Being stricken with a curious sort of voodoo done gripped the better part of my arse a couple weeks back, I found myself sat in the doctor’s waiting room of Monday past leafing idly through a copy of Bizarre magazine inexplicably (or bizarrely) left alongside the half-dozen copies of Tuberculosis Monthly and V.D Review.
Sat there reading a very interesting article about folks who have filth with aquatic animals, I’m suddenly startled no end by a great gasp coming from my right.
“Lord above!” a voice says.
Turning, I find a fella in his thirties sat gazing slack-yapped at the image on the page afore me. A youngster of about six months sits on his knee, bouncing and heaving with demented abandon.
“Is that an octopus she’s at?” the fella mouths.
“It is boy,” says I. “And bejeesus isn’t she at the eels a couple pages after.”
“She is not!”
“She is. Damn the beast the sea can conjure that she won’t find a hole for.”
Shaking the head with awe he says, “An octopus in the hoo-hah… I’ve seen it all now.”
“Couldn’t be up to them nowadays,” I tut.
“So what’s the matter with you, then?” he asks me presently. “What are in wi’ the doctor for?”
“Ach, it’s a savage predicament,” I tell him. “I’m having the wild bother with the arse. Shockin’ altogether. You’d think I’d ate nothin’ but leprosy all year, by damn, the concoctions that rogue’s puttin’ out of him.”
“A tight leash” he says sagely. “That’s what you’ve to keep that article on.”
Just then, the youngster on his knee thrusts forward with a great flail of the arms.
“No!” says the fella, the father of the child as it happens. “Sit there and behave.” Turning then to me, he says, “He’s at the crawlin’, don’t you know? Oh but he’s the terrible man for the floor. Damn the peace you’ll get, if he takes a notion for rovin’.”
Much pushing and straining.
“Phillip! Behave there!”
Smiling, I extend a finger the child’s direction. “Hello,” says I.
The youngster looks up at me.
“Are you not for speakin’?”
The answer arrives by way of a joyous yelp, “Cock!”
I fire a glance at the father. “Ah…”
“Mother o’ Merciful God” the father says, closing his eyes and grimacing.
“Did he just say cock?” I ask, stunned a touch.
“Cock!” the lad repeats, louder. “Cock!”
“Phillip!” The father’s pupils dart left and right about the room.
“That’s amazing,” says I. “I never said the word cock till I was 21 years old, and even then it was only cause I tripped in the middle of a conversation about timepieces. Did you teach him that yourself?”
“By Mary’s nuts I did not” the father assures me, stern faced. “It’s a word neither me nor the wife would have on the lips, I assure you.”
“Ha” I chortle. “You and the wife wi’ cock on the lips!”
Despite the inherent hilarity of this quip, the fella’s face remains free of the faintest ghost of the slightest smile.
“So is that all he can say?” I quickly ask. “Has he never said a ‘dada’ or ‘mama’ or ‘Decameron’?”
“Damn the bit of it. It’s cock and more cock, day and night. And save us, didn’t he even address the minister with the very same? ‘Is this young Phillip?’ says he, and says the youngster, ‘Cock’. A fine thing for to be greeting a man of the cloth, a mouth all ‘cock’.”
Marveling some at the whole affair, I tilt my head back on the seat and say, “Wouldn’t it make you wonder what our own first words were? The devil only knows what filth we maybe flung wi’ the first waggle o’ the tongue. It’s not as if anyone would ever tell us. ‘Oh, wee Jonathan, boys but I remember your first words clear as day. Fanny-fart, you said.'”
Despite his obvious embarrassment, anguish and guilt, the father slaps the arm of the chair at this and gives a great hoot of laughter. “Ho, boys” he says. “Wouldn’t you just wonder, right enough.”
“Or what other folks first words might’ve been” I continue, warming to the subject. “All the Big Men and the Big Women. Your David Hume’s or your John The Baptist’s or your Joan Of Arc’s or who have you. Wouldn’t it be great to find out, right enough?”
“Heth it would…”
For a time we sit silently contemplating this, the still threatened only by the intermittent scurrilities tossed to the skies by thon dirty, foul-mouthed infant.
The young Benedict de Spinoza chortles and giggles at the antics of his father, himself busy racing about the sitting room of their fairly spacious townhouse, ducking and diving and bounding behind the furniture. A right amusing sight to see, if not so enjoyable for the man himself, jumping about the place as he is by way of dodging the missiles flung his direction by Hannah, his wife.
“What were you doin’ then, Horace, tell me” says she, a great wallop of a pan in her right hand, “If you weren’t lappin’ and lickin’ away? Were you perchance lookin’ for chinamen in thon fandang?”
