Premier Short Story Winning Entry 2014
Joe by Fiona Whyte
Joe is my friend and he lives in the wardrobe in my bedroom. He lives high on the top shelf where Mam can’t reach him. Mam doesn’t like Joe. She doesn’t like any ghosts. She says they’re not real and you don’t see them really not like you see your Mam or your Nan. Ghosts are just your imagination when it’s working too hard or gone a bit silly. I tell Mam that maybe some ghosts are silly imaginations and some are real and she says they’re not real and there’s no such thing and I must mind my silly imagination.
Miss Cotter is my teacher and she is very clever and she knows lots of stuff especially about drawing and I am a super boy at drawing. I do drawing every day at school and I draw me and Mam and Joe. Me and Mam have brown hair and Mam has blue eyes and a dress with yellow flowers and I have blue jeans and a blue T-Shirt. Joe has black hair and brown eyes like me and he has blue jeans too and a big neck with a red scarf. Miss Cotter says I can draw footballs or mountains or cars or anything I like cos I am so good at drawing but I just like drawing me and Mam and Joe.
At school I sit at the Bord Dearg and that’s the red table and that’s the same colour as Joe’s scarf. It’s the red table but Mikey Higgins says it’s the no Dads table cos three boys there have no Dads and then Shane Murphy kicks him in the yard and Cillian Roche scratches his face and Cillian Roche has really long nails.
Nan is my Mam’s Mam and she makes sausages and beans and mashed potatoes that’s yum and sometimes liver and onions that’s yuck and sometimes Shepherd’s Pie that’s my favourite. She comes to my house and tells Mam to go out and enjoy herself. Mam doesn’t really like enjoying herself but she goes out anyway cos you have to do what your Mam tells you and Nan minds me and reads me stories. Nan tells Mam that lots of kids have imaginary friends but that makes me cross. Joe is not my imagination and I’m going to tell him that Mam and Nan are just stupid scaredy cats of ghosts cos they’re girls.
Sometimes Joe lives in my wardrobe and sometimes he lives in heaven. There’s lots of ghosts in heaven except they’re not really ghosts. They’re Holy Souls Nan says and that is where all the Holy Souls go to when they die to heaven. When Joe is in my wardrobe I tell him about Miss Cotter and Mikey Higgins and I tell him that Miss Cotter is nice and Mikey Higgins is a big fat eegit and who cares what he thinks anyway.
Tommy lives down the road from me and Mam. Sometimes he cuts our grass when it’s gone very long and sometimes he plays soccer with me and Mam. Mam is rubbish cos she’s a girl and Tommy only passes the ball to me cos Mam is rubbish and Mam runs after me and catches me in her arms so I can’t get the ball but then Tommy scores a goal anyway. Mam laughs when she is talking to Tommy and she gets her hair all twisted around her finger. Tommy says maybe sometime we can all go to a movie together and get pizzas and Mam says we’ll see. I say is Tommy Mam’s boyfriend but Mam says I am her boyfriend and she loves me the best.
Nan comes to my house when Mam is at work. Nan helps with me with my numbers homework and my spellings. When I am done my homework I go upstairs and talk to Joe. Nan comes up into my room and I want to show her Joe but he is gone back to heaven. Nan does spaghetti for dinner. I like spaghetti and I’d like to give some to Joe too but he never eats anything cos of his sore throat.
Miss Cotter says draw a picture of a ghost for Halloween and I draw a picture of Joe. Joe has his blue jeans and T-Shirt and his scarf is very big and very red. Mikey Higgins says my picture is stupid and it’s not even a ghost and I say it is. It’s a real ghost and it’s better than his ghost that’s just a big fat stupid blob. Miss Cotter says to stop fighting this minute or she won’t put our pictures up at all but then she does put them up and Joe is the only real ghost on the window.
Mam comes to school and she talks and talks to Miss Cotter while I am waiting to go home. Miss Cotter shows Mam all my drawings. Mam doesn’t like my drawings so much cos she isn’t smiling. She tells me who is the man with the red scarf and I say it is Joe. She says Joe is nice and it is a good drawing but Joe is not real sure he’s not. I tell her that Joe is a real ghost and not a silly imagination and I want to go home now and I’m very hungry for my lunch.
Tommy has a Cork City jersey and they are the best soccer team in the world, except for Man United. Tommy says he will take me to a match if I like but Mam says no I am too young yet. Mikey Higgins’ Dad is taking him to Cork City and I want Tommy to take me but Mam says that I can’t go to Cork City with Tommy cos it isn’t a good idea and I mustn’t ask him again.
Mam and Nan start fighting cos Mam is being very silly about Tommy. Tommy is a lovely man and Mam is pushing him away cos she’s scared. But Nan is silly too cos Tommy isn’t one bit scary and Mam doesn’t push him even in soccer when he has the ball. I am very cross cos I can’t go to Cork City like Mikey Higgins. I sit in my wardrobe for a long time with Joe and I don’t come out for my dinner. Nan cooks me Shepherd’s Pie but I don’t want any. I just stay in the wardrobe and talk to Joe.
Mam takes me to some nice people to talk about Joe. There is a big teddy in the room and a soft football that doesn’t break the window and a squishy seat that makes squeaks when you move. The people ask me lots of questions about Joe and I tell her about his hair and eyes like mine and his red scarf and his big smile. They ask me am I scared of Joe and I laugh really hard cos that’s so silly. Only girls like Mam are scared of ghosts. Then they ask me lots more questions and my ears get very tired so I put my hands over them until we are ready to go home.
Mikey Higgins wears his Cork City jersey to school cos Cork City won the match. It’s great at the match cos there’s loads of shouting and cursing and your Dad gets you Cokes and burgers and chips out of a van and you can get Cork City to sign your programme of the match. Mikey Higgins says I can’t go to any match ever cos I have no Dad to bring me. Ha ha I have no Dad. I can’t go to Cork City cos I have no Dad. Then he shuts up cos someone is screaming very loud. Someone is screaming very very loud and they won’t stop. Miss Cotter puts her arms around me and tells me everything is ok but it’s me that’s screaming and I don’t stop until Mam comes to get me.
Me and Mam go to the people with the squishy seats again and she tells me to draw a picture of my family and I draw me and Mam and Joe. I have a football and Mam has a handbag and Joe has a rope. They tell me is Joe sad and I say no cos Joe is in heaven lots of the time and you’re not allowed to be sad in heaven. When you are very sad you can go to heaven if you like and then you won’t be sad anymore just happy. You can use a rope to get to heaven like Joe did when he was very sad but me and Mam can’t get there cos there’s no ropes allowed in our house. The nice people ask me do I know anyone else who is in heaven like Joe and I say no. Then they ask me do I know where is my Dad but I don’t know cos I haven’t got any Dad.
Mam is crying and I don’t like it when Mams cry. Their eyes go red and wrinkly like old ladies and their noses are all snuffly and they can’t talk properly. Mam is sad cos I do have a Dad that’s not here anymore. My Dad loves me very much but he is gone to heaven and he’s not coming back. I say can he come here to bring me to a soccer match and then he can go back to heaven again. Mam says no he can’t come back not ever she says. That’s not fair cos I want to see my Dad and Mam says there is a way to see him. She has pictures of my Dad and she will show me later.
When we go home Nan is there with lots of Shepherd’s Pie and apple tart. I can have some apple tart first before my Shepherd’s Pie Nan says cos I’ve been a great boy. After tea Mam gets a book out of the cupboard and in the book there’s lots of pictures of my Dad but I think Mam’s imagination is gone really silly cos it’s not a Dad in the pictures at all it’s Joe. I tell Mam that’s Joe that’s Joe in my wardrobe. Mam says no it’s my Dad. She says he is in heaven all the time and not in my wardrobe at all and his name isn’t even Joe it’s Frank. But that’s just stupid. I know cos he is in my wardrobe sometimes whenever I want and he has a drawing on his arm that says Joe so that’s his name. Mam goes quiet for a very long time and then she says that my Dad has some special drawings on his back and arms and the special drawings are called tattoos and my Dad got the Joe drawing on his arm when I was just a tiny baby. He made my name Joe and he drew my name on his arm in a tattoo to make it last forever.
Mam is snuffly again like she is crying just a little bit but I am very happy. Now I have a real Dad and his name is Frank. He has a special drawing on his arm that says my name and that means he is my Dad. Mikey Higgins’s Dad doesn’t have any special drawings on him.
Me and Mam and Tommy are at the Cork City match. We are wearing our Cork City jerseys and eating chips and drinking Coke. Me and Tommy are shouting very loudly but Mam doesn’t allow us to say any curses. Mam is smiling lots and when Cork City score a goal she gives me and Tommy a big hug. When I go to school on Monday I am going to do the best drawing ever for Miss Cotter and it will be me and Mam and Tommy at the match.
Frank is my Dad. He is a real Dad and he is a real ghost. Sometimes he lives in my wardrobe and sometimes he lives in heaven.