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THE COUGHMAN

 

 

Our father’s Hillman takes up our whole garage so we can’t put on a play, or have a Beano and Bunty comic sale anymore. Our mother covered the car with the two picnic rugs, so we can’t have sandwiches in the back garden either. Anyway, since Daddy went to hospital, Mammy prefers chewing her nails to sandwiches. The car is black with silver wheels.

 

 

Sometimes I sneak into the garage, pick up the rugs by the fringes and duck under. I have to be careful I don’t pull down the atlas and encyclopedia our mother has placed on the roof to keep the rugs from sliding off. I squash my stomach against the driver’s door. The handle hurts. I see my father’s shape on the red, leather seat and marks of his hand on the steering wheel. I stick my tongue on the window and fog it all up.

 

 

I can see the hospital from my bedroom window. Sometimes I stand on my bed and wave to the coughman. He’s a man in the hospital who coughs so loud we can hear him – kuh-kuh, kuh-kuh, – ‘morning, noon and night.’ There’s a fly stuck in his throat.

 

 

My father’s cough is ‘more chesty and his hospital is not in this town. ‘Children are not let visit’, so when our mother gets a lift there, my brother and I stay home and play skipping in the green.

 

 

 

“Coughman, Coughman,

 

One, two, three.

 

Open wide, let the doctor see.

 

Tea-Bee, Tea-Bee, Tea-Bee.”

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