She had entwined him in her lies and deceit in such a way that no matter how the story was told he would pay as if he had planned it all himself. Her evil never failed to surprise him even after fifty years of living under her cruel rule. The only thing that sustained him and kept him from taking his own life was that he was sure to outlive her as she was twenty years his senior, being his mother and none of her line had lived into their eighties as yet. No doubt she would be the first and why not, hadn’t he minded her since the day he could walk.

She was a cruel woman. His father had been a kind loving man until she drove him to the grave. He remembered the shame he had felt as his father cowered under her while she beat him with the yard brush.

“Get up and fight back you useless man” he had thought. “You are bigger than her, why do you let her do this to you?”

His father was a gentleman and so was he. He would never strike a woman no matter how hard she hit and she hit hard. He never remembered a day when he hadn’t been beaten. Not one. She always found some reason to lash out at him no matter how much he tried to please her, to make her happy. He did everything she wanted and it never was enough.

And now, now her hold was even greater. No one would believe him if he told, no one knew what she was like. “Poor little Mrs. Johnny” they would say after greeting her as she sadly looked at them with those fake tears in her eyes even ten years after his father’s death. Still wearing black and pretending she missed the man she tormented from the day she married him as a young slip of a thing. “A real beauty” they said, “Sure wasn’t he awful lucky to get her”. She knew how to play them all.

He had tried leaving in his twenties and his poor unfortunate gobshite of a father had begged him not to leave him. He told him to come with him but he wouldn’t leave the farm. “Isn’t it in our family for generations Tim? Haven’t I to mind it for you?”

“I don’t want it. I hate it.” he had said but he gave in as he always did. He had stayed in this hell and would now stay forever.

Why had she come back? Hadn’t she gotten away and everyone had forgotten her, thought she was lost or dead or something. Silly, foolish sentiments, false memories that she had invented while she was away. Oh, how he had missed her when she left but he was glad she had gone. “Oh, Mary” he thought. “You should have stayed away.”

His sister, Mary, had been the light in their darkness for she was the only one that could make his mother happy and smile for a while but she was cruel to her too. The worst was when she was fifteen and the young Shaunessy lad took a fancy to her. It was jealousy, he knew it was jealousy. Even though she seemed to love her daughter a bit at least, she couldn’t bear to see the young fellow look at her that way. She whipped her hard and when he was cleaning her up he told her she had to go. He gave her all the money that he had squirrelled away. He told her to leave and she did. She never returned until last week.

His mother answered the door. Her rage rose high and he could see that she was going to do something awful but Mary didn’t see it. Too long away. While Mary hugged him tightly his mother closed the door gently. She struck Mary over the head with the rock she had picked up coming in the door. Mary fell to the ground, dead before she hit it while his mother then struck herself on the arms, legs and temple with the rock, not enough to damage but enough to bruise. He cried out in anguish.

“Now go throw that bitch in the slurry pit where she belongs.” she screamed at his cowering frame.

“I’m calling the guards. You’re going away for this.”

“Indeed an’ I’m not sure am’t I black and blue from the strikes that you gave me. You did this if they ask but no one will. The only advantage of living in this God forsaken place.”

She cackled and laughed as he rocked his baby sister in his arms.

“Get that slut out of here” she said as she went upstairs to get ready for mass.


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