Hardy Can't Reach This
My Secondary School was a
dreary place. Chewing gum stuck to the furniture, the walls were a drab
cream colour and graffiti advanced like mould over every available
Ms Hardy was a short teacher. At the top of the
blackboard, written in plain white chalk, read the words "Ms Hardy
can't reach this," and indeed she could not.
Each Irish class would begin the same. Ms Hardy
would arrive and pull a chair close to the board to remove the
offending script. The class would erupt in smirks and sniggers from
behind their tattered text books.
Ms Hardy would scan the room for an eraser. Grins
would get wider as she realises there isn’t one. Then bravely admitting
defeat she would continue the class without any acknowledgement of the
aberrant chalk message floating above her.
I stood in front of the class and read aloud once.
I was nervous and desperate to return to the comfort of my seat. "Don’t
go at it like a bull in a China shop," came the stark remarks from this
educator; the one who was supposed to encourage me.
The words lingered in the air. My pulse raced and
my head heated. "Why must she address me in that manner?" I thought.
Nonetheless I remained silent. We are not allowed
to talk back to teachers. We are not allowed to tell them if we think
they are rude.
The only route to rebellion stood firm at the top
of the blackboard. Not just the message on the board, but the three
erasers resting hidden on top. We could see them. She could not. In
resentment I stared at those erasers and reasoned, I have not been
defeated. I have fought back and prevailed.
I was three when Alice
entered my life. By the time I was five she was a permanent figure. She
married my dad that year. My mum said it would never last; that my
father couldn’t commit to anyone, but she was wrong and by the age of
eight I considered Alice my second mother. Alice gave me two sisters.
Living with her and Dad for three days of the week, created a family
environment that seemed absent between mum and I in our apartment for
the other four.
At Alice’s house we’d all play pranks on each
other and I’d teach my sisters how to hide their unwanted green
vegetables in the plant pots beside the kitchen table. We all went on
family holidays together; Spain, Florida and France too. One summer
Alice taught me and my sisters how to swim and a few years later she
bought me my first boogie board.
At twelve, Alice held my hand when my father spoke
to me about his Cancer. She held me through the night as I cried. At
his funeral she spoke of the great life we had all had together.
Afterwards my mum said legally I belonged to her.
Legal meant nothing
to me. I knew that I belonged with Alice and my sisters too. I went to
visit them on holidays and the seldom other occasions my mum allowed
It, but we lost touch. I went to college and never saw Alice while
there. Life drifted on. The memories of my life with Alice and my
father started to fade.
At forty I was saddened by my mother’s passing. At
the funeral I noticed a familiar face. Alice approached and comforted
Afterwards she took me to visit my sisters. We
together and remembered the ‘old days’; the holidays we had together
and the games we all loved to play as a family. I cried but was unsure
what was causing the tears. My mother was gone, yet another had
Emma Lindsay is
from Dublin, Ireland. She is currently working on a novel in the young
adult, fantasy fiction genre. She was long listed for the Fish Poetry
prize in 2011 and the Fish Flash Fiction prize in 2013.
front page image is copyright ©
by Tony Kitterick, 2012