The mission



This is a little short story based on a true event.  Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent ( and the guilty LOL)

                                                                                The mission

 

We had reconnoitred the target the previous night; dark clothes were definitely the order of the day, or in this case, the night.  We could cross the three cornfields completely hidden from prying eyes.  This time tomorrow we would have accomplished
our mission.  The whole troop was on edge, this was our most dangerous undertaking yet.

Joe was the clown of the group, everything was grist to his mill, and his black humour
usually lifted our spirits no matter how serious the situation was.  This time we found it hard to appreciate his jokes.  The pessimist, Mick, was his pole opposite, seeing nothing amusing in any event.  The rest of our little gang were a mixture of these two, willing to
adapt to either camp, depending on the situation.  This time we were leaning towards Mick’s outlook on things.  We had been considering this expedition for weeks, finally deciding the time was ripe at last.  We were all sworn to secrecy, this was a top-secret mission, and only the most reliable of our group were to be involved.  There would inevitably be hurt feelings when the truth was out, but the fact was, a few of our company had loose lips and it was important not to compromise the mission.

We had briefly considered abandoning the operation last night when we first saw the huge dog patrolling the grounds with the armed man.  Further observation had revealed the fact that the dog was locked up at a certain time last night and we decided that this was probably the normal practice.  If this was wishful thinking on our part, we would be in big trouble tonight.  We were committed to action now.  All our plans had been meticulously made and rehearsed as far as we could safely go without compromising the plan.

In the months before this mission we had all lived carefree or comparatively carefree
lives.  We enjoyed the unusually warm summer with very little to trouble our existence.  It was a long time since we had anything like this mission to perform, hopefully we would not be too rusty when the time came.  We should really be okay as we had spent the summer actively, plenty of exercise, swimming, running etc.

When we first decided the time was ripe to proceed with this plan, there was some discussion about the risk involved.  Some of our members were in two minds about it; not least of the problems was the need to keep family members in the dark, hence the decision to exclude certain members of our band.  We had a few setbacks involving our plans, certain family incidents occurred entailing absence from our meetings.  Joe in particular, was absent on more than one occasion.  Now at last we were ready, tonight we would move and hopefully succeed.

The first setback came when we reached the first cornfield dressed in our black
camouflage.  The corn had been cut!!!  Nothing remained but white stubble, we would definitely stand out like sore thumbs.  It was too late to change our plans; we had
to go for it.  As we stealthily crossed the first field, we looked like giant black spiders.  As we rounded the corner on to the second field our hearts sank. All the fields had been cut.  This would make our mission even more dangerous, as we would be immediately visible to anyone passing the windows of our target house.  After a brief consultation we decided to continue.  As we neared the boundary wall, Joe volunteered to scout the target as we held our collective breaths. We breathed a sigh of relief as he scaled the wall and climbed on to
an adjacent tree without incident.

BANG!!  The shotgun blast sent us into hysterics and we scattered in all directions.  As we
reached the second field we suddenly remembered that Joe was still stranded in the tree.  We slowed down and tried to collect our wits.  For two hours we lay on the sharp stubble waiting for the shotgun bearer to finish patrolling the wall.  Eventually he decided to call it a night and returned to the house.  As Joe tottered towards us on shaking legs and collapsed beside us we decided to give this orchard a miss in future.  We weren’t THAT fond of apples and pears.

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A country music life


This story was inspired by the George Jones son “He stopped loving her today” to my mind; the greatest love song ever written.

A COUNTRY MUSIC LIFE

“What is she doing here; has she not brought enough disgrace on this house”.
The undertaker had just left, and the neighbours were filing in to pay their
respects when Jacqui caught sight of that bitch, walking up the drive as if she
owned it.  Had she no shame, showing up here, after the holy show she had created fifteen years ago.  Fifteen long years, sniggers, sometimes, not even behind his back.  Watching the whole town making fun of him; every time he came by.
Every time THAT song was played on the radio or on the juke box in Mackie’s
cafe, there was great hilarity, and it was no accident it just happened to play
each time one of us passed by.  This rotten town will just love this, Jacqui was certain of that.

