Long Story Short

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Authors: Siobhan Parkinson
those few days in Galway to last me a lifetime. I’ll be crippled with arthritis by the time I’m fifty after all the soakings I got.
    Gramma always said she felt sorry for delinquents. She said, I bet they’ve had a horrible life. I bet something went terrible wrong in their family.
    I never thought I would be one myself.
    It was the carrot job that did it. I don’t really think they can be serious about me killing Ma, but they’ll have no trouble nailing me for the carrot.
    It’s kind of weird, but even when you know someone is dead, you sometimes have this sort of conviction that it hasn’t really happened, and if you do the right thing then they will somehow be undead, and it’ll all come right. The only problem is to know what that right thing is.
    I was still in that phase. I suppose it’s shock or something. I had this mad sort of idea that if I behaved myself properly with this Paudge, then it’d be okay, Ma wouldn’t be dead after all. It bothered me, though, that I’d done the carrot job. I had this eerie feeling that this was at the nub of the problem.
    Paudge had me worried there for a while, about the hairs. I was even beginning to think myself that maybe I’d done it. By accident. But I didn’t. I need to believe that.
    I finished my hamburger and licked my fingers. Then I wiped them with the little piece of tissue they give you, and I wiped my mouth too. I folded the tissue up and tucked it into the cardboard box they put those stupid skinny chips in.
    â€œAll right,” I said, meaning about what they were calling my placement , as if I was a chess piece that they had found a perfect move for. The fight had gone out of me.
    â€œCan I see Julie soon?” I asked.
    Paudge looked at Kate. Evidently she was the one they had decided was going to do the dirty work.
    â€œNot just for the moment, Jonathan,” she said softly. “But she’s okay. She’s well, and she’s safe. You don’t need to worry about her.”
    â€œWhy can’t I see her?” I asked. “Is it my da? Is he the problem?”
    They didn’t answer.
    â€œWell, look,” I said. “Tell yous what. You ask Julie if she’d like to see me, and you’ll see. Her and me … well, I’ll put it like this, we’re very good mates. Look, she brought this book for me to read,” and I pulled The Merchant of Venice from my rucksack. “We were running away from home, right, and she thought I might just like a spot of Shakespeare to keep me entertained. She’s a howl, she is.”
    â€œHave you read it?” Kate asked. She was changing the subject, I knew.
    â€œOf course I haven’t read it,” I said. “I don’t speak Shakespeare. That’s the whole point. That’s why it’s such a hoot that she brought it.”
    â€œIt’s a good story. You might like it.”
    Dream on. I didn’t actually say it, but I raised my eyebrows so she knew what I meant.
    These social worker types, like teachers they are. Think they can save you with Shakespeare. It’s kind of sad, really. They can’t know much about reality.

13
    A NTONIO:
    In sooth, I know not why I am so sad;
    It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
    But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
    What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born,
    I am to learn.
    Yeah, well, it’s the only book I’ve got , right?
    So, good for old Antonio. He’s sad and he doesn’t know why. That’s a bit of a luxury, that kind of sadness, if you ask me—and even if you don’t. It has no cause. It’s just a kind of mood . Maybe he was a teenager. I doubt if his grandmother has died, his mother has managed to annihilate herself, his father has run off with a young one, he’s not allowed to see his little sister, and he’s in danger of getting a criminal record because of a kind of overambitious prank with a

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