Before there was the novel, there were the stories...

by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shannon's and Rory's Youth -- Shannon O'Neill Leaves Home

This is the first of the stories from other plot lines.  You can check the labels to find others in each series.

Tyrone, Ireland 760 A.D.

(Map is about 90 years later.  Shannon's and Rory's homes were not too far west of Armagh.)

The door of the small thatched cottage was thrown open and a boy of about fifteen propelled out of it violently. He fell roughly to the ground, then twisted to a sitting position to face his attacker. He wiped blood from his lip with his sleeve.

In the doorway stood a tall broadly built man who had the red face of a habitual drunk. The man regarded the boy with anger and contempt. He slurred his words, "Get out of me sight, whoreson! I ne'er want to lay eyes on ye again!"

If you looked hard into the darkness of the cottage interior behind the man you might have seen a tiny woman with a black eye and swollen face looking out miserably at where her son sat on the ground. But you would have lost sight of her almost immediately as the man backed up and slammed the door. The man's shout could be heard through the door, but not the woman's weeping.

Shannon O'Neill still sat on the ground, his lip bleeding, his own eye blackened and cradling the shoulder joint that ached from his father's rough handling. He pulled his knees up to his chest and clasped his arms aroundthem, putting his face into the space between them, pouring out his own heartbreak in hot tears.

"Bastard!" he shouted at the door. "Bastard!" He winced as he heard a crash and his mother's cry. He did not get up. He had heard the bolt set after the door was closed. He could not get in to help her, even if he had the strength to defy the brutal man.

A little girl came creeping up to him, putting her arms around him and laying her fair haired head on his. He reached one hand to pat the head. "Now, Kathleen, macushla, dinnae weep."

Other children, all boys in assorted ages, came creeping up too, having hidden themselves in a byre. One of the older boys held a baby in his arms. The baby was the only boy with his sister's fair hair. The rest were brunette. Only Shannon's hair was the flame color of his father's.

The oldest boy, Ron, said, "Och, I think the man will kill her some day."

The next younger added, "And he will kill ye as well, Shan, if ye stay."

"Aye, Tim, that he will -- but I am loathe to leave ye all here defenseless. With Padraig gone as well.." Shannon still dabbed at his lip.

A third boy added, "Ye cannae defend us dead, Shan. Ye must leave. Please.." and the boy, Shane, began to cry.

Kathleen looked into her older brother's eyes. "Please, Shanny, go. We will miss ye." Her tiny voice was filled with woe.

The boys and Kathleen all came up and put their arms around him, except Ron who just pressed himself and little baby Clancy against their older brother. All winced at another shout and cry from within the cottage.

Shannon nodded. "Sure, and I know ye are right. Ron, 'twill be for ye to look after them all now.. and mother." The boy holding the baby nodded sadly.

Shannon stood with difficulty, wincing at the many pains in his body. He tried to dust himself off.

Timothy said, "Wait a minute," and ran around the side of the cottage. When he came back a few moments later he held a small cheese and a packet of dried oatcakes. He handed them to Shannon.

"Nay, nay, Timothy," the oldest boy protested. "He will find out and beat ye."

The boy, barely nine years old, stuck out his chin and replied, "I dinnae care. Let him."

The other children insisted their brother take the food. He relented, put it inside his tunic, and stood looking at them all. He had tears in his eyes and hugged each child in turn, putting a quick kiss on the baby's head. "I will come back someday to all of ye. God be with ye and keep ye safe."

Shannon tore himself away and headed off down the hill into the glen.

He came to his friend Rory's home not long after. The boy, already tall and lanky, sat on the ground stroking a cat. He looked up as Shannon came into the yard. "Shan!" he called happily, then saw how beaten the red haired boy was. "Saints, what happened? Did your da beat ye again?"

Shannon came over and dropped next to Rory on the ground. "Aye. He was tearin' into me mother and I couldnae just let him do it. He fair killed her and then me.. He threw me out the door into the yard and told me not to let him set eyes on me again."

Rory put his arm around his friend's shoulder. "What are ye goin' to do, Shan? Where can ye go?"

Shannon shrugged. "All I be after knowin' is that if I stay it will be killin' me he will be doin'."

Rory nodded.

Shannon sat for a minute and then looked sideways at his taller friend. "Come with me, Rory! Let us go and find our fortunes!"

Rory looked hesitant. "But Shan, me aunt and uncle.. I cannae just go off and leave them! They would be that worried!"

Shannon looked sad. "Och, that I know. I am that sorry, Rory. I shall have to go on me own."

Rory looked at him for a long time. "Just wait, I shall go in and take some things for ye to take along." The boy stood, the cat coming to rub against his ankles.

Shannon stopped him. "I have cheese and cakes."

Rory shook his head, "Och, ye will need more than that." He turned and went into the cottage. Shannon reached for the cat and started to tickle under her chin. "Brigid, what a good kitty ye are. There there."

Rory seemed to take along time. Shannon began to wonder if the boy's aunt had caught him and was keeping him in for punishment. But just then he saw his friend creeping out of the cottage with two bundles.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I dinnae need all of that!" Shannon laughed.

Rory grinned. "Nay, but we two do. I am comin' with ye!" His smile was merry. "I left me aunt and uncle a note that ye and I have gone to find adventure!"

Shannon stood and embraced his friend. "Well, then, me darlin' friend. What are we waitin' for?"

Rory shrugged.

The two boys hefted their respective bundles and headed out of the dooryard. Rory hesitated, turned back and spoke to the cat. "Brigid, darlin', I love ye.. I just have to go. I hope ye can understand." He had tears in his eyes.

Shannon saw them and leaned over and planted a kiss on his friend's cheek. "She knows ye do, Rory. Now come on."

As soon as he thought they were out of earshot of the cottage, Shannon began to sing a funny song to cheer his friend up.


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About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .