Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Looking at heaven through a paper telescope

The first thing I learned in school was that teachers don’t like it when you tell them they have it wrong, but that’s another story. I remember stuff, you see.

I remember a blue-sky day that summer and a cow swaying her way along the road, then lifting her tail to waggle a zig-zag stream of green scutter on the melty tar. My father slammed on the brakes to avoid the enemy fire.

‘They should have brake lights, so we know to keep back.’
Mammy laughed and the cow suddenly turned right into a farmyard. I could hear the hiss-slap of the milking machine through the open window of the old Morris Minor.
‘And indicators’, she said. ‘Cows should have indicators.’
I tried to imagine tock-tock blinkety lights on a cow as I stared from my spot in the middle of the back seat. I said that maybe it would work better if they had those yellow sticks like the ones on our car that jump out when my father clicks the thing to show that he is turning up our lane. He shoved my mother that way he does when he’s being funny.
‘It’s the bulls that have the indicators, did you never notice?’
She went red, for some reason.
‘Shush’ she said, ‘little ears.’
She was always saying that, but I looked at the back of his head and his ears were the same. They were a bit big, maybe, if anything. I remember he said once that it was so his hat wouldn’t fall over his eyes and he’d go blind. That would be bad, surely; he might crash.

I remember the day with the cow, and the cake on my birthday with the five candles and then all the talk about my brother coming, but I didn’t have a brother. When I asked where he was she called Daddy ‘little ears’ again.
I remember all the men coming to the house and Mammy going away. They said my brother was there too but I didn’t see him; he must have gone away with her. I thought it was all the men that made her go.
After that I remember going to the big place with the coloured windows and my father crying and saying that the missed her terribly, but Father Kelly with the white dress said that she is here with us, so you wouldn’t know who to believe.

I went to school then and it was great, lots of play stuff and loads of boys for football. We had to make something out of the sheets of coloured paper and glue so I made a big, long telescope to see heaven so I could wave to Mammy. The teacher looked at it and asked me what it was so I told him.
‘Master Joyce’, he said, ‘I’m afraid that’s about as useful as lights on a cow.’

I think that sometimes teachers don’t know as much as people think they know.