HISSAC Highlands and Islands Short Story Association and Writing Competition

Butterfly Wings Raw Eggs And What Ifs

Tracey Iceton comes from Teeside.

She has an MA in Creative Writing and tutors Creative Writing, and is about to start a fully funded PHd.

2011 Tracey won the Writers Block NE ĎíHome Tomorrowíí Short Story Competition
2012 Shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Competition & joint 3rd phase.

She is working on a trilogy of novels set in the Troubles in Ireland, the first of which, ĎíGreen Dawn at St Endaísíí, is due for publication by Cinnamon Press in early 2016, having won the Cinnamon Press Debut Novel, Irish Novel Fair and Chapter One Childrenís Novel competitions. Traceyís website
HISSAC Highlands and Islands Short Story Association and Writing Competition

What if Iíd never poisoned my neighbourís dog when I was ten? What if Iíd never found that mutilated seagull on the beach that same summer? What if I hadnít caught chicken pox off Sinead OíRahilly soís Iíd have been at school, instead of peeking in through the half-open door, the day my kid brother plopped out, all bloodied and misshapen, like heíd melted a bit and reset in the wrong configuration? What if Iíd been born on a Friday, loving and giving, instead of a fucking Wednesday, full of woe? What if Iíd eaten all my greens, pulled up my socks, put my best foot forward? What if Iíd told Digby I didnít want to go to the bloody party?

-Itíll be a laugh.
-No, it wonít.
-Weíll get wasted.
-Whatís new?
-Weíll get laid.
-Will we, now?
-Fuck off.
-So youíre coming?
-Iím coming.

What if the neighbours had been cat people? What if Iíd hated the colour red? What if Mammy had sat me on her knee while I was still small enough and told me all the things I needed to know? What if I had been the listening sort, the sitting still sort, the do-as-youíre-told sort? What if butterflies only came out when it was dark? What if Iíd have won the egg and spoon race just once? What if Iíd said no just once, and meant it?

-Alright, darling.
-Who are yous?
-Friends of Jimmyís. You letting us in, or what?
-As long as you brought your own.
-Course we did, didnít we, Marshall?
-Yeah, Digby, course.
-Alright, but behave yourselves, so.
-Would fine gents the like of us do anything else, darling?
-Probably. In yous come.

What if theyídíve kept their dog tied up? What if my old man didnít grow begonias? What if the butterflies didnít love my old manís begonias? What if they werenít such pretty colours, such shimmering yellows, such violent reds? What if that first one hadnít landed right in my chubby little fingers? What if Mammy had caught me pulling the wings off it? What if I cared, just a little?

-Beer, Marshall?
-Why not?
-Aye, can do.
-Here, then, you roll.
- Did you bring beers, Digby?
-Do I look daft? Thereís plenty here, so why?
-Why indeed. What about all these easy lays you promised.
-Theyíre here.
-What about her at the door?
-Jimmyís lass?
-Fuck off.
-I like my balls attached to my body.
-So you wouldnít?
-Only if I suddenly came over suicidal.

What if dogs didnít like sardine sandwiches? What if I happened to quite like sardines and the dog had been a dolphin-loving vegan with high-falutin ethics? What if the dodgy swimmer that reached the egg first and made my kid brother come out all melty and warped had drowned in spunk and A.N. other swimmer, not dodgy, had pricked the egg instead? What if the midwife had taken my twisted kid brother and put him out of my misery? What if Mammy had sat me on her knee when I was still small enough and told me she loved me better than him because I was perfect and he was a freak? What if I didnít go to parties that bored me shitless?

-What time is it?
-How the fuck would I know?
-I just thoughtÖ
-And thatís your problem, Marshall, thinking. If people thought less, fucked more and got wasted in between the worldíd be a grand enough place.
-Whoís doing the thinking now?
-Have another beer.

What if the world revolved the other way? What if entropy wasnít the second law of thermodynamics? What if things tended towards order instead of chaos? What if gravity worked in reverse and things fell up? What if begonias were all carnivorous and butterflies were their favourite fare? What if chickens didnít lay eggs? What if butterflies didnít have wings? What if butterflies came from chickenís eggs and chickens were responsible for all the chaos in the world? What if up was down, right was left, stop was go, you was me? What if I hadnít suddenly come over suicidal?

-This properly blows. Dunno why I let you drag me along.
-íCos youíre in love with the good times.
-This is the good times?
-Can you remember any better ones, Marshall?
-I remember last Christmas, that piss-up at Montyís, Iceman taking a hatchet to his sideboard and us falling about laughing.
-Iím talking about proper good times. Times when you felt better than you do right now.
-Better how?
-Emptier? Fuller? I donít know. What does it matter? Smoke? Drink? Something for the weekend, sir?
-It is the weekend.
-Something for now, sir?
-Jimmyís lass?
-She was checking you out when she let us in.
-Youíre off your fucking head, Digby.
-This musicís shite.
-Musak, you mean.
-Whatever, Marshall. Iím gonna get off my arse and do something, get some hardcore techno banging out.
-Not the sort of banging I was hoping for.
-It doesnít just walk up to you, you know. You should try getting off your arse, doing something.
-Leave me the weed.

What if I hadnít worn red the day I poisoned the neighbourís dog? What if my kid brotherís first word, spoken when he was seven, was my name, not Ďdogí? What if Mammy had bothered to hard boil the egg before she sent me out to race with it balanced precariously on a tablespoon? What if Iíd worn my wellies that day? What if schools didnít make kids run with eggs balanced precariously on tablespoons? What if butterflies ate raw eggs? What if Jimmyís lass hadnít just walked up to me?

-Whatís that youíre smoking in my kitchen?
-Is it, now.
-Well, you gonna give us a drag, or what?
-Yous arenít really friends of Jimmyís.
-Nope, not me. Digby, maybe.
-Whyíd they call you Marshall?
-íS my name.
-You get a badge to go with a name like that?
-Nope. Least I got a name.
-I donít like it.
-Fuck you, then.
-If you insist.

What if Digbyís mammy had kept him away from me on account of her bad feeling about me? What if Digbyís mammy hadnít forgotten to resist the night Digbyís da came home wasted and climbed on top of her? What if the little swimmer that reached the egg that made up one half of Digby long before Digby was Digby had been X instead of Y? What if heíd come out a minute past midnight instead of a minute before and been a year younger, a year lower? What if heíd beaten me in the egg and spoon race? What if Iíd beaten him in the egg and spoon race? What if our eggs had been hard boiled by our mammies? What if the neighbourís dog had turned up his snout at my poisoned sardine sandwich? What if the tide had been high enough to cover up the dead seagull the day we went to the beach that same summer? What if Jimmyís lass hadnít just slipped her hand in mine and led me up the stairs? What if I wasnít so horny and easily led?

-Are you drunk, Marshall?
-I donít think so.
-High, then?
-Maybe. A bit. Not too much.
-Whatís too much?
-When your cock goes numb.
-Not numb now, is it?
-Why donít you check for me?
-Like this?
-Yeah, just like that.
-You got any tattoos, Marshall?
-I do. Wanna see?
-Do I?
-You might. Itís on my hip.
-What is it?
-A butterfly?
-Aye, howíd you know?
-Had to be, always is. Letís see it then. Before my cock goes numb.

What if butterflies were never red? What if eggs were never raw? What if dogs were never greedy? What if kid brothers were never twisted freaks? What if mammies were never stupid enough to leave ten year olds in charge of seven year olds? What if begonias never got black-fly, green-fly, white-fly, and were never needing to be sprayed with weed killer? What if weed killer never came in bonny red spray-gun bottles? What if tattooed red butterflies never came out at night to land right in my nicotine stained fingers? What if friends never dragged friends along to parties with shite musak where they sat around getting stoned, drinking other peopleís beer and leching after their lasses? What if friends never absented themselves from said parties to shag the backs out of said other peopleís lasses while said friends were trying to swap said shite musak for hardcore techno? What said other people never came back suddenly from booze runs to be told some cunt was upstairs shagging the back out of said other personís lass?

-Howís your cock now? Numb yet?
-Nope, just pleasantly tingly. What about you?
-I donít have a cock.
-íS that why you helped yourself to mine, there?
-Dunno. Think it was the name.
-Marshall. How many chances am I gonna get to fuck a Marshall?
-As many as you want.
What if doors didnít fly open and enraged boyfriends didnít charge through them while horny, easily led boyos were getting sucked off by lasses with butterfly tattoos and strong tongues? -What the fuck?
-Ah, Jesus Christ.
-Iím gonna fucking kill you.
-Jimmy, stop it, donít. Jimmy, youíll kill him. Jimmy!
-Get your arse up. Get dressed. You and me are taking a wee drive.
-Hey, címon, thereís no needÖ
-Iíve just fucking decorated this room, so I ainít blowing your brains out all over it.
-Jimmy, please, donít!
-Donít worry yourself, Fi, youíll be getting a good hiding when Iíve done with this cunt.

What if Iíd never pulled the wings off that butterfly: life destroyed? What if I hadnít dropped my egg and spattered yellow snotty goo all over my sandals, my toes: life destroyed? What if I hadnít found that half-dead seagull and started in on it like it was a game of ĎOperationí: life destroyed? What if I hadnít been in the back garden, out of earshot, watching that son-of-a-bitch dog wolf down sardines avec weed killer, while my mutant kid brother was falling down the stairs, breaking his neck, dying in a pool of beautiful red: life destroyed? What if I hadnít done more than enough to deserve having my brains blown out by Jimmy Mac-something who was bigger than me in every fucking way possible? Life destroyed.
What if Digby hadnít come out of the living room, hardcore techno blazing behind him, just as Jimmy was driving me down the stairs with his gun up my arse? What if Digby really had been a friend of Jimmyís? What if Digby really hadnít been a friend of mine? Life destroyed.

-What the fuck? Fuckís sake, Marshall.
-You know this piece of shit?
-I do, aye, Jimmy.
-Do I fucking know you?
-Donít you remember me, Jimmy? That job we did together.
-I ainít done any jobs with you. Donít even know your fucking name.
-Oh, sure, now Iím hurt. How can you be forgetting a name like Digby?
-Whatever your name is, thisís got nothing to do with you. So stay outta it and weíll be on our way.
-Sure, sure. And where would you be taking him, now?
-Never you fucking mind.
-Itís alright, Digby. Weíre just going for a wee drive.
-Aye. Like fuck yous are.

What if Digby had been me and I had been Digby? Simple - Digby still wouldíve ended up dead, a metal slug barrelling through his skull, dropping him like he was rolling off a tablespoon, mashing his brains raw-egg style. And I still wouldíve walked away untouched, leaving a trail of footprints, each a wing ripped off a beautiful red butterfly.