8. “The Voyage of SueAnne Larkin” (3)

Part II

Port of Call continued

 

In a sheltered Dublin harbour, water sloshed irritably as Donegal’s Atlantic hurricane played itself out on the coast of the Irish Sea. Masts rising from battered fishing trawlers creaked in gusts of dying wind. Thumping moss-streaked stones, a dazzling- white fleet of sailboats clung precariously to the jetty. A shaggy-haired dog prowled the jumble of nets littering the pier. Picking a careful path through the chaos, a gaunt figure, brimmed hat pulled low against the wind, made its way toward a Hooker riding anchor a few feet off the pier. The figure stopped at a rusted ladder poking over the stone embankment. Gathering a coil of rope hitched to a piling, the figure gave a shout.

“Micheál!”

A red stocking cap bobbed from below deck, a hand snagged the length of rope drawing the Máire Rua to the sea wall.

“You’re out late, Father Dan.” Micheál extended his hand. “Nora will be having supper without you.”

“Soon enough the time is coming, Micheál, I’ll need a hand to board a Hooker, but it has not yet arrived. When that time comes, I’ll forego the pleasure of sailing altogether.” Brushing aside Micheál’s outstretched hand, the old priest leaped three feet, landing shakily on the scarred planking.He sniffed the air. An iron kettle simmering on a mound of turf in the cuddy roughened the air with the heavy smell of tea long at the boil. “I knew I would find a decent cup of tea if I came to the Máire Rua. There is nothing like it on land.” He settled on a bunk, legs akimbo, assessing Micheál’s demeanor, as the younger man poured the brew into mugs. Father Dan accepted his tea, perfunctorily stirring in sugar and milk. “A dirty day altogether.”

“It was, Father. Donegal flooded. Trees down. Sheep standing watch on the peaks.”

“You were safe enough, I hear, for at least part of the night. I must remember to thank Anthony Cuffe for his good care of you.”

“Who told you that?”

“One of the lads, Micheál.” Father Dan chose a chocolate biscuit from a cellophane pack. “I must say you were foolish not to stay with Mr. Cuffe once the trees began going. What prompted your departure? But, then, what prompted your arrival?”

“I was trying to find out what those two American ladies are up to wandering around Ireland with no people in sight.”

“And, did you?”

“It’s hard to tell, Father. They’ve been to Donegal before, or at least the daughter has, but none of the lads remember them. Isn’t it strange they remember nothing important when they have little better to do than chat on the telephone all day.”

“Chatting can be a valuable occupation. I wouldn’t put it down. Still, the puzzle remains. It is possible we simply have two mad women on our hands. However, that our American ladies stumbled into The Yellow House lays a harsh claim on credulity. Nora thinks it an accident, and she strongly objects to the adjective, mad. She finds them charming, and is particularly taken with Mrs. Hutcheson. I’m not divulging any confidences, when I tell you Nora remains puzzled about Ronán’s defection the other morning. It’s quite unlike him to go missing. He is a most dependable soldier.” Father Dan was silent as Micheál lifted the kettle from the hearth. “Would I be wrong in saying it is the daughter who has captured your attention?”

“She is lively, Father, like the Máire Rua. I’m thinking she might need a seasoned skipper.”

“I would be careful of that one. It may be a first mate, she’s needing. We are still at sixes and sevens when it comes to knowing what she was doing at The Yellow House.”

“She is quiet about that. She did say her grandmother’s people were Larkins from Cork. Jim L. was from the North if a socialist labor man can rightly be said to be from anywhere. I’ve never known a Cork Larkin.”

“I recall a Larkin in the ‘67 uprising. Hanged in Manchester with O’Brien and Allen. It may be her family. Or, she may have a mighty grasp of Irish history. Interesting. I’ll see what I can find out.” Father Dan set down his mug. “When do you leave?”

“I’m taking the tide out in a couple of hours. The wind is up. The Máire Rua will be tied at Ballycotton, and I’ll be downing a pint at McMahon’s this time tomorrow.”

“If I remember correctly, those were your words the last time we parted.” Ahm m m. “You’ll be sailing south and not north, I suppose. It is choppy water you’d be in around Malin Head. An unpleasant chore for the lads dragging your body from Hell’s Hole after a losing contest with one of Donegal’s blows.”

“Did you not hear me, Father? It’s at Ballycotton I’ll be drinking.”

“Ah, don’t be cross. The question was meant to put the mind of an old man at ease. Give us a ring from Ard. Nora never sleeps when you are at sea.”

