Design a site like this with
Get started

Back at it


Jacko Fry is lying abed. He’s fourteen and it is Monday. The first one back after Christmas. All about the floor, around his bed, over the side of the couch, are clothes, tracksuits with arms and legs inside out, sock, boxer shorts, a vest. The narrow window is covered by wooden slat blinds, closed. It’s gone half-seven, meaning the early bus will be coming any minute. The next bus leaves him late. He’ll need a lift off the ma.

How does it go like that? The start of the holidays sixteen days previously at once seem long ago and moments ago. The way it is, the past, a two-dimensional shape. Comes at you, living, in three, then it’s compressed into the flatness of memory meaning a smell or worse a feeling from years ago, of daddy say, can be felt like it just happened, feeling closer than the stuff of last night.

Footsteps on the stairs. Here she comes. The door comes in.“You’ve missed the bus, Jacko, for God’s sake. We talked about this. Will you get up, will you? You’ll have to get a lift now. You can’t be late. Can you hear me. Jesus, will you look at the state of this room. I asked you to clean it yesterday. Jacko. Jacko. Jacko, can you hear me?”

“Yeah, ma. I can hear you.”

“Well then, why is your room like this?”

“I’ll clean it.”



“That’s what you said yesterday.”

“Jesus ma.”

“Don’t you Jesus me.”

The door closes. Up from all the corners comes quiet, like mice coming out. Jacko closes his eyes and finds warmth at the edges of his dreams. Here he is in control, or at least, he feels like he is. Jacko doesn’t want to fight with his ma, he wants to hear her say nice things, but this knowledge, this want of his is beyond his awareness, like something half seen on a shelf too high to reach. She’ll be back. There is no doubt. Jacko lingers half-in half-out of wakefulness until the sound of footsteps coming up the stair, like a crowbar, forces him up.

“Are you up in there.”

“Yeah, ma. I’m up.”

“About time.”

Jesus. Isn’t it like that, that nothing you do is good enough?

The day is here like the smack of a double decker bus. Jacko in the middle of the clothes, tall and thin, lean, maybe even muscular if he stands in the right way and looks at this arms and torso in the right way, wearing just boxer shorts. In his school there is no uniform, so he must, from the debris, find something that will not be mocked by his peers. With increasing panic Jacko pulls tracksuits up seeing the food stain here or the muddy splatters there from the perspective of the outside world discarding each one succumbing to that awful sense of not being good enough, experiencing this terrible sensation physically as a twist in his stomach, as heat in his neck and cheeks. To the door. Jacko pulls it open.

“Ma. Ma.”

From the bottom of the stair, “what?”

“I’ve nothing to wear.”

“What do mean you’ve nothing to wear. Your room is covered in clothes.”

“They’re all dirty.”

“Well you should have thought of that yesterday, shouldn’t you, when I told you to clean your room.”


Carla Fry, the ma, is quiet for a second, perhaps waiting for more. Nothing more is said, but both mother and child linger there suffused in this space with no words to fill. He wants her to come and help, she wants to help, I think, but neither can admit to this right now because it is Monday morning and because he is fourteen. Jacko takes a step back and slams the door once, twice and again, again, pulling the door open and slamming it closed the thump and bang shaking the house the violence inciting the twist in Jacko’s stomach and the flush in his neck further. He wants to lie back down, he wants to go back to yesterday, to rip the flat thing that yesterday has become and to shake it until it fills out again with enough room for him to step in, to give him a chance to make amends. He screams, absurdly, crouching down animal like, ridiculous in his boxer shorts. He is furious, it is horrible, he doesn’t have enough. Everyone else has, but he hasn’t. His runners are in bits, the little lip at the front has come unstuck. They never have enough. They are poor, he thinks. I am poor.

“Jacko, come on,” in she comes, “ah Jesus, Jacko. Get up, will you.”

Jacko is face down on the bed.

“Jacko, come on. We’re late. Come on.”

“I’ve nothing to wear.”

“Jesus, there has to be something”

Into the mess Carla descends, pulling the clothes up, holding them like animal skins. She goes to his drawers, finds a pair of clean, folded tracksuit bottoms, a tee-shirt. From the couch, bundled in the corner a hoody. From another drawer clean boxer shorts, socks.

“Here, Jacko. Look. Will these do?”

She sees wet red eyes. He sees her seeing and hates it.


“Yeah, they’ll do. Thanks.”

The thanks barely said, maybe it wasn’t said, she thinks leaving to let him get dressed.


In the car is there a word at all said?

