Authors: Niall Griffiths
About the Book
On leaving school a sixteen-year-old boy goes to live with his uncle on a remote Welsh hill-farm. His aunt has recently committed suicide after losing her livestock in the foot-and-mouth epidemic and his uncle has turned, once again, to the bottle. The boy is an innocent, a spiritual savant; a shaman. In one of his ecstatic trances the boy learns that he has an appointed role in the world, which he must discover for himself. During an episode of brutal and climactic violence, he does exactly that.
is a powerful, disturbing and moving novel that reinvigorates the language of fiction and illuminates domestic tragedy with a penetrating epic light.
About the Author
Niall Griffiths was born in Liverpool in 1966 and now lives in Wales. He has published five novels:
Grits, Sheepshagger, Kelly + Victor, Stump
Also by Niall Griffiths
LAST SUMMER IT
was not like any other summer of my life it was when so many things happened to go Crash in my head. When I said tara to the school and laughed and did a dance on my own and NotDad pushed me out and up to Drunkle’s house because He Needed Me they said, Them Two, He Needed Me is what They said cos Auntie Scantie was found up in the tree like they found the ripped sheep but
wasn’t ripped or not in a way that could be eyed and he’s lonely They said and He Needed Me but They were going to Go Their Separate Ways and wanted me gone, My Mam Bethan and that dark bastard NotDad. And he said oh yes comen stay did my Drunkle after the men in white suits with guns had come to shoot all their sheep, his and Fay’s, even if there was nothing wrong with their feet
their mouths they just shot em all blam anyway around that tree that Auntie Scantie Fay climbed and then jumped out of necktied to a branch and where after that they found the ripped sheep too or maybe that was another tree I can’t remember it, which one. And oh yes Arthur died too, that dark face-scrapey fella falling back into the mountain with my good dog Arrn gone now but I remember him always I remember looking through his eyes. Yes that Arthur went that man who was Not Of This World and
wife didn’t climb
tree but she did make me go flying before her fingers went away but go flying different to when I have My Times which I
that summer with Fay and them Lordy fellers and the Everything-thing and the peagreen planet in space.
some people like
called them and My Mam Bethan as well and NotDad called them something else not right and cruel cos he’s like that and I don’t know where he is now and don’t care either cos I never flippin did. But My Times I call them and Drunkle does too and there was some of Them last summer, and as well there was lots of things dying and going away and I heard Snowball the bull who’d been dead for a long time in the byre and he was shot too that time long ago which I didn’t and don’t remember cos I was small then. And I still hear Arrn calling me but I miss him awful and last summer there were Stones and a Beast that no one saw like I didn’t see the Bala monster and haven’t ever and there was
of things last summer and some of them I like, they happy me still but some of them days still dark me dark me like the hole Arrn and Arthur went into or like the Bala Lake I watch on Drunkle’s screen. But one thing I remember big and of a mostness was the My Time I had and usually I don’t remember My Times cos I
remember them only the quickness and quietness before I fall into Them when I can watch Crow walk and hear a dinosaur roar as He walks and then I go somewhere where I
a nothingment only as if the God in Crow or in that Tree or in them Stones that Drunkle so loves has got down in the mud and is kneeling on my neck.
* * *
I danced when I left the school, left that stupid school. It was raining and I danced in the raininess at the bottom of the playground by the ditch and the other boys laughed but I didn’t care I was in a gladness to be gone, dancing by the ditch where I used to watch frogs and once saw a snake
one of them frogs, his webby feet still kicking out of the snake’s mouth and the snake going all big with the frog inside. Laughed they did them boys to see me dance but I didn’t care cos I was Free and gone away from teachers and all them walls as well and after I’d done my dancing I
down the lane and into and through the town and into my garden and had a play-fight with my dog who is called Arrn cos that’s the sound he makes when he growls which he only does to those who are
of him and I’m not
of him he is my dog and I love him and he loves me I love very much his redsome ears. He wanted to follow me into the house but he couldn’t cos he always has to stay outside even in the rain coming down, even in the snow coming down cos NotDad says he is dirty and doesn’t like him cos he says his name at him and when I went in that same NotDad looked away from Mam and at me and Mam was sitting at the table in no food smells and she had her face in her hands and NotDad was above her his face red but not like Arrn’s ears were red and he put a Looking on me with his face in his swinging head and then turned away again to show me his back and he spoke:
—Aw Jesus Christ. Get him away, Bethan.
My Mam Bethan put a sob into the room.
—I mean it. Get the little fucking freak away or he’ll get the same. You
I’ll do it, kid or no kid.
My Mam Bethan told me to go upstairs behind her hands and I heard her voice all wet and thick and shakey like the green jelly we used to have on Sundays and NotDad shouted something suddenly which made me and Mam jump and made Arrn bark outside and Mam told NotDad that she’d call somebody who could come and pick me up and she took her hands away from her face and one of her eyes looked like the blackbird’s egg I found one time that had fallen from a tree and smashed and the tiny bird inside all blue and bulgey with bursted veins and reddy-yellow stuff everywhere and swollen, that’s what My Mam Bethan’s eye looked like. And red hot I became then and I jumped on that bastard NotDad I ran and jumped at him all red hot I was but he caught me by the neck and I couldn’t scream any more so Mam screamed for me and he threw me outside where me and Arrn made our plans to get him one night and kill him like the buzzards kill mice. I saw it happen in my headness, Arrn taking NotDad’s throat in his teeth and shaking his head like he does when he catches a rat up at Drunkle’s farm where then I couldn’t wait to be, away from NotDad and My Mam’s eye. We sat in the old useless car which had no wheels and had gone all flakesome-brown for the shelter in it and we made our Plans to murder that bastard NotDad and we laughed when we imagined him dead and then felt better about Our Worlds, me about
one and Arrn about the one he is from which I don’t know about. Arrn always makes me feel better. But I’d just left school For Ever and shouldn’t’ve
feeling better but that bastard who one day will be Dead and
always makes things dark, always puts a great big sick on me and we sat in that stinky car me and Arrn like being inside a drum it was with the rain on the roof and we made Our Plans and the sound of that rain on the rustsome roof like a drum started to make me go somewhere in my selfness, kind of that drifty feeling just before everything disappears in My Times, like that drummy noise was drawing me into it and away from
or pushing me somewhere like all the old waters in my head were being swirled around by the noise and I couldn’t do anything but watch that swirling and there was nothing else in the world
that swirling which is how It happens most of the time, how They My Times come upon me. But behind all that drumming I heard Drunkle’s truck pull up outside and I heard him go into the house and I heard some shouting, two men and a lady shouting, and then Drunkle came out of the back door and he stood in the rain looking around for me and smiled when he saw me in the car, he did, put a big smiling into the rain when he saw us, me the driver with passenger Arrn. Drunkle came over not walking very properly and leaned into the car and I was happy’d by seeing him. I could smell his breath and the pubs in it cos he’s my Drunkle.
—Shwmae then. Off for a drive, is it? Didn’t know dogs could drive these kind of cars. Maybe a Rover, eh?
He laughed and rubbed my head and Arrn’s too and Arrn wagged happy cos Drunkle has no fear for him either which is what Arrn likes.
—Want to come for a drive with me? In
—My house. You like it there.
I pretended to think about it for a bit but I don’t know why cos I knew the answer would be yes. I do these things sometimes, these pretendy things and I don’t know why only that they happy me in small ways.
—Can Arrn come?
he can, bach. I’ve got a beef knuckle he can have, take him til Christmas to get through.
Arrn wagged and wagged and wagged his tail. I wagged happy too in what felt like my tailbit just above my bum but I don’t have a tail so I must’ve been wagging somewhere else.
I like going to Drunkle’s house. Liked it for as long as I can remember cos it goes up away, away from the town and NotDad who never leaves the town nor does My Mam but she
to and she’s
to but she always goes back. I like going up and up and up into the cloudy green-nesses which sometimes I can’t see cos of the mist which floats out of that upness like steam coming out of porridge or tea or the hot bread-and-milk that Drunkle makes me sometimes for breakfast. I like the big birds in that upness that move in T-shaped shadows through the thicksome greysome air like floating crosses that Jesus was nailed to and I like the whitesome bits of snow that you can see up here even when it’s sunny in the down-belownesses and the hares and the foxes and the badgers at night-time and everything else, this is not the same world
here as the one in the belowness and I like it best cos of its highness and the voices I can hear up here when no one is talking and I like it when I look in the mirror of a lake and see the ends of my strawy hair all blue cos of where they’ve been dipped in the sky.
Drunkle drove slow cos he was my Drunkle. Sometimes I thought he was going to drive through the fence and we’d roly-poly all the way down to the bottom of the valley and be bashed dead bad all three of us. Arrn was making a whining in the back seat a bit scared he sounded which he never sounds cos he is from Another World where he has always been King.
—So, yur auntie, Drunkle said. —My wife.
-wife. What d’you think about never seeing her again?
I couldn’t answer his question. Because I thought that I
see her again somewhere and even if I wouldn’t what could I say to Drunkle about how I felt about it? Drunkle asks these questions all the time. He will take me up to a High Place where people long ago planted a Big Stone in the ground and he will ask me how I feel about that Stone and I will just look at him standing there in the rain and mudment as still as That Stone and I won’t know what to say to him or to the Stone. And Arrn will wag his tail at the Stone as if it is his friend and come to pat his head or give him food.
—You know what happened, aye?
I nodded, cos I
know; men in white suits with guns came up here and shot all the sheep and after they went Drunkle’s missis my Auntie Fay jumped out of a tree still attached to the tree with a rope round
neck. Drunkle himself found her the next morning after he’d been looking all over the High Parts for her in darkness and storminess and he cut her down with a knife. Her name was Fay but I called her Auntie Scantie sometimes in my head cos once when she was drunk she rode a horse through marketday Llanybydder wearing only her scanty underwear and all the women shouted I bet and I bet as well that all the men hid parts of themselves but didn’t turn away cos she had a way of making you feel burning hot, my Auntie Scantie Fay did. All the men hid parts of themselves and never turned away from her when she was around, they did, all of them always did.