Schiele, Lederer
Egon Schiele,
"Portrait of Erich Lederer", 1912
Chapter 2 — Section 1
Pages 32-3535-3726-28
Wherestreets of Glasthule
WhenWednesday lunchtime, May 5 1915
Goya, two women laughing
Goya, "Two Women Laughing", 1819-1823

The girls were colloguing outside the confectioner’s when Jim came by.

Lookat, there’s Jim Mack, home for his dinner. Isn’t he the grand swell in his college get-up? Dinky cap and lovely shiny boots on. Delivered out of a bandbox.”

“And his knickers up to his knees and proper black stockings on. Wouldn’t you love to take him home with you and stick him on a cake?”

“Ah, but why wouldn’t his da put him in longers?”

“On his birthday and all.”

“Big boy he’s getting, and handsome with it.”

... getting your greens there, Jim?
Giuseppe Arcimboldo, "Vegetables in a Bowl, or The Gardener", 1587

“Though without the anatomicals yet, would you listen to me!”

“Are you getting your greens there, Jim?”

“Ah, the wee spurt, little by little.”

“Shush now,” said Nancy, “leave him be. You’ll have him baked for shame.” She left her companions and beckoned Jim privately over. “How’s the birthday boy?” she asked and she planted a smacker on his cheek. “There you are for luck.” From a distance his face looked unwashed, but closer to you saw there were rosebuds on his cheeks, buds that bloomed now to perfect pinks, occasioning a further shrill of laughter from the girls behind.

“Well, Nancy,” he said, brushing a hand against the wet.

Passerotti butcher
Bartolomeo Passerotti, "The Butcher's Shop", 1580

“Is that all you have to say for yourself?” She hooked his arm and marched him onward. “Don’t mind them saucepots. Them saucepots is only ignorant.” She chid them over her shoulder, “Ignorant, so yous are!” He was muttering something, but she held to his arm. Past the butcher O’Brien’s where tubs of brine fumed on the pavement and carcasses buzzed with blow-flies above. Past the buttery milky smell of Smelly’s marbly dairy. “Muck for more luck,” said she when he stepped in dried-up dung. Adelaide Road was spilling with children from the national school and there were cries and street-calls all ways. Only when they came to the entry to Adelaide Cottages did she draw him aside.

“You’ll never guess.”

“Guess what?”

“I’ve news from Gordie. Got a letter in the first post.” She watched his eyes close, squeeze, then open wide again. A right scholar he makes. Can’t even blink without thinking. “Has that woken you?”

“He’s all right?”

postcard ww1 soldier ireland
... A.L.D.E.R.S.H.O.T
postcard, WW1

Flying sure. You know where he’s at?” She had the letter out of her apron pocket and she stumped a finger at the top of the page.

“All Love,” he read, “Does Ever Rightly Show,” he read, “Humanity Our Tenderness ... ?” He looked up, querying her face.

“Do you not catch on? Likes of you, a scholarly chap and all.” She danced her finger under each word, spelling it out. “A–L–D–E–R–S–H–O–T. It’s a code, of course.”

“Aldershot! I see it now.”

“It’s in England. Famous military town. I looked it up in a book in Miss MacMurrough’s.”

“We knew he was to go to England,” said Jim, “only they couldn’t say where.”

“Well, now you know.”

“Yes, now we know.”

Theodore Gericault, "Head of white horse", 1810

His head dawdled over the letter. The peak of his cap pointed up at the sky. She couldn’t make out the face for his quiff fell over his eyes like the fringe of a show horse. She let him read on, biting her lip, till she knew by the purpling ear-tips that he’d reached the passage she intended. Enough. She snatched the letter away. “I’d leave you read the news for yourself, only it’s a taste mashy inside.”


“Oh mashy something desperate.”

He looked up and a smile traveled his face as though unsure where to fit. When she returned the letter to its envelope, the “S.W.A.K.” on the seal caught his eye and he asked, “Is that the return?”

Postcard 1920s

“The return, would you listen to it!” But the ox-eyed look of him brought the fondness out of her. She laid a hand on his neck, relishing the twitch when she rubbed behind his ear. “Don’t mind that. That’s only Gordie trying to land me in scrapes at Miss MacMurrough’s. He’s a bold particle is your brother. I hope and you don’t take after him. You don’t, sure you don’t, Jim Mack?”

Again the ponderous squeezing blink. “I think I take after my mother. I’m not sure.”

“Ah sure, God bless you, what more could you ask? Your poor mother and now your poor brother gone and all. Do you miss him? Of course you do. The street isn’t the same. But God is good, he’ll be home again. Safe and sound, you’ll see.”

He was fidgeting with the flap of a pocket. She could feel the hairs on his neck bristling. And the heat off him! She lifted her hand. “I do declare, if you blush any redder you’ll go up in a smoke.”

“I’d better be getting in.”

“Don’t let on to your da about the letter. He came by this morning giving such a slice of the ignore, I thought to let him stew.”

... found the sunshine in you
John Quinton Pringle, "Portrait of a Boy", 1910

At last she had made him smile. His cheeks rose, the dimples came, the lonesome look departed.

“You see?” said she. “That’s found the sunshine in you.”

It was sunshine rarely seen at home. As soon as the shop door clinked closed, his father bustled from the window and said, “What were you doing talking to hussies in the street? Shop-girls and maids-of-all-work. And you had your college cap on.”

And from in the kitchen, Aunt Sawney called, “’Tis cold plate for dinner and take off them boots when you’re stepping inside.”