It was a wild summer. As soon as school closed, Wee Stevie went into hospital for surgery, and then his ma kept him housed for a week to recover. He missed building the tree-hut (Big Rodney borrowed his da’s hammer and nails without asking). He missed sharpening sticks into spears with Big Rodney’s penknife. He missed catching sticklebacks in the river with Big Rodney’s fishing net and bucket. But eventually, his head came bobbing through tall, distant grass, as he cut across the field, arriving out of breath, and grinning. ‘What’s happenin’?’

Even though he no longer had the half-closed eyelid, it was wedged open too much and he looked permanently surprised on that side of his face. We couldn’t say anything, because he’d been anticipating a normal eye for all eight years of his life, so we told him about the hut instead and demonstrated which branches and nails to step on, in order to climb the tree. As the three of us hunkered on our makeshift pallet floor, the posse was whole again and Wee Stevie pulled out a box of matches.

‘Don’t be burnin’ our hut down!’ Big Rodney wagged a finger. Pushed the glasses in tight against his nose.

Wee Stevie held a match and pretended to strike it. ‘Swishhhhhht!’ Then shoved it towards Rodney’s face and laughed.

Big Rodney’s eyes widened, then narrowed, and he thumped Wee Stevie hard on the shoulder.

Dead-arm, dead-arm, dead-arm, dead-arm,

Dead-arm, dead-arm, dead-arm, dead-arm,


‘Come on,’ I said. ‘Let’s go to the river.’

We’d never bothered with fires before, but Wee Stevie was on a mission, so we helped him gather twigs and dry grass, then watched the delight flare in his surprised eye as flames spluttered and took.

A few weeks in, the summer became volcanic. Morning cow manures dried by teatime and hardened into dung Frisbees, which we used for shit-tag – our invented game of dung-skimming over grass-tips, trying to strike someone into the forfeit of crawling on all fours and mooing, while real, brown-suede cows watched in unison, flaring the nostrils in their broad pink noses and chewing their cud.

It got so warm, that men in bare chests became common sight, yet mostly, people took to their gardens as though venturing too far from home might result in death from overheating. Hoses hissed. Sprinklers fift-fift-fifted. Until the reservoir began to shrivel and they introduced a hosepipe ban.

* * *

No-Neck-Dave got married and I attended the night-do. I didn’t know him other than to say hello in the street, or hello to him getting into his car, or to him smoking a cigarette on the front doorstep or to him out cutting his grass; but mam knew him, and after the invite came, we went up the town to buy me a new navy shirt with a white breast pocket.

I hadn’t been to a night-do before, but enjoyed charging around the sparse dancefloor with Wee Stevie and Big Rodney as Abba played and colourful lights flashed the room.

While it was hot outside, it sweltered indoors, and I drank icy Cokes in an attempt to curb the sweat dribbling my forehead like the Cooley Weir. The adults were merry. Relaxed. And seemed to forget about rules. So our play spilled into hotel hallways where we knocked doors and ran away.

Towards the end of the night we came across a man in the foyer with a shock of grey hair, sitting on an armchair and supping a pint of beer. The wrinkles on his face were deep, like life had toyed with him too much.

‘C’mere,’ he said to us. ‘Wait til yis see this.’

He rummaged in his pocket, scattered coins on the table, then set about arranging them into a neat stack. I noticed letters tattooed across each finger and angled to read them. He caught my curiosity and placed both fists side-by-side.


‘My life’s mantra. Fear No-one. It should be yours too.’

It didn’t say no-one. It said none. Fear None.

Then he bent an arm up, to eye-level, and cupped that hand around his ear. Placed the coin-stack carefully on his elbow. In a snatch, the hand left his ear, shot forward and he caught the coins in mid-air. I’d never seen the like of it.

He smiled. Swigged his beer. Handed a coin to each kid. ‘Here, start with one each. If ya can catch yer coin, yis can keep it. Right?’ He eyed us each in turn. ‘Right? Right? Right?’

Each kid nodded.

By the time mam appeared, I had mastered the catch and thought I was great. She paused in the foyer. Took off a high heel, peered inside. Put it back on again. ‘Jemmy! Come on. Home time!’

We passed through twirly glass doors to the warm night and a taxi humming by the kerb. Mam stopped. Looked back. ‘See that fella yis were with? That’s yer Uncle Pete.’ She opened the taxi door and let me climb in. Country music played on the radio. ‘A distant uncle, mind. Yer Great Uncle.’

