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PLUMP PATERNAL WOMAN (6)
When I grow up I want to be a cruciverbalist. Fintan thinks that this is no sort of a job at all, but seeing as his job consists of making more and more money for people who are already far too rich for their own good, his opinion is a bit redundant.
His title now is 'Director of Operations', which would be impressive except they aren't real operations, like transplants or nose-jobs, and he isn't the real director of anything useful, like a play or a film or even a silly little Christmas pageant like we had in primary school. I understand, of course, that he is not that kind of director, but when I pretend not to understand that, he gets all frustrated and sighs heavily and eventually his moustache begins to flutter like a big black scrubbing brush that is ruffled by a gentle summer breeze.
The reason I want to be a cruciverbalist is not because it sounds like some sort of dark wizard (although that is one of many amazing perks). No, I want to do it because I have started doing the crosswords in The Irish Times and they are hard. Like, crazy hard. Except for the Simplex, because it has simple in the title and so I refuse to let it defeat me. So one day, when I had only gotten two of the cryptic clues, it occurred to me how amazing it would be to be the maker-upper of the puzzles, how pleased you would feel when people worked them out and how smug you would feel when they failed to do so.
So I started making up my own crossword clues, and it is kind of the most fun I have had by myself in ages. And it turns out it is an actual job. There's no college course for it, but I will learn my skills from the University of Life. (I also plan to go to real university, but all my talk about the University of Life is really getting on Fintan's wick, so that is why I keep going on about it when he's in the room.)
In real life, I think I might want to do journalism in college. Because then I could get a job at a newspaper and make sure their chief cruciverbalist has an accident so I can rise up to assume his or her place. The good thing about this plan is that you can repeat it as required, like with a shampoo, so if there are any other budding cruciverbalists at my place of work, I could take them down as well. I can do this by sneaky stairs-pushing or germ warfare, in which I catch a nasty cold and make out with all my enemies in order to pass it on to them.
But before I become evil, I have to have the skills to back it up. I have to study and hone and do lots of crosswords so I can understand their language and use it to my own nefarious ends. My ends are not always nefarious, only sometimes they can be. But not, like, crazy nefarious. More mildly nefarious. Divilish, as opposed to devilish. Because being a divil isn't the worst thing in the world you can be, but being the Devil is not a good thing at all.
Anyway, if I wanted to be the Devil I would have to push Karen down the stairs and take her job. That girl is nefarious personified. She broke Simone's iPod Touch yesterday by throwing it out a top-floor window, just to see what would happen.
Simone is one of Karen's good friends. Imagine how she would treat an enemy. I don't have to imagine, because she hates my guts. Luckily, I do not have an iPod Touch. I'd love an iPod Touch. Fintan is mean and does not shower me with enough gifts.
Things never really go away, do they? They lurk and lie in wait like wolves. Horrible, un-fluffy, lurk-in-the-darkness wolves. The kind that would never swallow a girl whole but chew her up to mincey dog-breath spit, so if a woodcutter happened to slice open its wolfish tummy the last thing he would find is a happy ending.
Happy endings are pretty rare. The most people get if they're lucky is a happy beginning. I didn't even get that. Mum and Dad were hardly on speaking terms when I was born. I was the little wailing white flag of truce. Or so they told me (though not in those exact words, obviously).
Really, I think it is just easier to try to get along than to stay mad at someone for an indeterminate length of time. I mean, being angry for more than a brief period of time takes effort. You have to work at it. And what if the person you are angry with says something hilarious or offers you a delicious treat of some kind? Let's say, for argument's sake, a caramel slice and a cup of tea. It is hard to stay angry at somebody when you are eating something delicious that they have bought in the cool deli place adjacent to their work which wraps their treats in fancy pink and white paper.
Fintan is lucky that that deli exists, is all I am saying. Because otherwise having a teenage daughter would be a whole lot harder for him.
The reason I was angry with him was to do with him forgetting to pick me up from swimming class. I'd left two notes on the fridge and texted him in the morning to remind him.
But instead he went on a date with Hedda and turned his phone off. Hedda was angry with him too. You see, he is always taking phone calls from important people while they are going places. Once he even left in the middle of a play to talk to a man in China about something. Hedda believes that if you are going to spend time with someone, you should actually spend time with them, instead of ignoring them and doing important businessman-type stuff like talking about mergers and stock portfolios and indices.
