A Salted Voyeur

The surf had woken me (or was it the slapping of skin and shrill moans next door?) I stood and faced the window, a young woman was sleeping in the bed. An empty tequilla bottle was on top of the night stand; some coins and crumpled Peso bills littered the counter.

I stood naked for a moment in the darkness at the edge of the bed. My heart beat fast- and faster yet as my ears and senses explored my waking surroundings.
Slapping. Moaning. A sharp cry. Slapping.
The pounding surf and roaring wind filtered in and mingled as an ambient percussion.
I moved slowly towards the broad door in a slow, hesitant way. What I had wanted lay beyond my own habitation and in the adjacent room. I turned to see if the being in the bed had stirred at my rousing or perhaps stirred at the oceans desire-
No, her breath was constant, stifled and she was still.
I turned once more, towards the door and reached for the brass handle, faintly illuminated by the trickling of light from the hall. I quivered and froze as I heard and listened to those noises that echoed through a cavernous stone house on a bluff by the sea.
I twisted the handle and pulled the door open. Slipping into a glowing hallway, the labored breaths and low sounds proceeded by quick gasps lay all but a pace before me. My heart beat a strange cadence and a warmness washed over my insides like some drunken inebriation. I felt blood in my eyelids, in my wrists and in my thighs. My back was against the door that I had exited and shut.
I perceived hands upon the door in front of me clawing and palming the wood from the other side like a cornered, primal thing.
I reached out and imagined the door ahead had been removed. What I seen there was a carnal and erotic thing. In my voyeuristic fantasy where my desire had painted bodies to match the lustful vibrations and calls, I shunned and cursed my own perversion.
I thought I had knocked. I placed my palm where hers might have been; the weight of her body supported and pressed like waves against the shore, but this, an utterly human force. My heart felt a squeeze at the cries and quickening frenzy of what was happening, almost, before me- A happening and circumstance that was none of my business or concern- but!
I thought I had heard my self call out in a low tone with my hand upon that door. I could make out her hot breath upon my neck and the hairs stood on end.
Futile!
My hand would not raise to turn the knob nor push upon that portal. My feet would carry me no further and certainly not into that domain; A voyeuristic perversion that remained as that, impotent.
The surf was breaking now louder upon the shore. I heard thunder and turned away. I thought I had smelled the sea like a perfume on the night and felt her facing me with some darkness. The calls that I had heard and the vision of passion in the chamber ahead slipped from my want. I tidal force swept through the halls of that mansion by the sea and chilled me to the core.
I turned and gave no look behind as I slipped back into my own quarters to a girl I had shared and enjoyed early that evening.
I closed my eyes feeling quite alone and thought myself somewhere isolated and driven out, peaceful, on the crests of a cold, dark sea.

The Damned; the Irish Shock Troops of V-beach, WWI

War had come swiftly. Some 21,000 Irish enlisted and fought in the beginning years of WWI starting in 1914; 47,000 more were to join later in the subsequent, brutal years.

It was a windless Sunday morning, April 25th, 1915, thousands of French and British surged the beaches at Cape Helles and the surrounding points on the Gallipoli peninsula in the region of the Dardanelles. The operation was supported by 18 Battleships, 12 Cruisers and 29 Destroyers. The objective of the campaign was to secure the straight by simultaneously attacking beaches dubbed, ‘S’,’V’,’W’,’X’, and ‘Y’ which would provide allied relief convoys to Russia and choke the Ottoman empire; it was a preemptive strike to stun the Central Powers and knock Turkey out of the fight.

The area however, was a defensive strong point. The peninsula was chalked full of gullies, hills, heights and even still, several ancient castles and sturdy fortresses. At the main landing site, ‘V’ beach was scarcley 10 yards in length. These factors made the offensive combatants look like cattle rushing into an abbatoir from hell.

It was 6:20 and the sun had begun rise, a sunburst of oranges pushed away pale blues. In that dissipating darkness the converted collier vessel namedthe S.S. River Clyde beached with little grace; it floundered in the current and shallow depths. Commander Lieutant Josiah Wedgewood, a firmly built man gripped the post and screamed orders in the confusion of orders. The tide had been stronger than expected and Commander Unwin, whose idea it was to convert the collier into a trojan horse was struggling to maneuver the vessel into position. Auxillary crafts, tugs and lighters required to complete the landing milled about in hostile territory as the bulk of the Clyde made it’s second attempt to get closer to the beach; the water was shallower than expected and the collier was forced to remain where it lay, 80 yards out.

Bullets ricocheted and clipped the vessels as they orchestrated amongst themselves in the water; it had come noticed despite the partial attempt to camouflage the Clyde with yellows like the sand. The contents of that ship was some 2,000 men mostly hailing from the 86th Brigade, Units from the 29th Divisions: the 1st Battalions of the Royal Irish and Munster Fusiliers. Sally ports and gangways were created by cutting through the steel plating of the Clyde. The gangways were supported by ropes which ran along side of the ship. A steam hopper was to act as a bridge to the shore but as it is said,

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

The tide swept the hopper away forcing Captain Unwin to act on his valour. Jean-Conrad Dubois was sitting with his Dubliners, huddled on deck awaiting orders. He saw a great commotion between the Captain and his subordinates. The captain seized Able Seaman, William Charles William and thrashed him with a slap to the face.

Pull yourself together- we are getting those lighters or die!” William paled and his mouth was agape. “Sir!”

They Dove over the side of the ship from the gangways. They fought the tide and wrestled several lighters together. Private Jean-Conrad Dubois and the fusiliers watched in amazement. William had a rope that he was getting around a lighter when a scream could be heard escaping his lungs. He fell backwards and splashed into the water from the lighter. The Captain trembling, went after his friend but in doing so, he lost a lighter to the tide. He hailed for help aboard the ship and. Jean-Conrad jumped to his feet and ran down the gangway. With bullets making a hell of a din, he threw a thick coiled rope towards them and the lighters.

The work was quick and the bold captain alighted the Clyde with a dead Able Seaman William Charles William slung over his shoulder. The Captain collapsed near the gangway and sally ports. Men rushed to their aid and carried them away to the hospital quarters.

The ‘lighter’ boats were in place, now it was time for the call that’d ferry them to fate. From the small boats, two brave souls were required to leap from their bows, under heavy fire and pull the vessel towards the last stretch to the shore. Jean-Conrad volunteered. (These men would later receive the Victoria Cross, a high distinction but few would physically be able to receive it).

Follow the Captain, follow the Captain!” Lieutenant Watts cheered wildly. He was struck by a bullet thrice and fell backwards breaking his leg. Jean could hear him still shouting as he stepped over his body, “Follow the Captain!”

The Dublin Fusiliers deployed first. The sound of boots and shouts rang into the air. As they went over, some drowned under the weight of equipment as they disembarked into the water, some were cut down mid battle cry by the machine gunners on the hill, others made it to the shore of V Beach where on its promontory, Sedd el Bahr castle looked down; its crumbling edifice  gave an image of a great mouth with teeth studding its ancient walls. To the left of the beach was Cape Helles and also another prominent Fort named Etrugrul.

He dragged himself to shore some distance behind the bulk of the Dubliners. He shook tremendously. Silt and the sediment of a blackened and dredged up sea had smeared itself, covering Jean Claudes khaki and green uniform. Where he stood, was a red clay and sand embankment, the sea before him seethed; swollen and choppy The sky was dull grey and pregnant with an impending storm.         “To the hill, to the hill! Was their rallying cry. He jerked his head to see the commander and he made the sign of the cross. The commander assessed and quickly changed his mind at rushing the well defended 200 meter gently sloping stretch towards the castle, briefed by the name of Hill 141.

Take cover!”

