There was a time when he had liked school — he had enjoyed history, especially Irish history, with its brave stories of Ireland's heroes and patriots — but he had stopped going there after ... after the bomb.
He had joined Brendan Fogarty's gang instead. None of them went to school. Brendan, sixteen, was the oldest. At eleven, Kevin Payne
was the youngest. The Holy Terrors. Their number varied between seven and ten members, depending on whether the school inspector
or the police managed to catch some of them and force them back to school for awhile.
Rebels with a cause, that was the Holy Terrors.
The way Brendan Fogarty explained it was this: "In the north of Ireland it's a war between them and us, between the Brits — the English — and the Catholics. The British soldiers are supposed to be
in Ireland keeping the peace between us and the Protestants. Which is fine, except the way it works out is the Brits are on the side of the
Protestants. And it's us, the Catholics, who get the house-to-house searches at three o'clock in the morning, battering down our doors and pulling us from our beds and destroying everything they can put their filthy hands on while they pretend they're searching for a gun or a bomb."
Kevin Payne, as young as he was, said, "The English have no right in Ireland! Let them go back to their own country!"
"That's the good lad," said Brendan.
So they became rebels with a cause, and the grim, narrow streets in the Falls Road and Shankill* areas, with their dirty, crumbling
nineteenth-century houses, became their jungle and their battle-ground. They threw stones at British soldiers; they hurled gasoline bombs at the British Land Rovers and armored cars under the cover
of night; they helped the young men, all unemployed, make nail bombs. They became young terrorists.
And as well as their British enemies, they also had the Irish Protestant militants and the Ulster police, who were mostly Protestants, after them. And if that wasn't enough, their own IRA, the provisional branch of the Irish Republican Army — or Provos as they were called — might take it into their heads to kneecap them for the mischief they got up to. Kneecapping meant you were crippled for life. Not that they had ever shot the knees or ankles of a child (ankles were a more popular target nowadays because of the greater pain and disability), but you could never tell — they seldom hesitated to impose their own brand of law and order among their own, even if it was the
milder punishment of having a heavy concrete block dropped on your arm or leg until the limb snapped. Life was brutish and cruel. His uncle drove on.
How many miles behind him to be retraced*? Declan wondered. How would he ever find his way back? The farther they drove, the more impossible seemed his escape.
The road began to wind through a great forest; there were trees everywhere Declan looked, evergreens, he knew that much, but what kind they were he did not know and did not care. He felt tired and ... lost. The dark, brooding forest seemed to him a secret, unknown world, impenetrable* and dark, and he was filled with the terrible numbness* of despair.
They emerged from the forest into the brightness of sea and sky, but he closed his eyes and saw very little of it.
The road now twisted around coves and bays. Purple-gray rocks,
jagged and dark, thrust themselves into the shining sea, but he merely glimpsed it. He sat with his eyes half-closed, exhausted. It was as though all the past weeks he had been fueled by a special kind of hatred that had pumped up his muscles and his sinews* to a constant, explosive pitch, and only now had he let go, only now had his
strength collapsed. He felt totally worn out. His head ached from the thioridazine*; it felt like his brain was being crushed. His tongue was dry and swollen. He cared about nothing. He thought he would like to die.
* Falls Road and Shankill area - parts of Belfast
* to retrace - zurückverfolgen, wieder auffinden
* impenetrable - undurchdringlich
* numbness - Benommenheit, Gefühlslosigkeit
* sinews - Sehnen
* thioridazine - narcotic substance
1. Summarize Declan's thoughts after he has arrived in Canada and is on his way to his uncle's home.
2. Why does Declan consider himsel and his gang members as 'rebels with a cause'?
3. From what you have learnt in class, what position do the Provos take up?
4. Why doesn't it work out that the British soldiers can't keep the peace between 'us and the Protestants'?
5. What do Belfast's Falls Road and the Shankill area symbolize?