Tell Your Own Story
Remember by Declan MolloySubmit Your Memories
Martin Casey could not spell the word ‘remember’ no matter how hard he tried.
‘Rem-em-em-em, he’d stutter.
‘No, no no,’ roared O’Leary, ‘spell it again.’
‘Re… m… m… em…’
‘Oh for Gods sake Casey.’
‘Again,’ hissed O’Leary.
Martin’s voice rose a little higher this time. It was now rising by half an octave with every new attempt.
All of us had that little red book in our school bags – or in some cases in our hands beneath the desk as we waited for our turn. It was called the Essential Spelling Book. Each boy would have to stand to be interrogated and terrorised. Mr O’Leary regularly give us one page to learn, “off by heart” – as they say, twenty tricky words per page. This was always in addition to other homework to ensure our lives would be total misery. Occasionally my mother would test me while I balanced precariously on the tiled surround in front of our two bar electric fire. It would be a narrow ledge in my minds eye, hundreds of feet in the air – a wind swept precipice where the slightest miscalculation could mean me falling to my death… Although, what a man such as I would be doing hundreds of feet in the air on a narrow tiled and glazed ledge was anyone’s guess… particularly while wearing nothing other than short trousers a tee-shirt and slippery socks?
Anyhow, he had started with Walsh, the lucky fecker. And that Kevin Walsh had once again dodged a bullet.
‘Walsh, spell… Caution
‘Correct. Spell, let me see, Beneath.’
‘Correct. Sit down.’
On and on it would go. Each one in their turn as his monstrous shadow would grew closer and closer. But right now he was tossing Casey around like a rag doll. He reminded me of Paddy Burke’s dog next door. Sometimes he’d come into our garden looking for someone to play with. The two of us would have a tug-of-war with a stick, but he’d never get bored or tired… Teddy would never let go. He’d hang on even when you made him do super-dog impressions by spinning him around like a furry meat lollipop…
‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear,’ he said sarcastically after instructing poor Casey stand at the back of the class.
I’m thinking, why would you even want to. Anyway, as the above mentioned are two entirely different elements, it’s obvious to me that such an attempt would be fruitless. You could of course make a silk purse out of silk and make a pigs ear… well, out of a pigs ear.
‘Molloy, spell… erm… tomorrow.’
‘I can spell approximately sir.’
His eyes narrowed… Well I don’t know if they actually did, but it’s the type of thing you say in a written account to express the protagonists state of mind. Lending to said person an air of cunning and menace.
‘OK then, Molloy.’
I’d noticed while scanning the words on the page that it was by far the longest and most difficult of spellings. You see, I hadn’t bothered the night before to learn my spellings. But I’d sang the word “approximately,” in my head until it was engraved on my grey matter. I sang it all the way to school. I even used the rhythm of pavement cracks under my feet.
App – rox – im-at-ely… App – rox – im-at-ely… App – rox – im-at-ely. On and on I went. On and on as I strode down the long corridor towards room twelve. Daa-daa-daa, daa-daa-daa du-du, du-du daa-daa-daa. Confident doesn’t even describe it. I was sure there would be some sort of an award. Perhaps some recognition, at the very least the awe and admiration of my peers…
I began. ‘A-p-p-r-o-x-i-m-a-t-i-l-y…’
‘Wrong Molloy, it’s e-l-y.’
I felt my face glow red. I wanted to be anywhere else but standing at my desk in St Peters School Walkinstown.
‘Molloy, spell tomorrow.’
‘Wrong again Molloy.’
‘Get up here… now, NOW,’ he roared.
I felt him grab my arm as he spun me to face the class. I heard him mutter the word “fool,” as he withdrew the bamboo cane from his desk drawer.
‘Two on each hand Molloy.’
Tentatively, I pushed out my open palm while he swished the air the way he normally would when wanting to instil fear. It was working, I was scared. I did what other boys normally did. I made a funny face while my tongue stuck half way out as I slid my hand in then out again of the firing line.
‘Keep it still Molloy or you’ll get six.’
Well, I didn’t want six so I closed my eyes and resigned myself to my fate. WHACK. I pulled back my stinging hand faster than a snapping rubber band and gave it temporary respite under my other arm.
‘Again,’ yelled O’Leary.
By the time he’d finished my hands were burning. I returned to my seat with both hands now receiving comfort in my armpits.
‘App-rox-im-at-ely… Remember that Molloy.’
(c) Declan MolloySubmit Your Memories