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Brown-Eyed Boy by Roddy Doyle Chapter I

Last update - Sunday, December 15, 2013, 18:11 By Roddy Doyle

Conor and Deirdre had managed it. They’d got through the past five years and they’d held on to the house, to their jobs, cars, even the marriage. These were things they’d seen friends and family lose.

There was a time, they’d been almost afraid to breathe. One deep breath, or an unexpected phone call, and the whole thing – their lives, and what they’d built – would have tumbled down around them.
But they’d survived.
–To us, said Conor one night, after they’d got all the kids to bed.
He’d poured the Rioja into two coffee mugs because the wine glasses were either broken or in the dishwasher. They tapped their mugs together, and listened to the silence that seemed to crawl down the stairs and surround them in its warmth after the last child had fallen asleep.
The silence wouldn’t last; they knew that. But that was fine too. They were an energetic couple and they loved the trials and chaos of parenthood. The first cry or yelp, they’d be bounding softly up the stairs, like a pair of happy commandos. Parenthood made them feel sexy.
They had four children. Three of them had been born after the economy had collapsed, and that pleased them too, their confidence, their faith in themselves and the world in general. Life went on, because Conor Murphy and Deirdre Belton wanted it to.
The wine was good, even out of mugs – especially out of mugs. Five years ago, they might have spent what now looked like a fortune on a few wine glasses. But in late 2013, they knew the truth: good wine would still taste good if it came out of a boot.
Poppy was the eldest of their children. She was seven, going on 27. An hilarious kid, tall and blue-eyed, like her mother. Deirdre’s eyes were spectacularly blue. She was the Woman With the Eyes. That was how a window cleaner had referred to her when Conor had opened the front door one Saturday morning.
–The woman with the eyes told me to call back, he’d said.
Conor’s own eyes were blue too, but no one was ever going to remember them, including himself.
–Hey, woman with the eyes, he said now. –What’s your head up to over there?
She smiled back at him.
–Well, man with the hairy arse, she said. –I was thinking about how – well – lucky we are, like, really.
The house was warm, the dishwasher was whirring softly, the kids were still asleep, after a happily packed day. The moment, this, now, felt like what they’d always wanted.
Holly was born two years after Poppy. A different kind of child, quiet, observant – but the same blue eyes.
–The house is full of blue eyes, said Conor once, as he looked at a jpeg, a photo of Deirdre and the two girls he was sending to his sister in Perth.
Deirdre looked over his shoulder.
–Hitler would approve, she said, and patted Conor’s bum.
–Achtung baby, said Conor.
Then, three years ago, the twins had arrived. Honey and Jacob. Another girl, and a boy. And a brown-eyed boy at that.
–But, said Conor, when they realised that two of the eyes looking back up at them from the cot were brown and staying brown.
–What? said Deirdre.
-Can two blue-eyed parents, like – produce a brown-eyed baby?
–What are you suggesting? said Deirdre.
–I’m not suggesting anything, said Conor. –Calm down.
–I am calm.
–Me too, said Conor. –But I’m curious.
They googled it – Can 2 blue eyed parents have a brown eyed baby – and, yes, they could; of course, they could.
–Anyway, said Deirdre. –Look at his face. He’s a little version of you.
And Conor’s brother, Cian, confirmed it when he first saw Baby Jacob, being held by Conor, little face out, right under Conor’s chin.
–Oh Jesus, look, he said. –It’s fuckin’ Mini-Me.
Cian was home from Vancouver for a wedding.
–Language in front of the kids, said Conor, and watched Cian translating that into unmarried English.
But Conor was delighted. He had a son, and a near-replica, a future ally in a house of women. Mini-Me became the pet name, or Mini-Con.
–Is there anything on the telly? Deirdre asked now.
But it wasn’t really a question. It was their code. What it actually meant was: we’re going to start making love in a couple of minutes.
–No, said Conor, although he was actually saying Yes.
He could already feel Deirdre’s skin on his fingertips, even though they hadn’t touched yet.
Outside, two people, a man and a woman, sat in a silver Hyundai Accent.
–Here we go again, said the woman.
–Yep, said the man.
–Why are we even here? said the woman.
–Don’t know, said the man. –No one told me.

© Roddy Doyle 2013

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