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The Fenian Gun, chapter 1
The Fenian Gun, chapter 1
Your votes are in (1 friggin bloody vote LO and the fantasy choice is: The Fenian Gun!
(Typical choice for a Yank lol!)
Now after this, I have no choice but write the rest of it. This is the story; the sex comes next, and I god damn guarantee, it WILL be raunchy. I can't wait to write it. I think I will do it tonight after the wean is in bed.
Johnny was sitting in the back of the inn with the other fellas; I wasn’t really a subject of interest to them at the moment. Just a Yank who wandered in, I’m sure another somewhat meaty pretty face, like the Germans and Italians who adore Ireland and try to yammer at you in bad Gaelic from their language tapes. So I sat unnoticed at a low table in the corner, reviewing the day’s mural shots in my digital camera and having a pint. Black and white visions of marches and gas masks jumped out at me in the shots in stark contrast to the quiet of the freshly tarmacked and clean road outside, and the lone whitewashed gable standing as a memorial in the center of the local roundabout, surrounded by pleasant flowers and passsed by clean and new cars, with the piles of concrete roadblock, landrover patrols and dismal flats nearly forgotten.
Sheila and her man sat down next to me and introduced themselves; both had lived here in the Roadside estates for a couple of years and had moved from Coleraine getting work at the new mall in the Riverside. It was not unusual now in this cosmopolitan new world, but the local rumor mill was still well established, and after our intros, Sheila settled straight into gossiping with her man in muted whispers. I didn’t know anything about who was doing what, and in the local accent which titters faster than a bird, I could only make out the various exclamations of incredulous questioning. And this time, I knew that the incredulous whispers were aimed innocently at the back corner, at the clique of quiet leather-jacketed crows who were minding their own with their drinks, with Sheila giving an occasional nervous giggle at the drunk fat man at the bar, who like the strange invisible man who stands barking in Townhall square, kept barking the odd bit of mad and outdated hate toward England.
I heard a few things, but one murmur stood out in my mind: “Aye he’s out now after eight years poor sod, backing the wrong horse in changing times. He’s yesterday’s man, which is a pity like.” I knew the bit of titter was directed to your man at the back.
Johnny looked like a black eyed hawk. Definitely fortyish, thin-lipped, white as paper, with the deep Celtic dimple in his chin and sallow high cheekbones, sporting a dark curlyish salt and pepper mullet, balding between his widow’s peak. The colors in the backlit stained glass memorial light in the wall behind him lit his face with red and orange on one side, and gray outside light on the other from the window. Behind him on the wall were fading photographs of martyrs. His movements were fluid and slow, and he sat rod-straight, stock-still, and looked more the native with his arrow poised on a deer, than a convict scumbag bursting foaming at the mouth on being released back to the moving world. Perhaps that is the aura of a political prisoner; the martyr and romantic idealist who has the power of a cause behind him; but silenced nowadays and nearly forgotten by his friends and lovers in a world of bitter compromises. The sort of deep, silent, sharp integrity of moral warriors fading to a distant memory. He looked haunted, quietly balancing himself between moving life, and history that faded into the past like the blue smudges of tattoos on his hands. He slowly turned his head and settled his gaze on me, which bored through me like black lasers behind the curling blue smoke of his cigarette. I was only two tables away from them. I could hear what his friends were saying.
“Right you’re giving a butchers to the big anes on the septic, ain’t ye?” the bigger, red-faced baldy nodded his head in my general direction, but looking at his mates. Muted sniggers of laughter wafted from three of the four men, except Johnny. “Aye nice bake on ‘er, they’d be fine if the arse didn’t match ‘em!” answered another. “Eight years in, you’d shag a shepherd’s pie!” a quick guffaw erupted from the skinny sidekick of Mr. baldy. The hackles on the back of my neck jumped to attention in indignant rage. They not only thought I was a typical blockheaded tourist, blond and stupid; apparently my ass was too big for their taste, my nationality was less than desirable, and I was a hole with tits. I shot my head up from my camera and laid them low. “Shut the FUCK up, shitbags. Go home and decorate the house for when your wife comes home from work and stop spending her money on drinks. I know what you said, and FUCK you.” I emptied the last slug of my beer and slammed the glass down on the table. “And by the way, you’re using ENGLISH cockney slang. Just thought you ought to know, mister fucking oh-so-fenian. Oh yeah, and: my ass is just fine.”
Three flabbergasted hardcases and the barmaid froze like deer in the headlights, staring at me, aghast at my American accent giving them a hard nipple-twist of righteous indignance at their mean-spirited banter. The hairsprayed barmaid had a bleach-white towel halfway inside a freshly washed glass, staring at the boys, and back at me; then cleared her throat and went about her business. I saw myself in a moment of cultural chagrin as a loud rodeo clown of a Yank who had just popped off. I shrank back into my booth and gripped my glass, looking very hard at a convenient tour pamphlet from down south which I had just whipped from my coat pocket. A smirk was playing with the side of Johnny’s mouth. He flicked his cigarette in one fluid wave of his hand, seemingly unflustered, while his gaggle of drinking friends lost the color in their faces. With a dry swallow and a swift breath, the large bald man rose quickly and excused himself, having to “get back to the office”. The other two made their friendly, nonchalant excuses to Johnny, shaking his hand in a succession of quick cheerios, and bolted like whipped dogs.
Johnny smoothly raised his glass to his lips, emptied it, set it down with a quiet clink on the wooden table, and crushed out his cigarette. He raised himself from the booth and stepped out. I was looking back at my camera, thinking he would pass me by; which was a more comfortable option than his stare. I wished that he would leave. Something was curling up in my belly and tingling in my throat. He picked up the pack of cigarettes from the table, pocketed them, took the half-drained pint from in front of his friend’s seat, brought it over to my table, and sat down. Sheila and her man had by now shrank to meet acquaintances in another side of the bar, with a quick and nervous glance back.
“Cheers.” he looked at me curiously.
“Hi, I’m Aileesh.”
“You certainly are. I’m John.” I didn’t tell him I already knew his name from Sheila and her man’s whispers. He bent toward me and lowered his voice to an amused aside. “And you’re right, they are shitebags.” His voice was low and even, as matter-of-fact as granite, as soft and as gentle as lambswool, and the accent didn’t match the surroundings; more the border midlands I thought. The harshness of the word, and the local speech with its flavor of at least two fuckens to a sentence, didn’t jive with his voice at all. “Not like my lot, thank Christ.” He sat down on the stool across from me. I looked at him and his smile was still shadowing his lips. “But do you know who you just told off?” he wryly added, taking a sip from his glass and staring at me over the rim, his legs crossed like a gentleman and his free arm and wrist draped over his knee.
“Should I care?” I asked. “Provos don’t scare me.”
“Not provos, just arseholes. Provos wear suits now.” I didn’t miss the sardonic twist in his voice when he said suits. “But those lot are arseholes who think they can scare people.”
“Maybe twenty years ago I would be scared.” I snorted.
“Aye true, that’s probably so.” he gently tittered a touch of wry laughter. “You get the prize for being the kid who tells the Emperor he’s barearsed.”
“Woman.” I answered back, not in the mood for twaddle after being insulted.
“Aye, more than that.” his eyes bore into me now like steel and he quieted his voice even further. “More than that. Women round here are just well meaning dragons, but you strike me as the kind hearted warrior.”
I snapped onto his sweet talk like a bear trap and turned it round on him. “Bullshit.” I said. “If being a kind hearted warrior could get me a man that stayed round longer than five minutes or wasn’t as boring as a goddamn wall, I’d believe you.” Behind the smile and bite of humor, my bitter betrayal and iron-clad heart showed itself in a brief flash of cynicism before hiding in my pint glass. “So pardon me if I make a blarney sandwich of what you just said.” He laughed and his face began to relax, his hard eyes beginning to soften round the edges. Just a year ago I would have been mortified being so candid. Now, I simply accepted my faulty humanity and went on with what I love to do. I had a life to live and no time for games.
Johnny stayed silent for a moment digesting my words, then moved himself round the table to sit on the upholstered bench next to me, still holding his glass, and crossing his legs. “Sorry there.” he murmured to me. “I didn’t mean to bring anything up. I meant what I said, no bullshit.” his voice was more serious. “It takes guts to tell off the players who have been running their little shows against the brits round here for…well, quite a while. Now they don’t have too much to do except gossip like bitter old cunts, but they go round like they can still batter you for looking at them sideways.” He took a sip. “The only people who can get away with telling them off like you did, are children, madmen, and Yanks.” He smiled. “No offense. I wouldn’t call you a septic tank.”
“Gee. Thanks.” I tartly returned. “Interesting figures of speech you use round here.”
He quietly laughed. “Could be worse, you could be Scottish.” Scotsman…jock…”sweaty sock”. I remembered that one; another pleasant British linguistic invention. No wonder Scotland was ready to secede from the UK. I began to melt myself, and cracked a bit of a smile. “Aye there we go, knew you had it in you.” he chuckled.
But it didn’t add up; this was not a man who had just spent eight years in Portlaoise prison, locked up by a contrite and cooperative Republic, staring at a wall all day in the clink and waiting for the occasional Christmas card from misguided American supporters, and family newsletters which told of family members whom he couldn’t watch grow up, teach to play football, and pull Christmas crackers. This was the chuckle of a man who was haunted by the past, true, but at the same time, somehow gently resigned to the role of retired warrior, still strung tight and fit.
And yet not gentle. There was something locked up in him which burst forth from his eyes like a laser. Then I recalled that political prisoners, unlike your average scumbag, do not resort to mouths and rectums for relief; there are no bubbas. A man devoted to his cause and sporting a stubborn nature could conceivably be a monk for eight years. If controlled it would be an asset of character, I suppose. But what if he had the chance to be with a woman for the first time since…?
I decided to mine for his intentions. “So why are you here?” I asked bluntly.
“On my way home to Kerry to be with my mum, came round the long way to visit a few mates. One of them was in with me for a while, so I stopped to say hello. Not really that nice a fella in free life though.”
“In where?” I asked innocently.
“Ah now you’re bullshitting me love. The jabbermouth next to you told you surely.”
“Well I could pick up a few things here and there, but I’d rather get it from the horse’s mouth.”
“Good girl.” He pulled out another cigarette and lit it. “Not something worth mentioning except I had a long time to think about things.”
“I couldn’t possibly imagine.”
“Everything you look at in that world becomes a doorway to other places in your mind. Your mind becomes your best friend, and the faces you love become the most precious things. But it is murder to see them so changed, and see them forget you.” A dark cloud passed over him, painfully recreating the starkness of such a lesson, but with its Zen resignation and silent presence, he sighed and the darkness dissipated again.
“You want to take a wee bit of a walk? It’s stuffy in here and the music is shite.” I didn’t necessarily disagree, the tinny jangle of the Dubliners was a bit too much on the second go round. I gathered my purse and coat and put away my camera. “That is if the National Geographic doesn’t mind.”
I laughed. “I’m off work. They can leave a message.” Photography was just a hobby of mine but it translated into some striking slices of life. I liked doing it when I could.
Next installment: Chapter 2: "Craic agus bualadh craicinn." stay tuned.