Sometimes, I wonder if it was my father’s words that changed my life, or the rope my mother used to hang herself. The fog was thick that day, I remember that. The heavy grey cloud had enveloped everything around me. And my father stepping through it. Him looking at me dead set. “Your Mam killed herself,” he said. Said like he would one of the dogs escaping, matter-of-fact. And he’d do it himself, in time, the cunt. With a rope. Where my mother did it.
I blamed myself at the start. If only I hadn’t got caught slinging ounces. That made a laughing stock of Mam down at the station. The detective’s son caught dealing. And my father reddened me for it. He took me to the back shed and cracked a few ribs, gave me a right good beating. I remember the nights after, me bent over at the ribs like a soldier ducking from enemy fire, while the two of them reined verbal blitzkrieg down on each other because of me. I was always causing trouble for them.
When I was four I burnt down my Dad’s tool-shed. I was playing with matches. I only meant to start a small fire, I told him. He beat me something fierce for that too. But it was nothing compared to what I did to Mam. She was being hammered by the bosses, and the fucking vulture media, for those missing kids. And while she was distracted I would sell the weed to fund my habit. She cracked under the stress. Or so we were led to believe.
And it all goes back to the day they found me.
My name is Enda Casey. After my mother’s suicide I didn’t stay long at home. My father and I were like two caged rats, alone in the house. He blamed me, I blamed myself, and neither of us were left the better for it. I would go out for walks and come home to him, face down and pants pissed and not for the want of whiskey. I would find him like this most days, in different parts of the house. He was drunk because of loss and when he finally sobered he took the rope himself.
One day, I came in from one of my walks and he was sitting at the kitchen table. We lived in a restored cottage way out in the sticks, a good hour from the city. We had a beautiful home, until everything went sideways. It used to smell of curries, all the spices Mam would pick up from the market; star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, beautifully fragrant. The soft sound of laughter bounced off the white stone walls like a welcome friend. It had a warmth even in the cold. It made me feel safe. Now all I wanted to do was run. I wanted to smash the cups and upend the table. But something about the way Jerry was looking at me put everything on hold.
“Come here and have a sit, would you?” The wooden legs gave that dull screech of wood on stone as I pulled it out. “I haven’t been myself, you know that. I – I’ve said some things.”
I stared at him. My fists were balled, resting on my knees.
“Listen, boy. There is something I have to tell you. Something me and Sarah kept from you, about the day we found you,” said my father. His face was ashen.
“Go on,” I said.
“I don’t know how to say this-”
“Just fucking tell me.”
“You have two sisters,” he said, paused, took a deep breath, and continued. “We didn’t tell you because we couldn’t see the use of it. We didn’t want to confuse you, well, anymore than you would be already. It wasn’t just you that we found that day in the woods. There were three of you. You have two sisters, the same as yourself, special.” And with that his voice trailed off. His hands were fidgeting and his eyes wouldn’t rise to meet me.
I couldn’t think. I could barely breathe. Two sisters. The same as me. Found in the woods. My brain. Would. Not. Work. I opened my mouth to speak, to scream. Not a sound came out. I wanted to lunge at him, to shake him. Why was I never told? I spent my whole life feeling like a freak, like some external observer to normal life. Now he tells me I’m not alone. That dark side of my mind began screaming. Thoughts were ricocheting around my skull like shrapnel. I rose from my seat with vacant eyes. My legs brought me to the door and from there I can’t tell you where I went.
He was still at the table when I came back. I pulled out the chair and sat across from him. He began to speak but I cut him off.
“I have something to say, and I would appreciate you keeping your mouth shut until I’m finished. All my life I have struggled to find answers. Every day my mind has gone wild wondering what I am. And each day I’ve carried the feeling that I’m a freak. I’ve been oppressed by loneliness. Now you tell me I have family, real family? What gave you the right to deny me this? Are they made the same as me? Where are they?” my voice was getting louder, rougher. Before I knew it I was screaming. Flecks of spit flew from my mouth and peppered his face.
Somewhere in the middle of it he got up, walked around the table, and hugged me tightly. I tried to shake him off at first, then I realized I was crying. I fell to my knees and he fell with me. We must have stayed like that for an hour.
“I’m so sorry. The longer it went on, the harder it was for us to tell you. We should have been honest from the start and we weren’t.”
The real trouble started with those missing children. My Mam was the head of the task force led to find them. Three young kids, Anna, Beth and James. Three, four, and six. Snatched right from under our noses. It shook our small community. The investigation was slow on the finding of clues, and that led to a sort of – malcontent – among the locals.
Maybe Timmy Templeman did away with them. Simple Timmy. He was known to drown kittens by the bag load, just for the joke of it. Or maybe it was one of them Polish. What did we know about them really, other than their new arrival and the lack of jobs because of them? Maybe it was Mary the fucking lollipop lady. The honest answer is people hadn’t a clue.
The children were abducted from different places at different times, all within an hour of each other and all within the confines of the town. They each had wandered away from their parents, and by the time young James was taken, the last victim, every Tom Dick and Harry was out screaming their names on the streets. Shed doors were kicked open, yards were searched, and my Mam was right in front of it. They searched into the night, they kept searching through the darkness until the sky began to brighten. This was repeated day, after day, after day. The media descended on the town, and my mother, a woman who hated her picture being taken, was on every television screen from here to Timbuktu. The innocent little faces of James, Beth and Anna were plastered up and down Ireland, from Malin Head to Mizen Head, and little good it did them too. But that day they went missing, nobody saw what I saw, and if they did, nobody cared to speak about it.
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