A Dark Night
A memory of brother hood; the staccato rhythm of rain on a tin roof. Two boys standing against the large window, we are waiting for the perfect raindrop to fall within our half of the pane of glass. It must not be so large that it will roll straight down the window in a useless erratic line nor so small that it is a blind eye. The perfect raindrop, one that will hit the window and sit just so, a perfect semi-orb of pure water that forms a lens into another world. A world inverted and stretched in fisheye view. The harbour with boats flying upside down in a sky of sea while masts and rigs are submerged in a sea of blue grey sky. A moment to step through the lens into a fantasy world before gravity drags the orb askew and down in erratic lines to the gutter line. A world dragged away to run in time to the sea.
How much of what I recall is reliable, child memory of safety and warmth and nightmares of monsters and dead bodies. Lies that sunder safety and rip warmth from a soul leaving it an inhospitable place for dreams of any hue other than black.
Two boys once stood at this window on rainy days and play a game in an inverted world. Then reality intervened and turned their world on its head. Upside down boats moored in a sea of blue grey sky dissolving to insignificance before the ragged face of real monsters dredged from the sea. A body wrapped in netting and tarpaulin, flesh falling away from white bone and a face that had been stripped of most of its flesh by greedy red crabs. The horror of a corpse that would be as nothing compared to the secrets that are dripping from tattered lifeless lips. The real monster revealed in the light of an autumn day, a knife found lodged where skin once covered a beating vein in the rough dark stubble of a neck.
Alice has been here ahead of me, the house smells damp but the dust and cobwebs that had accumulated have been cleaned away. Alice who had been mother to us in the absence of a Ma I hardly remember. Christ memories are so treacherous, how much of a child’s memory is reliable and how much the fabrication of a mind looking for logic in a confusing world.
Jack, the boy who I would come to think of as a brother came to me, born entire, a creature of rain, wild wind and slanting gales. The rain on the roof frantic and the lash of it against the smaller windows like that of raging surf against a porthole. Two shadows loomed from darkness. A vision in sheet lightening through the big window that looked out over the harbour. A man and a boy bedraggled and soaked by an unexpected late April storm. I had a vague notion that we were expecting four people. A child’s confused perception gained from conversations between Da and the shadow of a woman I recall only vaguely as my mother. And earlier memories perhaps but I am not sure they are reliable.
Two arrived, spilling from a world of blown water and raging blue fire. The rattling of the door and the wind and rain coming through when Da opened it a crack to allow ghosts entry to the safety of our home.
Johnny Carroll stood over six feet tall. A giant with hands outstretched to the flame of an open fire, dark hair and a beard and eyes dark as coal with just a fleck of amber running through them. He was broad and coarse with a loud voice that spoke words I barely understood. His accent entirely foreign to me.
These are the memories of a child. Unreliable.
He was perhaps only a giant against the measure of my Da and my uncles who were short of stature and his accent was the same as Jacks and that I came to understand quickly. These are my memories of that first night. I see a dark bear of a man who took up too much space in our small house, so much of him that I could hardly breathe, outsized, sitting at our table ripping bread from a loaf and dipping it in the stew that my mother’s hand must have placed before him. My father is sitting at the head of the table, he is answering questions in his soft fingalian accent so at odds with the rumbling harsh tone of the dark stranger.
Jack sat by the fire shivering. Lost in a world of pain and sorrow but I didn’t know that then. I saw a boy, thin and dark and wild. I was curious. I saw a life of adventure, and open roads, the ignorant settled boy’s vision of the life of a tinker. The romance of a life of freedom and new horizons. Jack was a wild spirit come to settle for a spell in my home. I saw nothing of the pain of a lost mother and a sister torn away. I saw nothing of comfort lost entirely and a boy plunged into a dark world of abuse and pain. I saw a tinker boy, the rest of what I saw, my ill-informed five year old self imagined.
