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it seemed like the first time he'd ever seen a cork but that was because it was bobbing around in a rock pool and no way out unless it could climb back over the rocks and the seaweed and find the place where it came from maybe it was that bottle in the window the one with a ship inside and he stood outside with Méabh and they peered in and there was a pair of old boots shiny black leather but old and Méabh said she couldn't imagine who would want a pair of old boots so uncomfortable and there was a GINORMOUSE plate big enough for five men he said and that made Méabh laugh which is what pleases him more than anything because her laugh goes tinkle tinkle like little bells tinkle tinkle everyone could hear it out on the street that day where was it it could have been in Skibbereen or maybe in Baltimore where the Producer lives except he doesnt live there just comes down from Dublin with his long white hair almost a bit

     yellow and he goes out in his boat with the red sails and his friends from RTE which means Raidio Telefish Erin he knows because there are no flies on Seánie thats what his father says and theres stranger things between here and Baltimore is another thing and Baltimore means the big house and then theres Sherkin but the Americans call it sharks skin island thats what Daddy heard down in Caseys and whats our townland called Seánie Daddy asked him in front of the Americans and of course he was able to tell them Coomavarrodig which means Seánie Daddy asked his voice going up high when he said his name and as quick as a shake of a dogs tail he was able to say Barretts Hollow and thats because he keeps his ear to the ground thats one of Mammys sayings and when he first heard it he lay down and pressed his ear very tightly against the grass because they were outside and he tried to hear something but they were making too much noise like most of the time even when theyre in the kitchen and doing homework theres lots of noise going on Mammy cooking maybe the dog barking and Méabh or Pat or Aengus asking questions sometimes in Irish karde show or something like that the words flying around just flying Mammy whats this Mammy whats that and she says how am I meant to know with my back turned how can I see what youre pointing at it could be the chair youre sitting on or the arse thats sitting on it that was Pat and Mammy said mind your language Patrick but she didnt hear Aengus say or his mickey because a saucepan lid clattered just at that time just as well as Daddy would say but Mammy mightnt know what it means anyway because she hasn't got one that's what Pat said and he asked if Méabh had one and dont be an eejit Pat said but hed never seen Méabh with no clothes on so how would he know

     the cork is sitting on the shelf in his room which is really only a porch of a room but its painted yellow and yellow is his favourite colour except of course the ceiling isn't yellow you couldn't have that nor is the floor because itd get scuffed but the shelf is yellow and the cork is at one end and at the other is a shell that has been carved somehow because there are two peacocks on it standing out in relief facing each other a pink and purple colour and the rest of the shell is white and there's a piece of orange rope he collected thats why Méabh calls him her beachcomber and once he brought back a bright blue buoy and Mammy said now I have two boys in the house but the buoy is too big for his shelf so its on the floor under his bed and he wished that the dog collar was there too but Mammy said im not having that in the house an old collar from a mangy old yoke it might have ringworm so out it went

