Tea & Apathy

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a nice cup of tea

A figure emerged from under the streetlight. It was Mary Murphy, and she jumped over the wall at the side of the church. She knew exactly where the wheelbarrow was in the dark. The wheels squeaked and whistled as she pushed it into motion.

Sidling around the back of the church she made her way to the big wooden door. With her hands on her hips, she smacked her lips and shook her head as she looked down at the black mass at her feet.

‘Lord save us all’

She fastened the untied shoelace and banged his foot back onto the ground with force.

‘You’re nothin’ but a drunken fecker’

Bending down to grab his armpits she pulled with all her might. Once she had him half-way up she realised she’d forgotten to put the wheelbarrow in place.

‘Jesus Christ, almighty tonight’

She let him drop with a thud. A mixture of rage and pleasure ran through her. She hoped he’d bruise!

At the second attempt, he fell into the wheelbarrow when she let go. He lay on his back with his knees bent upright, and his head hanging off the other side. He groaned. Coming to life for a moment he looked up and smiled broadly at her!

‘Ah Mary, my guardian angel, leave me here for another hour. It’ll be grand’

She bit her tongue for fear of what might come out of her mouth. Pulling both handles up to assess the weight, she took a deep breath and sidled back around the church. She’d throw him onto the sofa she’d moved in there so he could sleep it off.

The wheelbarrow back in its place, she watched the village blink; lights in the houses came on. As the Winter’s morning rose, she strode through the church slowly, basking in its glory, and checking everything was in order for the ceremony. Looking up at one of the stations of the cross, she thought she caught the eye of Jesus. She stopped and turned to the painting. What was he telling her? He was suffering. But he was suffering in the name of God. She raised her head defiantly, glaring at the door behind the altar.

The Show Must Go On!

********

‘Up and at them Father! Your congregation will be here in thirty minutes to hear the word of the lord’

She walked over to where the long green and white robes hung and rubbed her hands slowly down the course fabric.

‘Would you like a cup of tea, Father?’

He rolled over and groaned.

‘It’s all in the name of our Lord, Father. I’ll make you a nice cup of tea and we’ll get you up and into your robes’

‘Why do I do this, Mary?’

‘I ask myself that all the time Father! Why do you insist on getting yourself into such states on a Saturday night when you have a mass on Sunday. These Saturday weddings are no good for you at all, strutting your stuff down at the Sands Hotel. Free Whisky for the priest, no doubt’

He looked up sheepishly. His face was a grizzly shadow, shattered with fatigue and swollen with the alcohol.

‘No, Mary, I mean this-this-the mass, the ceremony. Why do I do it?’

She turned around instantly and glared at him. Walking towards him quickly, she bent over where he sat on the sofa, clenching her fists but hiding them behind her. Mary’s cheeks flushed and spit escaped in little darts onto her chin as she tried to compose herself.

‘You selfish b-b – Ah Father!!!’

‘Mary, listen now, Mary.’

She stood upright with her hands on her hips, her eyes facing the door with her jaw to one side.

‘Never mind me. It’s the drink talking. What about that nice cup of tea you promised?’

The change in her face was quick, a little too quick for his liking. She walked over to kettle and began her own ceremony.

‘Are you still off the sugar, Father? Or would you take a bit of brown?’

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Supply & Demand

The car rolled up the gravel path. Wiping his hands in his leather apron, Dak sauntered over to the stove and put a pan of water on. He poured white spirits over his stained hands at the basin, and rubbed and old rag into the deep crevices.

‘Mornin Dak, a fine one it is too’

Dak nodded at him as he walked in to his usual spot at the back of the cave, out of the sun. He put a parcel and a letter on the desk and sat down.

‘There’s a few more orders for ya today. These things are gettin quite popular with folk, ya know’

Dak brought the tea to the table and sat down opposite to Jo. He didn’t look up as he poured the tea.

‘I’m running out of stock’

Jo tilted his head upward and took a deep breath in.

‘Well, ya know, supply and demand, and all that. There’s three more orders today, and that makes seven orders outstanding, isn’t it?’

Dak nodded.

‘I want you to know that I never kill any living creature to make these pieces. I respect the life that lived in every skull and every bone I find on this land’

Jo cleared his throat.

‘Oh sure, but- supply and demand Dak. There’s money to be made here and –

He snorted and omitted a jarring laugh that made Dak grimace. It faded once he realised he was the only one amused. He slurped his tea and put it down, looking sideways in thought before starting to talk again.

‘See, these rich folk don’t know what to be doing with their money Dak. It’s the new in- thing, if ya hear me. They want them on their mantles, they want to gift them to their friends on their birthdays, you know? They want them’

Dak stared passed Jo’s head at the wall behind him. He continued.

‘The mayor’s wife was looking for a nice big one. She’ll pay big bucks’

‘Big bucks: Big skull?’

‘Exactly’, Jo guffawed

’How big? As big as her husbands fat belly?’

‘Aw come on now Dak. I’m givin you an opportunity to make some money here! And you know, I earn a pittance with the National Post. Jenny’s wedding is coming up. It’s not easy to reach the level of affair she’s aspirin to’

Dak got up from the table and walked to his bench.

‘I’ll see what I can do. I’ll finish these two by tomorrow, and I’ll have a scout around today. It’s not the right season for roadkill or hawk prey, but I’ll look.

Jo stood up and wriggled his National Postal cap back on his fat head.

‘What about catching a few rabbits in a snare, Dak? Or even a deer for the mayor’s wife?’

Dak turned and walked towards Jo quickly. He stopped abruptly when their noses almost touched.

‘What did I just say?’

He walked back to his bench and stared at the wall until Jo walked out of the cave, past him and down the path to the van. That night Dak dreamed of the Stag. He had met him several times when running in the forest as a child. Each time, the stag had stopped in his tracks and stared into his eyes, penetrating him with an intense love that he’d never experienced again.

The following morning, he lay in bed and watched the sun slide further into the front of his cave before he jumped up and set to work. It didn’t take long as he’d seen his father do it time after time. As he raised the net and tested the ropes, he recalled the morning he had stood with the village looking up into the trees, watching the stag struggling hysterically in the net. A dart pierced his neck. Even once he had given up the stag kept his gaze until the life drained out of him.

Later, Dak stood at his bench and prepared his paints. A tiny skull of a bird sat in a delicate clamp in front of him. He heard the crackling stones under the tyres of the postal van. The van door shut loudly and Dak jumped. A few steps crunched on the gravel before he heard a howl.

‘Dak, what the fuck is this? Get me down right now you fucking weirdo’

Dak’s smile slowly widened.

‘Dak? Dak are you there? Oh come on!!!

A nice big skull.

He turned. There stood the Stag, staring into Dak’s eyes.

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Book Review: The Secrets of a Fire King by Kim Edwards

The Secrets of a Fire KingThe Secrets of a Fire King by Kim Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An elegant collection of short stories with unforgettable characters and engrossing plots.
The style is serene and a little slow moving in parts for me, but always worth the wait as each delves into the lives of people that are ostracized by society in some way.
The voices and points of view are beautifully developed from both strong female and male characters and this makes the collection a special one. The variation in plots, too, hold the interest for the reader. All stories have a lesson to learn although not all lessons are obvious. The need for some interpretation is done so well and seamlessly. There wasn’t one story I did not enjoy. My favourite collection of stories…TO DATE!

View all my reviews