UKArchive ID: 24550chrissytotoro
Originally published on February 26, 2010 in Fiction
A short story.
The First Kiss
I wasn’t a Billy no mates, I won’t have anyone believe that. There were four of us who had, shall I say, a limited number of friends. There was my self, Fergal Binchy who, like me, had an elder brother and a younger sister -- Bernadette I think her name was but she went to be a saint at the age of five -- Ryan Scutter who was English, well, Liverpudlian, but that wasn’t his fault and the fat boy, Roger Bartlet, fresh from County Cork with more brains in his little fat fingers than we had in our three heads put together and who latched on to us like a virus because no one else could be bothered to see behind the layers of blubber or had the good sense to take on someone who could be useful with the school work.
We didn’t as such become a gang -- there were gangs enough around even in our sparsely populated area and they fought like demons at the slightest provocation. Lord help the Hill Street boy who met the Carrick Road lads or vice-versa for that matter but that kind of aggravation wasn’t what drew us four together.
We had similarities. Like me, Fergal was musical. He played the flute, I played piano and we both liked art as did Ryan despite being good at football, that’s the Gaelic persuasion not the sissified game the English play and Roger, well Roger was Roger, a bit of an all rounder and something of a 'Renaisscence man’ in his artistic accomplishments.
We were all cracking on to manhood at a clattering pace and though we all talked the talk, mentioning no names but giving ourselves much adolescent pleasuring by recounting what we thought were sexually explicit and accurate accounts of what we had been up to with this or that girl, in truth, we were all virgins. When the truth came out as it inevitably had to during one of our long conversations that centred on the film stars we would like to shag, we all agreed that it was a shame for us and that things ought to change as soon as possible.
We were none of us overly religious boys but the priests warnings about the danger to our physical and spiritual health of fiddling with ourselves was one of the few lessons we genuinely took to heart. It wasn’t so much the displeasure of the Almighty that scared us shitless, it was the going blind and/or deaf, depending on which one of the fathers was slapping you around the head for even looking like you were thinking of giving yourself a pull, that worried us.
For myself I had fashioned the ambition of being at the very least a piano tuner and whilst being blind in my chosen profession was considered something of an asset -- how many sighted piano tuners do you know -- being and/or deaf would have been seen as something of a draw back.
So, on a rather sprightly, late spring afternoon, when we had all just finished double Latin, we met up at the Polish chippy, to discuss the meaning of life and our place as perpetual virgins in it.
Ryan confessed to us at this time that he was perhaps not as virginal as the rest of us. He told us that at his old granddad’s wake last summer, he had, at her inebriated invitation, touched his second cousin Maureen’s tits.
We took this confession under consideration and came to the conclusion that because of his close familial relationship with Maureen it was probably ‘incest’ and likely to earn him a long time in the slammer if not in this life then certainly in the next which meant interminable tortures in Purgatory and when he told us that she was ten years his senior that really set our minds at rest. He wasn’t responsible in fact could, under certain circumstances, consider himself an abused child and so he was definitely included in our plans.
And plans we made in abundance. They ranged from pooling our meagre pocket money to get to Dublin or some other big city and seeing if we could hire a prostitute a couple of minutes each, to kidnapping nuns and finally, as a mark of our desperation, to breaking into the female wing of the fever hospital and snogging all the delirious or comatose women we could get our gobs around.
They were shite plans and we knew it and that made it worse. The problem was, we really didn’t want to have that much to do with girls we just thought we should.
We decided, eventually that we would limit our sexual exploits to snogging. It was safe, you couldn’t pick up much more than a cold sore from mouth to mouth kissing and with your eyes shut, it didn’t matter if the girl was as ugly as Mother Mercy. So, it was to be a snog and no extras.
Apart from Ryan’s second cousin Maureen who now resided in the United States and our mothers we had the sum total of one extant female relative between us and that was my sister Catherine. I was willing to rent her out but that left me without and I didn’t like that idea.
