July 6, 2020

Memoir: 'The Liar'

Back in 2010 one of my first published pieces was a memoir piece called "The Liar" published in the Londubh publication of true Irish stories "A Pint and a Haircut" edited by Garrett Pierce.

Some new readers of my blog have told me (I won't mention any names!) that their eyesight isn't good enough to be able to read the piece at the Londubh website where you can have a free read at when you use the Look Inside link. 

As I haven't yet received any solicitor's letter from either of my brothers Liam or Kieran, I re-produce it in full here. 

The Liar

My parents lived in two rooms behind a small shop in Main St. in Killarney when my oldest brother Liam was born in July 1956. My mother described him as a ‘whirlwind.’  He was full of energy, always climbing, exploring, shouting loudly and, generally, getting into mischief.  As a baby, everything had to be moved out of his reach. As a toddler, he was a danger to himself and, despite my mother’s best efforts, he was involved in many minor incidents and accidents. 

Kieran was born in October 1957 and, by all accounts, he was the complete opposite. He slept serenely for hours at a stretch. He woke to be fed and to be changed and then he settled down happily again to sleep soundly. He had little or no interest in expending energy in either trying to walk or talk. By the age of eighteen months, he had not attempted to do either. My mother didn’t know whether to be relieved or anxious.

When she went to work in our shop, she wheeled Kieran’s pram out to a spot behind the cash drawer where he mostly just slept or lay quietly looking around him. The customers and neighbours all had an opinion.
“What is he now? Seven months? He should be pulling himself up to sit by now!”

“Twelve months and no attempt to walk yet! I wouldn’t like that now. Sure my Bríd was walking the full length of the kitchen at eleven months.”

“And has he said anything yet? Anything at all? I remember well your Liam was all talk at that age.”

When Liam turned three, the nuns from the Mercy Convent came looking for him to enrol in Junior Infants. They needed to make up numbers and, more importantly, to put names in roll books for when the ‘Cigire’ called. My mother was happy to have him out from under her feet for a few hours and sent him off to ‘big’ school to burn up some of his energy.

When he arrived home from school after his first day, he bounded in through the shop and straight into the back kitchen where Kieran was just waking from a snooze. Liam was anxious to try out the new phrase that he had just learned in the schoolyard earlier that day.  When Kieran, then twenty-one months old, smiled up at him mutely, Liam leaned into the play-pen and said, “Anyway, you’re only a feckin’ liar!” 

My mother had come in behind him from the shop and heard Liam’s pronouncement on his younger brother. She was wryly amused.  “I wish!” she said to my father when she was relating the story to him later that evening. They discussed whether they should “send Kieran to see someone”, though they were not exactly sure who ‘the someone’ might be.

Of course, you have to be careful what you wish for. Kieran had been biding his time. He was waiting until he could walk steadily before he put his feet under him. At twenty-three months he got up one day and walked all the way from the kitchen door out to the front door of the shop. He had obviously also decided that he would speak in full sentences before he would vocalise.

Two weeks later at breakfast, the feckin’ liar spoke for the first time and stunned everyone by saying, “Can I have the cornflakes please?”