Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gigantes y Cabezudos

Boys at the O’Athy School were expected to attend daily vespers; even Ackley who was born with a gimpy leg and had trouble making it up the steps to chapel. The other boys would help him navigate his way up the steps and sit him in the back pew, Demne Máel making sure he didn’t topple over and crack his head into the pew in front of him. Fader Muldoon gave the sermon, warning them that any boy found playing with himself would be denied entry in heaven and given a good thrashing by brother Ignatius, the boys seated in the front pews cowering lest fader poke one of them in the eye with his roving finger.

Fader Muldoon drank black Porter and Irish Whiskey in the back booth of the Sibín tavern, sister Hélène tugging on his defrocked cock under the table. The aleman’s wife said the two were blasphemers, ‘fader should know better...and with a Carmelite by God, she’s not yet made her solemn vows...a noviciate she is!’ ‘His errors are volitional’ says O’Hanlon. ‘fader never makes mistakes!’ Cursing under her breath the aleman’s wife returns to spit-shining the glassware. ‘fader even celebrates Gigantes y cabezudos and has the biggest head of the lot’ adds O’Hanlon. ‘and La Mercè de San Juan and the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife’. ‘but he’s still a blasphemer’ adds the aleman’s wife spitting. ‘and Moros y Cristianos and the Fiestas del Pilar’. ‘blasphemer!’ ‘and el toro embolado and the feast of Hogueras’. The boys at the O’Athy School dressed in wool trousers and flax shirts, the youngest in goatskin diapers and doily booties.

Her skirts hung from the gallows of her hips, darts and overlapping pleats forming a tam and tartan hem. Slocum Connolly, giving her the once over, the sun dappling his forehead, exclaimed ‘the woman’s an angel...by God yes’. Brother Slocum had arrived early for vespers, the boys staring weakly at him, the rector’s assistant cursing him under his breath. ‘man’s a charlatan… never once seen him bend a knee or say a Hail Mary’. Snorting and snickering the boys looked at one another with disbelief, Natty Roche whispering ‘next he’ll be fining him for not praying for rain’. ‘I hearsay the Dutch make a fine cigar’ said Demne Máel his knees knocking against the back of the pew in front of him. ‘hand rolled’ said Sliab Bladma playing with his prayer book. ‘leaf by leave’. ‘they spit on them’ said Ackley trying desperately to fit in, the other boys ignoring him. ‘and some of them have bleeding gums’. ‘you fool…there’s no way they’d let ‘em anywhere near a cigar’ said Natty Roche reprovingly. ‘it’s unsanitary’. Raising the Bible over his head, the pages fluttering like cigar leafs, Brother Slocum announced the day’s routine: 8 o’clock: prayer; 9 o’clock: vespers; 9:30: confession; 10 o’clock: vaulting and pommel horse; 11 o’clock: lunch; 12 o’clock…his words falling on deaf ears as the boys were more interested in the wine stains on Brother Slocum’s surplice than in what the day had in store for them.

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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