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Показать все книги автора/авторов: McCabe Patrick
 

«The Butcher Boy», Patrick McCabe

Иллюстрация к книге

For the McCabes,

Brian, Eugene, Mary, and Dympna

 

WHEN I WAS A YOUNG LAD TWENTY OR THIRTY OR FORTY years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent. I was hiding out by the river in a hole under a tangle of briars. It was a hide me and Joe made. Death to all dogs who enter here, we said. Except us of course.

You could see plenty from the inside but no one could see you. Weeds and driftwood and everything floating downstream under the dark archway of the bridge. Sailing away to Timbuctoo. Good luck now weeds, I said.

 

Then I stuck my nose out to see what was going on. Plink – rain if you don't mind!

But I wasn't complaining. I liked rain. The hiss of the water and the earth so soft bright green plants would nearly sprout beside you. This is the life I said. I sat there staring at a waterdrop on the end of a leaf. It couldn't make up its mind whether it wanted to fall or not. It didn't matter – I was in no hurry. Take your time drop, I said – we've got all the time we want now.

We've got all the time in the world.

 

I could hear a plane droning far away. One time we were standing in the lane behind the houses shading our eyes from the sun and Joe says: Did you see that plane Francie? I said I did. It was a tiny silver bird in the distance. What I want to know is, he said, how do they manage to get a man small enough to fit in it? I said I didn't know. I didn't know much about planes in them days.

I was thinking about Mrs Nugent standing there crying her eyes out. I said sure what's the use in crying now Nugent it was you caused all the trouble if you hadn't poked your nose in everything would have been all right. And it was true. Why would I want to harm her son Philip – I liked him. The first day he came to the school Joe says to me did you see the new fellow? Philip Nugent is his name. O, I says, I'll have to see this. He had been to a private school and he wore this blazer with gold braid and a crest on the breast pocket. He had a navy blue cap with a badge and grey socks. What do you make of that says Joe. Woh boy, I said, Philip Nugent. This is Philip Nugent, said the master, he's come to join us Philip used to live in London but his parents are from the town and they have come back here to live. Now I want you to make him feel at home won't you? He was like Winker Watson out of the Dandy in this get-up of his only Winker was always up to devilment and Philip was the opposite. Every time you saw him he was investigating insects under rocks or explaining to some snottery-nosed young gawk about the boiling point of water. Me and Joe used to ask him all about this school. We said: What about these secret meetings and passwords? Tell us about the tuck shop – come on Philip but I don't think he knew what we were talking about. The best thing about him was his collection of comics. I just can't get over it, said Joe, I never seen anything like it. He had them all neatly filed away in shirt boxes not a crease or a dog-ear in sight. They looked as if they had come straight out of the shop. There were comics there we had never seen before in our lives and we thought we knew plenty about comics. Mrs Nugent says: Make sure not to damage any of those now they cost money. We said: We won't! – but afterwards Joe said to me: Francie we've got to have them. So you could say it was him started it and not me. We talked about it for a long time and we made our decision.

We had to have them and that was that.

We called round to Philip and had a swopping session.

We cleaned him out. I admit it. It was only a laugh. We'd have given them back if he asked for them. All he had to say was: Look chaps, I think I want my comics back and we'd have said: OK Phil.

But of course Nugent couldn't wait for that. Anyway we left Philip with his pile of junk and off we went to the hide going on about it all until the tears ran down our faces. Wait till you hear this one Joe would say one flea says to the other what do you say will we walk or take a dog. He was reading out all these jokes I couldn't stop the laughing, I was choking. We got so bad I was hitting the grass with my fists crying stop Joe stop. But we weren't laughing the next day when Nugent got on the job.

 

I met Joe coming across the Diamond and he says to me watch out Francie we're in the wars with Nugent. She called at our house and she'll be round to you. Sure enough I was lying on the bed upstairs and the knock comes to the front door. I could hear ma humming and the shuffle of her slippers on the lino. Ah hello Mrs Nugent come in but Nugent was in no humour for ah hello come in or any of that. She lay into ma about the comics and the whole lot and I could hear ma saying yes yes I know I will of course! and I was waiting for her to come flying up the stairs, get me by the ear and throw me on the step in front of Nugent and that's what she would have done if Nugent hadn't started on about the pigs. She said she knew the kind of us long before she went to England and she might have known not to let her son anywhere near the likes of me what else would you expect from a house where the father's never in, lying about the pubs from morning to night, he's no better than a pig. You needn't think we don't know what goes on in this house oh we know all right! Small wonder the boy is the way he is what chance has he got running about the town at all hours and the clothes hanging off him it doesn't take money to dress a child God love him it's not his fault but if he's seen near our Philip again there'll be trouble. There'll be trouble now mark my words!

After that ma took my part and the last thing I heard was Nugent going down the lane and calling back Pigs – sure the whole town knows that!

Ma pulled me down the stairs and gave me the mother and father of a flaking but it took more out of her than it did out of me for her hands were trembling like leaves in the breeze she threw the stick from her and steadied herself in the kitchen saying she was sorry over and over. She said there was nobody in the world meant more to her than me. Then she put her arms around me and said it was her nerves it was them was to blame for everything. It wasn't always like this for your father and me she said. Then she looked into my eyes and said: Francie – you would never let me down would you?

She meant you wouldn't let me down like da did I said no I wouldn't let her down in a hundred million years no matter how many times she took into me with the stick. She said she was sorry she had done that and she would never do it again as long as she lived.

She said that was all there was in this world, people who let you down. She said when Mrs Nugent came to the town first there was nobody like her. I used to be up the town with her every day she said. Then she started crying and saying this awful place and dabbing at her eyes with a tiny bit of tissue out of her apron pocket. But it was no use it just frittered away into little pieces.

 

The light slanting in the window and you could hear the children playing outside in the lane. They had set up a shop and were paying for groceries with pebbles. They had empty soap powder boxes and bean tins. No – its my turn one of them said. Grouse Armstrong scratched his ear and yelped running in and out among them.


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