Friday, 14 March 2008

St. Patrick's Weekend

School was always hell to me, a great mind surrounded by scurvy ruffians and ‘taught’ by untutored sadistic yokels, drooling, slack-jawed pedophiles. End of the school day therefore brought with it untrammeled joy, mitigated only by the certainty of having to go through it all again the next day. A weekend then brought added joy, and of course a long weekend, incorporating a national holiday, stretched, for an eight year-old, into the distant future.

Hence, on the St. Patrick’s weekend in question, we were as happy as the proverbial pig in shit as we headed for our after-school entertainment. This entertainment was the same every time. We ran down past The Dairy, and up to the corner, where we carefully and secretly assessed our quarry. Which was a large terraced house near the well. Our more correctly, the lady of said house.

The process was simple. Once we knew she wasn’t lying in wait for us, we swept around the corner, shouting, banging tins, making every kind of racket possible. Then the good part. Our nemesis would rush out, sometimes brandishing a brush or some similar weapon, and give chase. The last to break and run was deemed to be the winner for the day. Sometimes she came within inches of us, the frisson of excitement was like a drug.

Why did she object so strenuously to the noise? We didn’t know or care. Billy Flynn said he heard her once mention something about a sick girl, but hey, what’s the big deal about that?

So it was with particular anticipation we headed for our rendezvous on that Patrick’s weekend. We burst around the corner with particular gusto, armed to the teeth with every noise-making utensil imaginable.

But today was different. A white van with a red cross on its side stood parked outside the door. We slowed down and stood back, confused. Just then the door opened. Two paramedics emerged slowly. Between them they half carried a young girl, probably in her early teens.

I have never seen anybody, before or since, so pale. She was so pale as to be almost translucent. And frail. Clad in a dressing gown, she seemed to float above the ground. They lifted her into the van without difficulty, her mother – our protagonist – following behind.

Just before entering the ambulance she turned to us. Gone was the angry flush, the hoarse voice. Now she seemed calm and composed. “Well boys, you can make all the noise you want from now on. It doesn’t matter any more.”

We never saw the girl again. Well, that's not correct. Nearly half a century later I see her still. I always will.

1 comment:

rashbre said...

quite touching.