Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ó Conadilly

The School For Uncombed Boys was, and remains today, though under different Deaconship, affiliated with the Church of the Perpetual Sinner, both organizations founded on the principles of Sycophantry and Self-Loathing. Dónal Ó Conadilly, known for his indifference to Catholic and Protestant alike, headmaster of the school, arrived each morning by oxen cart, his wife packing him a light lunch before retiring to bed each night, the muleteer pulling on the reins like a man denied life’s simple pleasures.

Ó Conadilly’s father had been summoned by the Deaconship to bring an end to an outbreak of smallpox that had killed half the boys in the School For Uncombed Boys. Like his son he arrived by oxen cart, his doctor’s bag pottering between his flannel pants legs. He ordered the head tutor, who was always complaining about this or that ailment, his barking cough leaving some with the suspicion that he was suffering from the whooping, to evacuate the school and assemble the boys on the front lawn where he would inspect them for boils, abscesses and recently acquired bumps and red splotches. ‘and make sure you get them all’ he ordered, ‘the cripples too!’ The crippled boys were known to hide out in the cellar when it was time for calisthenics, the leaking sewage pipes and rat droppings weakening their already feeble lungs and timorous hearts. ‘especially them’ added the assistant to the headmaster scratching the dome of his bald head. ‘last week I found seven of them hiding in the basement; naked as they day they were born, five of them covered in boils and cankers, the other two with weeping abscesses!’ ‘roll them out; all of them!’ demanded Ó Conadilly. ‘crippled or not they’re no more special than the other boys’. Making haste, his balding dome glistening with sweat, the assistant to the headmaster conveyed the order to the tutor, both men angling their way passed the hedgerows and manicured bushes and into the school. ‘and make certain you get that Deasey character. I want a word with him’. Deasey, the son of an Anglican priest known to give communion to heathens, averring that no matter who or what you believe in you are entitled to God’s blessing, was the boy voted most likely to amount to nothing. He wiled away his time at the School For Uncombed Boys playing jacks and bullying the crippled boys, threatening to strangle the life out of a boy with rickets if he told the headmaster that he smoked in the confessional during vespers.

He recalled with disgust the years spent as a boy at the School For Uncombed Boys; morning prayers and geometry, forced confessions and the itch of the hair-shirt each boy was expected to wear, shorn and loomed from the friar cook’s legs and mortified back (his hirsuteness making him an ideal candidate for volunteering hair to the saintly coffers), and the nightly beatings at the hands of the senior boys and Numerary celibates. It was at the School For Uncombed Boys that he first met Dejesus; who years earlier, upon arriving on the shores of the city, took a part-time position as the cellar man responsible for the potency of the communion wine before its transubstantiation.

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