That cursed talent show fifteen years ago had changed our family forever. That bitch had always dreamed of fame as a singer and the minute the posters went up she was hell bent on winning it.  When she heard that Jesse Morant was to be a judge and that part of the prize was to record a song with him, well that was it, she would have cut off a leg to win it, never mind a family.  The rehearsals were endless, nothing was done in the house, and we lived on takeaways for a month as she practiced for her big chance.  She spent every evening perfecting her act and every morning sewing spangles on her costume.  He was supportive, he would have given her the moon if he could have, he thought she deserved a chance to realise her dream.

Of course, none of us really thought she would win, well maybe he did, he always thought she was special, far too good for him, that was what he used to tell us all the time.  When Jesse Morant drove in on the day of the contest the town went wild, after all, he was the number one country music singer in the country, and never a day went by that he wasn’t on the air on one or other of the local radio stations.  The local talent was good, Jack Lyons was especially good with a stirring rendition of the Elvis Presley song “In the ghetto” but from the moment she started to sing nobody had any doubt that she would be the winner, the chemistry between her and Jesse Morant was obvious.  That was the moment we knew she was lost to us, everything else after that was only a formality.

Her feet hardly touched the floor at home when she collected her stuff after the show.  She left that very night and there is no one in this town who doesn’t believe she spent that night with the singer.  Whether she did or not, that was the last time any of us saw her in the flesh.  Oh! We read all about her doings, every kiss and cuddle they shared was shown in the local rags and even once or twice in the national press.  After all it was big news; she was Jesse Morant’s new singing partner.  The promised record was made and it became an instant hit all over the world, she thought her star had finally risen.

For eight weeks the song was number one in three countries, we couldn’t leave the house, the press had us besieged, it seemed she was the flavour of the month, every one all over the world wanted to know all about her, every time we turned on the television, there she was, smiling out at us, hanging onto the arm of her new man.  We watched him, watching her, at first with pride, he always knew she could have made it if she hadn’t given it all up for him, then slowly, the doubt set in, she didn’t write every week, then she didn’t write every month, he was slowly dying inside, and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it.

The country waited for a second record, there was talk of Jesse writing a song himself especially for her, then he talked about commissioning Jack power the renowned song writer to write a song for them, but as the months passed and nothing happened, the press lost interest and they were dropped from the front page, at last we had some peace.  His face haunted us, every time the postman passed our house he seemed to age another  ecade.  We watched as he wrote letter after letter to her, walking down to town himself, probably thought we wouldn’t post them for him.  He ignored all the snide remarks,
all the sly whistling of the song he had come to hate.

When the first hints of trouble in the new relationship started to appear in the newspapers we thought he would be pleased, thought he would gloat, but no, he was worried for her,
broken-hearted on her behalf.  We couldn’t figure him out, was he for real, every day he scoured the papers looking for news of her doings.  He even wrote to Jesse asking him to look out for her.   After another few months there were pictures of her falling out of bars,
then stories of her bumming drinks off strange men.  She was sliding into the gutter, slowly but surely.  He was worrying about her day and night, walking the floor, he spent a fortune on phone calls, trying to track her down, she had been thrown out of her hotel two months ago, and no one knew where she was now, the only times she was seen now was in the cheap bars, she had been barred from all the classy joints for bumming drinks.  He was getting more desperate as the days passed, worrying where she was staying, what she was eating, had she money for bus fare if she needed to return here.