See, the weird thing is that money isn't even real. It is, like, this fictional concept we all agree on to make the transfer of goods and services flow more smoothly. Mum's friend Sorrel once went to live in a commune where they used swapping and kindness instead of money. It didn't really work, though, because once the swapping got heated, the kindness kind of went down the pan. She was the one who explained to me about money being made up and stuff. I mean, they are just bits of metal and paper. The only value they have is the one that we assign to them.
Sorrel was the person who dropped me home after I had been waiting on my own an hour outside a now-closing swimming pool. She was the only one who was picking up her phone, which is weird because she normally doesn't even have it switched on. She was waiting for a call from this nice organic farmer she met at a drumming circle. When she told me this, I did an eye-roll and her eyes filled with tears and she told me that I had just done my mother's 'Oh, for the love of God' face.
She waited with me in the kitchen till about eleven o' clock. Dad still wasn't home, but I wanted to go to bed because I had school in the morning and stuff. Luckily, I had got my homework done at Mary's before swimming because I would have been too angry to do it afterwards.
Sometimes I forget how useless Fintan is at this whole being-a-father business. Luckily, he is always ready to remind me with some new and stupid mishap. At least he didn't bring up the time I stole the engagement ring he got for Hedda. See, a year and a half ago, Dad almost proposed to Hedda on a trip to New York. Only he couldn't – because I had taken the engagement ring from its little box in a perfectly understandable fit of wanting to be told if my dad was going to make any life-changing decisions.
I still don't think I was wholly in the wrong. If it were the right thing for Dad, he would have proposed anyway. It's not like the ring is hyper-important. When Mum's friend Méadhbh was proposed to by her husband Frank, he did not have a ring at all, just a receipt he rolled into a ring shape. They picked the ring together later, because as lovely and spontaneous as a rolled up receipt from IKEA is, it would be a touch impractical for everyday wear.
Anyway, Dad should probably have proposed when he got the ring back, or on any number of occasions over the past year or so. I apologised and stuff – I mean, he was quite irate when he got back from his holiday – but I think that time has told that I was in the right. Anyway, ever since I did that small bit of misappropriation, he has brought it up every time he does something wrong. Which is all the bloody time. Except this time. Which means one of the following:
1. He has gotten over himself about it and acknowledges that it was a clever and awesome move on my part.
2. He recognises that what he did this time was worse than what I did that time.
3. Hedda gave out to him about it.
When Hedda gives out, Fintan listens. This is one of her superpowers: the ability to make my thick-as-muck-in-terms-of-human-emotion father understand what he did wrong and accept responsibility for it. It is why I both like and fear her more than any of my dad's previous girlfriends — like, because when her powers are used for good (most of the time) they can be kind of amazing; fear, because what if she uses them against me one fine day? I mean, there is a DISTINCT possibility that she will one day become my stepmother and have to give out to me about things on a semi-regular basis. Which I do not think I would like even a little bit. Because she has this way of being right and I have this way of liking to be right and I do not think that the two would complement each other very well at all at all.
Anyway, I did not speak to Fintan for three days after the whole swimming incident. Because going to swimming lessons is troubling enough when you are a teenage girl with body hair and a healthy distrust of skin-tight fabrics. There is no reason for Fintan to make it more troubling than it already is. Although the insecure bits normally happen outside of the water. Once I'm in there, I get all focused and splashy and usually enjoy myself.
Which is a good thing, because I don't really like other sports. When hand–eye coordination was given out, I must have been in the corner reading a book or something. I am not good at hitting balls with sticks or kicking them into nets or throwing them into baskets. But in swimming, it's not about racing other people or whatever, it's about beating your own best time, and even though there are plenty of people in my group who are better than me (mainly Laura, the human dolphin), for some reason I can kind of block them out, the way I do the world when I'm reading a good book, and just do my best. This is rare for me. Which is just one of the many, many reasons that I should not be driven to associate the swimming pool with abandonment and so on and so forth.
Fintan did apologise right away. But I kind of want to reinforce that it is never OK to forget you have a daughter, especially when you are the only parent that she has left. Ooh, I should totally say that to him; it will make him feel terrible. Which will teach him not to do it in future. This is a really nice caramel slice. He is lucky I do not have an eating disorder. Because how would he win me around then?
ROOT VEGETABLE FOR THE BOOKS (6)
I think I have grown up a lot this year. Sometimes I feel like a completely different person — one with boobs (34 B!!) and a mature and rational outlook on life and matters sociological.
Of course, it is hard to be mature when all around you are kind of losing the plot. Fintan wants to make Hedda his bride, but he is not going about it the right way at all — he cancels plans with her all the time in order to stay in his counting house, counting all his money like a king in a nursery rhyme.
