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Old Folks by Roddy Doyle

Last update - Wednesday, August 1, 2012, 15:33 By Roddy Doyle

Old Folks by Roddy Doyle

Chapter 7

Mrs Touhy’s granddaughter was in the hall. Dariya tried to remember her name. Mary. There was another woman there too. Dariya recalled meeting her before. The daughter – she was Mrs Touhy’s daughter. Mary’s mother.
The way they were standing, and their faces – something was very wrong.
‘There is problem?’ said Dariya.
Dariya could see, they’d been crying.
‘Excuse me,’ she said.
She spoke to Mary now because she knew her name. She could not remember the mother’s – the daughter’s – name.
‘Mary. Is Mrs Touhy very okay?’
Mary shook her head. She gulped. She turned to her mother.
‘No,’ said the mother.
She shook her head too.
‘No,’ she said again, and wiped her hand across her eyes. ‘She – she passed away.’
Dariya didn’t understand the words but she did know what she had just been told.
She shut the door.
‘Mary. I am sad.’
Mary nodded.
She looked much younger than she had when Dariya had first seen her. She was just a little girl.
The mother – daughter – spoke.
‘Come in,’ she said.
The light in the kitchen brought home the message to Dariya: Mrs Touhy was dead. It was as bright as ever but Mrs Touhy wasn’t there and never would be there again. There were three women in the room but it seemed empty.
‘Excuse me,’ she said. ‘Where is Mrs Touhy?’
‘She’s dead, like,’ said Mary.
‘Yes,’ said Dariya.
‘Upstairs,’ said Mary’s mother. ‘Upstairs. In her bed.’
‘Sit down. What’s this your name is again?’
‘It’s Dariya, Mammy.’
‘Dariya, ’ said Mary’s mother. ‘That’s right.’
Of course it was right. Dariya knew her own name.
‘Sit down, Dariya,’ said Mary’s mother. ‘I was just making the tea.’
She was making tea while her mother was lay dead upstairs, just above the kitchen ceiling? Dariya would never understand the Irish. But –
‘Thank you,’ she said.
‘Sit down.’
Mary sat too. She smiled at Dariya, and sniffed.
‘Granny liked you,’ she said.
‘Yes,’ said Mary’s mother. ‘You were very good to her.’
‘It is my job,’ said Dariya.
That was Irish, she thought – what she’d said, and how she’d said it. No bother, not a bother, nothing to it, ah sure, it’s my job.
‘We’re just waiting for the funeral people,’ said Mary’s mother.
Dariya didn’t understand.
‘And my brothers,’ said Mary’s mother. ‘And everyone.’
Dariya thought she understood.
‘She didn’t answer her text this morning, like,’ Mary told Dariya. ‘That’s why we –’
She couldn’t finish. She waved her hand in front of her face, and cried.
‘Text?’ said Dariya.
Mary nodded.
‘Mrs Touhy had a mobile phone?’
‘An iPhone, like.’
‘I did not know this.’
‘She hid it, like,’ said Mary.
‘She thought it was stupid.’
‘There now,’ said Mary’s mother, and she put a mug of tea on the table in front of Dariya. ‘Do you want to see her?’
Dariya didn’t understand.
‘My mother. ’
‘Mrs Touhy is not dead?’
‘She is.’
Dariya didn’t want to see the body – Mrs Touhy. But she didn’t know how to answer. She didn’t want to say No. She didn’t want to say anything. She was afraid she’d say something wrong.
‘It’s okay,’ said Mary’s mother.
Dariya nodded.
‘It’s not for everybody,’ said Mary’s mother.
Dariya didn’t know what to say, or if she should say anything. What was not for everybody?
She stood up.
‘I have to go to school,’ she said. ‘My son, like.’
‘You’ve a little boy,’ said Mary’s mother. ‘That’s lovely.’
‘Boy,’ said Dariya. ‘Yes.’
‘There’ll be a wake,’ said Mary. ‘Here, like.’
‘Yes,’ said her mother. ‘You can come to the wake. It’ll be tomorrow night though. I’ve a sister to come from England. You’ll come, won’t you?’
Dariya nodded.
She left – she hurried. Poor Mrs Touhy. She cried as she rushed to the school.
‘Mrs Touhy died,’ she told small Bogdan.
‘While you watched?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘Last night. What is a wake?’
‘Not asleep,’ said small Bogdan.
‘I think it means something else,’ said Dariya.
‘It doesn’t.’
‘It must – I think.’
‘It doesn’t.’
What a job, what a life. Dariya would have to phone the agency and tell them about the death. Would they pay her less? Would they give her another house, another old lady or man?
The next day Dariya was cleaning Mr O’Rourke’s oven. There was grease in there that was older than her. It was a horrible job. Her sweat was falling on top of the grime.
She saw his slippered feet beside her and pulled her head out of the oven.
‘Mr O’Rourke,’ she said. ‘What is a wake?’
‘It’s a do for the dead,’ said Mr O’Rourke.
‘A party.’
‘For dead?’
‘I am going to a wake.’
‘I’ll come with you,’ he said.

© Roddy Doyle 2012

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