He stands in front of the fireplace of black marble gazing into the vase of dried flowers in the hearth. A life-sized alabaster bust of a Roman senator sits on the dresser opposite him.
“What are you standing there like that for?”
Eyes drilling into him, rocking backwards and forwards on his heels.
“Take your hands out of your pockets in front of your mother. Who do you think you are?”
He shifts uneasily from foot to foot nervous under his gaze. His photograph has pride of place on the dresser. Black cap and gown sandwich a beaming face; parchment scrolled tightly in his fist. Two paintings face each other across the cluttered room; “Empress of India” over the fireplace and Hone’s ‘Malahide Cattle’ between the windows on the exterior wall.
“And where have you been hiding?”
Josephine Francis McArthur, looking like a middle-aged portrait of that robust monarch, sits erect in her armchair in the middle of the room.
“A shop girl, Jim? You could have done better than that. Look at all the girls you could have had.”
“I love her, Ma, I’m marrying her.”
“Love her? Marrying her? You don’t know what love is … ah marry if you want to. You’ll regret it when I’m dead and gone, when I lay me old bones down in Glasker, it’ll be too late to change things then.”
Don’t want my son to leave me, want to keep him here forever. How can he do this to me after all I’ve done for him. Marry that country tart? Father a farmer in the West, she’s only after one thing. Think about what you’re doing Jim, we haven’t crawled out of the gutter for you to drag us back in again.
“Bring her round by all means. We’d be delighted.”
She beams at him from the teeth out.
“Met her a dance did you?”
His father pokes his head out from behind the newspaper.
“You can meet thousands of girls at dances. Doesn’t mean any of them are any good”
“Shut up, Bert. You were legless when you met me.”
“What do you know about it?” Jim snaps at his father, “you were never there for me anyway.”
“Jim, show some respect, don’t talk to your Da like that.”
Father and son eyeball each other across the room.
“What are you looking at?” Albert says, “I’ll give you something to look at.”
“I love her. I’m marrying her. I don’t care what you say.”
“Do what you want to but don’t come crying to us when it all goes wrong.”
“To hell with you.”
“’To hell with you’, ‘to hell with you’, is that all you can say?” his father mocks him, “go on then, leave, run away, that’s all you can do, I.R.A. I ran away, boo-hoo.”
Jim stalks from the room, slamming the door behind him.
The ticking from the Revere clock fills the silent room. Josie swallows, looks nervously at Albert.
“Will he be alright?” she asks, uncomfortable in the silence.
“He’ll be fine,” Albert says, not lifting his head from his paper.
Wish she’d show the same concern for me.
“And if he isn’t…,” he rattles his rags in disgust.
It’s no fault of ours.