In early 2018 Paul Andruss wrote a delightful five part story and over this weekend and Easter I am going to share again. Good things are worth repeating…
THE HOUSE BY THE SEA by Paul Andruss
Patrick Noone had liked the sea ever since he could remember. He liked the way its wildness stirred restlessness in his heart. His earliest memories were of yearning to plunge into the world beneath the waves; to hold his breath and let the current sweep him where it would.
Those memories came unbidden as he lay in bed, or at twilight watching a red bloated sun sink into grey. At such times, he remembered sitting in someone’s lap with protective arms wrapped around him. He believed it was his mother; although he remembered nothing of her. He imagined if he could only turn his head to look into her eyes he would see everything. But of course, he could not.
Sometimes when he had fallen into these reveries, he thought he heard low singing in a feminine lilting voice. Never words, just a soothing noise on the edge of hearing, like the whisper of waves on the beach below the house. At such times, he remembered large, dark, liquid eyes revealing his reflection and a wide expanse of seamlessly joined sky and sea. They were his mother’s eyes he supposed. They were certainly not his father’s.
His father hated the sea. His earliest memory of his father was of a bright day. Left to his own devices young Patrick wondered down to the beach and stood letting the water lap around his toes. He was entranced, lost in the sound of distant singing. Suddenly he was snatched up. Thrust face first into a musty corduroy jacket smelling of cigarettes, and carried roughly away.
His father did not say a word as he dropped him in a heap on the kitchen floor. He made to take off his belt; then stopped. He stood staring at his son for minutes. Or was it hours? Patrick did not know. When you are a child, time seems frozen and sometimes in memory, time is frozen too.
He remembered his father’s face crumpled as he let out an anguished cry. It left Patrick shaking and he burst into tears. His father knelt down and hugged him. Patrick remembered being held so tight he could not breathe. He fought as children do when feeling smothered. Without warning his father let go and walked out the house. Patrick must have been about 5 years old.
Patrick always thought his father died that night, although he knew it was not true. For some time they lived in two rooms, the kitchen and parlour next door with all the furniture pushed back to make room for a large cold bed where Patrick and his father slept. Not though his father ever slept in the bed, he always fell asleep in the chair with a bottle on the table and a pewter mug in his hand.
In the morning Patrick would creep around, looking for a crust. Perhaps he’d find scrapings of a leek and potato soup from Aunt Biddy, or scraps congealed on last night’s plates of cold boiled bacon and colcannon. Patrick did not wake his father. Not because he was afraid, but because when his father slept he looked almost happy.
He remembered Aunt Biddy in a blustering rage accusing her brother of not loving Patrick. She claimed he was afraid of him. Even at that young age Patrick knew not a single word coming from Biddy’s mouth was true. Even she did not believe it. Biddy had her eye on his father’s handsome house; neglected and forlorn as it was.
A crying shame she scolded, with no fire in the grate and filth in the corners piled high as the dirty dishes in the sink. This was no way to live, with a poor wee mite running round filthy and bare arsed as a heathen. And didn’t she make a great show of wanting to be a sainted mother to him, lunging at Patrick with her great white arms in which to smother him. A fate Patrick avoided only by hiding behind his father’s chair.
Biddy rubbed her eyes with the edge of her pinnie. Rubbed them in the exact place tears might appear, had there been any. Upon her life she sniffled, all she ever wanted was wee ‘uns of her own. But she couldn’t yer see. Not with Big Pat’s lungs shot through with the consumption. Her voice already a hoarse whisper dropped to inaudibility at the thought of any indelicacy passing her lips. The malarkey, she mouthed, not possible yer see. Over the years Patrick often wondered if Biddy had wanted wee ‘uns of her own why she never treated him better.
Biddy was the type of woman any man would struggle to best, never mind his father with all the fight gone from him. As Patrick could testify from experience, her powerful white arms and raw rough hands could land a clout to send you spinning clean across the room; if she had a mind, which she often did.
Not long afterwards, Biddy moved in with her husband, Big Pat, a small mean-built man, skinny and pale as Biddy was large and red. Before night fell, the whole house smelled of carbolic and damp washing, a smell even the tempting aroma of a mutton stew could not overwhelm. By the end of the week she forbad Patrick’s father from drinking in the house, which meant he went out drinking in the pub. Then she forbad Big Pat from going with him, which meant he carried on drinking in the house. From then on Patrick saw his father less and less. Which was good in a way, for when he drowned Patrick never really noticed he was gone.
Once the house was as she liked it, Biddy turned her attention to Patrick. Biddy took in washing and ironing for the big house, the doctor and the priest, and wanted him out from under her feet. Announcing she couldn’t have him running round the house all day long like a wild heathen, she scrubbed him, head to foot, with gritty soap on an itchy rag and inspected his head for nits by wrenching a fine-toothed comb through his tangled locks.
He was dressed in his Sunday best, a shirt with a starched collar that chaffed his neck, short trousers creased so sharp he might do someone mischief and black books so shiny he could see his face. Biddy inspected him critically and after a final scrub round the ears with spit and the edge of her pinnie, pulled on her good coat and dragged him, screaming every inch of the way, to the nuns for schooling.
‘Jeasus, Mary and Josef, what was yer thinking?’ she roared at his father. The woman could hardly believe her ears when Father O’Malley came round to tell her little Patrick was a real heathen and if she wanted him in school he would have to be baptised. Baptised he was that very day and started school the next; the youngest in the whole place, which was really just two classes.
©Paul Andruss 2018
©Images The Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin
About Paul Andruss
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.
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Thank you for dropping in today and part two of the story is tomorrow… as always we would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.