“She told me she had a sore pain in the area!” roars the set-upon patriarch, hiding behind a chest of drawers.
“‘A sore pain’ says he, I’ll give you a sore pain!”
With that, she flings the pan and races to the hearth for to retrieve the poker. “And what was she doin’ in your study anyway?”
“She wanted help with her accounts! Sure you know what them young lasses are like, it’s all gobbledygook t’them!”
“Accounts? Well it was a queer abacus in your service, a queer abacus an’ all.”
Throughout the whole carry-on, young Benedict roars wi’ infant giggledom. Horace, racing to the child for protection, he says, “Is this the thing for a youngster to be witnessing?”
“Don’t you dare shield behind wee Benedict. You done him damage enough by fatherin’ him. I tell you, he’ll be a fine one if he grows up like his Da. By God the Rabbi best chop the lot o’ thon off o’ him while he’s at it, if it’s to corrupt him like it corrupted you!”
Gazing up at his father, Benedict claps his podgy hands and says “Balls!”
The two parents look at other, dumbfounded.
“Balls!” repeats the infant. “Balls balls balls.”
Hannah drops the poker and throws her hands to the air. “Save us all, there he’s at the balls already. D’you see what you’ve done?”
Horace covers the boy’s mouth with his trembling hand. “He said none balls, he said bald. Didn’t you, Benedict?”
“Balls n’ balls balls.”
“Merciful Lord above!”
“Balls balls balls.”
Francesco Guilliarti addresses her lover with a fair measure of hush in the voice, the child she’s busy minding having finally fallen asleep there in the crib. “We can’t, Alberto,” she’s saying. “The Count could be home any minute.”
“Oh for Holy Christ’s sakes,” tuts Alberto, fiddling with his belt, “We’ll be lucky if we see him afore Wednesday. Him out on the lash wi’ the wife up thonner in her sick bed and with all the curious colours of the Italian night coiled about his thighs? My arse he’ll be back any minute.”
“Well I don’t feel comfortable. Wee Barnaba’s in the room.”
“He’s asleep. The hell’ll he know one way or the other.”
Francesco gazes pensively towards the sleeping child. “I had a dream about him, Alberto.”
“Oh aye?” The lust-crazed lad slides o’er to his lady’s side, kissing at her neck, fidgeting with her hair. “I’ve been dreamin’ only o’ you.”
She shrugs him off with a heave of the left shoulder. “I said no, dammit. I’m tryin’ t’tell you about my bastard dream!”
Alberto sighs and falls back upon the mattress. “Well what?”
“I saw the child worshipped by all nations, and the papal seal about his forehead. This boy will be pope, Alberto, I just know it.”
“Pfft. Pope my arse.”
Just then, the child stirs from out its sleep, knocking a tiny hand off of the side of the crib. “Look,” scolds Francesco, “Didn’t I tell you? Now it’ll be an all-night session.”
She wanders over to the crib and looks down upon the baby, its wide eyes staring back at her, its fingers poking in around the half-dozen teeth piercing the pink of his gums. “Are you waken?” says she. “Is that baby all woke up?”
The child pulls gently at its bottom lip.
“Arse,” it says.
“You!” she says, turning to Alberto. “Look what you’ve done! With that arse-talk o’ yours, you’ve only learned him to say it.”
“Learned him to say what?”
“Arse! He’s said it, just now.”
Alberto roars with laughter. “Ah fuck off, did he say ‘arse’ right enough? That’s mad.”
“Mad is it? It’ll be my guts o’er the ceilings if’n the Count hears tell of it!”
“Arse blarse” the youngster babbles.
Alberto screeches with hilarity.
“I’m glad it amuses you” says Francesco. “A fine pope he’ll make, arse this and arse that.”
Nancy Lincoln gently rocks her infant son in her arms, sat by the hearthside in the family home. Outside, the winter wind rips and tears about the surrounding acres o’ Sinking Spring Farm. The flames o’ the fire flicker and waver with the weight of the draught down the chimney.
On a couch o’er by the window, Thomas Lincoln gazes dotingly ‘pon his wife and his son, sucking on the end of a tobacco pipe and with the tiny log cabin ‘thin which the child was born visible on the twilit landscape other side o’ the glass behind him.
The child near asleep, he sighs and coughs and then, with a great sigh he utters the word “cunt.”
Thomas stares quizzically at his wife. “What was that there now?”
Nancy shrugs. “I don’t know. He just gurgled or somethin’ I think.”
“By God it sounded for all the word like…”
“Cunt,” the child says, snuggling against the mother’s breast.
“He is sayin’ it!” Thomas says, standing up. “By jove he’s sayin… the C-word.”
“Och he’s sayin’ nothin’ o’ the like” scolds Nancy. “You’re just thinkin’ that’s what he’s sayin’, wi’ that dirty mind o’ yours.”
“There, again!” With a finger pointed at the youngsters yap Thomas says “I’ll be damned if he’s not cussin’.”
“Sure what does a wain know about cussin’?”
“He knows plenty, sounds o’ things!”
“Keep your voice down, he’s near asleep. And anyway, where would he’ve picked that up from?”
“From your Da, I’d go so far as to guess. Thon ol’ bugger’s got a mouth on him like the crack o’ a sailor’s arse.”
“Your fanny” says Nancy. “He’s sayin’ no C-word and that’s all’s to it.”
“Cunt” coos wee Abraham, afore falling asleep.
The grand diwan of Porbandar, Karamchand Ghandi, sweeps o’er the crystalline ballroom with a crowd of near three-dozen doting lads and lassies bounding about him for to gaze upon the child held there in his silk-adorned arms.
“By God” says Ghandi, “Look at this, young Mohandas, the whole o’ India’s hoppin’ like a bollock in stew for to look upon your tiny wrinkled mug.”
Throwing himself at the feet of the diwan, a young monk beats his hands off of the floor and wails with incredible ecstasy.
“Oh, what a blessing is this child, as beautiful and saintly a lad as e’er the land’s done puked o’er the dusts!”
“He’s that if he’s anything” says a young heiress swanning about the periphery of the crowd. “And tell me this, Karamchand, is he yet fit for to recognise himself in the reflection ‘pon the still of the river?”
“Oh” says Karamchand, “He’ll recognise himself gazing back from even the most turbulent, most disarrayed of surfaces.”
“And is he sittin’ upright of his own will?”
“He is, and he’s as sturdy and as straight as the staff o’ Fáelán held aloft by God’s own paws.”
“And what of the talkin’?” says a politician from the West of the country. “Boys-o it gives me a right pinch to hear a wain babblin’ and bletherin’ on like they do.”
“Sad to say” says Karamchand, “Young Mohandas has yet to grace us with a sensible word. A garrumph o’ nonsense, a great spiel o’ shite, such is as much as you’ll get from thon tongue.”
As if by way of demonstration, the youngster babbles thus; “Merde skide cazzate.”
Those gathered laugh heartily at this recital of the most curious gibberish.
“Oh he’s a terrible man for the prattlin’.”
“Listen to him there now! Mother of God, will he ever say a thing worth an ear, I wonder?”
Michael and Marianne Collins wander through the marketplace with the latter pushing Michael Junior afore her in a navy blue pram. Michael Senior, a man well into his dotage (although not so much that he hadn’t the sense about him to wed a lass forty years younger), he splutters into a silk hanky and snorts back great clods o’ throat-muck as the three o’ them pass the stalls and the racks, the braying vendors and the bustling crowds.
On a wall at the far end of the street, Marianne spies her great friend Joanne McCluskey, and waves and hollers her direction. Her husband wanders on oblivious, having lost a fair portion of his hearing.
Joanne races to greet her sister in all but birth with a face all smiles and arms all akimbo. “Och Jesus oh isn’t it an age since I saw you last?” says she to Marianne. “And look at this young article!” She bends o’er the pram, cooing and prodding at the toddler’s ample cheeks. “Look at you!” says she, again.
“Isn’t he a right imp and a half?” says the mother.
“Oh, he’s that. Tell me this, is he walkin’ yet?”
“Well now, he’d be like his father there of a Thursday morning. He’d be able to stand for a second or two but it’d be a foolhardy fella would bet on one leg being fit to cross the other without the lot crashin’ to the carpet.”
The women laugh at this, Michael Senior by now half-ways up the street, oblivious to the fact that his wife has paused in her travels.
“And is he talkin’?” says Joanne. “I bet he’s got a right wee tongue on him by now.”
“No” Marianne sniffs. “No he hasn’t said a word.”
“Ach he must’ve said somethin’ by now.”
“He’s not,” says the mother. “Now tell me, how’s your own twins getting on?”
Thusly runs the banter anytime anyone asks about young Michael’s verbal abilities. The truth of the matter is that he’s said at least eight words by now, but not one of them have been any word a lady might in good conscience attribute to the mouth of her child.
“Fuck” went one. “Bum” went another. A third wasn’t far removed from “Bastard.”
It’ll be another nine months afore he’ll say anything repeatable, and it’ll be the word “Boat.” By that time, most o’ the folks in the tiny County Cork community will assume Marianne and Michael to have fathered a mute, and will be bound in a sore sympathy for the parents.
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