Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bath Time

     Friday night is bath night. Auntie Martha balances me in the sink, her lips pursed, the Pears soap in one hand, my arm in the other. There's not much room in the kitchen because Mam is frying the tea for the Old Man who is at the pub. Eggs cracked in lard sizzle and cigarette smoke mingles with the darker smoke from the stove. Mam is angry because she bangs the skillet about and says “He's worse than fifty children. Away all month and spends all his time nestled up to the bar.” Martha soaps my skinny bones and washes under the place my testicles will be in the future.

     Martha knocks the blue glass ashtray off the edge of the sink and it bounces on the linoleum floor. “Ah, you're as clumsy,” Mam says to her. I wriggle about and Martha drops the soap on the floor, too. “For God's sake, please would you be careful?” Mam cries, rattling the wooden spoon against the stovetop. “Sorry, he's wriggling too much,” Martha says, tightening her grip on my arm. “Stop acting the maggot,” she tells me, and folds me in the towel to dry me off.

     Mam grates the orange Galtee cheddar and crushes the cigarette butt out in the ashtray. The cheese is Da's favorite and he likes to sprinkle it on his eggs with Worcestershire sauce before he forks it into the hole in the center of his face. He doesn't skimp when it comes to food, that's what Mam says when he's away. A man of simple pleasures, she says, too. I only want him to play with me, to hoist me up toward the ceiling and to feel the thrill and the fear of flying in his arms. Instead, Auntie Martha cuddles me in her lap and rubs my head with the rough towel. The Old Man's place goes unfilled as we eat our tea and Mam glares into the emptiness.

James Claffey

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