There was a bomb in the town one time. I was quite wee, me and my mum were on our way home from St. Teresa's. That was my Primary School. I'm at the High school now. I'm a second year; this happened years ago when I was in P4. Anyway, the bomb went off at the top of the street outside the new Motorbike shop. The Chuckyheads phoned a warning, which was a good job, 'cause me and my ma' were on our way to Thompson's across the road. We were going to buy a birthday card for our Tom's birthday. The Police man told us to get away, an' we did. My ma' was annoyed at him, 'cause she tutted and grabbed me by the blazer shoulder and pulled me across the road. I was annoyed too, for I wanted to go in and buy Smash Hits 'cause Blondie were on the cover and the words of Sunday Girl were in it. I like that one. Me and Cheryl sing it when we are in the Roller Drome some days, so we do.
My ma' doesn't like me going to the Roller Drome. She says it is full of drink and bad fella's. Ach, sure we keep them going, the fella's! Cheryl has a wee thing for one of the bikers that hang around the Snooker tables. Well, Hughie's not really a biker yet. He just hangs around with them, but when he's old enough he says he's going to buy a Yamaha RD250. A white and blue one. He says that is better than sex. Cheryl thinks he's so cool, but I tell her to catch herself on, he's never had sex in his puff. And his bikers jacket is PVC. He looks like him out of Dexy's Midnight Runners, without the pubes, if you know what I mean! He's a bit young, and small, but she seems to like that. He's drowned in that big padded jacket. It's comical.
I go for the more mature man, but I don't want one at the moment. Fellas our age are so stupid. I've been out with a few, like, when Cheryl wants to snog somebody. I end up with their mate. They treat you like glass ornaments, stuttering, spluttering about Heavy Metal, Punk, football and motorbikes. That is until they're drunk, and then they’re like octopuses. You end up tired and fed up fighting them off, after a while. I usually just tell them, all matter of fact, like, they're too young for me or they're not much of a turn on or something, and it embarrasses them into stopping. They usually pretend to be pissed and we go through the charade of carrying them up the road a bit. They sober up and then they don't have to apologise because, "they can't remember anything." I just like a bit of crack, I actually go to the Roller Drome to rollerskate. Cheryl thinks she is mature. She acts all hard and all, chewin' chewin' gum and not smiling, but I just still want to carry on. She calls me a prick teaser because I just mess about, but I don't care.
Anyway, aye, I was telling you about the bomb an' all. It scared the shite outta me! Honest to God, me and my ma' jumped a mile when it went off, and we were a quare bit away from it, too. We were in Hanlons looking through their crap selection of Birthday cards, and it's lucky we were, 'cause if we had've been paying for something or looking through the magazines (lucky I'd already paid for my Smash Hits), we would have been showered with glass. That poor woman, Mrs Haddock, was cut to ribbons. I was looking toward the window when it went off. It seemed to come in like a big, wobbling bubble and then shatter. It knocked some of the people in the shop off their feet, but we were OK. My ma' said it was funny how Thompsons just across the road from the bomb wasn't even touched, but Hanlons shop front, down a different street seemed to get the brunt.
It was exciting, like. Except for that woman, Mrs. Haddock, of course. She got a splinter of glass in her eye, but they were able to operate and get it out. She was in hysterics, screaming the place down. Mr Hanlon sat her down and gave her a valium until the ambulance arrived. I thought it was a shame, she is always so well turned out for an oul' doll. Her silver hair is always sprayed into place, and it was all down her face, all stuck together with blood. She looked sort of, undignified. Her image was ruined, in my eyes. I saw her without the painted exterior. She was human. It's funny that, when I look back I found out a lot about adults when the bomb went off. I found out that they could be scared, 'cause before that I never thought they could be. I thought they woke up adults and remained adults until they went to sleep. I found out that they were just pretending.
My ma' comforted her and I ran out of the shop to see the damage. You couldn't get near the bomb from the street I was on, so I cut down the back of Hanlon's yard and out the side entrance to Smyth's woman's shop. I peeped around the corner. The street was deserted. Shop alarms were going off everywhere and the place was devastated, glass every where and big, black holes in the front of shops where their windows should be. Black smoke was billowing up into the clear, blue sky from the flames in front of the motorbike shop. The place was realy smoky and dusty and it made me cough.
Then a Policeman must've saw me. I didn't see him 'till he had caught me by the arm and was pulling me up the street. "What the fuck are you doing, ye stupid wee bugger!" he said. Honest to God, that's what he said! A Policeman cursing and all! I didn't think they'd be allowed. I thought the Queen would have a law that her Policemen wouldn't curse, or something. I couldn't believe the smell of the place. There was a burning smell, like,but worser than burning tyres. It was rubbery and sweet. We went right past the bomb, but it was on the other side of the street. It looked like a pile of burning rubbish, a hole full of burning metal and bits of van. The road and the pavement were all ripped up and all, and there was a big black, sooty ring all around it. It wasn't a big crater like you'd imagine, just a bit of a one, but the Motorbike shop; sure it was a shame. It was like a big tunnel. The motorbikes were all in bits and water was pishing everywhere inside. Bits of metal and roof tiles hung down and it's big glass windows were shattered all over the road. You could see right out the back and there was a huge crack down the wall. There were no slates left on the front part of the roof, only beams and things, but you could see the few slates left on the other side. Your man Topping had just opened it and had been all shinyand painted, looking. I'm sure he was devastated.
People were shouting, and I looked at them. They were shouting at us! I couldn't think why. He didn't seem to hear them, he just marched me on. I swear to God, I could have sued. My ma' was ragin'. I heard them shout, No! No! and all. They were telling us to turn around but the black bastard just kept draggin' me on towards the barracades they had put up. He didn't hear them or see them. He was busy pulling me and mouthing off at me, "Did nobody tell you to stay back? You know you could have been killed?" I wasn't really listening to him. I was sort of thinking about the bomb sales we would be able to go too. We walked past Collette's. It had a wee top me and my ma' had seen last weekend. We both thought it would suit me. I knew she would get me it now it would be cheaper.
Anyway, it was outside Miller's Hardware shop, the place were my da' gets his tools and all from, that it happened. He slipped head over shite on his arse and dragged me down. My ma' say's it is as well I was so young or I might never have recovered from it. The thought of it now makes me feel a bit sick to the stomach, but I suppose when you are so young you just accept these things. And anyway, I don't think of him as scary. It did make me cry, but that's probably more from the Policeman cursing and effing and blinding and screaming. He was shouting, "Fuck! Fuck! Jesus, No! Get me out of this shit!" and stuff, excuse my French. I know it's cursing, but I' only repeating what someone said, so it isn't really a sin, but nyway, what would you do if you thought the adults had lost control? They're the ones that are supposed to protect us from this stuff and if they are panicking, well, when you are eight years old, the whole world seems to have gone mad.
It was only the top half. When I say that, one of it's arms was missing. It's face was all black an tarry and pulled back into a red, bloody scream. I don't mean it was screaming, it was dead and all. But it looked like it was screaming, baring it's teeth, like. I sware to God, I don't remember hearing a thing. Just silence. I was more fascinated than scared - that is, I wasn't scared of him. It wasn't like it was real, or anything. You could see its ribs through the blood and green of it's army uniform, and below that was just red ooze and guts and black. There was smoke rising from it and that's when I breathed in his soul.
I stood up and looked down at him, the dead soldier. He must have been blown right across the street, from the bomb. God knows where the rest of him was. You see them on TV, in their helmets and thick bomb proof jackets, but my da' said that there no help when there's a thousand pounds of fertilizer. He seemed to look up at me through hollow, red eyes. I just pitied him. His remaining arm was lifted up from the ground, but his hand wasn't there. But he was pleading with me. He wanted me to help him.
So I did.
The smoke blew towards me and stung my eyes. I stopped crying and I shut them and took a huge breath of sickly, sweet soul. I don't remember much more about it, only I remember pausing and smiling at him. Then I ran from the Policeman towards the crowd, holding my breath so he wouldn't go away. When I reached the barriers, I breathed the air out of my mouth, but kept him in, and then the noise came back. The sirens and alarms and shouting and "Poor thing!" and "Are ye all right, love?" The out of control adults. But I was OK. My ma' was found and we got a lift home from one of the Policemen.
I cut bits out of the newspaper about my soldier. He was from a wee town called North Walsham in Norfolk, in England. His da' couldn't understand why anyone would want to kill people and his ma' hoped the terrorists would just stop. James Bradfield was his name. He was quite old, 24, and he was very handsome. I had a photo of him in his uniform, all serious looking, and all. And the Daily Mirror printed a photo of him sitting on a wall outside his house, with his mum and dad. They were all smiling as if someone had told a joke. He looked so alive, so happy. So that's how I keep him. Not at all like the screaming, bloody, charcoal mess he ended up, though sometimes he wants me to remember that. Every time I hear someone talk about killing Brits or Orange bastards the scream comes into my head, then the soldier, then the laughing son.
I know this is stupid, but I sometimes talk to him. I never had nightmares like my ma' thought I might. I felt quite OK about it. I thought I was privileged to meet him.
I imagine him and me in North Walsham. I've looked it up on the map. It's near Norwich. I looked Norwich up. I suppose it was where he would have went for his Christmas shopping like the way we would go to Belfast or Dublin. It's a very historical city with a huge market. And it is in the middle of no-where. There are no other cities for miles, only small towns and villages. I sometimes think that James couldn't have seen much of the world and he ended up being killed here, in poxy Bridgetown. Anyway, he shows me around and it is beautiful, and all. It has some lovely old buildings and brilliant shops. He brings me to MacDonalds for lunch (I've been to one of them when we went to London with the school once - all English towns and cities have them. They give you funny wee skinny chips). We look at nice dresses for me and nice suits and things for him and then we go to a fancy restaurant were you get Chicken Maryland and all. We go home to his old fashioned house and we fall asleep in front of a big log fire, like you see on TV. It's a bit daft, but I think it gives him life. I add bits on as time goes on, like sometimes if I see the news and a soldier is killed I imagine it is one of his friends and I have to tell him. We cry, but I tell him at least they'll be waiting in Heaven for him when I let him go, and this makes him a bit happier.
He died in Northern Ireland and I'm Northern Irish, so he is in a way, part of us now. He died for us, even though he didn't know us. He was sent here, somewhere he never even thought existed, and died. Killed by Bridgetown. He had probably been watching TV in the morning, drinking coffee, eating cornflakes, laughing, thinking about North Walsham, or not.
I think I saw his soul rise out of him, at least that's what I believed the smoke was when I was wee, and I smelled it. Some of it went up my nose, so he is in me. My wee dreams are a way of keeping his soul happy. I hope to bring him back to North Walsham sometime. I'll go to the churchyard and say a prayer and let him go, when I don't need him anymore. He's my man.
You think I'm daft, but I'm not.