     he likes it when Méabh calls him special names like Séan from Barretts Hollow or Séan the Beachcomber and for a while he was called Séan the Kite because he was always flying around and Aengus said he looked like a kite in a storm and then Méabh tied a line onto the back of his gansey with bits of coloured material that she'd sewn on scraps from a bag that Mammy kept BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN and he had watched her sewing with her head on one side and the dark brown hair coming down in curls and the little brown mark on her cheek just near the LOBE of her ear thats what its called that bit that he likes to touch and sometimes she doesnt mind and sometimes she says enough of that now Seánie you cant be at that when there are people around and hed sat so close when she was sewing that every time her hand came up into the air it nearly bashed him on the nose and he had to jerk his little head away and Méabh would say well if you will sit so close Seanie and he'd answer that his name was Sean the Kite and she'd been very apologetic I'm very sorry Sean the Kite I forgot your name well you shouldn't forget I'll try not to and he moved his head back a fraction and instead of almost hitting him on the nose her hand passed by just in front of it on and on it went in a very rhythmic way almost like he could hear a tune in his head and he began to feel sleepy and warm like when an accordion was playing the man's arm pushing and pulling  and people dancing around and sometimes tappety-tappety but mostly sliding and sleepy and his eyes began to close and his head dropped forward and his nose collided with Meabhs arm and she was saying it's finished now Seanie Sean the Kite I mean I think your tail is finished and that woke him up because he knew that people didn't have tails and he had to tell Méabh in case she thought that they did but she only answered that kites certainly did have tails long coloured ones streaming out the back and your tail will stream out the same way when you run Méabh promised it would and she took him outside and made him stand in the yard and she pinned the tail onto the back of him he felt her fingers fiddling around at the bottom of his backbone fiddle fiddle and then she patted him on the shoulder go Seanie go and he ran off around the yard faster Seanie and he ran and ran but he couldn't see the coloured tail so he kept on trying to look over his shoulder while he was running but only once he caught a glimpse of the end of it two colours of green and he turned his head further round but of course he couldn't see in front of him as well and didn't he trip over that's what  Méabh said when she was telling Mammy while Mammy was cleaning the cut on his forehead I have to do it Seanie because there's a bit of grit in there and he felt Mammy's hand holding the back of his head with one hand like she used to do when he was a baby didn't he trip over a yardbrush someone had left it there on the ground Mammy's face so cross haven't I told them about that leaving things on the ground but they never pay any ATTENTION and  just as Méabh got to him he started crying and Meabh said dont be a baby Seanie she sometimes said that because he was thirteen years old and that summer he'd finished going to the National School only two days a week he went because Mrs O'Driscoll said she couldn't manage more than that and there was some talk that summer of a SPECIAL school but that was too far away and it was decided in a very democratic way because Mammy and Daddy and Pat and Aengus and Méabh all had their say that the best thing would be for Sean the Kite to stay at home except he wasn't called the Kite any more after the fall in the yard and when Pat called him that didn't it set him off no no no and Mammy said we don't want any more of that thank you Patrick and the kitetail with all the scraps of coloured material all colours they were that Meabh had carefully sewn together it was put away up on top of the press and even though if you stood back by the kitchen door that Pat called the chicken door you could see a piece of it poking out two coloured bits one pink and one a kind of bronze even if they could see it no-one mentioned it no-one ever said do you remember the time when Seanie fell in the yard as they said about a lot of things like the trip on the ferry over to Sherkin Island for instance where they talked to some Americans who called it Sharks skin and Sean asked Meabh to ask them why they didn't call it Sherkin but she wouldnt because she said she would be too EMBER ARSED or the time in Skibbereen when all the musicians were in the street and Sean stood out with them and played his whistle and when the music stopped you could see him standing there a serious expression on his face looking round at all the people the tin whistle still close to his mouth as if he wanted to be ready for the next number something expectant in his expression and then one of the musicians maybe it was the fiddle player leaned over to him and said he should be called Sean the Whistle and a big smile spread over his face a smile so big that it took over his face and the musicians who were all sitting on chairs that had been brought out of the hotel the ones with the blue seats they were smiling too and the rest of Seans face was just two small twinkly eyes two neat pinned back ears and a small flop of fair hair hanging over his the forehead

     he used to have another sister called Noreen but she was taken from them gods choice thats what Mammy said too good for this world and the only thing he had to say about it was that she was here and now shes somewhere else over and over again he said it for days on end until Mammy had to say yes Seanie we all know thats enough now but his brothers werent so polite and told him to stuff it would you ever Seanie we know shes not here for godssake but Mammy wouldnt have gods name used in that way and after that they left god out of it and just muttered under their breath jesus Seanie we know shes not here for fuckssake but his acceptance of his sister being somewhere else was taken as a good thing and we should all learn a lesson from Seanie Mammy said and Daddy said that it was not a bad outlook on life and Pat and Aengus and Méabh were listening and Meabh questioned whether Seanie could have a PHI LOSS O PHEE but Mammy said that philosophies could be a gift from god and they knew that they couldnt challenge that even if they didnt agree

