Chapter Two (Part One) 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.


CHAPTER TWO: GARAGE DAYS REVISITED (PART ONE)
                I remember the first day at the factory like it was when I was four years old, and I was four years of age at the time, believe it or no. Father couldn’t afford a razor all the time, and when his blade went blunt or Mother had sold it, he often used one of the nippers to shave. We always tried to forget those days, and you could often tell his blade was gone by the ominous change of kilter in his whistle. There he was, in the bathroom, whistling away, and then the whistling would cease, and he would seem a little vexed. He’d come bursting through the wall into the living area covered in plaster, mortar and grey brick, stubbly and irate, and he would turn to Mother.
                “WHERE’SH ME RAZOR?” he’d demand to know.
                “I had tee pawn ’er in the town,” Mother would reply, and there’d be a silence cuttable with a knife through butther, and Father would stare at the wall, the veins shticking out of his temples, expression full of concentration, and teeth gritted, and a long spout of blood would spray out of his tear duct and a focused burst of energy would send him charging at full speed into the wall, and he’d come out the other side of the wall, and we’d look through the hole he’d just created, and there’d be another hole beyond that one, and another, and another, and so on, ad infinitum, until we could see Father in the distance, standing in the middle of the rafters’ dying room (they couldn’t afford a living room). And Father would eventually return to the house the proper way through doors and streets and so on and so forth. And that would be the end of it most days. But not on my first day of work. O no! On my first day of work he came back and he was still filled with the anger. There was a crack across my Mother’s face, and another, and Father got his shnooker cue out from the corner. In those days, of course, the ‘rule of thumb’ was still in effect, wherein a husband could punish his wife for misbehaviour with a stick no thicker than his thumb. Now, Father took advantage of this particular law by first hammering his thumbs until they were swollen every morn, and secondly sharpening his snooker cue until the end point collapsed in on itself to become what was known in those days as a quantum singularity. Father would spend two hours stabbing Mother in the legs with this sharp implement while he danced the hornpipe for the fun; often, the great big holes in Mother’s legs resulted in the view by the neighbours that Father had fierce bad aim sexually speaking. A condition I’ve inherited, God bless us. But enough about my confusing times in South East Asia, not knowing what to do with myself. After two hours of his jiggery pokery, he snatched me up in his arms and took me into the bath area, cleaned my head in the tylet, and squeezed the back of my neck until my mouth was open. Then he shaved with my teeth.
                Well, it wasn’t a serendipitous start to my first day of work, I’ll tell you for nowt as they say in the North of England.
                Then Father scooped me under his arm, slipped me surreptitiously into his lunch satchel bereft of the lunch which he never received so poor we were half shtarved with the cold, and headed off to the factory. Sure Father was as sure to eat me as he was to work with me, be me his lunch or not.
                “Sshhhh…” he insisted, “Sure, aredn’t we headin’ dooon t’ th’ facthreee.”
                In order for the next apocryphal anecdote (memory being such a pliable and arbitrary mechanism at the age of four) to be granted its full impact, I must detail the factory layout and the general vibe of the workers yo whassup if yanowaddumsayin’. The factory floor was an open plan, which meant that the workers were prone to the elements, such as the sulphur in the sulphuric acid rain which peculiarly localised itself in the incandescent, throbbing, red-green clouds where the strange three-winged birds with whiskers resided, perched atop the factory’s two chimney stacks. It also left the floor workers exposed to the carbon monoxide emissions which were pumped out of one of the two vast contraptions protruding from the west annex of the factory block (the other contraption being in the east annex), the carbon monoxide which was, by the way, a far more pernicious toxin than its carbon dioxide cousin, as well as the carbon dioxide emissions which were pumped out of the other of the two vast contraptions protruding from the west annex of the factory block (the other contraption being in the east annex) and which was almost as lethal to a man’s health as the carbon monoxide. The other contraption, in the east annex, sucked in oxygen. Huge blades swung overhead, abetting in the creation of products. Turbines hummed and engines sputtered. Men wore clothes on the factory floor. Some men had a full head of hair, others had receding hairlines, and still more, there were a few who were utterly bereft of follicles. Some of them had liver spots and some of them had skin cancer and some had high temperatures and some were dead, because the safety standards were not what they should have been. There were times, for example, when those great big propellers would overstep their mark and somebody would lose a head. Not in anger, now. Literally. And then for a few weeks we could play football on our lunchbreak until the ball started going smelly, and I was reminded of my earliest memories whenever we played, when as a tiny infant unable to stand I was playing with my sister Aoibhinn’s shliothar-head as a kind of microphone.
