Excerpt from This Human Season by Louise Dean, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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This Human Season

by Louise Dean

This Human Season by Louise Dean
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2007, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2008, 384 pages

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1

When the soldiers came the time before, the father went off with them. He had the same name as his son, so he went in his place. After a few days he was released. Their son was far away by then, down south.

This time the son was in prison and they didn’t want the father. So what could the father do, except stand in the front room, in his underpants, hands in the sagging pockets of his cardigan, watching the soldiers moving back and forth between the front and back doors of his home.

He was trying to think of something to say. His children and his wife were sat about in their nightclothes; they weren’t looking at him.

‘Yous think you know it all,’ was what he’d told them up at Castlereagh, the interrogation centre, when they’d come to realize their mistake. The first day they’d had him hands against the wall, legs apart, and when his knees weakened they’d shouted at him or kicked him. He’d not had anything he could tell them. Nor had he defied them. For two days they’d stopped him from sleeping, told him to sweep the hallway and when he’d sat down, they’d emptied out the bucket again and gone kicking the dust, cigarette butts, apple cores, and empty bleach bottles down along the corridor. Then they’d handed him back the broom. They let him go first thing on the third morning.

He’d got off lightly, he knew it, when he stepped outside, turned his collar up and set off, the sky all of one colour, a licked pale grey. It was a damp morning to come home on, and no one was about. He’d had to wait for the dinnertime session for the telling.

His son, Sean, had been inside Long Kesh for a month now. These men knew that. They were there because of the boy, because of where they lived, because they had another son and because they were Catholic.

There was a stack of rifles on the living room floor. ‘Don’t you be touching those,’ he said to his children in a low voice with a light whistle in it, the air from the open front door catching on his back teeth. ‘They leave them there on purpose to see what the kids know.’

From upstairs came the sound of a door being forced, once, twice, and through. His wife shook her head.

‘It’s true,’ said her husband. ‘They do.’

The electric light was impotent, the daylight had taken over and so his wife got up to switch it off and pull back the curtains that gave on to their scrap of back garden–some grass, bare patches, a washing line with a pair of pants on it, legs sewn to hold pegs. To the right-hand side of the line, within the creosote armpit of a shed, was a gap that went through to the next street. The last time, she’d had a go at the soldiers when they came in, she’d jumped up to stall them, to make sure her son got away through that gap. She’d kept them then at the front door, offered them her husband herself. ‘If it’s Sean you’re after, well here he is.’ And sure enough they looked at the man in his jumper and Y-fronts and agreed he’d do. She, herself, had had him by one of his sleeves, shaking it.

‘Who gave you permission to come in my house?’ she said now.

‘We’ve got all the permission we need,’ said one, loafing by the sideboard, looking at her ornaments.

‘You’ve got the guns is all.’

‘We’re not the only ones. Show us where you keep yours and we’ll be away.’

‘Liam, show the man your water pistol.’

Upstairs, they were crow-barring the floorboards, emptying drawers and cupboards. There wasn’t a house in Ballymurphy that hadn’t been pulled apart by the British Army. The soldier at the sideboard was going through those drawers, taking out chequebooks and bills, newspaper cuttings and photos. He left the drawers open, looked again, then picked up a black rubber bullet that was on the top shelf. It was about three inches long and an inch wide.

Copyright © Louise Dean, 2005

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

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