We set off for home. ‘I didn’t know I had a great uncle.’

‘Well ya do.’ She patted my leg. ‘Did ya have a good night, son?’

‘Aye.’ I rested my head on the window. Watched stars drift slowly past. Squinted my eyes until they all blurred. ‘Have I met Uncle Pete before?’

‘No. But sure he lives in that big house with all the junk in the yard. Ya know? The one across the fields, near Woodhill’s End?’ She laughed. ‘He’s not right in the head though, and smokes funny cigarettes, so just stay away from him, right?’

I was nearly asleep. ‘Right.’

* * *

Wasps tortured the town that summer and people had two to three traps on their outside bins, which was unheard of, because usually one wasp-trap would do.

We were down at the river this particular day, taking turns on a blue rope swing that pendulated over the water, and eventually started jumping in, because the heat was unbearable. Then we took to complaining about how thirsty we all were.

‘Why don’t we ask ma Uncle Pete for a drink?’

‘Uncle who?’ said Wee Stevie, one eye bigger than the other.

‘Ya know the junkyard house?’ I pointed that general direction. ‘Mam says that fella’s my Uncle Pete.’

‘Didn’t know that,’ said Big Rodney.

‘Neither did I!’

So across the field we went, up the steep grassy bank, and crab-stepped through a barbed wire fence. Uncle Pete’s garden was strewn with old carcasses of cars, dead washing machines and fridges, and we made our way through the rusted jungle until we reached the back of his house.

Wasps everywhere.

I battered the door. Didn’t wait properly for an answer. Did it again.

Uncle Pete flung it open, wide-eyed and fist clenched. ‘What!’

He looked at each of our faces accusingly. Watched us swipe at wasps.

‘I’m Jemmy, Uncle Pete. Yer nephew.’

‘My wha?’

‘Mam says yer ma great uncle.’

‘Ya Stephanie’s young fella…or Julie’s?’ His eyes narrowed.

‘Uh-huh. Stephanie’s. Do ya not remember us from the weddin’ last week? Jemmy? Stevie? Rodney?’


‘And ya showed us how to catch the coins?’

‘No.’ He swatted a wasp.

‘We thought ya might give us a drink of water to cool down that warm day.’ I backed away. Moved my head to the side. Dodged a wasp. Flapped a hand at it.

‘Yis can use the hose round the side of the house. That’s if the wasps don’t kill yis.’ He closed the door halfway. ‘And don’t forget to turn aff the tap!’

He slammed it shut.

We drank from a green hose, danced among wasps and Wee Stevie got stung on back of his leg and ran off home crying.

I remember lying in bed that humid night, every window yawning to the last notch of its clasp, wondering why Uncle Pete had no wasp-trap in his back garden, and why he couldn’t even remember us at the wedding.

The following morning, I rose early and headed across the fields on my own. Knocked his back door. He flung it open. Eyes-wide. And again with the clenched fist. ‘What!’

I stepped into his kitchen. ‘I’ve come to make you a wasp-trap. You can’t live like this, Uncle Pete.’

‘What’s yer name again, son?’ He squinted. From suspicion.

‘Jemmy. Have ya any jam?’

I could see the confusion in his gait, like he wanted to walk one direction and another at the same time.

He opened a cupboard. Handed me half a jar of strawberry jam. ‘What are you gonna do with this?’

‘Make ya a wasp-trap?’

‘A wha?’

‘I need a spoon. And yer inside bin?’

He handed me a spoon from the sink. Pointed under the table to a small pedal-bin. Followed me over and watched curiously as I unscrewed the lid, stuck the spoon in, and put one foot on the pedal.

‘Hold it! What essackily are you doin’ with that jam!’

‘Throwin’ it out. Ya only need a wee bit in the bottom of the jar.’

‘Ya will not bloody well throw it out!’ He grabbed the spoon and ate a splodge of jam, lips slapping like a hungry dog. And kept going until he held the jar up and examined it. ‘Here.’ He handed it back.

I filled it two-thirds with water, then screwed the lid back on. ‘Have ya a pointy knife?’

‘A pointy wha?’ He opened a drawer. Handed me a small knife. ‘What do I need a wasp-trap for anyway?’

‘To keep them under control, Uncle Pete. So ya can go out the back. Hang yer washin’ out or whatever.’

