“What’s going on Mammy?” A little girl asked her mother, her eyes wide with innocence, woven with confusion.
“I’m not too sure darling.” The woman said, her voice stiff and laden with uncertainty.
The girl tilted her head towards her mother and said, “but you were happier earlier, and the telly has made you sad.”
‘There’s a lot going on love, it’s hard to explain right now – maybe I can explain more tomorrow.’ The little girl thought about how the telly makes her sad sometimes, like when there are scary monsters, greedy people and bullies in the movies, who always want money or other silly things and get up to tricks to get what they want. She didn’t like them. She continued playing with her toys and thought about how the monsters on TV scare her and how she could protect herself from them, should she ever have an encounter with one. She had a little think about this and came to the conclusion she would be safe as long as she wasn’t in the dark, because everyone knows the scariest monsters come out in the dark.
Two days passed and a logical explanation did not emerge from the woman. She didn’t want to explain what had happened to herself, let alone her daughter. Her world was washed with waves of sombreness. Like a balloon that has been untied, first furiously and frantically flying around the room until it loses all its air becoming limp and weak, defeated – devoid, lacking the lightness to keep her bobbing along. Her fury fatigued to wonder. Wonder of how things like this happen. Wonder of how people hate one another and why they hurt one another. Wonder of what will happen if the hate and hurt prevail. She wondered why she felt so affected by it, especially since it was not her country.
Another day passed and the little girl wandered up the winding stairs to their attic where she found her mother painting. The room was dark with just enough light gleaming in from the window overhead to illuminate the mother’s easel.
“Can I see what you’re painting Mammy?’ she said as she toyed with the thread on her mother’s shirt.
‘Of course you can love,’ she said as she swooped the little girl up into her arms and rested her on her hip, encompassing her with one arm, “you call out what you see, start from over here.”
“I see some stars and a click click for movies and money and some red lines and white lines and then a boat, and in the middle a green lady with a pointy crown and she’s doing ‘cheers’ with an ice cream holding it up high, or it looks like an ice cream, maybe it’s fire, but you aren’t allowed touch fire so its probably ice cream, and she has no legs, there are mountains where her legs should be, and there’s some sheep and cows and shamrocks and potatoes.”
“Do you like it love?” the mother asked.
The girl’s gaze hung on the painting, “I like the cows and the sheep and the stars, but the stars are too big and fake, not like the ones you see outside. And I don’t like that the lady is crying. I don’t like when people are sad.”
“Me neither darling,” the mother said standing back, casually contemplating her creation.
“Is it time for cereal now?” the girl asked excitingly.
They walked down the stairs. At first the mother kept hold of her child high on her hip, tenaciously gripping her in one arm, the bannister in the other. She stopped half way, lowering her little girl down to the step above. “You’re getting bigger now love,” she said, “you can stand up for yourself.”
“I know I can mammy, I can do anything I want when I try my best,” she said smiling proudly. The little girl straightened her shoulders, stood up tall and put one foot in front of the other, sturdily springing down the stairs.
A television played in the kitchen corner, the images paraded red, white and blue, men in suits and some women.
“The woman you like is on the telly Mam,” she said as she bounced into her favourite chair awaiting her debut meal of the day.
“I don’t want to watch that now, you can change the channel,” she said as she stared at the unfaltering fields of green, lengthening the landscape from her windowsill. She poured out the cereal from the box, watching them fall in one by one until there was no more room in the bottom of the bowl, they all squashed together and cemented as one. A mass of white milk quickly descended down and covered them all, drowning them.
The little girl sat at the table, waiting. She leaned across the table, her spoon poised, ready for action. The mom plopped the bowl down on the table and the little girl jumped up, plunging the spoon in, scooping up a mountain shaped mouthful. Grains tumbled down as she muttered, “Is it because of monsters on the telly you want to turn it off? Because I can’t see any and I ate all my carrots for dinner last night so I can see everything and nope, no monsters.”
‘Well lovely, it’s trickier as you get older, the monsters can be harder to spot.”
“Is that why the green lady in your picture was crying? Is she afraid of the monsters? Because she should just runaway from them… like Scooby Doo.”
