Finding Moon’s Light
by Darran Brennan
Me Dad had gone quite mad and mad-quiet around the house for weeks; not full of himself like normal. I was kicking me ball out back, tryin’ not to think of how empty me future was not being good in school and all. Me head was racin’ about what was wrong with Da now. Is he leavin’ Ma? They’ve been arguin’ for months about everything. He’s leavin’ me and Dani. He’s fuckin’ off on us! He’s mad with the guilt.
Dani’d never get her head round it. She was only after gettin’ the confidence to come out of her room this year, at fifteen like, but only for a few minutes and she’d be back into hidin’. I was goin’ mad thinkin’ about her wastin’ her life just blowdryin’ her hair and dressin’ up in her room for nobody.
“Moon,” he shouted.
I hated me name. Da was a DJ back in the day and says he was on yokes when they named me. Everyone calls me Doyler anyway, thank God. “What?”
“Take the bins out.”
“Go quiet. Mary has a new baby, remember?”
“Yeah.” I dragged the wheelie bins through the side gate and put them outside the garden.
“Come on.” Da was comin’ out the front door, puttin’ his coat on.
“Just come on.”
He held me shoulder for a sec. He didn’t do that ever. It felt mad that he was doin’ Da-stuff all of a sudden.
“What’s goin’ on with you?” I asked.
He looked down at me, like into me eyes and laughed. Something was up… but in a good way. “Nothin’ to worry about.” He walked off.
I bounced out behind him. “So what’s the story?”
“Just come on.”
I stopped. “What’s with all the secrecy?”
His shoulders got tight—he did that when he was embarrassed about somethin’—but then he relaxed, still a bit embarrassed for a sec, and then he was mad-strange again; this look in his eye I’d never seen before. “We’re meetin’ Keith Murphy,” he said.
“Keith Murphy—Keith Murphy who was in the Leb? What for?”
He turned, about to walk off but copped I wasn’t in the mood for secrecy. “We’re goin’ on patrol. Come on. Just a bit of neighbourhood watch.”
I laughed but thought for a moment about what he’d just said and broke me bollocks laughin’. “Doggie patrol like?”
“Neighbourhood Watch. I joined it.”
I felt like I was bein’ a dick to him cos he was mad-quiet that I would slag him for doin’ something good. Bad boys for life and all. Nice guys finish last, yeah? Anyway, he looked embarrassed, so I tried to stop laughin’, shoved me hands in me pockets and walked up, sighin’ like it was more of a serious matter than it was.
“This isn’t a joke, Moon.” When he said me name, it did sound cool sometimes.
“Sorry.” I put me hand on his shoulder—makin’ fun of him for doin’ it a moment earlier but also wantin’ to make him feel alright. He seemed to be tryin’ to prove somethin’, like he’d lost his mojo and that’s why he’d been mad-quiet recently. Hero-mode, yeah? Anyway, I remembered he was headin’ for forty and the bloke down the gym said testosterone gets lower at that age and men become softer and sensitive, like woman. He didn’t seem soft, though. You always get a few scumbags lighting wheelie bins on fire and carryin’ knives. They’d say something to provoke ye, get a scrap goin’ and might even shank ye, yeah? He was grand about all that. It was a bit of a buzz for me.
He walked like he’d have no problem getting’ into a fight. He was mad into his weed before he got his big IT job and started parting his hair sideways and watchin’ Live from Oireachtas.
“There was a rape up the road there two nights ago,” he said.
“Another one. Three this month. No way. Who?”
“Some young wan—only fifteen.”
“Jaysus, Dani’s age. So that’s what this is all about?”
“It’s actually the fourth this month.”
For a minute me head was a mess thinkin’ how I might kill whoever it is. “How is the girl? How will it fuck her life up? If I kill someone for a good reason how long would I get in jail? Would a judge let me off?”
I was mad-clear, walkin’ beside Da stride for stride, just our breaths and thoughts of what direction we were headin’. “Where are we meetin’?”
“Corner of Casey’s.”
I kept lookin’ at blokes passin’, checkin’ them out like I might know what a rapist looks like if I stared long enough. Every girl that passed made me heart heavy, made me ball me fists. I remembered that time at the back of The Swinging Toe Pub, where that paedo bloke lived. A few of the lads from school had talked about it all week. The paedo said somethin’ to one of the lads’ sisters. We waited for him to leave his gaff, punched the head off him and warned him to not be talkin’ to little girls. I’m not even sure he was a paedo now, he seemed kind of normal and surprised. Kept shoutin’ that the only little girl he had talked to was some young wan who threw an Easter egg box on the ground, and he asked her to pick it up. He apologised, and I felt mad guilty because his lip was burst and he was almost cryin’.
This was different, though. Da was never like this.
Keith Murphy was watin’ by the bollards at the corner of Casey’s Road. He looked to be on a mission, too; eyes like sniper’s dots. He gave us the little chin nod, and shrugged his lip like his whole life had been designed around moments like this; a born soldier without a fight until now. The air was still. The night quiet. I heard sniffin’ behind me in the little park and saw the silhouette of a dog, a silky black lab. Keith got it and put on the leash and we were off on patrol.
I was really hopin’ somethin’ would happen, but as Keith kept sayin’, “Ideally, we want a quiet night. We’re just here as a deterrant.”
“Yeah, fair enough. But are we gonna be out here all night or what?” I sounded a bit sarcastic and felt immature.
“That’s being’ sorted.”
“What d’ya mean?”
“There are three senior teams that play for Saint Michael’s. We’re gettin’ a roster goin’. Six patrols startin’ at either side of Beamount. Two-hour shifts, 8 P.M. until 4 A.M..” He yanked on the leash to stop the dog sniffin’ walls, nearly snappin’ its neck. “We have to protect our women. No need for us to be gettin’ carried away though, lads.”
“It’s better than sittin’ around watchin’ shit TV.”
Da winked at me.
“What if the rapist comes to our house, when we’re out?” I asked, thinkin’ of Ma and Dani alone in the house.
“Don’t be sayin’ that, Moon.”
“Sorry Da. So any ideas who’s doin’ the rapes, Keith?” I asked.
He went off on a rant about all the unvetted immigrant males of military age.
“We don’t know who’s doin’ it,” said Da. “There are a lot of young men who’ve grown up knowing only porn as a way to relate to women.” He rubbed the dog’s head. “Good boy.”
“They’ve a proven track record of treatin’ women like shit in those countries they’re comin’ from,” said Keith.
“I’m sure the Guards have listened to our concerns and are on top of it. Sure wasn’t there another new batch of pasty shites farmed up there in Templemore recently?”
“People with no identity are harder to find and have nothing to lose.”
They went mad-quiet.
“It’s definitely a man though, isn’t it?” I asked, to stop them worrying.
“Is he serious?” said Keith.
“The school has brainwashed all logic from him,” said Da. “He’s tryin’ to be fair. Ireland is an inclusive country now and all.”
“It’s certainly not a trans-man, anyway,” said Keith, winkin’.
“It could be a trans-women,” said Da. “More strength like, and less threatenin’.”
Keith scratched his chin, grin wide. “We might want to check the women, too, then lads.”
“There were a load of rapes in a women’s prison, a trans woman did them,” I said.
“What like, they go in there with the appendage still attached?” asked Keith.
“Jaysus. Wouldn’t ye think the criteria would be havin’ a fanny?”
“Not anymore,” said Da. “All ye need to do is say yer a woman and you get to watch them in the showers.”
“‘Get to’ watch them?” Keith cracked up.
“Ye know what I mean. It’s no joke.”
“It isn’t! But ye can’t do nothin’ about it these days,” said Keith, yanking the chain to keep the dog from the thought of a sniff. “The government is afraid to upset the LGTVQ… whatever it is this week. Do they include people who identify as vampires now? I heard that.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“They should make trans changin’ rooms and trans toilets,” I said.
“Ah, but then they’d call that segregation,” said Keith.
Da tutted. “Nobody with a set of balls should be in a woman’s private space where little girls get changed. My missus can’t even pee if I’m not downstairs.”
“What about if they had the snip?” asked Keith, shaking his head. “Should they be allowed in if they have all the right parts?”
“Ah, how would ye prove it?”
“Well, weren’t the government ok with showin’ Covid passes?”
“What, like a snip-pass?”
Da and Keith stopped laughing once the subject moved back to the rapist and not puttin’ their hands on him (or her) in case they got charged.
The first patrol went well, was quiet and went that way every night for weeks. We didn’t find any rapists, but it felt good to let people know that they were safe with us around. Whenever I got back from school, I didn’t want to think of nothin’ else. Me head was messed up thinkin’ about exams next year and studyin’ just to fail again. I’m not thick, I just don’t see the point if it’s all going to be forgotten. You know, that happens. The mind doesn’t retain information for long. Some say you can only remember a hundred things, unless you’re on the autistic spectrum or somethin’. Anyway, this night-patrol thing felt like me.
One Saturday night, I got to thinkin’ maybe I’d join the army. On patrol with Keith, Da talked about sexual abuse in the Irish Armed Forces. The women had to barricade their doors at night to stop scumbags comin’ in. “I’d put a stop to all that if I joined.”
There were no more rapes in Beamount, “maybe we stopped them.”
“Maybe,” Da said, proud of himself for the first time in years.
It made me look at everything differently; Ma and Dani especially. Ma could get a bit worked up over little things and it’d rile me, make me sulk for hours. But since we started patrolin’, I saw how scary it must be to be a woman with madmen out there; sort of like being a little kid who’s scared of what’s hidin’ in the dark. I dunno what it is with blokes, but when I hit thirteen or fourteen my fear went and especially on patrol. Blokes love a bit of danger; the adrenalin rush and getting to protect people. For anyone who doesn’t, though, it must be mad scary, even being around blokes like us. That’s why Da was so quiet. It hit home. All the rapes changed things in our house. He was much more considerate not only to Ma and Dani but all women he met. Dani started comin’ out of her room more. I felt like a real dick for thinkin’ she was strange or that there was something wrong with her. It’s like she has this little hair-trigger for sensitivity, and even a little sensitivity changed a lot of things.
I never thought I could make a difference in people’s lives by just noticing how I said things. Goin’ out each night fixed a lot of things I didn’t know were wrong with me. It became less about finding a rapist and more about me and me family… and Keith whose a bit of a legend. I read a thing there the other day that said sometimes bad things happen but have good results, it’s called serendipity. That’ll be one of the hundred things I never forget.