He sprinted up to the mass of troops that took cover in the dunes away from the devilish openness and blood-stained waters. As he was told, and fought in his mind, he kept from a straight line, weaving this way and that. 50 meters ahead he had managed to avoid the reaper’s sickle. Every bullet sought his blood. He ducked behind a twisted metal barrier and a shallow trench of sand. Sucking in the air around him, he looked towards the Brigadier General Napier and found him stretched out in an unnatural position. Two soldiers went to his aid.

The 1st Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and companies of the Royal Hampshires were pinned down and the medics were far and few between. The tide was reddened 50 meters out to sea with blood and the beach was rife with gore and the dead. The shrapnel and a hail of withering fire pushed the men together to take cover behind what barriers they could find

The sudden reality of his situation had detonated him out of this initial trauma from landing into another. Jean touched his shoulder as he stumbled onward. He pressed himself shoulder to shoulder with many others. He felt a burning sensation. His shirt sleeve was sticky and red. There were several gunners up on that hill, “A Turk, by god!” Jean screamed involuntarily at the rattling a saw guns whose bullets chewed up the sand and dunes in front of him. Every little house in the village was converted into a miniature fortress.  He ducked and began digging into the sand to fortify his position.

“Where’s my sodding Bayonet, my tin hat and me knife-for Christ sake, I’m a dead man!” Another of his contingent ran up behind him and dashed for cover. “Bajesus, Sullivan!” Jean had grabbed him by the shoulders as bullets ricochet off steel in front of them. “My god, man!” ” They sent us here to die, someone is having a bloody tea while this whole operation is going down in hell-fire!” Sullivan’s eyes darted about, they couldn’t keep focus on Jean.

 

Excerpt from Chapter 4, The Brass Trumpet, Joseph Foley. Publishing Pending. 

Medic!” Jean screamed. The field ambulance was a few yards crouched over another man in a shallow trench dug from the side of the embankment.

There was little protection if one decided to wait it out, “Oh god“, Jean thought, “We will loose and they will bring reinforcements, these heathen’s will fuckin’ boil me alive!” He could here screaming and grunts just ahead.  Jeans own hands mechanically went to his pockets.  He had removed a wet pouch of tobacco, then made violent oaths wishing he was back in the safety of that beautiful harbor in the Aegean or better yet back home in Ireland and to have never embarked on this fools errand.

Jean Claude looked over at Private Sullivan who was hunched and sitting now. His eyes were glassy. He tilted his head up and spoke quietly almost inaudible among the fusillade, roar of mortar blasts and screams. Jean noticed blood seeping from the mans stomach. Far from indifferent to the violence and gore, tears welled up in his eyes. “I’ll never see it home again Jean, my family, my mother in Tralee…”

            He kissed a crucifix around his neck gently. “It isn’t the pain…” He winced and ground his teeth despite of himself. “It isn’t the pain that hurts the worst Jean, it is knowing that you have lived, was once a child, was once in love, had…” His breathing became labored and his face grew pale. “…dreams…All of it doesn’t seem real…to have your life dealt as a card and wasted…”

Jean was on his knees listening to his dying brother in arms. The fair youth paled even still and closed his eyes. A first in his life, the death of a human and a follow Irishman shook him. For moments that seemed to last an eternity, he knelt beside him and wept bitterly- perhaps not solely for James did tears spill into the sand-but the whole damned situation at Gallipoli.  The dead mans last words, like a funeral pyre burned at his heart. He felt alone and sorely beguiled. His mind went to Margaret across the expanse of cold waves. He felt her warmth far away, her tenderness a memory.

With great reluctance he unfastened James Sullivan’s helmet, his head slipped forward, slumping chin against chest. Jean hesitated but proceeded to divest the soldier of war equipment. The helmet fit, though loosely and the carbine, an automatic, functional. It was enough. Reloading the weapon, he jammed a charger on top of the magazine.

James had small amount of change on him and in addition, a gold plated necklace and two pictures; a young women of what could be guessed, 20’s and an older thin faced graying women. None were smiling. Presumably, the last picture was James’ mother in Tralee. He put the photograph back into the dead mans breast pocket but kept the leather purse. He placed into his own breast pocket then systematically buttoned it.

Nearly 4 hours later, only 200 had yet made it to shore. It wasn’t raining yet but by god it was. Those Lee Enfield rifles wielded by the shock-troop, Irishmen pierced the sky and their barrels sizzled and smoked as some let loose nearly 30 or more rounds a minute. The shells hailed from all directions, directions known only to He himself and those watching from cozy ramparts on the ships in the harbor. The cries of dying men were as abundant  as myrhh and burning oils for the clergy at mass. “What on earth have I the power to do.” He pumped the bolt of his rifle and took helpless pot shots at a gunners box.

He held the rifle without conviction, each shot was worth dust in a sea of led. Each time the rifle spoke up, jean could feel the leaping gun butt flash and kick.  His shoulder bruised. He looked over and away from the iron sight pointed at the hill. James was still there as peaceful as a lamb; wrapped in the slumber of death. It seemed to Jean an eerie juxtaposition between hell and salvation. He unwrapped a biscuit and drew a canteen from his hip. He jammed the biscuit into his mouth with muddy hands and blackened fingers and guzzled his canteen; tilting its contents vertically and emptying the last drop down his scorched throat. With a wavering voice, a soldier shouted into Jeans ear, “We are lions led by asses- who is this fool-general, Hunter Weston?” Jeans eyes were hollow and sunken. He was dehydrated and stared mutely at the other soldier.

Survivors either held that low sand bank or sheltered themselves behind the plates of the Clyde. The fighting was bitter and night was fast approaching.

Monday April 26th, 1am, in the cover of night, all 1000 or so of the remaining troops aboard the SS River Clyde stormed the beach to collect the wounded and bolster the line.  The enemy snipers picked off targets till morning.

The invasion force had met the defensive and it seemed a heavy hand to hand battle had begun.That following day the campaign was won and the beach and town had been captured. Jean was ordered to plant a British flag on top of the fort. He climbed his way up to the top. From a corner he could not see, as he was ascending stone steps, a Turkish defender in hiding leaped from his position.

Jean saw a shadow and he sidestepped instinctively and crouched as he pulled a spade from its leather sheath.

The man was rabid, his eyes were red and blood-shot, he was covered in dust and and mud and his black hair was greasy and matted. He flung himself onto jean whose rusty and sharp digging implement was held fixed in his hand.  Jean grunted at the force the man fell into him. He felt his steel slide into the mans stomach, who screeched and clawed at jeans face. He checked the Turk with a ram of his shoulder which sent him to the ground. Jean picked his .303 from the floor and leveled it at the man who scrambled like an animal on the floor.  He fired three shots in quick succession. The first one laid him still, the second and third seemed to be a waste and sunk deep into flesh. Jean looked to the ground and away from the man whose eyes were wide open in some fervent terror. His hands froze clutching the air and reaching for something. Jean stood there for moments after. Jean grabbed the dead man by his shoulders and dragged him off the steps, folded his stiffened arms and closed his eyes. Jean proceeded up the steps. He began affixing the Union jack but his hands trembled as he caught the vista of corpses. The mental exhaustion made him stagger and he dropped to his knees and a flood of memories from Ireland and the oaths he cast aside when he took the British coin.

