No, no, happy to, sure. Sit yourself down.
Sure, I knew them well-
Here, you’re not recording this are you? It’s not going to be on the radio is it, no? Going to make a star of me, hah?
Not that I’d mind, but you know, some people round here, talking out of turn. . .
But aye, I knew them. Mother was a Darby from up by Slane way and the father, Patty, worked down with Hollis’ before they moved to Cavan and the brothers took it over. Building supplies, that sort of thing. Then there was the eldest Seanín who has the farm up the reservoir and they had one girl, Sandra, who had a bit of a run in with the Conroy lad.
He was the youngest, was Wisdom. Sure, what was his proper name, now? Jim or John or something like that. Can’t remember. Gone. It’ll come back to me.
But that was a bit of playground cruelty; calling him Wisdom. Not much upstairs, if you know what I mean, couple of nails shy of a coffin, but bless him, sure, as they say, his heart was in the right place. And sure the name-excuse me-the name-Christ-
The name stuck, as those things tend to do.
Ah Jaysus, what was his real name altogether?
. . .
He laughed like he was getting sick. Sounded like something catching in a drain, a mound of hair or something soft like that.
When he put one hand on my knee I saw they were tiny, like child’s hands, and the nails painted yellow.
And the gaudy clothes. The pink shirt showed his chest and grey hairs, and the trousers with their red and white stripes and he had a sort of necklace on tight, like a dog’s collar.
He looked like a
I don’t know what he looked like.
I want to use the right words to tell you what happened and why. I want to make you understand.
I’d watched him moving through the bog. Back and forth and round in circles, like he’d lost something. I guessed it was the silver egg I’d found along the path. I held it and waited for him to see me waving.
“Is this yours?” I said and he nodded, took the egg from me in his mouth.
It cracked inside and he swallowed sighing.
He called me a lifesaver, watching, grinning the egg yolk out the corners of his mouth.
For something to say I said to him, “What’re you looking for in the bog?”
He said “Ingredients.”
It started raining.
. . .
Harmless, aye harmless.
That’s the word I’d use.
Not a thought in his head, not a bad bone in his body.
But they were fierce cruel to him, the young fellahs down at the building site.
Making of a cod of him, you know, telling him to fetch tartan paint, bubbles for spirit levels, getting him to follow rainbows out into the bog.
That sort of thing.
. . .
He took me to the old barn to sit out the worst rain.
He said I’d catch my death and what would he do then?
The barn stank and rain came through holes. He patted a bale and said I looked intelligent. Raindrops stood on his bald head, dripped from ginger curls over his ears.
I said my name’s Kevin but everyone calls me ‘Wisdom’ on account of the joke.
And he said they’re all wrong. He said I was a smart young man who knew bargains when he sees them.
His suitcase had MR OLM written on the lid. He took out a catalogue and handed it to me. SLIDING ROOMS it said.
I got black ink on my fingers from the yellow pages. I couldn’t read the squashed writing but I didn’t want to— strangeness. Fuzzy pictures of models had their heads cut off and holding things—metal and meat and cables and bubbles and tubes, dripping candle wax over fingers and bellies, over the tops of their legs.
Don’t know what to think about that.
He said pick one you want for all your help.
Wanted his hand off my knee.
Wanted him to stop smiling lipless.
It was at my door next morning.
Uk uk, it said.
. . .
I saw him after mass once.
Tom, he says, Tom, should it be speaking all night? Is there something I should be saying back?
I knew there was something strange with Wisdom.
Stranger than usual.
. . .
I’ll explain the best I can but I’m not sure if these are proper words— I just don’t know why it was chosen for me or why anyone would want it.
Thick as my wrist and long as my shin, brown and pink with a bulb on the end, like a soft wood onion. Rows of bubbles and blisters popped when pushed.
If you looked you saw it grow with your breathing and if you touched it your fingers got greasy, like liquid soap.
And it spoke out of the hole in the top.
Uk uk all day.
Uk uk all night.
I’d wake and find it in bed. In the bath with me. It’d get in my hands, all hot and smooth.
Wouldn’t stop screaming. Wouldn’t eat anything— tried smoothing butter into its holes, dip it in milk, tried to stroke it calm but skin came off and it screamed louder.
Couldn’t get away.
. . .
And we all lost track of Wisdom Christmas.
Saw neither hide nor hair of him; not at mass, at the building site, or at the roundabout where he’d watch the buses come in and out.
Dropped off the face of the earth, you know?
And there was talk: sure, there’s always talk, you know how it is-
But someone said they’d seen him sitting on the edge of the reservoir, watching the water.
Or walking down the dual carriageway divide.
Or in the bog at midnight, moving back and forth, as if he was looking for something he’d lost.
. . .
Too big to flush down the toilet, screamed in the u-bend or in the fire. And the squish when I tried to stamp it— Felt like I was killing something living. Felt wrong.
I left it on the road so a car could come and take care of it. But there was a tapping at my bedroom window the next morning. It was there. Saying Uk uk.
I tried leaving it further and further away, burying it deeper and deeper. I threw it in the reservoir.
It came back.
Always came back.
. . .
Aye and I came across him myself as well, two weeks before. . . you know. . .
Sitting on the side of the road, up by the church. Cold night too, and him only in his pyjamas.
So I goes over to him to see if he was alright-and he looks at me and he takes me arm and he says: The world’s too big. The world’s too big and cold and strange and I don’t understand. Help me Tom, I just don’t understand.
I took him home-he kept stopping me-getting me to listen. Do you hear that, Tom? Do you hear that?
Following me, always following-
Mother of Jaysus, he put the heart of Christ across me.
. . .
It was supposed to be a gift. Something people wanted.
Was there something I was supposed to know? Something everyone else knew? What was I supposed to do with it?
Sicking wax on my hands and belly.
Flies come eating it.
I couldn’t find that man again.
. . .
Before anyone could stop it, it spread from the flats to the bookmakers, and you could see the flames and the smoke from all over the village.
Drew a crowd.
But when they put out the fire and got into his flat there was no trace of him.
But sure we were looking for Wisdom in the wrong place.
. . .
That’s why I’ve to do what I’m doing.
Don’t be sad.
I’ll be better off.
Love you Mammy.
But it won’t leave me be.
. . .
He was in the reservoir.
Four of us pulled him out.
And we saw the. . . the thing.
Rats had been at it. But there was something tied to his naked chest, held tightly to him.
But that strip of flesh wasn’t his.
We cut it loose.
It made a noise like. . .
The world’s too big, he’d said to me that night.
Too big. . . and too cold. . .
And he didn’t understand. . .
No, this world can spare no kindness for the likes of Wisdom Christmas. . .
Aye, get us another pint there if you’re buying.
Good man yourself. Good-good man-