Lost At Sea

Fourth Class.


“D’yeh wanna play chasin’?”

He looked up at Max. Max was usually mean; he didn’t want to be tricked. He looked around Max. David, Séamus and James were among the group standing at the door waiting for him, they were all playing. “Ok.”

“Newcomers are on!” Max ran towards the door, “yeh hav’ta count ta ten. Cover your eyes!” He ran out the door.


Gary pushed his face into the inside of his elbow, grabbed the back of his head with his hand. “One, two, three, four,” he counted out loud, he wasn’t even tempted to peek, “five, six, seven, eight, nine, TEN! I’M COMIN’!”

He ran at the exit, grabbing the doorframe with his right hand and swinging around it out the door.


Fifth Class.


Mr. Archibald sat against his desk, arms folded, ruler clutched in one hand. It really should be called ‘pointer’, ‘poker’ or ‘smacker’, not ruler. The words ‘Careers/Jobs’ were scrawled along the top of the blackboard in yellow chalk. “Ok, pencils down.” He spoke in deep, smoker’s voice. There was a clattering of pencils, pages shifting, “right, what have we got?” He stood up, walked to the blackboard, picked up the white chalk. “Amy, what’s the first one you have?”

“A teacher.”

“Yes, and good start, one of the best,” he wrote the word ‘teacher’ underneath ‘Careers/Jobs’ in the same careless handwriting. “Did anyone else have teacher?”

Five hands go up.

“Right, what’s your second one, Amy?”

“A Nurse.”

“Ok, a N-U-R-S-E, nurse, good, what next?”


“Yeah, good one, Doc-tor, what next?”

“A cop.”

“Right, we won’t put ‘cop’, what’s the right word?”

Eight hands go up.



“Eh, yeah, ok that’s the Irish, an garda, but what’s the English? Gary?”


“Yes, policeman, or policewoman.” He just wrote ‘police’ on the board. “Right, so, Amy, your last one?”

“Em, cleaner?”

“Eh, cleaner?” he muttered to himself, thoughtful, “yeah, ok. Cleaner.” He put it on the board. He turned back to the class. They called him ‘Sir’ to his face, or ‘Mr. Itchyballs’ behind his back, the reason for that was happening while he asked Gary what his five were.

“Shopkeeper, Chef, Gardener, librarian, and I have doctor too.” He watched as his teacher scribbled all of his ones under Amy’s ones, except doctor because that was already there.

“Good, good, and which one do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I dunno, sir.” He looked at his page again.


“Maybe, sir.”


Sixth Class.


In his lunch box Gary had a cheese sandwich and an apple. He swapped his apple for a Rocky Bar. James had three Rocky Bars. James wanted to throw the apple against the pebbledash wall as hard as he could. The one around the side where he wouldn’t be seen.

“Who d’you like in the class?” David asked Gary.

“I like Aoife,” said James.

“Yeah, we know, yeh say it everyday.”

“I like Mary,” said David trying to be helpful.

“Who d’you like, Gary?”

“I dunno,”

“Ya must like someone?”

“Em… maybe, Louise, maybe.”


“Yeh should ask’er.”

“Louise? Really?”

“I’d say she’d like you too.”

“Yeh should ask’er.”

“Yeah, I dunno. Maybe.”

“Come on, let’s go around the side,” James picked up his bartered apple. The lads stood up too.


First Year.


He felt a pain in his shoulders and his wrists as his arms were held behind his back. His boxers were torn off him, upwards; he learned what the word ‘excruciating’ meant. He received a heavy thump at the top of his arm to shouts of “dead arm, dead arm.” He was put into a nearby bin with his useless underwear draped over his head.

The first year beating.

No one escaped it.

At least it was done now.


Second Year.


They had a free class for history. They had Board. Board often sat in for free classes, his name had a double meaning, he always looked bored and he was stiff as a board.

“Who’d yeh have for the free class, Board?”


“Any Craic?”


Board just sat there gazing in front of himself. He rarely said anything. He didn’t mind people talking, but if anyone got out of control he used to just stand up, open the door and stare at the student who was supposed to go to the principal’s office. So everyone just talked, nobody messed too much.

“Gary, jeh do the math’s?”

“Eh, yeah, I think so, what was it again?”

“The algebra, questions one ta five.”

“Oh yeah, I did yeah.”

“Gis it there.”

“Hang on.” Gary rummaged around in his bag until he found his math’s copy, then he opened it to the right page and handed it to James. “Here, I dunno if it’s righ’.”

“Sure I don’t give a shit.”


Third Year.


“Right lads, ye have ye’re junior cert in a few weeks, it’s time to decide what subjects ye want to do next year, which means ye have to start thinking about what ye want to do for the rest of your lives so you can think about what ye wanna do in college, or not in college.”

“That’s a bit heavy isn’t it, sir?”

“Well, ye’re at that age now lads. Of course, if ye want another year to think about it ye can do fourth year…”

“No way, sir, I’ll just be a carpenter,”

“Right, so do woodwork and tech graph.”

“Ah no way sir, tech graph?”

“Well don’t yeh think that’d be a good idea?”

“I dunno, sir. Righ’, put me down for it.”

“No problem. Gary, what do you want to be?”

“I dunno, sir.”

“You have absolutely no idea?”

“Not really, no.”

“Well what d’yeh like doing?”

“I like football, and music… and films, sir.”


“But I’m not good enough ta be a footballer or a musician, and I don’t wanna make films or be an actor.”

“I see. Well… you’re pretty good at history, would yeh like to be a historian?”

“I dunno, sir.”

“D’yeh wanna do history next year so?”

“Yeah, alrigh’.”


Fifth Year.


“Gaz, I heard your wan there likes yeh.”


“Your wan there, Eimear I think her name is.”

“Oh yeah, she’s alrigh’.”

“Yeah she is, I’d do her.”

Gary took a bite out of his roll, looked around chewing. It was the first nice day of the year, he left his jacket in the school. He felt like it gave him some freedom even though he was still wearing his uniform. Freedom from the weather. He could roll up his sleeves if he decided to.

“So are ya gonna go for it?”

“What d’yeh mean?”

“Eimear, yeh gonna go talk to her? See if she’ll shift yeh.”

“Oh, I dunno…”

“Go on, I’d say she definitely will, man.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Go on, Gaz! I’d be all over tha’ like a rash.”

Gary looked over towards the girls again, a clump of them in their lumpish, reptilian green uniforms – no doubt designed to repel the boys. A design strategy that was always destined to fail. He looked at his roll, “Whatya got next?”

“Physics. Bullshit. You?”


“How’s that?”



Sixth Year.


“Yo Gar, jeh hear abou’ feckin’ Shéamy?”

“No- wha’ abou’ him?”

“He got that feckin’ scholarship yoke, he’s goin’ Trinity.”

“Awh deadly, dat’s class! Where is he?”

“Ah I dunno, he’s buzzin’ round somewhere, happy out so he is.”

“Deserves it too.”

James took a chair and turned it around. He sat down with his arms crossed on the back, “Wha’ ‘bout you?”

“Wha’ abou’ me?”

“What’d you put down for CAO?”

“Ah, I didn’t fill it in.”

“Why not man? You’re well able for college, what ah’yeh at?”

“Ah yeah, I know, I looked at it for ages sure, hadn’t a clue wha’ I wanted ta do.”

James just looked at him.

“There’s no point in doin’ it just for the sake of it.”

“Yeah, s’pose.”

Gary scribbled on his page, forehead in his other palm.

“Maybe yeh could do an apprenticeship with me.”

“Hah, yeah. Maybe.”



Post School, Year One.


Séamus and David came home from college on the weekends. James finished work. Gary finished his day of being locked in his room trying to figure out who he was. They met in Con’s every Friday at nine.

“Alrigh’ Davey, wha’ time d’ya call this?”

David helped the door close behind him and walked over to their table, “I’d call it nine.”

“It’s two minutes past nine.”

“Yeah, I’d call it nine.”

