Excerpt from A Monk Swimming by Malachy McCourt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Monk Swimming

A Memoir

by Malachy McCourt

A Monk Swimming
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  • First Published:
    Apr 1998, 290 pages
    Apr 1999, 255 pages

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I couldn't get over being accepted into what is called "civilized, middle-class society." Jesus, here I was, a manual laborer, hobbing with college-educated folk, doctors, engineers, and stockbrokers. There was the occasional feeling that one day they would find me out--that I was uneducated, a guttersnipe from the lanes of Limerick, an upstart. My weapon, my defense, to ensure my acceptance, was to drink more and drink faster than anyone on the team, to sing more songs, to be the larger-than-life of the party. I knew they would not have had anything to do with me in another clime, but here we were all exiles with no choice but to play the game, drink the drink, sing the song, and hide whatever need be hidden.

These rugby piss-ups were almost always totally male get-togethers. We men of the world would descend on a college, and all the undergraduates would be impressed at our savoir faire. At times, there'd be the leggy Aryan coed attached to an American Hero type. I'd look, lust, and leave, knowing I could never have one of them for myself.

Women fascinated me: their aromas, budding, blooming, busting-out breasts, the bottoms, the lips, the legs, the softness and roundness of all the parts, the dulcetness of speech, and that mysterious place guarded by thighs and downy hair. But what, in God's name, was I to say to them?

Cursed with shyness, I continued letting it all out on the field of battle, and during the off-season, continued the practice of shaking hands with the unemployed. Wanking, the Irish called it, that is, spilling the seed onto the ground, or anywhere else the trajectory sped it.

Mother Church had had strong views on sins of the flesh, and I never got over the feeling of being a sinner, of being unworthy, an excrescence in the eyes of God. I thought about the biblical injunction to Onan: Better to spill your seed in the belly of a whore than waste it on the ground.

Why, I would like to ask at this late date, is it less of a sin to stick the winkie into a paid lady than to wank? Theologians, please note.

Anyway, these rugby affairs were sexless, except for one pretentious Brit with a game leg, who babbled in that plummy way they have. Some of these Brits who are very class conscious speak as if they are about to expire, and each breath is their very last. This fellow, who was corpulent, to say the least, had a little boyfriend named Johnny. He was the sort of lightweight lad who'd be nervous using a feather duster, lest it fatally wound someone, and our man Harold, whose playing days were long done, would insist on Johnny playing the game.

Sheer terror guided Johnny on the field. He behaved like a gazelle who knows there are hungry lions waiting for him in the veldt, and he ran as if he had a ripe strawberry stuck 'tween the cheeks of his arse, which he had been instructed not to crush.

Eventually, Johnny got weary of being one with the turf and fled with a clothing designer to California, leaving Harold with a broken heart, from which he died.

WITH A FEW QUID IN MY POCKET FROM MY LABORS ON the docks, a proper place to lay the head was in order, and I found one on West Eighty-first Street, in an apartment overlooking the Museum of Natural History, which, being so close, I never set foot in. The roommate who bid me share his bode was a tall, gaunt fellow, a construction engineer by profession, and totally around the bend. He staggered under the name of George Giles Green. George had been a pilot in the Korean War, and whilst absent from home during that forgotten conflict, fighting for America's honor, didn't his spouse dump him? She strolled off with another lad, who happened to be of the Hebraic persuasion, which led George to feel a very strong empathy with the late A. Hitler. The Jews, said he, were behind everything, including the voting machine. When he was exercising his citizen's right to vote, I was thoroughly and repeatedly informed, they manipulated the controls so that George voted for Jewish candidates against his will.

(C) 1998 Malachy McCourt All rights reserved.

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