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  • My parents were overjoyed, a daughter born to them. My eldest brother was a trial and rather a burden to them. All colicky and dispassionate about near everything that happened about, to or because of him. The only time he smiled was when everyone else was at odds with each other. So yeah, a pink and smiling baby girl was just the ticket. Plus, I slept through the night.
    Needless to say, they achieved another boy after me and I was to grow up between 2 boys. My mother did her damnedest to raise me soft and frail, ladylike to say the least and my father frowned heavily but bemusedly more often than not, asserting that I was a girl first and foremost. But the odds were stacked and I was destined to be a tom-boy.
    A youth spent playing as a boy. Girls were always playing safe and tidy and with dolls and talking, talking, talking and fussing. But as a boy, adventure lay before me and possibilities stretched endlessly. A pair of shorts became a permanent fixture under any dress I was forced to wear and I lived.
    Riding horses bare-back. Diving off cliffs higher than the older boys would dare and I could run faster (no-one messed with me, I could always catch them up... and beat them up). Climbing trees, walls and buildings and jumping out and off them. Digging tunnels, rigging tree-houses and sliding down ropes and so much more. And then the ball games! Playing Stingers and Open Gates with cricket balls (tennis balls were for the juniors!), touch rugby, hockey, cricket and anything else that could be lopped, lobbed or thrown.
    And down at the river we would hack to the desired length, stripping the leaves off, willow thin branches from the handiest trees, rush in along the muddy banks, grab a handful of clay, retreat backwards, closing our hand around the tip of the branch, wrapping the mud to it, drop our wrists backwards over the same shoulder, aim and with deft flicks of the wrist, let fly. The wad of clay would be let loose to sail through the air and land stingingly on the target, muddying and bruising. Now to get past my mother, to not be muddied, bloodied or bruised, I became adept. I could lob more quickly and I could duck even faster.
    Late on a Sunday night, well into inconsiderate hours, my alcoholic husband was listening to Irish laments (if Danny-Boy and such qualify). Feeling for my neighbours I turned the volume knob from 10 down to about 2, loud enough for indoor entertainment but he got up and turned it up again when I walked away. I returned and explaining why, turned it back down again. He stormed across the room and turned it straight back up again. I headed for the wall socket and pulled the plug out.
    He tossed me like that ball on a chain thing the Olympians toss: heft and spin and heaving leave go. And the further from its starting point it lands, the louder the accolade. I landed on the coffee table, breaking it in my fall, my head just missing the edge of another table nearby, dull roaring in my head the closest to applause. Righting myself as fast as I could, I turned to see him rushing me. The cord was still in my hand and instinctively my wrist began to flex, the plug began to circle around, whipping faster on each swing and just before he reached me, with that practiced deft flick of the wrist, I let fly. He went down with a three-prong plug stuck in the side of his head.
    I checked his pulse. With barely a whispered whoop of relief through my shock, I left the plug connecting him to the stereo and still nodding in surprise, went to bed.
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