Inside, I'm saying, Yes, I was talking to a boy, and so what,
and do you have a problem with that? But I wouldn't dream of
saying any of those things. Not to Biddy.
"Who is he?" she asks.
She turns on her new pointed toes and makes her way to the kitchen.
"Dinner will be ready in half an hour. Daddy's coming home early
tonight. I wasn't born yesterday, Kate. I know it was a boy you were
talking to. I can tell."
Something tells me I haven't heard the end of this.
The boy isn't mentioned during the Irish stew with
dumplings, thank the Lord. We gather around the Formica kitchen table,
where my dad always sits to the left and Biddy to the right. My place
is in the middle, facing the twirling teapot wallpaper.
Biddy starts the conversation rolling by describing an outpatient's
genitalia and how embarrassing it was for her having to shave the bank
manager "down there" today. And Mrs. Bootsby-Smythe, who does she
think she is, with all her airs and pompous graces? Well, she was
brought down a peg or two when she had to wait for Dr. Morrison, her
legs in stirrups, her privates looking like a cockerel's comb.
I stifle a giggle, at the same time hoping I look okay "down
there." Please, God, may I never have to go to the village hospital
when my mother is the nurse on duty.
"Kate, now don't you let this get any further than the kitchen
table, but Sophie Greengough is pregnant, and only sixteen years old."
Sophie is in the pudding club? She's going to have a baby?
But I've never seen her with a boy, she's an A student, forever
winning awards at school. She's brilliant at tennis and hockey and
"God help her poor mother," says Biddy. "There was Mrs. Greengough,
weeping in the waiting room while Sophie attended the antenatal
I try and imagine what it would be like doing it. Letting
a boy touch you, and . . . God, I wouldn't even let Barry Finch do it.
Moira has explained everything to me in great detailher married
sister, Fiona, told her all she wanted to know.
"Kate, what are you thinking about?" asks Biddy. "Tom, please cover
The meal is over, and as per ritual, my parents light up their
cigarettes. Dad must put the lid on the butter dish in case the smoke
taints it, and I must remain seated. It wouldn't be polite to leave
the table just yet.
"What's on your mind, Kate?" asks Dad, echoing Biddy. A wisp of
smoke escapes from his nostrils, curls into his eyes. His hair is
Brylcreem-shiny, black, combed flat, like one of those film stars in
"Nothing. Can I phone Moira?"
I want to tell her about Sophie Greengough.
"Sure. Didn't you talk with her as soon as you came home?" Biddy
clicks her fingernails on the Formica. "I'm not stupid, my girlfar
from it." She takes a long drag from her cigarette. "It wasn't Moira
Murphy making your face beet red."
Dad makes a halfhearted move to stack plates. He always looks for
something to do when he senses conflict. And as usual, Biddy tells him
to sit down.
Kenn Nesbitt is new Children's Poet Laureate(Jun 12 2013) Kenn Nesbitt has been named the new Children's Poet Laureate: Consultant in Children's Poetry to the Poetry Foundation, which noted that the two-year position...