Dempsey's Old Mad Bitch

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: February 27, 2018

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Submitted: February 27, 2018



Dempsey’s Old Mad Bitch

The Brit Pig hits the dog full on.

It rolls under the armoured car. Then the grey skirts of the RUC Land Rover sweeps over it and leaves it all mashed up. The convoy halts a moment at the corner, beyond Bishop’s Field. Then they speed off, down towards the Lecky Road. Our match stops. I pick up the football.

“Brit bastards!” Seamus shouts.

He goes into the road and pokes the mess with the toe of his shoe. Mr Maguire comes out of his gate. The rest of us boys circle about the thing, drawn by the horror of it.

“Is she done for?” Mr Maguire calls.

A pool of blood spreads on the wet road. It mixes with the oil rainbows floating on the standing water of the gutter. The thunder and rain have moved on. It now rolls and growls far off in the direction of Letterkenny.

Seamus squats down. His hand rests on a whole bit of the dog’s flank. I glance back to see Mr Maguire and a crowd gathering.

“Sure God!” says Annie, “Look at the blood in its’ mouth.”

“Look at its’ eyes.” says Finbarr. “Should we close them. My Gran had pennies put on her eyes.

“Fuck off.” Shouts Seamus.

“Stupid old Bitch.” Says Mr Maguire. “It chased anything that sped.”

“They didn’t even stop.” says Annie. Her mouth open, and she is starting to cry.

Mrs Maguire is out now and’s hushing Annie away. “Come on wee one, it’s no place for you now…It’s gone to its’ maker.”

Seamus stands up.” It’s dead, right enough, and Father O’Donovan says animals have no souls. So it’s dead, real dead and done.”

We boys looks at Seamus. We know he can be hard. We’re waiting for the next words from him. He knows a lot and comes up with plans. It was him who’d showed us that he could make a creamy stuff dribble from his willie.

“Now that’s a true fact. Dogs don’t even have purgatory or limbo.” Seamus says.

Annie sobs all the more. Mrs Foley from two doors down is out and gathers-up Annie like a mother hen. Annie buries her head in Mrs Foley’s big flowery apron.

I’ll get a sack for it.” Says Mr Maguire, “It’s Dempsey’s old mad bitch. It was always slipping off of the rope he had it in on, in his yard there.”

A pack of mongrels come to sniff out what things are about. No one but Dempsey’s dog had a collar. All the rest of the pack roams at will, like ourselves. Seamus picks up a stone to fling at them.  They take off, yelping across the football pitch, before his arm is properly swung back.

“I’ll take the collar.” Says Seamus, “I saw John Wayne do it, when Japs bombs had turned a man to slush. He took the man’s tags.”

He bends down again. Trying to keep the blood off himself. The dog is all twisted and odd looking, like the way I’d seen Pinocchio lolling when his strings were cut.

“For Christs’ sake.” Said Mrs Maguire, “It’s only a dog.”

“It’s a casualty of war and the murdering Brits killed it.”

He gets up with collar. There’s blood on his hands and jeans.

“We have to give it a proper funeral.” Says Seamus.

Finbarr now steps forward. “My Da will know what to do. We need a Tricolour.”

Patsy O’Hara now speaks up. He’s a thin, red haired boy with a face full of spots, but no one dares say anything about them to his face. Patsy is almost as tall as Seamus. When it comes to picking teams it’s always the two of them doing the picking

“Me Da’s in the Telstar. I can go and fetch him.”

“No!” says Seamus, “We can do this for ourselves. “

We all agree, nodding and looking at each other.

Now Patsy, if you go up to the Quicksave and get a trolley, they’ll be no questions asked… because of your Da.”

Seamus turns to me. “Johnno, shin up that lamppost and cut us the flag down.”

Because I’m the smallest, I always do what he tells me to do, and he looks after me against the others.

I open my penknife and stick it between my teeth, like a pirate. I’m up in a jiffy and the flag flutters down into Seamus’s arms. Mr Maguire is out with a sack. I slide down the pole so fast I burn the flesh on my bare legs. The sun is out and the wet road is steaming. Big, fat blue bottles buzz around the blood.

“It’ll start to stink.” Said Finbarr.