It was Roger who came up with the idea of the convent school some twelve miles from our own single sex establishment.
Surely, he reasoned, there would be girls there who would be up for a bit of ‘experimentation’. Lord help us, didn’t the nuns keep ‘em as close as their knickers, they would be gagging for it.
Having decided up on our source of females, we had to come up with some way of getting at them. The nuns’ security was as tight as, well, something very tight and we confessed ourselves practically defeated until Fergal had an idea. It seemed suddenly to descend upon him like a dove. He said he had been walking past Father Brian’s office in the morning and he had seen a notice posted on the big bulletin board by father Crispin.
Father Crispin was a new teacher, trained in an American seminary and very up to the minute, very modern for a priest, what Paul Simon or maybe Art Garfunkle would have called a radical priest.
Anyway, according to Fergal, Father Crispin was seeking volunteers for a gardening project whereby he was going to redo the gardens at the convent of the Holy Cross. It struck us all immediately but it was Roger who articulated our common thoughts.
“It’s a sign from Heaven,” says he. “Isn’t that the very convent that has attached the school we were just speaking of, the very school which we have chosen to do our ‘experimentation’?”
We all agreed it was the very convent and all put our hands together in silent prayer.
Over the next week we refined our plan. Fergal and I drew up plans for the garden. We had both been there on retreat when we were ten and so we remembered the general look of the place.
Roger, being clever and rather more into plants and horticulture than the rest of us drew up a list of plants, whilst Ryan applied pressure of a mental and physical kind on any boy who even vaguely looked like joining the project. By the Monday morning we had everything nailed down and Father Crispin had agreed that he would take us over there in the car on the Wednesday.
That didn’t give us a lot of time to finely tune the plan, we had no real idea how we were going to get the girls to kiss us or at least let us kiss them. I suppose we were all of the persuasion that something would occur to us.
Wednesday dawned unseasonably hot. The sun, almost from its rise boiled down from a cruelly clear sky and as we loaded up the father’s Morris car with tools and plants and ourselves, I was almost exhausted before we set off.
I sat in the back with Ryan and Fergal, whilst Roger took the whole of the front passenger seat. With the blessing of Father Ignatius who said we were little saints for agreeing to give up the whole day for such a worthwhile cause and that the whole school should take a lesson from us, we were off, belting along the country lanes, scaring the cows and causing the dogs to bark and the farmers to curse until they saw that it was a priest driving when they took off their hats until we eventually reached our Nirvana.
The Convent of the Holy Cross was an impressive building by any measure. It had been left to the Carmelite order by an old lady of some wealth and deep faith but, though the grounds and gardens had once been splendid, the old dear had neglected to leave the order the wherewithal to maintain the gardens as they should have been. Weeds choked the flower beds and the grotto that contained a fountain that was fashioned to look like three angels holding a golden bowl in their upstretched hands and an inset statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the ancient stone wall, was so overgrown with ivy that you would have thought Our Lord was ashamed of his mammy, to allow nature to take over like that.
Us four boys unloaded the car whilst Father Crispin showed our detailed plans to the Mother Superior. Vaguely we heard her complimenting the art work and making approving noises at Roger’s detailed list of plants that we were going to be putting in there. Then eventually we all started work.
It was hot and sticky and the gnats and midges were torture. Father Crispin had thoughtfully supplied us all with straw hats and we worked like slaves to get the job done.
Just before lunch time Roger and I, who were working to clear the ivy from the grotto and Fergal who was barrowing away the rubbish and barrowing in the plants and fresh compost to where Father Crispin and Ryan were digging, stopped for a moment to watch Ryan at his work.
Father Crispin had gone inside for a moment or so to pray with the nuns and so Ryan was left to his own devices. He waited a few moments until a small group of almost grown girls came into viewing distance and then theatrically wiped his brow, put down his spade and stripped of his shirt and vest.
I thought the young ladies would swoon away on the spot. A couple of them actually ran away but the remaining three were fully appreciative of Ryan’s almost manly chest.
We took bets. I thought maybe a minute; Fergal was a little more reserved and said girls like these wouldn’t rush into things and Roger, ever the pessimist said that he thought either Father Crispin or one of the nuns would come along before Ryan could score.
It took thirty seconds before first one and then the others came up and planted demure kisses on his sweat stained face and finally on his lips and then ran off, red faced and giggling.
“I was closest,” I said and held me hand out for the penny bet.
Of course, we three knew that that kind of showmanship would not work for us. We did not possess the animal appeal that Ryan did. We would have to resort to more devious means.
Fergal was away transferring our ivy to the compost heap and it was just me and Roger doing the hard graft of stripping the ivy with small blunt knives and our four gloved hands.
We had finished the fountain and had just started cutting away the clinging stuff from the feet of the BVM when suddenly, without a sound or warning, Roger collapsed in a red, twitching faint on the hard stone ground, narrowly missing smashing his head and emptying his brains in to three angels’ bowl.
“Jesus God!” I exclaimed before remembering where I was and who might be listening to me.
We were out of the way in a remotish corner of the garden but as it turned out my call to the Lord had been answered.
A girl of maybe thirteen or fourteen came running over to see what was amiss.
I knelt down close by Roger’s head, scrabbled for his hat which had exited his head when he fell, and started to fan his face. Just as I was about to cover his face to keep the burning hot sun from addling his brains completely I saw him wink.
“Did he just fall down?” Asked the girl.
“He did,” said I.
“Did he bang his head?”
“Can you tell is he breathing?”
I put my face close to Roger’s. “I’m not,” he whispered.
“He’s not,” I said.
The girl didn’t hesitate. She came straight over, knelt down beside him and, pinching his chubby little nose between her fingers, proceeded to blow air in to his mouth.
All right so it wasn’t a proper kiss but it was the closest that Roger was going to get.
“Could I have a sip of water?” Roger asked in a thin, reedy voice.
“Go and get him a drink of water and ask one of the sisters if they’ll come,” the girl commanded me and proceeded to cradle Roger’s head while she soothed him.
The crafty bugger, I thought as I ran to get water and the nun. I would have thought him much more than a bugger had I not been so aware of my location and the omnipresent listening ear. Roger had fallen with an awful thump and until the wink I’d thought his predicament genuine and was quite worried. I was angry with him for that and for getting his snog in before Fergal and me.
Two nuns came to his rescue and they and the girl helped him away to the cool of the kitchen.
Fergal arrived back from the composting and I told him what had happened.
“The crafty bas...” He stopped himself. “Well it’s down to you and me then, so it is.”
We thought of a plan, a small plan but nicely formed and one which we thought might gain us at least as many snogs as Ryan. We would sell our favours, for charity of course or at least that’s what we would say.
The young ladies were moving out of their school for their afternoon recreation period and no less than four of them arrived at our little hideaway just as Fergal and I, heads turned away out of decency, were cutting away the ivy from the cold stone folds of the BVM’s dress as it draped over her breasts.
“The sisters said you should have some lemonade,” said one of the girls.
We were stood on wooden chairs, the top of the Virgin’s statue being beyond our reach and we almost fell down at the thought of young girls and lemonade.
“Is there any word on Roger?” I asked, immediately establishing myself as the caring one.
“Sisters are putting cold compresses on his head and father says if he’s not feeling right in half an hour or so he’ll take yous all home.”
“Oh, we’d better crack on with this then,” said Fergal and I got the feeling that actually having the girls there, in the flesh so to speak, was putting him off our plan a bit but of course he was just padding out the role. “There is just one thing before we get on with this.”
The girls were looking at us in a slightly puzzled way. They were not the shy stunners who had bestowed their favours on Ryan or even as good looking as Roger’s ‘saviouress’ but they were passable enough and the words any and port and storm floated into my head.