“Stick four on would’yeh, Con?” James called out towards the bar. “Lads, let me tell yis abou’ this wan I was with las’ Sahurday righ’? Yis shoulda seen her, fuckin’,” he held his hands out in front of his chest suggestively, “deadly so she was.”

“Well done, Jim, proud of yeh.”

“Yeah, yeh woulda been if yeh saw her, ooumph, ah well, wank bank, how’s de misses?”

“Kate is fine, she is busy with exams, but she’ll be fine.”

“And your wan, Davey?”

“Ah, not sure Jim-“


“Yeah, thinkin’ of endin’ it-“

“Ah no?”

“Yeah, just doesn’t feel righ’.”

“Ah fair enough, get outta it if yeh don’t like it, fuck it, sure somethin’ else will come along wha’?”

“What about you, Gar?”

“Ah, yeh know yourself, Shéa, not much happenin’-“

“You’re not lookin’ sure, man, come out with me durin’ d’week and I’ll find yeh somethin’,” James took a big swig of the pint Con put down on the table, “no bother at all, Gar-“

“Yeah, but I don’t just want somethin’, yeh know?”

“Christ, Con knows how to pull a pint wha’?”




They all took a moment to reflect and enjoy their pints.

“But yeh don’t know what yeh want, do ya, Gar?” David broke the silence.


“So, why don’t yeh-“

“Test the field a bit.”

“Ah, I’ll know it when I see it.”

As Gary finished that sentence, as if it was written, the door of Con’s swung open and three girls walked in. They were about the same age as the lads, and they walked straight up to the bar. David and Séamus shrugged at James to display their exasperation with Gary. James put his palms on the table, about to stand up and make a move. Gary grabbed James’ arm, made him sit back down, he was staring at the girls. Gary stood up.

“Wha’ the fuck?”

Gary walked away from the table.

“We’re witnessing history here gents.”

“No way, he’s just goin’ to the jacks.”

Gary walked up to the girls and stopped. He looked at one of them. The one with the brown hair and blue eyes, and the purple dress.

He stared at her and said nothing. She stared back at him, also saying nothing. In her eyes and he saw the sea. He hesitated. He didn’t know what to do or say. He had never felt like this before. He was stumped. She had the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. He had nothing to say. He was blank. He wouldn’t be able to explain it, but he didn’t fall in love with her that day. He fell in love with the sea that day. He saw the sea in her eyes, and now all he wanted to do was go and see it for himself.

He was convinced that he found himself in her eyes.


Post School Year Two.


Gary had spent the year learning about the ocean and sailing. He watched David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ about ten times. He was accepted onto the first ship he attempted to get on, and today was the day he was leaving port. His first adventure. He would be gone for two years. He was excited and nervous. He was confident and terrified. But he had to go. His family and his three friends were all there to see him off.

“How are yeh, Gar?” asked James who was more upset to see him go than anyone.

“Strange, Jim. I feel strange.”

Séamus handed him a bottle of Vitamin C tablets. “So you don’t get scurvy.”

James threw him a Playboy magazine. “So yeh don’t get lonely.”

Gary stuffed the magazine in his jacket quickly without looking at it, very aware of his family beside him.

David handed him a box of Sealegs. “They’ll be useless for where you’re goin’ but they might get yeh out of the harbor.”

His mother gave him a photo of the family. His father gave him a firm handshake. His sister gave him a hug and she started crying. His brother gave him a bar of Cadbury’s Golden Crisp.

He boarded the ship and found his way to the deck. And waved. And felt strange.


Ship Year one.


Gary was not good on a boat. He did not fit in. He did the work poorly. He missed his friends, his family, he missed Con’s. He became deeply depressed. His life lacked meaning. This was not his calling. He had no calling. He was literally useless. He had over a year to go on the ship. He couldn’t do it. He made his way to the deck, walked to the back of the ship. He stood on the railing. He decided that if this was his one true calling, he should give himself over to it fully.


A sailor went to sea sea sea

To see what he could see see see

And all that he could see see see

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea.