Inspiring creativity and encouraging personal and social change through the arts

The Prison Arts Foundation is as important as it is unique. Thanks to our pioneering work with people with convictions lives are being transformed and patterns of behaviour changed for good.

Our team of experienced professional artists working across the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland are offering people with convictions a life-line, helping to improve their creative and communications skills, which is key to personal and social development, building self-confidence and unlocking people’s potential.

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Writing (Short Story)

Tús Maith

Can you envisage…

A four-year-old boy, skinny as a rake, wide-eyed with wonder at the world. He has unruly brown hair and bright blue, innocent eyes. He has just started primary school. His journey to and from school every day is a walk through the warzone of Derry City’s Creggan; burning buses fill the air with thick, black plumes of smoke. British army Saracens sit growling on every street corner. Masked IRA gunmen are crouched in alleyways with rifles. Teams of RUC are kicking down his friends’ and neighbours’ doors and dragging them onto the street, screaming. Gun battles rage all around and bullets ricochet. Bombs explode and send dust and glass and debris soaring through the crisp morning air. Petrol-bombs scorch the roads and pathways he must navigate, playgrounds are littered with broken glass and splattered with paint.

This is his world: poverty, rubble, frustration, fury. This is the world outside his home. Home…where a child is safe amongst his family. Where his father is his hero, his protector.

Now…picture this…

You are that little boy’s father. I want you to allow that little dreamer to witness you beating his mother on a daily basis. I want you to put her into a corner, slap her, punch her, tell her she’s a slut and a whore. Now…spit in her face. Good man. Now I want you to smash up the house; really go for it; the unit, pull it to the ground, smash the ornaments, don’t forget the lamp. Keep going until the carpet’s covered in shattered Delph, glass from the sacred heart picture on the wall; in fact, smash that over her trembling head.

What’s that…is she begging? Don’t listen to her. I can’t hear what’s she’s saying. Hush a moment, let me hear what’s she’s saying…’Please…not in front of the children…please, please stop…I love you!

Is the little boy watching? Yes?…good!

Now…as punishment, these are the desired procedures; what is he most afraid of? Werewolves? Oh marvellous, we can go with that then. How about we put him into the attic, nice and dark and cold up there. Put his little sister in with him, two birds with one stone eh…now, close the door tight and tell him there’s a werewolf up there with him. Tell him it’s behind him in the black, black darkness. Aaah…good…

Have you tried the “cold bath” method yet? No? Oh, you’re going to love this one. Listen closely; firstly, fill a bath with icy-cold water, about two thirds full should suffice. Now, take the little brat and strip him naked, yes, completely naked. Is he frightened yet? He’s trembling? Yes…that’s perfect. Now, take some old rope and bind his hands and his feet together, nice and tight. Let him see the bath. Make sure he knows the water’s cold.

Now lower him in, a little at a time. Take him by that wild brown hair, good and tight; now duck him under. Plunge his head right under, put your hand on his chest, hold that sucker down, that’s it. Watch him struggle. Is he struggling? Happy days. Bring him up. Wow, that was close…hahaha…you don’t want to kill the little bastard. Be careful. Oh my god, look at the little sissy; look at the terror on his face; you were right; he is a little pansy, what was it you called him yesterday? Pink-knickers? Lordy, that’s original. I liked that one. Anyway, back to business; go on, keep ducking, that’s it, up and down, up and down; good man, good man.

Mmmm… what else can we try? Oh, I know, try this one, it’s an old recipe, tried and tested. Break a Turkish Delight into a bowl, little chunks of it. It’s his favourite chocolate bar isn’t it? Now, sprinkle it with a good old helping of ash and dust from the hearth there, go on, that’s it, dig in. good. Now, how about a good measure of vinegar to compliment the dryness of those ashes. Perfect…perfect. Now give the little bastard a spoon and make him eat the fucker. Yummy, yummy… when he’s done with that, put him in the car and take him out the back roads, way out into the countryside, that’s it, keep going…further…further. Stop! That’s far enough. Open the door and tell him to get out. Tell him no-one wants him. Tell him you all hate him; you and his mother. Tell him to never come back again. Now drive away.

Don’t fret. You have this little shit until he’s sixteen at least. You have all the time in the world to whip him into shape. What do you mean, what else can we do? There’s plenty.

Okay…you can start by keeping up the beatings on that woman of yours, his mother. Don’t slack, keep them regular, and don’t forget to spit in her face, that one really gets to him, I’ve seen it on his face when you do it. Tell him how useless he is. Tell him he’s not even your real son. Berate him. Degrade him. Humiliate him. And have you tried this one yet? It’s sooo effective; strip the fucker, that’s it, bollock-naked. Now, open the curtains, stand him up on the windowsill, facing out. Ha…look at the little squirt covering his genitals. Look how embarrassed he is. Wait until his friends walk by. Here they come now. Ha, look at them laughing and pointing at him. Bring him down, make him stand like that in the corner. Yes, keep him naked. Face the wall you little cunt. Don’t turn around until I tell you.

As he gets older the ferocity of your beatings can increase; he can take it. Look at his face; he wants to kill you, I can see it; he’s dying to attack you…good…now we’re getting somewhere.

He is sixteen now. He’s started a new job in some fancy clinic. Who does he think he is? I know what to do; question him about the place; where do they keep the money? How much is in the safe? Now, try and get him to burgle the place one night. Go on, you can do it, he’s a pathetic little wuss. WHAT…He refused?? Cheek of the wee fucker. Punch him…break his fucking nose. BAM… good man…hahaha…look at him bleeding all over the place.

Finally…we’re almost there. Now for the pièce de résistance; pump that little mother-fucker full of drugs, that’s it, all of them; the more the better; go for ecstasy, LSD, speed amphetamine, dope, grass, cocaine…just keep that shit coming; fuck his big, cows-licked head up. We’re almost there…almost there… just one last shove and we’ve got him in the bag…

How old is he now, seventeen? Good; he’s old enough for some jail-time. Here’s what we’ll do; tell him how you read about a kidnap and blackmail plot in the newspapers last week, how the culprits walked away with fifty grand in cold, hard cash. Tell him to ring the bank manager in the branch downtown and tell him that he has his wife hostage. Tell him to threaten him that if he calls the cops he will kill her. Get him to demand a bag of cash, in a brown paper bag. And…when the cops get him, and he gets four years hard time for his troubles… leave that piece of shit to rot in a cell. Teach him that he needs to man up and cope on his own. Do NOT visit him. He will manage. He will manage in a place where the screws will beat him like you beat him for seventeen years. He will survive in a place where they’ll degrade and humiliate him, berate and criticise the little cunt until he detonates, the end of the fuse, in the cold, dark confines of the segregation-unit; twenty-three hour lockups in a cell with nothing more than a little blue plastic piss-pot, a bible and a sliver of daylight struggling through the grime on the Perspex window. He’ll be grand.

Now…release that man into society again. Release him back on to the streets; drugged up and ready to explode with all that venom inside. Your mission is complete.

Now…go hang yourself!

HMP Magilligan

3rd Prize Short Story Advanced, Listowel Writing in Prison Awards, 2020

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