Less about the world, more about me.

Year: 2011 (Page 1 of 3)

Milky Tea (Part Three)

Malachi leaned over the railing and retched mightily. His already empty stomach insisted on attempting to expel what was no longer there. He groaned in self-pitying agony. A swell, imperceptible to all but Malachi’s stomach, took his legs. He collapsed to his knees, praying for the sweet release of death. His mother looked down at him. Her face a picture of pity warring with amusement with a soupcon of scorn.

“Malachi my boy, that’s Fastnet Rock over there. You are missing the last part of dear old Ireland that’ll you’ll ever set eyes on.”

“The devil can take it and Ireland too. Just let me die in peace.”

His mother shared a knowing smile with those who packed the deck with her. It was a thing common known, that there’s always one. She gave a glance at the retreating rock, then sat beside Malachi. She spoke quietly into his ear.

“Now I’m not one to harp on about things my boy. May the Lord strike me down if I ever become one who throws the past in a man’s face, but I can’t help thinking you could be less of a martyr.

Malachi looked at her angrily.

“You can keep the looks to yourself Malachi. You had only to sell a necklace and we’d have been set for years. But no, you had to haggle and act the big man, until every thief and informer in the province knew what you were up to. If we’d eyes that could see far enough, I’d wager we’d see RIC men tapping out an arrest warrant, for us, right now. Even New York won’t be safe for us anymore.”

“They can do that?”

“Ah Malachi, I know you are a big ignorant farmer, but that don’t mean you have to act like one.”

“Sorry Mother.”

The Mother stood and dragged Malachi up by the arm.

“Right boy, let’s find our bed and some food.”

Malachi groaned and bent over the railing again. The Mother shook her head and walked away muttering to herself.

As the sun began to set, Malachi made his slow way down the several flights of stairs to the Third Class compartment. With every tiny swell he stumbled, reducing him to gripping the railings with both hands, as if for dear life. He found the crowded and stench ridden compartment. To his dismay there were no more railings for him to hold but to his relief he saw his mother sitting in an alcove. She was chewing on Cruibins with some relish. Malachi took several deep breaths to steel himself for the walk and the proximity of pig extremities. He sprinted across and near dived onto the bed. He burrowed under the blanket and tried to shut the world out.

“Ah Malachi tis finally yourself. Will you have a trotter?”

She was answered with a groan and she grinned maliciously. Malachi shifted his body and brought his head near to his mother.

“I am right sorry mother. I’m surely am.”

His mother shrugged. She placed a hand on his face and forgave him with a smile.

“Ah sure, we might like this America. Tis supposed to be fierce big.”

“Do you really think the police will be waiting for us?”

“If they are, they are Malachi. I’ve never been hanged and I mean to keep it that way.”

“Sorry mother, but I have to go up again. The smell here is cruel.”

“Off you go, you’re right about the smell. I’ll join you in a while.”

Her last words were said to his disappearing back. She looked around the crowded compartment and wrinkled her nose in disapproval. She stood up. She shared a nod or two with the women who might be considered her peers and she walked after Malachi.

When she saw him, she stopped in surprise. He was bent over the railings, a well dressed young woman stood beside him, with her arm around him, rubbing his back. She looked at the woman and judged her to be in her early twenties, a townie and most likely traveling Second Class. She wondered if she had a young man with her who might take exception to Malachi receiving such attention.

She joined them.

“Now Malachi, what have you done to merit the care of this young lady.”

 “My apologies Ma’am, he appeared to be in such distress that I could not help myself. I hope I have not given cause for offense?”

“I’m not the one likely to be offended Miss. Do you not perhaps have a young man with you, who might though?”

 The young woman stood up and looked hard at The Mother.

 “I can assure you Ma’am that I am traveling alone and even if I were not, my aid was charitably meant, it is not something salacious.”

Her cheeks coloured in anger and The Mother had to stifle a grin of approval at her spirit.

“Now, now Miss. I meant no insult. Only that men being men, are quick to see what isn’t there, when it suits them.”

The young woman relaxed.

“You are correct of course Ma’am. My name is Penelope Reagan. You’re son said his name was Malachi, I think. Though I fear the words were somewhat garbled. I’ve never met a man so troubled by the mal de mare.”

 “Mal de mare Miss?”

“My apologies, Sea Sickness.”

 “Ah, sick of the sea he surely is. Lost his breakfast before we’d even cast off.”

“If you think it not inappropriate, I have some remedies in my cabin. If you would join me there, I may be able to do something for him.”

 Malachi groaned in oblivious distress. Penelope could see The Mother was unsure.

 “I could also offer you tea Ma’am and the milk will still be fresh.”

 Penelope knew she had clinched the deal, when she saw The Mother’s face light up.

“Well, I won’t say I wouldn’t welcome a good cup of milky tea, but tis only my concern for Malachi that brings me to impose on you Miss Reagan.”

“Penelope please.”

“Oh that’s kind of you, please call me Mother.”

Between the two of them, they carried and led Malachi to the Second Class Deck and down the narrow corridor to Penelope’s cabin. Penelope opened the door to the tiny room and they walked in. Malachi immediately slumped onto the bed, leaving only a chair for the two women.

 “Please take the chair Mother, I will start the tea.”

The Mother nodded, then sat. She watched Penelope use the small stove to boil some water.
“Where does this door lead to Penelope?”

 Penelope blushed slightly.

“That’s the WC.”

“The what now?”

“The privy.”

“You have your own privy? My that is the luxury.”

“Is the Third Class so bad?”

“Oh tis a fright to god. Cattle as packed in, would rebel and declare an independent republic, if they were treated so.”

“That is terrible. I had heard stories, but could never have them confirmed.”

“Ah sure, them’s that know, know. Them’s that don’t know, are better off not knowing.”

 Penelope poured the boiling water into a cup and reached for a small box of tea leaves. The Mother picked up a bowl and poured the cup of water into it and then poured more water from the kettle. Filling the bowl three quarters full. Penelope watched her silently and then spooned leaves into the bowl. She then poured milk into it. The Mother took a sip and sat back in contentment.

 “May this journey last forever, while I have my tea. You are a saint and saviour Penelope.”

 Penelope smiled at the joy on the other woman’s face. Malachi groaned and Penelope remembered the purpose of their visit.

 “Oh my, I must look to Malachi.”

 “As you wish Miss, I will abide here.”

Penelope took a bag from under the bed and opened it. She reached in and retrieved a small bottle of clear liquid.

 “Is he to drink it Penelope?”

 “Oh no, this is not for drinking.”

 She knelt by the bed and gingerly began to take Malachi’s boots off. No matter how polite she tried to be, she could not help but grimace at the smell. Determined however, she took off his socks. The Mother watched avidly.

“Perhaps I should wash his feet first?”