The racing tide had lifted the Máire Rua several inches, still too great a leap upwards for Father Dan reluctantly mounting the ladder. “Safe journey, Micheál, and God bless. Don’t neglect to ring.”

“Father, I forgot. Joe Flanagan sends his best to Nora. And, to you. Slán.”

 

Micheál’s description of Donegal was an understatement. The hurricane left Fanad peninsula looking like the morning after a pub brawl. Oak trunks straddled stone walls. Broken limbs skewered debauched fuchsia. Pools of sea water sloshed over thickets of sotted debris. At Rathmullan, the harbour’s ghostly heroes awakened by the battle melted into pure sunlight. Goodbye, Red Hugh O’Donnell. Slán, you Earls of Tyrone and Tir Conaill. Farewell, my patrician Wolfe Tone. Your warrior dreams of an untangled Ireland vanquished yet again, not this time by British legions, but by the clear light of a Rathmullan day.

At midafternoon, broad-shouldered men flew from daub nests, soft, billed caps marking them for exotic seabirds. Evanescent in lanes sheened with rain, they had been out in the night during the worst of it, checking mooring lines, shifting ballast. Now, they passed chatting, unhurried, to the quays. SueAnne fell into the procession, woolen scarf rippling, on the eternal search for a newspaper.

“Are you sure you want to risk it, Miss Larkin?” Mr. Cuffe spoke as to an endearing but daft relation. “Maggie’s boy could zip down on his bicycle, and be back before you know it.”

She wouldn’t mind the walk, SueAnne assured him, and set off at a brisk clip in the direction of McCullen’s Paper Shop. Anthony Cuffe’s delight in his guest’s impatience for a bit of news from Dublin lit up his fine Norman features. Seán McCullen couldn’t be bothered to carry the Times at all, if he himself hadn’t urged one copy be got for the inn. Mr. Cuffe ran a two-line advertisement in the Irish Times Holidays column, and liked to see it in print each day. It was his attempt at what the salesman called marketing. Mr. Cuffe decided at the outset if he was going to throw a few quid at the management of the Times each year, he would assure himself he was getting something for his trouble. Other than this bit of business, he had no interest in what Dublin had to say. A write-up on the latest sectarian bombing or I.R.A. knee-capping was old news in Rathmullan by the time the CIE bus carrying Dublin’s morning edition belched into Donegal. Mr. Cuffe did feel a bit cheated at not being there to witness Seán’s amazement at Miss Larkin’s eagerness for the seldom read, and missed not at all, paper from the Pale.

The broadside secure in the deep well of a side pocket, SueAnne slowed her pace. Deserting the gravel path, she cut across the beach to join the scavenging gulls attending the loch’s rush to the Atlantic. Is Boston straight across the sea, or a little to the south? I can’t remember, but I think it’s shy a direct line, well, a direct curved line. Wish I had a map. Montana straight on. San Francisco definitely to the south. A long way from Rathmullan whatever direction. She settled on an outcropping, hugging her coat round her knees, idly speculating whether Payne’s gray or Prussian blue would be truest for the swells aggravating the surface of Swilly, opened the newspaper, tried to read. Johnny’s fury swept in from the definitely to the south San Francisco, and gave her no peace. He’s caught up with me now. That’s what happens when you stand still. Johnny would think the caper outrageously funny if it wasn’t for Mama. My big handsome brother won’t forgive me that. I’ve got to get word to him without letting him know where we are. If I could get a letter mailed from the Continent. Or, London. Boston, that’s the place. Johnny would figure that out in a hurry. He knows we’d never go to Boston, but he also knows the Irish own the town. Micheál said, come to Ard. He would know someone to carry a letter, someone who could be trusted to mail it. We’ll drive to Conamara for a day. Make Bro happy.

“Dear J, A quick note to thank you for taking care of things while I am on holiday. Having a grand time. Met some awfully nice people. Good contacts. Eager to tell you all. Love, S.”

Of course, everyone might have thrown up his hands, and said to hell with it. Wait for us to turn up, and take whatever we’ve got left. If there are criminal charges they wouldn’t involve Mama, and if I hired a decent attorney, and we went for a jury trial, he could get me off. It isn’t such a big deal, really, burning down an old schoolhouse that was mine anyway. While she was thinking the sun’s glory dipped to a red arc beyond Fanad Head, it, too, soon quenched by the sea. In the sudden chill, despair found an opening. For a moment, she faltered. In the stillness, Percy’s voice chided her. “You are here, Sue, for heaven’s sake, enjoy it.” Yes. Why not? I won’t worry. I’ll wait it out. Play for a while. Find out what Micheál’s about. Tabula rasa. Clean slate. Done. The town beckoned, pitched roofs fused with curling black wisps, lighted windows, the odor of turf mingling with the tang of brine. I’ll buy some oils. Do a sketch or two for Johnny. She regained the path, eager for a whiskey and soda, and an unbothered read of the Times before dinner.

