From Suzy Suzy, by William Wall (Head of Zeus, London and New Island, Dublin)
Serena is religious. Her whole family is. Her father goes to meetings and he serves communion at Mass on the Sundays when he’s not on duty. He’s a member of some secret religious group, like Opus Dei or something idk a tight little male group of pious wankers. Even Serena didn’t know the name. Her father’s hands were blessed by the pope. I wouldn’t care who blessed his hands if he was operating on me, I’d rather have someone else. He is like totally creepy, you have no idea. He wears these silent shoes. When he comes into a room if you’re not looking you don’t know. Like when my Dad comes upstairs you can hear him starting in the hall before he even puts one foot on a step, but Serena’s dad could be opening the bedroom door and you wouldn’t hear. Serena says she never heard her dad and mam fight, not once, not even raised voices. Her mam never disagreed with her father while she was there. In fact, she said, they never discussed anything while she could hear. I told her about the terrible rows my parents had. I said someday someone is going to kill my Mam. She said she’d do it for me and for a bit we used to pretend that we were planning it and we’d keep coming up with brilliant ideas. Like one idea was that we’d electrocute her in the shower. And another time we thought what if we fed her to the pigs. It was something we saw in a film. But we didn’t know anybody with pigs. Well, Holly’s Dad kept pigs but only two and we didn’t think two would be enough to eat a whole human being. Serena said she could get one of the boys to fix the brakes on her car, but that would involve a boy and we couldn’t trust them. And I didn’t want to ask what Serena would do to the boy to get him to do it. I thought it was a bad plan. Our whole problem was that we couldn’t work out how to get away with it and we decided in the end that people who really kill other people aren’t worried about getting away because being in prison isn’t as bad as living with them. And I wasn’t there yet.
Holly’s mam and dad go on marches. Sometimes Holly goes too. Once she WhatsApped me a pic of herself with some famous political guy. Her dad makes jokes like: Why do socialists drink herbal tea? Because proper tea is theft. I don’t get it. Even when Holly explains it to me I don’t get it. It is not like me to miss a joke. I say Mam and Holly says Mammy. But she wouldn’t kill either of her parents. It’s like the model of a normal family only weird. Like keeping pigs. Growing potatoes. Keeping bees. Sometimes her Mam picks her up from school on the first day of her period. It’s weird idk maybe it’s what you do if you’re an anarchist. They are leftover hippies. But tbh I like them. Her dad lives in a ratty cardigan and a parka jacket. He smells nice. My Dad smells of Brut and Right Guard, so many ways to fill your armpits with great-smelling, odor-fighting, high-fiving, rim-hanging, trash-talking, ball-spiking, pointing to the crowd confidence and protection.
I googled it.
I know. I’m the superbitch googler. I’m OCD tbh. I’m like addicted to Google. I’ve even contributed to Google Translate. For Irish. I have Google set to Gaeilge. The ten things we know to be true. #1 Focus on the user and all else will follow. Google is my past, my wider resource community, my answer to everything. Except you never get actual answers. Should I have lesbian sex with my best friend? Answers: Should I have called in sick to have lesbian sex with my best friend? Me and my friend had the most amazing sex ever. It happened to me: I’m a lesbian pillow princess. The thirty four signs you are actually dating your best friend. I have nine of them. FFS. Great just isn’t good enough.
Serena’s father’s name is William and Holly told us that when there was a referendum about abortion he came round to hand out leaflets with pictures of dead foetuses and her father christened him Willy The Right To Life. Her father said he was an asshole and a bullshit surgeon and he spent more time on his knees than he did operating. I don’t know if any of that is true. But I knew that if ever her father found out about Serena fucking boys, with or without condoms, and so far it was all without, or so she said, he would either kill her or throw her out whichever came first. My mother isn’t religious but she voted against abortion. She subscribed to The Floodgates Theory, which is basically if we do anything about anything the arse would fall out of everything else including shit we hold dear. My Dad didn’t vote. I don’t think my brother was old enough to vote at the time but he would have voted the same way as my Mam because that’s what he’s like. People know how you’ve voted, even though it’s a secret ballot. They can say, Oh That house votes for so and so. I don’t know how that gets out, it’s like some secret system. When Serena’s father met my Mam after the referendum he said, We won. My mother just looked at him. She thinks doctors are gods but she doesn’t like him. You don’t have to like gods.
