn’t I a bit exhausted and just needed me bed, so Nan said to the Guards. But sure, I wasn’t exhausted at all. I’d do it again, not a bother.

There was an awful lot of bother around since September. But it was Patrick who kicked the window and it wasn’t me and I said to teacher that I never did it and anyway it was only a tiny crack and it hadn’t fallen down or nothin. Teacher didn’t believe me cos she’d sent me home before cos I wouldn’t take off me jersey. She said she didn’t give two hoots about football and I said we’d been in the quarter finals and it was soccer anyway and if she didn’t like it she could feck off home to England.

Teacher took us to Dublin to the Natural Gallery cos she said it’s the best art in Ireland and some of it was good but I didn’t like it, just borin stuff of Our Lord lookin sick like the ones in Nan’s house. Sure, wasn’t he always dyin. But half of it was shite anyway cos I coulda done better. This one fella with a mad German name or somethin did this picture of these boats sailin and it was like somethin a baby coulda done. Patrick was laughin at this one of a woman’s arse hangin out, it was feckin huge and we were laughin and makin farts and teacher told us to shut up or we’d have to go sit on the bus even though everyone else was laughin too. We were lookin at them for ages and me legs were gettin tired so I had to keep swappin them over but we got Taytos and coke and then we went to the shop with books and toppers of Our Lord lookin green. Me and Patrick found this book with photos of women with tits and Patrick drew moustaches but I said nothin and we went home.

Me and Patrick took a can from Da’s boot on Monday cos it was lyin there and went behind Nan’s shed and drank it. I only drank some cos Patrick did and he called me chicken so I drank half of it and he said I felt sick and I said I didn’t even though I did. And I said to him if he was such a hard man why didn’t he feckin drink the rest of it and stop talkin shite. I kept burpin and Patrick said I couldn’t burp the alphabet so I did and got sick and then the dog started lickin it and it was cool but I thought it was sick.

Mary Roberson’s been on the telly the whole time wantin to be president n’all and Da thinks she’ll get it cos any old eejit could do that job. She looks nice but he said don’t they all look nice until they’re elected and then they turn into a right shower of bastards.

Sinead got the attic cos she was older and Mam said she couldn’t be trustin me with the steps as I was always hurtin meself but I said to her I was grand and wasn’t I always climbin things. And she said what was wrong with me own room but I said it was unfair cos Sinead got a lock on hers and I’d none on mine. Mam said when I was in Secondary I could have one and she said I smelt funny and had I been sick and I got an awful fright cos of the can.

Sure wasn’t Da a right bastard Tuesday when he found out that I’d taken his can. I know Mam hates him too cos I saw her lookin all sick when he went to kiss her. I wish he’d feck off back to the forestry and leave us alone. The bruises on me legs were awful sore. When he stuck the pipe back on the hoover I said it to him ‘You’re a right cunt,’ and sure that only made him worse. I thought I’d never catch me breath but I didn’t cry. I was lookin at him. And no dinner either and I was feckin starvin. He said somethin and I told him to feck off with his Bible. I showed them bruises to Patrick and Patrick said I should tell teacher but they’d only take me off and sure who’d look after Mam. Sinead’s a girl and all. She always cryin at everythin.

Patrick said I was chicken and I said to him I wasn’t and I wasn’t either. I didn’t cos Mam said to me I wasn’t to fight. And Mam is in a wheelchair and she’s enough to be worryin about except me scrappin in fights and she’s in pain too.  She doesn’t like me with bruises cos they remind her of Our Lord dyin, that’s what Nan said but I said to her our Lord’s dyin for sins so I better make a few or else he needn’t have been dyin at all.

Nan didn’t like that but that’s only cos she loves our Lord and there’s a picture of him with his heart floatin out in front of him and he looks awful sick but that’s cos his heart’s floatin outside him. I asked Nan how could he be livin without his heart inside him and she said it’s the holy ghost which is a third of God’s glory. And I asked her what it’s like and she said it’s electricity. And I felt awful bad cos I was watchin telly and usin up Gods glory when poor baby Jesus needed it.

Mam wanted a girl, that’s what Sinead says when she gets all snotty and tells me to fuck off out of her room. But she was only a baby anyway so how should she know and Mam hardly wanted two girls cos wasn’t one bad enough, and I should know cos she’s me sister and she’s a total bitch – that’s what Patrick said to me when she told him he had to go home cos his Mam had rung, but she hadn’t.

