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Troubled Neighbours

by loopilil 

Posted: 12 July 2014
Word Count: 698
Summary: This is based on true life & some of the terms used may be offensive to some people. I apologise now.

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Chrissie pulls her raincoat tighter around her shivering frame as she stares at the abandoned building that was once Morgan’s sweet shop. An amused expression spreads across her face as she remembers how the Mahon boys would sprint down the street with old Seamus Morgan trailing desperately behind them.  Those were the days Chrissie thinks.  Despite the obvious civil unrest as it was politely known on the nightly news, they were fun times when all the local children could safely play together in the shabby streets without the fear of harm thanks to “The Boys” of course. Local Paramilitaries stalked the streets ensuring suspected drug dealers and paedophiles knew they weren’t welcome and informed to leave the area and not return.  Many disappeared under the cover of night including her own best friend Rosie Murray’s brother who was given two options after being suspected of supplying drugs to local schoolchildren.  He could leave quietly within twenty-four hours or take the risk of being kneecapped before being forced to leave anyway.  Chrissie had thought it was a terrible shame as she had always had a crush on Dameo Murray.
 Of course safety would only be guaranteed if you were in your appropriate area. It would never do if “Taigs and Prods” were seen to be mixing.  Chrissie smiles sadly as she recalls the segregated neighbourhoods side by side in adjoining streets separated by makeshift corrugated iron barriers and the more permanent and secure Peace walls, different schools, youth clubs and even sweet shops. 
  There were advantages of course particularly as a teenager.  At the height of the Troubles Chrissie was often allowed to wear her own clothes to school as a uniform would have identified her as belonging to a particular religion and each afternoon she would pray that a prefect would come through the door to tell those catching a bus out of town to leave early before they stopped running.  If they were really lucky it was before homework had been handed out.  Continuing down the street she stops to admire the recently renovated school proudly announcing Darcy Road Integrated College part of the new peace initiative.
“It wasn’t like this in our day was it Chrissie?”  A familiar voice interrupts her thoughts.
It can’t be, it’s impossible but that voice is so familiar.
“Damian Murray” Chrissie squeals, “What the hell are you doing here? I thought you had been run out of Dodge years ago.”
Chrissie flings her arms around Dameo’s neck almost knocking him to the ground.  Damien ruffles her hair affectionately as he always used to do.
“Seems I’m not public enemy number one any more” he chuckles.  “It was Mr Finnegan the headmaster that was flogging the Wacky Backy to his pupils.  I’ve been back for a few years now and workin’ for my brother Marty. You remember him don’t you?  Been doin’ ok since gettin’ out of the Crum. Obviously time in the slammer has worked wonders on him.
Chrissie remembers the eldest of the clan very well. Strong, dependable with an endearing stutter.  His mother relied on him to help her with the youngsters after his dad had been blown up during the conflict.
“What about Rosie?” Chrissie asks him, “Is she still round about?”
Damian grins mischievously.  “Didn’t you hear? Started running about with a squaddie, ended up she was the black sheep, & that’s sayin’ something considering our family. She ran off to England with him before she got a hidin’ too. She lives among them now but never really settled. Still wants back to our green and twisted land.”
Chrissie nodded sadly knowing that a lot of their generation had fled for a more peaceful life including her.
“I suppose I’d better be going” she tells him regretfully. “I’m heading back home to New Zealand tomorrow and have lots to do yet including visiting my granny for the last time. That’s the only thing about being so far away, I probably wont get the chance to see her again.”
After saying goodbye Chrissie turns to gaze at the place she had once called home one last time. Maybe there is a future here after all…..but she doubts it.

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Comments by other Members

TassieDevil at 09:06 on 13 July 2014  Report this post
Hi Loopilol,
This is is a thoughtful and refreshing view of the 'neighbours' theme. Loved the use of the present tense.Your story had a wistful feel about it showing the lighter side of the situation as perhaps children would.

Chrissie nodded sadly knowing that a lot of their generation had fled for a more peaceful life including her.

I'd insert the 'including her' after 'generation' myself. A minor glitz.

Strong, dependable with an endearing stutter. 

A great image in my opinion. Like the rest of your story you've chosen to turn things around.Overall I found this non-violent perspective of a violent situation to be positive despite Chrissie's final thoughts.
Thanks for sharing.


My apologies for misspelling your pseudonym Loopilil.
It's too early in the morning for my spelling part of the brain to be working.

euclid at 10:44 on 13 July 2014  Report this post
Atmospheric, enjoyable read.

Missing quotation mark after this, I think:

Obviously time in the slammer has worked wonders on him.

What I liked most about it was that the narrator could have been from either side of the divide until I came to the word "squaddie". Then I knew. I thought this was a pity, as the story would have been stronger if you had maintained the ambiguity to the end. Just my opinion, though.

Good story.



Iím heading back home to New Zealand

PS i would leave out the word "home" here. That way, perhaps the narrator still thinks of Belfast as home, not NZ.

BryanW at 11:37 on 13 July 2014  Report this post
Very effective flash fiction, Loopilol. You pack so much in here. Full of human detail - the sort that brings situations alive. Chrissie is a lovely main character. She shows so well the way that children adapt to situations that for outsiders are awful, but for them have become the norm - see the benefits even - such as getting away with homework, not having to wear uniform etc., really brings this alive. The way the awfulness of the Troubles are seen - kneecapping, betrayals, deaths, in almost a matter-of-fact way and/or with the kind of nostalgia of 'the old days' - makes this story most involving for the reader.
Very well done,


LMJT at 11:48 on 13 July 2014  Report this post
A very evocative piece and a worthy winner of this week's challenge. 

I liked the reminiscing about what had been and I could see Chrissie in the street as these memories came back to her. 

The only criticism I'd give is that you mention she could wear her own clothes to school because a uniform would have given away her religion. I'd have stated what this religion was as it's a key element to the story. 

A great read. Thanks for sharing.


Bazz at 13:39 on 13 July 2014  Report this post
Hi Julie, congratulations on winning this week's challenge. This is a very detailed, evocative, piece, which gives you a strong sense of the people and the place. The personal details really bring the issues home, and there's a tangible sense of a home lost.

loopilil at 22:21 on 13 July 2014  Report this post
Thank you all for your comments. It's interesting that there is a difference of opinion whether her religion should have been revealed. These are experiences I had while at school during the early 1980's. I deliberatly used home to NZ as I dont think Chrissie feels that \belfast is her home any more.

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