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Brown-Eyed Boy by Roddy Doyle Chapter II

Last update - Saturday, February 1, 2014, 02:29 By Roddy Doyle

Two weeks before the Hyundai Accent parked outside Conor and Deirdre’s house, a group of men and women who must all remain anonymous met in a room deep inside a Government department which must remain unnamed.The middle-aged man at the top of the table was clearly the leader.

–The fuckin’ Greeks, he said.
No one responded. No heads nodded or shook.
–They’re to blame for this, he said.
Another middle-aged man, slightly younger and lighter than the first, decided to pierce the silence.
–Possibly, he said. –But.
–But what?
–I don’t think it’s being seen that way.
In late October 2013, a little blonde, blue-eyed girl had been found living in a Roma camp in Greece. The child’s mother was discovered living in Bulgaria, and had claimed that she’d given the child to a Roma family, to care for her. Within days, the Irish police had taken two blue-eyed children from two different Roma families, in Dublin and Athlone.
–Did no one in the Guards think of doing a bit of a Google search first? the older man asked. –Like, ‘Can the children of Roma parents have blue eyes?’
–It’s too late now, said the younger man.
–For fuck sake, said the Minister. We’re the racist capital of the world. According to every newspaper in the fuckin’ world, including our own.
–It looks bad.
–It is bad. Did you know that gypsies –
–Roma then. Did you know they could have blue eyes?
–I didn’t know it was something to know.
–And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?
The two men stared at each other, and the other people in the room – two more men and two women – stared nervously at them.
–This is getting us nowhere, said the Minister, eventually.
–Agreed, said the younger man, the Junior Minister.
–Ah, great.
–May I -. Sorry. May I suggest something?
The voice belonged to one of the women.
–Yes, Mary, said the Minister. –Anything. Please.
The woman’s name actually was Mary.
–Well, she said. –This – like – might seem a bit mad, like.
Mary was 30, so had grown up thinking that inserting ‘like’ at the end of every sentence was, not only acceptable, but necessary. The Minister had a houseful of daughters he loved dearly, so he didn’t object to the ‘like’s. He didn’t even hear them.
–Go on, he said. He even smiled.
The other men and the other woman looked at Mary, smiled too, and hated her.
–Well, said Mary. –Like – why don’t we do the opposite, like?
–A bit more, Mary, please, said the Minister.
He sounded slightly impatient now, much to the unexpressed delight of the others.
–Well, like, said Mary. –The problem – the perceived problem, like – the scandal – ?
The Minister nodded.
–The scandal, said Mary, -resides in the eye colour, like. And what is suggests. Blue eyes, good. Brown eyes, bad, like.
The Minister nodded again.
–So, said Mary. –Why don’t we look for the opportunity, like, to save a brown-eyed child from a bad blue-eyed family?
She looked at everyone in the room and smiled. The Junior Minister noticed it for the first time: Mary had blue eyes herself.
–You’re evil, he said.
He knew the Minister would agree with him.
–Thanks, said Mary. –I just thought of it, like.
–Hang on, said the Minister. –It’s brilliant – but it can’t be that simple, can it?
–It can if we want it to be, said the Junior Minister, and he looked across at Mary.
He was her immediate boss, and he’d been elected with enough votes left over to elect him again, but he was waiting for her to nod her agreement, even her approval.
She did; she nodded.
–So, said the Minister. –Come on, let’s dissect this properly. We find a blue-eyed Traveller family –
–No, said Mary. –Sorry, like–
She had to keep going.
–No, she said again. –We find a nice middle-class family.
–There’ll be uproar, said the Minister.
–Yes, said Mary. –And it’ll prove that we put the welfare of the child, like, way above considerations of class, fear of lost votes, and racial stereotyping, like.
The Minister looked at her.
–He’s right, you know, he said. –You’re evil.
–Thank you, Minister.
The Minister now turned to one of the men who hadn’t spoken yet.
–Can we do that, Cian? he asked. –Can we find a bad family, all with eyes of blue, except for one?
The man, Cian, took a breath.
–We can find the eyes easily enough, Minister, he said, –and make up the rest.
The Minister clapped his hands, once.
–Thank you all, he said, and stood.
They all had permission to stand. The Junior Minister leaned across to Mary.
–Fancy a drink? he said.
–No, thanks, said Mary.

© Roddy Doyle 2014

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