Men and Women by Claire Keegan

Men and Women by Claire Keegan

Children notice a lot. They see much more than their parents would like. They do not always understand what they see, but they have keen eyes and sensitive ears. They always understand when the problems start. The girl who lives in this house is not old enough to stop believing in Santa Claus. But she is ready to clash with her mother and does not want to obey her. Her father often takes her to interesting places. The man has a serious thigh injury and the daughter opens the gate for him. To get home, they must open the gate twice and drive through a narrow forest road. The gate must be closed; otherwise the sheep may run away. In this case they will have to be caught. The old car, as usual, is driving home this day. On Saturdays, the man chooses sheep at the market and buys the most beautiful and healthy ones.

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Men and Women by Claire Keegan

Children see more than their parents realize. They may not always understand what they see, but they have sharp eyes and long ears. They also know when things aren’t right.

The daughter of this house is young enough to believe in Santa Claus at Christmas – but old enough to want to fight on her mother’s side…

Men and Women by Claire Keegan

My father takes me with him to places. He has artificial hips, so he needs me to open gates. To reach our house, you have to drive up a long narrow road through a wood, open two lots of gates and close them behind you so the sheep won’t escape to the road. I’m good at that sort of thing. I get out of the Volkswagen, open the gates, my father drives through, I close the gates behind him and jump back into the passenger seat. To save petrol, he lets the car roll downhill, then starts the engine and we’re off to wherever my father is going on that particular day.

He’s always looking for a bargain, so sometimes we go to a garage for a cheap spare part for the car. Sometimes we end up in a farmer’s dirty field, pulling up young plants we’ve bought, to take home and grow on our land. On Saturdays, my father goes to the market and examines sheep for sale, feeling their bones, looking into their mouths. If he buys a few sheep, he puts them in the back of the car, and it’s my job to keep them there. Da often stops for a meal on the way home. Usually he stops at Bridie Knox’s, because Bridie kills her own animals and there’s always meat there. The handbrake doesn’t work, so when Da parks outside her house, I get out and put a stone behind the back wheel.

I am the girl of a thousand uses.

Bridie lives in a smoky little house, without a husband, but she has sons who drive tractors around the fields. They’re small, ugly men whose rubber boots have been mended many times. Bridie wears red lipstick and face powder, but her hands are like a man’s.

‘Have you a bit of food for the child, missus? There’s no food at home,’ Da says, making me feel like a starving African child…

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