There was a games room, it was off limits. For the priest only. I remember it. Gloomy, shafts of sunlight catching beams of dust. Catching the beady eyes of the stuffed animals on top of the cabinets. A full-sized snooker table, Father Harris, Harry, used to let us in. Me and Paudi. He was the caretaker. He showed us how to play billiards, explained the rules. He seems such a sweet man. I remember the smell of his hair tonic. The smell of his breath. The feel of his stubble on my cheeks.
He was much too close, every time a bit closer, hugging me, pushing me up against the table. Paudi made a break for it, needed the toilets – ran upstairs. Left me to it , to him. What difference did it make? Brick, you know don’t you – if it wasn’t now it would be soon. How soon is now? But Paudi saved me too, Harry went after him, let me go. I stood there, frozen to the spot, wetting myself. The animals shuffled uneasily, unwilling witnesses to another desecration. Trapped in their little prisons.
The screams start then tumbling down the stairs, breaking their bones in the rush the rush to get out of his mouth to get away from this God-forsaken place for if there was a God did he look the other way and I’m cowering under the snooker table because you’re next you’re next and the animals are rattling their cases now rattling the glass, snarling. Then. Now.
Time passes. Silence. The front door slams. I sneak to the window he’s running out on to the pitch fixing his cassock play up boys play up boys the very model of His humble servant. I think of all the twisted branches inside him, of the thorns and the pain it must cause him and the pain he passes on.
I climb the steps warily wanting to not wanting to go but I can’t leave him alone. I knock on the door.
I think I hear crying.
“Paudi he’s gone. He’s gone.”
I was eight Brick. Too young for this. There was no one else.
“Don’t come in. Please Raymond don’t come in.”
“OK . I’ll wait here. Til you’re ready.We’ll get him back Paudi. I swear.”
“Go down stairs, I’ll be down in a minute.”
“Rack up the balls.”
It was dusk now, I didn’t switch on the lights. I starts taking the balls from the pockets, rolling them one by one into the centre of the table. I though about nothing. I looked up and caught his eye for a second. He spoke to me. The ferret.
“We’ll get him back Raymond. I swear.”