Patrick McCaffery: sly-eyed, greasy-quiffed,
hands sticky blue with the BICs he liked to pull apart
in class, his mouth gobby with the spit he’d let drop
from the science block balcony on our sandwiches at break.
One assembly, his mam was there as guest. She sat
on a too-small plastic chair at the front, twisting
a tissue in her hands as she told us about the charity
she’d started in her dead daughter’s name — a last wish
foundation for kids who didn’t have long to live
(so they’d get to tick off one thing on their list). Patrick
only kept his face turned toward the floor, perfectly still,
silent as he’d never been, feeling our eyes aimed
into a sniper’s red dot at the base of his neck. His mouth
sealed up for the rest of that day as if with Copydex,
shoulders slumped under his standard-issue, bottle-green
blazer like collapsed scoops of lukewarm, canteen mash.
He’s long gone now. Overdosed at twenty six. I often
think of him arriving home that day, how he must have run
upstairs, flung himself onto his bed, how he’d worn on his face
the popped bubble-gum balloon of all our fucking pity.
From Magma 83
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