Known and Unknown
Harsh truth don’t emerge in sunshine or in happiness but erupt instead from gushing wounds and dark skies. They are not delivered whole but dripped like puss from an open scab that had been pick and pealed to reveal the corruption beneath.
Johnny Carroll came to the village to thatch and to mend nets on the harbour wall. He descended on this summer warm place with its permanent patina of sepia glow, like a dark miasma, a disease that crept from door to door infecting all. His son Jack came with him but his wife and daughter were absent and for a while people wondered about that and questioned it, tongues wagged and stories were born whole and became truth in a single mornings travel for such is the life of a small village.
I stand now in the home of my childhood, in the main living space with the big window that overlooks the harbour. I am surrounded by ghosts of summers gone, echoes of laughter and screams of fear. I see, through the big back window, what remains of the fishing fleet, only small boats now that hunt the rocks and reefs for crab and lobster in pots and traps, a few others that dredge for razor fish and clams. The boats owned by part-time fishermen.
The bigger boats have fled these hungry shores and gone instead to the west to fish the porcupine banks or south into richer waters, some now gone as far as Africa taking memories of golden sand and corrugated cliffs to the coast of Namibia. The world global village and the villages are becoming places of dry dust and blown straw. I see too in the near distance a cabin, dilapidated, roof staved in and windows broken, an old apple tree hangs over it, gnarled branches like the fingers of a clenched fist, defying the demons within to dare emerge into sunlight.
I see the ‘Mary Catherine’ tied in along the harbour wall, the fast fisher named for my mother. She looks sad, her sides etched with age and rust her bow dipped towards the water in a semblance of surrender. Her soul, for all boats have souls, drowned in mire, she needs surf to live, waves breaking before her like soil parting before a plough share. Eight years and some months she has sat thus, lifting and dropping on the highest tides only but for most of the day her keel buried in black harbour mud. A life in waiting. Twenty four hour form now and that life may be restored or perhaps she will be scuttled by the benefactors of shattered dreams.
What a child knows? Only the simple things. Sunshine and rain, warm and cold, hunger and thirst. With time we learn more, we learn about pain and sorrow. We learn a little about good and some about bad.
Jack Carroll knew too much too soon.
I shift from foot to foot as I look down over the harbour, uncomfortable. Below is the crucible of youth, the beach and the rocks all familiar to me even after the years of absence. The heart and mind never forget these places once so familiar, they become indelible. I am poised on the edge of flight.
I see on the beach below the echo of a boy running in fear across the sand, I see too the dark shadow that pursues him, I hear the screams of fear and the screams of rage. I see dark eyes haunted by fear and by grief and I feel sick still at the memory of abuse and sicker still of the acceptance of it all by people who should have been better, kinder, braver.
Twenty four hours will tell everything, by this time tomorrow I will be an orphan or part of a family again and I cannot decide which option is preferable but there is no middle ground. I will stay out of loyalty, I have always been loyal.
So what did I know for certain that first summer? How much did child eyes see and how much is memory inherited and imbibed from the words of others. I know that I was scared of Johnny Carroll, I could almost smell the badness that drifted off him. A stink that whispered of grime and darkness, a mix of black pitch and dirt, sweat and porter, fetid breath and the rank stench of an unwashed body. He was dark in looks and demeanour and dark inside as well. Rotten to his dark core. His words were coarse and his laugh rough and without humour.
The monster worked at thatching first. Pulling straw into tight stooks woven skilfully to repair roofs on the last few cottages along the harbour that still wore golden thatch. Johnny was one of the last of the straw thatchers, it was even then an arcane art fading fast. Those who needed thatch repaired had little choice but to use him and he charged inordinately high for his labour. He cast a shadow of gloom over each house he worked on, the inhabitants happy to leave in early morning and only return after Johnny had taken up residence in Jem Kelly’s Bar.
Johnny was dark sober and darker still drunk and drunk is what he was every night. I was too young to know drunk but I knew mean and I knew pain. Jack bore the evidence of meanness in swollen dark bruises and angry red welts but mostly he wore the evidence in dark brown eyes that reflected hurt and were fading towards death as the summer passed.
