Fictionalized autobiography of Irish Catholic Boy

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Updated on 1st July 2021

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The autobiography of a traumatized child

Metal Dog – Long Road Home:

A mythical journey through the eye of a needle

 The fictionalised memoir of an improbable being

 

By Jim Byrne

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Who is Daniel O’Beeve?

Metal Dog - Autobiogprahical story by Jim Byrne

Daniel O’Beeve seems to be a kind of unlikely Odysseus; born into the Irish peasantry, at the end of the Second World War; removed to Dublin City as an infant, where he would experience total rejection in school; and then be spewed out of the culture, to roam the world in search of an identity and a sense of understanding of who he is, what where he belongs.

The ‘Metal Dog’ is one of the ancient Chinese personality types. Metal Dogs are hardwired to promote justice and fairness, and to be loyal to others.  They are offended by injustice and unfairness.

The Metal Dog described in this story is one Daniel O’Beeve. He could have been born anywhere, at any time – (because children are abused, neglected and traumatized in every culture, in every corner of the Earth).  But he just happened to be born in the village of Crumble, in the Irish Free State, to a married couple who had created a loveless, arranged marriage.

Is he just a figment of the author’s imagination?

Is he the author in disguise?

Is he somebody the author knows, in the real world?

Or perhaps a mixture of all of the above?

What we know is this: At the age of eighteen months, Daniel experienced a developmental trauma which resulted in the retardation of the development of his social and emotional intelligence. He was emotionally abandoned by his mother, who now had a new baby to take care of; and he was from that point onward bullied and abused by his mother; his father; and his older sister.

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We get an insight into how bad his relationship with his mother was, and just how distressed and disorganized he was by her brutality, from this “celebration” of his second birthday:

Extracted quotation from the book:

Metal Dog - Autobiogprahical story by Jim Byrne

When I first began to write this book, I was seeking nobility and elevation – charm and sophistication.  I wanted to ape those social models we are told to ape!  I didn’t know that as a grown man I would sit and write about the dark, pungent, orange piss in the white enamelled piss pot.

The piss had built up overnight from Daddy’s and Mammy’s visits to the pot, which always stood on the bedroom landing. They used this pot to save themselves a journey to the outside toilet, at the end of the back yard.

It’s now seven months since I fell down the steps, and I’ve been increasingly left on my own, or in the dangerous care of my sister, who is just three and a half years old.

I am just two years old – today! – and as my ‘celebration’, I am totally preoccupied with scooping this interesting, smelly, yellow-orange liquid up from the piss pot with a discarded Potters Asthma Remedy tin; and drinking it down hungrily.

Then, out of the blue, Mammy’s big, flat hand strikes me across the back of the head, causing me to topple forwards and kick the piss pot down the stairs, splashing its contents everywhere. I follow, toppling after it, down the long, dark staircase.

I landed hard on the rounded bottom of the upturned pot, knocking the wind out of myself. My hand-knitted romper suit is now covered in piss. It’s not likely to be a happy birthday.

As I lie across the piss pot, I think I glimpse the little blue bear in a dark corner of the living room, by the front porch. He had originally been part of me (I think!), but now he’s totally outside of me, and so distant I can no longer feel him.

He lies prostrated on the floor, shrouded in dark shadow. As I focus in on him, I see the big pink foot descend upon him, and squeeze him into the lino-covered floor. I hate that foot, which has tormented me for so long. 

I know how painful it is to be stood upon in that way. As I watch, the big pink foot moves upwards again, about the height of the window sill, and stamps hard on the blue bear’s body. The effect is, strangely, to wind me even more. But I have no further thoughts or feelings about his plight. I have serious problems of my own.

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Metal Dog - Autobiogprahical story by Jim Byrne

My mother, Neeve, who at that time I knew only as Mammy, rushes down the stairs after me, screaming something like: ‘Don’t be dead! Don’t be dead!’ She’s in a state of panic because, as I learned years later, she lives in dread of coming to the attention of the ‘authorities’ for neglect or abuse, which would have shamed her. She picks me up roughly, examines my limbs and head for signs of injury, decides I was uninjured, then smacks me several times on the legs and the arse, to ‘teach me a lesson’. I am decidedly unclear what the lesson is. Don’t get caught drinking piss? Don’t drink piss? Or perhaps just this: Don’t be curious?

One of the daily lessons drummed into me and my older sister was this: Curiosity killed the cat! (I think it was at this point that my ‘curious self’ went underground, and became a seeker in a strange dreamland!)

Mammy’s major injunctions are: Wake up! Get up! Shut up! Stand up! Stand still! Behave yourself! Stop that! Stand up straight! Do as you’re told! Eat this! Don’t be so bold! (Meaning: don’t misbehave). Stand up! Sit down! Don’t look at me with the white of your eyes! (Which meant, I think, look downwards to indicate submission). And: Go to sleep!

Her way of enforcing her will, to ensure total obedience to her every command, is the use of her big, flat hand: her slapping machine.

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The little blue bear flinched in the corner by the front porch. He groans. The big pink foot has him pinned to the ground. There were only two kinds of beings in the gate lodge: the hurters and those they hurt.  The only way to avoid the hurters is to become invisible.

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End of extracted quotation.

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To be added later…

His first day at school went something like this:

The bag of sweets…

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His attendance at his second school, at the age of ten years, began like this:

The Black Abbots’ school bus…

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His sex education went something like this:

Brother Herbert…

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His later love life began something like this:

Belinda in Blackpool…

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His ‘nervous breakdown’, or traumatic stress induced emotional implosion…

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