Saturday, April 01, 2006

Red biro

In the evenings, we used to play football on the pitch behind the boy's National school. Well, the lads used to play football; I'd show up now and again and get in the way. As a young fellow, I was more interested in books or worlds of my own than kicking a ball. Pity, I missed out on a lot.

Anyway, we used to use the pitch behind the National school but, by this stage we were in Secondary school and the National school's pitch was out of bounds. This didn't stop the lads, besides they had two good reasons to use it. One, it was a good, level and relatively dry playing surface and that's not a common thing in South Leitrim. The second reason was the school's caretaker.

If the caretaker, we'll call him Frank, got a whiff of a game on the pitch, he'd be down in a shot and then the lads would get the one thing better than a good game of football; a chase from a grown-up.

This man would give up lovely, summer evening weather to walk down the town and stop people from playing football on a football pitch. The boys thought he was an idiot. I knew better; he was an adult and we were breaking the rules. And you don't break rules without facing the consequences.

One gorgeous evening, around eight or so, the lads were in the middle of a game. It was a rare occasion when I was present. Frank had developed stealth qualities by then so no-one noticed him creeping along the sideline until he let a roar - GOTCHA!

And we're off.

Everyone scattered in all directions. There were buckos jumping off the wall, onto the road and away. Lads jumping the other wall, into Dr. Cadden's garden. Fellas going through the hedge, into the girls' school.

Frank was in turmoil, twisting around, trying to decide who to go after until he spotted something new. One of the boys who'd gone for the road had stopped running.

Frank walked over to me in triumph. I was confused. Part of me was petrified; an adult had caught me doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing. But a small, calm, somewhat perplexed voice was saying that this wasn't adding up.

- Were you playing on the pitch? he asked and his face was puce, red as a red biro.
- Yeah.
- Ah... wha... you were... oh.

This totally threw him off. He was like a dog who chases cars until the day one of his auto-quarries stops and he doesn't know what to do next.

This wasn't the way it was supposed to go down. The bad guys don't crack this easy to Inspector Steve Keller of the San Francisco Police Department. And they sure as hell don't squeal like this to Principle Leo Donlon of San Miguel Boys School in Mohill.

Or maybe, Frank was just a tough caretaker, the toughest of the tough, and this young scut fell apart there and then.

Frank quickly recovered. He reached into his shirt pocket and took out paper and a pen. A red pen. A red bic biro, just like all the teachers have.

- What's your name, John? (I'm not kidding.)
- J-john.
- Full name?

And I gave it over. Oh, I folded like a cheap suit. All was taken down and written in red, and underlined.

- Right, I'll be down to your father, and he was off, after the other criminal scum.

Now my heart started going. Not Daddy. If Daddy finds out...

I headed for the house. I was shitting it. No, I wasn't. What's going on? I'm in trouble, amn't I? Why does it feel like I'm not in trouble.

I went into the sitting room. Daddy was watching the news. I decided I better come clean. This was the highest authority in the land. If Christ came down off the cross, he'd tow the line to my old man.

- Am, we were playing football behind the boys' school and we're not supposed to and Frank came and he caught me and he said he'd tell you.

Daddy looked at me and smiled.

- Grand.

What?! Grand? Where's the roaring and shouting and what in Adam's name were you playing at?

And then I figured out that grown men who give up beautiful summer evenings to chase boys off a football pitch mightn't have all the pieces together. I grew up a little that evening.

Not a whole pile but a little.


Sinisilma said...

Folded like a cheap suit!

Anonymous said...

...petrol on her hair. we were only messin and it got out of hand. Tony the mouse was only jealous. he had a sister a nurse in L.A.......(STATIC) .....then the jap zeros came real low ,spitting hot lead everywhere..tony lost the head..'fuck youse yellow sons of nippon' he cursed waving the empty jerry can.....(STATIC).......

Anonymous said...

..he woke up next to a clonmel whore, her breathing steady and deep, in her face an innocence belying her trade. a fan whirred and the heating pipes wheezed and rattled.somewhere a priest dreamily wiped out a chalice interior, thinking of his last kiss before taking holy orders. Tony the mouse thought ' death would easier than this...'

Anonymous said...

...while across the bay the turrets of the warships glinted in the moonlight, the giant dreadnoughts slumbered and in their steel bellies dreamt ten thousand jonahs, who would never see the dawn....(STATIC)

John The Bad said...

Would whoever left these brilliant pieces of writing please gimme a shout?

Anonymous said...

tell the truth Bad, Jim whipped your ass for that

John The Bad said...

I can see problems with the anonymous comments.

Anonymous said...

...or the D.A. will have your badge.And another thing, the girl..
The girl?
Yeah Tony the one in the parking lot..the one on fire.
That girl,what can I tell ya chief,smoke gets in yer eyes, know what I mean...

John The Bad said...

Ok, Will Hunting. 'Fess up. This writing's good.