Childhood, of a time by Cathy Donelan

Our mother’s hands cracked.

Leathery and cold, fell hard on bare buttocks when we’d terrorise our scrawny tattling sisters. They would beat against the wooden churning stick and slap the dough, kneading their magic into the bread. They’d smell like butter after feeding the lads in the fields, hungry hands shovel-like, rooting through the bread basket while our little fingers would catch pieces falling from overflowing mouths, hands outstretched under tables. Mother would be quick to land buttery hands around our ears, for begging like the dogs.

Out with the dogs, chase the black and white scruffs around the yard, we’d teach the blind one to fetch a stick till it nipped our toes for lobbying our swords on its head. Mother’s hand belted glass from the kitchen sink, threatening, if we didn’t leave the damn dog alone.

We’d run the sticks down the fields. Grass to our chests and midges in our mouths, hoppin’ ditches like your man in Archie comics. Arms shredded by thorns and nettles. We’d barrel-roll like a G.I. Joe and make it to the barley-fields by dusk.

Sneaking up on the baler, four hands would pull the blue twine of the straw-bales. We’d build our yellow prickle-castle high and protect it with our sticks. Search teams would scour cut field, hunting for mice and their little foot holes of houses. Golden-cut stalks as sharp, grazing ankles as we walked.

Small tails scurry under dirt, away from our hands, we’d pounce on the bastards. Bringing them to the fairy tree in the middle of the field and pay our dues. Shove the little things into its wooden pockets, the fairies can feast tonight. We sacrificed them so they don’t steal any little souls from our houses, protecting ourselves and our mother’s heartache.

Cathy Donelan is a writer from the West of Ireland. She is currently studying Arts with Creative Writing at NUI Galway. Her fiction appears in The Honest Ulsterman, ROPES, Dodging The Rain and upcoming in The Lamp. Her poetry appears in The Galway Review and A New Ulster.

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