An extract from Cal (1983)




An extract from Cal, a 1983 novel by Northern Ireland author Bernard MacLaverty. Cal focuses on the experiences of a young Catholic man living on a predominately Protestant estate during the 1970s. He becomes involved in an IRA killing, then romantically involved with the victim’s wife. Cal was made into a motion picture in 1984.



“As he turned into his street he felt the eyes on him. He looked at the ground in front of him and walked. The eyes would be at the curtains or behind a hedge as a man paused in his digging. He could not bear to look up and see the flutter of Union Jacks, and now the red and white cross of the Ulster flag with its red hand.

Of late there were more and more of these appearing in the estate. It was a dangerous sign that the Loyalists were getting angry. The flags should all have been down by now because the Twelfth of July was long past. It was sheer cussedness that they were kept up.

Even looking at his feet Cal couldn’t avoid the repulsion because the kerbstones had been painted alternating red, white and blue. Cal felt it was aimed at them, the McCluskeys, because his father and he were the only Catholic family left in the whole estate. Fear had driven the others out but his father would not move. He was stubborn at the best of times but if he thought pressure was being applied to him he was ten times worse. ‘No Loyalist bastard is going to force me out of my home. They can kill me first.’

But it wasn’t a single bastard that worried Cal, it was an accumulation of them. The feeling of community that they managed to create annoyed him and the stronger their sense of community grew the more excluded and isolated the McCluskeys felt. They spoke to their near neighbours affably enough but beyond that everyone else in the estate seemed threatening. The Radcliffs and the Hendersons said they would stand by the Mc Cluskeys if it ever came to an eviction.

Cal detested the condescension of some of the Protestant men he met about the town. ‘You’re Shamie Mc Cluskey’s boy? A good man, Shamie.’ And implied in everything they were saying was ‘for a Catholic’.

There was faint affectionate amazement on their faces that there should be a Catholic who was a good man, someone to equal them.”