THE CANDLE AND THE BED

by Patsy Murphy

As kids we lived in a three-story tenement on the second-story landing. At the bottom were two concrete gardens with railings all around. We used to play there most of the time, me, our Louie and Mary. We'd play kick-the-can, skipping, one two three alara, and cherry wobs up the rainspout and, if we were lucky, top and whip.This day, our Louie won two big ollies from her friend Anne, she was over the moon. These ollies were worth a king's ransom to us kids and because not many kids had them, you could swap them for a lot of things. It started to rain, so our Louie said: "I know let's go and play in my mam's room, there's more space there".

"Okay", I said: "My dad's gone out on one of his walks and my mam's in the wash house".

Up we went to the room. Louie was throwing the ollies against the skirting board. We were having a great time, until we heard my dad coming along the landing singing: "If you ever go across the sea to Ireland".

He was drunk again and we ran out of the room, just in time. The reason were weren't allowed to go in my mam's room, was Louie, Mary and our Tommy had been dancing up an down on my mam's bed and they broke some of the springs.

Now before I say another word, let me tell you a bit about my dad. When he was out of work, he used to go on walks, (a great one for walking was my dad). If he came home drunk, my mam used to ask him where he got the money-from? "Well Mary", he'd say, "I met this good fellow and he said to me: "Jimmy, you must come in and have a drink with me". I said to him: "I can't lad, I'm skint, I'm out of work". "No, I insist", says this good fellow. It's funny that isn't it? How he always met a good fellow, on one of his walks, who always got him drunk. My mam never found out who those good fellows were.

On this day my dad was in a good mood, (for a change) and asked us if anyone had any objection to him giving a song. "No dad", we said, as if we could say yes.

Oh God! Not the "Boars have got my daddy again!" Here we go again. We stayed there while he sang it, with tears in his eyes, as usual. Whenever he sang that song, about his daddy! Then he said he was going to bed to sleep it off before my mam came home.

Our Louie said, "Let's go and play cherry wobs again before he changes his mind and sings again". The rain had stopped by then, so of we went down the garden. All of a sudden, our Louie said to me, "Patsy where's my marbles kid? You had them last!".

"Oh no! I must have left them in me mam's room. I'm not going back in there, if he wakes up there'll be murder".

"Listen you, daddy's pet. You're the smallest. Creep in on your hands and knees and get the ollies or else!".

You didn't argue with our Louie! "But Louie it's dark in there! My dad has drawn the curtains and I won't be able to see".

"Listen you! I'll light a candle for you, but mind you don't burn yourself".

Back up to the house we went. Louie lit a candle and in I went. Trembling with fright, I got on my hands and knees and started to look for the ollies, praying that I would not wake my dad up.

The bed sagged in the middle where Louie and Mary had broken it weeks before. My dad had tied a big thick rope, criss cross ways to stop the mattress falling through.

I thought, I know, I'll look under the bed because they must have rolled under there before. So under the bed I went, my dad was snoring his head off. I was holding the candle to try to find the ollies and the next minute I smelt something burning. I dropped the candle with fright and ran out as fast as my legs would carry me.

"Louie, Louie", I cried, "Come quick I've set the bed on fire, my dad will kill me".

Next minute my dad came running out of the room like a scalded cat, screaming blue murder. We never saw my dad sober up so quickly in all our lives. The bed was ruined. My dad had to throw buckets of water on it. Louie got a hiding, for giving me the candle in the first place. My poor dad couldn't sit down for a week. That stopped him seeing anymore good fellows for a while.


© Patsy Murphy 2006