 

Obscured from view long minutes at a time, a double masted trawler sailed hidden behind quick, metallic downpours, narrow parallelograms slanting across the horizon. Bright sparks leaped into the darkening, shafts of sunlight shattered against the watery curtain. Fast moving, the squall flew laying bare an expanse of sky beneath which the boat, dim in outline, emerged whole in a band of blue.

SueAnne followed the Milucra’s progress with a professional eye. Shocks of yellow battered by the wind spilled out the open cabin. Toward the stern a toothpick triangle, higher than the wheel house, jangled the deck line. A sloshing, jellied mass surged up swaying beams, waved, fell off. As the trawler approached the mouth of Swilly, she zigzagged past Fanad lighthouse headed for the Portsalon pier.

Keeping an eye on the slow moving silhouette, SueAnne wedged the binoculars in a rocky crevice. She wiggled her fingers, coaxing a flow of blood into stiffening joints, considering. If I leave now, I’ll beat the Milucra in. She glared at the unfinished drawing dripping under a makeshift awning, the porous paper’s dark lines, blotched by rain, wavered and vanished. She slashed at a charcoal smudge with the stub of a pencil. Fanad lighthouse on the point of dissolving formless into the headland, rose Phoenix- like. Not great, but it’ll have to do. SueAnne revolved the sketchbook’s backing around the metal spiral, and snapped on a rubber band. Cursing the wind, she hopped the rocky outcropping to the car.

A labored caterwauling brought her up short. The noise reached a crescendo, as the winding road spewed out an overloaded lorry. Damn and double damn. Where’s the straight-away? Closing in tight on the lorry’s bumper, she hung a foot to the right of the tailgate, ready to break free. Here it is! Open road. Now! Hard on the accelerator. Her courage failed as the next curve closed in, and she fell back, mortified. Not good enough. Oh, right! Inching along, suffocating in oily fumes, she caustically reminded herself an Irish driver would have been to Portsalon and back by now. She glowered at the Knockalla hills, their luminous green and brown tartan closing her in on the left, then, fastened her displeasure on the immense sea straightjacketing her on the right. By the time the lorry wheezed into a wire enclosure at the edge of Ballymastocker Bay, the Milucra was moored at the pier. A man in oil skins battening down a crane glanced over as she pulled up. Two crewmen untangling a net heavy with dripping seaweed stopped to monitor her approach.

“Hi! How’s the catch?”

“We’ll make a few quid. Enough for a pint.” Declan McDaid stepped over the trawler’s railing, his weight shifting unconsciously from the swell of the sea to the immobility of stone. Rough hands cupped a match to light a cigarette, as he made the leap to shore. “We’ll have a bit of comfort at Hegarty’s. Come on, lads. The net will be here tomorrow.”

“Shall we drive?” SueAnne fell in beside the captain.

His voice amused, his profile bland. “It’s just around the bend.”

Hurry as she might, Declan kept half a step ahead of her. The crew, younger men, boys, really, shuffled behind keeping a good distance between SueAnne and the captain. They’re embarrassed by me. I must look a wreck. She raised a hand pushing at limp strands of hair, fretting she hadn’t put on lipstick before getting out of the car. Declan shouldered his way into Hegarty’s, and pulled a high stool from under the counter, shoving it a bit to the side. Uncertain the stool was meant for her, SueAnne faltered midway between the bar and the low tables lining the side wall. Would he bring his pint and join her at a table where the women usually sat, or should she hoist herself onto the stool beside him?

“What will you have?” Declan looked at her, but gave no indication of where she should be sitting.

Oh, to hell with it. I’m an American. I can do anything I want. This was his idea, my meeting the boat. She crossed the room and climbed on the stool. “Paddy and soda, please.”

She sat, ignored, for several minutes. Declan and the bartender reaching the finale of a muttered conversation, the trawler captain turned to SueAnne. “Did you paint that tack at the lighthouse? Nice angle with the sun out. What do you think of the view from the hill? You can see New York.”

“New York! Half the time I couldn’t see Fanad Head. I’d sketch. Then, you’d be gone. I forget how fast Irish weather moves.”

