It’s Friday, it occurred to the little girl as she sat at the table booth, her brother Stevie on one side and sister, Orla on the other. These small children were known collectively as The Three Wee Ones. The Three Big Ones were marauding, adventuresome teenage boys who would be outdoors until the last fragment of summer sun had faded. Marie gave her upper body a squeeze with her stick arms. It is Friday. Treat night would climax in the pyjama-clad junior siblings being presented with ice creams destined to be snaffled in front of the TV. She was feeling a spiritual connection to the little jaunty potato man on the crisp packet, it was as if he was dancing, tilting his hat and winking at her. Her mother began the customary accolades.
“Which one of yousuns would like a packet of these?”
Her voice was a siren song.
“How about my clever girl, m’Lady Smartypants?” She asked, addressing Orla who was nodding mechanically.
“And my Little Prince?”
Stevie was giving her a gap-toothed grin.
“And of course my China doll? My tiny girl. Oh hang on, can China dolls eat crispies with their teeny weeny doll mouths?”
The mother did an impression of a bemused China doll trying to shove imaginary crisps greedily into a diminutive mouth.
Marie’s body was shuddering with such an excess of silent laughter that she was experiencing a sort of rapture and felt as if she had temporarily left her body; she was looking at herself from the outside; the pale speckled face with the finely drawn features and long brown curly hair tied back in a half pony-tail, fastened with a bow wider than her head. Marie re-entered her body just as her mother fell into a sudden silence, threw the crisps on the table and rotated her head towards the back door. There were unexpected loud, frantic voices outside in the yard. The door flung open violently and a big-boned teenage boy was catapulted into the rear hallway almost smashing into the wall opposite.
“What in the name of God? Oh Jesus. What's wrong?”
He came hobbling at speed into the kitchen.
“There’s a fishin’ hook caught in my bum. Ma you have to get it out. It's in my bum! Get it out!”
His eyebrows were forming a wigwam above his eyes.
“Oh God. We are not going to casualty if that's what you think, I have Keep Fit at 7 o'clock.”
The mother briefly raised her eyes heavenwards and said, “Pull your shorts down.”
The boy gave The Wee Three Ones a cursory glance and asked, “In here?”
“Face that kitchen bench and turn around. Do what you’re told.”
Upon the removal of the shorts, the mother was involved in a pulling motion and some fiddling around.
“Oh Jesus. I can't get the bloody thing out. How in the name of God did you do that?”
“Pull it out the way it went in, push it at the bottom first. Aaaaargh!”
The Wee Three Ones were now standing in a row behind their mother in order to get a better view of the minor surgery. Stevie had brought his crisps and was eating them.
“I can't get it out the way it went in, there’s a barb on the end. Oh Jesus!” the mother said in a high-pitched tone.
A small fat vein was protruding along the side of the mother’s forehead. The last time Marie has seen that, her mother was chasing and walloping The Three Big Ones in the living room with a cane for ‘carrying on ridiculous’ during The News on a dark winter’s night. There was a pause in proceedings while Orla was instructed to find her mother’s glasses in the knitting basket and to run a flannel under the tap.
“Shut up,” her mother bellowed at her son, “bite down on this,” and handed him the damp cloth to place between his teeth.
After a lot of banging around in the cutlery drawer she produced her paring knife. The knife that was an extension of her hand and used for the expert, effortless removal of potato peel. Marie could feel a tightness in her belly; she wanted her brother Stevie to stop munching in her ear, she wanted her mother to stop being cross but most of all she wanted the big brother she worshipped to stop squealing into the flannel like a girl. The plasma ball energy trapped and zapping inside her body was about to touch the surface. Just as her mother was preparing to insert the tip of the knife into her brother’s buttock, Marie screamed,
Her brother looked over his shoulder and gave a contorted smile. Sweat and tear tributaries were joining forces on the bottom of his chin. He locked eyes with his little sister and mumbled something in slow motion that sounded like, “I am alright” into the flannel.
Forever more, in all of her relationships with men, even in the most trying and tragic circumstances the little girl would expect and demand the type of male pride that swallowed pain and gave reassurances.
Fiona has had two stories short listed by the national Morrison Mentoring short story competition in Australia. 'Paperweights' was published in 'Glint: An Anthology of Award Winning Australian Short Stories' 2014 and 'The Charity Shop' in 'Flourish: An Anthology of Award Winning Australian Short Stories' 2015.