by Oonah V Joslin
We made our witch and devil masks at school, cut holes for eyes and stuck on wool for hair. First prize was a sticky, red toffee apple, second a liquorice twist with bitter sherbet, third a penny chew. But there were no losers. Everybody got to take a gob stopper from the bag, into which thirty dirty hands had dipped, and all that sugar would clearly do the Devil’s work.
Games of blind man’s bluff, spooning cotton wool, passing the balloon and walking on the ceiling, awaited us at home. There would be crisp apples to duck for and bowls of monkey nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and hard shelled almonds playing impossible to eat. We’d pick the pomegranate with a pin, one seed at a time, to win a sixpence and watch out for money hidden in the apple tart.
After initiating a terrified newcomer into the ritual of meeting the corpse, Father would take a screwdriver and put out the eyes and we would drink the watery juices from within. Then, using newspaper to cover the kitchen floor, he’d split the hard, hairy head with a hatchet and we would feast, scraping the inner skull clean with our bottom teeth, on the sweet flesh of the coconut.
It was the time of year to dance in the garden with sparklers lit, to be chased by Jumping Jacks and irate neighbours, to carve pumpkins with toothy grins or tell the tale about the woman who danced with the Devil and bore a child with cloven feet, and about how the Devil walked in Devon, over the roof tops, leaving a black imprint in the frost. We’d quail at ghost stories and listen for the wailing of the bean sidhe and tremble at the hollow sound of howling wind.
Then to cozy bed and hot water bottles and God bless Mammy and God bless Daddy, and God bless all my sisters and brothers and help me to be good.
And God bless years gone by, when all these things brought such innocent pleasures.
Oonah V Joslin is the managing editor of Every Day Poets. Links to her work can be found at www.oonahs.blogspot.com