An Early Childhood by Paddy Flanagan is a mock, surreal autobiography by a fictional Irish literary figurehead, champion bodhrán player and broadcaster.
Chapter Seven begins after the death of Paddy's first donkey, Massal Byug Dove (Irish short story M'Asal Beag Dubh), who died in a snow storm. After it had keeled over and expired, Paddy spent some months inside the dead animal in order to keep warm (Empire Strikes Back) before the thaw allowed him to return home to witness his own funeral service (Tom Sawyer). Part of his recovery entails paying a visit to his Aunt Molly (Irish short story Leite Dhonncha Pheig) on his second donkey, Massal Number Two. This is where Chapter Seven begins.
Chapter Seven in its entirety below. Any criticisms or comments more than welcome. Thank you.
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE DEATH OF AUNT MOLLY FROM SALINE INTOXIFICATION
Aunt Molly was mother to a healthy Catholic family of three children and a husband named Gunka. Gunka worked in the gherkin factory, a mere two miles from the vinegar factory mentioned earlier in this biography. The gherkin factory was so close in distance to the vinegar factory, I was told by Uncle Gunka, because of Lodge’s sticks. Who or what Lodge was I can no longer recall; neither do I remember what he or it did with his sticks. All I know is that the vinegar plant and the gherkin factory were close to each other.
When I did finally make it to Aunt Molly’s farm one summer later, I made the acquaintance of the first black person I’d ever met in my life, a farmhand, named Old Man Phelps. He was actually the first black man ever in Ireland, washed ashore from the Ivory Coast having spent his time as a baby on a raft. When I first set eyes on him, Old Man Phelps was crouching over the bitter rhubarb plants and hand-picking the nits, gnats and caterpillars off them before slipping the insects on the sly into his mouth like the cute hoor that he was and saying to himself:
“Lovely bit of protein altogether.”
“Hello,” I announced my presence, slipping off the back of Massal Number 2, which was my new donkey, “Is this Aunt Molly’s estate?”
Old Man Phelps stood his full height of six foot minus a good half a foot, doubled over with the age on him, and looked at me. His eyes were dull with a lack of gloss and wizened features were donned on his visage. His hair was a white afro and unkempt and his voice, when he finally spoke, was croaky and strange.
“That it is,” replied Old Man Phelps, “But careful you must be on land like this. Careful and aware, dangerous it be.”
“Are you a poet?” I asked of him, confused by his strange syntax.
“That I am not. Tongue of mine be alien to outsiders.”
“Oh. I see. My - name - is – Pad-dy Flan-a-gan,” I said, careful to annunciate every word.
“Talk strange I do. Not stupid I am. Old Man Phelps be my name.”
Old Man Phelps, I learned, as our conversation ensued, was a mere fifteen years of age. But when he was a baby, a leprechaun named Dizzy Mac Flash had appeared in Old Man’s adoptive parents’ house and had cast a spell on him because his mother had not succumbed to the Seven Substantially Different Kisses and the Culmination when her husband, Old Man’s adoptive father, had been away in the town doing business. The leprechaun had been so disgusted with Old Man’s mother’s fidelity that he had cursed the baby, and Old Man was sentenced to undergo Premature Geriatric Disorder for the rest of his life. However, because he was a cool black fellow, I later learned that many of the local townsfolk had incorporated some of Old Man Phelps’s strange speech into their own local dialect.
Now I’m not one to believe in fairies, but Old Man Phelps provided me with all the evidence I needed when it came to his mother resisting the leprechaun. He showed me a locket, which he wore around his neck, and inside the locket was a tiny piece of canvas on which John Lavatory had painted Old Man’s mother’s nose. Old Man hadn’t been able to fit the rest of the painting into the locket, so many years ago he’d torn the painting and taken off the nose despite the face and carried it on his personage ever since. And that’s all the evidence I needed, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
Well, after bidding Old Man Phelps adieu for the moment I moved on on my travels to the farmhouse and I arrived there to see Aunt Molly at the door, with my three beautiful cousins, Maureen Óg, Pat Gyank and Nell Byug. Aunt Molly and the three daughters were grooming their horse, a filly whose name I later found out was unpronounceable. I dismounted my donkey and ran towards the four beauties and embraced each and every one of them and they met my hugs with an eagerness.
“That was lovely, now,” my Aunt Molly said when we were through with the embracing. “But who are you and what do you want?”
With that I whipped off my hat and I wiped my mucky face with the back of my hand.
“Is that you…” Aunt Molly said, a wry smile spreading across her face, “…Jeffrey Harrington?”
“No!” I protested, “It’s me! Your nephew Paddy!”
“My, how you’ve grown,” said the eldest cousin Pat Gyank. “And what a lovely ass you have!”
They all stared at my ass in wonder, and then I introduced them to my donkey, Massal No. 2. Aunt Molly looked the animal up and down, and she said:
“That’s a fine beast of burden you have. I want a mule to pull the plough, Paddy. Do you think your donkey could engage in relations with my filly and create a mule for our family?”
In the blink of an eye, desirous to impress the young ladies, I took my donkey whistle out of my pocket and I blew into it. Massal No. 2’s ears pricked up and the four ladies gasped in the wonderment of a donkey being under such strivulent control. The donkey made towards me and obediently awaited my instruction. I blew the whistle twice more, pointed towards Aunt Molly’s filly and roared the command:
“Mount, you animal!”
And Massal Number 2 reared up on its hind legs and walked towards the filly, before insituating himself inside her, releasing all sorts of glorious shpunk.
The girls watched the process and cheered when the donkey finished up and I was invited in for the staple meal, which was porridge. We entered the farmhouse and sat at the table while Aunt Molly dished up the gruel from the cauldron. Just then, Uncle Gunka appeared as if from out of nowhere, sitting at the table beside me.
“Where’s my porridge?” he demanded to know, but was ignored by the rest of the family. I looked into his face, and I could see that Uncle Gunka’s eyes were all of a swirl, as if he was under some kind of a trance.
“So how’s your Mam, Homey?” Aunt Molly asked, having picked up some of the lingo from fellow honorary local man Old Man Phelps, as I was served the first dish and one of the feet of the girls engendered itself in my gruan area.
“Shhhhhe’s… aaaahhh, ssuuure shhhhe’s grand, thanks, Aunt Molly, she sends her regards,” says I, trying my best to avoid eye contact with Pat Gyank who was the culprit with the lascivious foot. A second foot, one of Maureen’s, joined the first and before long the three sisters had at least one foot rubbing up and down my cadger. I tried to take my mind off the lovely filthy beauties by delving into my porridge. I shtuck in the spoon and Aunt Molly gave me a clip round the ear and she said:
“Now, Homes, I don’t know how it is in your area, but before we eat meals in these parts, we like to say Grace.”
“Yes of course,” I gasped. “Halleluia!”
“No Grace!” Gunka roared, “There’ll be no fearing of God under my roof!”
With that, we tucked in and I slipped the spoon into the porridge and placed a sliver of the stuff into my face, hungry as I was. The first sliver of porridge went into my mouth and landed on my tongue, but strangely I tasted nothing. I swallowed it, and I nearly retched as I realised I’d just eaten porridge with no salt in it! Well, I glared at Aunt Molly and daggers could have flown out of my eyes I was so angry. You just don’t make porridge without salt. It’s just taboo not to make porridge with salt. It’s despicable. And all the girls spat out their porridge and Uncle Gunka roared and hit my Aunt Molly across the face with the back of his hand.
“You forgot the feckin’ sizzle again, didn’t you, woman?!” Uncle Gunka sez, and Molly cowered under him.
“I’m sorry, Gunk! ’T’won’t happen again!” she replied and he stopped looming over her and exited the farmhouse to go down to the local tavern with a bang of the door.
That night I lay awake in the straw bed, thinking of the three lovely cousins when in approached Pat Gyank in her nighting gown.
“Homes?” she whispered, “Paddy? Yo wassup if yaknawaddumsayin’? Are you awake at all at all? I want to talk to you…to warn you!” she said, as she came in and sat at the foot of my bed. “He’s gone from being an extraordinarily dacent chap to a horrid, horrid man!” Pat Gyank boohooed and rubbed her eyes in paroxysms of grief, her vocal cords heaving and sighing with the gasps out of her.
“Of whom do you speak?”
“Why, my father, Gunka!” she declared, “Mother doesn’t know what to do, and she’s been so driven up the wall with worry that she keeps forgetting to put a fistful of sizzle into the porridge whenever she makes it. The evil leprechaun Dizzy MacFlash put Father under a spell after my Father refused to give us to MacFlash to supply that evil leprechaun with the Seven Substantially Different Kisses and the Culmination and he hasn’t been the same since.”
“Don’t you worry, Pat,” says I, “I’ll sort that little elf out and cure your father if it’s the last thing I do!”
“But Dizzy Mac Flash is a member of the fair-folk,” Pat protested, “If you interfere in the otherworldly realm, you’ll be tried by the Fairy King!”
“I’m the one who’ll worry about that,” I said.
“Oh thank you, Paddy, you’re such a brave young man!” said Pat, and she gave me a kiss on the lips and I thought I was in Heaven for an instant.
“Listen, Pat,” says I, “You just worry about putting a fistful of salt into that porridge tomorrow and I’ll take care of the rest.”
So Pat Gyank departed and moments later, Maureen Óg came in, her eyes full of tears.
“Oh, you silly unwittingly ignorant mofo,” she wept out of her, “What it do, Paddy? What it do is all I have to say? Our father’s been put under a spell by Dizzy Mac Flash after he spurned his request to take us…Oh Homes, and now Gunka is most unhappy and he’s taking his rage out on the rest of the family, so much so that Mother consistently forgets to put the fistful of salt into the porridge!”
“I’ll take care of this Dizzy MacFlash fellow, Maureen. You just worry about putting a fistful of salt into the porridge!” I replied, and Maureen Óg planted a kiss on my lips.
“Oh, thank you, Paddy,” she said, “But please be careful that you won’t be tried by the Fairy King!” and she egressed my room as quickly as she came in.
Next, Nell Byug came into the room, and before she could say anything, I said: “Just give us a kiss and don’t forget to put a fistful of salt into the porridge tomorrow, I want to get some sleep!” So she gave me her kiss, and on her way to her own room.
The next morning I was sent out to work the land with Old Man Phelps. We toiled for some hours, and finally we sat down with a couple of bottles of homemade stout which Gunka brewed in his spare time. I must admit, though, that even the stout had an evil taste to it. I asked Old Man about Dizzy MacFlash. Apparently, the evil leprechaun had jinxed half the village for not succumbing to the Seven Substantially Different Kisses and the Culmination.
“Is there any way we could force the leprechaun to reverse the spell?” I sez.
“Impossible it is,” was Old Man’s response, “Sure, contracts were made by the leprechaun which no longer be broken can.”
Old Man sighed the sigh of the weary, and said:
“Twas demanded of my mother to provide Seven Substantially Different Kisses and the Culmination. If provided they weren’t, cursed I was til death with Premature Geriatric Disorder. Dead is my mother now, no way be there to reverse the spell.”
“What did Dizzy MacFlash ask of her exactly?”
“Said he that if Seven Substantially Different Kisses and the Culmination provided were not, cursed I would be.”
I thought about the oral contract for a few moments, and then I went around the parish discussing the oral contracts that Dizzy had made with the other denizens of the area. Using my quick wit, I formulated a plan. Who are the best friends of the leprechauns? Why, the cobblers and shoemakers, of course!
I spent the following night staking out the cobbler’s shop on the main street of the village, and when the shoemaker showed his face the following morning, myself and Old Man threw a sack over his head and dragged him by hand and foot to the village square. I tied him up there and then against the lamppost and announced to the village people the pending execution of Shamus O’Ceanntagaigh, the local cobbler, at noon that very day. Of course, it wasn’t my intention to kill anyone, and sure enough, as I loaded my rifle at five minutes to midday, the leprechaun, clad all in green and beautiful clogs, made his appearance.
“Who dares to execute a friend of the fair-folk, oh begorrah?” boomed Dizzy MacFlash to the already forming crowd with a volume unbecoming of such an elfin creature. I stepped forward, inserting two cartridges into the barrel of the rifle borrowed from Aunt Molly.
“I do,” I said, and I snapped the barrel shut and aimed it at the little pixie, who was across the street and out of range of the weapon in a flash, staring out the window of the local motel. I, like everyone present, was taken aback with the speed of the little creature with the thick brogue and the shiny brogues.
“Does anyone know anything about leprechauns?” I whispered to the audience before me, now cursing inwardly for not learning more about my enemy before conceiving of my plan.
“They’re found among clover mostly,” Aunt Molly shouted from the crowd, supplying her piece of information as Maureen Óg ducked out of the crowd to return home and tend to the porridge.
“They live in the hollows of trees, I think, and they’re greedy for gold!” shouted a second voice from the crowd.
“They’re adept at getting through locks!” cried a third.
“They’re dextrous, lithe and agile little creatures, but physically they’re very weak!”
“They have a hoard of gold which they must give to you if you catch them!”
“They’re afraid of donkeys!”
None of this seemed of much use to me in catching the little leprechaun, so I pointed the rifle at the shoemaker and shouted at Dizzy MacFlash:
“Get out of that motel, you filthy little beggar, before I blow the head off this cobbler!”
The crowd fell silent and watched the clock tower as the seconds ticked down to midday, and Shamus O’Ceanntagaigh the shoemaker closed his eyes tight and waited for death.
My finger wrapped around the trigger and I drew back the hammer of the rifle and I was coming to the conclusion that I would have to kill an innocent cobbler and find another shoemaker in order to prove my point. A bead of sweat rolled down my temple and the clock struck midday. I began to slowly squeeze the trigger and Dizzy MacFlash whipped the rifle out of my hands and hurled it to the ground.
“What in Jayziz do you think you’re doing?” Dizzy said, furious with me for behaving like such a madman. I took the opportunity I had and seized hold of him before he kicked me in the shin. I picked him up and he bit my nose and I roared with the pain and he gave me an almighty kick in the gruan. Still holding him so that he wouldn’t escape, I collapsed on the ground and he bit my ear, kicking and screaming like a mad little leprechaun as Pat Gyank disappeared from the still growing crowd to go home and tend to the porridge.
He bit my nipple and I delivered a quick punch to his nose so that it was now even bloodier than mine own and he fell back off me, concussion overcoming his senses momentarily as I picked myself up, still sore from the fight, to stand above him victoriously. Everyone cheered as Dizzy MacFlash came to and raised his hand in submission. I took his hand and he bit it. I screamed in pain and withdrew the hand of friendship before he grabbed hold of my leg and sank his teeth into that as well. I thought it was about time he got some of his own medicine, so I bit him on the forehead and he winced in pain and withdrew his head, and I pulled off a piece of flesh from his temple. He held his head in pain, and I kicked him up the arse and knocked him flat. I then grabbed him and I planted the sweetest, most romantic kiss you could ever find this side of the River Shandy or the other side on his lips and everyone in the crowd gasped in wonder. Dizzy MacFlash leapt back in homophobic disgust, recoiling in fear as he realised what was going on.
“Now, that’s seven substantially different kisses you’re after getting!” sez I, referring to all the biting and the romantic pucker, “And you had a deal with the good people here that if you got seven different kisses, you’d release the spells on each and every one of them.”
“I said no such thing!”
“That may not have been your intention, Mister MacFlash, but I’ve been studying your oral contracts with these good people and that’s the upshot of the agreements you made with them,” I said.
Dizzy MacFlash rubbed all of his sore areas as Nell Byug disappeared from the crowd to tend to the porridge.
He stamped his foot in anger, and pointed his finger at me.
“I’ve still to receive the Culmination!” he roared angrily.
“Very well,” sez I, “Have it your way.” And I took my donkey whistle from out of my pocket, blew on it, and Massal Number 2 pricked its ears and came running from the trough in the corner of the square and stopped between me and Dizzy Mac Flash. The donkey looked at me and obediently awaited my instruction. I blew the whistle twice more, pointed towards Dizzy MacFlash who was now frozen with fear and I roared the command:
Massal Number 2 reared up on its hind legs and walked towards the trembling leprechaun, inside of whom the donkey insituated himself and everyone’s jaws dropped at such a little man getting such a brutal tupping.
“Aaaaarrrrghghghghgh!” roared Dizzy with the pain of it almost killing him, and when Massal Number 2 was finally finished with him twenty minutes later, Gunka became a good and decent uncle and Old Man Phelps became a normal fifteen-year-old boy and gradually the crowd altered in appearance as the spells which the evil leprechaun had cast were reversed.
Dizzy stood in a pool of shpunk and blood, rubbing his barbarously ravaged arse, the tears streaming down his face as I picked up and pointed the rifle at his head, knowing full well that in his condition he would no longer be able to walk, much less run, dextrous and adept leprechaun or no. Meanwhile, with Gunka cured and back to being a good and civil husband, Aunt Molly suddenly remembered about the porridge cooking on the fire at the farm and went home to put a fistful of salt into it.
“Now,” I said to Dizzy, “You’ve caused a great deal of heartache and misery to these good people, Mister MacFlash. I believe compensation is in order. You’re going to supply these people with the location of your hoard of gold or I’ll blow your head off its shoulders.”
“You can have my gold!” Dizzy said, stamping his foot and wincing in pain. “After my horrific ordeal here today, gold doesn’t matther a damn to me!” And he told the good people its location, and we all of us went into the forest and in the hollow of a tree was a chest of gold which kept all in the village rich for the next two thousand years. And Uncle Gunka bought the gherkin factory there and then, and the vinegar factory, because, he told me, after being saved by me, he was sweet enough to buy as many bitter things as he could afford and he would still remain sweet.
And that evening we sat in the house drinking altruistic tasting stout before the serving of the daily dose of porridge, and we sat at the table and Gunka said Grace before we fell to lapping up the meal. Aunt Molly dipped her spoon into the porridge and inserted it into her mouth and she gagged, and grabbed her throat before retching and gasping for the air and she moved quickly towards the sink to fetch some water and it dawned on me then that there was too much salt in the porridge, after me instructing the three daughters to put in a fistful of salt in the vain hope that one of them would remember but sure, all three of them had remembered, as had Aunt Molly, but sure, it was too late to save Aunt Molly and she died on the spot of saline intoxification. But everyone in the village was still fierce grateful to me, and I returned home a hero. So that was the only bad thing that spoiled my holiday at Aunt Molly’s.
Mac Flash left Irish shores many years later and he established a software company in the United States which specialised in building web site construction applications and graphic design programs. Thanks be to God.
Continued in Chapter 8 Part 1.
Continued in Chapter 8 Part 1.