“It’s this way,” Fergal continued. “We’re doin’ this thing fer charity.”
“We’re actually selling kisses,” said I. “Fer charity. Fer the little black babies in Africa.” God bless them. My little black babies were, in my opinion, a master stroke. What self respecting pubescent girl could resist little black babies? Especially in Africa where the mere donation of money and the receiving of a kiss from two not-so-bad looking lads would guarantee novenas of thanks for life without you having to do another thing for them?
I noticed the change in their attitudes and I wondered to myself were we that terrible looking that we should cause such fear and then there was a voice from behind us, calm with just a hint of righteous indignation.
“Little black babies in Africa. Now there is a cause we should definitely support.”
Fergal and I whipped around swiping the hats from our heads as we did so and genuflected more out of fear than religious conviction.
She was tall and thin and flanked by two ‘heavies’. Nuns of such generous proportions as to have the look of the Sumo about them.
“And how much will charge for these ... Kisses?”
“Sixpence, mother,” we said together.
“Is that t’ripence each?”
We nodded. I wanted to say sixpence each but I knew I would have been pushing me luck.
“Well,” she said. “That seems a fair price.” She snapped her fingers and one of her heavies produced two shiny silver t’ripenny bits which gave the lie to my conviction that nuns never carried money, then she drew Fergal and I to her and planted kisses on our fire red cheeks and pressed the coins into our sweating, shaking hands.
They came thick and fast as if summoned by some unheard Angelus. Fat and thin, fair and foul, young and old and eight nuns and four girls later Fergal and I had the sum of six whole shillings and so much blood in our faces that we would both have collapsed like Roger had we not so feared the resuscitation.
When we had done, pulled the final cobweb strewn tangle of green from the face of the statue and given all a firm brushing I gazed up at that serene countenance and thought to myself that she seemed to be smiling.
Maybe she was just grateful to feel the sun on her face again or maybe she was amused by the sight of her daughters in Christ putting two Bolshie wee boys in their place. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and plumped for the sun on her face.
Archived comments for The First Kiss
e-griff on 26-02-2010
The First Kiss
sorry, Chrissie, this was too long for me. Try to keep it under 3,200 words, eh?
It is, unless your a weirdo who reads full stops, commas, spaces etc.
Thanks for your constructive comment.
chrissy that's with a y not ie.
e-griff on 26-02-2010
The First Kiss
oooh, dear .... 🙁
yes, I copied the text and did a word count , which is why I picked 3,200 of course. ... I've explained on the forum post. 🙂
ruadh on 26-02-2010
The First Kiss
Ha ha, serves them right. I liked this Chrissy. I think your portrayal of the boys behaviour was realistic.
Ailsa, many thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I'm glad you liked the story. This wee boy has been inhabitting my head for a while now. I think he's a bit based on my male cousins, they were a bit roguish in a 'Just William' sort of way. He now has three stories.
I read this one at a poetry and prose evening last Friday and it got a good reception and a lot of laughs.
e-griff on 27-02-2010
The First Kiss
Ah, they often say 'be careful what you wish for', young Chrissy. Here's my 'deep-pan' opinion as promised ... 🙂
This is an amusing and touching story, written from the point of view of a young Irish lad. Overall the plot is lightly humorous, no 'laugh out loud' moments, but several chuckles and wry observations.
The story starts slowly, with a lot of setting up – perhaps too much? We are told about the narrator and his friends (the gang) and given some background, all of this before we get into the actual plot. I wondered if much of it could be cut with no loss. The setting and the Irishness, and the motivation, are all in the main part of the story (which for me starts at ' It was Roger ...'). I'd cut all before.
From that point the story proceeds apace, fine, keeping up interest, amusing. However the style of writing is, in my opinion, slightly overlong and padded, and could be made much snappier without any loss of atmosphere or interest – in fact probably the opposite in the second case. Things don't have to be 'classically completed'. Readers have imagination – they can work things out, they don't need 'telling'.
