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Niamh O'Kane, 24 Sep '12

                                                                Blue Carpet
I remember being eight and standing in the doorway of our living room, watching news footage of a hurricane. On the slightly fuzzy screen of our television, helicopter-like blades of palm trees whipped about while cars lay on their backs, tyres facing the heavens.
        ‘Why aren’t there any people about?’ I asked my father, who was lying on the sofa.
        ‘Well, they’d get blown away, wouldn’t they’, he said mildly, as if it was obvious.
        ‘I bet I wouldn’t’, I said. This wasn’t bravado. I genuinely believed it. Although the hurricane reminded me of the time Mr O’Donnell, our headmaster, had screamed his burning red face off at Thomas Grant for throwing a stone through his office window, I was unfazed. If I was to stand in that hurricane, I thought, and if I focused every single atom of my being into not being blown away and into not being harmed, then- well, surely I wouldn’t. As long as I thought about something hard enough then it would happen. People said it was impossible for humans to fly by themselves, but how did they know for sure? Maybe it was just that nobody had ever concentrated hard enough.
        So I nodded to myself and said, ‘Yeah I bet I’d be fine.’ My father grunted- I think in amusement- and said, ‘Let’s hope you’re never in a hurricane to find out.’
        This made me feel he had rather missed my point- if I ever was in a hurricane, he wouldn’t need to worry because I would, as I’d said, be fine. But I decided to let it go. My parents- all adults really- were often vague and vacant on many matters. If, for instance, you asked them why you couldn’t watch an eighteen-rated film, they’d say, ‘Oh, it’s too old for you’, but would never be able to explain why it was too old. They never gave satisfactory responses, on the whole.
        An unlit cigarette poked from my father’s mouth, like a nail waiting to be hammered into a wall. A silver lighter appeared between his curled fingers from nowhere; his thumb flicked the top and an orange-blue pointy flame shimmered then disappeared so fast it was almost as if the billowing winds from the hurricane inside the television had passed through the glass screen to de-ignite it. Yet miraculously this had somehow been long enough to light the cigarette. There was now a red halo at its tip, a shroud of smoke blossoming from it.         
        As I watched the violet smoke curl and sway like a contented cat’s tail, I thought, you don’t know everything daddy.
                                                *
A week later I had to go to the library with my mother. She was a book-fiend and checked out about six books every week. Sometimes I would pick out a couple but on that day I couldn’t be bothered. I trailed after my mother as she took about five years staring at each shelf of books, only to decide that there was nothing there which took her fancy. Then she’d continue onto the next shelf. It was never-ending.
        We were on the first floor, which was the highest floor and not really a floor at all. It was about only about eight feet wide which meant I could stand by the railings and look down upon the entire ground floor. It made me feel like a king, lazily surveying his subjects. I could see the partings in peoples’ hair as they sat at desks reading newspapers. The carpet on the ground floor was a dark blue, something I hadn’t noticed when I was down there.
        My mother was hunkered down with her back to me, leafing through a book. I sighed through my nose. I wanted to do something exciting. For a minute I contemplated rolling paper up into small balls and aiming them at the heads of people below. This was tempting but I reluctantly discarded it- I was the only non-adult in the building. I’d definitely get caught.
        Then I saw a chair leaning against the railing. Directly below it, on the ground floor was a patch of space unencumbered by desks or shelves. An interesting thought occurred to me. Very interesting. As I worked it out in my head, I considered the consequences. What if my mother asked how I’d gotten downstairs so fast? Well, I’d just say I ran down when her back was turned. What if anyone saw me do it? Would they say anything? No, they’d probably be stunned into an awe-struck silence. Maybe when we left the library they’d turn to each other and say in disbelieving tones, ‘Did you see that?’
        With that all sorted out, I looked behind me to check my mother still had her back to me. She did. I stood on the chair, breathed in and placed a foot on top of the railings. From here it looked very far to the ground. But I wasn’t scared. To hurt yourself you had to fall very far, like off a cliff. You never heard of anyone coming to any harm from merely jumping from one library floor to the other, did you?
        Anyway, I thought, I just have to concentrate very hard on being strong and making a good landing and if I do that I’ll be fine, absolutely fine. Just before I brought my other foot up to join the one already on the railings I saw a librarian down below looking up at me from a desk, a look of dawning horror on her face. I thought, damn, she’d better not tell my mother. But this all lasted a split second and then momentum pushed me forward over the edge.
        The jump- because even as I was falling I was adamant it was a jump- lasted about two seconds. But I can remember it vividly, enough to dissect different elements of it and examine them. The lurching feeling in my stomach, similar to when my father drove violently over dips in the road. The blurring of everything around me into a whirling greyness. The odd sensation of weightless-ness which wasn’t liberating, as you might think. It more had the effect of making me feel like I was about to disintegrate at any moment.
        And what I remember most before blacking out: the thud of the floor as I smacked against it, so uncaring that it was hurting me. And my face burning from the friction against the rough fibres of the blue carpet. There was wetness on my cheeks- blood- and far away I heard shouts, and then I woke up in hospital. I had, they informed me, broken my right arm in two places, dislocated my shoulder, broken my ankle and cracked a few ribs into the bargain. My blood-shot eyed mother told me I’d been a silly boy and my father rubbed at the stubble near his jawbone a lot and placed his hand, so warm and heavy, on my head.
        Worse than all the broken bones though, I think, is the moment when I was lying on the ground, with nothing but the blue carpet in my vision. As I gazed at all that blueness, more overwhelming than the ocean, that was when I realised that my willpower counted for nothing, that I could get hurt and die and there was completely nothing I could do about it. And that, more than anything, may have been what caused me to pass out.

Comments · 4

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  • Niamh O'Kane said...

    Untold Tales Entry

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Audrey Semprun said...

    This was wonderful fun to read! Great Imagery!

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Mike Reyes said...

    I think I just read my autobiography, that was me as a kid. I could not be left alone without some kind of drama overcoming me. Great story, I liked how it was injected, the pace was timely and fluid. From personel experience, when the kid got on the railing, my mind yelled "NO!" I still remember the pain on my ankles.

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Niamh O'Kane said...

    Ha thanks guys, I appreciate the comments. :] And ha, Mike, your childhood sounds very much like mine

    • Posted 7 years ago