 “You are welcome to Penelope. It t’would be a remarkable thing to see. And hand on my heart, I doubt that ever his feet were the best clean part of him. For a man like Malachi, the only time he could expect a woman to clean his feet, was in his laying out.”

 Penelope nodded at the grim picture and went into the privy. She returned with a basin of soapy water and a cloth. She washed his feet, trying very hard to be clinical and unconcerned.

 “Jaysus that’s a grand job you’re making of it Penelope. Tis only a pity that his socks and shoes have kept onto the smell.”

Penelope nodded at her but then an idea struck her. She picked up the socks and shoes and put them outside the door. The Mother laughed.
“Let them thats out there endure what we can’t.”


 Penelope then took a deep breath and poured some of the liquid into her hand. She then used her thumbs to manipulate the sole of Malachi’s right foot. She did this for several minutes before working on his left. There was a look of intense concentration on her face. The Mother heard the occasional murmur from her, as if she was reciting from a book. The Mother looked at Malachi and saw that he was propped up on his elbows, looking with fearful confusion at the activity around his feet.

 “She’s only giving you medicine Malachi.”

 “Through my feet?”

 “Whist now, she gave me a big bowl of milky tea.”

Penelope looked up at Malachi.

“How do you feel now?”

“Where did my socks and shoes go?”

“Penelope stored them outside Malachi. Don’t be a feared for them. The man who would steal them, deserves to have them.”

“If you say so Mother. But could someone tell me what’s going on with my feet?”

The Mother looked at Penelope.

“Would you look at the enquiring mind on my son. He must have turned into a science man unbeknownst to me.”

Penelope smiled politely at The Mother and then looked back at Malachi.

“I am using the access points on your feet, to bring order to your disordered organs.”
“Well that’s a mouthful for you Malachi. Everything clear now?”

Malachi continued to lay on the bed, looking confused.

“Perhaps I didn’t explain myself correctly. I am a Practitioner of a new kind of medicine. That’s why I am going to America, to set up my own practice. The New World is the perfect place for new medicine.”

The Mother nodded.

“True enough there, there’s many a man who’ll pay a young lady to wash and rub his feet Miss.”

Penelope ignored the implication.

“We have discovered that every organ in the body in connected to different points on the sole of the feet. By applying pressure to those points one can mend an out of balance organ.”

No new understanding lit Malachi’s face. Penelope sighed and gently took the bowl of tea from The Mother.

“Imagine this bowl of milky tea as your body. With the right amounts of tea and milk, it is in perfect harmony and is exactly to your mother’s taste. Now add too much milk or take some of the milk out, then it stops being harmonious. Now further imagine the kettle as your right foot and jug of milk as your left foot. I use them to balance the contents of the cup, I mean this bowl, to make milky…”

Before she could continue she slumped forward and Malachi had to move with great speed to grab the bowl before she dropped it. The handle of a knife was sticking out from the base of her skull. He handed the bowl to his mother.

“I don’t remember you packing that knife?”

“Sure where would I be without my favourite knife Malachi?”

“Did I hear something about a private privy?”

“You certainly did. We’ve landed in luxury son. How’s your stomach?”

“I could almost forget I’m at sea. I might even risk some of this fresh meat. Though cooking it won’t be easy”

“Tis far from turning our noses up at raw meat we were raised Malachi.” 

“True enough mother, true enough, but if you don’t mind, can we leave the hands, considering where they’ve been?”

“Right you be Malachi.”

Malachi looked at the corpse for some time.

“Something addling you boy?”

“Do you think I could find a woman in America to rub my feet?”

She pondered the question for some time. Then with a sigh she looked at Malachi.

“Well now, if someone can believe that your feet are the path to your stomach, then sure why not a woman who believes that your heart leads to your feet?”


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Naturalised Irish

I saw something last month that has been playing on my mind a great deal. I know it shouldn’t and that I may be accused of ‘raining on someone else’s parade’ but I can’t seem to be able to let it go. I am talking about Citizenship Ceremonies. These are celebratory events, where those who have been successful in earning Irish Citizenship (no easy task), gather to have their citizenship conferred in a collective and convivial manner. There is pomp and there is ceremony and the enthusiasm of the participants is obvious to all observers. It appeared to be an occasion of great joy.

What then could possibly cause me unease? Well there are three things. First the Oath, second the emotion and the third, the actual level of citizenship being conferred.

This is the wording of the oath,

“…hereby solemnly declare my fidelity to the Irish nation and my loyalty to the State.”

Fidelity and loyalty to the Nation and the State? The closest equivalent oath, that I can think of, is one of marriage. It is an oath I have never been expected to take and it is an oath I would most certainly never make. I have no loyalty to the Irish State. My loyalty is to me and to a system of laws that I think benefit me. When those laws work against my best interests I will leave or simply break those laws. The important point however, is that my citizenship does not depend on my loyalty. I can write, say or do anything and my citizenship remains unchanged. In our Dáil are men and women, who were part of an organisation that murdered members of our security forces. Murdered agents of this State, yet their citizenship is unassailable. They were born to it, thus they and everyone else born on this Island (if born to the correct parents) do not have to demonstrate any fidelity or loyalty to Ireland. Some members of our Dáil have promised to break the law regarding Property Taxes. Would an oath of fidelity and loyalty prevent them from engaging in such an action?

As for the emotion on display? It would be churlish of me to criticize anyone for being more than a little relieved and joyful that their status as a citizen, of this country, has been finalised. Any and all fears of deportation ended. Family security gained and the prospect of a forced return to danger, ended. I am fortunate to never have had such a real and visceral cause for celebration. I struggle to even imagine the relief many of the new citizens must feel. I may denigrate this nation for its many faults, but while I do so, I remain fully cognisant of the fact that there are whole swathes of this planet that I would consider uninhabitable. Places many of the new citizens once endured. It is the fostering of an emotional attachment to a nation that causes me to find fault. A fierce intellectual and yes, emotional adherence to the principals of democracy, justice and a system of laws is, I think, the higher calling. The more noble joy. This island is not a relatively good place to live because we are Irish, it is because it is a nation where we have no need to fear a knock on our door, in the dead of night, from the agents of the State. We are Nation where the agents of the State have cause to fear cameras. A Nation where the agents of the State must rely on our cooperation. A Nation where the agents of the State can be offered contempt if they earn such. A Nation where the agents of the State are temporary. These facets of democracy are to be celebrated, not a quasi religious tribalism.

That joy should also be tempered by the fact that naturalisation does not confer on the new citizens, the same level of citizenship as those of us who did nothing to earn it. The only way I can lose my citizenship is by formally renouncing it. A new citizen however…

The Minister for Justice and Equality can revoke your certificate of naturalisation if:

  • You obtained it through fraud, misrepresentation or concealment of material facts or circumstances
  • You have, through an overt act, failed in your duty of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State
  • You were ordinarily resident outside Ireland (other than in public service) for a continuous period of 7 years and, without a reasonable excuse, did not register your name and a declaration of your intention to retain Irish citizenship with an Irish diplomatic mission or consular office or with the Minister for Justice and Equality on an annual basis
  • You are also, under the law of a country at war with the State, a citizen of that country
  • You have, by any other voluntary act other than marriage or registration of civil partnership, acquired citizenship of another country.

Some of these provisions are reasonable, yet singularly and collectively, they place, on the new citizens, a burden and curtailment, that no Irish born citizen has to endure. Murder, organised crime, doctrinaire disloyalty and civil disobedience are not enough to cause an Irish born citizen to lose or even have questioned, their citizenship.

Until we have a situation where a person who has applied for citizenship of this jurisdiction, is informed by a terse letter, that they are now free to display the same level of contempt for and enjoy the same level of protection from, this State, as anyone born to their citizenship is entitled to, then I will remain of the opinion that we are continuing to deny the new citizens the full experience and legality of Irish Citizenship.

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Milky Tea (Part Two)

Malachi and his mother sat staring at each other across their kitchen table. A mug of milky tea, remained untouched in front of the mother. Both appeared very troubled. Malachi sighed and shifted, causing his mother to look at him hopefully, but the hope disappeared as he just settled into a new position and the staring continued. Malachi sighed again and scratched his three day stubble.

“Well mother, I’m a feared you were right all a long”

“Ah sure, being right isn’t always a comfort Malachi my boy. We’re damned goosed and so we are. It’ll be the Poor House for us.”

Malachi nodded at his mother mournfully. He felt both anger and guilt. Anger that he had been so easily played and guilt that his naiveté would cost them both their house and the gruesome prospect of the Poor House. It had started, as these misfortunes usually do, with drink. He had stopped by The Widow McCarthy’s Shebeen, on his way back from town and he had gotten into deep conversation with a drover from out Knocknagoshel way.

The drover had a bullock left over from the Market and if he hadn’t been booked on a boat the America the next day, he’d keep the thing for himself. Fatten it up for six months and there would be clear profit at the Market or enough cured meat to do a family a whole winter. Malachi was well away by the time he was introduced to the beast in question and handed over every penny he had belonging to him and his mother. So proud was he of his purchase that he named the animal, Luke, after his sainted father. He led Luke home, his voice joining the singing in his heart. His mother would be proud of him this day.

That had been four nights ago. His mother, a patient and ever loving mother, had allowed him one day to recover from his Poitín, before gently taking him by the hand and leading him to the gable of the house, where Luke stood tethered and shivering. No words were necessary. Malachi could see the poor animal was worth less than the string that tied him to the wall.

Malachi spent the next two days trying to track the Drover down, but no sign of him could he find. Malachi uttered a curse against all Kerry men and looked at his mother apologetically.

“That’s grand, sometimes a curse is better out than in.”

He nodded at her and stood to make her a fresh mug of tea. As he lent over the kettle he was distracted by a noise from outside. His mother looked out a window and turned a pale face to him.

“Tis only herself from the Big House.”

Malachi dropped the mug in shock.

“But isn’t she out foreign?”

“Well she’s standing out there now Malachi, so out foreign she ain’t”

Malachi nodded and took a few deep breaths. His mother patted her hair and reached for her good shawl. They stood at the door and looked at each and nodded. Malachi opened the door and they both stepped out. There was no one there. They looked left and right and then at each other in confusion. Malachi raised an enquiring eyebrow.

“Whist now boy, I saw what I saw.”

They heard a hum from the gable of the house, where Luke was still shivering his life away. They walked to it and discovered Lady Lannigan running her hands over the animal, though being careful to not actually touch it. There was a look of intense concentration on her face. They watched the young, well dressed woman in silence. Her face was unfashionably tanned and her bustle scandalously small, but then she did own several thousand acres of land, so who would call her to task.

After several moments she stopped and slumped exhausted against the animal, unconcerned by her clothes getting soiled.

“Come away now Lady Lannigan, your beautiful dress will be ruined.”

Lady Lannigan smiled at her concern and pushed herself off of Luke, who lowed at her enthusiastically. His ears perking up with renewed energy. She cooed at him gently and patted him on the rump.

“I do apologise for the liberty of attending to your poor animal, my good people but I am powerless in the face of suffering.”

Malachi and his mother dragged their eyes away from Luke and nodded at her, before walking her into the house. Malachi returned to making the tea while his mother sat next to Lady Lannigan.

“We had thought you out foreign My Lady.”

“Oh I was. Two years traveling the marvels of The Orient. I would have stayed longer but the natives picked a war with our gallant army. When they have been quelled I shall return with all haste.”

Malachi set out the mugs.

“Sorry M’Lady we’ve nothing grand here for the tea.”

“Oh my good man, when I was in The Orient a mug such as this, with good honest tea, would have been a luxury.”

Malachi poured the tea and fetched the milk. He sat down and waited awkwardly for one of the women to speak. His mother eventually broke the lengthening silence.

“Tell me Lady Lannigan, what were you doing with poor Luke just now.”

Lady Lannigan gave the mother a conspiratorial and even triumphant look.

“I learned some of the secrets of The Orient and I could not resist applying my new gift to that sorry looking cow.”


Lady Lannigan glanced at Malachi.


“Luke is a bullock M’Lady on account of him being castrated. A cow is a whole different order of animal.”

“Whist now Malachi, there’s such a thing as knowing enough and knowing too much.”

“Sorry mother, sorry M’Lady.”

“That’s quite alright I’m sure. I grew up round horses, so one cannot be too delicate about such things.”

She sipped her black tea in silence, Malachi cowering under the reproachful stare of his mother. When she relented her silent admonishment she looked at Lady Lannigan and asked again.

“You were at what exactly Lady Lannigan? With Luke that is.”

Lady Lannigan smiled mysteriously and set her mug down and took the jug of milk, and Malachi’s untouched black tea and placed them side by side on the table. She looked at Malachi.

“Your mother is partial to milky tea, is she not?”

He nodded, but on being tutted at by his mother, he spoke quickly.

“Yes she is M’Lady. Loves her milky tea she does.”

“Well imagine Luke as a mug of milky tea.”

Lady Lannigan poured a few drops of milk into the mug.

“Would this mug of tea meet your mother’s satisfaction?”

“Indeed and it wouldn’t M’Lady”

“That is how Luke is at the moment. Unsatisfactory. There’s not enough tea in the mix. But a skilled person, a person with true sight, can pour more milk through him and make him better.”

She poured more milk into the tea.

“This is closer to how your mother likes her tea, is it not? But still not perfect?”

Malachi nodded, but wasn’t tutted at this time.

“I will return tomorrow and I will direct more of the milk of the universe through Luke. I may have to return several times. He is a sickly cow.”


“Yes, a sickly bullock, but I have the power to see him cured.”

The mother stood up and gave an apologetic nod to Lady Lannigan.

“Excuse me My Lady, I have to attend to the Out House.”

Lady Lannigan smiled at her absently, before returning to the mug of tea. She poured more milk into it.

“Just like this.”

She smiled at Malachi as she lifted up the mug of milky tea. The mother quietly returned and retook her place at the table. Lady Lannigan was about to hand the mug to Malachi, when her face froze. Malachi quickly reached for the mug. She collapsed, face first into the table. The handle of the bread knife, jutting out of the base of her skull. Malachi handed the mug to his mother.

“She got your tea right anyway. Though it took her so long it’s probably cold.”

“Well the likes of us don’t rush Lords and Ladies. It ain’t done.”

“Did you see her necklace?”

“Worth a pretty penny I’d say, though you’ll have to travel a bit to sell it safely.”

“At least we won’t have to suffer eating Luke now.”

“Bad news there Malachi. I’m after finding him dead, just now.”

“Faith and he’ll take some burying.”

“Ah sure, call it a lesson to you. There’s one thing worrying be though Malachi.”

“What’s that mother?”

“With all her traveling in foreign parts, I hope it don’t leave a taste.”


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Milky Tea

Malachi straightened with a groan and reached behind him to knead his strained muscles. With the sun beginning to set and with his hands behind him, he stood looking at his field of freshly sown potatoes. He sighed in relief. He knew now, that he and his mother would stave off The Poor House for yet another year. With his back still aching, he began the trudge home. Beating the darkness by mere moments, he opened the front door of his cottage. No candles were lit and the fire had died. He stifled his immediate reaction and called to his mother. She didn’t answer and he began to feel fear.

He ran to her room, brushing aside the blanket that served as a her door and found her shivering in her bed. He knelt at her side and took her hand.

“Mother? Mother?”

She turned a deathly pale face to him and tried to comfort him with a smile.

“Ah sure, tis but an Autumn chill Malachi. I’ll be right as rain tomorrow. You see that I won’t”

Malachi smiled at his mother’s words and the effort she was taking to reassure him.

“Are you warm enough?”

“Well I’d be lying if I said I was.”

He nodded.

“I’ll be right back.”

He returned to the kitchen and began to rescue the fire. He shuttered the windows and when the fire caught, he put the kettle on. He found the leaves and began preparing the mug of tea that was precious to his mother. He was disturbed by a shout from the bedroom. He rushed in to see his mother vomiting onto the hard-packed soil floor. She looked up at him apologetically. He gently took her shoulders and settled her back onto the bed. He found a bucket and began to scrape the vomit into it. He threw it and the bucket out the front door and sprinkled several handfuls of turf-dust onto the floor.

“Thank you son.”

“Tis a doctor you need Mother. We’ve some money put by and with the spuds set, we’re good for the rest.”

He looked at his mother, worry crowding the deep tan of his forehead.

“So no arguing. I’ll have the doctor here in three hours.

She turned her face to him, her body wracked with shivers.

“That’s all we have in the world Malachi. You’d throw it away on a bit of a chill?”

“Mother! You’ve never been sick a day in your life. You need a doctor.”

She beckoned him close and put her hand on his face.

“You’re a good man to be so worried about your old mother, so I won’t argue with you. All I ask is that you wait till morning.”

He looked at her. Worry and confusion overwhelming him. Then his shoulders dropped and he relented.

“Till morning then.”

“That’s a good boy. Now go make me a mug of milky tea, just the way I like it.”

He grinned at her and returned to the kitchen. The kettle was steaming as he poured the boiling water into a mug. He allowed it to steep for a count of two hundred, as he had done several times a day, every day, for near forty years now. Then he poured a generous measure of milk into the brew and returned to the bedroom. She was fast asleep. Her breathing regular, but loud and raspy. He stood and watched her for several minutes, the tea growing cold in his hand.

He put the mug down and got into the bed with is mother and held her close. As he fell asleep he noticed her shivers lessening. He woke next morning with a groan. His back reminding him of the field sown. As his eyes adjusted to the near total darkness he remembered his mother. He leaned over to find her sleeping peacefully. He sighed in relief and quietly got out of bed.

He made his breakfast and sat silently eating it. When the sun eventually filled the house with light he heard his mother call him. She was doubled up on her bed, clutching her belly in agony. She struggled to speak.

“Go. Go get the doctor.”

He left without pause. He would need to run the twenty minutes to Hegarty’s farm, where he would borrow their horse and then ride for an hour to the town, where the doctor held his practice. He hadn’t gone half a mile before he was forced to bend over a wall to empty his stomach. He tried to run on, but his legs were as jelly and though his belly was now empty, it still forced him to stop every few steps to bend and retch. Tears of anger and frustration began to fall from his eyes. He was reduced to crawling before he had to admit defeat. He felt a growing despair that his mother would die alone, with him curled up on this road. He punched the ground in grief and turned back. He began the slow agony of returning to his mother. If he could not save her, he would at least hold her hand at the end.

It was the longest hour of his life, but he did reach the house, His knees and hands were bloodied, but he got there. At the front door he struggled to his feet and was about to enter when he heard a noise behind him. He jerked round to see a young man, atop a horse, staring at him.

“Sorry to disturb you Sir, but you seem to be in some distress?”

Malachi nodded. He took his hand off the door to face the rider but without the support, he fell heavily to his knees. When he came to, he was laying on the floor of his kitchen. The fire was blazing and he was covered with a blanket. He looked around him warily, trying to make sense of the situation.

“Ah Malachi, you’re awake.”

Malachi looked up at a young man who was smiling down at him. The man had taken off his jacket and had rolled up his shirt sleeves.

“Who are you?”

The man reached down a hand to Malachi.

“I’m Doctor Bartholomew Smythe. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Malachi shook the man’s soft hand silently. He then tried to stand. The Doctor helped him to his feet and led him to this mother’s bedroom. She was asleep and deathly pale.

“Is she going to live Doctor?”

“I certainly hope so Malachi, I’d hate my first ever patient to die on me.”

Malachi could hear the attempt at humour but chose not hit the doctor for it. If this man was saving his mother then he’d endure his stupid words.

“Did you give her medicine?”

“I administered medicine to you both Malachi and I am confident you’ll both pull through.”

They returned to the kitchen and sat at the table. Malachi struggled to make conversation, never having had to entertain a guest like Doctor Smythe before. The good Doctor sensing Malachi’s discomfort took pity on him and asked him several inconsequential questions about the weather, his farm, local politics and his mother. This could only serve for so long and the uncomfortable silences grew longer. As evening approached however their awkward society was interrupted by Malachi’s mother walking into the kitchen, looking hale and hearty.

“Jaysus mother, tis as if you were never sick.”

She laughed and took a seat next to the Doctor.

“Make the tea Malachi and we’ll start the settling up, with the good Doctor.”

Malachi nodded and put the kettle on for boiling. He got three mugs and the leaves and put them on the table. His mother turned to the Doctor.

“Well Sir, you have our gratitude and you’ll have some money out of us too. What you asking for?”

The Doctor looked uncomfortable at the direct questioning and answered hesitatingly.

“Well, you see Ma’am, I am a Doctor newly raised and I am a practitioner of a new kind of medicine, so I am a little unsure of the charge.”

Malachi poured the boiling water into the three mugs and went to fetch the milk.

“A new doctor and a new medicine you say? That strikes me as expensive. Tell us abut this new medicine.”

The Doctor’s face lit up and he sat straighter on his chair, enthusiasm lighting his face.

“Well, Ma’am, I’m glad you asked, as it’s part of my job to spread the word to all and sundry about this most splendid invention. The efficacy of which, both you and your son can now bare witness to.”

Malachi sat down at the table, holding the jug of milk. The Doctor took the milk from his hand.

“If you will allow, I will demonstrate the principal that underpins this wondrous breakthrough in medicine, using this milk.”

Malachi and his mother watched the Doctor warily. Curiosity warring with their fear for the precious milk in this sop’s hands.

“I assume that the Lady of the house, is partial to milky tea?”

Malachi nodded.

The Doctor, with a broad grin, dipped a spoon into the jug of milk and then held the spoon over one of the mugs of tea. A tiny drop of milk fell from the spoon and he then used another spoon to stir the tea vigorously.

“The key is dilution. The less of an active ingredient the better.”

Malachi and his mother watched the Doctor blankly, as he took another spoon and dipped it into the stirred tea and added a drop of that tea to another mug. He again stirred that mug and repeated the process to the third mug. As he was stirring the third mug he looked at Malachi in triumph.

“Now, I would ask you to imagine another one hundred mugs and then ten times that many again. One drop progressing the whole way through entire.”

He stopped stirring and lifting the mug, he showed it to Malachi.

“Then at the final mug we have the milkiest tea possible as that mug of tea would have to remember the milk all the harder.”

Malachi quickly reached for the mug and took it from the Doctor’s unresisting fingers. The mug safe, the Doctor collapsed forward, his forehead slamming onto the table. Only then did Malachi see the handle of his mother’s favourite carving knife protruding from base of the Doctor’s skull.

Malachi put the mug on the table and poured a generous measure of milk into it. He then handed it to his mother. She took a sip and smacked her lips in satisfaction.

“Tell me Malachi, did you empty your bowels today?”

“Yes Mother and messy it was too.”

“I think we’ll be having words with Hegarty about that side of bacon he sold us.”

“Well I did say it smelled a bit.”

“True, but you’re a known picky eater.”

Malachi nodded in agreement as he sipped his black tea. He looked again at the Doctor.

“Do you think he believed what he was shite’n on about?”

“I don’t know, but at least we know this meat is fresh.”

“True enough, true enough. I’ll get the bucket.”

“Good boy Malachi, but make sure you give it a good wash first. We don’t want it remembering vomit.”


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Eamon Delaney

Eamon Delaney’s article can be read here


When I read Eamon Delaney’s article, my first reaction was to dismiss it as mere professional contrarianism. It may not be an honourable living, but beggars can’t be choosers in this economy. I was content to file it under risible cant and leave it at that. Unfortunately I read it again and then a third time. It was then that the truly pernicious nature of his article struck me. I invite you to read the article and substitute Black or Jew or Traveler for the word gay. I think you would agree, that if Mister Delaney was to have written this article, about any other minority, he would now be facing serious legal and professional difficulties.

It is an article that does not merit attention but I do think it demands close reading, because there is the horrible possibility that Eamon Delaney is an honest man who truly believes what he is saying. Amazing as it may seem to me, but an adult may actually believe these things. That scary notion struck me hard and causes me to have to respond to this vicious little tirade. I know that in writing a reply, I may be accused of drawing undue attention to a mediocrity, but I cannot help thinking that parsing the words and sentiments, that are contained in this article, is a necessary exercise.

Of the litany of truly silly things that Eamon Delaney allowed his brain to think and his fingers to type, I have chosen to focus on seven of the more egregious sentences. I cringe in embarrassment every time I read them and I feel sympathy for Mr Delaney, as I have come to fear that he may believe what he emoted. Perhaps however, he should leave the whole conservative demagoguery thing to his betters. For all of John Waters and David Quinn’s faults, they cannot be accused of being unlettered dilettantes, writing above their ability. At best, this piece appears to be an amalgam of lines that did not survive the journey from a first draft to a second draft, in a David Quinn article.

“Increasingly, it seems as if the homosexual community has forgotten that it is the minority.”

Brevity they say, is the soul of wit. The Bard said that, so it must be true. So why use fifteen words to paraphrase the most succinct, ‘uppity niggers?’ Just say, ‘uppity fags.‘ Possibly Mister Delaney is paid by the word and as someone who has padded out an essay or two, I understand the temptation to over word a simple point, just to achieve a word count. Unfortunately, we live in an age of limited attention, so I fear he risks his message being lost amidst the plethora of stimuli and bile that will be competing for the brian-space of his target audience. So I would suggest that Mister Delaney be brave, avoid unnecessary verbiage and above all else. be pithy. “Uppity fags‘ are being uppity.

“the growing appetite for more and more rights and privileges.”

The real strength of this line is that it reinforces the central message of the piece, while appearing to be wholly reasonable. Who would not be exasperated by ‘uppity fags’ wanting to be just like us normal folk? I think Mister Delaney’s target audience would embrace this phrase. Also equating rights to privileges allows the ignorant, to believe that the gays want more than what the good normal people have. That this is a crass canard is immaterial, the point is to get that impression out there. When a reader of the article, chooses to kick the head in, of an ‘uppity fag‘ it would not do to o’er burden them with facts. If simple verifiable facts were brought into play, I fear Mister Delaney would run the risk of appearing to be just a hateful little man.

“want to increasingly change mainstream culture to suit them.”

I think this may be my favourite phrase of them all. It’s actually perfect. Mister Delaney has managed to turn a truth i.e. a persecuted minority want their persecutors to change so that the minority are no longer persecuted, into something wrong and threatening. He could have said that homosexuals should change so that they can enjoy the rights, that the rest of us take for granted, but the PC Brigade would have lost their minds over something like that. No, what he appears to have done is condemn the gays for fighting their corner and give the reader the impression, that the very act of standing up for itself, marks the gay community as intent on turning us all into hot-pants wearing ‘fags.’ I’m sure there isn’t a battered wife in this country who hasn’t been blamed, by their husband, for the beating he is giving her.

“Many gays want to have it both ways.”