Just a few examples of superfluous (IMO) words (in brackets):
'... ashamed of his mammy (to allow nature to take over like that)'
'... of plants (that were going to be putting in there)'
'... for charity of course (or at least that's what we would say)'
Also, too long sentences! I found one paragraph consisting of only one sentence of 99 words! Plus a few others ...
I didn't like the attempts at conveying accents – this is fraught with danger, because people hear accents differently, and odd spellings are also interpreted different ways, so it's really inadvisable. You CAN use certain known words as keys to tell readers what accent to 'hear ' the voices in – (eg in scots – it's a braw night! (NOT nicht)) but apart from these, it's best to use straight spelling. Ones I object to? : (me self, meself (?), t'ripence (horrible!) )
There seemed to be some lack of care in checking, I found – eg a number of typos (renascence, may (sighted), it's rise, demur, poses, I gave he the, and/or ) and words split up wrongly ( draw back, up on, where with all, up stretched, hide away). AIso, I think you need to examine your comma use. I found numerous places where comma pairs were not completed, and others where commas were needed, or where they were used unnecessarily.
With some editing and checking, I think you have a nice wee story here, which many will appreciate and chuckle at. I enjoyed it.
'Ah, they often say 'be careful what you wish for',' that sort of implies I was expecting something different and I wasn't.
I really can't even consider cutting that much of the story not even for online consumption. There is some really funny stuff in the first bit of the story and it does identify the boys and sets out their personalities, who they are and what they think about, expect from life.
Re the language I’m a bit torn. I write what comes into my head, the way it comes in to my head. This wee boy is talking about, telling us about his past from a future view point. It’s his voice.
I once remember reading a story on this site that had two teenage girls as characters and I found the dialogue between the two very stilted because it was so precise and correct and found myself thinking, ‘lassies that age wouldn’t talk like that to each other no matter how well educated they were. I mentioned this to the author (genuinely forget who it was) and he replied that that was the way he wrote.
I can’t do that. Who ever the character is that I’m writing about, they have to speak in their own voice.
Incidentally, until I started school, I thought that t’ripence was how you spelled three pence because that’s what my nain used to say.
But on the other hand I remember more recently Daffni asking me to read a piece by Kipling, something about an elephant serving with the British in India and that had been written in ‘joke Mick’ and whilst I had no problems reading it to myself, reading it out loud was almost impossible.
I have found the anaconda of a sentence that you pointed out and will certainly change that and will chop bits to see if I can make it more acceptable. I will also have a look at the typos and such that you pointed out. It was very sloppy of me.
Much thanks for reading and giving your opinion. Like I said on the forum, that is why I submit stuff.
Bikerman on 27-02-2010
The First Kiss
Griff got in ahead of me here, but I agree with what he says. It is definitely too long (especially to read on a screen) and could easily be cut down. For example, in the set up:
...at that very same convent.
'It's a sign from heaven,' Roger said. And we all put our hands together in silent prayer.
Nothing is lost, except 50-odd unnecessary words.
It's enlightening that you mention 'Just William', because I thought it read like a children's story, which is fine if that is what you intended. It certainly wasn't unenjoyable.
Minor points: 'draw back' and 'where with all' should be drawback and wherewithall.
Bikerman, much thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
I will, as I said to griff, certainly go through the story again and correct errors but as for cutting great big chunks and it being 'too long' you'll have to let me be the judge of that, though I do agree for reading on-line it could be a bit cumbersome.
Like the other story about this little boy (The Piano) it was originally meant for radio so perhaps there is a bit of pruning to be done for its internet existence.
