BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

16 October 2014
Get Writing NI

BBC Homepage

BBC NI Learning


Get Writing NI

Writers Showcase

Established Local Writers

Local Writing Legends


The Book of Irish Writers

Rhythm & Rhyme

Study Ireland

Contact Us

Writers Showcase
Michael McFall

Hi, My name is Michael McFall and I am 28 years old. I currently work in a call centre and have for some time been interested in short stories. I read quite a lot of stuff from historical books to biographies, although I must profess a love for truly funny books. I've wanted to write something like this before but didn't, for fear of being laughed at. I finally figured what the hell.

The Circus by Michael McFall

"His oversized head shot out suddenly above the old tree like some inane Jack in the box at a particularly unfortunate child’s birthday party. He was wearing a bedraggled white wig and a false beard. Both of which, judging by the irreverent black whiskers poking out either side, seemed to have been designed with a smaller and less intrusive face in mind. My friends didn’t seem to mind though. In fact they were loving every minute of it. What my father lacked in grace and poise, he more than made up for in enthusiasm. He jumped out from behind the withered tree where he had been hiding and proceeded to dole out what little gifts he had. I remember that he hadn’t left any of my friends out and each one in turn got a little present from him. The largest and most extravagant of this motley bunch was of course reserved for the pained, awkward looking little boy lost in the centre of a crowd of tiny, happy faces. Petulance personified, I said nothing. I remember, even as a small child, how unimpressed I was by the whole spectacle. This was, as far as I could see, the magic of Christmas shoved into a wood chipper and vomited out the other side. Mulch for my own little flower-bed of childhood angst. He proceeded to launch himself into Santa Claus with a gusto that only a man who really loves his children can. I didn’t speak to him for almost 2 weeks after that…
I hadn’t thought about that day for some time. The memory of it seemingly lost in that fuzzy, indefinable place in our minds where we put the things we don’t really want to recall too vividly. When I thought about it now I was filled with shame and embarrassment. Partially because I was being a spoilt brat, and partially because I had remembered how, seeing my discomfort, he tried so hard to make me laugh, make me smile, make me anything.
The circus was in town that summer and he had brought me there. I’ve loved the circus ever since. The sights, the smells, the colourfully dressed people who seemed so much more exciting and larger than life than the drab, uniform adults I had encountered up until then. Mainly though, I love it because it reminds me of him, of all the moments that I had failed to grasp the significance of. The show was sold out so he had paid a ticket tout double the normal price so that we could be at the front. He couldn’t really afford to do that but he did, seeking in vain the approval of an ungrateful and blinkered child. As the show started I could vaguely sense him looking at me every now and then and smiling. I didn’t know why at the time, but I understand now. His large and pleasant face mimicking mine every time I laughed or smiled or withdrew in terror at some perceived threat from the animals there. At the end of the show he asked me what I thought of it and I’d begun to tell him how much I enjoyed it, only to remember that I was angry with him and stop mid sentence.
It’s funny how things turn out. Events beyond our control swirl all around us. Circumstance throws us this way and that with little regard for how we would wish things to be. The more I saw of life the more I realised what unimportance and triviality I had allowed to pervade my existence. All the material possessions in the world ring hollow when compared to ten seconds spent in silence with my father. I never appreciated that, just like I never appreciated him.
He’s gone now. To a place I find impossible to imagine. ‘Does he know how much I miss him?’ I would often wonder. I sometimes dream about him. The conversations that should have happened, the things I should have said when I had the chance to but never did. When I do dream of that cold December day now, it always ends with me throwing my arms around him and telling him how much I love him. That’s how it should have been. I hope he knows that."

What do you think of this piece? Email
Please enclose the title of the work and the name of the author.

The BBC will display as many of the comments as possible on the page of commented work but we cannot guarantee to display all comments.

More from this writer:

Short Stories
The Circus

More showcase writers:

Full list of writers

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy