CONFESSIONS OF AN ALTAR BOY
TERRY is sitting on a chair,playing a guitar, singing. He is wearing a white surplice over his clothes.
I only met you just a couple of days ago
I only met you and I want your loving so
Jeannie come lately…
He breaks off and rubs the fingers of his left hand, which are clearly paining him. He puts the guitar aside,then tugs at the surplice.
TERRY: Why the get-up?
Well,to be honest, I can’t remember which
came first, the Altar Boy or the guitar.
All I know is that learning to play that…
yoke was hard work I only learned three.
chords. The three-chord
trick we called it C, F and G7.
No, I tell a lie – there was a fourth –
for special occasions. E minor, I think.
Not that it mattered a lot – I was crap
anyway. I was always going to be crap
where the guitar was concerned.
Mind you, I wasn’t much better as an
After school. A mock-up of the altar rails inside the church. The Master is putting Terry and LIAM through their paces as Altar Boys. Liam is kneeling, receiving the host; Terry holds the ‘silver’ salver under his chin, the Master acting as the priest.
MASTER: Under his chin, Byrne!
Not under his ear
TERRY: Yes, Master.
MASTER: We don’t want the body of Christ
trampled underfoot, do we?
TERRY: No, Master.
MASTER: (putting his ‘chalice’ aside)
Now. Let me hear you again
LIAM: Kyrie elieson
MASTER: Kyrie elieson
TERRY: Kyrie elieson
MASTER: No, you amadan! Christie elieson
TERRY: Christie elieson.
MASTER: (shaking his head) Now, the blessing…
(he blesses himself)
In nominie patrie..
MASTER: Et what? His tongue! ET FI-LE-E…
(he signals to Liam)
LIAM: Et spiritu sanctu, amen
MASTER: Why, oh why did I ever consent to you
being an Altar Boy. You have no
interest, have you? Are you deliberately
TERRY: No, Master
MASTER: Just naturally stupid,then. Kelly, here,
is word perfect. Why can’t you?
TERRY: I…I forgot.
MASTER: You forgot! Well, you had better unforget
by Sunday. And don’t think that just because
I won’t be there, that I won’t know. I SHALL
KNOW, O’Byrne. And God help you on
Monday, if you haven’t shaped up. Now, get
this place tidied up before you leave… (he exits)
Terry waits until he is sure the Master has gone, then takes out a cigarette butt and lights up.
TERRY: (parodying) Kelly, here, is word-perfect
‘Course he bloody-well is…
Miss goody two-shoes always is.
Why couldn’t you have said Christie Elysion?
Just for once, eh?
LIAM: Then I’d be as stupid as you, wouldn’t I?
TERRY: Obtuse, you mean.
LIAM: I thought that meant…
(he makes the shape of a large belly)
TERRY: That’s obese you…amadan
Terry hands him the butt. They both puff contentedly.
TERRY: Who’s saying Mass Sunday?
LIAM: Fr. Walsh, I think.
TERRY: Won’t be a lot left for us, then..
(he makes drinking motions)
Not after he’s finished
LIAM: Would you say he’s alcoholic?
TERRY: I’ll say!
LIAM: Not as bad as my ould fella, though.
Always singing stupid songs.
And trying to be funny.
And hitting people when the notion takes him.
TERRY: Maybe it’s his job.
LIAM: Digging a few graves? Sometimes he doesn’t
have any for weeks.
TERRY: I wouldn’t like burying people
LIAM: He doesn’t bury them. All he does is dig
the grave, then fills it in when…you know.
And he’s drunk for a week afterwards
As they speak, they should be tidying up. Terrys takes a magazine from his school bag.
TERRY: Did I show you that one?
TERRY: Big, isn’t she?
LIAM: She’s no clothes on!
TERRY: I wonder if Birdie looks like that?
Do you think all girls look like that?
LIAM: My mother doesn’t.
TERRY: She’s not a girl. I’m going to show
it to her. Ask her.
LIAM: Who? Me mother?
LIAM: Oh yeah! When?
TERRY: When I…I’m meeting her tomorrow night.
LIAM: Birdie and you! She wouldn’t
be seen dead with you. You haven’t got a
big enough bike. (pause) Where?
Where are you meeting her?
TERRY: In the Temperance Hall.
LIAM: (laughs) You and a dozen others.
TERRY: I’m meeting her afterwards.
LIAM: Does she know? Have you asked her?
TERRY: You’ll see You’ll see who’s laughing…
Lights come up on Terry again,playing his guitar
You ain’t nothin,but a hound-dog
Rockin’ all the time
You ain’t nothin’ but a hound-dog
And you aint no friend of mine…
We had this idea of forming our own group.
Birdie, myself and…Liam.
Oh, we needed more, but three was a start.
I’d been going to the Hall for a few years
by then, and the fingers…(he holds them up)
…were hardened. My playing was still
crap, but I could warble a bit.
Liam was a late-comer – I think he thought
he might be missing something – so he purchased
a cheap rig-out from somewhere – one drum and a
Lights now reveal Liam,sitting behind his drum kit
….and started to make like he was Ringo.
Mind you, as it turned out, he wasn’t bad
Quite good, in fact.
Birdie was the real star, though…
(he ticks off)
The fiddle, the mandolin, the keyboard…
And she could sing like…
Well, judge for yourelves…
BIRDIE is now revealed behind a keyboard. They strike up and play
ISLAND OF DREAMS (THE SPRINGIELDS), with Birdie on
BIRDIE: We need a name.
What shall we call ourselves?
TERRY: (fingering the surplices both he and Liam are wearing)
How about The Holy Joes?
LIAM: More like holy shows.
Spotlight back on Terry agin.
TERRY: ‘Course this was long after we were
altar boys. By then I’d been…inoculated – is
that the word? – into the humdrum world of
work.. The local tannery to be precise.
As had Liam. Birdie was in a different league –
acedemically at any rate – and was being groomed
for a life of imparting knowledge at the local
convent. She was going to be a teacher.
At least, that’s what her father had in mind for her.
Mine had slightly different views on education;
rather like those of the bishop who’d once announced
‘education is okay for the few, but when
you educate the masses it can be dangerous’.
Mushrooms, that’s what they wanted us to be –
Keep us in the dark and feed us full of shite
It was our love of music that brought – and kept
us – together. Well,our kind of music. Not the
jiggin-and reelin and accordian bashing
as practised at the Temperance Hall, but something
a bit more up to date.
The Holy Joes had a nice…ecclesiastical ring to it.
Fr Walsh begged to differ.
LIAM: (as Fr Walsh)
Making game of the church, boys?
Or is it making game of me?
It won’t do
And both of you altar boys, to boot…
TERRY: We hadn’t been altar boys for a long time
And my tenure hadn’t exactly been…uneventful
LIAM: Am I to understand you’re planning to wear those…
abominations for the concert?
TERRY: (fingering his surplice)
They’re our uniforms
LIAM: Over my dead body!
(he turns his fury on Birdie)
And you Margaret Power,what do you
plan to wear? (silence)
Does your father know the carry-on at
Does Sr. Assumpta?
TERRY: Of course they didn’t
We worked on the principle that
what they didn’t know wouldn’t bother them.
We’d been given the use of a separate room
at the hall in which to knock our trio into
shape, and we’d planned to reveal ourselves
to an unsuspecting public at the upcoming
concert in the hall. Fr Walshe’s surprise
visit had probably put the kybosh on that.
I’ve often thought that the parish priest was
my nemises; Moriarty to my Holmes; Laurel