Boozin' n Bluesin'  

Friday, March 11, 2011

If I'm to believe everything I read on the internet, I haven't blogged yet this year. I'm hoping that can't mean that during this same 2 and a half month period I haven't written anything of interest at all... Although the majority of my words currently tend to focus on 'eliciting vocabulary', 'assessing knowledge' and 'engaging' young minds. Or engaging tutors and teachers alike in academic, middle class language that somehow justifies what I'm doing in the classroom. Yes, rather than spend my time conserving energy, reading and writing and practising what I preach, I am encouraged to document every interaction I have with every pupil, parent, teacher carer and pet snail in order to evidence that I am a good teacher. The fact that I haven't had time to blog, am getting good results and producing creative resources isn't enough, and it's only going to get tougher.

Still, for the purposes of writing to model good writing to my students, I'm still finding some time to be creative albeit turning a Heaney poem into a short story or redrafting old travel vignettes. This is a WIP - Duplicity.


There goes another one; faster than the one before. Monochrome faces pass me by; their expressions a blur. The coarse shriek of the warning bell forces them into high definition and I snap back into focus. “It’s English first, ain’t it?” asked Joe. “Yeah! I think we’re doing creative writing today ‘n all.” We walked to room 31, past the old library, bursting with books and infinite possible combinations of words. I’m always on the lookout for new words. Only yesterday I’d discovered duplicitous: two-faced, dishonest, double crossing. I hope to find a way to use it today...
It was probably near lunchtime when all the heads turned towards the door in un-choreographed synchronicity. Who was it that had granted us reprieve by interrupting our maths class? Mrs. Reeves, the school secretary, whispered quietly to Mr. Glen, as fifty-eight eyes tried to lip-read. Twenty-eight heads turned my way, as I recognised my own name and slowly gathered up my things. I tried to push the uneasiness away by twisting my hands inwards in claws of bitter nausea.
The air was stuffy and disinfectant choked at the back of my throat as I sat in the sick bay. I was waiting for our neighbours to collect me. Apparently. I nervously excavated the ledges around the window frame – graveyards to the tiny bodies of flies, buried and suffocated under dust. I watched the playground from the window. Outside, there was nothing remarkable about today. In here; I sat counting bells to try and measure time.
The car smelled of fags and mould as smoke snaked its tendrils up into the roofing. Mr. O’Leary chain-smoked, desperately, whilst his wife fiddled nervously with the radio controls. Nobody told me why this pair came to pick me up or what was going on, and the silence taunted me with its duplicitous emptiness filled with possibility. Mile upon mile passed by in a blur of images, like watching a film on fast forward, but with no sound.
Arriving back home brought temporary relief in its familiarity. But then I saw them. Ma catatonic on the sofa and Pa crying. I’d never seen Pa cry before. I’d barely seen him display any emotion at all, apart from when they brought Stephen home from the...
And then I understood.
Stephen. Something had happened to Stephen. My eyes scanned the room for answers. Pa strolled over and put his arm round my shoulder. It was one of the only times that man of iron had showed me tenderness, and I warmed to it like molten lead. “It was a car. He just wasn’t looking. It...”
I turned my head to look into eyes like a wild Irish Sea. Jim Evans patted my shoulder, trying to force a smile which added new topography to his face. A face you could climb up. He was so close; I could smell the faint stench of ale upon his breath and feel his threatening shoulders looming in on me as he whispered “It’s a hard blow, son... A hard blow.” I walked over to my Ma, her arm outstretched, but she couldn’t find the words to say. Our hands entwined as roots of an austere tree. Like the sounds of a seagull rummaging through the refuse on rubbish day, I heard mutters and whispers from the faces that stared sympathetically. ‘That’s her eldest boy. The poor lad, the poor wee lad.’ I didn’t know how to act, as another old man, with teeth like tombstones, shook my hand to pass on his condolences. I wanted somebody to hold me and tell me everything was going to be OK, but they wanted me to be grown up about it: be a man.
I looked out into the night; its nothingness mimicking the emptiness of the room, of my heart. Somewhere in the distance I heard the approach of sirens. One thing about boarding school is the way your whole life seems to be driven by a series of bells. I shuddered back to the room, hearing the intrusive gurgles of my youngest broth... My only brother, now; Frankie. He just wasn’t looking became a new mantra in my head. And I fought back the tears that begged “Why?”
The ambulance got louder as it approached our road. In came the corpse; bandaged and hidden. The vultures that stood to the side bowed their heads as they muttered more condolences and finally pushed out into the night. Ballyfermotters feast on a funeral, I mused, and imagined the takings in Fibber McGee’s exceeding most week nights as the procession drink to their good health next to the stinking cemetery of the Liffey.

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