By this time she had been gone two years, her dreams of stardom had turned to dust, and Jesse Morant was probably travelling around judging talent shows looking for another one hit wonder.  The song that she had thought was the start of her singing career was never played now, long forgotten by the fickle public.  The only place it was popular now was in this town, and only because it could be used as a weapon of torture, not because anyone was particularly fond of it.  She had written once eight months later, asking him to send money, bail money, most likely, and as usual she didn’t think to tell him where she was living, just a post office box number.  Of course he sent the money, more than she
asked for.  As the years passed, she wrote to him every couple of months, just enough to stop him worrying, not enough to satisfy his curiosity about her lifestyle.

Seven years ago, when he hadn’t heard from her for more than the couple or so months she usually wrote, he started to worry again, this time he decided to go looking for her in person.  Looking back now, we think it was then he began to suspect he had only a few years to live, and wanted to see her again.  He made the arrangements himself,
refusing all offers to accompany him.  When he left we were all convinced he was on a fools errand, she hadn’t shown any inclination to see him for eight years, why would she see him now.  He was away for a week, apparently he had found her, and wanted to spend some time with her. We thought it was a bad idea but as usual we were ignored.  When he
came back, he never spoke of her again, but we knew he still wrote to her, although she never replied after that visit.

He seemed strangely content after that meeting with her, and the years passed uneventfully.  Last year he was diagnosed with cancer and we were sure he’d be looking to see her again, but no, he forbade any of us to inform her of his condition.  As the end
drew near he was in a lot of pain, the medication sometimes made him delirious, and he often thought she was back home, holding complete conversations with her sometimes.  We found it unnerving, but the doctor advised us to ignore it, in his lucid moments he was still adamant that she was not to be told, which was fine with us.

Now, here she was, as bold as brass.  Already, the curtains in the town are twitching, no doubt, shortly; a few unexpected mourners will turn up hoping for news of where she’s been, what she’s been doing.  She stopped beside the rose bush they’d planted the first year they were married.  Picking a rose bud, she tucked it behind her ear.  She strode towards the house, swinging an oversized purse, the killer high heels she wore making grooves in the loose gravel.  Coming to a stop in front of me she looked around at all the quickly averted heads.  “Well Jacqui, lets not disappoint them, lets get this show on the road”

Speechless, I followed her into the house, all my pre-rehearsed speeches forgotten in the face of her confidence.  She approached the neighbours, thanking them for coming, she asked them to kindly excuse us, as we had family business to discuss.  As these were our genuine friends, they had no trouble honouring her request, and they filed out respectfully.  Turning to my two brothers and myself, she eyed the three of us defiantly.  “Ok! Let’s get everything out in the open before we start.  Yes! I am a lousy mother.  Yes! I was a lousy wife.  But one thing is true, your father, my husband, was special.  He let me pursue my misguided dreams, while he stayed home and did a damn good job of rearing
you three.  Then he came looking for me, only to find I’d ended up behind bars.  “Prison”
three voices in unison, our shocked faces made her pause.  “Some little scumbag tried to steal my stash, that happens a lot when you live on the street, seven years I got, and the
fucker is walking around as good as new, I missed all his vital organs.  Thank God, I used my maiden name to enter that cursed talent contest.  Nobody associated Marybeth Jennings wannabe country music singer with Mary Collins homeless junkie.   Well here I am now and thanks to your father, I’m sober and drug free, please God, forever.
I don’t know if we three can ever be reconciled, that’s not why I’m here.  I’m here for one reason only, and that’s to bury a good and decent man with love and respect.”  Turning on her heel, she left us standing there, staring after her disappearing back.

We accompanied her in the funeral car to the church, stood beside her throughout the service, followed her, as she followed our father’s coffin to the grave-side.  She stood there in the spring sunshine, accepting condolences as if they were her due.
People were so mesmerised by her performance, most of them completely forgot that we were family too.  Trying to deal with our grief, as well as her unexpected return, under the watchful eye of the town was hard.  She seemed to have no trouble staring down the judgemental eyes of the townspeople, daring them to openly question her.  We still resented, maybe even hated her, but she was our mother, and our Dad had loved her
dearly.  John Collins was at peace now, he no longer had to walk the gauntlet of jeers and jibes dished out by the town-folk.  Mary Collins was here now to take up the mantle, and the town would find her a completely different kettle of fish.  As my brother Kit remarked; “the first person to make a snide comment about her would also be the last”.  We looked forward to that.