“You get used to it.” Declan reached in his pocket and retrieved a tightly rolled wad of paper. “This has your name on it.” He laid the scroll beside a matchbox, checking her reaction.

“Where did you find it?”

“We made a run to Belmullet. Himself was there.”

Himself had to be Micheál, but how did he know she met Declan McDaid one day while sketching Rathmullan Harbor? That was two weeks ago. For that matter, why was Declan so sure she picked up a paper each morning from Seán McCullen that he left a message for her at the shop? Why ask Mr. McCullen to tell her she could paint the Milucra sailing past Fanad Head, then meet the skipper for a drink in Portsalon instead of ringing Rathmullan? No time to tease out that riddle. She decided to bluff it out.

“Was he with the Máire Rua?”

Declan shook his head. “Ran into a storm through the Blaskets and left her in Dingle.” He signaled another round. SueAnne scrunched the paper into her pocket, fingering the bulky bottom seam to make sure it was safe.

“A tenner for the lads.” Casual, a rumpled twenty pound note on the counter.

The barkeep took a note from the cash drawer, stuffing it into a jar between register and backboard, before ringing up, and handing Declan his change. In the midst of the transaction, a shrunken man, dark suit frayed with age, hobbled over. Laying a hand on the younger man’s shoulder, he gave an approving half-smile, tobacco-stained teeth brown between pale lips. “Good man, Declan.”

“Good man, yourself, Brendán.” He grasped the thin arm as the old man limped by. “He was with the ‘tall fella’ in ‘22.”

So that was it. Hegarty’s was an I.R.A pub. She had heard of them, of course; anyone who knew anything about Ireland had long since taken sides in the partisan war to free the country from English rule. She had been admitted to the inner sanctum as casually as if she was an altar boy. Why? How could they be so sure of her? Or, was it part of the game, Micheál luring her on with a whiff of danger? She had felt the tug of Ireland and the hard men for as long as she could remember, well, at least since James Mason played the hunted hero in “Odd Man Out.” The fact that James Mason came away from a notorious English prison sick of violence, longing for peace, didn’t alter the romance of the cause. “Ireland unfree never shall be at peace.” Patrick Pearce. It did no good for Percy to appeal to her pacifist principals. Percy was right in theory, she acknowledged, but it was a hard man you wanted by your side when you heard the running of hobnailed boots up the stairs. She listed, trapped in Nietzschian confusion.

Years earlier, at Bantry House in Cork she queried the ancient butler impassively accepting an entry fee from the occasional visitor whether in this house Wolfe Tone was hero or traitor. In a vain attempt to liberate Ireland from its English overlords in 1798, Tone sailed into Bantry Bay. Spying the warships, the Earl of Bantry alerted the English garrison. Tone, defeated, escaped, to be captured another day in Rathmullan harbor, dying in an English prison.

“It is for the Earl to say.” The butler indicated a nondescript man totting up accounts at a small desk in the back of the great hall.

The latest Earl of Bantry glancing from his bookkeeping, noted SueAnne’s embarrassment. Preparing a presumptuous answer to the presumptuous question, he took in her tailored slacks, creamy Aran knit. “We are too busy tugging our forelock in obeisance to your Yankee dollar to have time to dwell on the past. Wouldn’t you agree, Patrick?”

SueAnne, ashamed, decamped to a refuge in the plant filled conservatory.

At Hegarty’s, lost each in his own thoughts, Declan and SueAnne sipped quietly, stealthy contentment sneaking into carefully hidden, dissatisfied corners of their minds. Cigarette smoke dimmed the bare ceiling lights, laying a wash of brackish yellow over the gouged, alcohol-ringed counter. Cadences of Irish, low and conspiratorial, broke into noisy pauses loud with the sound of a match striking against serge or a wheeze of blackened lungs.

“No, thank you. I better go.” SueAnne shook her head as Declan ordered another round. “Mama will be worrying.”

“Not to keep the mother waiting.” Declan took a deep drag on his cigarette. “Give me a shout if you need anything.”

“I will. Thanks for the whiskey and for the chance to sketch something other than Swilly sand.”

Outside, Portsalon’s streets were dark. The rain stopped, gauze softened drifts of stars. Light poured from deep-set windows, shops and bungalows leaning contentedly cheek by jowl. The glare of SueAnne’s headlights hooked a fisherman tying up next to the Milucra. Then, it was open road. Driving unimpeded, the full run of the sea on her left, the filigree band to her right, SueAnne pressed the gas pedal to the floor. Fast, but not fast enough. Mama had finished her chicken liver starter, and was half way through the pureed mushroom soup, by the time Anthony Cuffe conducted her to the table.

