Written January 2007
I was over at me mammy's last night, for the annual Twelve Candles festivities.
The Twelve Candles is an odd tradition, where we light twelve small, slim . . . well, candles, assign a name of a family member to each of them, wait till they extinguish and tease the shite out of the person whose candle died first. Because it means you'll die first and all. HAHAHA, you think Little Christmas is a time of joy, do you?
My mother does it every year, even though the bundle of twelve candles are proving more and more difficult to get. This year's bunch came from the USA, and I have to say, they were SHITE. They burned for HOURS.
‘It's terribly terrible that you can't get the twelve candles in the shops round here anymore,’ said Mammy, near the beginning of the macabre exercise. She then named out all of the people in the locality she'd met that day who couldn't get their twelve candles for love nor black magic.
‘It's strange, indeed,’ said my sister-in-law, staring cross-eyed into the flames. ‘There's obviously a market for it. Unless candle makers haven't got Religion.’
I was feeling a wee bit sullen, having been dragged away from the evening's novel-gazing when I had a chapter I wanted to finish. I'd warned J that I'd come roaring down the stairs in the early evening to commandeer the gaming consoles, and it looked like that wasn't going to happen (Also, my half-sister got a candle all to herself, whereas I had to share mine). In my sulky ire, I was staring at the floor, but still my sister-in-law's dreamy little religious curio woke me up a bit. I stared at her.
‘Oh look,’ said Ginger Sister, as one of the candles toppled and its flame went out. ‘Out like a light!’
My mouth opened. Isn't that how flames were supposed to go . . ?
‘I wonder,’ said Sensible Sister, watching the news on the telly, ‘if Enda Kenny has chest hair?’
Holy shite, there was magic of an ancient and boring sort working its way around the room. The Sisters (and sister-in-law) watched the remaining flames dancing, looking serenely scary (Mammy was unaffected, probably because she was surreptitiously trying to blow out everyone else's candle). I grabbed my daughter and J and ran out the door. My sparkly little mind can't take a couple of hours watching a candle work down to its wick. I'm too cerebrally sensitive for that.
I glanced at the front of The Galway Advertiser when I came home. The front page headline was
Can You Name The Galway Hooker?
over which J had written
This, dear reader, is why I write fiction. Real life is so banal it's fucking insane.
. . .
I came seventh out of the twelve. Which is the real reason I went home in a huff.