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Novel Extract Chapter 19

Chapter 19 Hospital days.

Then the night came when the ward was silent, apart from the background hum of various life monitoring or body function sustaining machines, the nurses in their station had their heads submerged in the reams of paperwork which accumulated during their daily shifts, the fellow residents either slept freely or in their coma’s and I silently put my foot on the ground beside the adjustable bed and the other one followed and combined they tentatively discovered they had regained the strength to support the rest of me. I stood up straight, and my eyes wandered around the ward and took in the view from this new higher perspective where the ancient cracks were subtly hidden behind the building’s sterile yellow paint, the oxygen bearing tubes stood out from their rotating connections, the sacred heart looked down upon the broken and battered, the injured and sick, the virtuous and the sinner. I breathed deeply, slowly testing the first step, feeling it give but not fully, then the next gave as well but didn’t disappoint. I looked back to the distance of a foot I had travelled and knew the road lay ahead of me once more. I took one sloping step after another until I found myself circumventing the separating curtain between my isolation and that of the man with the loud snores and pungent flatulence, who I had only saw in my imagination on account of his determination to grasp the final strand of his privacy via a blue and white striped retractable screen. I was aiming for the toilet, a noble destination for my first excursion unaided. The blood drifted from my brain as I rounded the bed of my hidden companion who looked at me with concern and a worrying curiosity as I leant against his mobile food table for support, trying to reconcile the withered specimen in front of me with the rotund grease-ball image I had imbedded in my visual cortex.

“Are you alright there buddy?” the old timer’s accent revealed a long forgotten hint of the old country behind his strong New York tones. It was always the Irish condition to retain deep inside of one’s soul the country’s accent for the benefit of fellow citizens of the land of leprechauns, irrespective of the length of time since its rhythms had dominated the person’s linguistic charms. It was a powerful sort of secret code capable of resurfacing the deepest held fears and feelings of inadequacy from years of religious based sexual and moral repression, in the most successful and confident of emigrants. Its malignant purpose was to restore the natural order of the Irish way, where no one was ever allowed to indulge in the audacity of stepping above their predefined station in life. A station based on parental roots, primary school inadequacies and level of skill with a hurley or football held in the hands of red faced youths who were expected to retain the national drive for homogenise behaviour and to avoid stepping beyond the safety of the proverbial rails.

“Yeah not a bother, just a bit of a head rush” I said looking down at his prone body sensing the danger in the way his eyes fixed upon me and in the look he had about him of a man who retained an interest in the goings on of the land in which he was born and raised, despite having lived longer away from its green fields than in them.

(c) Francie McGivney

Start of a chapter from a novel i’m working on

Chapter Running With the Girl

It was the dreams that made me run away. They came every night with the wet sheets. I woke up cold and shivering, not knowing where I was or how I would get back to where I came from. My mother had turned into a robot in them. She still looked the same and moved the same but the heat of her love had turned into the cold of isolation.

Each morning my real world mother came in and took the wet sheets away, I could smell something different from her breath, that hadn’t been there before. It was the same smell that my Nan had after drinking a naggan of whiskey.

It was a Friday when I put a pair of jeans, three t-shirts and a towel into a bag and sneaked it out of the house. Cora knew something was wrong as we walked along.

“I’m running away” I told her.

“No you’re not” she replied smiling, that smile could feed any hunger I would ever have inside of me.

“I am, serious. I am going to get a bus up to Dublin.”

“Your only twelve, you can’t run away.” She had stopped and was holding both my hands.

“Why not? I can get a job or something.”

“Francie you can’t, honest to God, why are you going? You won’t be able to get a job, you don’t know how to do anything.” the softness in her voice was breaking me down, I didn’t know now if I really wanted to go. I didn’t want to go anywhere she wouldn’t be.

“I don’t know Cora. I just have to.”

“I’ll come with you.” she replied, her voice filling back up with its usual enthusiasm.

“You can’t run away.”

“Why not? Are you saying girls can’t do what men can do? You better not be saying that, Francie Kelly or I will never talk to you again.” she was looking straight into my eyes. She kissed my lips gently, when I didn’t reply. I didn’t know what words to say, even if I could manage to talk, as my face went crimson from the wonderful heat spreading all over me from the quick feel of her lips on mine.

“Wait there, don’t move an inch” she ordered and then she was gone back the way we had come.

It felt right having her sitting on the seat beside me on the bus. The driver had barely acknowledged us when we got on and paid. I had the communion money, I had saved in the wallet that my daddy had given me. It had been a present from his brother in Australia. It held the two hundred pounds easily. Even if I didn’t get a job surely that would keep us going for ages.

She leaned her head against my shoulder after she placed the bag she had taken from home under the seat.

“Put your arm around me Francie, make me feel warm” she whispered and I did. I looked at the blonde hair and the top of her face, while she looked outside at the trees and nature. Every time the bus drove through a town she sat up and leaned her head against the window turning from side to side so she didn’t miss anything. I saw glimpses of the things she pointed out to me, but mainly I just saw her. My side felt cold while she was at the window. Each time the towns retreated behind the bus, she leaned back into me and we shared the heat of each other once more. I kissed the top of her head and she looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back as the rest of the world faded away and I felt something inside of me that I never felt before.

“Listen to this Francie.” She took out her Walkman and put one plug in my ear and the other in hers. Her fingers on the buttons were as soft and gentle as the rest of her and they fascinated me as much as the words of her mind. There was a whirling sound and a guitar riff was followed by Bruce Springsteen singing about never retreating and never surrendering.

“That’s me and you Francie Kelly. No retreat and no surrender.” She said suddenly turning around and kissing me on the lips for the second time that day, before quickly sinking back into my arm and holding my hand where it touched her shoulder.

“What will we do when we get there Francie?”

“I don’t know but we will find out together, it will be the start of our adventure.”

“Will we travel to different countries?”

“Of course but the ones we will go to will be those with the wildest of adventures, where the most beautiful of nature’s animals live and where the plants have the strangest and sweetest of smells and trees with leaves of all the colours of the rainbow stretch up in to the sky.”

“Will we meet many people?”

“We will meet hundreds and each one of them will let us life with them for a while. They will tell us all about their lives and show us where and how they live?”

“What about the ocean Francie?”

“We will sail down the Amazon and life in the trees and at the end of the river we will reach the ocean and swim in it among dolphins and schools of fish. A whale will come along and pick us up on its back and we will go out into the deepest part, to see the sunsets that only the creatures of the sea have ever seen.”

“Will you stay with me for ever Francie?”

“If I ever leave you Cora then the seas will dry up and the sun will burn out and the world will come to an end.”

“Wow we better stick together then.”

We sat in silence until the bus stopped at the depot. We stepped out and we were swallowed up into a different world. Everywhere we looked people walked faster than they did at home. There was so many of them. The noise level was the scariest. It was deafening yet we could hear no one particular sound. The car horns, the people talking, the birds squawking, the rustle of newspapers, the engines of the cars all of it just combined into one operatic rush of sound that surrounded us, as we stood motionless looking out at the city streets. The smell from the river mixed with the filth on the pavement created a thickness in the air, making it harder to breath than at home where fresh fields were everywhere to be seen. A woman in rags who looked like the victim of a famine country in Africa, except with pale skin turned black with dirt, stood beyond the glass door that separated the relative safety of the depot from the noise and our potential future. In her hands she had a bundle of The Big Issue magazine for sale.