 

THE END

 

 

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The alphabet poem


This was a bit of fun I amused myself composing one very wet afternoon LOL

 

A small

Bird

Came flying

Down

Early one morning

For the food I left out.

Got caught by my cat.

Had to take to the vet

I hope he survives

Jesus please let him live.

Knocking on vets door

Let me in, let  me in

Maybe

Nobody there

Oh! Where will I go

Please let me think

Quickly  to  pets  hospital

Running as fast as I can.

Should be okay now

Thank God they  took him

Under their care

Very relieved

Watched as they

X-rayed  and  tended his wounds

You wouldn’t believe how fast away he

Zoomed.

 

 

 

 

 

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My job


                   My job

At whatever I do, I am topping,

The cooking,
the laundry, the shopping.

My job it will never be finished,

For the chores, they are never
diminished.

In the morning I rise with the
lark,

And am busy right up until dark.

I’m a nursemaid, a chauffeur, a
lackey,

There is nothing I do that is
tacky.

My job doesn’t end with a time
clock,

There is always a dirty 0uld sock.

How I envy the factory worker,
when he clocks off he hurries on home,

But the housewife, cum laundress,
cum driver, still hopes for a moment alone.

Would I change my thankless job
if I could?

Yes, you bet, I bloody well
would.

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My Ma


Since my blog about my Da my family been asking me to write one about my Ma. The fact that I wrote about my father first was not deliberate, as usual, something I happened to read put a lot of memories into my head, that just happened to be about Da.

My mother Julia Nolan nee Kelly was born and bred here in Bray. Anyone who has ever lived in Bray will know that it is basically two sections, on the Dublin side of the Dargle river there is the little Bray side and on the Wicklow side is big Bray. Well my Ma couldn’t have been born nearer the river unless she was born in it LOL Woodbine was just barely on the big Bray side, and that is where she was born.

My maternal grandmother died when Mammy was about nine or ten, leaving my granda to raise seven children, six girls and one boy alone. My Ma had always been the tomboy of the family and brought her parents much grief. For instance, on her first communion day she was dared to roll down the river bank in a barrel by her comrades in mischief ( mostly boys ) and came home covered in tar from the barrel, to her poor mother, who had scraped and scrounged to buy the dress that had to go straight into the bin.

My granda was constantly hounded by the Ravenswell convent sisters of charity who ran the Little bray primary school. The Mother superior would drive up in a horse and buggy when he was at work in Bray railway station. She would sail in and search the house for dirty books or other reasons to take the  children.  Luckily, the good neighbours were always on the look-out for her and one of them would cycle down to the station and give him the bike so he could rush home before she took the kids. All my Mam’s siblings had their underwear and hair examined everyday in class, can you imagine? it’s no wonder my granda used spit on the ground passing the convent.

Although my mother’s Mam had a lot of sisters they were not allowed to help her as my great gran was a bit of a tyrant and did not forgive her daughter for marrying a Catholic. This was to change later on, but most of the childrens childhood it was only him. My mother always had great time for the people of Woodbine, because if it wasn’t for them the family would have been split up and put in institunions.

Well anyway, the poor man evenually managed to rear them into adulthood without any major calamities.  And they all moved to the Baths beside Bray harbour, my Granda and the six girls, as the eldest, my uncle Tony had already taken the mail boat to England.  Well, as you may know from my Da’s story, the irish army moved into the International Hotel, just up the road from the Kelly household, and my Da and Ma met up and got married.

