Gwendolyn – part 2
Mother always said troubles come in threes and they certainly did for Daddy that night. He had the hiccups, he had the wrath of Mother visited upon him and he still had to feed Gwendolyn. That pig was a law unto herself .
Mother wouldn’t go within an asses roar of her every since the day Gwendolyn nearly upended her with the slop bucket in her haste to be fed. The poor woman hit her hip a fine wallop off the edge of the byre in the onslaught and she was limping for a week. If that pig was any bigger she’d had been sausages, that’s for sure.
Anyway, after Daddy got a good blistering for staying out so late and not feeding the pig, Mother released him into the yard. I could hear the slop buckets rattle as he lifted them. There was a pause, then another rattle. Then he said “Shite”. Then the buckets were deposited on the ground again. I reckoned a bit of the slop must have got him in the trousers. They were his good ones too. Daddy wasn’t doing himself any favours with Mother.
“For the honour and love of all that’s holy” comes Mother’s voice from the kitchen. The back door was opened again.
“Wait!” she snapped.
“Fine,” says Daddy. He sounded like me when I get in trouble. And then he waited. There wasn’t another squeak out of him, or the buckets, for that matter.
The back door slammed again.
Between the opening and the closing of that door I had a quick vision of Mother turning him to stone with a look. Like Medusa.
Then I her her tut. Gwendolyn must have heard her as well because she let out a particularly animated squeal.
Mother lit for the stairs and in seconds she was in beside my bed poking me on the head. T’was pure luck I was the chosen one. Me and Kate had the first room on the landing and I slept closest to the door. For effect, I pretended to be asleep. Kate was wide awake too. I could tell. Mother hadn’t the time for that kind of messing. She tapped me on the top of the head a second time.
“Joanie!” she snapped.
“Get up and hold the torch for your father ’til he feeds that animal. Wear your wellies”. She departed in a draught of cold air and the door slammed shut.
I was at Daddy’s heels in seconds with his special torch in my arms. This was mighty. I never got to get up after bedtime and I certainly never got to play with Daddy’s special torch. It was a huge, heavy thing completely encased in thick rubber, except for the lamp part of course. It was a miracle of modern technology. The thing would blind you with the light out of it. That light was hard come by too. You had to plug it in to charge it. The buttons on it were yellow and promising, the strap strong enough to swing out of.
“Fair play to you Gwendolyn!” thought I.
The back door slammed behind myself, Daddy, the torch and the slop buckets.
“Oh Joanie, pony puddin’ and pie”, warbled Daddy.
“Kicked the boys and made them cry,” says I.
“Shut up the pair of ye,” snapped Mother out the top of the kitchen window.
Myself and Daddy had a little smile between us. We were careful to keep our backs to Mother. Then off we went.
By gum, Gwendolyn was in fine tune. The second she heard Daddy’s footstep she sang for Ireland. Well, she squealed anyway.
I held the torch carefully to light every step of Daddy’s way. It really wasn’t too dark but I suppose Mother didn’t want him putting any more mess on his trousers than he had to.
We stopped at the door of the sty and let me tell you, it was rattling like a living thing. I got the impression that Gwendolyn and Mother were pretty much in the same mood.
“Oh,” hiccuped Daddy.
“Stand well back Joanie. I’m not having much luck with the girls tonight,” and he hiccups again.
Daddy put down the slop buckets.
I stood well back but I shone the torch exactly where the bolt was. I’m very good at torch holding – you can’t be wobbling it around, even if it’s heavy, or you might as well have no torch at all.
I learned a lot from Daddy. Even more that night about feeding hungry pigs.
Daddy gave a few shouts of “Get back! Get back! Feck off you cracked bitch! G’back! Back ya fecker! G’wan now! Back!”
It seemed to work. The door stopped rattling. Gwendolyn shut up and Daddy drew back the bolt.
“G’back! Hic! Back! Good girl!” says Daddy.
Then he picks up the buckets again.
Gwendolyn took that as her cue.
She lit out of the sty like a bat out of hell and made straight for Daddy. Sur’ the poor man had nowhere to go. Hadn’t he a bucket in each hand, his good trousers on and the hiccups to boot!
The challenge was lost before it began.
Gwendolyn ran straight between Daddys two legs and tore up the yard. Technically that wouldn’t have been a problem because we had the gate above bolted. She had nowhere to go really.
Only problem was that when she went between Daddy’s legs he slipped and landed straight onto the pig’s back.
The buckets seemed to balance him nicely too. He flew past me with a startled look on his face, a bucket in each hand and a pigs arse under his. All I could do was shine the torch in their wake.
It’s etched into my memory to this day. Daddy’s face in an orb of blinding light. His mouth an “O”. The sheen of his good trousers. The glow of the slop buckets. The soft pink of Gwendolyn’s arse. All travelling in the same direction, slowly being absorbed into the dusk of a late summer’s night.
T’was never meant to last though. They weren’t long out of my vision when I heard the crash.
Daddy’s did a lot of holding onto his backside over the following days.
His trousers never recovered. His hiccups were cured though.