Johnny Carroll was an abuser who believed the world had done him wrong. He was infected with demons that happy people didn’t understand, an abusers heart born of abuse. His hurt he shared with the village. His loud voice shouting obscenities at the door of every house he passed while drunk. Bright summer evenings and warm dark nights and the sound of his voice ringing outside every house, shouting and roaring abuse tailored individually for each residence, slander born of imagined slight and gossip garnered in the pubs and on the harbour. He shared his hate in vitriol he rained down from a lair of golden straw and thatch or from the edge of pathways.
Later in the summer the harbour was coloured with his cursing and shouting his voice full of hurt and meanness. But mostly Johnny Carroll shared his hurt with Jack. Fists and feet his chosen tongue. Punching and kicking a boy of only six years, exercising demons by passing them on to the next generation. I saw the casual abuse, uninvited and brutal, saw Jack struck open handed and fall and I stood stock still for fear the anger would be turned on me.
The village knew but did nothing. They didn’t know the exact details, didn’t know all the specifics or see all the abuse but they knew, they saw enough and everyone saw the results of anger light up a child’s body. Saw the fading wraith that was Jack walk behind his father, dark eyes downcast, spirit broken. My parents knew. Nothing was done or so it seemed to me.
Nothing is more startling or alien than the sound of a child screaming in fright, begging for mercy. Those sounds that came from the cabin night after night when Johnny Carroll returned from Jem Kelly’s. The sound of secrets and of pain inflicted in the name of love. The sound of shadows shushing me to sleep, none of our business, none of our business, a mantra, a poison chant that allowed suffering to continue long beyond its natural extent. Even among wild animals this behaviour is intolerable and yet we stood back.
I’m sorry, I wanted to tell you only what I remembered but you see already memories of others intervene. What did a five, turning six years old boy know of Pubs or meanness or of Maura Carroll? She who was dead and gone in another part of the world. I have one memory of her only, this image of a dark haired lady pegging washing onto a rope line that hung between the bright straight branches of a young apple tree and the edge of the cabin. I hear her humming soft and sweet and her hair blowing back in a teasing sea breeze. High cirrus clouds scudding across a blue sky. I have no memory of her but this one moment. I have so few memory of my mother that sometimes all these memories of mother merge into one and I cannot separate one from the other.
Dancing in the rain
My first real memory of Jack being my brother, born of a storm and a loving hand.
August was humid and close, land holding its breath, waiting for gathering grey to coalesce and pour relief down on dry cracked ground. The sun had not been seen for days but its influence could be felt in the static stillness and the sticky air that clung to clothes and skin. The heat, energy sapping and no respite in sight. Nights were worse, sleep difficult in the confines of sheets, windows open to the sea that too seemed malcontent tossing pebbles and rocks onto a dull bleached out shore line. Off the lane, in fields, grass was turning yellow and leaves on the ash and alder hung sullen and dull. All the shine and beauty of the world sucked high into the greyness of dense burdened cloud.
My Da brought Jack home with him that evening. I remember him sitting at our table, still a stranger then, looking so small that I thought it was a trick of the twisted august light. His face pinched and shrunken, his neck seemed too thin to hold his head upright and his eyes had retreated into some deep dark place.
My father looked and scowled, anger apparent but not at me or Jack. Then in memory I hear her voice “Where is he?” it is my Ma. Even in the confines of memory I look, but I can’t see her, not yet. Her voice is pain, doubt and worry. “He’s in Kelly’s” my father looks grim “Full and belligerent, and this poor child strapped to his boot heels” Jack doesn’t even register that they are talking about him. He shows no expression. I feel only tension, the air crackling.
“There is a storm brewing” it is my mother voice again and now I see her. She is slim and elegant, she wears a simple dress with a high neck and skirts falling below her knees, modest. It is purple with tiny pink roses and her hair is dark brown. Her eyes are large with curled lashes, she is beautiful and the face I see animated matches the image I have seen in photographs so I know this is a real memory. My father nods. He is going out again and I am scared for some unknown reason. My mother too is scared I can sense it though I have lost her face again. The air is charged now with the static of the impending storm.
