The Evening Donal Broke His Arm
We were told not to be going around with our tops off anymore. Mrs. McNamara next door went squealing on us to our parents. Dad said nothing but the shake in his hands was shakier.
It was Ma who called us in that day and sat us down and said, ‘Ladies, ye’re reaching a certain age, well, where things have started happening, and ye can’t be taking yer clothes off anymore,’ and Dad was eyeing everything in the room around us.
Ma flattened down her white hair and said, ‘Tell them, Martin,’ and Dad coughed and snuffed a bit and muttered, ‘What yer mother said.’
Skittering, we fled and ran down upstairs to our room. The itch to take our tops off even stronger now. Because it was illegal. And it was fecking hot. It was still hot outside even though it was after the 6.1. and the weather saying it was the biggest heatwave since seventy-six. Auld ones. This was ninety-five and Mrs. McNamara has no business to be running in panicking. She was just worried about her Donal. Her Donal would be out watching us and wanting us and playing on his flute because of us. He told us before he did that.
‘I was thinking about the pair of ye, at the one time.’
We laughed and called him a perv. The age of him. Just finished Fifth Year. Peeking at us. He’d want to go play football or join a band or do something normal. Not be holed up mashing his Sega buttons and drinking TK, having the sconce at us, tugging himself blind.
Ma and Dad always say, ‘Ah poor auld Donal, the poor lad,’ always feeling sorry for him and that. He was grand like. Just when he was a bit younger, he saw some drug addicted Sunday World people try to rob the bank, while he was in it. And they made a point of holding a gun to his face. Coz he was a small one and it would break the heart of the manager to see a kid with his head all over the soft carpet so the robbers got loads of money.
‘Let’s sneak out to Donal?’
We went out through the window, right beside our bunk. We’d a ladder left beside it though Mrs. McNamara tried to make our parents move it. We said we’d launch ourselves onto the ground if they did so they didn’t. Donal’s room was almost parallel to ours but it was a lot bigger. We sometimes caught him having a sing or a look in the mirror. Though mostly, he’d be in the corner where his TV was and we couldn’t spot him. The curtains weren’t closed this evening and the window was open. When we got down to the garden we shouted up at him.
‘Donal. Hey, Donal, ya header.’
There was shuffles and the closing of a wardrobe door. Donal came to the window with a NYC baseball cap on his head. It made his ears stick out like two rashers stuck onto the side of his face. The rest of him was okay. He’d no acne and no braces. His black hair was shaved except for a bit of a fringe he spiked up with Shockwaves and we called him a fag for that.
He wiped his eyes. ‘What are ye two up to?’
‘Feck all. Did ya hear your Mammy was over? Giving out. Saying we shouldn’t be inappropriate.’
Donal flashed a smile. ‘She was now. What were ye doing?’ He was leaning over his window sill. Honking down.
We elbowed each other. ‘We were doing a bit of this stuff.’
We giggled and started jumping around the garden. There was only a small flower bed the length of the lawn to show which was McNamara’s side and which was ours. We were humming The Sign by Ace of Base and going daft. Donal was laughing loud. We were dancing for him. We were wiggling our bodies and shaking our arms, hips, our legs. We walked like Egyptians, did the Macarena, the Hokey Pokey. He was smiling at us. He opened the rest of the window wide, staring down. We danced with each other and span each other and then we grinded up against each other.
Donal was clapping and wide eyed. He was loving it. It made us start messing more, putting our arms up and going slowly down, moving our hips in and out, copying some Madonna. We weren’t really thinking about anything except Donal and how pervy and happy he musta been watching this.
So we whipped the tee shirts off and changed from singing to running around the yard like Native Americans around a fire. We stomped all over the flowers. We were rubbing ourselves and hollering and Donal was in bits. The slobber coming off him like a dog looking at a barbeque. It was a bit of a frenzy so we just went for it and took the whole lot of the clothes off. Shorts and knickers and all.
And Donal was shrieking and it was great but then it wasn’t because Mrs. McNamara musta heard the rumpus. Next thing she was at the window behind him. We stopped suddenly, not a stitch on and Donal turned around. He stared at his auld cow of a mother and his face went Casper white. Then he straightened up and passed out. He fell clean out the window and hit the ground with a crunch.
