The Scattering

The Scattering by Jaki McCarrick Page A

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Authors: Jaki McCarrick
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Francie. For the first time ever, I do not trust my father. I think he will do something bad to our brother.
    He gives us money for the film in the Adelphi, but we don’t go: we want to see what Dada will do. After we leave the house he comes out, stands on the stone seat he and Mammy used to sit on together and sees we are not on our way in to town. He tells us to go on or he’ll walk us there himself. We concoct a plan to hide behind the fir trees that jut out from the garden a few houses down so that when he looks out next time he won’t see us. We hear the door open, close, and we stay still. Just as we are about to back up to slip over our neighbour’s wall, the front door opens again and Dada leaves. We come out from the firs and follow our father, who is walking a long, straight route up the tree-lined Dublin Road.
    â€˜He’s going to the Duffys’,’ Isabel says.
    â€˜How do you know?’ Nora asks.
    â€˜Because this is the bloody way,’ Isabel replies.
    As we walk along the steep road in the dry heat, the sky the colour of Francie’s pills, I feel sad. The last time I walked this road I was with Mammy and we were going to the shrine at Ladywell. That day, there had been throngs of people gathered around the statue of the Virgin by the well, waiting for it to overflow – as it is supposed to do every August 15 – and it didn’t happen. Mammy had taken me because I’d wanted to see ‘the miracle’ with her, and so now as I walk with Isabel and Nora, past the Littlemarshes, past Ladywell and on toward the big plush houses of the Dublin Road, I feel my mother’s absence keenly. It seems permanent in a way it hasn’t felt before: she is not walking beside me, telling me about her dreams of moving to this road one day. Many of the people who own the shops and businesses in the town live on this road. Some of the houses are supposed to have swimming pools. As we pass the large imposing properties, I feel myself become more alert, as if the long tidy lawns, the cars in the driveways, the absence of any kind of wildness along the road has woken me up. I see a boy and girl my age dressed in riding gear, their shirts crisp and white as the shirts in the Daz adverts; across the road two older girls are running around in pink swimsuits, whacking each other with towels. Dogs with shiny coats are slumped on doorsteps. Isabel, Nora and I say nothing about what we see as we walk so as not to alert our father who is only steps ahead. But I think Isabel and Nora must also see how different this road seems, how it is a world of money and comfort, one that is not only alien to us but sort of frightening, too, in that it is all so dazzling, like intense sunlight, or the flash of a camera, which creates a glint and obscures the thing you’re looking at. I think how unsuited to Mammy, who never hid anything – and yet, when I think about it, was herself sort of hidden – this road would have been.
    Eventually Isabel stops. She says the white and turquoise bungalow on the southern edge of Cox’s fields is Eoin Duffy’s house. I am glad, as the soupy air has made me breathless. Though we are so sweaty from the walk the midges swarm around us when we do stop. From the shade of a chestnut tree opposite the bungalow we watch Eoin Duffy let Dada into his home. We talk then about maybe going back as there is no point hanging around now Dada is gone, not when we could all be instead in the cool darkness of the cinema, when suddenly, Isabel spots Jack. He is walking slowly down a slip-road from the fields. He turns for the road to his house, picks at leaves along the hedgerow, his long legs loose and ungainly, like a beautiful young giraffe. Isabel calls to him with a whistle he recognises. When he comes over she starts pulling at him, sort of taunting him about giving our Francie drugs. The way she does this reminds me of the way Dada gets angry.

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