Marooned

I borrowed my uncle’s truck in some alternate vision: we drove Pacific Highway.
I couldn’t imagine the details of the location, except, cliffs and a wayward sun; you were smiling with ruby painted lips, and all that blonde hair was being blown in a California wind.
We’d wind down a road as the stars were comin’ out after that explosion of color, the sunset and I’d make love to you in the bed of that pickup truck, with it’s gate down, pulled up along side some roaring cove.
Wrapped in each other, there was no time, no limit, no future…the present was just you and I with the salt of the beach and all these lights they call stars.
You told me you loved me.
But I saw how your eyes looked westward and away, running faster than jet planes and harder to navigate than the widest ocean- something that I may never catch up to. I reckon, it’s that wild untameable, chaotic thing that pours fire all over to drown me; it’s that glittering unattainable bauble I’ll call your heart.
I sought for you with my hands and grasped at nothing, a ghost and it sent pain through my arms like ice in my veins. A terrible disquietude stole over me and infected my soul; a summer breeze makes me weak, the swell of tide brings me to my knees.
Was it the beauty of spontaneity that made childish hearts glow and did it lose its luster at the weight of mature feelings bloomed? Does the severity of love make you skiddish, so much that you force yourself to flee from feelings that might hold you responsible? For me it was as if my cup runneth over and the next was drained empty at one viscious swallow.
You’ve jumped ship and left the crew looking towards the helm.
And now there’s a mutiny as the ship founders on a muddy shoal.
I am marooned. Come back, rechart these waters, find me where I lay. Sit by my side and explain what cannot be. The eloquence of words, perhaps would be lost, I’d leave them aside for a drink of clear water. I’ve poured over what man may know of heartache and reason and have come out none the wiser.
Lest the moment be lost forever, kiss me once more…I may yet show you how I still cherish the golden illumination of your mouth as spirit may pass to spirit in the ancient custom of love.


A Jilted Lover Promotional

[Untitled Western] – Pilot

Drawing a happy face in the head of his beer was the only mantra he’d ever known, even if mantra was in his vocabulary.
Damn, I’m thirsty,” He called out to nobody and drew no attention. He felt it important to note the legitimacy of his frothy beverage for some reason or perhaps it was his pride trying to tell all that he had something more to glean from a pint than them. Either way, the bartender nodded; no amusement or hospitality shone on his face.
Hamish thought to himself but was clearly speaking aloud, “Let’s see what the rest of the world thinks about this.” He drew from his pocket a fistful of shining silver and slapped it on the roughly cut and poorly stained bar.
And keep em’ coming!
There was a band playing on the dusty street for some festival announcing the arrival of a mayor or some official who’d surely change the town. He heard the sharp and metallic wail of a harmonica and the twang and pluck of a banjo drifting in through the saloon doors but he was largely unaffected.
Wrapped in the glamour of a seventh jar, a numerical rarity for a man of his talents and income, he acknowledged the music only by a tapping of his foot. For Hamish, the world had taken a rosy yet foggy hue; it was abstract, foreign and disarming. Hamish toyed with his glass.
The saloon door opened and the celebratory music increased momentarily in volume; a breeze rolled in from outside, kicking up dust and spilling beams of sun into this dark place. The music died softly as a quarrelsome group entered. They were covered from the red dirt of the trail and stinking of sweat and labor. The four walked slow as molasses into the guts of the tavern, slowly walking past patrons who stole timid glances; They strode brazenly into the poorly lit room. Their direction wasn’t scattered but a bit desperate by the look of their gait. Each man donned a swagger that evinced a stout and dangerous superiority to the denizens of this miserable establishment who succoured their feverish thirst in the stunning darkness.
Approaching the bar, several called for drinks, however their interest was directed towards one person.
Hamish was laughing to himself, seemingly oblivious and red in the face. He was flicking peanut shells at different targets and making childish noises as he’d hit the targets. He turned his stool and aimed a shell at a patron’s glass. It missed and sailed up, over it, hitting the man who just entered square in the forehead.
Pow!” He exclaimed “Got ya!
The man stood up and slammed his glass down and his eyes looked like pointed daggers ready to do the cutting by a just an excruciating stare. The tallest, most serious of the quarrelsome party picked up a shell off the counter and sipped froth from his jar. He kicked Hamish’s stool with enough movement and sudden violence to knock him almost off the seat.
He reeled with confusion. With his reveries demolished, he stood and spat on the ground.
“Who shit in yer’ pork pie…!” He turned towards the aggressor. The stool fell over and made a crashing noise that put the room on mute.
“What do you…”
His face went pale and he wiped his mouth with an open palm.