“I was going to wait for you, but I was half starved. Mr. Cuffe said I should put something in my stomach, before I made myself sick.”

“Sorry, Mama. I was sketching a fishing trawler sailing through Fanad Head. It was perfect. Great envelopes of rain. The trawler small on the water, vulnerable, scudding through the portal. Oh, yes, Mr. Cuffe, I want a glass of wine. I don’t have time for a Paddy and soda, do I? Paddy and soda, then. I’ll drink fast. Wine with the lamb. You’ll have a glass, won’t you, Mama?”

“Susie.” Mama was on the alert. “You’ve been painting in the dark?”

“It’s a long drive, Mama. You wouldn’t want me to drive fast. It was ethereal coming home, gossamer, other worldly. The stars in shadow, mist in the hollows. Thank you, Mr. Cuffe. I was telling Mama how mystical Donegal is.”

“Donegal agrees with you, Miss Larkin. You are lovelier today than when I first saw you.” As he spoke, the innkeeper speculated on what delight the storm brought to transform his guest from the woman he viewed as a rich, rather unconventional American into this shimmering, seductive Eve. What was she up to, she and Micheál Ó Flaharta?

After dinner, SueAnne lounged at Mama’s feet, an unraveling skein of yarn in her lap. Mama sat in a Queen Anne chair knitting an Aran sweater.

“I’m not doing this again. Maggie says it is easy the second time, but my brain can’t stand this dropping and catching and over and under. Purling and knitting is enough. Any old sweater would be as warm with half the fuss.” Mama gave a yank to the last row of stitches.

“You can do anything, Mama. It’s a beautiful pattern. I’ll look so smart in it.”

“Where are you going to wear it to look smart, Susie? And, where were you all afternoon?

“I did stop for a Paddy and soda,” SueAnne fudged. “I was cold, Mama. I was on that hill for hours drawing the trawler fighting the storm. I’ll show you when we get to the room.”

The woolen skein in SueAnne’s lap stopped jiggling. “Let’s go, now. It must be nine o’clock.”

“I want to finish this one short story.” SueAnne lifted a book lying beside her. “I’ll be up in half an hour. Here comes Mr. Cuffe. Do you two have a secret signal when you’re ready to go to bed?”

SueAnne ordered a brandy to quell a threatening anarchy, slipped a hand into her pocket, retrieved Micheál’s message, and dropped it casually between the pages of “Guests of the Nation.” Fate tricked it next to Jeremiah Donovan’s command to the I.R.A. narrator to shoot his English hostages. She grimaced, a bloody, bad time that was, mostly over now, God willing, as Maggie iterated ten times a day. Turning the volume over, the scroll freed itself from O’Conner’s brutalities falling into her guilelessly accepting palm. Pressing the soiled wad to her nose, she inhaled the odor of engine grease, revolved the paper in her hand, studying it for fingerprints, gently stroked its surface. Savoring the riddle, she toyed with the idea of stuffing the packet back in her pocket. Enough. She pried open the brine-stiffened edge, unrolling, smoothing the wrinkles as she went.

“The mother is going to Boston. If you’re quick enough, maybe you can stay in her cottage.”

A rapid, careless hand. No signature. Wrenched out of her seat, SueAnne gained the towering glass overlook. A wind singing down from the north ushered in a clear front, erasing an earlier veil, there the Big Dipper, there Orion. Across the water, lights blinked in a cluster of cottages.

“Will you be wanting anything else, SueAnne?” Maggie, taking a look-see before bedding down, marked it late enough to ignore the formality Anthony Cuffe demanded.

“Gosh, Maggie. It’s beautiful out. I think I’ll go for a walk on the beach. Could you leave me a small brandy for when I get back?”

“That wind is flat out. You’ll be needing a heavy coat.”

“I’ll grab one from the hall, maybe two.” SueAnne caught Maggie in a bear hug.

Maggie’s expression was noncommittal. “I’d take care with those Portsalon lads, SueAnne. They’ll be having a bit of fun at someone else’s expense.” She plumped a down pillow. “I’ll leave the brandy here by the fire.”

