Chapter One (Part 2) of An Early Childhood by Paddy Flanagan

“An Early Childhood by Paddy Flanagan” is a mock, surreal autobiography by a fictitious Irish television and radio personality. It parodies misery memoirs (such as Angela’s Ashes by the late great Frank McCourt) and cannibalises and plagiarises from various sources. (People call that "pastiche" when it's on The Simpsons.)

Please check out the first part of the first chapter here.

A later chapter (Chapter 7) is found in a previous post here. I will post more of this work, and I would love to hear opinions and feedback. Thanks.


                So Larry was forgotten by the lot of us, by the by, and his crippling Mystoperia often sent him into a frenzy had he been capable of that kind of movement ar chor ar bith. He could get around on his teeth well enough, and he used to play the piano in order to communicate; starting with middle C down to A and back up to C, that meant “Yes”, C up to D and back down meant “No”, and anything by Ravel meant that he felt a little bit unsettled. He wrote some music as well of course, but it came to mostly nothing, save for the BBC playing his Summer Cantatas for hours on end on the wireless and the record-breaking sales of his third single, ‘I have teeth for legs and legs for teeth’ (six million units shifted).

                The compound which Larry built to spend the rest of his days with his wife and mistress was a large complex, heavily guarded, on the foothills outside the village, and he never permitted us access to it. So Larry spent his days in bitter solitude, with his wife and mistress and their eight beautiful childer and their seven repulsive childer.

                Father never forgave Larry for disowning the family, and ultimately he got his own back. He paid a doctor to go to Larry’s compound and to misdiagnose Larry with tuberculosis, and poor Larry was sentenced to spend the rest of his rest of his days in the Colony.

                We lived four doors away from where the Tuberculosis Colony began, so we were viewed at times with envy by those neighbours whose abodes happened to be that bit nearer. The Cassidys fared the worst; a fence made of steel wire, tied together at comparatively equidistant points with harsh, sharp, spiky knots (today known as “barbed” wire) divided our parish from the community of the Tuberculoids, and much to the dismay of the Cassidys, it cut a sheer and even path through the kitchen wall of their household, straight into the living room, under the shit-caked door spoiler, and back out onto the road, where Mad Leopold Cassidy That Jewish Bastard often stood with the barrel of his rifle peeping over the fence, and God forbid were any Tuberculoids to be found in his fancy mail-ordered crosshairs which he’d be staring through with the one good eye on him. From Prussia.

                BANG! We’d hear, and the roar would go out.
                “Wisha! Did I only get the one?”
                And it’d be two mornings later, after Mad Leopold had served his sentence in the gaol, that we would see him out again waiting. Were it not for that gaol, he would have half shtarved to death with the cold. I remember vividly and with acute perspicacity the day Mad Leopold shot brother Larry dead in the Tuberculosis Colony. He screamed out of him once he’d pulled the trigger:
                “I got him! I hit that bashtard Larry Flanagan!”
                and Mother rushed out of the house, and she ran towards the barbed wire and she fell to her knees and held her cheeks and she let a scream out of her for three hours straight while a fellow from Norway painted her portrait and she gave birth to three healthy seventeen-year-old children on the spot with the fright she got from yet another dead loved one kicking the bucketeen. But Larry wasn’t quite dead, we always said thereafter, because he had only been shot in the tooth. He scurried off down the street on his uninjured teeth and wasn’t heard from again until later in this autobiography.

                Father went out that night and stole a horse with the sadness on him, and just for the fun of it he got polatic drunk. Pay-day was every Friday when Father got the work, and more often than not his drinking binges would last for days on end, or “Jayzus me head” as he would say himself on his return home afterwards. And we used to wait for Annie Turnity every Friday night (whoever she was, Mother never told me), but we’d also be waiting for Father, and at midnight we’d wait a few hours more, and then Heaven forbid it’d be Sunday evening of the following fortnight before Father would arrive in ebriated.

                And Mother would take whatever shillings he had left (in those days, you couldn’t sell L.S.D., you had to spend it) and shuffle off down to the shops on her broken roller skates, the only shoes she had available to her. And Father would gather us all around the piano, all the children, and he’d sit Larry (many years before he’d been shot) in front of the keyboard and hold him by the hair, and while Father sang his nationalist hymns, he’d slam poor Larry’s mystoperic head into the ivories with such a force of emphasis that Larry’s poor feet would be bloody lumps for about a full term of one of Mother’s pregnancies. And Father would sing for hours, head back, chin up, eyes styptic with latent teardrops as he bashed Larry’s head and sang all night to the rafters. Now, just to give you an idea of the sheer volume of Father’s voice, we lived in Number 27. The rafters lived in Number 82, and they were so poor that they couldn’t afford a capital letter for their surname. In fact, they were so poverty stricken that they had to call their surname a crime, as they couldn’t afford to catalogue it as a name at the deed poll registry office on Main Avenue. Indeed, pat and pat rafter had only married to save money as they both had the same surname and they were both men. In the eyes of the Church, then, they weren’t lawfully matrimonised. Illegality meant no money was paid. But the sheerest sign of stark poverty within that household was that each of their twenty-three children were also eponomids. Every morning, all twenty-five pat rafters would go down to the tylet in Main Square (the public one, made out of copper before it was destroyed in the Emergency) to wash the one piece of string that constituted the family wardrobe.

