Lord of the RamsLord of the Rams
   

Extract 1 - From Dublin to Munterconnaught

Extract 1

This extract, which is the complete first chapter of Lord of the Rams, introduces 'the Rams' and chronicles his early days at school in rural Ireland ...

Ever meet somebody and think, ¡®That guy¡¯s mad in the head¡¯? Well, many people have thought that upon meeting the Rams for the first time, and maybe they were correct¡ªto some degree. His mother always attributed his ¡®unique¡¯ personality to the time his oldest sister, Vanessa, pushed him down a flight of stairs when he was just two years of age. On closer examination, however, he appeared to be no different to the many colourful people who surrounded him in the tiny parish of Munterconnaught in Co. Cavan.


The Rams was born in the Coombe hospital in Dublin in 1978, living in Rathmines for the first two years of his life. His memories from those city days were practically non-existent, although his mother, Nuala, had plenty of stories from that time. Her favourite served as a lesson in how not to address the first black person you ever meet; in this case a middle-aged woman who was queuing behind her in a grocery shop in Rathmines. Standing beside his mother, Rams stared in amazement at a woman unlike he had ever seen before. He pointed at her and tried to get his mother¡¯s attention, but she failed to notice because she was busy trying to pay for her groceries. Well he wanted answers and he wanted them now. All at once, a tiny voice silenced everyone in the queue.

¡®Mammy, Mammy. Why is that woman covered in chocolate?¡¯

One rushed and embarrassed apology later and Mrs. Smith and her son were out of that particular shop, never to return. Even at that tender age, albeit inadvertently on that particular occasion, the Rams was showing the signs of being somewhat of a loose-tongued smart ass, and boy was he in good company in Munterconnaught, a place he would find himself moving to just a few weeks after the ¡®Chocolate Incident¡¯.

Munterconnaught was the tiniest of rural communities, where there was little to do and plenty of time in which to do it. The focal point of the parish was undoubtedly the shop, Boylan¡¯s, which was attached to a pub of the same name and was across the road from the football field and clubrooms. A further mile down the road was Knocktemple National School, and it was there that the Rams started his adventures.

Three years after moving to Munterconnaught, the Rams enrolled as a pupil at the primary school. It was a tiny building with just three classrooms, three teachers and two or three classes in each classroom. As he entered his classroom for the first time, he couldn¡¯t help but notice numerous toy-laden tables lining the walls along each side of the room. At first, he thought he¡¯d arrived at a massive toy store, but he soon discovered that strict rules forbade the children from playing with the toys.

It was lunchtime and across the room from the Rams sat another boy of the same age who was also experiencing his first day at school. His name was Keith Geraghty and, unlike the Rams, he had brought a few toys to school with which to pass the time. But the teacher, Mrs. McMahon, took a bit of a shine to Keith¡¯s farmyard animals, and it wasn¡¯t long before they were sitting proudly amongst her other collectibles. As it happened, Keith wasn¡¯t in the habit of sharing his toys with middle-aged women, and shortly thereafter he reclaimed them on behalf of every four and a half year old who has ever had his toys confiscated.

Unfortunately, Keith¡¯s actions didn¡¯t amuse McMahon who forced him to surrender his toys or face the wrath of her almighty 30-inch ruler. Over the next few days the two boys gradually smuggled Keith¡¯s prized possessions from McMahon¡¯s Alcatraz-like mountain of toys and, in the process of doing so, formed the foundations of what would become a long-standing friendship.

Keith lived about half a mile away from the school and always walked home afterwards with his brothers while the Rams made the journey home on a bus that wasn¡¯t fit to carry farm animals. The four Geraghty brothers would often be seen eating gooseberries off the bushes on their way home and, as a result, Keith¡¯s brother, Trevor, soon picked up the nickname Goosey. Eventually Keith also earned the same nickname but, unlike Trevor, the name stuck with him for life.

A few weeks into the school year the baby infants¡¯ class was complete. Rams, Goosey, seven girls and another boy, Derek Stanley, made up a bigger than average class in a smaller than average school. Amongst the boys, it was common practice to refer to one¡¯s mates by their surname, and so Derek soon became known as Stanley, then as Stan the Man and eventually just Stano. Being the only boys in the class, the three quickly became great friends.

Mrs. McMahon taught the two infant classes in the school and, following the obligatory two-year stretch, the boys found themselves in Miss Plunkett¡¯s class where they would spend the next three years of their education. It was during these formative years that the Rams would start showing signs of being too smart for his own good, which meant that he wasn¡¯t always popular with people in authority.

Typically, Plunkett would be telling a story or attempting to teach a lesson when the Rams would give his 10 cents¡¯ worth, finishing her sentences with comments that would leave her speechless.

Plunkett was a young teacher in her early twenties and had probably never been trained in college to deal with the anecdotes of an eight year old boy who could have out-talked politicians. Usually, she would accept defeat and laugh along with the rest of the class. A common way of dealing with pupils who continuously talked out of turn was to ask them if they wanted to teach the class, and this would always result in them falling silent, thereby handing the victory to the teacher. But one day, while the Rams was being particularly smart-assed, Plunkett made the fatal mistake of asking him the question he¡¯d been waiting for.

¡®You seem to know it all. Why don¡¯t you come up here and teach the class if you think you¡¯re so smart?¡¯

¡®Ah sure I¡¯ll give it a go,¡¯ quipped the Rams, face beaming.

Plunkett looked slightly fazed to see him approaching the top of the class so confidently, but she quietly took a seat in the corner of the room, feeling somewhat safe in the knowledge that he would surely fall flat on his face and embarrass himself in front of the entire class. But the Rams was out to prove that he was more than capable of teaching a group of 7-10 year olds. Sure how tough could it be?

Rams grabbed a piece of chalk and proceeded with the Mathematics class he had rudely interrupted just moments earlier. Initially, the rest of the pupils fell quiet but, as the Rams grew in confidence and claimed ownership of the blackboard, they began to revel in his unique method of teaching. For the next five minutes he called up Goosey, Stano and some of the younger lads from the class below him to complete some of the problems Plunkett had chalked onto the board prior to the ¡®takeover¡¯. Once completed, the Rams decided to take questions from the audience as Plunkett looked on, her lower jaw almost hitting the ground. The last question came from Paul McGovern who, like everyone else, was enjoying Rams¡¯s unorthodox method of teaching.

¡®An bhfuil cead agam dul amach go dt¨ª an leithreas mas ¨¦ do thoil ¨¦?¡¯ he said in Irish, which was mandatory at school in order for students to gain permission to use the toilet.

As was always the case, the Rams needed little more than a millisecond to compose an answer.

¡®No, you can piss in your trousers.¡¯

The class erupted into laughter, but Miss Plunkett could take no more. She burst into tears and ran out of the class for the safe confines of the staff room. Suddenly the laughter came to an abrupt end and one or two of the pupils, fearing reprehension upon her return, begged the Rams to rectify the situation. For once, he felt that he may have over-stepped the mark, and he knew he had to act quickly before Mrs. McMahon, or worse still, the headmaster Declan Cooney, found Plunkett crying in the staff room. Five minutes of apologising put everything straight and the pair returned to class. The Rams tightened the reins on his mouth for the remainder of the day and Plunkett¡ªunsurprisingly¡ªnever asked anyone to teach the class again.

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