Baldy was burning slabs of timber on his fire, the fireplace in the centre of the room. His belly, thought Little Bird, is about five times larger than his head. A man with glasses and bad teeth was talking to Baldy about food, the merits of a good Irish stew. Love, her pit bull terrier, was as usual by her side, at that moment resting on the floor with his head on his front paws, gazing into the flames. Little Bird as they called her, was a favourite around there, if she said nothing much, that was probably why. Baldy gave her a glass of punch and threw Love a club milk which he swallowed in a gulp. The punch was brewed with a concoction of strong liquors but had no outward affect on Little Bird. She drank it without comment in short, rapid sips before heading off on her walk, Love leading her out the door, straining at the leash. The two men looked at each other and smiled and Baldy said: Isn’t she something else though, for fuck’s sake, where would you get it?
On a book stall in the Coal Quay her eyes lit upon an old volume of The Speeches of Robert Emmet, and she bought it, a mad purchase on a cold Winter’s day. He hadn’t stumbled, groaned or limped through life, he’d danced his way to the gallows. That was Little Bird’s perception of the great patriot from what she had picked up along the way.
She walked over to the river and looked at the sun shining on the water. She heard a bell tolling and it sounded much further off than the next parish and she thought, a bionic man wouldn’t catch up with its knell and I’m here on the quay side reading Robert Emmet for she sat on a bench with Love under her feet.
She spotted an old neighbour strutting down Barrack Street, long scarf flung rakishly over his shoulder, wavy shoulder-length hair, like the girl in the shampoo advert, dancing to his stride, taking himself off downtown for no greater pleasure than to have a look around. She adjusted the dark glasses and breathed in, that the tight buckled belt of her ankle-length trench coat would make her go unnoticed. Where are you off to, a fellow in a van that was stuck in traffic shouted? Downtown, said Little Bird’s old neighbour.
Reading Robert Emmet is lethal, she thought, his words stir up my blood like fire. I’ll have to stop reading him this minute because I’ll do nothing else for the day. She had taken to reading the book as she walked. However, Little Bird didn’t expect to remain invisible for long and sure enough there’s a fellow standing in front of her with a hand out to stop her: hello, Little Bird, how things? And the way he leaned his weight on one leg, it looked like he was in for a long conversation she would rather not even think about. It was as if she had some kind of obligation to answer his stupid questions, as though she had a commitment. Commitment, my foot. Anyway that’s how it is, she said to herself, her hand touching the Robert Emmet book, safely stowed out of view in the pocket of her jacket. Such conversations are normal. She thought up a form of Chinese torture, thus. A man is tied to a chair, facing a closed door in a small, bare box room. There’s no other furniture besides the chair he’s tied to. There’s no window and very little ventilation, just a hint of a draught under the door he’s facing. He can’t move. He is strapped into the chair. His neck is in a brace so that he can only look straight ahead, that is directly at the door. Now his torturers inform him through the tannoy that on the other side of the door, something very unpleasant lies in wait. At some time in the not too distant future, a bell will sound and the door will swing inwards and this unpleasant object, whatever it may be, who knows: a savage creature, a ravenous beast, a psychopath with a chainsaw, a swarm of killer insects: all the man in the chair knows is that the door will swing open inwards, it could be at any moment, it might be a month, years and the horrible thing, whatever it is, will surge in upon his defenceless person.
The ageing Lothario who now stood before her had the nerve to ask her to go for a walk with him. What nonsense. What presumption. I hate him and his kind and I have hated him for a long time. It’s part of what’s happening though, she thought. There were certain facts alive here and certain things to be got through before deliverance. Nonsense. Deliverance has happened. No more doldrums, all is just aftershock, can be borne, must be borne, an easing away, a clean cut was not to be expected. Anywhere out of the world will do me, she thought when she had finally wrenched herself and Love away from that lecher. No more doldrums, anywhere out of the world will do, certain meaningless sentences went around and around in her head, my lords, my lord, her brain swimming in light, meaningless phrases, repeated. She needed to find a place to read the speeches in silence, otherwise she had to keep re-reading the same page. She went into the park back of St. Mary’s. The wood in the trees was drying in the sun, the sun that could blind you and melt your brain while the birds sing: the thrush, robins, redbreasts, the lark, the tits in the trees. She listened to the song of the lark, he sounds like a sick lark, of aught of nay can I. She looked into the moody trees with the sun filtering through in chequered patterns. She looked for blood on the beautiful yellow beak of the black bird. Then she took the book from her pocket and began to read and she was reminded of that time she sat on the sands with Tony and he was reading Lorca’s letters and he had tears in his eyes when he turned to her and said: they marched him up that road there and put a bullet in his head. Not that road there as in right there behind us, no it was in the mountains, it was in the hills above Cordoba. So tears came into her eyes too as she read about what they did to Robert Emmet. On 20 September, 1803, Robert Emmet, patriot, was hanged, drawn and quartered in Thomas Street, Dublin. He was the last person to receive this barbaric sentence from a British court. She fell into a brief sleep with the winter sun on her face, forty winks, and she heard the clattering of horse’s hooves, the rattling of metal on metal followed by an indistinguishable cranking sound that woke her and she had strange words in her head and a voice not her own said: Every grain of bi-sulphuric acid that circles in my bloodstream allows me glimpses into truths beyond my comprehension, but this much I am assured of my lords, that we are surrounded now by the cheapest ideas that are worthless if imagination is currency and let me in turn assure your lordships that I have the right to renounce the authority of this court and you shall see, one day my actions will be justified.

Edward Mc Whinney lives in Cork, Ireland, where he is neither all that young nor all that old. He is a regular contributor to Contrary. Read more of this work here...>Edward-Mc-Whinney.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0

© 2008  |  all rights reserved

about us  |  xml feed  |  Contrary ® is a registered trademark of Contrary Magazine  |  donate $1  | contact us













COMMENTARY | POETRY | FICTION | CHICAGO         ARCHIVES | REVIEWS | ABOUT | SUBMISSIONS | ALERTS | BOOKSHOP | SUPPORT | CONTACT |Poectionary.htmlPoectionary.htmlPoectionary.htmlContact.htmlArchives.htmlReviews.htmlContrary.htmlSubmissions.htmlSubscriptions.htmlBookshop.htmlWritersFund.htmlContact.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0shapeimage_4_link_1shapeimage_4_link_2shapeimage_4_link_3shapeimage_4_link_4shapeimage_4_link_5shapeimage_4_link_6shapeimage_4_link_7shapeimage_4_link_8shapeimage_4_link_9shapeimage_4_link_10shapeimage_4_link_11