Tim was shaking and his pants were cold from the wet. He mumbled something incoherent through sobs of relief and fear and puzzlement and shame. Tim managed to blurt out something about his father being late due to the movie finishing early.
“Well then ye have ten minutes and more to wait on this cold night, and them fellers could come back. Why don't you come to our van and wait, and ye can dry off a wee bit?” he smiled.
Tim was not at all happy about going to the van with the gypsies but he certainly did not want to wait alone and face those thugs again. His father's words kept coming back to him... and God knows that was the biggest knife he'd ever seen. Dad was right. But his fear was a powerful motivator, and Tim decided to go with the gypsies. It was only a hundred yards to the vans in the halting site. With a grunt of farewell Liam and Muxer went off in the direction of a gloomy looking caravan some yards further down the path leaving Tim and the giant figure of Big Mick McMurtagh outside the rusting door of Mick's van.
“In ye go, so, me little fightin’ man,” he whispered with a throaty chuckle.
As the door closed behind him Tim's eyes adjusted to the brightness inside. There seemed to be tinsel decorations everywhere, cheap tarnished tinsel, years old and reused many times. Tim could see pieces of scotchtape, browned from years drying out, holding together the streams of golden and yellowing silver tinsel. Three or four young children rushed towards him in the narrow entrance alleyway, and Tim felt he was going to be pushed out of the door again. But they didn't push, they grabbed hold of his coat and pulled him into the middle of the caravan. A dozen questions were tossed at him all at once.
“Who's he, Da? What's he want? Jeysus, he looks posh, Mammy, look at the poems
/love'>lovely yellow jacket on him! Where’d 'e come from?”
Tim tried to answer, but as soon as he started to reply, another load of questions was thrown at him. How? Why? Where? Tim was dizzy. Big Mick stepped over to the middle of his caravan and roared.
“Will yeez shut up, for God's sake, can't yeez see that the lad is frightened?!”
There wasn't another peep out of the children, and they stood around Tim staring in silence. Three seconds of staring like statues and then it was over, and as quickly as they had accosted him they were gone, disappearing like wild creatures amongst piles of toys and magazines and endless dented cans of fruit.
Tim looked around at the chaos. There seemed to be children everywhere, some standing on chairs shouting to others below the table. Some were watching television, but Tim could hardly hear the sound from the tv and wondered how they could. The television was perched uncertainly on the edge of a narrow shelf obviously too small for it, and had to share its perch with piles of “Ireland's Own” magazine and several tins of biscuits, overpiled with dried washing waiting to be ironed. Everything was in piles, and there was no room for any more at all, or so it seemed. Under the table the three smallest children were arguing and squabbling over pieces of chocolate.
“It isn't. Ye had the last piece, ye hoor.”
Big Mick roared out, “Watch yer tongue or I'll bate the head o' ye!” It seemed to have no effect for the three continued to bicker and clutch at chocolate which had already fallen on the floor many times.
. . . . . . . . . . .