This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 785 words.
No chance of getting much sleep that night. When Uncle Brian got home, he was chattering about the event that was a big deal on the estate.
“Gas explosion, they reckon. It was on the news in the car radio. Two dead, one critical”. After the sirens of the emergency vehicles stopped, there was a helicopter flying around, shining a big beam of light to aid the rescuers.
I was watching it from the front room window, when I suddenly realised what Brian had said. I asked him to repeat it.
“The news said one house was almost demolished. There was one dead inside, and one taken to hospital. Then in the house next door, someone was killed when a wall collapsed on her”.
I had to wait for the early news to find out more. I got Brian to ring the school and say I was sick. I felt too tired to spend the day concentrating on lessons. By the time of the third bulletin on the local news, the full extent of what had happened was known.
It was being treated as a domestic gas explosion. The gas company and Fire Brigade investigators were examining the scene, and the street was cordoned off. But according to the policeman being interviewed, there was no further danger to the public, and it was regarded as non-suspicious. The person found dead was described as a woman in her forties, and a teenage boy was in intensive care with life-changing injuries. A seventy-eight year-old woman in the adjoining house had been removed from the rubble, and pronounced dead on scene.
On the six o’clock news, they were named. With the additional information that Liam had died of his injuries and burns just after four that afternoon.
Following that explosion, much of my life changed. Not all for the better.
There was a tearful phone call from Toni. She suggested that her mum had got drunk, then lit a cigarette as soon as she woke up. I agreed that sounded likely, especially as it was the part of my plan that I had been counting on. Between the tears, and blowing her nose, Toni had more news.
“The bodies are being brought back to Ireland for burial, Danny. They won’t let my dad out of prison to attend the funeral in case he tries to escape. The thing is, I have nowhere to live now, so have to stay here in Ireland, and live with my auntie. I hope you can come and visit me soon, perhaps your uncle will give you the money to fly over?” I told her I would ask him, and that I was going to be very sad that she couldn’t come home. Which was true.
But I never saw her again.
Brian was delighted at the news, and told me he was going to change back to day shifts. But when he went into work, they refused to let him change, and the men on his team who didn’t like him warned him he was still being watched. One even suggested that he might have been responsible, seeking revenge on the Malones. Now he was even more scared than he had been before.
The Friday afternoon after the explosion, someone came to the door not long after I got in from school. It was Sandy. She smiled as I opened it. “Got a spare hour, love? I’ve got forty quid for you, and now you can keep all the money”. I let her in. Might as well make some money out of it, now I wasn’t giving most of it to Maria.
Though when fat Kerry turned up the following week pushing her toddler in the buggy, I told her in no uncertain terms that she should never call at the house again.
Now I got to choose.
By the time I turned fourteen, I had six hundred pounds saved up, stashed in an old pair of school shoes in my wardrobe. My regular women callers had spread the word around their friends, and I kept a diary using initial letters and times to indicate when to expect them. I limited it to three times a week though, so as not to let my studies suffer.
For Uncle Brian, they were bad times. The silence at work had turned to outright bullying, and he was too scared to mention it to his bosses. More and more, he relied on his anti-depressant tablets, and he let the housework go until the place started to look like a tip. I was fed up doing all the chores, and eating crap because he couldn’t be bothered to cook.
Time to have a serious word with him.