what it is youâre claiming was done to your son.â As we walk through the offices of the barracks, the guard beckons to a ban gharda * Â sitting at a desk.
âThe wee one will have to wait outside, Mr McCourt. Donât worry, sheâs in good hands,â he says, and my father stops and hunkers down to me. He looks hard-eyed at me, like a sparrowhawk, and gives me a hug.
âBe good for the ban gharda now, wonât you Claire?â he says, and I say: âNo. I wonât be good. I want to come in with you.â The two guards look at each other and I hear the other guards in the office laugh. The ban gharda brings me in to the room where my father is and we sit by the wall. Perhaps she brings me because she sees the distress on him. Perhaps they all know here that our mother was one of the people who died in the bomb at Christmas and they want to help us. It seems everyone has wanted to help us since that time. The ban gharda holds my hand all the while and I let her.
I watch my father pass the brown bag over to the sergeant. He makes a complaint about Jack Duffy and the sergeant writes it down. As Jack, Dada explains, is eighteen, he should go to jail for giving drugs to our Francie who might have died had he taken stronger. I see the sergeant raise his eyebrows when Dada tells him Jack Duffy is the son of Eoin Duffy, one of the townâs councillors.
âGood luck,â the sergeant says.
Dada is pale and quiet all the way home. When we get inside the house he sends me into the bed with Isabel, who has her eyes closed and is clutching a photo of Mammy. I curl up beside Isabel but she shrugs me off. She is annoyed, I think, because I told about Jackâs needle. That night, I hear Dada climb the stairs to Francieâs room and speak softly to my brother.
Two or three days pass and things get calm again in the house. Dada has gone back to the bakery and everything seems normal â with him getting up early and coming home in the afternoon. Nora is in charge when Dada is away as she is the only sensible one among us, he says. Then on Sunday morning there is a heavy knock on our front door. Dada goes down to answer and I hide on the landing with Nora and Isabel. I peep my head round the wall of the landing, see Dada usher in a small man with greying sandy hair to the front room. I have seen this man before. His face is on every telegraph pole in our part of town and on the roundabouts towards the border. He has a pug face, which Mammy used to say reminded her of a Hollywood film star, such as James Cagney or Mickey Rooney. Some of the posters have things written over them. One in our own street had âa vote for Duffy, is a vote for murderâ written across Mr Duffyâs face â before it was taken down. I go close to the door. Eoin Duffy is pleading for Dada not to press charges against Jack, but Dada wonât listen. I hear our father shout: âYa canât believe a word comes out of an addictâs mouth, do ya not know that, Eoin, hah?â
Then Eoin Duffy charges out of the room like a bull. As I run back upstairs to Nora and Isabel I hear Mr Duffy say to my father: âI can afford good lawyers. You canât. And another thing: your boy went to a lot of others in this town. Not just to Jack, who is a fucken easy target, the mess heâs in. Maybe you need to look closer to home, McCourt. Francie told Jack a thing or two about what happened him.â
âWhat do you mean, what happened him?â Dada says.
âSpeak to your son,â Eoin Duffy says, and he opens the front door and bangs it as he leaves. Obviously, Mr Duffy is referring to our mother and the bomb, I think to myself â so why doesnât Dada see this? When Eoin Duffy is out of the house Dada looks up and is vexed to see us on the stairs. He says he wants us to go out â either to the public pool in Blackrock or to the cinema in town â while he speaks to