I am Definitely 5
2018 Short Story Competition Winner
I am Definitely 5
My Dad is taking me and my brother Mark on holiday to Limerick. Mum’s staying at home with our baby brother and sister.
We are going to see Nana, Ducky (that’s what everyone calls Dad’s Dad), lots of Dad’s brothers and sisters and loads and loads of cousins. We’ve been before, I love it in Limerick. Nana has pigs, cows, horses, a wood yard down the lane and everybody laughs all the time. We play with all the other children in the lane all day and no-one tells us when to go to bed. Nana, or one of our aunties, calls us when there is food ready – we go in to eat then back out to run around again. Sometimes we go with our uncle to bring the cows in for milking, or out on his tractor to collect pigs-swill from the hotels in town. At night we sit in front of Nana’s coal fire in the dark, Grandad and his brothers tell stories about The Banshee and The Cooperman. The stories are scary but we’re not scared. It’s so safe sitting by the fire in Nana’s house with so many family around.
I know it takes a long time to get there, we are going on the boat train. Dad says we will sleep on the boat if we can find a space. Dad is so smiley, he whistles as we walk into the train station. I think he’s happy he is going to see his family.
A man he knows says “Hello Patrick”. They stand talking while me and Mark run around in circles, it’s a great day today. Then I hear Dad say to the man “Yes, we are going home”. I pull Mark’s arm, “Mark, we’re not really going to Ireland. Dad just told that man we’re going home”. Mark pulls at Dad’s arm, “Dad, Dad, Dad” – he carries on talking to the man – “Dad, why are we going home, you said we’re going to Limerick”. I feel like crying, my eyes are pricking, we’re not going to Limerick, we just came to the train station. The man laughs, he laughs so much it makes him cough. My Dad bends down, he grabs our arms, “We are going home, Limerick is my home”. That makes me feel strange, Dad lives with us at our home, what does he mean Limerick is his home?
I don’t think I feel quite so excited now.
We go to a window with a man behind it, this is where we are getting the tickets for the boat train. I can just see over the top of the counter. I can see right up the man’s nose. It is so hairy. The hair up his nose is yellow, he must sniff snuff, same as my other grandad. I love the smell of snuff but not the way it leaves yellow stains round my grandad’s nostrils. The ticket man has a moustache and the hair goes in and out of his mouth when he talks, it’s horrible. The hair must go in his food when he eats.
Dad is talking to the man, then he puts a hand on my shoulder and says, “She’s 4”. The man starts writing something down, I think he is writing our tickets. I laugh, “Dad, I’m not 4 I’m 5”. Silly Dad, he always forgets things, sometimes he gets our names wrong and calls me Marie!. He squeezes my shoulder and says “You’re 4, don’t be silly”. “Dad, I am definitely 5, I had a birthday, don’t you remember”. He squeezes hard and pushes my leg with his foot. He says to the man “Just ignore her, she’s 4”. “Dad, I can’t be 4, Mark is 4. Mark you’re 4 aren’t you. Mark tell him, you had a birthday last week, 17th August, you’re 4. I am 5, I know I am 5”.
Dad looks down at me, he’s not smiling, he’s a bit cross, not a lot cross, just a bit. Maybe he feels stupid because he got my age wrong. The hairy-nosed man has stopped writing. He looks at me, then he looks at Mark, then he looks at Dad and says “OK mate she’s 4”. I think I want to cry again, I know I am 5 why doesn’t anyone believe me.
Dad takes the piece of paper from the man and we run to get on the train. Dad lifts us up, the steps are really high. Then he lifts in the gigantic case we have with us. He sits us on the big seats in a carriage and says, “Wait there I am going to get you some sweets”. Dad jumps off the train and disappears.
The seats are made of red scratchy stuff, it sort of rubs the back of my legs. The doors start closing, me and Mark are looking out of the window, where’s Dad? The train starts to move, very, very slowly. Then I see Dad, he is running towards us – he has two tubes of Smarties in his hand, held up high. Smarties, we never get Smarties. I hope he gets on the train, I really want Smarties. He can run faster than anyone in the world, he runs and runs, he grabs the door handle and runs some more. Then the door opens and he jumps up onto the train. That’s brilliant, we will get Smarties after all.
Lots of other people are on the train, there are loads of people in our carriage now. They are all talking to each other, they all tell each other they are going home. Dad is telling someone about the ticket man and me being 4. The other man laughs and says “Yes, I tell them my boy’s 4 too”. He pats his boy on the head, his boy has orange curly hair, and he says “He’s 6 really”. Dad says “Ann is 5”.
I knew I was 5.