I was the first of ten children, and the first few of us, mainly me and my next sister had an idyllic childhood with five doting aunts and a grandfather who regularily took us with him in the guard’s van of the train.  To this day, I love trains. Well, as  this is not about me, back to Ma.  After the fourth child my parents got a council house near the town hall, and my Mam was on her own, Da being out all day working. We were always happy and a few of the friends we made became virtually a part of the family ( stand up Connie LOL) and our friends were always welcomed.

On Summer days Ma would pack the pram with enough provisions for an army, and off we, and half the terrace kids would go, down the strand for the day , we loved messing about in the sea in our knickers and vests,  none of us had swimming costumes, not even our friends.  By this time, grandad and the aunts had moved over the river, so as we spent half of our childhood down there we became comfortable either side of the river.  I can remember going up to Windgates to visit Great granny Gresham and the great aunts. Mammy would meet us after school and we would take turns wheeling the pram full of babies, there always seemed to be two in the pram at any one time. One of my great aunts was a cook in Killruddery house and baked wonderful cakes. You can imagine a crowd of kids, unused to treats, seeing a spread of decorated cakes and flans and our favourite, butterfly buns. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, we were very well-mannered children, and we managed to control ourselves until they were offered. Alas, we were always first offered a slice of caraway seed cake first, and instructed to eat it all or we would get no more. I have no idea what caraway seed cake tastes like as an adult, but to us kids it was poisonous, and as the fairy cake we had next tasted the same with the taste still in our mouths, as you can imagine,  the spread was still there when we left. My mother always swore that this was a deliberate tactic to stop us eating everything before us LOL and I would say she was right.

One event in our childhood has often made me question Mammy’s brains LOL. The man next door used keep hens, and when he died he left the little red hen to the nolan family. Although it was still in next door’s run, we all used race home from school to feed it the scraps we had saved from our school lunches. Well, one day when we came home, he was gone, and we ran in to Mammy crying “Mammy, Mammy, the little red hen is gone” and she says ” no it’s not, it’s in the oven”. Well I’ll leave it to you’re imagination, the scene at the dinner table that evening. It was years before we could eat chicken again. And you know, if she had not told us, we would never have associated the lovely dinner with our hen LOL

When all us girls grew up, it was even more of an open house, as Mammy welcomed everyone we invited.  When my father’s mother was no longer safe living on her own, Mammy welcomed her into our home.

Now granny was a completely different kettle of fish to Mammy, she did not like visitors, not at all. When Mammy used bring in beggars who knocked at our door for a cup of tea, she’d hide in her room sulking. When a regular visitor to our house Bridie ( a real snob ) said to Granny one day ” Granny, you really should cut the bread on a bread board not the table” she was very lucky not to be sliced up herself, sure we hadn’t a clue what a bread board was anyway.

Our house was always full. When we were first in the terrace to gety a telly, Mammy lined up chairs like a cinema in front of it and all the kids in the terrace used sit there for hours waiting for the programs to start. In those days of BBC1 and UTV the programs would only be on certain hours and they would play music behind a test card in the intervals, I always remember the UTV one was a girl on a high stool holding a rag doll.  When I see how easily kids get bored today, despite all their electronic games etc. I think of all us kids sitting there for hours looking at this test card.  Later on, it was the lodgers in the terrace ( neighbours used cram their house with Scottish or English visitors, mostly young fellows, for the Summer) and of course they all wanted to watch the football results on Saturday. We girls didn’t mind a bit, we all usually had our eye on one or the other of them, and Ma of course could not turn anyone away.
Starting  this blog I  was sure it would be a short one, but of couse, when I started, the memories came flooding back. Even today, and Mammy has been dead since the year 2000, a lot of our friends won’t let us say a bad word about her, they say they used to dream about being part of our family.  And one day when I was in a pub, a girl we grew up with introduced me to a friend with the words “Margaret’s family used to throw the best parties” and I suddenly realised, that looking back, our childhood HAD mostly been a party, thanks to Mammy  and I think we have Mam and Dad to thank for being such a united family today, we are always happy to see one another, and like Mammy we all love nothing more than family gatherings. Julia Nolan, (Mammy) RIP we all miss you.