                And we knew it was a group effort to make our product on the factory floor, which was actually called Veracci’s Garage, and the morale was always high, because we were getting paid money for our work, but Mister Veracci, he was an Italian immigrant, and he had little appreciation for the needs of the working man in Ireland. Sometimes he would go so far as to walk across the factory floor, bawling at anyone below the age of eight years, and, more often than not, I, being the youngest man under his employ, would bear the brunt of it. He would grab me by the nethers, shake me violently doing all sorts of irreparable damage, and he would smile, and then he would burst out of him:
                “You-a kids-a—you-a come in a-here and you-a run around like a chicken with-a no head!”
                 Then he would toss me like a pebble into the main reactor, but I grabbed onto the ledge each time, and waited patiently until he departed off the factory floor before somersaulting back out of the reactor like an acrobat. Then I would instinctively make to attack Mister Veracci, but he would be gone already, one of the pure electricity fields stretching across the corridor blocking my path. Little did Mister Veracci realise that it was the same young fellow that he threw into the main reactor’s pit every morning!
                As I said, morale was high all the same, and the lads had a great sense of humour. I recall days when Peadar O’Jones would wave across the factory floor at the five chippers at the industrial furnace and two fingers would be lost to him on the propellers. And he’d shout out
                “Oi!” and with the bloody stumps remaining of the digits on his hand, he’d point at his eye.
                Then one of the chippers, Patsy Kensitt, would wave back, losing a handful of his own fingers in the process, and then with the stub of an arm left to him, he would point at his ear, and in response he would shout:
                “Ere!”
                And it was all fiercely entertaining, and we made our own fun really, when we had to, like when we locked the Protestant foreman in the Masturbation Chamber and us refusing to let him out until he’d excited himself to death. We only did that twice, though, and we had to stop when the Bill was passed as an Act in London banning murther. And my first few weeks on the factory floor saw the whole workforce “jiving” me, “taking the piss”, some of the more sexually licentious fellows were even “getting it up against me”. I remember one November morn, and it was a cold and chilly day, so cold in fact that the penguins had come up from Antarctica because it was even colder than that southern continent, and besides, the Empires were staking their claim to that unexplored region and the penguins had to move house at any rate until the law came in whereby the Empires couldn’t claim any land until the arse-end of the twentieth century. And everyone felt the intense cold sure enough, but one of the younger lads, Pat Breathanach, known as Walshy to the Protestants, he piped up out of him to me:
                “Paddy, would you ever go out there into the coal bunker and fetch the long stand for me?”
                So out I went, not knowing what the long stand was, little realising it was all just a made up thing used on the greenies and the rookie workers to jive them. So out I went into the freezing cold, stepping through the door, and pushed off from the railing at the door, and I slid across the garage forecourt to the coal shed. And I went into the coal shed and looked around for any kind of stand at all, but sure, there was nothing but coal in that shed. Then I heard the key turn in the lock behind me, and wasn’t I only locked into the coal shed, no coat on me ar chor ar bith, with the freezing cold and the laughter emanating from beyond the shed door and those eejit co-workers thinking it would be the craic if I froze to death?
                Let me tell you now, that’s when I started using my wits, because, as I’m sure you well know at this stage in my career as a television presenter, literary figurehead and champion bodhrán player, I am, if I would allow my intellectual brilliance to shroud my modesty for a moment, I am one of the mostest shrewdest, most cunning divils this little island has ever produced, and believe you me this fair isle has produced a few cunning divils in its time. So I ground up four lumps of coal with my hands trembling with the cold, and using the near-frozen sweat from my palms, I turned the powder into a doughy mixture and I stuck it into the keyhole. Then I pulled at the light bulb wire above my head and I unscrewed the light bulb, and I tore out the light fitting and didn’t I only stick the live wire into the doughy mixture and blow the door lock off the door? And I made good my escape.

For the continuation, click here.