Hobbie Pulled his britches up from around his ankles and began buttoning them. Some pretty, young thing influenced by silver and gold, lay benignly smiling on a red upholstered divan.
I had to, you see, I wanted to help your family.
He looked at her with a furtive glance but her expression was mute and her eyes were glassy from the drug.
Hobbie heard noises and violence from downstairs; he hastened his toilet, threw on his duster and girdled his holster and pistols.

Hamish the Thief

Drawing a happy face in the head of his beer was the only mantra he’d ever known, even if mantra was in his vocabulary.
Damn, I’m thirsty,” He called out to nobody and drew no attention. He felt it important to note the legitimacy of his frothy beverage for some reason or perhaps it was his pride trying to tell all that he had something more to glean from a pint than them. Either way, the bartender nodded; no amusement or hospitality shone on his face.
Hamish thought to himself but was clearly speaking aloud, “Let’s see what the rest of the world thinks about this.” He drew from his pocket a fistful of shining silver and slapped it on the roughly cut and poorly stained bar.
And keep em’ coming!
There was a band playing on the dusty street for some festival announcing the arrival of a mayor or some official who’d surely change the town. He heard the sharp and metallic wail of a harmonica and the twang and pluck of a banjo drifting in through the saloon doors but he was largely unaffected.
Wrapped in the glamour of a seventh jar, a numerical rarity for a man of his talents and income, he acknowledged the music only by a tapping of his foot. For Hamish, the world had taken a rosy yet foggy hue; it was abstract, foreign and disarming. Hamish toyed with his glass.
The saloon door opened and the celebratory music increased momentarily in volume; a breeze rolled in from outside, kicking up dust and spilling beams of sun into this dark place. The music died softly as a quarrelsome group entered. They were covered from the red dirt of the trail and stinking of sweat and labor. The four walked slow as molasses into the guts of the tavern, slowly walking past patrons who stole timid glances; They strode brazenly into the poorly lit room. Their direction wasn’t scattered but a bit desperate by the look of their gait. Each man donned a swagger that evinced a stout and dangerous superiority to the denizens of this miserable establishment who succoured their feverish thirst in the stunning darkness.
Approaching the bar, several called for drinks, however their interest was directed towards one person.
Hamish was laughing to himself, seemingly oblivious and red in the face. He was flicking peanut shells at different targets and making childish noises as he’d hit the targets. He turned his stool and aimed a shell at a patron’s glass. It missed and sailed up, over it, hitting the man who just entered square in the forehead.
Pow!” He exclaimed “Got ya!
The man stood up and slammed his glass down and his eyes looked like pointed daggers ready to do the cutting by a just an excruciating stare. The tallest, most serious of the quarrelsome party picked up a shell off the counter and sipped froth from his jar. He kicked Hamish’s stool with enough movement and sudden violence to knock him almost off the seat.
He reeled with confusion. With his reveries demolished, he stood and spat on the ground.
“Who shit in yer’ pork pie…!” He turned towards the aggressor. The stool fell over and made a crashing noise that put the room on mute.
“What do you…”
His face went pale and he wiped his mouth with an open palm.

Hobbie Pulled his britches up from around his ankles and began buttoning them. Some pretty, young thing influenced by silver and gold, lay benignly smiling on a red upholstered divan.
I had to, you see, I wanted to help your family.
He looked at her with a furtive glance but her expression was mute and her eyes were glassy from the drug.
Hobbie heard noises and violence from downstairs; he hastened his toilet, threw on his duster and girdled his holster and pistols.

