BEFORE GIRLS GREW BREASTS- Excerpt Story
My grandfather, who I called ‘poppops’ had his ear to the ground. He knew what ran through a 10 year olds mind. His father was called ‘the boss’ his whole life, of course his son knew the score.
Builders and carpenters began arriving in my garden a week before my birthday. That was enough of a present in itself, men with belts, tools and drills were evocations of enthral. They began working on my favourite climbing tree- the grand oak in the front garden- I was not too happy. I whined like a little bitch until I found out the purpose of the clatteryclang abounding in the garden.
My own frickin house! I did not know what to do... I hung around like a phosphorsence on the shore, lighting up when something became erected and dulled down when I had to go to bed or move away due to danger. The stilts went up first! like an indonesian house keeping out Komodos, the elevation would hault any wandering enemy gang for the height advantage would allow us to hypothetically fire arrows, drop pots of molten oil and heckle with superiority.
It fitted the tree with delight. New wood against ancient living earth. They painted it brown for camouflage, and had a stairs attached an all! There was a porch and then a small hobbit door that was always open. The inside was simple, but fitted 5 or 6 of us younglings.
From here you could climb the tree a mile up, where before, the initial jump was too macho. The tree climbing club was in full force at the time. Picnics, kiss games and wars were settled in the home. When it rained we sat inside, talking nonsense and making up stories. One winter we spent the whole time collecting balls of mud. There was a shelf inside, that we layed them unto. In spring, hardened, we burst them at eachother, but not all of them, some were still thrung to the shelf last time I looked inside the treehouse.
They cut the old oak back one year and it did not survive the disrespect. The tree eventually molded into the treehouse and the pair began to resemble one of our mudballs.
After a game of ball in summer and twilight clouding up the goalies eyes, estate chase became the option of choice. The wack of heads playing on the field would all be roped into the game. Ages varying from youngsters like myself, 10 years of age up to older teenagers who would be knacker drinking if they were not playing “man hunt” which was the other name for estate chase. The boundaries were simple. Only inside Thormanby lawns estate, no hiding inside gaffs and climbing trees to hide was a no go. If you were fierce unlucky enough to be on for the first count, you sat by the object of initiation(usually a tree) and were commanded to count 30 off, while the whole estate burned off to find a hiding spot.
From surrounded to emptyville, you were full of buzz and then a nothing man in search of recruits, for when you found a head you now gained them as a teammate in the find. The beginning was lonely, but as you snuck around your crew got bigger and began to plot plans to find the others. Quarrels would break out among the newly found block rats, but if you were first on, they usually respected your leadership as long as you had the moxy to go along with it. Tactics became the norm as people found devious ways of trickery to decieve their would be assailants. Throwing your voice or being caught by one of the heads but bribing them into not letting the original know of his or her wherabouts was all part of the buzz.
To be the last person unfound was exhilarating. Scampering through gardens over sheds and into bushes, catching some fella’s eye and mirking back into the shadow of invisible, then leggin it out the garden at a sprint and all of sudden its on!! fifteen people collectively realise where you have been hiding, the whiff of awe sifts through the moment and the race begins. The group would always catch you, but for moments there is only the idea of being a genius with no plan and every intention of applying it to brilliance and your friends believing you are the incarnation of shifty.
Sometimes the game was just a reason to spend time with someone, preferably a girl you dug. I got caught three times one day with Barbera by “fitzer” who had a penchant for abuse but let us both away with it when he felt the love buzz. He was not on, but didn’t rat us out which meant we must have come of age that day as usually he would have done something fierce like ambush us. We did not kiss that night but we knew there was a reason we hung around together in bushes.
The first person stung was on next round. It served you right and you knew it. There was plenty of estate. Older kids would break the rules, but that was a right of passage. Your olddom would bring all the benefits that dealing with dead arms and getting spat on through growing up, so that now it was your time to bend the rules. Heads would make noises in certain areas and then run to other vantages to put you off, grokking ingenuity, it was a bit like being blindfolded but with the weapon of ears. If you were it for two hours it sucked the fat one but that only happened if you had enemies in collusion.
There was always people who got picked on, it was just about not being pluckable.
As the summer days dribbled into an earlier twilight, darkness took fuzzball out of its freeflow and brought about time to contemplate the holiday that was more in our hands than any other. From the beginning of autumn, the Thormanby gang chirped about our grand plans to conjure the best bonfire yet, one that would undoubtedly blaze higher then any local heap of fire. The watershed between school and bedtime gave us a collective two or three hours to scour the perimeter of Thormanby Estate. There was a nettle field, so called due to its abundance of ferocious stingeroos. It must have been a forest that had been cursed for its roots lay under thick grass but no trees grew for us to climb so that we could bounce round the stingbots.
That gathering brought some soggy wood and random items that would flag the fire as decorations. To get the real wood, the kind that is petrol posing as wood and lights so good you knew it never wanted to live; that had to be found out of estate reach.
The Gaelic Football club( GAA club) up the way, had a cornucopia of burn for us. Behind the clubhouse there pulsated a living wood that was not forthcoming in its gifts of dry petrol wood but handed over some spoils if you persevered enough for it to respect you and then award the credit due. It was a ‘Lord of the rings’ or ‘Princess of the bride’ forest, that spoke and was spoken about.
We would tell eachother how to get rid of the badgers that attacked you, (by snapping a twig when its got your leg in chomp, it thinks it has broken your leg and should be content and bust off then!) and make up tales of the witch of the wood just for the trembles of darkness that landed around us on those cooling autumn nights. The bounty was hidden back in Thormanby and within a few whiles, the pile grew with our excitement.
Thormanby had two seperate parts, the top part and the ‘bottom estate’ which had a different set of lads who were mostly nerds to us and never quite got it, whatever IT was. When pumpkins began to get slashed and the sugar cane industry riffled a profit streak, inter-estate battles began. You see, no matter how much we had for the bonfire it was never the size of a house and that just would not do. The ‘bottom estate’ gave it a go at collecting for there own meagre flicker, and most years we would trundle down out of jurasdiction and skirmish the area with slingshots in belt and plunder their treasure. There was never much resistance for we had numbers and they knew that our bonfire was gonna bring people from all over Howth and that they would be welcome to bop along, as long as they didn’t expect friendship.
The eclectic army of sticks, shards, fabrics, cots, nappies, sponges, clothes and newspapers would assemble in the patch right in the middle of the grey tarmac. If it was windy we were ducked, but halloween always came with a soft air. Fireball fights were common, if you could get a 50 shooter you became a firework wielding madyoke, spurning gun shots across the street at your best friend.
Everything told you not to do it and so when one blew up in my hand, I thought it was game over but the thing just left me a rambo scar to tell everyone when school reconvened. When the blaze finally reached its pinnacle the fumes were toxic and standing in the line of smoke was certain damage, but thats what we wanted.
If mischief was not accounted for by a major chase from the piggers then we had failed. As we got older and heads from Howth village came up to the patch it incrimentally increased the chances of being stung by the gardai. We would burst fireworks at there cars and then leg it off, threw apples that we yonked out of kids trick or treat bags and pelted them at the ensuing copper or lobbed bangers under the car while heckling them with such and such harangue. When they finally called backup and got a paddy wagon after ya, it was money! Adrenoline jived the body and survival in the sprint became the reason that bonfire, that emblem for rebellion was created.
Most had their sweets but we had fire inside us.
Whenever a collie passes by, I get flashbacks and think “that dog doesnt have the nose of a collie.” When you get down to the bare essentials, fancy had a mahussive snozz. It was not useless in its brevity; for it could smell dinner from years away. She was the family dog, that one we all want to find another of when we grow our own family.
By the time I was sprucey enough to play with her, she was past her scrappy days and led a life of pure elegance. She sat, it was a picture. With neck outstretched, paws lying flat , her hind-legs hunkered into the floor as if hand-placed by an indigenous craftworker, she was majesty of all that was ground. To move her from her spot of divinity was, lets say, difficult and enjoyably challenging.
Carefully, you nudged her with your feet and then gave her a couple of digs, then went for a push-rolldogover-mac something happen. She wimpered then, and seeing your insistence thought to herself “ if you are gonna get me up I better go the full wack.” then it was on! she jumped out of her statue and began burning round the house after you. She skidded along the kitchen floor, burst into the drawers and everyanything, snarling round the corner into the utility room as if she was going to maim you, but in reality she was the most timid but brashfully playful beast and laid down the parameters.
If she barked, you kept going, if she barked loudly you knew it was playing the mischief with her noodle and soon enough you were gonna know about it. So with your mess-bashings and her pretend bites; the level was found and love fell into that bracket of understanding.
As immobility besieged her body( she had been run over three times!) her elegance left her and to keep that overwhelming air of dignity, being 17, she was let go. Not that any of us knew, Dad put her down and four days later, he told us.