Ma, Jackser's Dyin Alone, page 1
Also by Martha Long
Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, on publication of Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes in the US
(Seven Stories Press, September 2012)
‘Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes, by Martha Long, is without question the most harrowing tale I have ever read. Even Charles Dickens, whom we appreciate for being the voice of so many abused children, is left in the dust. Why? Because Dickens was writing about abused children, while Martha Long was herself abused, horribly, unbelievably, by her mother’s “man” and by her own mother. Managing to stay alive, only just, by her own wits, in a world determined to erase her life and to make her believe, in her very soul, that she is nothing. It is a hair-raising read.
‘That it is a bestseller in Ireland and England gives me hope. Martha Long is not being abandoned again. Still, it is so difficult to read one might ask: Why should we bother? We must bother because it begins to show us the deeper, perhaps most elemental source of our world’s despair: the chronic, horrific, sustained abuse of children. Especally those children who, unwittingly, inherit the brutalities of colonialism, whether in Ireland, where this story is set, or the rest of the globe. I was amazed to feel some of the English, Irish, Scottish ancestors of both enslaved Africans and indentured Europeans (in the Americas) showing up in the characters of the Dubliners Martha Long depicts. There they are, in a Dublin slum in the 1950s, yes (Martha Long’s childhood city), but recognisable as the same twisted beings who made life hell on earth for millions of people over the course of numerous centuries. And who, some of them, unfortunately, still walk among us.
‘As I read this book I thought: This is exactly why they’ve kept women ignorant for so long; why they haven’t wanted us to learn to read and write. “They” (you can fill this in) knew that we would tell our stories from our point of view and that all the terrible things done to us against our will would be exposed, and that we would free ourselves from controlling pretensions, half-truths and lies.
‘The destruction of our common humanity through the manipulation of imposed poverty, misogyny, alcoholism and drug abuse is a major source of our misery, worldwide, and has been for a long time. Reading this startling testament to one child’s valiant attempts to live until the age of sixteen (four years to go!) is a worthy reminder that we can do better as adults if we turn to embrace the children who are suffering, anywhere on earth, who are coming towards us, their numbers increasing daily, for help.’
MA, JACKSER’S DYIN ALONE
To my children, every breath I take is for you.
Kathleen O’Donoghue, there is me, and so many, many others greatly indebted to you.
Fidelma, Mary, Rita, Teresa, Victoria (Vicki)
Gone, but you are not forgotten.
May you rest in peace.
Ronan O’Neill, a great friend and ‘A Man For All Seasons’.
Donal L. A man who will look kindly and reach you a helping hand. He’s simply built that way and put on this earth just so we know life is worth living.
Victor! We need you, the working man’s hero! Get thee to the Dail! I’m right behind you!
Finally, I hope T.G. will find the way back.
The night is drawing in; it is almost the closing of the day.
Soon, there will be no more tomorrows.
Until then, I will be waiting.
Also by Martha Long
Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes
Ma, I’m Gettin Meself a New Mammy
Ma, It’s a Cold Aul Night an I’m Lookin for a Bed
Ma, Now I’m Goin Up in the World
Ma, I’ve Got Meself Locked Up in the Mad House
Ma, I’ve Reached for the Moon an I’m Hittin the Stars
To Bill Campbell and Peter MacKenzie. Their name legendary, their success only a publisher’s dream, but they made it! Oh, they did! They had vision when everyone else was blind. Sure, ask me! Well! … Ma, He Sold Me? For a short while that book was doing the rounds and publishers were probably using it for arse paper! Oh! They went mad when it dawned on them they had been shitting on a gold mine.
Yes, Mainstream were the best. No wonder Random House had to step in – oh, they did! And put a stop to their gallop by making them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Mainstream? They were putting too much of a dent in their share of the market! Bestsellers! Bestsellers and more bestsellers! Sure, didn’t they make my books a bestseller over and over again?! Now the ‘Ma’ series is getting read in deepest Africa, finding its way out into the Australian outback … the bush! Only Mainstream, them two geniuses, Bill and Peter, could do that.
Now they’re bowing out and taking that old world of all that was good and great in the publishing world. Their like will never be seen again. Oh, it scalds my heart! God, I will miss them!
I will miss too all at Mainstream. Bill and Peter had the incredible knack of getting only the most competent, the most gifted to work with them. Once in, there they stayed. It was a tight little community … family. No one wanted to leave.
Fiona Brownlee, their ‘right-arm’ woman. Nothing she couldn’t do! Sell rights, sell you! Sell your books! PR second to none! Sure, why wouldn’t she be so successful?! Wasn’t she steeped in charm, charisma, stunning good looks?!
Jaysus, the angels must have been drunk, having a party, when she was born. They showered her with all the gifts a body could want to make women hate her … Funnily enough they don’t! No!! And men kill just to have her favour. It’s the sapphire-blue eyes! Yeah, that and the killer smile, but then the eye travels to the hair! Gorgeous blonde! Anyway, if David Cameron was bright enough, and lucky, she could be making her way there now, to become his next spin doctor!
Ailsa Bathgate! My wonderful Ailsa. My editor! Look! She is the kind of editor Hemmingway, Joyce, O’Casey, G.B. Shaw would demand and get because they were the best, and only the best can demand that calibre of editor. Ailsa is the best! There is no one to match her the length and breadth of the British Isles. We authors, I, was so lucky to have her.
Graeme Blaikie, editorial coordinator, quietly and calmly he goes about his Trojan work, but he gets it done. His gentle words of kindness and encouragement when all around me was losing their head. He kept me going.
Seonaid MacLeod in contracts, that girl should be awarded a doctorate in law for publishing contracts … sniff! You couldn’t get one up on her! Ah! But she was great for the laughs! And if we can laugh we are living mighty well!
Douglas Nicoll in accounts! Old-school accountant, time for a chat and make sure every penny due ca
Amanda Fisher, production assistant, full of youth and bloom – she is like a breath of fresh air! Reminds me every time I speak to her of my sunshine days filled with hope and full of expectation.
Then there is Francesca Dymond, the beautiful actress, been on many a TV soap! The gorgeous voice at the other end of the Mainstream Publishing phone. Wonderful tonic just to listen to her cheerful wit, her kind willingness to help – do anything to oblige, our Francesca.
Ah, finally, Neil, the ghost of Mainstream. He hides himself away from us authors, buried deep in the bowels of production. No, I never spoke to him. My loss.
So, to all of you! May you prosper and go from strength to strength. I wish you good health and happiness, and thank you all for your kindness to me. You all kept me going in your own unique and, yes, Mainstream publishing way. I will miss you all sorely.
A word to the reader: this is the last book ending the ‘Ma’ series. This journey may be the end for you, but for me it was only the prelude to the beginning. It marked the first step I would take in beginning a long journey that started with Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes. This final book, Ma, Jackser’s Dyin Alone, is the first time I would dare to go back and glimpse behind hidden doors where my childhood lay in darkness waiting for my return.
So, this may be old news to you – you have met little Martha and know her well. But I am only meeting her for the first time in decades. The wheel has turned full circle. Jackser is dying and fate has thrown us together again. The buried child in me is stirring and she will not be quiet. She senses our time has come. Jackser and I must take our final journey together. It is a time to die and a time to be born.
I crawled in behind a huge juggernaut delivery truck with more cars and trucks steaming up behind me. Oh, bloody hell! What have I done? Me eyeballs flew around like heat-seeking missiles looking for a parking spot. Suddenly I jammed on the brakes and swivelled my neck with all systems on alert, then leapt into action as a taxi pulled out. I reversed in a puff of smoke, bombing into the parking spot just as a black BMW readied itself to leap in. Then I dived out and tore around to open the boot of the car, leaving it wide open as an ear-piercing roar came from behind me.
‘Eh, you! That’s my parking spot! I was waiting to get in there!’
My head shot to the BMW, seeing a white-faced fella with steam coming out of his ears glaring at me. I grinned, lifting me thumb and winked at him. ‘Better luck next time, matey! Get yourself a faster car like mine!’ I said, stroking big Bertha, giving her a loving rub.
‘Jesus! I’ll be done for you!’ he snarled, swinging the head around, getting ready to jump out.
Suddenly there was a blast of horns, with agitated screams coming from the pile-up he was causing.
‘See ya!’ I waved happily, as he moved off with the mouth flapping up and down, cursing me to hell.
Right, any sign of Hitler? No, no sign of the pint-sized midget with the beady little eyes, I thought, flying me head around looking for sight of the shite-looking brown uniform with the matching hat. Last time, the little runt nearly had me arrested. Lying sod said I assaulted him when I only belted him on the hat with the rolled-up parking ticket.
Suddenly a gust of wind whipped the back of me legs as a roar went through me head. I moved so fast I nearly ended up in the boot of me car.
‘You bloody bastard!’ I screamed with the fright as a truck inched past with the driver hammering hell out of his horn. He was making for the unloading bay, but an aul one in a battered old two-seater silver Mercedes sports car beat him to it.
I watched as the truck kept going, looking now to mow down the biddy in her sports job. Then he heaved to a stop with the air brakes moaning and keening, blocking her in solid, leaving her trapped.
She erupted. ‘You stupid brute of a man! You have blocked me in! How dare you?! Move that monstrosity out of my way at once!’ she screeched, hanging her head out the window, chomping on her gums with the rage on her.
Oh, this is good, I grinned, seeing him tear open the truck door then leap down, steaming over to do battle. She grabbed hold of her squashed felt hat. It had fruit dangling on top and now the lot collapsed, blinding her right eye. She watched him coming through the left eye and flew her head back in, locking the window. Madness! Pity I have to miss it, I grinned, making for the shopping centre.
I whipped into the supermarket, making straight for the reception desk then around the counter, seeing my trolley still sitting stuffed with the week’s shopping. Good, no one robbed it, seeing as it’s bought and paid for!
I grabbed it, saying, ‘I’m back, Bernie! Thanks for minding the shopping. I’m off!’ I puffed in me hurry, gasping to the blonde with her head buried under the counter. She lifted it, giving me a big grin with the baby-blue eyes dancing in her head.
‘Uh-oh! Looks like you’re just in time,’ Bernie muttered, as her eyes landed on something. ‘Don’t look now, but guess who’s coming?’
Me head swivelled just in time to see ‘Hitler’ making his way for the exit. Then I spotted a very angry-looking aul fella with a roaring-red face and a flat nose waving a parking ticket. We watched as he leapt out in front of Hitler, shouting, ‘Here, you! What the fuck’s all this about? You can wipe your arse with that!’ he screamed, slamming the ticket against Hitler’s chest, creasing his lovely brown uniform.
Hitler stopped dead, making his six chins wobble. ‘Get yer hands offa me! Or I’ll have you done for assault!’ screamed Hitler.
I shook my head slowly. ‘That little aul fella is very vicious. He loves his job too much. Only last week he gave me two tickets in one go!’ I said, feeling the heart still hammer with the rage. ‘This place won’t last if they don’t get rid of him. You’ll be back, Bernie, looking for your old job in the other centre,’ I said, thinking, this place is a nightmare.
She grinned, saying, ‘Well, let’s hope he’s picked the wrong one this time. Looks like there’s going to be murder!’ She whispered, letting the excitement dance in her head. Then she peeled her eyes off him to me, saying, ‘One of these days someone is going to kill that little aul fella. Everybody around here knows where he lives.’
‘Well, if someone wants to put out a contract on him, I’ll take it!’ I grinned, getting the lovely picture of setting fire to Hitler’s arse. He must have been in having his tea break. That’s how I managed to get myself parked right smack outside the entrance.
‘Right! I’m off, Bernie! Might see you next week,’ I croaked, spinning the trolley in the direction of the exit, then taking in a sharp breath, trying to get my wind back.
‘Mind yourself!’ she shouted after me, seeing me take off, aiming the trolley straight for Hitler’s arse. Nope, not yet, Martha. On the way back with the empty trolley, then you can make a fast escape.
I took off flying back in with the empty trolley, rushing to get me money back. I zigzagged around a crowd jamming Hitler up against the wall.
‘I knew ye when ye drank in me local pub after collecting yer dole money! Now look at ye! Actin the big man!’ an aul one screamed, trying to hit him with her handbag.
I was still flying, grinning and looking back, when I went smack bang into a ‘New-Age husband’ manly strutting his stuff as he steamed through the crowd, making a path for his full shopping trolley. My trolley kept going, straight into a stack of special-offer baby nappies, sending the lot crashing down, smothering the head of a poor aul unfortunate pensioner. I keeled over, getting wrapped around something warm and furry. Where am I?
When I untangled meself, I was looking into the face of a big, black, hairy Newfoundland dog. It was waiting very patiently, sitting next to its owner while she rattled a box under the noses of shoppers, hoping to make a few bob for the animal shelter. The dog stared back mournfully, looking at me with big, sad, chocolate-brown eyes, wondering where I just landed from.
‘You dozy cow!’ roared
‘You blind, four-eyed, baldy gobshite! Look what you just done!’ I screamed, still sitting on the dog.
‘Help! I’m suffocating!’ shouted the old woman, buried under the boxes.
‘Get up offa me dog!’ screamed the woman behind me, giving me a dig.
‘You call yourself a man?’ I shouted, leppin to me feet, flying to face the fucker. ‘Get home to your kitchen! The wife will be in from work looking for her dinner, you bleedin Nancy boy!’ I shouted, losing the rag and sending the trolley flying, slapping him right smack in the belly.
‘Get the police! Send for the police! I’ve just been assaulted!’ he shouted, looking around at the crowd for help.
‘What’s happening?’ Bernie puffed, appearing out of nowhere and grabbing me by the arm.
‘He nearly killed me!’ I screamed, going on the attack as the best method of defence.
‘I did no such thing!’ he shouted, moving over to snort in me face.
‘The police are coming!’ someone roared, as we looked to the exit, seeing a police car draw up and three big bull-neck culchie coppers heave, trying to scrape themself out, they were that heavy. They made straight for the row going on with Hitler. The crowd around him was growing and the shouting was hitting the ceiling.
‘Quick! Come on,’ Bernie said. ‘Get out before the lot of youse get arrested!’ she hissed, dragging me away as your man snarled, ‘You bleedin bitch! What you need is a good ****!’ he growled, coming up close beside me and spitting into me face.
I missed the last bit but guessed it anyway. I erupted. ‘IS THAT RIGHT NOW?! DO YOU MEAN LIKE YOUR WIFE? SHE GOT SO FED UP WATCHING YOU SEARCHING FOR YOUR LITTLE WORM SHE GRABBED THE NEAREST MAN HANDY!’ I screamed, getting pulled away by Bernie.
Other author's books:
- Ma, It's a Cold Aul Night an I'm Lookin for a BedMa, Now I'm Goin Up in the World
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