Peter Caffrey




Marlene climbed the stairs; I could hear her heavy footsteps. She paused on the landing to catch her breath before pushing my bedroom door open.


‘You sleeping?’ she whispered.


I didn’t reply. I wasn’t sure whether to admit to being awake or to emit a fake snore. What did she want? Had I done something wrong? The slender finger of light expanded and spread across the ceiling as she pushed the door open and entered.


‘You sleeping?’


I turned, stretching as if waking, blinking my eyes open. She knelt beside the bed; I could smell her breath, sweet and sugary with a vague hint of alcohol. What did she want? Her hand moved under the bedcovers, warm and gentle, touching my stomach. As I tensed, I’m heard her chuckle before she shushed me as if I was a baby. Her hand moved, stroking my skin, the only accompanying sound being her breathing. It was nice; uncomfortable but nice. Then she slipped her hand inside my pyjamas and touched my penis.


Marlene worked with my mother at the hospital. She was the blackest woman I had ever seen. In her late fifties, blessed with a hefty bosom, she was as bright and loud in looks as she was in personality. As a 12-year-old in an Irish Catholic household, I found her intriguing. She was unlike other women who came to the house. Now she was touching my winkle, and it felt good. I got an erection.


When she had finished touching me she gave me a crumpled pound note and said, ‘Now you mind not to tell anyone about this. You’re a special boy, and you’ve got greatness coming your way. You have purpose, understand?’


I nodded, but I didn’t understand.


She told me she’d bring a present next time she was babysitting. That was that; she disappeared and as the door closed darkness engulfed the room.


I found myself excited at the thought of Marlene returning. Would she touch me again? What would the present be? Like a child awaiting Christmas, time passed too slowly.


One evening my parents got ready to go out. Marlene arrived and chatted to Ma about work. She ignored me. I felt cheated. However, once my parents left, Marlene turned off the television and asked me to join her in the living room.


‘So, how’s school?’


‘Fine thanks.’


‘It’s the Catholic school you go to, right?’


‘Yes, St Michaels.’


‘Is it all priests that run it?’


‘Priests and nuns.’


It was painful, but I dared not say anything out of line. She asked me about religion. She asked if I believed in God, did I understand the hierarchy of angels, was the holy sacrament paramount in my eyes? Did I know about the Light Bringer’s fall from heaven? I didn’t understand any of what she was saying.


She said some people, people who had studied the scriptures to a greater degree than most, believed the Light Bringer’s fall from heaven indicated the crumbling fabric of a false religion. These people believed the true saviour of mankind was the angel who, according to the church, had been cast out for the sin of pride. Contrary to that belief, evidence showed they had cast him out for challenging wrongfulness. Lucifer was the real teller of truths. Her voice became excited as she talked, but I was getting bored; it was like being back at school.


When she’d finished talking, we made toast and ate it while watching television. Then she sent me to bed. She came upstairs later and touched me again. It was nice; I enjoyed her hand on my winkle.


Before leaving, she said many people, Catholic people, thought others that did things differently were bad. She added, ‘They’re not bad, just different. Different isn’t bad, you understand?’


I shrugged; I hadn’t a clue what she meant. She gave me a pound note. I didn’t get the present she’d promised.


Marlene didn’t babysit for a few weeks. I had stopped thinking about her when she arrived one evening. She carried a large bag; my hope of it being the present evaporated when I spotted it contained cloth. Once my parents left, she told me to take a bath, and as I was getting dried, she came into the bathroom clutching the bag. She said it was the present and took out a red velvet cloak with a gold chain that fastened around the neck. She wrapped the cloak around me and we went downstairs.


She had cleared the dining table, putting a pair of candles on it, along with various bottles, jars and a battered book. She stood me in the middle of the table and lit the candles. My Mother would have had a fit if she knew I was standing on the furniture.


I stood on the table, naked except for the cloak, while Marlene read aloud from the book and took swigs from the various bottles and jars. I felt stupid. The burning red flush of shame crawled across my body, spreading to my face. Marlene chanted under her breath, a rhythmic mumble. My legs ached, and I was bored.


Then Marlene stopped muttering and reached out. She touched my penis and wailed, ‘Oh sainted one, the most beautiful, the most magnificent; enter this vessel I have prepared for you.’


Her hand worked my penis until it was erect, and she wailed, ‘Oh Master of the Night, Teller of Truths, have pity on your humble servant. Let me show you my unquestioned devotion.’


Then she leaned forward and put my penis in her mouth. I didn’t know what she was doing, but the shame left me, as did the ache in my legs and my boredom. Afterwards she gave me a pound note and reminded me I was special.


The following days were a mix of excitement and anxiety. I prayed my parents would go out again soon. Whatever Marlene was doing, I knew it was special. I wished she had left the cloak behind so I could wear it again.


When she returned, she brought me a hat with two curled goat’s horns on the sides. It was fantastic, like a warrior’s helmet. I wore it with the cloak. The two together looked great. I tried to listen more to what she was reading. It made little sense, but she mentioned the Walls of Jericho at one point. When she finished chanting and touching me and putting my penis in her mouth, I mentioned this and asked whether I should have a horn to blow.


‘You don’t need a horn, child; it isn’t necessary.’


‘But I want a horn to blow, please?’


‘Nope, no horn. You’ll irritate the neighbours.’


‘If I can’t have a horn, I’ll tell my Mum what you do when you’re babysitting.’


Seething, clearly angered by my threat, she muttered, ‘I’ll see what I can do’.


I had learned to be manipulative.


Marlene bought me a plastic bugle. It was silver and played only one note. I marched up and down the table in my goat’s horns hat, red velvet cloak and my erection sticking out. As I marched, she read aloud from the battered book and I blew the bugle.


Parp! Parp! Parp!


Up and down I marched, a demented soldier of Satan, while she beseeched the Dark Lord to invade the vessel she had prepared. I felt like a king as I paraded around.


Parp! Parp! Parp!


I only stopped blowing the bugle so she could promise the Lord of the Night her utter devotion before putting my penis in her mouth. Before she left, as she handed me the pound note, she hesitated, saying, ‘By rights, you should be paying me.’


At that second, I hated her. She couldn’t change the rules. I think she saw my next move coming, and before I could issue the threat, she handed me the money.


Christmas was approaching and my parents’ social calendar was hectic. They were in the kitchen discussing it when I heard Marlene’s name mentioned. My father was berating her while my mother put up a spirited defence of her friend.


‘I’ve never seen her at the church,’ my Dad argued. ‘Does she even go to church? She might worship a cow for all I know!’


‘Fred, it’s Hindus that worship cows,’ my mother replied. ‘Marlene is a Christian.’


‘Not a Catholic then?’


‘I don’t know, but I’m sure she’s a Christian.’


‘She might be a bloody Protestant. I don’t want her in this house. I work too hard to have Protestants traipsing around the place. Why can’t Celia Dwyer babysit? She’s always doing the flowers at the church.’


‘Fred, she’s 90 years old. I doubt she could stay awake for more than an hour.’


Marlene came to babysit a few days later. She waited for my parents to leave before nipping out to her car, returning with another African lady. The two talked and laughed while I waited upstairs. As I stood on the landing, my anger grew. They were holding up the show. I thought about taking off the cloak and hat, refusing to play, but once Marlene called me downstairs, I felt better.


The pair took turns in reading aloud while I marched in my cloak and goat horn hat. I blew the bugle with gusto.


Parp! Parp! Parp!


Parp! Parp! Parp!


Norma stopped muttering to ask Marlene, ‘Why does he keep blowing that goddamn horn?’


Marlene replied, ‘The boy wants to do it; just let him do it.’


‘It don’t seem right, all that horn blowing’s putting me off.’


‘Well, it doesn’t put off the Master of Darkness, so it shouldn’t put you off.’


Norma rolled her eyes and went back to mumbling. I didn’t like her. Eventually we got to the part when Marlene touched me while declaring the vessel was ready for the Fiery Light. Earlier in the week I’d asked my Dad what a vessel was. He said it was a ship, but I couldn’t see any ships.


They took turns putting my penis in their mouths. I didn’t want Marlene to stop, but when Norma did it I shuddered. It wasn’t nice. I felt her hands grip my thighs. One of them worked its way up until her finger touched my bumhole. I pulled away and kicked out at her, and she called me a dirty bastard.


The atmosphere changed. Marlene lifted me down from the table and set about tidying. Norma sat watching with a face like thunder. No one spoke. As they left Marlene gave me a pound, but Norma didn’t.


The day before Christmas Eve it snowed, the dark clouds throwing out a wall of white flakes. When Marlene arrived, I wasn’t sure if I was happy to see her or not. I hadn’t liked Norma or what she’d done. It felt dirty and embarrassing. I didn’t like her touching my bumhole.


Mum and Dad headed off, my father cursing the weather and Christmas and Protestants, loud enough so Marlene could hear. Smiling, she watched the car edge out onto the snowy road before closing the door and telling me to get ready.


As I came downstairs in my costume, the door-bell rang. Before I could run back upstairs, Marlene opened the door and three more women entered. One spotted me and clapped theatrically, saying, ‘Look at him, the Little Prince of Darkness. Isn’t he cute?’


Another held a bottle of bright red liquid. I asked if it was blood, and she said it was chicken’s blood. I wasn’t sure if it was, but I took a few steps like a chicken and shouted, ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo!’


The women laughed. They took off their coats and hung them in the hallway. While Marlene was alone, I told her that every woman had to give me a pound, not just her. I said I didn’t want a repeat of what Norma had done. She talked to the new ladies, who paid me straight away. Then Marlene lifted me onto the table and things got started.


Marlene was reading, and the ladies were mumbling. One was swaying as if she was falling asleep. When there was a brief pause, I spoke.


‘Marlene; why don’t you take off your blouse and let your bosoms show?’

She looked at me with contempt, and I heard one lady snigger. In that second, I felt ashamed and alone. It seemed everything we were doing was wrong. I was afraid, but I was also angry.


‘You want what? You want me to take off my clothes?’


The other ladies laughed, loudly and openly. One said, ‘Sweetie, he wants to see your titties!’


I felt the red mark of shame crawl up my skin. It felt hot and dry and tingling.


Marlene went back to reading as I stood there in the horned hat and the red velvet cloak. She had snubbed me. She wasn’t playing the game. I blew the bugle harder than normal, releasing my anger. One lady snapped to attention. Another tutted. I could see it was irritating them.


Parp! Parp! Parp!


A fat woman reached out to touch me but I pulled away and blew the horn at her.


Parp! Parp! Parp!


I saw the one with the red liquid dip her finger in the bottle and make a mark on her forehead with the blood. I howled at the top of my voice, ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo!’


Marlene looked shocked and snapped, ‘Be quiet!’


I felt defiant. The horned hat, the red cloak and the bugle formed my uniform of rebellion as I seized the moment. I was the one without whom there would be no game.


I marched faster, howling, ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo!’


Parp! Parp! Parp!




The atmosphere became uncomfortable, awkward. One woman stood and left the room, returning with her coat. I climbed from the table and marched around the dining room, the hat at a jaunty angle, the cloak flowing, my erection unfailing, and I now screamed, ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo! Cock-a-doodle-doo!’


Parp! Parp! Parp!




Parp! Parp! Parp!




The other ladies fetched their coats, but I marched around the room, blowing the bugle and screaming.


Parp! Parp! Parp!




Parp! Parp! Parp!




The noise was so loud that no one heard the key hit the lock. The weather had forced my parents to return home.


‘Sweet Jesus, what fucking madness is this?’ my Dad hollered.


It wasn’t pretty. I escaped his wrath. I stood by and enjoyed seeing him inflict his rage on those people. They deserved it. Even Marlene deserved it. She had ruined the game, and now she was paying the price.





Peter Caffrey is a writer of prose and poetry with an absurdist leaning. His work has appeared, or will shortly appear, in Sun and Moon, Literally Stories, the Marbella Times, Twisted Tongue and Fleshmouth, amongst others. He has also written comedy scripts for The Dirt radio show. His debut novel, The Devil's Hairball, is scheduled for release in Winter 2018. He drinks too much, exercises too little and is unlikely to change.