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Paddy’s raffle


Paddy’s Raffle

                                          Paddy bought a mare donkey from a farmer for €5.

It was fiver Friday.

The farmer agreed to deliver her the next
day.

But the next day the farmer phoned, ‘Say
ah! Paddy.’

‘Why?

 ‘Your donkey has died.’

‘Sure bring her over anyway.’

‘What do you want a dead ass for?’

‘I’ll raffle her.’

‘How can you raffle a dead donkey?’

‘Easy, I won’t say she’s dead.’

A week later the farmer met Paddy.

‘How did you get on?’

‘Not bad, I sold 200 tickets at €2 each.’

‘Didn’t anyone complain?’

‘Just the winner, so I gave him his money
back.’

Paddy is now a Manager in A I B.

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One day at a time


If anyone is familiar with alcoholics anonymous, please excuse my made-up version of a meeting, I only have seen it in films .  This was inspired by the great Kris Krisofferson song “Sunday morning coming down” I always find it so sad.  Also, it will come in hady if I have any male characters in the book I intend to write some day soon LOL

One day at a time

The distant throb of drums slowly sank into his drink sodden brain.  “That little brat next door” he thought, “What did I do to deserve this”.  He dragged
his weary body off the bedraggled couch and tottered into the kitchen. Ignoring
the overflowing sink he half filled a grubby milk saucepan with water and set it on the grease encrusted stove.  “Another long day to live through, another day to find excuses for this aimless existence” he thought.  Over a cup of weak black coffee (forgot to shop for groceries again) he considered how to fill his day.  A day at the office was no longer an option; redundancy eight months ago had put a stop to that.  Too old, not able to keep up with the latest technology, too much young blood baying at your heels, what hope has a fifty year old got in this profit ridden Celtic tiger Ireland.

Jim had trouble remembering what day of the week it was most days, but strangely enough
dole day was always remembered straightaway, maybe it was the empty cupboards or more likely if he was perfectly honest, his need to refill his drink rack in the fridge.  The last couple of months had seen very little except beer in that same fridge.  When Madge took herself and his daughter off to start a new life in Manchester he really couldn’t blame her, by then he had found a new love at the bottom of a glass.  Every time he thought of them the pain returned and he reached for a drink.  Pretty soon everything was made
bearable by the use of alcohol; it became his crutch and his only friend.

.  Reaching down to pick his jacket off the hall floor, he found a couple of letters that had been pushed into the corner.  As usual there was a final demand, this time for rent.  The other  One was more interesting, it looked like a card.  Quickly tearing open the envelope he pulled out a birthday card.  A birthday card!! “Who’s birthday is it” he wondered.  “When was his?  Not this week anyway.”  Wracking his brain he remembered his birthday
had been ten days ago.  “Who would send this sad drunk a birthday card, and when did it arrive?”  Staring at the dedication on the inside of the card, he felt his eyes fill up and overflow.  Beth! It was from Beth, happy birthday Daddy, love from Beth.  This was on the hall floor  since—he scanned the postmark, looked like the seventh, what date is this? He eventually decided it had arrived eleven days ago.  What kind of father was he? A drunk, that’s what he was.  A lousy drunk! He cried bitter tears at the thought of his nine year old daughter writing out a birthday wish for the likes of him.  The rest of the day was spent in a drunken stupor in an attempt to dull thepain.

The alcohol did the job very well and after only a few days he was satisfied again with the new love of his life, the bottle. How many times before Madge left had he tried to give it up, he had really wanted to keep his family.  The constant rejection as he searched for work had worn away at his confidence as a man and it was easier to just give up and find solace in the drink.  Madge couldn’t cope with the ups and downs of his moods.  Throughout their married life he had rarely drank any alcohol at all, the occasional drink at weddings or funerals, preferring to spend his leisure at the theatre or cinema.

