I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

A Short Story

Paolo And The Snakes

He remembers the day he finally surrendered, lying down on the back lawn, realising with relief that he could do nothing but allow the thousands of little snakes find their way to the surface. They had won! Plasters covered what the doctors called ‘crisis points’, where his skin was purple and smarting, in some places crusting over in an unpleasant way. His beautiful, smooth vessel, which his aunties had described as being like soft porcelain, had been betrayed from beneath, by the cruelness of his own inner world.

It started when Paolo was 14, with a shadow across his upper lip, as though it were the work of a pencil - if it had first appeared somewhere else, such as down below, he says he would’ve remembered. He reckons he was the only one in his year who sprouted such a huge amount of curly body hair, his system functioning with cheerful abandon. If only the parents had been more alert to the goings-on of their only child: his need to spend long periods locked up in the bathroom, the pinching of his father’s razor blades, the bizarre desire to place his flighty hands over exposed skin. The cuts, the rashes, the slicing open of underage flesh? No one got the chance to forcefully point out the madness of it.

The unwitting comments of some of Paolo’s friends had driven him to start the shaving, a painful and daily chore that involved sweeps up both legs and arms, his stomach and chest. He hates to bring back the memory of those unkind words: monkey man, tarantula, the fuzz. They seem so harmless now, yet back then, for a boy who wasn’t able to appreciate the miracle of a body’s transformation, it was a terrifying and lonely struggle. Paolo’s body hair, the eternal growth he hadn’t chosen, had to be eradicated, like a noxious weed that crowds out everything else. It became medicinal to hack away the feeling of intrusion, the feeling of having something unseemly on his skin. Of course, people started to notice the plasters. The razor blades, often at the end of their lives from trying to keep the years off his father’s face, had to be pushed harder against the skin, scraped along as though soil were being ploughed. Teenage spots on his face were always sliced open, never given the chance to heal over, denying him a handsome launch into the future.

Poor Paolo was still a child. The hair hadn’t understood the innocence of its target and had no right to take up residence in what was still such a juvenile sanctuary. The new man was still among the boys, still in a land of milky complexions and angelic pureness.

Today the hair has begun to change colour, but it still continues to rise up from beneath. Suffice to say that Paolo and the snakes have never totally reconciled their differences. Every now and then, when he's alone, and the world gives him a little break from its relentless pace, he finds himself fantasizing about uncovering once again his smooth, pearl-coloured skin.

© Copyright, 2007. Seamus Kearney.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Seamus! Paolo's tale actually moved me when I read it. I like it! Keep writing. :)

Anonymous said...

Congrats, Seamus!! The contest was fun. I enjoyed participating.

The imagery of your piece really stuck with me.

S. Kearney said...

Thanks! :) I'm glad you liked it. Don't worry, wild horses couldn't keep me away from writing! :) I must check now to see if you entered. Did you?

Thanks, and congrats to you too! :) Wow, must be nice to actually get the chance to enter instead of just wading through the entries. Your piece was great and spoke to me.

L.M.Noonan said...

This piece really appealed to me. I liked having to work for it, the satisfying mystery, the sadness and the acceptance and also the stepping into hirsute shoes for a moment.

Unknown said...

Hey well done Seamus. This was a great story, and like CS said very moving.

S. Kearney said...

Thank you. It's amazing what ideas and writing we can come up with when we have a deadline. I really enjoy having these challenges, much to my surprise. I'm glad it struck a chord with you.

Thanks. I still have to go through and read all the entries from people I know, including yours. Was it the one to do with beans, which I enjoyed? :) I'll check.

Unknown said...

Well done and congratulations, Seamus - very moving story.

S. Kearney said...

Hi and thank you. I'd been wondering what happened to you, having read the last entries on your blog. Have you really been out of action? Good to see you here anyway! :)

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

I really enjoyed the imagery and the sense of anxiety you built. FWIW, this got one of my votes :)

Thy said...

Hey! I likeee!

[found you off the wandering author]

S. Kearney said...

Hello and welcome! Thank you very much for your comments here and for stopping by. I also loved your piece in the contest ... and wasn't it funny that my character has the same name as your fiancé! :) I look forward to checking out your blog ... already I've spotted the coffee beans at the top and the amazing recipes! Can we swap links, as another expat writer in a foreign land?

What a wonderful log in! Thanks for your comment and visit. And I love your latest post ... very moving with great description. Please stop by any time! :)

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

I've already put up a link to your place on my site; now I'm off to look around your archives some more.

cate sweeney said...

Hi Seamus
Really enjoyed the story, unusual topic, but well done! And I just thought it was we women (or hairy ones anyway) that had a constant battle with hair!
Have you ever tried waxing?
Waxing Lyrical, now there is an idea for a name for a dodgy beauty salon.

S. Kearney said...

Hi, link going up as we speak! :)

Hi and thanks. I'm not sure about waxing though ... isn't that like being slapped by an angry nun?

Unknown said...

I was delighted to find out afterwards that this one was yours, Shameless. I voted for it on a great story with clear, crisp writing - a really original take on coming of age. Nicely done.

S. Kearney said...

Oh Minx, you treasure! Thank you for your comments and your vote.
And, blow me down, but I've just looked at the list of votes I sent in and discovered that your entry was my third choice! :) I had no idea it was yours. I loved it. Simple but so true and warm.

Unknown said...

Aww shucks.