     he calls the two peacocks on the shell Noreen and Maureen even though there arent any Maureens in the family or even in the townland of Coomavarrodig unless that is there might be a Maureen amongst those people who come down sometimes to that cottage over the other side of the lough they were from Dublin Mammy said and there must be loads of Maureens in Dublin but Daddy said loads makes it sound like a heap of manure and everyone laughed at the thought of a trailerload of Maureens and Pat nearly got sick laughing but Seánie was very put out it must have been the picture in his head of a lot of women all called Maureen dressed in nice clothes probably summer dresses because thats when they came down when the sun was shining and the breeze would flap around the flowery dresses flap flap and you would see their pale legs and then theyd all be shoved up onto the back of a trailer along with a few old sticks and lumps of manure from the previous load all those nice dresses and legs and their hair all done theyd be holding onto it so it didn't get too DISHEVELLED but he wouldn't have it no no no he said and Mammy tried to quieten him down but he sat on the floor rocking and saying no no no for a long time and even after theyd all gone to bed she could hear his voice rolling on no no no and so she went down and gave him a tablet one of the ones Doctor Barry had taken out of his leather bag as he stood in the good room and as he bent down to get them the shiny red and silver stripes of his tie had touched the ground and then he leaned towards Mammy and said not too often now save them for when theyre needed

     Mrs McCarthy who lives up the lane is so small she has to wind down the washing line so she can reach it to hang up the clothes with those bright plastic pegs and then she winds the line back up high up to catch the wind Seánie you see and up there the clothes wave around as if someone is inside them the sleeves filled out the pyjama legs all round and fat the skirts flapping and the knickers dancing so much that he thinks they might pull themselves out of the pegs and escape there they go the purple ones must belong to Sheilagh flying away down over the fields to the lough will they float or sink well if they sank the crabs would get them because there were lots of crabs in the lough but there was no cause for no no no because he rather liked crabs even the big ones down at the harbour the way they moved put a smile on his face how they waved their arms about only its claws not arms Seánie but they seemed like arms to him and he put his arms out and used his fingers and thumbs like pincers and ran after his brothers and especially his sister because she screeched louder and why wouldnt you run what with all that girly screaming and the way she called him Séan the Crab wasnt that a great name he had to tell Mammy im Séan the Crab Mammy Séan the Crab

     that was the summer they sailed over to the island of little pigs but he never saw any pigs that was the one DISAPPOINTING thing about it but anyway its real name was Sherkin and it was a fine day even though the days before it had been rain rain rain it was a gift of a day thats what Mammy said and they sailed over the sea even though there were no sails on the boat off to the island and then walk walk walk because they had to get to Silver Strand you dont want to run around on the rocks Seánie thats no fun so they walked and he had to ask maybe it was a thousand times when will we get there maybe five thousand but suddenly they were standing on the silvery sand and down at the end of the strand look Seánie look there was a girl with a kite and the tail of the kite was dancing around and then suddenly the whole thing would dive down towards the ground its going to crash help help but at the last moment it would swoop up again the blue and white colours of the kite catching the sun and wasnt the girl the same colour with her blue T-shirt and white shorts shes no older than you Seánie and see how well she manages it and he did see the fluttering kite and the jumping girl but when he got closer he had to jerk his head up and down because he couldnt get the two of them into the picture at the same time the kite that was like a bird trying to escape and the girls arms pulling on the cords she must be saying youre not going to get away on me youre not youre not 

     the summer was a long time ago and the blue sky clouds were gone and no more sandy beaches no more putting on your togs or ham sandwiches nothing lasts for ever Seánie everything has to change some time like Pats voice very deep and doesnt he play for the under somethings thats what Meabh calls them and didnt Mrs McCarthy say the other day I think Seánie is putting on an inch or two and he stood up on his toes and Mammy said I do think youre right Marie I do indeed and the smile broke out on his face the one that goes from ear to ear