                Of course, more often than not, it would be more than two weeks before Father would show up at the door after one of his binges. On those occasions, Mother would take all thirty-one of us (the two sets of triplets and sister Aoibhinn being dead at this stage) to the orphanage run by the Holy But In Terms of How They Treat Unmarried Mothers Completely Out of Order Order Order of sisters (the third Order being a typo), and Mother would do the house-keeping for a few weeks to earn the “God’s shillin’” as it was known and to get the shcrapsh from the meals so that we’d have something to fill our mouths with apart from Mother’s earlobes and teats (I was exaggerating in the extreme when I said she was only an ear, by the way. And Father wasn’t a goat either. I only said that to spruce up the beginning a little bit). At the convent, Mother would often “do the stealing” whereby she would wait for the nuns to go to sleep before covering one of them with blue paint (what was known much later as “endeavouring to alter the person so that one looked more like an axe-wielding musician in a Picasso painting”) and shipping all the food, cutlery, ornaments and holy relics out of the convent in the convent trolley and burying them on the strand where they’d be picked up by her at a later date. The nuns would wake up the following morning and go straight to Chapel No. 5 for their daily matins before noticing the blessed wine, the bread, the chalice, the trinkets and the box of dead cats gone missing out of the place. They’d point immediately at the nun who’d been coloured blue. The lady in blue would deny all knowledge of the missing paraphernalia, but her colour would itself imply to the rest of the cloisterers that there was some bewitchery afoot. Blue not only indicated the hand of the devil, but the nun’s own mortification, and the finger would be pointed, first by Mother Mary Magdalene, then, after her departure from God’s Green Earth, by Mother Julio Iglesias. To add further incrimination to the blue nun, Mother would be seized by the Grip, or the Quickening, whereby she would fall into a tremble, the eyes would go into the back of her head, and she would point a gnarled finger at the blue nun.

                “Twas her!” she’d scream, “By Jehusaleh and all the Prophets, twas her!”

                Of course, it was all an act, nothing more than a drama talent, but the nuns all thought Mother had a gift from God, and they fell for it, hook and line (we couldn’t afford the sinker). They took Mother at her word and the blue nun by the scruff of the neck and beat her to a bloody pulp and buried her for two weeks in a vat of cheap wine where she would spend two weeks in case they’d forgotten. The rest of the community would then drag her, numb and drunk, into the clearing outside the orphanage and thrown into a pit she’d be where the Homosexual Lion resided. The Lion would swallow each blue nun whole, and would digest her for a thousand days. The grisly procedure was known as the Cert of Daniel, and no clergywoman who had been swallowed by the beast had ever lived to see the tail.

                The nuns were harsh surrogate parents, they were the Irish answer to the Schulz Staffelu in Nasty Germany – except predating them by some four or nine decades. Predating those Nasty Germans through vicious espionage followed by assault, that is. Picking them off one by one and bit by bit.

                Every morning, give or take a week or two, the nuns would wake us up by rolling a grenade under the bed that eight of us (me, my sister Marie-Wallace, and six of the orphans) shared, and the bed would go up into smithereens, and we’d be sure as God awake, with a fatality or two into the bargain. And that’s where the expression ‘Bargain Basement’ comes from, because the dead bodies were placed in the orphanage cellar.

                After whatever makeshift funerals took place, we had to lacquer the stairwell and sugarfrost the community’s stash of rabid flakes of corn so that they’d taste not unlike a rival brand of cereal (but it wasn’t Kellogg’s Frosties for legal reasons) and then, after three hours of that carry-on, there’d be cutlery to polish if Mother hadn’t been entirely successful in her kleptomanic pursuits, after which we’d get a black eye, a broken jaw and a few welts on our back (which we had to share) for lunch. If we were lucky. With a bit of schooling thrown in, you’d run the risk of losing a limb if you were thought ignorant by those madly habited women. Excuse my bad language.

                And every day I was sent on an errand by those madly habited women, forty-three miles if it was a day to The Bishop’s Epistolary Palace in the snow and rain with boots made out of nails and studs and thumb tacks and knives and forks and scissors and I had to deliver a note to the Bishop.

                Bishop O’Brien would invite me into his epistolary castle (where he received his letters) and I would sit and watch a screen on the broad side of what was known as a pixel manipulator and stare for hours at the images that would come up from a place which the good bishop called Alexandra Palace.

                And he would fetch me a Guinness, or a Jemmy Rocks if there was no stout available, and I would drink the beverage and slowly my eyes would close and I’d be asleep for a couple of hours, or maybe more, I’m not certain, but I’d be out like a light that had been switched off for three minutes, or a light, as they say nowadays. And that was without doubt the best period of my early childhood, being asleep in the castle of the bishop, and he would read the letter that I’d delivered from the Out of Order Order, while he sat on his throne with his mitre on his head, which was a great phallocentric symbol of the patriarchal control held by the Church Fathers over the Church Mothers, and, indeed, the mothers of the Church Fathers, as well as their daughters and their wives, if they were allowed to have any, which they weren’t, of course. But some of them had anyway.

                To put it mildly, women had to ask the bishop’s permission to use the tylet. And that’s what those letters which I took with me from the nuns to the bishop were all about. They concerned a demand for each lady clergy woman to go to the tylet in Main Square made of copper before it was wiped out in the Emergency by the Luftwaffles. And those are the earliest memories of my childhood. After that, once I was four, I had to start going to work in the factory.

The first part of the next chapter is online here.