AN AITIUIL: AN ANTHOLOGY
with the martello journal
by ted naughton
I should have just told him straight out on the way up the country. But he might have freaked and
jumped out in one of those little villages along the way where the traffic lights still stop the intercity
cars. He would have disappeared down a ginnel and I would have to stop and park up and chase him
around the town like tailing a hottie who glances back just long enough at you. And we would miss
our flight. So I didn’t.
He is on his phone checking his flight to Charles de Gaul, he won’t be on it. Whatever happens those
old men in black frocks will not greet him, will not lift up the seats in their people carrier and whisk
him back to remote sanctity and away from me. He is so beautiful as he leans and fusses over
papers in the glove compartment. I can smell his scent, an aftershave he slapped on in his underwear
in the hotel room. Yes he is still handsome, I like him without the aftershave. I smell of soap.
I love his hair- Mark has the wavy salt and peppery hair that priests are supposed to have. You know
distinguished. He runs his hand through it and then carries on scrolling as if he has heard my
thoughts and wants to emphasise my point. He does not notice that I am sitting unbelted hands
folded on top of the document pouch I need, looking at him. Sometimes it seems he does not even
realise how beautiful he is but he is used to being looked at.
The first time I saw him his hair was black and curly and course. It was shaved in a brutal short back
and sides and had bits of peat turf in it. Mine was shaved too and gritty with bits of bog and branches.
We groomed them off each others’ heads like chimps as I lay with him in the brush for the first
The bog. That was how we met- our families worked adjoining banks of turf in the Bog of Allen. It
was that lost skill of cutting out neat sloppy bricks of acrid peat and drying it out for the fire that
brought us together. My dad had called it ‘half-arsed’ coal but for my Granddad and Marks’ bringing
home the turf for the winter was a sacred manly ritual and they helped each other perform it. When
my dad said ‘arse’ Mark had giggled and I had pinched his bum. It felt good.
As the men cut the squelchy turf and threw it over their shoulders to be caught and stacked by us, it
smashed and shattered on the heather. We were gone. He was chasing me over bog pools and dank
ditches. I leaped and jump with what I know now to be joy. I was black with bitter bog juice. Lizards
scuttered away from our frenzied games.
When we returned my grandfather told my dad to beat ‘the little English man’ and he did. Mark’s
Granddad called him a ‘feckin little scut’ but did not strike him. They turned away from us back to the
banks of turf leaving us to spread out the soppy sods in rows like tiny coffins. I hurt as I worked but
we could not stop laughing at each other. He had shown me his dick that day and for me the aching
would never stop.
Mark hops out of the car and goes to the boot. He taps sharply on the back window for me to unlock
it. I reach over for the button then hesitate. I need to get him back in the car. I know him well enough
that trying to speak with him in a carpark will not work. He will be off away from me, maybe for
good. He is glaring at me I can sense.
One time in the bog Mark’s grandfather had made us stand next to a flooded ditch – right next to the
cut out spongey edge and told us to stare down into the black water that did not ripple or reflect
your face. There was a blurred image standing surlily next to me . A teenage Mark whose frizzy hair,
his shoulders and flared jeans were stained and spoilt with bog gloop. We are ordered again to stare
down in to it. No one knew how deep these waters were or whether there was a bottom to them at
My grandfather joined in. Men had been falling into these holes since time began and once you fell
in, you may never get climb out. All those bodies lying drowned on the bottom where they would
never rot. Like the saints themselves said Mark’s grandfather. Or the Kings of Ireland added mine not
to be outdone. ‘But I thought there was no bottom to it? ‘ I could not resist. Mark choked down a
laugh so the slap was worth it even though I staggered and almost fell in.
‘Mark’ I shout ‘Come back in I have something I want to tell you before we get the bags out.’ I do not
need to look to know he is grimacing and lifting his arms in exasperation. He thinks he will be late for
his flight but he will not be.
That evening of the bottomless stinking bog pools, I disappeared from the house into the dusk and
went back. I ran back along the banks of turf and kicked over the pyramids of peat that I had stooped
to build for weeks. He was there looking down into the dark waters -deep into it. Tall and sad and
beautiful. An enormous urge swelled up in me : I came up behind him and I kicked his fat arse into
the rancid water and jumped in after him. All went black.
My head broke the surface and I looked around for him. He touched my shoulder. He was behind me
standing in dirty water up to his waist. I stood up too and laughed. Then silence. ‘The bloody lying
Feckers’ he said quietly. I paddled over to him and grabbed his face and shoved my stinking tongue
into his sour mouth. He kissed me back.
Mark hates when I call the Pope, Frankie the Nazi Boy, he corrects me reminding me that is the other
pope . So I call him Francis when I say to Mark that he has finally openly sanctioned civil partnerships
for homosexuals, that gay people, gay couples have a place in the Catholic Church, that God loves us
the way we are. I don’t tell him I think the Pope is throwing us scraps from the table of the
institution of Marriage. Instead I sit beside him in the rental car and stroke his hair. He is thinning
ever so slightly. He knows without asking I have cancelled his flights . I can’t tell whether he is angry
or not? I don’t ask him why he wants to carry on living a lie. I sit beside him but I cannot see what he
is staring at. I take out the new tickets and place them on his lap. I can’t run at him and kick his arse
today so I pray to a God I don’t believe in. And reach for his hand.