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

The Devil’s Bridge

It felt as hot and thick as drops of blood- like sweat itself coming from the sky. The heat seemed to always win against the refreshing coolness that was the rain; it twisted its refreshing nature and turned it against those seeking a balm.

Morning slowly crept away, giving up coolness to the stale swelter of those typical afternoons. The air was choked with moisture; it made the comfort of loose clothes pointless. The trees stood mute; the sting of the sun cut the whistle from the bird’s song in their roost. The branches did not sway and acted paralyzed in some lethargy. Sometimes the sun hid behind matted clouds but it didn’t seem to matter, in her memory it was always stifling.

It was true, that during those sweltering days that sapped you, all you could do was laze on the porch or a stoop. For what it was worth, she felt happiest in her youth and naivety. She conjured another memory in an instant when she was a few years older during one such summer:

Her grandfather sat there, looking out onto the street from their porch; it 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. He spit noisily into a brown stained bucket at his feet. His eyes grew a sudden mist. His face hadn’t moved and his stillness spoke as loud as any shouting could ever. A very far distance was where he set his dull gray eyes. He gazed over derelict housing and broken streets, taking to the stars and through time itself. He seemed to have found the emotion he was after and the memory followed. He breathed deeply and spit again. 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 an eye at me. With one hand upon his knee and hunched back, he leaned forward and entreated, “Do ya hear that?” Shaking his head, “Course not.” “But! 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 began, “When I was a young man, I carried me pack and traveled many a high road all across this auld country. One day as the sun began ta’ set. I was at the old bridge north of Connemara.” He recalled the bridge, “T’was an ardinary one, made of many a grey small stone and it crossed a small straym, wit all sort of verdure.” He gestured with his hands as much as emotion danced on his brow. “I sat there with me naggin’ of whiskey, castin’ stones below its steps, when long came a shadow that stretched well over me.”

“Bedad, t’was not mine!” He hollered.

Moving forward in his seat, he turned his head toward me. “This shadow stretched over me and I felt as the ice in the great North Sea. I knew by its shape t’was not another man for there were harns protrudin’ from its head and the silhouette of claws and a horrible snake for a tail!” “I dared not to move and I clutched the whiskey dearly for if t’were all over fer’ me, at least I’d have one las’ drop o’ tha’ pure!” He placed his palms on his thighs and straightened his crooked spine as best possible, still looking with piercing points of steel. “So as I sit there shakin’, I gather enough courage to look behind me. 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 he rushed onwards, “I quickly turned back around wit me eyes closed shut preparin’ for death but after a second I summons up the last o’ me wit’ and kinda’ haf’ open me eyes…”

Now, the shadow lay a pace before me and as terrifyin’ as ever. T’wasn’t a shadow at all but 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 it and its eyes glowed like hot coals!” “Me jaw lay suspended in disbelief and then from behind im’, suddenly, white light came from the thick of the forest.” “The light took da’ shape of a claymore…a giants cudgel!” “As bright as a thousand candles…” His voice trailed off for a moment then hastily started. “…Nay!” He shouted.

“T’was 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.”

“A horrible hissing-wail like the croon of a banshee came from its mouth as it burned from the light.” “I blinked in awe and for certes, t’was gone!” He adjusted himself more comfortably and took his eyes away from me and across the lawn. “The light lost its form and intensity then quickly retreated back into the wood followed by the laughter of boisterous children!” His mouth was half open and his expression had action about it. His knuckles where white but soon reddened as he removed his grip from the chair. He took an old rag from his pocket and wiped his forehead. He relaxed his face and sat more calmly in the rocking chair.

“Well mavorneen, I tell you, it still comes around. You best guard yourself with the faith of these wee ones! When ye see that devil shade, don’t hesitate tay’ run as fast as ye can for without their tiny blessings, you’d surely be doomed as a feast in hell.” He looked sharply at her as if trying to say something more. He stopped, looked away and sighed wistfully, “Lord bless the good people of te’ forest who saved me that awful night!”

Middle East FS