Babby had a turn in her eye, a lazy eye. She had big soft lips and mangled hair. In the morning she drank three raw eggs knocked to a runny mixture in her chrome cocktail shaker – a birthday present from your uncle Dan. She’d throw the eggs back into her craw and then smile, showing the gluey yellow mess stuck to her teeth. Babby was mammy’s sister and she was the Queen of all Ireland.
She was always known as Babby even though the name on her birth certificate was Bríd. Mammy said granny never called her anything but Babby from the day she was born because when she realised she was a bit funny she didn’t want to use up the lovely name she had picked, which was Angela. The priest said granny would have to pick something and then he said: ‘We shall give her the moniker of Ireland’s holiest woman, Saint Bríd of the plains of Kildare.’ And Dan said, ‘Moniker Schmoniker!’ because he was back from New York. Granny agreed to name her Brfd to keep the peace but called her Babby all the time anyway. The first time mammy told you about that you said ‘Who is Moniker?’ and they all laughed.
Babby was a show off. Even though she was fifteen and had boobs and all, she drove a tricycle. It was a special big tricycle and she would drive up and down the street with all her sets of rosary beads slung around her neck singing Hail Queen of Heaven. Everyone would say, ‘Ah look at her, God love her,’ even though she sang crowy and slobbered. You could ride a two-wheeler and sing lovely but no one ever said, ah, look at you.
You didn’t want an auntie who had crossed eyes and was fat and who everyone stared at and who sat on you and punched you in the belly. And who drove a threewheeler. You wanted a movie-style auntie, who was pretty like mammy and who called you poppet and gave you her cast-offs. That’s why everyone was thrilled when Dan brought home a girl. Daddy said, ‘You could hardly call her a girl,’ but mammy said, ‘Shut up you,’ and that kept him quiet.
Dan’s new girlfriend was called Sarah-Mary and she had pink lips and a perfume smell and two holes in her cheeks that were called dimples. Babby put her big pokey fingers into Sarah-Mary’s dimples. Sarah-Mary was very polite and just laughed, but it was easy to see that she was a bit afraid. Then Babby got out her cocktail shaker, even though it was long past breakfast time, and granny said, ‘Put it away, Babby,’ but she wouldn’t and she shook the eggs extra hard for granny’s benefit and for Sarah-Mary’s. She had a big puss on her and she insisted on sitting beside Dan at the dinnertable even though he was entertaining his new girl and trying to impress.
Anyway, Dan was obviously doing something right because next thing you know him and Sarah-Mary are engaged and there’s happiness all around. Except from Babby. When she heard she went into the parlour and broke Dan’s crystal that he won at the golf, but he just said, ‘Ah well,’ even though you hoped he would go mental and Babby would get in for trouble. She always got away with murder, you thought, and she was too big to be breaking someone’s prized possessions on purpose.
You were thrilled about the wedding, never having been at one before, and then Sarah-Mary trebled your happiness by asking you to be her flower girl. You were in heaven. But not for long because Babby threw another fit when she realised she would just be an ordinary guest whereas you would be the star of the show.
‘I’m the Queen of all Ireland,’ she roared, and granny said, ‘Now, Babby, you’re too big to be a flower girl,’ and then Babby hit granny and there was wigs on the green all around. Then Uncle Dan, the fecker, butted in and said ‘Maybe Babby could be a flower girl, too,’ and your heart was filled with dismay like the girls in the comics. And you could tell that Sarah-Mary was feeling the same way because she gave Dan a look. But Babby was grinning and kissing Dan with her sloppy lips and he was laughing, all happy and carefree. Then Sarah-Mary dropped the bomb: ‘We can’t afford two flower girls, Daniel,’ she said, very low.
Babby looked awful silly in her flower girl’s dress but she thought that she looked gorgeous and she fecked the rose petals all over everyone on the way down the aisle and then she had none left for outside the church. You all ended up throwing rice at the happy couple and picking bits of flowers out of each other’s hair for the day. Everyone told Babby that she was a smasher but it was obvious they were just saying that to be nice.
Sarah-Mary and Uncle Dan looked like movie star lovers and she said to you, ‘A word in your ear’, singling you out, and then said that you could be the godmother of their baby. You were glad to know they weren’t so much in love that babies would only get in the way of the magic. Daddy said, ‘The only thing new at this wedding is the cake,’ and started making noises like a gun. Mammy told him to shut up, but he just laughed and then mammy laughed too and the two of them were in convulsions. You didn’t feel like laughing because it should have been you in a lovely dress strewing petals and at least you’d have done it properly.
But someday you would be a godmother and that was better than being a flower girl, really. So Babby could keep her stupid dress and her big fake smile for the camera and you’d see who would be the real Queen of all Ireland in the end.