by Martha Cooney
I was kicking my football along the road in our estate, timing my kicks to each time the curbstones changed color. They were painted in the Ireland flag’s green, white, and gold, just to let anybody foolish enough to get lost in North Belfast know they were in a Catholic estate.
I turned into the alley and kicked the ball ahead, prepared to chase after it past imaginary defenders, but stopped short.
Standing in front of the rubbish bin halfway down the alley was Cormac Devaney, from my year at school. He was holding a teddy bear, not even looking my way. He laid the bear on the edge of the bin and held it down with his elbow while he lit a match. Then he picked up the teddy, pressing the light against its fat stomach and dropping the ball of flame into the bin.
I walked toward him. “What are you doing?”
“What do you think I’m doing?” he said. Smoke started to billow up, thick and black.
“Is that yours?” I asked.
He laughed. “You think I play with teddies? I found it in my neighbor’s garden.”
“You’re burning some wee kid’s bear?”
“Aye. They need to learn a lesson. You don’t take care of something, it’s not going to be there for you when you want it.”
“Aye, nothing wrong with being deep. Come on, let’s get out of here before somebody comes by.”
I picked up my ball, following his quick steps down the alley.
“I know you’re not stupid enough to tell anybody what you saw,” Cormac said, pulling up the hood on his jumper. “Want a sweet?” He pulled out a packet of Cadbury chocolate buttons. I took one and we walked along the main road. The rain had started.
Philadelphia native Martha Cooney spent two years living and writing in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She writes fiction, nonfiction and scripts for children and adults and has had work published in Cricket children’s magazine, The Pennsylvania Gazette, and a variety of other publications. She is at work on a middle-grade novel and a comedy screenplay and is a performer with the Philly Improv Theater and First Person Arts Storytelling. Martha runs StoryUP!, which works with children of all ages to “tell a story – act a story – write a story”. You can contact Martha at [email protected]