Mam turns toward the dead ashes in the fire and sucks at the last bit of goodness in the Woodbine butt caught between the brown thumb and the burnt middle finger. Michael . . . wants to know if we’re having fish and chips tonight because he’s hungry. Mam says, Next week, love, and he goes back out to play in the lane.

In Chapter IX, Frank observes his mother’s growing despondency as another week passes without the arrival of a paycheck from England. The ashes in the fire symbolize the crumbling of Angela’s hopes: her dreams have withered and collapsed, leaving her with only cigarettes for comfort. Frank considers himself mature in comparison to his younger brother’s naïve sanguinity. Frank knows that the promise of fish and chips is an empty one, because money will never arrive from their father. He knows that next week they’re likely to face the same hunger, and the same frustrations.