“If we keep going this way we will never get back,” he mumbled under his breath as his mother kept walking.

“I didn’t ask you to come with me. Go home if you want.” She pounded on.

“Not much point turning back that way either. I’ll still be late.”

“Fine so, come on, just over this hill to the turn.”

He preferred her when she lounged in front of the telly.

He watched her vivid pink-clad arse wobbling ahead at a great pace and indulged himself in a daydream while he could. This was the road his great-grandfather walked on his way to fight the British and free Ireland. Today it was foremost on his mind as earlier he had read over the yellowed poster of the proclamation on their kitchen door. His dad had stuck it there with sellotape the day they moved in, twelve years ago now.

“This is what my granddad fought for,” his father had said as he stuck it up.

“Indeed he did and wasn’t he the brave one. ” Mam had smiled at her husband.

He hadn’t a clue what they were talking about at the time but he held the moment, the smell of wet paint and new wood of their new home. The child knew it was important. He remembered the excitement and he remembered the love. He traced his fingers over the writing on the invitation in his hand and left it on the counter running out to catch up with his mother.

He lagged behind as he skirted in and out of the ditch looking around him as if he were being followed, imagining the excitement and apprehension his great-grandfather had felt on his road to changing the world. The words of the proclamation were floating in and out of his mind as he dodged the imaginary spies that were following him.

Religious and Civil Liberty,’

‘Equal Rights and Equal opportunities,’

‘Cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.’

It might have taken a while but he reckoned they were nearly there. He was so proud that he had one of the heroes in his family, especially now as it made him more equal than most in his school. It was a distraction if nothing else.

She looked behind at him and shouted “You’ll be late alright if you don’t stop your nonsense and catch up. I don’t know why you always insist on coming with me.”

“Sure I had to come with you. It’s still dark,” he shouted back as she raced on faster than before.

“I’m not a baby you know. I can mind myself.”

He sometimes thought otherwise. He sniggered.

She stopped and turned her angry red face on him. “What’s funny?”

“Just wondering who’s the adult,” he laughed. “Why are you killing yourself, Mam?”

“I’m not. I’m saving myself so you’ll not be alone.”

“Ah Mam, sure there’s years in you yet.”

“That’s what we thought about him and he’s gone.” She turned back to the road and went faster.

“Exercise wouldn’t cure what killed him,” he whispered.

She was gone too far ahead to hear. Just as well. Better for her to think he was unhealthy than stressed. Ironic how all that stress left when he went. That’s why they all went. ‘Almost 500 additional suicides linked to recession,’ he had read only yesterday. Dad hadn’t done that, it wasn’t proven. But the stress left then. The banks were no longer ringing aggressively. They now left them alone in their home. Their home, that no longer was.

He shook himself and tried to return to his previous thoughts but it wasn’t to be so he took in his surroundings instead. He listened to the birds starting their morning chorus, greeting the new dawn as if it was the beginning of time. He watched the red and yellow sun rising in the sky before him with his mother running towards it. Her image didn’t ruin its majestic appeal, instead it made it painfully beautiful.

“Lord , thou are hard on mothers,” he whispered gently.

It was going to be a beautiful day. He noticed the movements in the houses, lights behind curtains, dogs barking, babies crying. Tanned, clean shaven, laughing men in yellow jackets were outside the gate of his neighbour’s house sneaking the water meter in. Dad had fervently campaigned against that. He could hear him growling about the money being spent.

“Might as well throw it straight down the loo as it won’t improve the services. Granddad would turn in his grave if he saw what they’ve done to our country.”

He kicked a stone in their direction and ran after his mother not blinking an eye. He smirked when he heard a man shout, what he shouted who knew, but he bet it was colourful.

“Mam, did you see the letter I left on the counter?”

“Which one? The house occupier, RIP one?”

The insensitivity of these automatic computer-generated letters compounded her sorrow. She stopped and twisted herself to glare at her son. He noted the absence of his father’s name in her description.

“No, Mam, not that one. For the record there’s one of their men with a sore head back there. That should lighten your mood.”

“Oh, Jimmy, you didn’t!”

“’Twas an accident. It flew up in the air as I ran after you.”

She smiled and he smiled.

“That’s my boy,” she said, ruffling his blond hair. Then she walked on faster again. Moment lost.

“Better hurry or you’ll miss the bus and that would be a tragedy. Yes I saw the letter. I’m not going.”

“But Mam, we must go. They need to be remembered.”

“For what? For this?”

Her arms were dramatically waving at nothing in particular. She quickened her pace, not looking at her son.

“They fought for our freedom,” he whispered. “Great-grandfather did. They were very brave men.”

“And women, don’t forget the women! And the spouses and the children, what of them? Brave men indeed! Well, maybe they were, and we could do with them now as there isn’t a single one with a spine in the Dáil they fought so hard to free. And what did we get only laundries and homes, abuse after abuse it continued, and maybe was worse than before. Pious men and women who killed each other for freedom and took ours away. Let’s celebrate that, why don’t we? No, I’m not going! What have I to celebrate? I lost my brave man to the banks.”

She stifled her sob but he heard it.

“Well I am. For great-grandfather. For all that he did. I’m going for Dad whether you do or not.”

He spotted his bus coming over the hill and was glad. He ran past his mother to pick up his bag at the wall and get on. He watched her pound on by their house from the grubby bus window, relieved to be going to school. He preferred her when she had lounged in front of the telly, with Dad.

2015

An adaptation of an earlier flash fiction one for an event commemorating the 1916 Rising. I’m not sure which I prefer, they both have their place. https://anngeretysmyth.com/2020/05/25/morning-walk/

One thought on “Early Risers

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