We were trying to get our clothes on again or cover ourselves because the commotion had got Ma and Dad out and we were racing to be dressed now. Tee shirts stuck on us coz we were trying to shove our heads out the arms. Shorts on one leg tripping us over as we got the other foot in quick as Sonia O’Sullivan, trying to hide a bit behind each other but we were pissing ourselves and couldn’t do anything right.
Mrs. McNamara went missing from the window and within a split second, like she was a genie, she was picking Donal up off the ground and his arm was half towards her and half towards us. He made moans and his cheeks were pink.
Ma and Dad were blessing themselves and saying ‘Holy Mother’ or ‘The Lord God’ and there was mention of the big ‘C’ – them sending us off to board in the Convent, but we knew they wouldn’t. They’d miss us, weren’t they lucky to have us, the age of them. That’s what everyone around the town had said. Sure they said it themselves.
Mrs. McNamara shouted, ‘I’m having a mental catastrophe. Your daughters are stark lunatics. Ye better keep them away from me and away from my Donal.’
Ma said, ‘Ah Mrs. McNamara, they don’t mean it. They’re good girls really. Do you want a lift down to the General?’
Mrs. McNamara told Ma to ‘feck right off’ and ushered Donal inside. We had our clothes on again but our hair was gone all static and wild. Dad looked at Ma with his lips pressed tight, barely making any red show.
‘Get up to yer room. Now,’ Ma said and we legged it in case she’d threaten us with the wooden spoon she threatened us with but never used since we left primary school two summers ago.
We weren’t crying or anything either. Mrs. McNamara was always having mental catastrophes, mental breakdowns, having her mental courage and strength tested, becoming a mental patient. We’d heard it all already. But we never got Donal hurt before.
‘If we make him a card, ‘Get Well Soon,’ And her? ‘We’re Super Sorry.’
‘Yes. We should put in some God shite too. She loves God.’
We took down the Art box from the top of our wardrobe and found glitter pens and yellow card and took our time making pretty designs and doing our neatest writing on the inside.
All night, we waited for the McNamaras to come home but they didn’t before our bed time. But we stayed awake, sitting on the bottom bunk, pinching each other if one of us nodded off and finally, we heard a car pull up, its engine vibrating and then doors slam. Mrs. McNamara thanked the driver and blessed him. We couldn’t see her, just hear her big voice. We waited. Donal finally came into his room and switched on his light. He pulled the cap off. His hair was flat and his arm was in a big white sling. We opened our window.
‘Donal, psssst, Donal,’ we shout-whispered over.
‘Hey ye,’ he said. He looked sleepy.
‘Can we give you a card to give to your Mammy? We’re awful sorry like.’
‘Yeah, tomorrow sure.’
‘We’ve one for you too. Is she still mad with us?’
‘Nah, she’s okay now. Here, I’ve to go to bed. Ye and yer mad tittie dancing. No wonders I got hurt.’
‘But ya shouldn’t have been looking at us, Donal.’
‘I know, I know,’ he sighed.
He was about to close the window, and it was like we were psychic, because we probably were a bit being from the one egg that split to make the two of us.
‘Hey, Donal, wait.’
Yawning he asked what we wanted and we did it again. We pulled off our tops for him, our boobs pointing up at the stars. We didn’t dance or move. Just stood there, half naked at our window. Donal gave us a big smile and then said, ‘Good night, ladies. I’m on so many painkillers, I don’t know if any of this is even real.’
We blew him a kiss as he closed his curtains, hoping he’d sleep well, hoping Mrs. McNamara would give us the hundredth thousandth chance tomorrow. We’d charm her, like we’d charm Ma and Dad. We put our night dresses on then and we said nothing to each other getting into bed, because both of us knew that the other was completely in love with poor auld Donal and neither of us knew how to let him go.
Elizabeth Reapy was born in ’84, has an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast, and edits wordlegs. Her work has been published nationally and internationally, and she has read at events in Ireland, the UK, the US, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. She was an Arts Council Literature Bursary recipient 2013, and represented Ireland, making the final 6, in PEN International New Voices Award 2013. She is currently completing her first book – RED DIRT. www.emreapy.com @emreapy