This short sentence is remarkably efficient. It is everything the first quote is not. It is a mere eight words that manage to create an image, in the mind of the reader, of that thing they hate and fear most, gay sex (but only as practiced by men, the other kind of gay sex isn’t really real and exists merely for masturbatory purposes) while simultaneously allowing the reader to conveniently forget that heterosexual hedonism is nighty splattered all over our streets. It makes the reader feel virtuous while simultaneously paints a picture of sex crazed fairies. The pièce de résistance however is the introduction of the idea of bisexuality. And everyone knows that the bis are the agnostics of sexuality, hated by all sides. I wonder if Mister Delaney was mindful when he wrote this. It would be a shame if such a gem had just accidentally spewed from the large intestine of his imagination.

“it makes many of us uneasy and impatient with the idea that raising a child is totally equivalent to a child being raised by its natural parents.”

One can’t go far wrong by issuing a call to reason. By sharing and thus validating an unease that exists, about children being raised by the gays, this offers succor to all those who feel all icky about the gays anyway, but lacked the wherewithal to express that unease in an acceptable way. Of course, that this unease is a result of smallness and should cause one to reflect on one’s own prejudices, is not important. Instead, make what sounds like a reasonable appeal, ‘won’t someone please think of the children‘ and leave it at that. A lettered conservative would have quoted statistics here. They are not hard to find, they use the same ones ad nauseam, about children doing best in two-parent families. Perhaps though, Mister Delaney knew that not one single piece of scientific data exists, that shows children do less well with gay parents. I’m going to credit him with that knowledge and for correctly steering clear of the science and sticking with base emotion. It is enough that one doesn’t agree with something for it to be wrong. It’s an unanswerable argument really.

“Oh, please. What about breastfeeding.”

Again with the lesbians are not real. Wonderful. Gay men are bad, gay women are for wanking to. This is pitch perfect playing to the gallery. Reducing fatherhood to mere sperm donation, does not take away from the assertion that only breastfeeders are good and worthy parents. It’s an argument that may turn some women off, but I think it can be safely assumed that men, single men, childless men, men who weren’t breastfed, men who are unlikely to have ever witnessed a child being breastfed, will wholeheartedly agree with the idea that only breastfeeding mothers are acceptable caregivers for the children these men will probably never have and certainly will never see. Despite whatever misgivings I may have about Mister Delaney, he does deserve special applause for being the first (I think) to use breastfeeding as a stick to beat the gays with. Much more imaginative than the usual ‘god hates fags.‘

“There is also the danger that this insatiable demand for more and more recognition and identity (gay quotas?), will eventually alienate mainstream opinion and undo some of the valuable gains made in this country by, for example, David Norris and others, in eliminating prejudice and discrimination.”

I did a speed-reading course once and the only thing I remember from that class is that when reading a newspaper article, only go for the first and last paragraphs. In them are to be found the most salient points of the article. The rest is mere explanation. I think Mister Delaney has demonstrated that most graphically in this article. The opening gambit was a warning to ‘uppity fags‘ to mind themselves or else, and the ending carries the very same warning. Mister Delaney also introduces a key word, ‘insatiable.‘ A word that will elicit, from the reader, the idea of fags being impossible to ever satisfy. This is followed by the pretense of ever more reasonableness, a mention for celebrity fag, David Norris. This thesis of reason, is then hammered home by stating that ‘prejudice and discrimination have been eliminated.‘ One could not be anymore reasonable. That the contention is demonstrably false, does not prevent Mister Delaney hammering home his point and cloaking the reader in the warm embrace of pious self-righteousness. The fags aren’t locked up anymore, what the hell are they still going on about?


I envy the level of freedom enjoyed by Americans to say whatever they wish to say. I only wish that same freedom was enshrined in our Constitution. Then I read Eamon Delaney’s article and I am moved to think that we may have much more freedom than I had previously assumed. The article, though vile, has not however, diminished my belief in free speech. What the article has done, is highlight, most clearly, that the corollary of free speech is an attendant responsibility on those who hear or read the kind of asinine calumny that Eamon Delaney vomited into our consciousnesses, to respond. Some may say that to respond gives undeserved fuel to the ghastly and harmful sentiments expressed by Eamon Delaney and his ilk, but the alternatives are to have our freedom of speech circumscribed by an elite or to allow the harm caused by Eamon Delaney go undone.

I for one, prefer to attempt, in my little way, to amend the damage that Eamon Delaney’s article will undoubtedly cause and in doing so, hopefully be a part of a process that sidelines the kind of willful stupidity that his kind peddles as informed opinion. And that damage cannot be underestimated or understated. As liberal as I am, I still would not like to have a child of mine, realise that he or she is gay. The world we live in, even our Western World, is not yet very forgiving of difference. It is undoubtedly better than it was twenty years and even ten years ago, but when one reads articles, in broadsheet newspapers, that call for continued discrimination against gay people, then we have to admit that our enlightened age, remains quite dark in places. The most galling aspect of Eamon Delaney’s vituperous rant is that he is not just attacking gay rights, he is attacking the rights of gay people to achieve the rights he takes for granted. Such an attack must be answered.

It must be answered, because no minority has ever been granted equality without that minority first demanding it. Without that constant struggle for equality, without that incessant clamour for rights, no minority would have ever risen above the status of subject people. No minority should ever have to make itself so virtuous that every individual of that minority is saintly in their behaviour. No minority should have to change for fear of offending the prejudices of the majority. And no minority should ever have to be grateful for the fact, that they are no longer considered criminal.

So I urge everyone to read Eamon Delaney’s article and to get their friends and families to read the article and then to discuss it. Discuss it at length and then point out the fallacies, the ill-informed opinion, the prejudice, the failed logic, the lack of science, the unreason and then get angry. Get angry because every child that is gay, is at risk from people like Eamon Delaney. Every gay child is at risk from the kind of bullying that Eamon Delaney’s vicious words inspires. Every gay child faces a life of second class citizenship, because people like Eamon Delaney can’t understand why gay people should even be complaining about being second class citizens. Every gay child is at risk because the poison words of Eamon Delaney are as nectar to hateful people who want nothing more, than to have their inadequacies and prejudices confirmed by a man writing in a big newspaper.

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Vote No to Amendments 29 and 30

As appeared in Letters – Kerryman – 26 October, 2011 edition

I hate to admit this, but I was so distracted by the silliness and melodrama of the Presidential Campaign, that I plain forgot that not one, but two referendums, are being held on the same day as the Presidential Election. Presidents come and go, but our Constitution is timeless. It is a little blue book, which defines our Nation and sets out how we govern ourselves. Anything that is done to alter this document, has to be treated with great care and attention.

I had intended voting yes to both amendments. Cutting the pay of Judges and allowing the Dáil to investigate matters of public concern, are undoubtedly good and necessary things. Unfortunately the wording, in both amendments, does much more than that. If you have received your polling card, I urge you to read the amendments. Read them several times and then ask yourself this question, how much power do you trust your politicians to have?