I asked Serena once about the sex thing and her father and what he would say if he found out. She said he would kill her. She said he never did anything wrong. She didn’t even know how she was conceived. She couldn’t possibly imagine her father having actual sex, knowing what she knew about it. It must have been the fucking Immaculate Conception then, I said. Like, I said, everybody knows enough to know that. She just laughed like there was a big secret. There are not as many secrets as people think and the ones that are real are important. You can see sex on the net any day. It’s just what does it feel like? No way all the ooohing and aaahhhing that goes on is for real. Like they’re not even good actors. They’re crap actors as a matter of fact. It’s well known. Otherwise famous people like Brad Pitt would be doing porn on their days off.
So my theory is Serena wants to get pregnant. It’s not something she knows about, it’s like a deep and secret desire that even she hasn’t been allowed to know. Somewhere deep down she wants to be found out by her father. That’s why she keeps doing it without any protection. This will be some kind of revenge on Willy The Right To Life. On the other side, there’s Sigmund Freud the world famous psychologist who would probably say that she wants to get pregnant by her father idk. He had some weird theories. But you can buy condoms in all sorts of places, which was not an option available to Freud, and Serena has plenty of money. Like neither of us needs to ask for it. We have actual bank accounts. Holly has a Post Office account with her savings in it. Serena says savings are so last century. She can’t wait to get a credit card. She keeps asking her father for one. And she has this like slight American twangy thingy idk it’s like the way her voice rises a bit into the nose. It’s hard to describe, and when you listen for it it’s not there, but you feel it. And sometimes she can do that American kitty thing, being all pouty and cutie pie. I’ve seen her playing that game with her father and he loves it. The pet daughter. I googled alpha male and it turns out the alpha males respond to that kind of thing. I don’t know about beta males or the others. History does not record. But Serena knew it from the start. She was born to it. And it makes me sick. Like projectile vomiting sick.
And I look at them, her pouting at him, and I wonder what the scene will be when she says, Dad I have some good news, there will be a new little Willy The Right in nine months time. Or seven or whatever.
It will not be pretty.
And now it’s all about a new referendum. Willy the Right To Life is all psyched up about it. They’re going to close the floodgates. Willy and his gang don’t give a flying fuck what happens once the baby pops as long as he’s baptised and Saved For God. I baptise you in the Name of the F and the S and the HG, Right, Fuck Off. This time the referendum seems to be about overturning the last one idk or maybe it’s about not having a referendum. You mostly only hear Willy’s side and for them it’s always the last battle. Holy people willying all over the TV or the radio. Or maybe it’s about gays idk. Or maybe that WAS the last one. In this country we keep doing referendums until they turn out right. Is this the way it always is? History does not.
And thus Serena’s father is doing his willying thing on the radio, this time it’s about some poor woman who died. They got him into the studio to talk about foetal abnormality, which I know all about from my baby phase. They got him on so he could say that abortion was the wrong way to treat foetal abnormality and that even abnormal babies have a right to life, better one minute of life than none at all, mothers are selfish if they want to terminate a viable baby and all that crap. Like I want to say what about the babies that don’t have a brain? What about the one that lived twelve years and never had a thought in all that time? What about that baby’s parents? I never want to have a baby. It’s just too much idk it’s not fair.
So this is what’s happening: Serena and me and Holly are on the bus and the driver has the radio playing and it’s Wednesday half-day so we’re listening to the news and there’s Serena’s father saying all this shit. And I say, To listen to him you’d think he loves children. And Serena starts to cry. And then I’m crying and that starts Holly off. The three of us, just sitting in the bus, waiting for our stop, crying our eyes out because Serena’s father is Willy the Right To Life and he doesn’t love Serena. And I try to say I’m sorry but I can’t.
William Wall has published six novels, most recently Grace’s Day (2018) and Suzy Suzy (2019), three collections of short fiction including Hearing Voices Seeing Things (2016) and The Islands (2017), and four collections of poetry including Ghost Estate (2011) and The Yellow House (2017). He was the first European to win the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, and he has won numerous other awards. His 2005 novel This Is The Country was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He holds a PhD (UCC). His work has been widely translated and he translates from Italian. Website: www.williamwall.net
Cover image: Painting by bill bissett.