When Madge was forced to get a job to pay the bills he started on the slippery slope to hell, couldn’t get a job as a dog-catcher with the smell of drink on your breath.  They struggled along for two months trying to save their marriage, well Madge tried; he just hid in the boozy haze that was becoming more attractive to him as the weeks passed.  The final straw had come when Beth had cut herself in the school playground and needed hospital treatment.  He was in a drunken stupor and couldn’t be roused and nobody had a contact number for Madge.  When she came home from work and found Beth missing Madge went berserk.  As soon as the mess was sorted out she packed their bags and left him.

To tell the truth, he hardly missed them, it was so much easier to get drunk without accusing eyes on him.  The incident at the school had become common
knowledge and the neighbours had shunned him ever since, whoever heard of a
father getting drunk while in charge of an eight year old child.  He was a pariah in his street, people crossed roads when they saw him coming.  He came to terms with all this by drinking even earlier in the day; breakfast was now a couple of cans or a whiskey if he could afford it.  Nowadays he was oblivious to the sneering looks and had long since given up worrying about personal hygiene or making any effort to keep the house clean or tidy.

The days drifted by, each one melding in to another seamlessly.  The only change he ever
noticed was a lack of drink in the house.  One day as he made an emergency trip to the off licence, he was a witness to an accident involving a child about the same age as Beth.  As he watched the ambulance crew working to save her life, he felt the first touch of humanity he had felt in a long time.  He realised this could be happening to his own daughter in another country among strangers.  The remorse he felt was not enough to allow
him to forego the drink unfortunately, but it was a constant irritant at the
back of his mind for the rest of the day.

Next morning, as he was drinking his usual breakfast, he heard the rattle of the letter box.
Going into the hall, he saw that he had mail.  “Looks like another card” he thought.  This time the envelope was bright red.  Opening the envelope, he found not one, but two cards.  He sank down heavily on the hall stool when he saw that one of them was from Madge.  A Christmas greeting! He was amazed that she would send a Christmas greeting after everything he had put her through.  Hope you are well! She hopes he is well! She should really be wishing him dead.  The card from Beth was less surprising but just as heart-breaking.

He sat there for ages, thinking back over everything he had lost, wondering if he could ever drag himself back from the abyss of alcoholism.  He knew it would be hard, maybe impossible, he was already longing for the next drink.  Trying to take his mind away from the drink, he decided to take a walk.  He hadn’t gone very far when the bitter cold made him realise he was still wearing the same light jacket he had been wearing through the summer.  Looking around him he spotted the church.  This was the church he had attended with his family. Beth had been baptised and made her first communion there.  He had always imagined that some day he would walk her down the aisle of this very same church.

Entering .lthe front door, he sank down in a pew and buried his head in his hands.  “Oh! God, please help me get my life back, I can’t do it alone” he prayed.  He lost
track of time as he sat there sobbing out his grief for his lost family.  He felt a touch on his shoulder and looked up to see father Kelly standing by his side. “We are serving soup and sandwiches in the parish hall, you would be very welcome if you joined us Jim”.  He was amazed that the priest recognised him in his bedraggled state; he had taken so little pride in his appearance for so long.  Still cold from the journey here, the sound of soup suddenly sounded very inviting.  Following father Kelly across the small courtyard to the soup kitchen, he suddenly felt ashamed of his condition.  It was so long since he had felt such a human reaction that he was near to tears again.

Even though there were some people he knew slightly helping to serve the food, he didn’t feel as if they were judging him and he was made very welcome.  Sitting down at a table with a mug of soup, he didn’t feel up to the sandwiches, he noticed a young man sitting at the same table.  The youth smiled at him tentatively, “he looks as antisocial as I do” Jim thought.    Wondering what the boys story was, Jim realised this was the first thought outside of himself that had crossed his mind in months.  “What a self pitying
wreck I’ve turned into, how can I ever expect decent people to treat me with respect again” he thought.  Yet it was clear to him that the volunteers here treated everyone with respect.    Was there any chance at all he could make the long and difficult climb out of hell?

