After a sleep I decided the next day to check on Sean and see whether I could help him in some way. The prison he was in seemed to be one of those open types and there was a lot of freedom for the inmates. It was a bright summer’s day and to be honest with you most of the prisoners were outside sun bathing and looking to have not a care in the world. There was a sports field for football, a gym and a definite lack of bars around the place – that’s bars as in bars on the windows not the type where they sell beer! Sean was talking with a group of men and the conversation was about one of them who was getting out the following week. He was telling everyone he was going straight and getting a job and marrying some girl. I thought everyone would wish him well but they were more intent on pulling him down.
‘Get a job Parky, what you? Don’t take the piss. Who’s gonna give an ex con like you a job. Look at the state of you. Can’t even read proper and as for writing… It’s all bollocks mate, you’ll be back in here in next to no time, you watch.’
Parky looked unhappy. ‘I can read and I will get a job, you watch me. And I’m getting me a woman, someone who will keep me away from the likes of you.’
‘Leave him alone,’ said Sean, ‘if that’s what he wants to believe let him get on with it. I don’t fancy you meself Parky but there must be some woman out there who’s daft enough, and blind enough, to take you on.’
This raised a laugh, but I thought they could all have done with giving him a bit more encouragement. It would be hard enough anyway and Parky didn’t look the strongest of men, either in body or mind.
‘What you going to do Sean when you get out then? Have you got anything stashed away? How come nobody comes and sees you, haven’t you got a bird?’
‘Or a bloke’ shouted another, ‘Are you gay then Sean or just saving yerself for some good looking bint?’
‘Who hasn’t been born yet!’ called another.
Sean took it all in good humour. ‘Gay? I can’t understand gays. Can you imagine waking up next to Parky every morning. Bad breath, farting and smelling like God knows what. Not me lads, me I’m into girls in a big way.’ He made a gesture, which left nobody in any doubt as to what he meant and there was another bout of raucous laughter. ‘Mind you I have found out I’m half an orphan.’
‘Half an orphan? How do you work that out then Sean?’
‘Me Dad died, got run over by a truck, probably pissed but I don’t know it all. Come to that I didn’t know him much either. He buggered off and left me Mum and us kids when I was a young lad. The miserable ol’ git never came to see us and he kept all his money for himself. Me Mam was hard put to keep us going and then she hit the bottle a bit so it got worse.’
‘Hands up all those who have a father,’ called one of the others and one hand went up.
‘I got one somewhere’ said another, ‘but like Sean I got no idea what he looks like or where he is.’
Once they had done the rounds there was only one who actually had a Dad who was at home. The rest had varying degrees of knowledge as to who their father was but they hadn’t played a big part in their lives.
‘When my Dad walked out I was gutted,’ said Sean, ‘he didn’t even say goodbye just buggered off and left us. I thought it was me that had caused the problem and me sister thought she had done it. I tell you the two of us were mixed up kids; me Mother didn’t explain it and me Dad never stayed around to let us know what was going on. I know I’m not the only kid whose parents divorced but I tell you man it was the pits. Anyway after that me Mother sort of gave up and hit the bottle a bit. I became a real pain in the arse, wouldn’t tell her were I was going or where I’d been. I wanted some attention and all I got was grief. Me sister wasn’t much better, she and me Mam used to argue like cat and dog and frankly, it was another reason I stayed out; I couldn’t stand them screaming at each other. After that it was a doddle. I nicked a few things from a shop, broke a few windows and, by the time I was fourteen, I had a record and here I am mixing with you lot. Makes me think though, if I get married and have kids I’m gonna hang around no matter what. No kid of mine is going to go through what I did, I’m telling you.’
‘Easy to say Sean but the women out there have got it licked. They let you screw them, you buy a house, they have your kids then they tell you to bugger off ‘cos they’ve found someone else. The courts give them custody of your children and that’s it mate you’re on your own. I thought my wife the greatest thing since sliced bread until one day she told me she was pregnant by another fella and before I knew it I was out of me house and lost me kids. The bitch wouldn’t even let me see them and I used to have to sneak about trying to get a word to them here or there. I’m in this rathole because of her, I’d never been in trouble before she walked out and now look at me, criminal record, four years in clink and fuck all to look forward to.’
‘Yeah Spud, life’s a bitch, and then you marry one. Come on you lot let’s get sorted it’ll be grub soon and you know what the old Smithy’s like.’ Smithy turned out to be the warden who looked OK to me but then again, I wasn’t the one in prison.
I watched Sean as he made his way back and thought about what he had said. I hadn’t appreciated what effect my leaving would have on him or his sister. As far as I was concerned they were kids and they would get over it. Though to be honest, now that I stop and think about it, I don’t believe I gave it any thought at all. I was in love and that was it for me; the pursuit of happiness, but at what cost; my son in a prison and my daughter in dire straits. I always believed there was a lot of good in me and the rest of them had got it wrong. You should have heard me when I’d got a few beers inside me, telling the world how it should run it’s business, telling people how they should run their lives; but now, well now I realised I was just a loud mouth with a peanut sized brain and pint sized ego. It did make me more determined to help Kathleen and Sean and my other two children succeed where I had gone wrong, but thinking it and doing it are often worlds apart.
While my mind wandered Sean had finished his meal and was heading back to his cell for the night. I wanted him to know I was there trying to make amends, I tried again to tap him on the shoulder, really thought about it hard but with no success. I decided what I could do with was a rule book, a sort of user manual; do this, then do that and eventually you will get this. I needed some other way of getting through and decided to speak to Liz about it during the next break.