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Teens & Young Adult

The mail carrier was late. Of all the April firsts for him to be tardy. Imogen waited for this day for an entire year carefully planning and preparing, a dreadfully painful year at that. She eyed her packed bags at the front door. Patience was the name of the game, and Imogen knew that the night her father Patrick showed up quite sloshed two sheets to the wind, beating on her brother that she’d have to do something about it. Twelve months of fortitude waiting for her father, Imogen could only hope today would be the end of all their troubles.

————

The lights had been turned off again. 

The icebox was barren.

Their home was entirely too cold, in the dead of winter in Ireland.


A chill was not something that was easy to shake when Imogen and her brother were quite literally starved and left in the gloom.

Candles were of no use to the Murphy household if there weren’t even pounds to pay for a matchstick. Desperation conjures up the beast in the man, but Cillian Murphy never felt the anguish of the blackness that was their home. No, his desperation came from somewhere far deeper and animalistic than the dark. Cillian was a man who lost love, and his drinking was the lion that roared at the Murphy children almost nightly now. Nor did it bother his inebriated heart that his children might be suffering. Perhaps it was the loss of their dear Ma ten years ago that led him to drown himself so heavily in drink, or it was just the sheer desperate feeling of loneliness. Imogen wasn’t sure. 


Cillian loved two things; his liquor on ice and his weekly paper. Why a drunkard like Cillian had any use for the news was above the Murphy children’s heads. He was predictable in his intoxication and functional in his daily work requirements, saving his surly drinking for after work. How else would one pay to go on the tear after all?

_______

“It’s bucketing down out there, isn’t it Imogen?” Her twin brother Connor, dropped his chin down onto her shoulder from behind looking out to the window to the front yard. The clock struck 11:30am, leaving Imogen vibrating with nerves and bitten down fingernails. Connor’s eye still held a slight droop, as if he hadn’t woken up all the way on the left side of his face. The bruises and palsy state of her brother's face were remnants of their Pa’s last bout of rage. She thought she’d rather be in the kitchen roasting a duck like her Ma had shown her with rendered hog fat, slow and low so as not to toughen the bird meat. But there weren’t even ducks left to roast or gather eggs from . Desperate. 

___________

The first of April was the one lone day that brought reprieve in the Murphy household. It was also the twins birthday, it felt extra special that their father was good on this day- a gift that couldn’t be wrapped, but remembered. Levity and light amidst the dull hardened life they’d all been living. Cillian was almost childlike on the day, following the custom of playing tricks before midday. Imogen’s fondest memory came from her seventh year when her father boiled eggs and cracked them on his forehead, convincing her that she should try to. As good tricksters go, he’d switched the egg given to Imogen with one that had not been boiled. Golden yolks ran down her forehead, slowing at the creases of her nostrils and cheeks. Sheer giddiness burst from her lungs at the trick her father had played.


“Pa, what did you do? Ma is going to have your back side for wasting duck eggs!”


But it was no matter, as was customary on the fools day most behaviors were excused. Rotting fish under beds, a silly note tagged to someone's back, or notes sent with rhymes to lead people to follow the fool- all were expected and cheerful, but never desperate. Follow the fool on April Fools Day was a fun prank where a note is delivered in hopes of sending false news or sending villagers on false errands, one the Murphy family had happily played a time or two.


Imogen might have been 17, but she was no fool. Her mother made sure of that. She knew her way around the village and how she might get someone on her side with little of her plan divulged. It helped that she was a spitting image of Kathleen Murphy, folks would smile without thinking when Imogen spoke to them. 

Imogen visited the bartender at O’Malley’s. She had no money to sway him with, but she did have able hands to muck his horse stall once a week for an entire year. It was enough of a proposition for the tender, as he was without children at home to care for such chores.


Then there was the mail carrier Gerald. He wasn’t as easy to wrangle into her scheme. It took a week of watching to see what the carrier might possibly need from her in exchange for his cooperation. Imogen noticed his clothing was mostly torn, and he lived alone. A note on the door for the tattered man offering to mend his clothing as he needed was enough to engage in a conversation with him, and earn his trust in exchange for a long term favor. 


Proving most difficult and requiring the most of her cleverness was the newspaper completing the full circle of pranking her father. As he was a creature of habit, the paper was delivered to their cottage every Sunday morning without delay. Imogen wrote the editor. She was clear that she did not need payment for her employment, rather she’d take some ad space in place of a wage. Writing was where she held her highest marks, and any editor was happy to alleviate some of their workload if they could put it onto someone else. 


Playing into the weaknesses of the players in her plan was simple. 

“Connor. This will work. I swear it. Pa is thick, and he’s made a right bags of our family. We can’t let him n’more.” Connor was the hardest to convince. Imogen had to believe this would work, but it wouldn’t without Connor. He had to play into the long plan too. 


Imogen was counting on her father, the fool, to stay in awe of the first of April. Every Saturday night, Sean the bartender would pour Cillian’s last two drinks as doubles. Sean would casually ask Cillian about the children, and how they were faring in Dublin. Cillian would say they weren’t in Dublin, but here in Kinsale as they’d always been. Every week Sean would add to the narrative that Imogen and Connor were in another city, and not just down the road in the cottage they shared.


Imogen would trade mended clothes with Gerald with a prewritten letter. Tucked nicely in the pocket of whatever wool clothing she’d leave on his doorstep. Gerald would drop the letter in his mail bag and deliver it to the Murphy home along with any other mail, along with the weekly paper. The village was relatively small and the mail carrier delivered prepaid newspapers along with the mail on Sundays as well. This part was critical to the prank, the letter had to come with the paper to support the conversations Sean the bartender had with Cillian the night before while he was lost in drink.


Letters from a long lost Aunt Margene, a “sister” of their Ma’s in Dublin to Cillian. Always brief with salutations of, “How are you’s?” and “Can’t wait for the lads to be here soon.” Imogen wrote well, and created a story that left her father befuddled at first but laid the groundwork for the letters to come in the upcoming months. 

“Your Ma doesn’t have a sister named Margene. Who is this? How does she know where we live and who you two fecks are?” Imogen would just shrug and tell her Pa maybe it was someone trying to send the fool, to which he’d chuckle a bit. 

________

“Connor, I know you think me a real chancer here. But this is a risk we must take. We have to get out of this house. We will need to start making ourselves sparse around here. If Pa is home, we must say less and less to him. Act as if we don’t exist. Never address him as Pa.” 


It was easy enough to act as if they didn’t exist, as Pa never cared much for their presence anyhow. The prank was part dissociation and part mastermind, and Imogen saw that this was the longest con of “follow the fool” likely known to anyone in the whole of Ireland. Cillian was the fool in this situation, and Imogen was banking on it being more than a false errand and more a permanent disappearance of her father from their lives.


Ask a hungover person what they recall from the night before, and the answer would be mottled at best. Imogen needed whatever her father could remember to be freckled enough in his memory to connect the mornings papers to the letter in the mail. The ad space that Imogen conjured up from her late nights of editing for the paper was the final component of tricking her father. Each week a small section of the paper would announce more village news, along the lines of-

“Local teens accept scholarships to secondary school in Dublin.”

“Estate foreclosures affect small cottages along the waterfront of Kinsale.”

“Bar taxes increase, prices of whiskey skyrocket.”

“To prevent foreclosure, local banks set up accounts for weekly 50 pound deposits.”


All of this was entirely believable. Cillian took the paper’s word as gold whether he was hungover or not. Bright and early on Monday mornings Cillian would find his way down to the bank for the money transfer.


“These dossers are right unwell in the head if they think they’ll be taking Cillian Murphy’s house from him. I’m off to the banker you two.”

Connor grinned at Imogen. 

______

Imogen made sure to not make a sound on the morning of the first. She waited until her Pa left, woke Connor, and pulled their bags to the front door. Now it was up to Gerald. If he’d ever get here she’d pull off the greatest prank/escape plan ever. The clock struck 11:45am, and she knew her Pa would be home any second. The whole thing would go out the door if Gerald didn’t arrive. With that thought, Imogen saw a rather drenched Gerald waddle up their long walkway. He dropped the mail in the outer box, with a slight rap of the door frame. 


Imogen quickly double checked that the letter was there. Slipping a fake foreclosure notice she printed up down at the editors office onto the front of their peeling wooden door. She made her way back inside, locking the door, barricading it with the weight of her body as her heart thump, thumped against her ribcage. Connor nodded at her from the corner, hardly breathing. He gestured to his sister that Pa was on his way up the path. 


The doorknob rattled. What felt like giant kicks and slaps on the door reverberated against Imogen’s back. Ripping off the notice on the door shredded down, their Pa was irate.


“The feck is this?! Bunk bastards think they can take Cillian Murphy for a run eh? Think you’ll foreclose my cottage, do ya?” 


Cillian was shouting into the air. Imogen counted on this response, but the neighbors would think nothing of it as drunk and disorderly were common behaviors in public for Cillian. His shouts began to get further away, and Imogen and Connor gathered their things to slip out the back. They escaped desperation.

_______

The last letter addressed to Cillian Murphy on Fools Day was left at the doorstep by Gerald. It read,

Dear Pa,

Dublin is grand. More than we could have ever imagined. Secondary school here is exactly what Ma would have wanted for us. We know you could never send us here on your wage, but the scholarships Connor and I were awarded are generous at the very least. Aunt Margene says that Ma always wanted to live here in Dublin, I think she would love that her kin made their way here. Aunt Margene says that the foreclosures are ramping up in Kinsale, and that the banks are taking money straight from cottage owners accounts to pay past due debts. We suspect they're just sending all the fools of Kinsale on fools errands to take money that isn't theirs. It was right smart of you to have put all that money aside. To be safe, you can transfer that money to the savings ledger that Ma made for Connor and I. We will keep it secure until you can sort out what these estate businesses are really up to. 

Yours truly,

Imogen + Connor Murphy

________

“Hello, we’re here to cash out our ledger. It’s our eighteenth birthday.”


March 30, 2021 21:32

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2 comments

Shea West
21:38 Mar 30, 2021

Some of the words used in this story are considered Irish slang. To make the translation easier for whoever decides to read this here are the meanings (In order of which they appear). "Bucketing down," raining hard. "Bags," make a fool of. "Chancer," someone who takes a chance/risk. "Dossers," someone that's up to no good. I feel like the story is a little rough still...but it's a start.

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16:53 Apr 30, 2021

i love it

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