When my older brother Anton was in his mid teens he discovered he had a gift that probably saved our lives on more than one occasion. I can’t remember the details behind this amazing discovery except to say it began with the two of us carrying on in a manner that well and truly gave Mum the shits. We could see she was about to lose it and then an amazing thing happened. Instead of using me as a human shield Anton looked at her and uttered the word “volcano” in a slow and somewhat patronising way – “Volcaaaanooo”. It was his way of saying “she’s gonna blow!”
I was mid way through my third fearful Hail Mary when all of a sudden Mum lost it. Not in a better-call-the-doctor-to-remove-the-egg-flipper-from-my-arse lost it, but laughing lost it. She pissed herself. After that any time Mum was about to crack it, Anton would calm the situation using the “volcaaaanooo trick”. I later learned to my detriment that I didn’t share his talent. My only attempt at using it was met with the words “I’ll give you fucking volcano!” and a smack on the head.
Volcano reminds me of another episode years before where a couple of words managed to diffuse a very tense situation. We were all at the kitchen table on a Sunday afternoon and as usual us kids were being noisy little shits.
My Dad valued one thing more than anything – peace-and-quiet. “Dad?” we’d ask. “What do you want for your birthday?” “Peace and quiet,” would be his instant reply. There was none of it on this Sunday and suddenly Dad was staring at us, slowly knocking on the table in a menacing way that suggested if we didn’t shut the fuck up we’ll meet the same fate as the roast beef.
On hearing the knocking my sister Michelle, who was about three and immensely cute, said “who’s there?”
The knocking stopped and for a second you could have heard a pin drop on a sponge. The smile that appeared on Dad’s face before he burst into laughter is still one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.