Jonathan Belford

A Broken Bottle

My brother meant the world ta me. Ever since dad left us alone with our mum, Connor was the only one ta fill da’s place fer me. Growin’ up in Armagh isn’t the grandest place fer a child of seven. Not that it’s sumthin’ ya can’t get used ta, but durin’ marchin’ season, it can get a tad outa hand. The Orangemen waltz round the streets as if they own the bloody place. ‘Course they think they do. I always thought it was justa piss us off. Connor always kept me away from any place where there mighta been violence. Earlier that day the IRA bombed an office full of Protestant leaders because of the damn marching. I guess what happened wasn’t so shockin’ after that.

Me and Connor were walkin’ back from St. Patrick’s church that Sunday. We were jokin’ around about the parades and such while headin’ home. We never really hated the Orangemen, but no one could help poking a li’l fun at the parades. Our family always believed that the violence should just stop, but the “Troubles” seemed as if they would never end. We had no idea at the time about the bombin’ earlier in the day, so we didn’t take any extra precautions. It was just a normal trip home. Armed militia men stood on almost every corner waitin’ fer any showin’ of violence. This was normal durin’ late spring ‘till the end of summer 'cause of the violence it might spark.  We were about three blocks away when we started talkin’ about my pa.

“Liam, Pa…well…Pa wasn’t anythin’ special,” Connor started as he often said.

“What do ya remember?” I always wanted to know about Pa, even if he wasn’t the most smashin’ thing ever.

“He wasn’t really ‘round much, he kept a lot to himself.”

“Tell me ‘bout when he WAS around then stupid!”

“Eh…well he was a boozer”

“What do ya mean?”

“A boozer, ya know, someone who’s always drunk on whiskey. Mum said he wasn’t like that when she married him. I guess it was ‘cause of me. He never really talked to me much. Up till that day he left he was bloody awful to mum. I was lil then, I just remember screamin’. They fought a lot that day he left. It’s been better off fer us all since.”

“Nah, he couldn’ta been that bad. He always looked like a fine man in the pictures.”

“...That was before I was born.”

There was a brief silence for a li’l while after that. I didn’t think he coulda been that bad. A dad’s not sposed ta be bad. I wonder if he’d still be the same today. Maybe it’s just 'cause I’ve never seen a father like that. I guess I’d never find out.

“Hey Liam, there aren’t any officers on this street. Just be careful when we go down.”

“Yeah, cause we’re always gettin’ shot at goin’ down this street” I responded sarcastically.

“Right, Liam, just be careful.”

We kept walkin’ down the street and talkin’. Seemed that everythin’ round us was silent. Maybe I just don’t remember any sound. Connor was starin’ at the paper from the church for an up comin’ celebration, but I wasn’t sure what it was for. A car came from the street behind us and started comin’ our way. My brother looked back at it for a sec then picked up the pace. I didn’t know why, but soon we were runnin’ as fast as we could down the street. That car kept speedin’ up and the engine was roarin’ closer. Connor covered my head with my hood even though I fought against it. The sound was really close now and was piercin’ my ears. I couldn’t ‘ave told what happened next. I heard a large crash like the shatterin’ of glass and a voice cryin’ “Bloody Papists!” which echoed through the neighborhood. The car drove off and Connor finally let go of me. Everythin’ was all right now. They musta gone after somethin’ else, 'cause the only thing that broke was glass. Musta shattered a window. After we stopped, Connor’s hand slid down my arm. I looked over, but he wasn’t there. I panicked; luckily he had just fell down to the ground.

“Connor! Get up come on! I wanna get home!” I yelled at him. But the blood on his head told me somethin’ wasn’t right. There were pieces of glass everywhere. His eyes were focused somewhere in the sky.




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