Read the words again. Read them and remember that every single democracy has one thing in common, judges judge and politicians seek re-election. We all want to see judges paid less and Bertie Ahern probed good and hard, but read the words. Politicians, the class of people who with their rich friends herded this country over a cliff, want us to now trust them to decide what judges should be paid and what individuals should be hauled over the coals.

Read the words and then send a message to our politicians. Yes, we want judges paid less and we want the reasons for this recession properly examined, but we do not want politicians to take advantage of the situation to grab ever more power. Read the words and demand that the politicians come back to us with a better way, a fairer way and a safer way to do what we all agree is necessary.

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Amendment 30

If revenge is a dish best served cold, justice should be clear blue ice and if ever a country has demanded justice in vain and is now prepared to settle for vengeance, it is Ireland. We are victims of the greatest confidence trick of all time. We were told we were rich and we were told that all that was required of us, to enjoy those riches, was to borrow, borrow, borrow. Now we know we were tricked, but we are not offered succor, not offered recompense. Instead we are expected to pay, in full, the cost of other people’s deceit.

What is now being offered to us, is the opportunity to enjoy some semblance of revenge, on those who foisted this financial disaster onto us. We have been asked, by our politicians, to remove any and all of the constitutional restraints, that would check their pursuit of those, who we all blame for this devastating recession. It is a tempting proposition. Who wouldn’t feel glee, watching Bertie Ahern’s home being raided? Who wouldn’t feel joy at Bertie Ahern losing the protection of the tax-payer funded barristers that shield him from our rage? Who wouldn’t feel righteous, when witnessing him being torn to shreds by eager politicians?

Every fibre of my being is screaming at me, to vote for any measures that will see Bertie Ahern face our wrath. All that I must do, is forego the protections afforded me, by The Constitution. All that I need do, is vote yes to the Thirtieth Amendment to our Constitution and our politicians will have the kind of untrammeled powers necessary to pursue all those who it deems expedient to destroy. All I need do, is give to the class of people that led my country into financial oblivion, even more power.

Though they may taste similar, this is a recipe for vengeance, it is not the clear blue ice of justice. If in our haste to savour the cold satisfaction of revenge, we empower our politicians to deny justice, then we will be trusting our politicians to never vent their spleen on us. We will be trusting our politicians to always act wisely, charitably and honestly in their enjoyment of these vastly increased powers.

I for one have learned the hard lessons taught by Bertie Ahern, I will not be trusting politicians again.

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Amendments 29 and 30

I have written in that past, about my becoming increasingly uninterested in the upcoming Presidential Election. My ire however, was so raised by the entry of Martin McGuinness into the contest, that I moved, to again engage. Fortunately, it would seem that Mister McGuinness’s efforts to subvert history will come to naught and while I will occasionally retweet links to articles that highlight his criminal past, I am no longer concerned with who our next President will be. I am though, concerned with trying to decide who I will vote for. I am so underwhelmed by the remaining candidates that it is proving more than a little difficult to arrive at an order of preference.

There is an argument to be made, that in this instance, the logical thing to do is simply not vote. I really wish I could embrace that view. My problem is that I love voting. Every time I step into a polling booth I experience a thrill of nascent power, of relevancy and of privilege. The problem with being an untutored reader of history is that I see the stories, not the themes. I see the grand sweep of time and I see the tiny blip of history where people get to decide their own leaders. That I live in that infinitesimal oasis, fills me with joy and causes that spark of excitement in the pit of my stomach, when I am afforded the opportunity to have my say. Thus I must vote. Thus I must attach an order of least bad, to these people seeking to be my President.

I am then, embarrassed to admit that I had singularly failed to take note of the two Constitutional Amendments which are being subjected to referenda (or referendums) on the same day as the Presidential Election. I was rescued from my insensibility by the many worthies of the twitterverse, who have recently begun a campaign of awareness raising. To them I say thanks. I fear I may have continued to self-indulgently obsess about who I should vote for, right up to casting my votes, in these referenda, in blithe ignorance.

It is particularly galling to me, to have required someone else to remind me about the referenda. Constitutional amendments are several orders of importance, above mere elections. As for a Presidential Election? No comparison. A Constitution is that document that legally defines what we are, how we govern ourselves and it is that precious thing which protects us from witless populism and self-serving politicians. It is so important that we do not allow politicians to even interpret it, never mind amend it. That is not to say, our Constitution is perfect. This atheist would like to see all references to divine beings deleted. The very fact that we are voting on the twenty-ninth and thirtieth amendments also indicate that our Constitution has required certain improvements (or, according to how one has voted, it has been damaged) over the years.

The process of changing our Constitution is relatively simple. The politicians propose a change, we vote yes or no to that change and if yes, the judiciary interpret that change. I’m one of those who think the voting part to be the most important element in that process. So here is my attempt to decide how I should vote in the impending referenda.

Amendment 29 – the proposed change to Article 35, Section 5.

Existing text:

The remuneration of a judge shall not be reduced during his continuance in office.

Proposed text:

5.1 The remuneration of judges shall not be reduced during their continuance in office save in accordance with this section.

5.2 The remuneration of judges is subject to the imposition of taxes, levies or other charges that are imposed by law on persons generally or persons belonging to a particular class.

5.3 Where, before or after the enactment of this section, reductions have been or are made by law to the remuneration of persons belonging to classes of persons whose remuneration is paid out of public money and such law states that those reductions are in the public interest, provision may also be made by law to make proportionate reductions to the remuneration of judges.

Without even looking at the text, I was going to vote yes to this. We are in a recession, so everyone should suffer a little, especially those who are paid so well from the public purse. Section three did appear to exercise some commentators so I have reread it and reread it, ad nauseum. I can only conclude that one would have to be somewhat cynical to find a problem here. Judges will be linked to a civil service grade and will enjoy or endure the salary vicissitudes of that grade.

Annoyingly however, I am a cynic. There needs to be mechanism for imposing the harshness of our economic woes on our judiciary, but I am uncomfortable, in the extreme, with the prospect of politicians doing that imposing. Any prospect of politicians having recourse to bringing pressure to bear on judges, fills me with extreme disquiet. I will not pretend to have a better or safer way to reduce the salaries of our judges, but I must believe that a better way can be found. I think that at least one layer of independent adjudication (on remuneration) must exist, as a buffer between the politicians and the judges. Yes, I know, I appear to be advocating for the creation of yet another quango. I make no apologies for that. This amendment clearly makes it too easy for politicians to alter the pay of judges.

The independence of the judiciary, is a cornerstone of liberal democracy and while it is unlikely, in the foreseeable future, that politicians would attempt to undermine this, the principal should still be maintained, jealously guarded and zealously enforced, in case of the unforeseen. So I will be voting no.
Amendment 30 – the proposed change to Article 15, Section 10.