Mam hasn’t been herself for a long aul time. She gets awful sad since the accident when her legs stopped workin. She has them n all, but they don’t move cos she hurt her back and her brain’s messages don’t work. She used to have a push chair but then they nagged them at the hospital for ages and they gave her this electric one which I rode but Sinead whacked me head and said if I broke it she’d wake Mam.

Teacher was nice to me when she heard me Mam was in a chair but I said at least she wasn’t dead, sure wouldn’t that be worse, but Teacher tapped me head and I felt all hot but I didn’t say anythin, though I felt bad then cos I wasn’t laughin at Mam, just I didn’t want her bein all sorry for me like or for Mam, even though she was cryin.

Patrick looks at Mam sometimes and I give him a dig. He calls her and Da Mr and Mrs Murphy, suckin up like, and I told him to not bother cos he sounded like a right eejit and no-one calls them that. He picked flowers for Mam once too and I heard Uncle Jim say to Aunty Catherine that it was a shame that Mam was like that cos she was so pretty.

Sure didn’t Da say that he wanted to teach me a lesson last Thursday, sayin I couldn’t leave the table till I’d eaten me dinner. Me legs got fierce tired after a while from standin but he said that’d make me eat a lot quicker. But I wasn’t goin to be eatin nothin and then him sayin he’d break the stubbornness out of me and I was lookin at him straight and the cabbage went all wet on the plate.

Sure when he finished I was still there. In the end he put me in the cupboard and said I couldn’t come out till I was done. I put the cabbage in the coat pockets but it wouldn’t all fit and was fallin out everywhere. Sure Da got the pipe and that was the end of it. He said somethin about Jesus and starvin black babies and sure me legs were stingin so I could hardly be takin any notice of him.

I heard the nurse talkin to Nan on Friday and she was sayin stuff that got me awful hot. Nan was sayin it was the guilt that turned Da sour and wouldn’t Mam be up and about if he hadn’t been in the car all steamed up. And him with cans in the boot. I was mad with temper after that. Sure, didn’t I hate him and want to hit him a belt and I said it to Patrick that I did, but Da’s bigger.

Then Sunday sure, I was down by the gate and didn’t he come out at me all swingin and shoutin, holdin that coat with the cabbage fallin out everywhere. I never seen him as hot in the face, steamin his was. He wasn’t lookin where he was goin at all, just swingin and roarin, and didn’t he trip over and get a mouthful of grass.

I got close and there was a mighty smell of drink off him. I was awful hot thinkin of Mam, not scared or nothin. I thought I’d leave him there, but then sure, he’d only wake up and be annoyin us all. And, sure, wasn’t there a rock in the flowers and I thought I’d hit him a clatter with it while I’d the chance. So, I did it anyhow. I hit him a mighty whack on the head and that shut him up good.

I don’t remember smackin him a few times but I musta cos Nan said I did. I don’t remember kickin him either. I wanted to come home but they wouldn’t leave me, even though teacher’d be wonderin where I am.

Nan told me Da was dead but sure I never asked cos I didn’t care. She was mad blessing herself and saying I should be speakin to the Priest. But she never liked Da anyway and sure at least now he’ll leave poor Mam alone. Didn’t I say to Nan, aren’t we all grand enough without havin him around the place, acting the hard fella?

She didn’t like that so I promised that I’d be behavin for Mam and even for Teacher when I was back ta school and that I wouldn’t be messin with Patrick. But Nan just kept shaking her head and fiddling with her rosary beads. She kept on sayin again and again, ‘sure we’ll see what will happen… sure we’ll see…’


Biographical Note:

Jamie O’Connell is the 2011/12 Writer in Residence for Tigh Filí Cultural Centre. He recently toured the United States with the Cork Literary Review Volume XIV with Review Editor Eugene O’Connell, presenting work in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and New York. He was selected to read at The Lonely Voice series of readings in the Irish Writer’s Centre (February 2011). He was Editor of One, a play by Michael Scott, which won the Best New Writing Award and Best Intercultural Dialogue Award at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. His short stories have been published in a number of journals including The Poddle Dublin Review (2011), A Curious Impulse (2009) and The Bell (2009); he has been shortlisted for the Wicklow Writer’s Short Story Award (2008) and won the Thomas Harding Literary Award (2008). He has written for the Evening Echo, The Cork Independent and The Herald.  He has an MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin and a BA in English Literature from University College Cork.



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