‘When we get the summer holidays we’ll build an Indian camp’, Paudie said.
‘Yeah, with teepees, real teepees’, said Jim.
‘Like the Apaches’, Paudie said.
‘We can draw poles from the wood’, said Jim.
I tried to think of something to add, wanting to be as good as them.
‘We can all be Indians, I mean like, we can all call ourselves after an Indian, you know, like, Paudie you could be Crazy Horse’.
‘Shaggin Crazy Horse, feck’s sake, Jonno, are you making out I’m crazy?’
‘Naw, Crazy Horse wasn’t crazy, he was, you know, one of the top Indian chiefs’.
‘Taking Indian names – that’s stupid’, Paudie said.
‘Snot’, I said.
Paudie was only saying it was stupid because I’d thought of it, not him.
Jim folded his arms, crossed his legs, sat upright, lengthened his face.
‘Me big Chief Sitting Bull’, he said.
‘Him Big Chief Shitting Bull’, Paudie screeched.
And forgot for a moment the fire in our fingers and the biting breeze from the east.
‘Hey, c’mon will ye, them spuds won’t sow themselves’, the father called.
We were helping him sow potatoes in the plot that the Council had given us in a field behind our house.
The Poor Man’s Plot.
That was Paddy Harney’s name for it.
It was March and impossible to keep warm in the bitter east wind that numbed our fingers, coloured our bare legs shades of purple. Bit into the rims of our ears.
Every day on the radio in our kitchen Cliff Richard was singing about going on a summer holiday, going where the sun shines brightly, going where the sea is blue. Making me feel vaguely dissatisfied. Long for blue skies that were permanent, wouldn’t disappear in a matter of minutes.
And there we were crouched for shelter against the stone boundary wall between the plots and Cummins’ field. I’d zipped the corduroy jerkin that I’d got in a parcel from England all the way to my throat, turned the collar up. I loved that jerkin, not minding that it was an English cousin’s cast-off. But it couldn’t keep that east wind out. My shoes were splitting apart and caked in the dung that the father had spread in the furrows. I longed for the potato planting to be over, for the east wind to be gone. To be able to go inside, to the kitchen, where the mother would have a warm fire glowing. Press the old overcoat tightly to the butt of the east-facing front door. Keep that biting breeze out.
Let it whistle in the chimney while I sat in to the heat. Dreaming of summertime instead. Of the long holidays. Of sunny Sunday afternoons, Indian camps, listening to Pick of the Pops on the tranny Judo’s aul’ fella had brought from London. Of things we’d do when sunny days were here. If they ever were.
Dream of Apaches, baking deserts, bows and arrows.
‘C’mon will ye’, the father shouted.
We stood up into the east wind.
Summer a dream in the distance.