‘Washin’?’ he laughed. ‘I wear ma clothes in the bath. Two birds with one stone. Nothin’ to hang out.’

I stabbed the knife into the lid. Twisted it until there was hole enough for a wasp to enter.

‘Right, best place for this is on yer bin.’ I held it out for him.

‘Huh! I’m not bloody goin’ out there!’

I opened the back door. Ran through the wasps and placed the trap on top of the bin, then stumbled back inside. Slammed the door.

We watched through the window. Wasps already hovering the trap. ‘See! It’s workin’!’

* * *

It was a week before I returned to Uncle Pete’s.

We were in the fields again, bored. Snapping tree-branches and skinning them with Big Rodney’s penknife. Summer days can be hard to fill at times, so we ended up at his back door, where I counted eleven wasp-traps and not a live wasp in sight.

I knocked.

It flung open. Clenched Fist. ‘What!’

‘Uncle Pete, have ya any tennis rackets or sports stuff or anythin’ like that, that we could play with? We’re a bit bored on it here.’

‘Hold on.’

He went inside. Closed the door behind him. Then returned carrying a bag of scuffed golf clubs. ‘Here, have a go with these. And bring them back essackily as you found them!’

As we hit every ball across the field and lost every one, I thought about the wasp-traps. I did that. I taught him that…

We returned the golf-bag later that afternoon and he touched a fingertip to each club as he counted, then opened the zip on the front pocket and peered inside for his balls. ‘Yis wee shites! Don’t come back here! Just piss aff!’

He paced the kitchen then, muttering to himself, eyes darting. ‘Every last one. They’ve gone and lost every last one!’

That was the first time I considered there might be something wrong with Uncle Pete, even though my mam had warned me he wasn’t right in the head. So we left him there, pacing and talking to himself, like he had stepped into another world and could no longer see us stood at his back door.

It wounded me too, that piss aff, for he looked at me when he shouted it. My own uncle. My own great uncle.

* * *

It was around the time when the wasp epidemic died off, that my life shifted. I was at the tree-hut one morning when Big Rodney plodded through the grass with his sister, Kathleen – a rough and tumble kind of a girl who spent her life in brown corduroy dungarees.

‘What’s up?’ He removed his glasses, rubbed the lenses using the belly of his t-shirt.

‘Not much. No sign of Wee Stevie yet.’ I ignored Kathleen. Girls didn’t know anything about tree-huts or football or pissing outside.

I watched Big Rodney’s eyes go to ground. Up to me. Down again. Waited for him to explain why he’d brought his sister.

‘Kathleen’ll be taggin’ along this week. Ma and da are workin’, so…’

‘…so I’ve to watch ma wee brother.’ She smiled then, and right enough, she was a year older than Big Rodney.

Kathleen stepped forward. ‘Right, let’s see this tree-hut yis have been yappin’ about.’

Before we could decide whether girls were even allowed, or demonstrate which branches and nails to stand on, Kathleen was up the tree like a squirrel and disappeared in among the branches.

When we got up, she sat on the pallet. Indifferent. ‘Could do with a bit of work.’

‘We haven’t finished it yet!’

‘Yeah, we haven’t finished it yet.’ Said Big Rodney.

It was then that Wee Stevie came into the hut too.







Wee Stevie looked at Big Rodney. Then me. ‘What’s she doin’ here?’

‘Look, I’m mindin’ Rodney this week. Alright?’ Kathleen stood up. ‘Get over it.’ She climbed out and we all followed.

Wee Stevie was last down and decided to show-off and jump, rather than use the last few footholds. He landed. Stumbled sideways into the nettles, before losing balance completely.

First the shock in his face. Then the crying. But he just lay there. In the fire of stinging nettles.

‘Would ye get up!’ I reached out a hand.

He roared.

Suddenly, Kathleen waded in, hooked him under the armpits and pulled him out.

Wee Stevie ran away home, like a siren across the field.

Big Rodney turned to Kathleen. ‘Are you alright? No stings?’

She pulled up a trouser leg. Ankles covered in white sting-bumps. I knew it must have hurt, but she carried on as though it didn’t.

‘Come on back to the house, there’s bound to be some cream.’ Big Rodney looked like he might cry.

‘No,’ I said, ‘she needs Docken Leaves. Come on!’

We searched the hedgerows, then Kathleen sat on the grass and rubbed the leaves against her white nettle bumps.

When she was finished, she let down her trouser legs, went to a tree and snapped off a branch. We watched her take into the nettles. Whack! Whack! Whack!

I snapped a branch too. So did Big Rodney. And together we wiped out any nettles within twenty feet of the tree-hut.

* * *

The next day I was at the tree-hut early, installing a piece of rope that could be used to raise up supplies.

I climbed down and there was Kathleen holding a silver toolbox.

‘Where’s Rodney?’

‘Away to BB Camp.’

‘Where’s Wee Stevie?’

‘Away to his auntie’s caravan in Kilkeel.’ She set down the toolbox and opened the lid. ‘Do yis not talk to each other?’

‘Does your da know you have that?’

‘No.’ She scowled, then smiled. ‘Have we any wood? I’m thinkin’ we could make a wall up that side,’ she pointed towards the hut, ‘keep the wind out.’

‘We don’t, but I know where to get some. Come on.’

We walked to the corner of the field and passed through a gap in the hedgerow, then scrambled up the steep bank, through the barbed wire fence and into Uncle Pete’s garden of junk.

‘Keep low, in case he sees us.’

‘Who lives here?’

‘Ma great Uncle Pete.’

‘What’s so great about him?’

‘He’s not right in the head.’

We roved among the scrap, crouching low and gathering wood. Found seven planks and two broad sheets. It took a couple of trips to carry it all back to the hut, where we used the new winch-rope to haul each piece up. Me doing the pulling, Kathleen doing the tying at the bottom.

It was slow and heavy work. When it came to her da’s toolbox, I had to pull with all my might and nearly killed myself doing something I wasn’t strong enough for. But I got it up.

We spent the afternoon hammering planks into position against thicker branches and making it into a tree-hut for kings.

‘Right, I’m headin’ home for tea. Mam’s gettin’ us Chinese.’

‘We’ll finish this wall tomorrow, sure.’ She dusted her hands against her dungarees. And disappeared out of the hut.

I stood for a moment.

So she was coming back?

I climbed down and spotted her halfway across the field, then headed home for my chicken ball supper with curry sauce and a can of coke.

By the time I bathed and went to bed, I was knackered. Busy day’s work at the hut.

I lay staring at the wall, contemplating whether to go back the next morning. What if Wee Stevie and Big Rodney still weren’t there? I could make an excuse…or just not show up?

I’d rather go back to school than spend another day with a bloody girl!

* * *

The next morning at breakfast, I took the hard line and decided I wouldn’t be ousted from my own tree-hut by a girl, so headed on down the field and whoever showed up would show up, but they would be put to work.

I found a saw in her da’s toolbox and cut one of the wood sheets in half. Started holding them up to see where they might fit, when in she came.

‘How was yer Chinese?’

‘Where’s Rodney?

She squinted one eye. ‘I told ya, he’s away to BB camp.’

I clenched my jaw.

‘And before ya ask – Wee Stevie is away for two weeks.’

I didn’t know what to say, so just went back to my wood.

She came over with a hammer. ‘Looks good. Hold it there and I’ll nail it on.’

‘No, you hold it and I’ll nail it!’

She chuckled.

It took a good part of the morning, and she kept humming, which did my head in, but we got the new wall up and it was pretty cool.

‘Looks great,’ I said. ‘Right enough, ya can’t feel the wind at all now.’ I brushed the palm of my hand against the wooden wall, as if to say, we did this. And it’s solid. And it works, it actually works.


I saw the dark slither of the splinter in under the skin. ‘Shit! Shit! Shit!’

Felt like running home, like Wee Stevie would.

‘Let ma see.’ Kathleen grabbed my fingertips. Winced. ‘Right, sit down, I’ll get it out for ya.’

She rummaged in the toolbox. Sat holding a Stanley knife and a pair of pliers.

‘Yer not comin’ near me with them!’

‘I’ll be gentle.’ She was calm. Took my hand and stared at it, like a surgeon preparing.

First, she took the Stanley knife and teased the skin, until a dark end of the splinter was accessible. She swapped the knife for the pliers. Held me across the fingertips again. Leaned closer.

Something happened then. All at once I inhaled something. As it infiltrated my lungs, then my body, a pleasant tingle worked its way along the back of my neck.

She worked at the splinter. Trying to catch an end.

I tried to detect it this time. Focused on it. It wasn’t scented, like perfume or shampoo or deodorant, but instead, as I drew it in, it was simply the smell of her skin. Of her.