Existing text:

(1) Each House shall make its own rules and standing orders, with power to attach penalties for their infringement, and shall have power to ensure freedom of debate, to protect its official documents and the private papers of its members, and to protect itself and its members against any person or persons interfering with, molesting or attempting to corrupt its members in the exercise of their duties.
Proposed inserted text:

2 Each House shall have the power to conduct an inquiry, or an inquiry with the other House, in a manner provided for by law, into any matter stated by the House or Houses concerned to be of general public importance.

3 In the course of any such inquiry the conduct of any person (whether or not a member of either House) may be investigated and the House or Houses concerned may make findings in respect of the conduct of that person concerning the matter to which the inquiry relates.

4 It shall be for the House or Houses concerned to determine, with due regard to the principles of fair procedures, the appropriate balance between the rights of persons and the public interest for the purposes of ensuring an effective inquiry into any matter to which subsection 2 applies.

Again I’d have voted yes to this, without even reading it. Who hasn’t been dismayed by the exorbitantly expensive, too long delayed and ultimately toothless Tribunals of Enquiry that we have had to endure these last few decades? I was taken by the image of Bertie Ahern being hounded by a pack of poll aware politicians. It is an image that fills me with glee. To see that man stripped bare of his delusions and arrogance is a spectacle I would pay good money to enjoy. The innumerable bankers, developers and sundry others who destroyed our country would provide ample appetisers, but it is seeing Bertie destroyed, that I want most.

Yet the price demanded, to indulge our sense of vengeful outrage is shockingly high. The inserted text grants unprecedented powers to our politicians. This amendment will allow a government to pick their target, decide the grounds on which to attack their target and to prosecute that target in almost any way they wish. A government will be able to ride roughshod over the opposition, be inculcated from Judicial intervention and be free to destroy whoever they deem fit to destroy. It’s a McCarthyite Charter, pure and simple.

If I want Bertie subjected to this form of ‘stocks‘ am I in danger of suffering a similar fate? I can’t escape the conclusion that this amendment has the potential to be the most dangerous and the most pernicious assault on our freedom, by our politicians, since the foundation of the State. That our elected representatives should have some powers of investigation is obvious. That our elected representatives should be allowed to decide for themselves what those powers should be, is frankly terrifying. The public annihilation of Bertie Ahern and his coterie of self-serving sycophants, handlers and ‘digger-outers‘ is not worth the risk that power happy or vengeful politicians could sit in judgement of me.

Imagine the idea of being cross examined by a self-righteous politician. No thank you. I will be voting no.

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Him and Her

He pulled the handbrake and turned the key. He smiled at the fifty metre stretch of sand between him and the sea. Perfectly timed, enough hard sand, but not too far for the dog to wet her paws. He reached for his stick and stiffly got out. He opened the back door and her head perked up. She carefully rose and pondered the drop to the tarmac. She whined and looked at him. He smiled and leaning his stick against the car, he rested one hand on the door and helped her to the ground. She sniffed the air, her grey snout raised and wagged her tail. He locked the car and they began their slowly progress to the water’s edge.

They rested at the water’s nearest advance. He leaning on his stick and she sitting at his feet. He checked what wind there was and turned to it. She watched him go before tottering after him, occasionally halting to sniff and rest. He felt sun and breeze on his face and the week trapped by rain fell away. He saw the joggers and schooled his face. Two women, near fifty years younger, jogging towards him. He stared, he thought subtly. His eyes transfixed and mind aflame with their healthy moving and so feminine parts. His neck arthritic, required he turn his body entire, to admire their passing. Their lycrad bottoms the inspiration for his ever rarer morning fumblings.

He looked for her and saw her in the sea, water lapping at her paws. Having spotted a gull she sought to assert the memory of her youth. She trotted as best she could and only when she was near, did the gull deign to look. Then flap to the sky, alighting the merest few lengths away. She tried again and with the same result. The gull not feigning to show her fear. With a rolling gait she beat a retreat. Tongue extended and chest heaving she returned to his feet. He did not comment but with wincing consolation reached down to pet. His mood dimmed, they returned to the car. He did not wait to be asked, but helped her to her chair.

His slippered feet whispered the way from socket to socket, his nightly routine of safety. Third time round he was eased and he made for bed. He sat heavily on the soft deep mattress and taking off his sippers, she licked his face. He pushed her playfully away and patted the bed in invitation. She wagged her tail and crouched to jump, but looked at him uncertainly. He slipped from the bed and knelt to lift her. She went to her side and turned several tight circles, till with a deep sigh she curled up and closed her eyes. He levered himself back up and pulled the duvet back. He got into bed and with his right hand resting on her, he switched off the light and slept.

As was his curse he woke near dawn. He tutted his usual tut and crept in stockinged feet to the bathroom. Bladder empty he looked to sleep again. He got into bed, shut his eyes and rested his hand upon her. She did not move. With his eyes still closed his hand moved over her. No heart beat or raising chest could he detect. He opened his eyes and stared and stared, his hand never leaving her.

When the sun filled the skylight he rose. He found his trowel and went outside and chose a spot. Kneeling he began to dig. Rolling back the grassy turf took the day. He looked at the exposed earth and nodded. He washed up and returned to bed. With his hand resting on her, he slept. With the next dawn, he returned to the plot. Resting on his side he began to dig. Slowly moving the soil, going deeper and deeper. The day passed and by the handful, the hole grew. Hours passed until he had dug to his satisfaction. He looked at his work and with a back in spasm, got to his feet.

He shuffled to the bed, carefully wrapped her in his duvet and lifted her into his arms. His cheek pressed against her head, he carried her to her grave. He stifled a groan of agony as he knelt to lower her into the hole. He stroked her one last time and arranged the duvet over her. With his hands he covered her with the soil and as the sun set, he rolled the grass into place and patted the ground. He sat there awhile, watching the rising moon.

With a ragged breath he staggered to his feet. With shoulders hunched he washed and changed into his Sunday bests. He sat in his chair, his hand reaching to tickle her head. He sat and he waited. He sat. And he waited.

The End

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Tiger Hunt

Simon dodged behind the rubble of a collapsed church and burrowed his way under some loose masonry. He tried to control his breathing as he felt, rather than heard the 70 ton King Tiger pass within yards of his position. He carefully sneaked a peek at the rolling monster and was struck by the epic beauty of its lines. He ducked his head again and readied his Sten submachine gun, in case of discovery by the infantry men escorting the Tiger. He heard them approach, typically there would be a dozen or so of them. He listened to their continuous exchanges, as they methodically checked the ruins. Fortunately they did not come too close to Simon’s hiding place and when they passed from earshot, he exhaled nosily. He crept from his hiding place and crawled to a new vantage point. The Germans were known to leave a straggler behind, to draw out the unwary enemy. He took out his field-glasses and for ten minutes, minutely observed every possible location, among the destroyed buildings, for a sniper. Only then was he satisfied that he could stand and continue on his way to the rendezvous point.



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