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Marc de Faoite




Ireland. Early nineteen-seventies.

Indian summer. Canadian soundtrack.

Lo-Fi pirated music. From ships and BASF.

Joni and Gordon and Leonard and Neil. All singing and strumming.

Long cold teenage winters perfected their art. Gave it an edge.

Joni paving paradise and seeing both sides now.

Neil packing it in.

Gordon reading minds.

Leonard twisting stems.

Leonard didn’t get much airplay.

Too risky for a dipso-nation.


Early nineteen-seventies.

I remember, but I don’t, but I do.

I was too young. Too young to understand.

I had forgotten things I never knew.

My parents told me. Thirty five years later.

They hadn’t forgotten.

Some things you just can’t forget.

They couldn’t understand.

They still don’t understand.

Some things you just can’t understand.


I close my eyes.

Plunge into meditation.

Scanning deep in my memory banks. Call it self-hypnosis.

I found things I had forgotten.

Things I never knew.

Nothing is ever truly erased from the hard-drive.


Early nineteen-seventies.

The housing estate.

The Square. Boxed in by identical homes.

Semi-detached and terraced.

Each neighbour’s home a mirror image.

Same grey lino floor-tiles in each kitchen-cum-dining room.


Two kids. Three kids. Four kids. More.

My sister and I. Only a year between us.

Almost like twins.

Same nineteen-seventies white-blonde hair.

Ears covered. Hair touching collars. Eyebrow length fringes.

Dunnes Stores clothes. Clarks shoes.

My brother still toddling. Grasping the bars of his crib to stand.

All three in a shared room. Me in the top bunk. My sister below.


We played in the garden after school.

Sometimes we played in the square.

Grey ridged concrete.

Slabs seamed and sealed with black summer-soft tar.

White dog-shit.

Shattered car-glass diamonds sparkle in the sun.

Heat-haze shimmers over car-rooves.

Tayto crips and Mother’s Pride bread.

Glass pint bottles of milk.


Beyond the square a grassy hill.

The path to school. Daisies. Buttercups. Dandelions.


The library-van comes to the square.

A magical bus.

I climb the steps. My Mammy’s hand holds mine.

The smell of paper. The smell of ink.

The librarian pushes picture-books.

Give me books with only words.

I can make the pictures in my head.


Daddy went to work.

Daddy grew a Big-Bushy-Beard.

On my father’s side, all my uncles grow beards.

On my mother’s side all my uncles stay clean-shaven.

On my mother’s side all my uncles emigrate.

On my mother’s side nine-out-of-ten sons and nephews will emigrate too.

Some come back. The rest span the globe.

Most of the daughters and nieces will leave too.

Nineteen-seventies children.

Bred and buttered for export.


Mammy stays at home.

Mammy cooks.

Mammy cleans the house.

Mammy cleans the clothes.

Mammy cleans the children.

Sometimes she brings us shopping to the main street.

I smell butcher-shop sawdust mixed with old women’s perfume.

Another smell too.

The smell of slaughter.

The smell of fresh blood.


The doors at home sprout keys.

The doors in the square are kept locked.

Even during the day.


Daddy grunts as he pushes home screws.

Daddy fixes bolts to the garden gate.

The gates are kept locked.

Even during the day.


Neighbours huddle in small groups.

Talk in low voices.

Muffled voices through the bedroom wall at night.

My parents talk late.

The summer dragged on.

It must have been just days.

It seemed like weeks.

The sun shone. The tar-seams melted. We stayed indoors.

Lego and colouring books. Salty homemade play-dough.

Rainy day stuff.

Can we go outside Mammy?

Play inside instead.

Learn more words.

What’s your name? Where do you live? Tell me again.


The ice-cream van tinkles operetta arias.

Lonely Mr. Whippy.

The Mammies keep the children indoors while the sun shines.


Muffled phone-calls and folded newspapers shared between neighbours.

The words passed around.

I don’t know the words. I can’t make the pictures.


That much I remember, though I had forgotten.

The rest made sense of it all.

If sense can be made of such things.

The rest was told by my parents. Thirty-five years later.


A little boy.

He was in my sister’s class.

I remember his name. I remember his wiry hair.

His family moved away.

I never knew that boy was lost.


Search parties of parents and police.

Call them “Gards” in English, from Gardai in Irish.

Search parties to no avail.

Tracker dogs leash-tugged Gards across the square.


A house on the opposite side.

An old woman and her simple son.

He’s nineteen.

He’s not all there.

He’s not right in the head.

His upstairs bedroom curtainless at night.

His silhouette paces back and forth.


The Gards find the boy.

He’d put him under his bed.

The dead boy’s sister rocked catatonic.

She was never the same again.


The Gards find a notebook.

A list of little boys’ names.

At the top of the list is the dead boy’s name.

Crossed out.


The next little boy’s name.

My own.

Marc de Faoite was born in Dublin and has lived in England, Belgium, France, India and currently Malaysia, where he reviews books for The Star newspaper. His short stories and essays have been published in anthologies and periodicals in Malaysia, Singapore, France and Ireland (Sini Sana: Travels in Malaysia, Fish Eats Lion, Readings from Readings 2, KL Noir, Love in Penang, Esquire Magazine, The Irish Times and Revue Pyrénéene and featured online on Roadside Fiction and coming soon on Northeast Review and The Reading Life) . Tropical Madness, a collection of his short stories, was published in 2013.

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