Parrying lapping waters, the restiveness seizing her at Hegarty’s let go. Maggie is right. I don’t know any of these people, least of all Micheál, but in a funny way this is the first time in my life I’m home. Maybe, Mama’s wrong. Maybe, I am Irish, or was, in another life. That is ridiculous. But whatever, soon enough I’ll have to head back for the reckoning. The awkward days. Untidy life. If I can keep a grip on reality for a few weeks, not go off on some romantic binge, this could prove a lusty intermission. All I have to do is remember having a Paddy and soda in an I.R.A. pub does not one of the boys make. Maggie said the lads liked a bit of fun. Well, they’re not the only ones.

 

“Declan! Declan, what did she say?”

“She didn’t say anything, Father. Maybe, she already knew. She’s hard to read. None of the lads ever laid eyes on her before, but she knows the lay of the land. Swung herself up on Hegarty’s stool like she’d been doing it all her life. If she’s got anything for us, she didn’t give a hint. I think she’s waiting for something.”

“She’s been with you two weeks, Declan. Isn’t that enough time to discover some trifle to enlighten us about the intentions of this enigmatic American lady.” The heavy patience of a confessor edged into Father Dan’s voice. “You’ve been talking and talking, Declan. What,” Father Dan’s voice rose slightly, “have you been talking about?”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Father.” Unable to express the enormity of his indignation in English, Declan let loose with a stream of Irish.

Father Dan cleared his throat. Ahm m m. He began again. “I’m sorry, Declan. The mystery surrounding these Americans has become something of an obsession with me. My interest in their intentions made me speak more harshly than I have a right to. If I am unable to sort it out, there is little reason I should chastise you for not doing my work. We’ll get to the bottom of it sooner or later. There is no hurry. Oh, and Declan, if you do speak to Miss Larkin again, please find out how long they intend to stay with Mr. Cuffe. It may provide a clue as to what they’re about. I’ll be at Nora’s until Monday, then I’m off to Ard. You can reach me at Mary Molly’s. God bless, Declan.”

Father Dan placed the receiver carefully in its cradle, calling loudly down the hall. “Nora. Where are you, Nora? We have no news at all. Can you believe it? Those lads would chat up my great- grandmother if she were to rise from the grave, but not a blessed word can they quarry from Miss Larkin. We are losing our touch. Becoming soft. Where are the pikemen, I ask you? Where are the Fenians?”

“When will you be able to believe me, Father Dan, when I tell you Mrs. Hutcheson, whom I admire as a woman of sense, and her daughter who is I am afraid far too appealing to our Micheál, are simply two charming American women who stumbled quite by accident into The Yellow House?”

“The Yellow House does not appeal to strangers, Nora. It is far away from Grafton Street. It is not listed as a Bloomsday pub. There are no Michelin stars before it’s name in any guide book. Indeed, dear Nora, it is not listed in any guide book at all. Gather together one hundred travel guides each resplendent in a glossy cover emblazoned with a radiant photograph of an idyllic Irish village bathed in sunshine, the photo taken on that one day of the year when the sun actually shone, and you will find listed in the Dublin section The Bailey, Mulligans, O’Donoghue’s, The Abbey Tavern, but nowhere, search as you may until you hear the blast from Gabriel’s horn, nowhere, will you find The Yellow House.”

“Father Dan, you will give to me the possibility of an accidental encounter, will you not? Even our good Lord allows for accidents.”

“And, Micheál? Was Micheál an accident? Would your two lovely American ladies actually go off to an unknown destination with an unknown Irishman who looked as disreputable as our Micheál? Nora, Nora! Where is your good sense?”

At Portsalon, Declan McDaid brought the telephone receiver crossly down onto the hook, listening to his five ten-pence coins clang into the pay box. This is the thanks I get for baby-sitting that mad Yank. He leaned against the smudged glass, distractedly lighting a cigarette as he canvassed the Milucra riding anchor across the way. She needs a heavier crane. That one’s about to snap. One good blow. That’ll be the end of it. Thin as a nun, and just as rusty. If old Meehan was still around, he could knock out the rods before tea. His mind lurched back to the problem at hand. Funnily, Father Dan didn’t mention Micheál’s message. He was going to tell him, himself, but he forgot all about it in his bitterness at the stinging implication that he wasn’t up to the job. I tried. I wasn’t good enough. End of story. Declan squeezed through the jammed folding door, stuck half open, giving it a blow with the palm of his hand. If the weather holds, we’ll see Belmullet tomorrow. Maybe, the lads down there can make some sense of it. The Father is a good man, but too grand for me. I’ll let him be. So.

 

The Voyage of SueAnne Larkin, Part III, Celtic Idyll,    Continued on Pages, Sunday, March 25, 2012

 

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