Devil’s Bridge

The street was humid and perspiring with dew from a morning shower.  The summers heat beat back the coolness that was the rain.  The losing battle of morning gave way to the stale swelter of the afternoon.  The air seemed choked with moisture and made the comfort of loose clothes pointless. It ceased its circulation entirely at about midday causing life to limp like a punctured tire.  The trees stood mute without a whistle for the birds refused to sing and the branches did not sway.  There was not even a reprieve from the sun, for it hid behind matted clouds

He sat there looking out onto the street amidst the haze of summer and the fog of his own mind.  His porch was peeling white and creaking at every stride of the rocking chair.  The lines on his face seemed to map the experiences that chalked up his furrow.  His stillness spoke as loud as any shouting could ever.  With mist in his eyes, the weathered man spit noisily into a brown stained bucket at his feet.  Without movement his dull gray eyes appeared to creep over the derelict housing and down broken streets, then suddenly, taking to the stars and through time itself.  I visually traced the spot where they seemed to be but got lost on the rooftops.  He seemed to have found the emotion he was after and the memory followed.  Breathing deeply, he spit once more.  Moving his face slowly, he drew his lips into a slanted oval and with slurred speech and scraggly chin he spoke.
“They move tro’ the air…and pass locks and the ‘ardest of barred doors.”  “These wee crayturs are that of make believe, aye, but tis as real to me as this here can o’ spit at me feet.”  He continued and cocked his head while focusing a gleaming eye at me.  With one hand upon his knee and hunched back, he leaned forward.  “Do ya hear that?”  “Course not.”  “They’re right here workin’, pushin’ tro’ the trees and up the floor boards.”  “Tripping you and swaying on ta’ strides o’ willow wisps”  “And if ye deny em, they sit on yer shoulder and course bad things come to ye.”  He spit into the tin and wiped his chin.  “Superstition be damned.”  He tapped his nose knowingly then returned to the chair looking suddenly tired.  His eyes seemed to the find that spot again, that was neither here nor there and the spark returned.

“When I was a young man, I carried me pack and traveled many a road all across the old country.”  “So as ye’ can imagine, I would be the one ta know a thing or two about this an’ that boyo.”  “One day I was idling at the bridge north of Killarney.”  “Twas an ‘ardinary one, made of many a gray small stone and it crossed a small straym wit’ all sort of verdure about it.”  He looked reminiscent but continued with intensity.  “I sat there with me naggin of whiskey, castin’ stones below its steps enjoyin’ a late spring breeze and watchin’ the sun set.”  “It was a long and dry day so I was well in me cups come the setting darkness of dusk.”  “The night air settled over the hills and the air grew quite chilly.”  “I sits there wrapped in the warmth of me pladie, when along come a shadow that stretched well over me.”  “Bedad, twas not mine!”

  He moved forward in his seat and his rocking ceased.  “This shadow stretched over me and I felt as the ice in the great north sea.”  “I knew by its shape twas not another man for there were harns protrudin’ from its head and by the silhouette of claws.”  “Its horrible serpent tail flickered like a whip!”  “I dared not to move and I clutched the whiskey dearly.”  “If it were all over fer’ me, at least I’d have one las’ drop o’ tha’ pure.”  “So as I sit there shakin’, I gather enough courage to look behind me and fair nuf’ it comes leapin’ at me just as a flash of dark horrible shade!”  His eyes were wide and his eyebrows were high upon his brow and the tufts of his white hair lay disheveled in dramatic intensity.  “Wit me eyes closed shut, I quickly turned around preparin’ for death.”  “After a second I summons up the last o’ me wit’ and kinda haf’ open em’.”

  “Devil be damned!” He whooped loudly with raised hands.  “I sure nuf’ seen alls’ the life I’ve had and sure nuff’ was gonna sees the end of it!”  “Ara, the shadow did not strike me that instant, instead, decidin’ ta’ lay a pace before me.”  “He was as terrifyin’ as ever and his face appeared ta’ be wholly made up of a  barbs and filth encrusted teeth!”  He shuddered and a genuine fright settled over the old man. With a cliffhanger effect he paused and sucked in all the air that he expelled over the last few moments.

He regained the luster and the fire was in him once more.  “Twas not a shadow at all but a giant daemon crayture!”  “Its figure was covered in mud and obscured by the plaster that gathers at the bottom of the strayms and lakes.”  “Heat was risin’ off im’ and its jeweled eyes glowed like hot coals!” “Me jaw lay suspended in disbelief and surely, I would draw not another breath…”  “…but then suddenly, from behind the beast, white light came from the thick of the forest!”  “The light formed to that shape of a…”  He stuttered a moment scrambling for the word “…a giants cudgel!” As bright as a thousand candles…” His voiced trailed off for a moment then hastily started. “…Nay! Twas as bright as the biggest star on the darkest eve and as blessed as the pope himself!”  “And be it quicker than ye’ can say musha, the monster was sliced in haf’ by an almighty blow.” “Thundering Jesus!” He hollered. “A horrible wail, like tha’ croon of a banshee mixed up with the agony of an ald’ lady burnt by scaldin’ tallow came from its unholy maw!”  “It burned from the light sending dark, dark soot all about the place.”  “I blinked, rubbing my eyes in awe and twas gone!
He rested his hands back on his lap and turned his head and reset his gaze.  His expression had action about it but his speech slowed.  Mystery and wonder welled up on his lips.  “The light lost its form and intensity and as quickly as it struck down the devil, it retreated back inta’ the wood followed closely by the laughter of boisterous children…”

His mouth was half open and held a crooked smile.  His knuckles where white but soon reddened as he removed his grip from the rocking chair.  He took an old rag from his pocket and wiped his forehead. His face relaxed his face as he sat more calmly. “Well boy, I’ll tell you, it still comes around feedin’ on the wayward, ramblin’ lot.”  “When ye see that frothin’, drippin’ shade, ye’ best rely on them legs for without faith of the good people you’ll be doomed to be a feast for hell.”  He sighed wistfully, “Lord bless those tiny crayturs and all their tricks and all their foolery…”  Like a clergyman finishing his sermon he spoke with finality  “…and most of all for the soft spot they hold in their hearts for us ungrateful folk.”ireland

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