My neck tingled again.

‘There ya go!’ she smiled and held up the pliers. Splinter poking out the end. Then got up and returned the tools to the toolbox. ‘Ya might need a plaster on that.’

‘Good job, Kathleen. I hardly even felt ya pull it out. Thanks.’

We decided to add another wall, so spent the afternoon scavenging more wood at Uncle Pete’s and carrying it back to the hut. I found that I couldn’t think straight, like a kind of daze, and wondered maybe if I was coming down with some illness.

* * *

The next day I was the same. Had stayed up late to watch the Man Utd match and by the time I made it to the hut, I was in that strange malaise again.

Kathleen came across the field. Stony-faced. I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d done or not, so didn’t say anything.

‘Da gave aff to me this mornin’ for takin’ his toolbox. I’ve to bring it back right now.’


She started towards the tree.

‘No wait, I’ll lower it with the rope.’

By the time I got down again, she had just untied the winch-rope and was crying.

‘Are ya alright?’

As soon as I said it, she cried all the harder. I looked into her eyes, their rich blue. ‘Just bring it back. I’m sure he’ll be happy enough once you return it.’

She nodded. Eased up on the crying. Smiled a little, which showed a dimple in each cheek. Had I noticed those before?

Then, without thinking about it – and I can’t believe I did it – I stepped forward and gave her a pat on the shoulder. And that tingle happened in my neck again.

I watched her lift the toolbox and head off across the field. A white butterfly moved silently through my eye-line.

Right-handed, I thought. Kathleen is right-handed.

So am I.

* * *

No sooner had the wasp epidemic subsided than the next thing to torture the town came along: Millions of Flies. People everywhere talked about plagues of Egypt. Bought dangling sticky strips that quickly became dotted with bodies. Nope, there was no escaping the flies. Lying in bed at night, I’d hear one buzzing faintly somewhere in the room. Eating my dinner. In the car. Everywhere I went. Flies.

But then a phenomenal thing occurred. One of the stalls in the town market started selling fly-screens – imported from Japan – they said. You could stick them inside your windows and doors, and no flies could get into your house. Guaranteed.

I remember creeping into Uncle Pete’s garden, in search of wood one day, and watching him stick those mesh fly-screens from Japan across his windows and doors. I’d found another sheet of plywood, another windbreak wall, but had no tools.

They were invading the hut too, these flies, and while I waited that afternoon for Kathleen to return, I pottered down to the river which had shriveled to a summer trickle and which was alive with insects. As I swung my arms wildly at their incessant probing, I thought about going to her house to check if things were alright – but what if her da answered? – so I headed home instead.

At dinner that night, I wondered where I could borrow some tools. Uncle Pete was first in my head – but he’d already cracked up over the golf-clubs so wouldn’t lend anything else.

Then I considered No-Neck Dave. Whether he would even own a hammer. And a memory drifted in, of me watching telly one afternoon in the living room and Patsy from next door talking to mam on the front doorstep and No-Neck Dave being mentioned and mam saying, ‘Sure, he’s that stupid he’d choke on his own spit.’

Do stupid people own hammers? I went and knocked his door to find out…

Well, not only did he own a hammer, but a beautiful, yellow and black, Stanley toolbox, which he gladly leant to a kid building a tree-hut who promised to return it by the weekend.

So the next day we were back in business and I was at the tree-hut early and hoisting the toolbox up all by myself, to surprise Kathleen when she climbed in.

I sat for a while.

No sign of her.

Then I tried to hoist the sheet of wood up too, but it kept catching in the branches and I couldn’t do it without help.

I waited some more.


I lasted a while, but couldn’t settle. Every time I got up into the tree, I was afraid I couldn’t quite see across the field for Kathleen coming, so I got down again. But then I was just hanging around instead of working, so got back into the tree again.

After another hour, she still hadn’t come, so I headed home in time for lunch. Mam set two bowls of Scotch Broth on the kitchen table.

‘You’ll never guess who I bumped into, in the bakery this mornin’.’ She carried a plate of crusty bread over. I took a piece. Dipped it into my broth.


‘Great Uncle Pete.’ She smiled. But strangely, as though the source of her humour was not in fact Uncle Pete, but something else.

‘He was askin’ about ya.’ She looked almost like she could laugh. ‘Wanted to know if ya were still seein’ that young hussy, as he put it.’

