My Mammy lives in a box: A story by Amy Cahill

Fighting Words 2019: Amy Cahill is 16 and a student at Gorey Community School

Amy Cahill reads an extract from her short story 'My mammy lives in a box'.


My mammy has been asleep for five days now. She mustn’t be very comfy lying on the bathroom floor. I really hope she wakes up soon, I miss her. Plus, I’m nearly out of cheerios and I’m getting kinda hungry. Mammy must be very tired. She won’t wake up, no matter what I do. I poke her sometimes, but it doesn’t work. Her skin feels all funny now, kinda like cold play-dough. I’ve tried talking to her, but it’s like she can’t hear me. I hope mammy gets up soon.

Mammy fell asleep on Monday after Daddy went on another one of his business trips. I don’t think mammy wanted him to go, because they were shouting all morning. Mammy kept asking, “how he could do this to our family?” and “was he out of his mind?”

Daddy just shouted back about getting something called a divorce. I think that’s a type of dog. Maybe if our family got a divorce, we would all be happier.

After Daddy left, Mammy cried for a long time. I think she just missed Daddy a lot. I hate seeing Mammy cry, so I gave her my Berry the bear to make her feel better. She sat on the sofa for ages holding Berry till dinner time. Then Mammy told me I could have anything I wanted for dinner. I said ice-cream with jelly, so we both drove to the shop to buy me some. When we were in the shop Mammy said I could get whatever I wanted from the toy aisle too. I got three new Barbies and a cuddly dog. That was so nice of Mammy, I love her so much. I hope she wakes up soon.

When we got home, Mammy sat with me in the kitchen and watched me eat my ice-cream. She wasn’t talking much, and she looked really sad. She didn’t even eat any ice-cream. When I was all finished my dinner, mammy held my hand and took me into the bathroom. We both sat on the floor together for ages. Mammy looked very serious. I thought she was cross with me. But she just hugged me, petted my hair and told me I was her special chicken.

Then Mammy started acting weird. She looked me in the eye and said:

“Listen Ellie, Mammy is about to do something very stupid. I need you to always remember that I love you so much and this isn’t your fault. I’m sick. I’m so sorry. I hope one day you’ll understand why I did it. I love you more than anything, chicken”.

Mammy was crying the whole time saying that. I tried to hug her, but she just pushed me off. She handed me a letter and said that I have to give to Daddy when he comes home.

I think Mammy must have been very sick because she ate a lot of pills from the medicine box. She got sleepy half way through eating them. Her face went all funny-looking, scrunched up like a balloon. She made a big coughing sound and fell asleep.

When she fell asleep, I left her there for a while and went to go play with my dolls in my room. But then it started to get dark outside and I was scared. I ran into the bathroom to wake Mammy up, but I couldn’t. She felt really cold when I touched her, so I covered her with my blankie. Then I brought a pillow in to put under her head, so she’d be cosy. I was too scared to sleep in my room all alone, so I slept beside her that night. She didn’t feel all soft and warm like she usually did. She felt kinda stiff and very chilly.

When I woke up in the morning, Mammy was still fast asleep. I splashed some water on her face, but she still didn’t move. My belly was all grumbly, so I went to the kitchen to eat breakfast. The only thing I could reach from the cupboards was a box of cheerios. Dora was on the telly, so I watched her for a while.

I kept checking on Mammy, but still she didn’t get up. I think its my fault for keeping her awake at night. She always says how wrecked she is. That night Mammy was still asleep. And the next night. And the next. I didn’t sleep next to her again, because she smelled funny. She probably needs to shower.

Today’s Friday. Mammy has been asleep since Monday now. It’s ok though, because Daddy’s coming home today and I’m sure he knows how to fix her.

When Daddy came home, I was super happy. I ran up to him and gave him a huge hug. He asked me where Mammy was, and I told him how she was asleep in the bathroom. Daddy looked really confused when I said that. He knelt down to look at me and said,

“So, where actually is Mammy then?”

“Mammy’s asleep right now in the bathroom”

“Asleep in the bathroom?,”Daddy laughed. “That mustn’t be very comfortable!”

“That’s what I was thinking, so I put a pillow under her head and blankie on her, so she’s all snuggly”

Daddy’s face twisted when I said that. He had his serious face on, so I knew it was bad.

“Ellie, when did Mammy fall asleep?”

“Monday after you left. She said she was sick, so she had to eat a lot of medicine. I tried to wake her up, but I couldn’t”

When I said that Daddy ran to the bathroom. He opened the door so quickly it made a huge bang. Daddy dropped to the floor beside Mammy and screamed so loudly that I had to cover my ears. He was crying really hard and shaking Mammys shoulders asking her to wake up.

“No, no, please God, no. Oh Sarah no. Please wake up. Sarah, Sarah please. Oh my God.”

Daddy kept saying stuff like that for ages. It made me feel all scared inside, like I was made of jelly. Maybe Mammy was really sick and would have to go to the hospital like Nana did.

I didn’t know what else to do, so I ran into my bed and hugged my teddy. I squeezed Berry tight and started to cry. I didn’t want Mammy to go to the hospital. Nana had to move far away after she went there.

After a long time, I could hear Daddy leave the bathroom, still crying really loud. He picked up the phone and yelled for something called an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, it had flashy lights and a siren. I saw Mammy on a tray being wheeled into it. Daddy was still crying and holding her hand.

Afew days later, Daddy and me went to Mammy’s funeral. I didn’t know what a funeral was, but Daddy told me it was a big party to celebrate Mammy’s life. When he told me that I was excited to go, I love parties. But when I got there it wasn’t like a party at all. First, it was in a church and everyone there looked sad, lots of people were crying. There were some flowers, but no balloons or cake or anything. And everyone was wearing black, even though Mammy likes colourful clothes and never ever wears black. I didn’t like the party at all. The priest talked during most of it, and I had to sit on a hard, wooden seat for ages and be as quiet as a mouse. Then after what felt like forever, we all had to follow a big black car to a place called a graveyard. Daddy held my hand and brought me to this big hole in the ground where all of us buried a big box. Everyone was crying hard as the box went down.

When I asked where Mammy was Daddy told me “Ellie, mammy got very sick, so she lives up in the sky with angels now”

But I knew that couldn’t true. I saw my Mammy at the funeral. She doesn’t live in the sky.

My Mammy lives in a box.

This story took shape at one of the workshops run by Fighting Words, which was founded by Roddy Doyle and Seán Love in 2009 to nurture young writers around Ireland. It is now in Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Mayo, Wicklow, Galway, Donegal, Kerry, Wexford and Kildare