I was glue-lipped, dangling on the border between the horrors and the thirst. We were out in Ziggy’s yard, huddled on the lichen-knackered back step as the sun bate down. The air was close and muggy, like someone else’s breath, and I stank. Beside me Ziggy moaned, his head in bowed arms, the grease on his mop of hair blinding. The early giddiness we shared had dried and now an ashy staleness flowered. We grunted, we mourned. Pressed against my front teeth – furry in their unbrushed state – I felt the lunar, sour bumps of my tongue, still tasted the sick-spittle which had caked the hinges of my lips, still reeled from the fear of last night. I was seventeen, the Leaving a swelling shadow behind me.
I pounded the cooked patio with my feet. Felt my cheek, grooved like a peach from the shabby floorboards where I had scooped out a couple of hours. Above was streaked blue, so blue you’d believe in angels, so bright you couldn’t glace at it and not shudder. The hedges and the browning grass purred in the heat. The windows, the washing-line, the hopping insects shimmered. And amongst this hazy backdrop, I could hear the distant shearing of every make of lawn on the Island: the thistle-sloped fields, the reed-swamps, the block front gardens. ‘Fuck this,’ I said. ‘Fuck this completely.’
Read John Patrick McHugh’s story on Granta.com here