'It certainly wasn't unenjoyable.' This so reminded me of my late father. He was really verbally constipated when it came to paying compliments of any kind. His phrase was; 'There's nothing wrong with that.'
e-griff on 27-02-2010
The First Kiss
okay, I'm popping back here to clarify, not go overthe same ground (I hope). When I crit a story, I print it out. I read once through, with a pen in my hand, noting technical problems and unclarities. I see how I feel about it. I then read through again, and if an unclarity goes, I check to see if it's maybe just me. If not, I keep the note. I also check out the action and the plot, etc.
I then go through a third time as I type out my comments on the computer, often filtering details out in the process.
When I referred to this story as too long - just to be clear, I didn't mean in an absolute sense (and it doesn't matter whether it's internet or print - it's the same thing) . I should have said, 'it is too long for what it is'. When you write a dramatic novel it is considered best to grab the reader's attention with a 'hook' and get the story started as soon as possible. Same for a story, I guess. If you wrote out the essential plot of this story, the first part of the writing would not feature in it, is what I was saying (Four Irish lads decide to get some experience of sex, so they hatch a plot to ....) , so it is really not important for the overall impact of your story, funny or not - and it is essentially 'tell'. If parts of the information given are that important, I'd say, well, drip the descriptions into the story as it goes. But for me, the boy's characters come out amply in the way they choose to get the kisses. That's the real interest, at least for me.
After reading first yesterday, I found that today I remembered the action parts, but honestly did not retain much of the opening descriptions, if I am honest, which is my other reason for saying cut it.
Anyway, more than enough from me, I shall say no more.
discopants on 01-03-2010
The First Kiss
Enjoyed this- it didn't strike me as being too long as I read it (or of being over 3000 words) and I particularly liked the opening paragraph setting the scene. If you were to snip the 'setting-up' of the story, then you could probably look at paras 2 and 3 but it's not essential for me- the rest of the opening sets up the 'action' and is a good source of amusement. Also had no problem with the dialogue/way the speech was written and, as said elsewhere, I think you've captured the way the boys would think and their innocence while trying not to be so innocent- for me, the equivalent action was taking up Ballroom dancing- it didn't last long, though!
discopants, many thanks for reading and commenting
I guess, as with everything, it's different strokes for different folks (if that's not horribly cliched).
When I read this a couple of weeks ago at our poetry and prose thing I logged the laughs and they were fairly constant throughout.
It's maybe not as funny as other stuff I've done and it certainly isn't nor was it meant to be fall on the floor funny.
When I write a story, I don't sit down and think of a plot and say let's do a story about that. The story is the words as they come in to my head, if that makes any sense.
I'm glad you enjoyed it.
sirat on 05-03-2010
The First Kiss
I said in the forum I would have a look, but to be honest Griff has already said most of what I would want to say. Absolute length is not the issue here, it's the way the words are used, and I too found a lot of it long-winded and in need of a prune. Griff's remarks about commas and over-long sentences, incorrect connecting-up of composite words and the like are all very much to the point also. There is a good humourous core to this story that is worth preserving, but a lot of it is IMO unnecessary padding. I would see this as a first draft. Next you need to get clear on what that core is and cut out the rest. Putting down the words that come into your head (your description) is the starting point for a story – then the work begins!
The Irish writer that this brought to mind for me was Frank O'Connor. He too writes humorously from an adult perspective about his Irish childhood, and I think his technique is to do it all in a very 'dead-pan' way, without signalling which bits are supposed to be funny, like a good straight-faced stand-up comedian, and it works beautifully. Where I think this one goes wrong (and it's a very subtle point) is that it's too selfconsciously setting-up the funny incidents which take place between the other passages that aren't funny. The humour is spasmodic, not contained in the whole situation like O'Connor would do it, and it's somehow 'flagged'. I don't know if that's very helpful, but if you could take the whole thing very 'seriously' and let the reader see the ridiculous side of it for him/herself rather than the author signalling it I think that might work better.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I think I'm not going to cut too much from this. It wouldn't be me, it wouldn't be the way I write but thanks for taking the time and trouble.