All the world is out, walking, driving, rushing. There are buggies and children skipping, others with their heads down trailing behind, young men and young women at bus stops ears blocked with music the go-away-and-leave-me-alone look on their faces like warning signs. Jacko is in the passenger seat, his forehead against the window, his eyes off somewhere, Carla, driving, staring ahead, talk radio like a bad wig on the quiet in the car. Will they ever talk again? Carla knows she’ll say things to Jacko, but she thinks that talking and saying things are different and she cannot remember their last conversation. Indicating right at the corner of St. Peter’s Road onto Dublin Road, she is afflicted suddenly with an overwhelming sadness. Awaiting a break in the traffic, the indicator clicking and flashing, Carla scrambles back in her head trying to recall their last shared conversation. She cannot. When was the last time they laughed together or shared anything at all? A car flashes its headlights, Carla pulls out into the jam. How she would have savoured it, had she known, the last time.

“What have you got first class?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? How can you not know your timetable? The year’s nearly over?”

Jacko turns his head further, his forehead rubbing against the class. He has English, he knows this, but providing clarity tends to invite a more specific, and therefore threatening line of questioning. Whether or not Jacko is fully aware of the strategic nature of his responses is questionable, but then, not knowing something doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do it, especially when it comes to the subtlety of human interactions. Inherency herein is indisputable and not often correlated positively with intrapersonal intelligence, meaning that people don’t know how clever they are.

Jacko watches. Beyond the glass is a rotting town. Even the light is lank, unwashed. Next to the curb, in a puddle, one of those Rudolf antlers people affix to the roof of their cars, to go with the red nose on the grill, swollen and squashed, a half head of cabbage rotting against an overflowing black bin, smashed bus-stop shelter across from the Supervalu, the shattered glass in a pile the waiting passengers huddled at the other end as if afraid of being implicated in the crime, a bag of cans, crisp wrappers yellowing in the bushes, black crows on slack wires. Bray is a shithole, home to scumbags, degenerates and sluts. How to escape though when places like that exert a pull more powerful than blackholes on their progeny? Jacko wants a way out. It is astounding to him that his mother chose to stay here and indicative of her uselessness, an inverted halo effect.

“I’ll get out here, ma.”


“I’ll be quicker walking.”

He’s right, the traffic is crawling, but Carla wants to see him to the gates of the school frightened of what he might do between here and there, of who he might bump into.

“Stop the car, I’m getting out.”

Carla presses the hazard lights, although really there is no need. Jacko gets out, closes the door pulls it opens, leans in.

“I need money.”

“Jesus, Jacko.”

“I’ve no lunch.”

Cursing, feeling a maddening accumulation of pressure, like an idiot shoving scrunched up sheets of paper down her throat to each tick of the hazard lights, Carla fumbles her purse one-handed out of her bag.

“Here, then,” pulling a fiver out.

Jacko plucks it from her fingers and goes off smoothing down his fringe with the flat of his hand, walking off, away from her, shedding, it is almost as if she can see him shed, his association with her, as he melts into individuality and anonymity, while she is left with the sudden, nauseating feeling that this is all she has now, and all she will ever again have with her child, a view of him rushing away brushing off his association with her, moving into a place that she will never know. Carla wants to cry. She won’t. If she were to start crying because of things like that she may as well curl up, like a fern, and die. Instead, she waits until Jacko is out of sight, probably, by now, on the bridge, then takes from her bag her cigarettes, presses the button on her side lowering the window and lighting-up sheds something too, exhaling out into the greyness and sadness of the back-at-it January morning a big old breath of what-can-you-fucking-do.


Jacko, meanwhile, is crossing the Dargle Bridge. Below, the shallow, brown water, smooth stones, half an umbrella, fish, flat and sideways, lurk in the alien ubiquitous world. From the inside pocket of his jacket he removes a bent unbroken John Player Blue with a see-through yellow lighter, lighting-up before half-running across the little side road at the corner of Seapoint, catching, out of the side of his eye, sight off a two-man tent entangled in the bare branches of a conker tree on the destitute sloped south bank of the river, catching too, the gleam and shine of the winter sun off the water, both images, the water, the tent tangled in the branches colliding, making no sense, he stumbles catching his toe on the edge of the curb, the lit smoke drops from his mouth, a car horn blares. Jacko turns, retrieves his smoke and whipping around gestures obscenely at the driver, while inside his insides shake with the shock of fright like a splash of blood on snow, the pulsing sensation courses through him making him feel like he’s made out plastic and hollow spaces, not meat and bone, and suddenly, horrifyingly, tears fill his blue eyes. He breathes deeply, slowly, desperate to stop them. The shame of childhood, like the stain of wild blackberries on skin, is still in him despite all he as done to scrub it clean. Going by the Royal Hotel Jacko sets his shoulders and his face. Don’t fuck with me, he thinks. Walking like a man now, smoking like a man. The tears are gone, panic over. Shapes falling like everywhere like raindrops in a storm. Phone out, SnapChat Joey a selfie, the smoke hanging loose from the side of his mouth.

Where U?

At Dart.

Jacko hangs a left at the corner of the Quinnsborough Road.

Wait there.


(If you liked this read get my novel The Liar for free today on Kindle)

The Liar/ US link

Paul Ring/ Amazon US

Paul Ring/ Amazon UK

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: