On Writing, Page 10

"The Altar Boy," by Donald Schneider

I recently wrote a flash piece that is historical fiction.

It is loosely based on a story my uncle heard while in Ireland. My uncle has long been very active in Irish political affairs and knew "Dev" personally. A man my uncle met, whose account the character of "Jimmy" is based upon, was incarcerated by the British from ages 13 to 16. He had been released when the truce had been signed in 1921. That much my uncle knows as a fact. As to the reason why he had been in prison, my uncle does not know if the account is true or mere bragging.

The story is set during the struggle for Irish independence. Although no date is given, 1919 is when I had in mind. Because this is historical fiction, many references might well be lost on those unfamiliar with the period. However, an astute reader should be able to grasp the gist of them from the context.

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    "The Altar Boy," by Donald Schneider

“Please, Mr. McKee, do as I ask you,” Jimmy Moran said with a tone of growing frustration. “We’ve only a week before we have to be in Dublin. Pick up the pistol, aim it at the target and squeeze the trigger gently, just as I showed you.”

McKee looked at the blond-haired youth standing before him with a sense of foreboding bordering on horror. He had gone to the Big Fellow, his old schoolmate from Clonakilty, in desperation after his escape from prison. Arthur McKee had reluctantly agreed to serve the cause in exchange for money and refuge. But this? What in the Name of God had Collins been thinking? Turning an angelic looking child into one of his bushwhacking assassins, all in the name of a “republic” that only existed in the wild dreams of fanatics like him? And his own cousin’s boy?

Almost as if Jimmy could sense McKee’s misgivings, the youngster asked, “Are you thinking that I want to be here any more than you? I’m what I am for my country and my family, didn’t you know that? Wouldn’t you be thinking that I would love to be a normal lad like the others? Do you know what it’s like to be laying in bed at night and getting to wondering if you’ll even live to be thirteen? Sometimes I can feel the noose around my neck, and then the sweat comes. I’ve killed three men already and have dodged more bullets than years I’ve been alive because that’s what Cousin Mickey and Ireland expects from me.” Click to continue:

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