“She can’t runaway,” the mother said poignantly.
“Well maybe she can go and hide.”
The mother ran her fingers through the girl’s curly hair and said, “It’s not that simple love.”
“Well she just needs to keep the light on because when there’s no light the monsters get even worse.”
The mother dwelled on her daughter’s words.
“Why are lots of TV people crying mammy?” the girl asked as crumbs cascaded down her chin.
“Because sometimes the world is topsy turvy,” she gestured with her hands.
“Like in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory?”
“Yes love, like in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.”
“It’s very topsy turvy in there. You have to be good and kind and work hard and be honest or else if you’re naughty and greedy and selfish, bad things will happen.”
“Like it is in real life love, or well how it should be,” she said whilst biting the nail off her thumb.
“So if someone is good like Charlie can you go to the glass elevator and go up really, really high and burst through the glass ceiling.”
The mother picked up the remote, pointed it at the screen and turned off the TV. She pondered her daughter’s words and replied, “not this time love, maybe next time.”
Unsure of what her mothers words meant, she shrugged her shoulders and merrily resumed her eating her meal.
A note about this story: I was so horrified by the results of the presidential election that I couldn’t fathom how to write a piece that would voice my shock and disappointment any more than the thousands of others that proceeded this weeks events. It took me a few days to process my emotions and why I felt so strongly about it. For hundreds of years, America has been the land of dreams of Irish people, or at least the notion of it. When things were bad at home America is where people would go to make a better life, it’s somewhat instilled in us that America is where dreams prosper and all round is a better place to be. Everyone I know has an aunt, uncle, cousin, godparent or whatever in America.
Sure, it didn’t always work out for everyone that immigrated and it wasn’t all fireworks and yankee doodle dandy but that was the dream. Of recent times, America isn’t seen as the safest country to immigrate, and with modern visa regulations it’s very difficult to pursue it as an option, so the shiny, opportune dream is more like a deluded daydream. The American dream, for most, is no longer an option, but these notions are still there. We grow up watching American television, films, our news is filled with more US politics than domestic politics, our books are set in America, our music is made there and we learn their history in detail in our school history books. What happens there has a domino effect on the world. It is our circus and these are our monkeys.
This election wasn’t just a case of left wing vs right wing. This election was made out to be good vs. evil. You picked your side and that was that. The man that has won the title of president of the United States of America is a racist, sexist, harasser, criminal who used hate as a tool to further his campaign and is completely unqualified and incapable of being president of the most influential country in the world. It seems the whole world looked on helplessly in horror on as the vote unravelled before our eyes, Facebook feeds filled with shock , disgust, disappointment and complete confusion. Reading posts from American citizens, most compared the atmosphere of the following day to the day after 9/11. And I understand why. It feels like hate won.People are saying it’s good that such a stomach punch has happened because the whole system needs to be changed and if Hillary got in the need for mass revolt would not have been vital therefore not implemented. I’m not so sure, I hope so. The farce has become a reality and it seems difficult to bounce back from it, unscathed. What’s even a bigger kick in the teeth is that more people voted for Hillary but because of the jacked up electoral college, democracy of the people did not prosper. Bono said once that, “America is not just a country, it is an idea,” and the idea that hate, misogyny, racism and discrimination won is disgusting.
I rarely write short stories like the one above but when I finally sat down to write about this weeks events, an opinion piece didn’t seem appropriate. I have nothing new to add other than a disappointed love song to justice and peace, much like the thousands of others that people shared this week, and so the above story just came out. It helped me process my emotions. Toni Morrison said previously, “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilisations heal.” For me, the chaos that has ensued this week is stranger that fiction so the only way I could resolve my disappointment was through fiction.
I can’t imagine how it must feel for forward thinking Americans at the moment. The world sits with you in the lobby of uncertainty, anxiously awaiting what will happen next, hoping that this result is not a catalyst to open a hellmouth. I hope the American people know how the world sympathises and supports them in making damn sure that love will trump hate.
Author: Shaunna Lee Lynch
About: I am an Irish writer, performer, avid day dreamer, generally enthusiastic, hip hop enthusiast,living in Hong Kong.