As soon as he could he made his escape, already thinking of the drink waiting for him
at home.  As he passed father Kelly the priest pushed a leaflet into his hand as he wished him well.  Stuffing the paper into his pocket, Jim hurried home to satisfy his need for a drink.

As he let himself into the freezing house, he wondered what had happened to the central heating.  Deciding to keep his coat on for a while, he went to the fridge for a drink.  As he bent down to get his can the paper fell out of his pocket.  Smoothing it out on the kitchen table he read the text.  NEED HELP WITH AN ALCOHOL DEPENDANCY PROBLEM?
WE ARE HERE FOR YOU.  The same hall that the soup kitchen occupied was the address for the alcoholics’ anonymous meetings. The desperate longing to be sober again went  through his gut, nearly overcoming his longing for a drink.  He gave in to his thirst, although for the rest of the evening he was troubled by memories of his happier family life and wishing for its return.

Lunch time next day, he made his way to the church hall again, needing the company to
keep his mind off the drink for an hour or so.  He had decided he would ask father Kelly to help him find a way to give up the booze.  He was disappointed to find the priest missing, but was made very welcome by the same volunteers from yesterday.  As he supped the hot soup, he studied his surroundings, noticing several posters advertising the various organisations that helped dead-beats like him.  One of them was a larger poster than the leaflet father Kelly had given him, but basically identical in content.  It announced that there was a meeting scheduled for this evening and all were welcome.

“Could he really give up the drink with their help?” he wondered.  Well he knew he certainly couldn’t without help, he would give it a try.   He spent the afternoon wandering the streets looking for diversions to keep his mind off the drink.  He discovered that the
Christmas shopping season was in full swing.  Everywhere he looked there were families enjoying the usual family things associated with the festive season, visiting Santa’s grotto and shopping for Christmas presents.  People clutched there bags to their chests as he passed, and it dawned on him they were afraid he might rob them.  As he caught sight of
his reflection in a shop window he was shocked to realise they had good reason to think he might, he was a disgrace to himself with his dirty clothes and hair.

He staggered home full of shame for what he had become.  When he reached the house he longed for a drink to dull the effect of his mortification.  His daughters face settled into his mind, and her reaction if she was to see him like this helped him to hold off on the booze.  He searched frantically through his wardrobe for something clean to wear to the meeting, without much success, it must be said, finally settling on the cleanest of his dirty laundry.   In the bathroom he discovered there was no hot water so he had to wash himself in the freezing water of the cold tap.

Arriving at the church hall he was already having doubts, there was no way he could keep
off the drink forever, he knew the minute he got home the longing would overcome him again.  There were about a dozen people present, all coming from roughly a ten mile radius, all needing to attend a meeting at least once a week.  The team leader arrived and greeted everyone there personally, shaking Jim’s hand, he said “I’m Pat I’m an alcoholic, welcome to our meeting”.  Approaching the front of the hall, Pat asked for silence for the alcoholic’s prayer.  Everyone joined in with the words, “Please God, help me abstain from
drinking today”.  As the people there spoke of their experiences of alcohol abuse, some had sunk even lower than him, he felt the first glimmer of hope.  When pat announced to the meeting, “We have a new member here tonight, would you like to say something Jim”  he rose to his feet and said, “I’m Jim, and I’m an alcoholic”  As spoke, he knew in his heart that there was a chance at least, that he would manage the long climb back from Hell.  He would forget about trying to give up the booze forever and concentrate on staying sober today.  With the help of god, and his friends at alcoholics’ anonymous, he would reclaim his life, one day at a time.

THE END

 

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