The first big drops fell on the skylight over the kitchen, the bang so sudden and so long waited that it is startling. I see Jack stiffen in the chair, he hasn’t moved since my father had placed him there. His hands are on the table, fists clenched and his knuckles white. I see his lips quiver. “It’s ok Jack” my Ma is comforting him and I see him relax but only a little.
Memory is fickle. I have lost large chunks of that night. I have committed what I now remember to paper, in statements and in my own diaries. I fear returning to that night, the memories of blood and pain and fear that still return to ambush me on quiet august nights or on dark driven roads when lightening lights up the horizon and dark faces spring forth from the either.
Mary Catherine Baldwin married Martin Moore on the 19th of October 1963 I was born thirteen months later in a difficult home birth that came six weeks premature. Mary almost died from blood loss, I was tiny and cold. My father baptised my in the kitchen sink believing he was consigning a soul to heaven but I was stubborn and I lived. He named me Kevin after his own twin brother who had been lost at sea as a teenager. It turns out I too was a twin, my brother who was born two minutes after me never took a first breath but left me with a sense of loss throughout my childhood. A hole that would eventually be filled by another brother who came unexpectedly, born twice of wind and rain.
Mary fought for life and fought demons of her own for the first six months of my life and by the time she was ready to come home I had already become reliant on my father. That relationship and closeness also lasted. I grieve for the hurt I caused Mary Catherine. I flinch when I hear stories of how I ran with a badly sprained arm straight past her to my father who scooped me up to safety. I don’t remember but I imagine all too clearly hurt in large brown eyes with beautiful curled lashes dropping tears and I grieve.
She took us out to the garden that night to dance in the rain, to pull Jack from his pain and fear and perhaps because she had some sense of what the night would bring. Another baptism. We danced on bare feet on soaked grass in rain that washed us head to toe, hair plastered to our heads. Her hair flat against her skull and lank with wetness. Her eyes sparkling as she spun us around and around three of us with hands linked as we spun in the storm. I saw Jack smile for the first time, saw life return to sad brown eyes, I still feel his hand gripping mine, a connection that lasted forever, I still see her eyes and her smile, I think sometimes like she spun us into forever in that rain, that she spun us into being. She joined our hands and our hearts that night, made of us brothers before the possibility of it ever was. As we danced in the rain she created a pact, a promise of the life to come. I hear my mother laughing still, slightly manic now in my memory. Did she know what was coming? I think perhaps she had some inkling of it.
Candles and Firelight,
He came at the peak of the storm. Thunder shaking the ground and the rain slanting in from the sea. The sound of vibrating spinnaker wires and rigging so loud that they carried from the harbour wall. A catamaran broken from its moorings was rising and falling in the swell of the bay like a book on a sleeping man’s chest. Jack was wearing a pair of my pyjamas. His ankles and wrists so thin showing from leg and sleeve, he was tense again, sitting upright, ready to bolt. The relaxed mood of earlier gone, I think it is the storm for I know others who fear the weather. Every flash of lightening or peal of thunder causing him to convulse. But it wasn’t the weather that had him uptight. Jack was waiting. The clock was ticking down the minutes to closing time.
We sat by the dying embers of the fire, the wind was strong but southerly warm, the fire lit for comfort not heat. I was used to sea storms and the changing moods of tide and wave and found only comfort there. The power had gone down and the kitchen was lit with candles along with the orange glow of embers that played softly along the walls lulling me to sleep in Da’s armchair. Ma was dressed in a white night dress and a dressing gown, her hair was loose falling soft around her shoulders, she was humming softly to herself, a lullaby and she was knitting. The rhythmic clacking of the needles and her sweet voice rocking me gently towards sleep.