‘What?’ I screwed my face up. Tried to buy time. What had Uncle Pete seen? What did he know? What did she know?

‘Says he’s seen ya about the fields with some girl?’ She tore a piece of bread. Ate some. ‘Have ya a girlfriend, son?’

She looked proud. And mildly amused.

I pretended to laugh. Gulped at a glass of water. ‘Of course I haven’t a girlfriend. What’s he on about?’ I pointed my spoon towards her, to reinforce my point. ‘Unless it’s Rodney’s sister he’s talkin’ about? Kathleen? Rodney’s been mindin’ her a few days. She’s been knockin’ about while me and Rodney and Wee Stevie built a tree-hut.’

‘Oh.’ She almost looked disappointed. ‘Well, he wanted ma to pass on a message too – yer to stop takin’ wood from his garden.’

‘Ach sure, we only took a couple of bits for the hut!’

‘Well, don’t be takin’ any more. Right?’


I finished the Scotch Broth and retreated to my bedroom to play Lego. Wasn’t there ten minutes, when a fly came in and I heard the buzz of him circling and circling and circling.

I got a book, stood in the centre of the room and waited until he flew right past. Whack! I heard his tiny thud against the window pane. When I went over, he was lying there, on his back, but still moving.

I thought about squashing him, but instead, went downstairs and hoked in the cupboard under the sink until I found two large matchboxes that mam used for lighting the fire. One was almost empty, so I transferred its contents and took it back to my room.

I lifted him by a wing. Placed him into the matchbox. Wasn’t sure what I was even going to do until another fly came buzzing into my room.


Got him with the book too. Stunned him against the window pane. Gathered him into the matchbox. Every time I was just getting lost in my Lego again, another fly would come in, so I’d stun and catch it. I poked small holes in the matchbox with a needle, and took most of that afternoon to collect seven flies. All crammed into the box. A buzzing box.

Then I stuck it in my back pocket and went to Uncle Pete’s house. Knocked the door.

It flung open. Clenched fist. ‘What!’ he spoke through the new mesh doorway that was imported from Japan.

‘Sorry Uncle Pete, I know ya told me never to come back, but I really need to use the bathroom.’

‘Ye can piss in the hedge!’

‘It’s not a piss I need.’

He opened a gap in the fly-screen. ‘Get in quick!’ Started moving his neck back and forth, a bit like a chicken, as though the mere thought of flies had activated something in him.

I went into the bathroom. Closed the door. Took out my matchbox. Thought twice about it, then slid it opened and released flies into the room.

I emerged, careful to leave the door slightly ajar, and he was waiting in the hall. Picking a scab on his elbow and eating it.

‘C’mere til you see this.’

I followed him into the living room. Brown leather sofa. No television. There was a large cardboard box in one corner. He stood peering in.

I walked over and looked in.

‘You’ve a pet badger? Can I stroke him?’

‘No, ya can’t.’

‘Is he dead?’

‘Nope. Just asleep.’

‘What’s his name?’

Uncle Pete laughed. ‘He’s not a pet, he’s for the baitin’.’

‘Oh.’ I nodded, but didn’t know what that was, so stepped away to change the subject. I spotted a glass jar on his mantelpiece. Half-filled with tiny pinkish pieces. And reached up to touch it. ‘What are these?’

‘Don’t touch that!’ He practically lunged. ‘Them’s ma toenail clippins!’

‘Oh. Why do ya keep them? I just bite mine and spit them onto the floor at home.’

‘Because they’re a part of ma and I’ll be keepin’ them. Right?’

I saw a fly whizz past out in the hall. ‘Right, I’m away. Thanks, Uncle Pete. See ya!’

* * *

The following day Patsy from next door came to our front door-step. I turned the telly down and eavesdropped from the living room.

‘Sorry about your Pete.’

‘It was always comin’.’

‘If there’s anything I can do. Or look after Jemmy or whatever if you want to visit him?’

‘Thanks, Patsy.’

I heard her footsteps retreat down the path, so stepped away from the door and turned the telly volume up again.

Mam came into the room. ‘What do ya want for your tea, son – sausages and beans?’

‘Aye, that would be nice.’

I tried to settle into the chair, but couldn’t. Something had happened to Uncle Pete. And I wasn’t sure what.



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Jamie Guiney’s short story collection The Wooden Hill was published by époque press and is available here.

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