     the other things is that the evenings are darker and then sometimes after homework and after Mammy and Méabh have cleared up the tea they all sit around and Daddy says if we watch any more of that tv well lose the power of speech and then the screen goes dark and he looks from one face to the other but nobody says anything so maybe its some kind of game and they expect the youngest to start and thats him even though its really Noreen but shes somewhere else so he says didnt i see something strange the other day and he looks round at all of them and Aengus says what was that Seánie only hes forgotten what he was going to say or maybe there wasnt anything in the bag anyway and Mammy says never mind Seánie and the talk goes all about someone called the TEA SHOCK but theres nothing about shells or kites or those clouds and how you can see their shadows on the sand and how theyre moving and how you can run after them but you cant catch them oh no Seánie theres no way youll catch them

     so after a while he goes into his room because he has all his pictures in his room and from time to time he needs to move them around in case theyre lonely or squashed

     his hands move very gently as he rearranges his pictures on the shelf his fingers carefully holding Mrs McCarthy whos like the Big Mac you can get in Skibbereen her face poking out of the side of the bun and ketchup dripping over her nose please dont eat me Seánie shes saying as he places her at the end next to a speckled birds egg and theres Nollaig Noreen very small up on top of the Christmas tree that Daddy got from the woods up in Knockomagh and she has a silver dress and a silver wand and he puts her beside the piece of orange rope thats come off a lobster pot thats what Daddy said and there are more funny things that hes picked up here and there called skate egg cases and squid bones and thats where Sheilagh McCarthy goes with her purple knickers just there between them and it doesnt matter at all that some things are really right there on the shelf because he spaces them out so theres plenty of room for all his precious pictures

     except he has a special place for Kite Girl on top of a flowerpot on a stool beside his bed and Méabh asked him why hes got a flowerpot beside his bed but he couldnt tell her its so he can see Kite Girl how she is standing there her arms raised up and pulling on the cords her neck all stretched and pale her dark blue t-shirt her white shorts wobbling her long legs the lower part quite brown but the bare feet all pale and bony and shes standing on tippytoe as if the kite is going to whisk her away she might leave the sandy ground float away and hed have to run after her because you couldnt let her just float away youd have to follow and jump and catch her ankles youd just have to

     if you were standing outside Seanies room youd hear a low murmuring no no no and youd see a light go on not the regular light but a torch theyd given him for his birthday and it has a beam and a light on top and a flashing light but he never uses the flashing light because it makes things go flash in his head flash flash flash

     youd see him creep out of the little door with the glass in the top half and close it very quietly behind him and head off down the lane that leads to the house

  if you were swooping like an owl over the townland of Coomavarrodig youd see the light bobbing down the road wending its way to a strand that isnt there where a girl in a blue t-shirt and white shorts is skimming over the sandy beach and holding onto a blue kite with white ribbons on its tail you see Seanie they do have tails thats what Méabh said and up above theres a blue sky with fluffy white clouds everything blue and white everything white and blue

     youd see the light leave the laneway at a bend and head off across a field because Seanie is quite sure the strand is that way he can remember how they went across a little field all the way to the strand and how at the far end was Kite Girl her arms up above her head the white shorts jumping up and down just a few steps further grab the blue and white grab grab grab

     you would see the light from the torch arcing out over the sea and the rocks twisting turning plunging dont be scared its all blue and white the sun is shining and Kite Girl gives a little jump on the sand and slowly turns and smiles oh its you Seanie just like shes been saying for a long time from her place on the flowerpot beside his bed oh its you Seanie although nobody heard her voice not Mammy or Daddy or Pat or Aengus or even Méabh

not a one

not a body

not a soul

except Seánie.

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