When Clara was a child she’d hide the teacher’s pen behind the school radiator.
She’d get caught of course but never tell why till they beat her palms purple and blue.
Her reason they thought as strange as the way she stared out windows in a daze
or turned her back on films she didn’t want to watch in the hall. If they stood her in
the hallway like a naughty child she’d just leave the premises, go to her grandmothers
around the corner, who made the best scrambled eggs for lunch and would never tell
on her, this was quite surprising in view of her religious hang-ups.

On every wall of her grandmother’s house were hung pictures of mother Mary, the sacred heart
and Jesus but the painting Clara was most drawn to was a picture of St Patrick patron saint of
Ireland surrounded by snakes. She’d stare at it for hours; sometimes she slept over and at night
the painting glowed in the dark; the snakes appearing like huge glow worms coming to eat her
flesh. She’d crawl into her grandmother’s bed and they’d lay awake all night listening to stories
about her childhood which Clara would later write stories about. Her grandmother was left handed
but as a child it was forbidden so, she was taught by nuns who she described as terrifying, they
didn’t use sticks to beat you in those days but a long piece of wood protruding with thorns and
they’d beat them mercilessly till she had no choice but to write with her right hand.

Years later during therapy the reason she hid pens was discussed during a session, she explained
why as she didn’t like red pens scrawled across her pages of stories, in huge red letters which said