Mr Flynn’s there now. He is a big man with his belly bursting over his belt. Mr Maguire holds the sack open and Mr Flynn holds the thing by the back legs. It hangs there like a side of meat in Mr Malone’s butcher’s shop. Patsy is back with the shopping trolley.

“Drop her in.” says Seamus, “Gentle now.” The two men glance at each other and nod to Patsy as they put the thing in the sack and lower it into the trolley. They have blood on their hands. Mrs Maguire comes with a bucket and brush. She is swilling the blood and the frothy pink suds down the culvert. The whole street is out now, and the army helicopter hovers high over our heads, with the sun behind it.

Mr Flynn turns to us. “You lads had better get off the streets. The Brits will be back and you’ll get a plastic bullet up the arse for your trouble.”

“We’ll finish this first.” Says Seamus. “You lads fall in behind.”

Patsy places the Tricolour over the sack and Seamus puts the collar gently on top of it.

“I’m coming!” shouts Annie, freeing herself from Mrs Foley.

“Fuck off!” says Seamus.

“Let her come.” Patsy says. “We’re all in this, man and woman.”

“And dog.” Says Mr Maguire…” I’ll get ye a spade

Patsy moves us about like we’re dolls. He put us in pairs, the smallest to the front, the biggest at the back. I’m stuck with Annie. She’s all blotched and red from crying. Mr Maguire comes back with a spade and a pick

“Where’ll you bury her?” He asks.

“Up beyond Brady’s patch.” Seamus says. He turns to us, “On my command, Quick march! left right! left right!”

Off we move, a dozen or so of us, me with the pick over my shoulder and Annie trying to march and getting it all wrong.

“Follow me.” I say to her. Put out a leg, now, as I do.”

We head on, up the hill, out of the estate, towards the border road. Seamus is pushing the trolley and Patsy marching with the spade over his shoulder, like it’s a rifle.

Everybody stops as we pass the shopping precinct and community centre. They smile but then I see crying. Some women are crying. Others cross themselves. The pub has emptied onto the street. One of them starts up on a tin whistle, the wind that shakes the barley.

As we leave the estate, we cross into the back field.

“This’ll do fine.” says Seamus. “Now form up, double ranks, honour guard, attention!”

Patsy and him nod at each other. I pass the pick to Seamus. They start to turn the turf, hurling the sods into a pile.

“At ease volunteers.” Says Seamus. I see he’s starting to sweat.

“I’m thirsty, Seamus…” I say, “I need a drink.”

“Shut the fuck up Johnno, we’re burying a dead martyr and all you can think of is yourself.”

“That’s dug enough.” Says Patsy. “You big fellas at the back are pall bearers. You Johnno and Annie get some ammunition for a salute.”

Seamus takes the collar and Patsy folds the flag. The pall bearers lift the sack and lower it into the hole. The flag is folded and put back in the trolley with the collar on top of it. Annie and myself pick rocks off the wall for ammunition. We pass them round. Seamus tells us to line up on each side of the grave, facing each other.

“Now aim high or you’ll take each other’s brains out.” Says Patsy.

I hear another helicopter hovering over the estate. There is the rattle of bin lids on the pavement. The Brits are coming.

“On my command…Fire!” Seamus yells. Our stones arch up, into the blue, August sky. I catch the crack of plastic bullets being fired and the boom and woof of tear gas bursting.

“Reload!” shouts Seamus.

“I had only the one stone.” Says Annie.

“Here,” I’ve a spare.” I say.

“Fire!” Seamus calls again.

I watch my stone rising in the direction of the clear, free sky of Donegal.

“No marching back.” Says Patsy. “We’ll just melt away, blend in. We’ll be needed another day.” He fingers to each of us. “So, none of you eejits get snatched.” He put his hands on his hips. “Understand? And no talk of this, even to your Ma, or you’ll be held to account.”

“Brigade dismiss! Tiochfaidh ar la!” He shouts.

“Tiochfaidh ar la!” I roar back with the others.

But then as we go our separate ways, I’m thinking to myself, that somewhere I lost the football…and I’d be held to account for it.

As I pass the Chapel my eyes began to fill with tears.

CS gas is drifting across the football pitch.




Jim Lewis, January 2016



© Copyright 2019 Seamus Callahagn. All rights reserved.

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