The pounding on the door merged with the rattling of tiles on rafters so it took a moment to register. Then his voice loud and angry demanding entry, demanding Jack. Ma’s face white but determined calling back “Go away Johnny, Go sleep off the whisky, Jack is fine here until morning” Jack is curled now into a ball on the chair beside me, I reach instinctively to comfort him but he recoils from my touch as if it is a stinging nettle. Johnny Carroll is pounding the door, demanding entry and Ma is standing in front of it trying to talk him down but it is useless, his fury is all focused now on the door. Lightening illuminates the dark face and insane eyes through the door glass and then his fist comes through with wind and hard blowing rain, his hand groping for the bolt and the latch and Ma screaming at him to leave us alone. But he was beyond reason, beyond words. The door flew open the full brunt of the storm entering our small kitchen, blowing the fire back to roaring life, blowing change into our lives forever just as it sent hot sparks and dust onto the hearth rug and onto our legs.
Ma stood up to that giant, that brutal man and she held him at bay with words and open hands and when that failed she pummelled at him screaming for help but no help came and he was beyond her ability to stop, he was the storm and the fury of wind and thunder.
His eyes ablaze lightening within as he pushed forward, shoving Ma back. She fell onto the stone flags of the floor, her head crashing into the hardness, the sound sickening but still it did not check the storm of anger and hurt that loomed over Jack. The first strike was open handed and drove Jack back into the chair, the sound of air leaving his body worse by far than the sound of the slap, it sounded like death.
Ma is pulling herself upright, blood streaming down her face and I am scared, terrified, for Ma, for Jack. We are caged with a demon who is beyond all reason. He lifts Jack from the chair, dragging him forward and shouting into his death white face, tears are streaming down Jacks cheeks. The next blow is from a closed fist and it knocks Jack to the floor. Then kicks, raining down on Jacks tiny curled frame, kicks so vicious as to lift the light body of the boy across the flags and toward the raging storm outside.
Ma is on her feet her grip tight on Johnny Carroll’s coat sleeve, trying to prevent further damage. Jacks mouth is full of vomit and blood, his eyes distended as his stomach heaves in fright and pain and I can hear my own voice still. Can hear screaming of a child terrified. And then hand are lifting me from the chair, hurriedly taking me from the room. My father’s face looms large, I had fainted from fright and wake to Uncle Paul carrying me in his arms.
Ma is on the floor blood that looks so red, her deathly white face, Da is leaning over her and Jack is in a corner with his legs pulled up to his chest. He is screaming and he is looking at his father who lies quiet on the kitchen floor blood spilling from his mouth, his breath coming in sharp gasps. I see Da reach for Jack and pull him close. “Get them out of here” his voice beseeching and from the darkness Lar Murray comes and lift Jack into strong arms. The last thing I see is Da leaning over Ma, his eyes filled with tears, I see sadness there that is beyond description, enough sadness to consume the world. Ma’s hand is gripping his and she is looking at me, she is smiling through the blood. That is the last memory I have of Mary Catherine everything else comes from stories and photographs.
I recoil from my own memory, tears streaming down my face. I see my own reflection in the big window, see there a grown man but I am for that moment a child scared beyond tears, capable only of that high pitched scream. I swallow and wipe my eyes with the sleeve of my jacket. I feel no shame at these tears, they are not the first and will likely not be the last. I feel still the sharp anger, the unfairness the loss of my mother to the hands of misfortune and a monster.
I recall that night now in dual perspective, through the eyes of a child with no knowledge and through the eyes of the man I am now, with foreknowledge. My mother didn’t die that night, she lived for some time afterwards. Her headstone records the death of a much loved wife and mother on the Twenty Seventh of August 1969. My sixth birthday.
I have this dream which is a memory also, a blustery morning after a storm, a morning after men in dark jackets came and stole my mother away from my world. They carried her quietly to a waiting car and through the big window I see the shape of her head on Lar Murphy’s chest. He cradles her gently, places her with great care in the back of a waiting car and then she is gone.
In this memory my father is sad, his eyes black rimmed but his face determined and I am standing on the deck of the trawler Pol òg my uncle Paul’s boat. Jack is with us and Da is holding both of our hands as we stand either side of him looking back towards the beach and the shore line. I can see our house on the road overlooking the harbour, I can see the big window.
I am three days shy of six years old. I sense the change, I sense the dawning of a colder day. Uncle Paul is in the wheel house, his face grim but determined, looking so like Da. We steam out beyond the point and swing north towards a different coast. We steam for several hours, a whole day maybe, I am never sure. I have a memory then of mountains looming from fog and of daylight fading in a wash of flame.
I wake in the cabin on a narrow bunk, clothes still on. I am alone and a little scared. I climb up to deck, my legs solid and feet certain, I am a child of the sea, born to this life. Da and Uncle Paul are smoking and Jack is sitting on the prow looking down into the water.
Minke whale surround the boat, black with flashes of white. I look down at the porpoises in a great pod stretching to the limit of night vision. I am sure I am dreaming. The night is cold, freezing but it is not yet winter. On the bow rails ice has formed, an orange blanket is swinging in the wind. The trawler still moves north. Stars light the sky. So bright out here where the darkness is unpolluted, where no light is visible except for stars and a crescent moon.
Jack and I are holding hands, offering heat and comfort instinctively and I see the fear has left Jacks eyes. I see the softness of a sad child but no anguish. “Your Da says I can come live with you” I am not surprised by his words, perhaps Da has already told me I am not sure but I nod agreement, I am happy at the prospect.
Da and Uncle Paul drag a broken trawl board to the bow of the trawler. Heavy boards but old and splintered beyond use. Then they drag a second and lift both onto the rails. Red flows in streaks onto the deck of the trawler. Rust stains, deep red, mark the pristine white of the Pol Og’s stern rail and then the splash of two broken boards. Da and Uncle Paul scrubbed the rail and the deck of the trawler. The bilge pumps turned on and more red rust pumped over the side into the calm sea. We are still in company of whales.
We ate ham sandwiches on the deck. Da wrapped us in blankets, blue not orange. I looked at the bow rail and see the orange blanket that had hung there is gone. Over head the sky is dancing in shades of green and purple and pink. The stars shining through the aurora.
“Where are we Da” I asked “Just at sea, a magic place” came the soft answer “Why are we here” Da is rocking me on his knee. “Just helping Uncle Paul to sink some rubbish” I nod, I understand nothing but I am in awe of the aurora and the music of whale song and the crust of ice growing on the rails of the boat. And the orange of tarpaulin fades below the waves.
I remember Da being sad. A weight like a led blanket draped about his shoulders, the world and all the joy of it extinguished for a time in eyes that stared but did not see. His only interest in me and in Jack. He tried to do everything right but even as a child I could see he was not made for the job. He was not built to cook and clean, not built to wipe fevered brows or patch busted knees. He was not short on love but he was an outdoors man, a fisherman who needed to stand astride a rolling deck or haul a net. He needed the sea and the wind to inflate his broken soul and make him again a whole person.
Ma was dead. I remember standing at the graveside with Da. All three of us, me on one side and Jack on the other. Da holding our hands too tight but neither of us pulling away, knowing somehow that today it was he who needed comfort and reassurance. The memory is of her funeral. I have no recollection of a hearse or of a crowd. I have vague memories of being hugged a lot and the women of the village being nice to me in unaccustomed ways. I remember a coffin and my heart breaking with the knowing. The separation like a fist in my chest and in my throat. It was I suppose grief and yet now years later I have so few memories of this woman for whom I grieved. Da took us home, no one questioned the presence of a second son, no one asked about Johnny. We came back to the house and entered through the front door which in itself was extraordinary. I have less than a dozen memories as either man or boy of entering our house through the front door. It required a key. The rear door had no key and was never closed except by bolt and latch from the inside.
