Extract

Chapter One

My Ma has gone to the pub with a man that I don’t know. The man has grey eyes and red hair. He appeared in our room earlier today and gave us all a kiss. When it was my turn I squirmed because the hairs on his chin tickled and anyway we are not used to kissing.

His voice was loud and unfamiliar.

‘Don’t tell me yis have forgotten me. I’ve only been gone a few months.’

‘I think it’s the uniform,’ Ma said as she rolled her hair up on top of her head and fastened it with a clip. ‘She doesn’t recognise you in it. She’s only three ye know.’

‘What! D’ye mean to tell me they’re afraid of their father, dressed in me British Army glad rags, the best King George the Sixth can provide?’

The man smiled and tickled me under the chin. Even though he was my father, he seemed so different, I hardly recognised him. After he kissed us, we received the best treat we’ve ever had in all our lives. It was shared between me, my two sisters Joanie, Carmel, and my brother Paul but not my big sister Mary or my big brother Mikey –They were too big for treats.

He lined us up and said, ‘Close your eyes and open your mouths and see what God will send ye.’

I didn’t really like this game, because when you did as you were told, you couldn’t see what they were about to put in your mouth. Sometimes they put salt or beer on your tongue or maybe blow cigarette smoke in your face, and then they’d laugh. But sometimes it’s a bit of sugar or jam or a sweet. This time it was a small block of something so mouth-watering, so sweet and luscious that when I bit

into it, I dribbled all down my chin. Nothing I had ever eaten in my life tasted so good.

‘That’s Cadbury’s chocolate. Best milk chocolate in the world,’ Da said as he placed another square in my drooling mouth.

‘A proper luxury,’ said Ma. ‘How did ye manage to get that big bar? Isn’t sweets rationed in England?’

Da tapped his nose and winked, ‘Ah now, sure that’d tellin’ ye wouldn’t it?’

Da didn’t seem to notice Joanie, even though she was screaming like a banshee in Ma’s arms. Ma said, ‘Don’t forget Joanie, she likes chocolate too ye know.’

Joanie made a crooning noise and clapped her hands to her head. She does this when she’s excited. Da walked over to her and peered into her face as if he’d never seen her before.

‘She’s no better I see. Did ye take her to the hospital?’

‘As if you give a damn,’ Ma replied. ‘Anyway, if ye must know the doctor said she’ doin’ okay… considerin’…’

Da put his hand over his nose. ‘Jaysus Christ, she smells like a knacker’s yard. Is she still pissin’ and shittin’ all over the place?’

Ma was about to lose her temper with him – I can always tell by the hard look in her eye.

‘Don’t start that again. Give the child a bit of chocolate and shut yer filthy mouth in front of them kids.’

Da gave Joanie a square of chocolate, because he must have seen the look in Ma’s eyes as well. Joanie dribbled most of it down her front. She didn’t know our Da well either.

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