I am now the go-to girl for relationship advice. The moustache-sporting man of men actually trusts me, for some reason. My advice is to stop cancelling plans because girls do not like that. I don't like it when Joel or Ciara cancel plans on me and they are just friends. Imagine how bad it would feel if I were to have a lover do it to me. Fintan stopped me there and told me he did not want to imagine me having a lover doing anything to me and also that I was not allowed to have lovers until I was older.
Anyway, I told him that if he did not pop the question within the week, then I would do it for him, the way Joel put a profile for his little brother Marcus on an online dating website, just for fun, until his parents found out about it and got really angry.
Marcus actually got a lot of attention, which is weird, as his profile picture was him (a three-year-old boy) dressed as Wall-E (a robot; Marcus likes robots). The teachers in primary school were all too right about the dangers of the Internet. There are a lot of scary adults out there. Luckily, Marcus had Joel to vet his potential suitors for him and weed out any creeps. At least he did till Joel's dad, Liam, sat down with us and supervised the deletion of the profile. We did say on the site that he was thirty-eight, which was true, only in months not years. Not that I had much of a hand in it, apart from convincing Joel to give fake contact information.
Liam was FURIOUS with the two of us and made us apologise to Marcus, even though he was too young to understand what was going on. Joel was made to mow the lawn from then till Easter, join a hurling team and start Mixed Martial Arts lessons as a punishment. He is not mad about hurling, but the MMA has grown on him. Liam coaches the hurling team, and I think he needed more members. He is always trying to get Joel to do sports. I think this probably contributes to Joel's distaste for doing sports.
Anne's punishment was to get him to design and make a new robot costume for Marcus and to install a program that filters out any website with unsuitable material on it unless you put in a security code. Joel really needs to find out what that security code is. We can't even look at recipes for chicken ('HOT CHICK') or watch that six-membered group of ukulele players we like so much ('SEXTET'). It really is most inconvenient.
Also, they told Fintan and he was going to install the same thing, only he didn't have the time and then forgot about it. Joel was really annoyed at getting caught out, but he didn't complain much about the many, many, many punishments that were heaped upon him once the jig was up. He is good at taking it on the chin. Joel's weird like that. If I have something to complain about I kind of can't help going on and on about it — like when Fintan forgot to pick me up that time, I texted Joel and Ciara and even Ella to let them know what a tool he was being. Important information, in my opinion.
I don't talk much about Mum dying, though. Not that I hide it from people or anything — that would have been quite difficult, what with the funeral and everything — but I didn't, like, go on and on about how unfair it was and how much I missed her. How much I still miss her.
Weird that it has been over a year now since she died. I have had two birthdays. I am fourteen and a half. My hair has been two different colours and, for a brief period, in lots and lots of those little fancy plaits that Hedda does so well. I wear a bra now and I get my period, but not every twenty-eight days like the internet says you are supposed to. It comes about once every six weeks. I asked the GP, and she said it would probably settle into a more regular pattern when I was a bit older. Mum would have done the asking for me, if she was around. I wouldn't have had to pretend to have a chest infection to justify a trip to the surgery. So I suppose that was another problem I didn't talk about. Except to the doctor. And to Ciara. And to Joel, until he stuck his fingers in his ears and began to sing the national anthem.
I assume Fintan knows that I am menstruating like a grown-up lady, though. He is very good about me missing swimming the odd week. I don't know why Joel is so disgusted by the idea of me having a period. I mean, every woman does, or almost every woman anyway. I know that the thought of it is a bit gross. So is the reality of it, to be honest. It takes a bit of getting used to. And it's hard to know what's normal and what isn't. I mean, in sixth class everyone was all 'Have you got yours yet?', like it was this REALLY BIG DEAL. And now I think we pretty much all have them but we don't talk about it any more. Which sucks, because I still have some questions.
So now I am a proper time-of-the-month-having woman, which means I am biologically equipped to start having loads and loads of lovely grandchildren for my beloved papa to take care of till I finish college.
Note to self: Do not start having loads and loads of lovely grandchildren for Fintan to take care of until I finish college. I think the past year and a half has established that Fintan is not the best at child-rearing. I mean, he flounders and flaps around the place trying to look after a fourteen-year-old girl. My future babies would probably not last long if left to his tender mercies. One by one they would be abandoned at swimming pools and supermarkets, playgrounds and crèches. It would suck for them because they would not be equipped with grown-up survival tools like mobile phones and bus money.
Excerpted from "Improper Order"
Copyright © 2013 Deirdre Sullivan.
Excerpted by permission of Little Island.
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