I’m sitting at the computer in my brother’s house when Nini wanders in.
‘Hey!!!There you are,’ she says, as if I’ve been hiding from her.
‘I got you a present!’ She says beaming. She thrusts forth a bottle of lemon cordial.
‘Oh. Thank you. I love it!’ I say admiring the bottle.
‘I’m glad you like it.What are you doing?’
‘I’m printing out tickets for my flight. Tomorrow I’m flying back to Spain.’
‘Oh,’ she says with downcast eyes. ‘I was hoping the present would make you stay, but I guess it didn’t work.’
‘ I’ll be back in the summer!’
‘What’s this?’ she asks, picking up my passport.
‘I need that for travelling.’
‘Is that you?’
‘Yeah. Some head on me isn’t there?’
‘You don’t look very good in photos,’ she says giggling. ‘But I think you have a nice face,’ she reassures.
My brother appears and tells Nini its time for bed. She protests. He tells her that her uncle will read her a story if she goes to the toilet and washes her teeth. There’s silence as she contemplates this. Then she gives in and goes to the toilet.
‘You don’t mind do you?’
‘No man. It’s a pleasure,’ I say as the printer releases my ticket. I take it from the tray, examine it and then fold it away in my jacket pocket.
Nini climbs into bed.
‘You have a very big bed!’ I say sitting down next to her while she scooches over.
‘It used to be my sister’s bed but now it’s mine.’
‘Your bed is bigger than my bed!’
She says nothing but her eyes widen to absorb the fact. I open the book my brother has given me. It’s a book about Irish history.
‘Oh look at her! She’s a woman pirate!’ I say. ‘Would you like to be a pirate?’
‘I don’t really know. I don’t really know what a pirate does really.’
‘Well they go around on boats and sometimes they steal from other boats.’
‘Are pirates bad?’
‘Is she a bad pirate?’ Nini says pointing at the book.
‘Well..that’s Grainnemhaol. She was an Irish pirate.’
‘And she was a girl.’
‘Yes. Will I read about her?’
I lay back. Nini rests her head on my shoulder so she can see the book.
Grainne mhaol is Irish for bald Grainne. When she was a little girl she asked her father, who was a merchant, if she could join him on the boat. Her father said no, that her long hair would only be getting in the way. So what did Grainne do? She only grabbed a scissors and cut all her hair off. And that’s how she became known as Grainnemhaol.
‘So she was bald?’
‘Yeah like me.’
‘But you’re not all bald: you have some hair here and and around here.’
‘But how come she’s not bald in the picture?’
‘Well her hair is very short. I guess it grew back a little. Will I read on?’
I read on but Nini’s mind is elsewhere.
‘When are you going to Spain?’ she interrupts.
‘Early? Will I see you tomorrow?’
‘No. You’ll be asleep -all snoring and farting.’
‘I don’t snore!’
‘But you fart.’
‘No I don’t. Not like my Daddy does.’
‘Yeah. Well thank goodness for that.’
‘I wish you weren’t going.’
‘I’ll be back in the summer.’
‘But that’s so long.’
‘No it isn’t. You’ll be so busy in school and having a great time that it’ll be really quick.’
Nini lets out a sigh. I don’t know what to say.
‘Will I read more about Grainne this mad , bald woman pirate?’
I read about Grainne’s swash buckling adventures. Nini’s comments begin to taper off and pretty soon I realise I’m reading to myself. I set the book down and gently remove her head from my chest. Her face has a soft sleepy look.
‘Bye bye gorgeous.’
I turn the light off on my way out.
Something Similar? Hanging with the Kids (Now 33% Better)
Something Different? Bilbao Metro 4am