I remember waking up in a bunk bed for the first time and Jack being there in my room, still a stranger, connections take a little time to grow, roots need to burrow down into the rich soil of childhood. We are young and friendships are forged in a day, kinship took a little longer. That I was a twin searching for another half may have been instrumental in our bonding. The heart of a ghosts landed on Jack and I latched on. We became brothers before we returned to school in September. Jack was still Jack Carroll then, I don’t remember exactly when he became Jack Moore, I think it happened gradually. If there were ever official papers signed I am unaware of them but by the time we celebrated our seventh birthday Jack was Jack Moore.
Our house changed. It went from a home of comfort to a house of utility. Da tried but it was not within him to be that type of man and so our home slipped towards being a clean and well maintained shell but no longer a place of comfort or warmth. Alice came in nineteen seventy two when Jack was ten and I was nine. Our lives changed again, Alice was not Ma and I loved her most because she never tried to be, she became my friend because she didn’t force me to like her, she allowed my suspicion and my jealousy of her being with Da so much and she gave me time to adjust. Jack was more adaptable than me and he accepted Alice almost immediately.
Like a gull feeding young the sea regurgitates everything. It recycles the world casting memories and sins onto sand or rocks or snagged in the nets of trawlers off the coast of Greenland. Johnny Carrols body was pulled up by a Spanish trawler, a corpse mostly stripped of skin, a trap baited and feasted on by crabs and lobsters where legs and midsection had come away from the faded orange tarpaulin but his chest and head still had sloughs of grey saturated flesh attached. The trawl boards had released him but the knife with my father’s initials and locket with a picture of a woman long dead was enough to identify the stinking remains.
The first shock was when they came to take my father away. George Butler who I had known all my life came in the night in unfamiliar blue, embarrassed but sounding official, his voice strained as he tried to do everything right. George had never arrested a murder suspect before especially one whom he held in high regard. My father put up no fight, he smiled sadly and hugged Alice. Then he took both me and Jack to the garden. George Butler watched through the kitchen window but never interfered or rushed us, just watched, sipping the tea Alice had put in his hand.
I had memories of dancing here on this grass in the rain on a night when everything changed, now everything would change again. My father coughed, unsure as we were. I was fifteen then and I knew what was coming. He told me that he had not murdered Johnny. That was important to him, that I know it had not been a wilful act. Johnny had attacked out home and my father had used a marlin spike on a large working knife to defend his home, his wife and me, his child. His eyes were wide, he was begging me. He wanted understanding and forgiveness. I could give him neither as my world cascaded around me in a shape of bent and twisted limbs and lies that had been sustained for a decade. I blamed him for the implosion that was my life and I turned away from him.
The second shock was the shock of betrayal. I knew then what Jack had known since the night of Johnny Carroll’s disappearance. All those years he had kept the secret and I hated him for that.
In an awful instant everything changed. I had woken in the morning with a father and a brother I knew and loved and by afternoon I was alone with two strangers standing on sacred grass unable to understand any of it.
I was fifteen and I was hurt, felt betrayed, but I did my share of hurting, did my share of pushing and berating, did my portion of damage and by the end of the day I was alone. Jack went to sea with Uncle Paul and I stayed in the house with Alice until September. I left then for school, caught a bus away from the life I had known for fifteen years and had not returned. Before I left Alice told me how much my father loved me, told me he was a good man and I came to believe it.
I had not attended the trial or the sentencing and in his few letters he had begged me not to visit him in prison. Jack had written twice, I had read his letters over and over looking for answers but all they contained were descriptions of a life that should have been mine. A life on the sea, fishing the green waters south of Scandinavia. Spite and a heart that held onto it prevented me from writing back and after that second letter I had heard no more until a week ago when two letters were delivered to my flat in London. Jack had stayed aware of me, knew where I lived, of course Uncle Paul had helped me find work and the flat and what he knew Jack would know also.
And now I am waiting. The time is up, the years have passed. I have come to see if I still have a family. I have come to rebuild that which was broken. I want to be a son and I want to pull Jack to me, to crush his bones with gratitude. I want us to be again the brothers we were.