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by William Telford

My brother Billy and me were sitting in our Auntie Annie’s kitchen each staring open-mouthed at a plate of something thick and meaty and steaming which looked a lot less like a meal and a lot more like the remains of something that had just swallowed a live hand-grenade with the pin out.

“Ugh,” said Billy, with a shudder.

“Shhhh,” I said. “Uncle Kenny might hear.”

Our Auntie Annie glowered at us from the scullery door. She still had her curlers in, her slippers on and was wearing an apron with a Union Jack all over it.

At this point there’s two things you need to know: it was 1978 and it was Cookstown, Northern Ireland. Loyalist Northern Ireland.

Auntie Annie and Uncle Kenny liked their politics like her apron: red, white and blue. They liked their God pared down and angry. And they liked their food recently slaughtered and fried in enough oil to fuel a Centurion tank with plenty left over for Molotovs.

My uncle, see, was a butcher. Back then Ulster was full of them, but he was a real one, and as angry as his God deprived of a good night’s sleep. My auntie was a lover of the Ulster fry. The province was full of them too. Meals were sizzled to the point of combustion. It was a nation blowing itself to bits while eating itself to death.

You put angry butchers and angrier cooks together and you got an angry breakfast. I nudged Billy. “Better eat up,” I whispered. “We don’t want Uncle Kenny to … you know.”

Billy gulped. We both glanced at uncle’s Bible on the shelf and then at his belt hanging off the back of the door and then down at our plates. “What is this?” Billy said. I shook my head. There was stuff with tubes in it. Stuff oozing stuff. Stuff with hair growing out of it. There was something that could have been an eyelid, or an ear, or something only God or a gastroenterologist knows the name of. I pushed it all around with my fork. It was like doing a laparotomy with canteen equipment.

Then Billy looked up suddenly and said, “Hey! Where is Uncle Kenny anyway? No one’s seen him since he went to get sausages on Tuesday.” Auntie Annie turned as white as the Reverend Ian Paisley’s hair and pointed and shouted, “Shut up and eat up ye skitters ye!”

Relax. Uncle Kenny was with his angry slaughtermen pals at the Orange Lodge. He hadn’t been murdered by his angry cook of a wife and eaten by his nephews.

But two days later the Provos blew the post office, and Uncle Kenny’s left leg, to smithereens. Billy and me got the belt after that. Well, Billy shouldn’t have laughed. No matter, that shit happened all the time back then. It was 1978 in Cookstown, Northern Ireland. Loyalist Northern Ireland. And everyone was blowing themselves to bits, while eating themselves to death.


William Telford is Business Editor at The Herald in Plymouth, UK. He has an MA in creative writing from Plymouth University. His fiction has appeared in Short Fiction, Ink, Flair and The Western Morning News. He has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize, and the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for worst opening sentence.

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