“I was kept in school.”
“Liar!” shouted the father. “I’ll break every bone in your body you come that with me.”
He flung the boy against the wall and commenced to undo his belt. Seeing this, Fearon backed up against the wall. Meanwhile Mrs Fearon sat like a statue in stone. He saw his father approach him. He was just going to shout something when the buckle end caught him on the back of his neck. He did not shout. Instinctively his two small hands went to his face to ward off further blows.
“Why didn’t you come straight home when you’re mother told you to? Eh?”
The belt descended once again. The boy started to cry now. This had a peculiar effect upon the father, for he immediately flung the belt into a corner and raising his right hand brought it down heavily upon the boy’s face.
“Tell the truth. Tell the truth or you won’t be able to go to school tomorrow. You undersized young pig. The lip you give.”
“Mr Sweeney kept me in. I had to go to his office at four o’clock. I’ve come straight from school. Honest I have.”
The man felled him with one blow. As the boy dropped he dropped too. Without asking any more questions, he commenced to punch his son, all the while breathing deeply like a horse, the hands ascending and descending, though never a sound came from the boy himself. Fearon’s thoughts were elsewhere. He was staring at Mr Jackson’s brown boots and wondering if he would ever have such a fine pair himself. The silence began to get on the nerves of the father. He shouted into the boy’s ear, almost deafening him:
“I’ll really kill you. I will! I will! If you don’t tell me why you never came home. I’ll do you in. I’m determined on it. You swine.”
But Fearon did not speak. Mr Fearon aimed a blow at his head, missed, then dragged himself to his feet. He gave the boy a vicious kick. Then he went to the table and sat down. He commenced his evening meal. Not a sound save the crunching movement of the man’s jaws. Even the woman failed to turn round. Once the man at the table muttered: “Like your mother. That’s what you are. Another obstinate pig like your mother. But I’ll fix you. We’ll see. And if you don’t pass that exam next week, by God I’ll lame you for life. When I was your age, I had to get up and work. I had to rise at five in the morning and drag a milk cart half round the town for a few shillings a week. Here you get a chance of earning over a pound a week and you stick your nose up at it. I’ll fix you. You wait. I have had to work hard for my living and I’ll bloody well see that you do the same. Want to go into an office. Like the other boys. Who in hell’s name are the other boys? And what would you do in an office? Intelligent. Why you can’t fasten your braces properly yet. It’s work you want and plenty of it. Real hard work. Why you little swine, you even dodged selling the papers when your mother went to all that trouble about you."
[Boy, Hanley, J.]