dead drunk dublin and other imaginal spaces
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darran anderson the last man on

s t o r i e s   b y

d a r r a n   a n d e r s o n




i will have my revenge on the
bastard tree that broke the neck
of albert camus

life after godhood

the old man & the traffic island

the last man


t h e   l a s t   m a n

b y    d a r r a n   a n d e r s o n


"Cover all the mirrors so the dead cannot see that they are dead"

The elderly woman paused as she muttered to herself, vaguely aware that she had an audience in the little boy who sat wide-eyed, transfixed and petrified. The old man had finally died in his sleep the night before. They had been expecting it for some time. He had a fall a few months earlier and deteriorated rapidly, his solid strong frame becoming emaciated and brittle and pale. There had been an embarrassing episode in which some well-meaning soul had placed his obituary in the local paper three days before he had actually died. That is how she found him whilst scanning down the pages in the local deaths section. All the old women did it. It was a collective and contagious symptom of old age and the only cure came when you made an appearance yourself. They had managed to keep the mistake from the old man as best they could and besides the doctor had said he was probably too far-gone to fathom anything anymore. Not that he hadn’t put up a fight; on the contrary his prolonged struggle filled the house with an unbearable tension so that for the last days the very room seemed to be holding its breath. There were times when she almost wished he would give up the ghost. God forbid. But he insisted on lying there upright in the bed, paralyzed with one eye in this world and one in the next. And there were times in a fever he would talk in tongues of distant places and people, "raging against the dying of the light", isn’t that what they called it? Sweat soaked he would repeat "awake" and they would mop his brow and place wine and bread to his parched lips and inform him he was awake. He didn’t seem to make any sense. Whether this was the illness or his natural… eccentricity no one would ever know, many said he was "touched" so to speak. Nevertheless she had maintained vigil over his body alone for several hours tidying his belongings for the priest was coming. She was experienced in these matters learning from her mother and her mother’s mother back until creation. In death though he seemed to be conspiring against her for her rosary beads kept slipping from his grasp. Manipulating his rigid fingers, she remembered reading somewhere that the hair and nails keep growing unaware that they wouldn’t be needed. Perhaps she should tidy the corpse, put it in order, maybe. It could be slightly inappropriate for she had barely known him. No one had. But she had seen him everyday for as long as she could remember and she thought it comforting that she was there.
At first the boy had startled her, entering silently unannounced, against his parents wishes, tiptoeing in as fascinated children do with eyes filled with electricity, that look upon the world as bewildered and mesmerised as the first man. When she was that age there were ancient skilled wailers who turned up howling and weeping and shrieking, as was the custom in the land, for money or gifts. Her mother had taught her, it was perhaps her earliest memory. Most natural thing in the world, no point hiding it from children. They called it the wake. "Why?" she had asked. When we were peasants lead cups were used to drink ale and whiskey. Of course the combination of copious amounts of alcohol and a potent neurotoxin with the strength of lead would often send the reveller spiralling into a coma. Bodies would be found scattered along desolate highways, bloated in swamped ditches or immersed in riotous undergrowth and be taken for dead. Naturally they would place the remains in a coffin and prepare for burial. Then with a peculiarly Irish sense of timing the corpse would awake during its own funeral service causing a universal emptying of bowels and stomachs from shock. So to prevent such uncomfortable episodes all bodies were laid out for a couple of days and the family and friends would gather around and eat and drink and wait to see if they would wake up. There were probably even a few unfortunates who didn’t come around until they were in the clay. "Why didn’t they just take the pulse?" she asked her mother who promptly ignored her. After the body was prepared in its best Sunday clothes the keening, as her mother had called it, started. A sort of hysterical dirge, a wailing that started once the soul had a chance to leave the body. Premature keening, they warned, could wake all kinds of demons. She had noticed even then that the wailing at the beginning was often awkward, each person nervously emitting a few pathetic moans but things soon improved after the first glass or ten of whisky. Of course many of the keeners would compete with each other to enhance their reputation. She had remembered one occasion when two old maidens had competed so fervently and passionately that they set upon each other in an attempt to scratch the other’s eyes out. In the tempest of flailing creaking limbs the coffin was knocked off its stand and the body rolled out onto the floor, its hair set ablaze from a fallen candle. It didn’t seem to mind. Nevertheless the church stepped in and a prodigious Synod of all the archbishops and bishops the length and breadth of the isle issued a statute calling for "heathenish" keeners to be driven from all wake-houses. Anyone found to be mourning too much could be shown the door. In the end the keeners stalked the funeral processions screaming and shrieking all the more like vengeful banshees and had to be chased by the priests and their acolytes brandishing huge sticks and launching rocks in their direction.
No wailers had approached this house for there was no one here to mourn. Nowadays sorrow was reserved for the deaths of children and those to whom death had come unexpectedly. Not the old men who walked around with death on their backs. All the same the corpse must never be left alone just in case. She dusted around the looming mahogany grandfather clock, which had been stopped out of respect. Blessing herself once more she could hear the others, sitting next door over tea and biscuits, talking in hushed tones, audible through the thin plaster walls.
"Sure it was inevitable".
" Aye at least he had a good innings".
" And he went in his sleep sure that’s the best we can all hope for".
The child had left their company at this. They hadn’t noticed him leave. At first he approached the body slowly and prodded the flesh on its forehead. It was waxen and pale, grained like the ancient bark of an oak after rain. He tried to picture the corpse as a child by mentally smoothing out a face entrenched with scars and winkles like a map of experiences. He tried to whiten the yellow splintered teeth and the red blemished nose and iron the cracked lips and the sagging bags under the eyes, all to no avail. The corpse refused to be anything other than what was there, what was left and whatever it was it was not the man he knew. So he took a seat at the far end of the room and watched with his mouth hanging open, waiting for something miraculous to happen, idly swinging his feet. Soon he became bored and so he crept forward and edged open the window, filling the room with the smell of freshly cut grass and the chill of the morning air. Outside the clouds briefly parted like disappointed tourists and then decided there was safety in numbers. The dust stirred from its sleep on the tables and the bookshelf and the windowpane, caught in a tiny maelstrom, the dust, his dust, awakened revolving and revolving trapped in a pirouette like shoals of silverfish towards the roof illuminated in a solitary celestial stream of light.
"Tch…close that window, ye wee shite… you’ll catch your death of cold".
The boy felt flustered at being scolded. He hung his head and paced awkwardly to and fro, from one leg to the next and then he belatedly returned to his chair. Looking at the sleeping body he wondered whether the old man was simply trying to hide behind his own eyelids. Sensing that the old lady was closing the curtains further, with her back towards him, he tiptoed towards the coffin and began to carefully lift the man’s heavy eyes. Just as he was about to stare into his pupils he was jolted by a scream.
" Jesus, Mary and Joseph…get away from him."
The boy startled turned to face the furious lady.
" I was just…"
" Youse young un’s… can’t even let the dead rest in peace can ye."
" I’m sorry…I didn’t"
" Go make yourself useful son. You’ve exhausted my patience. The priest’ll be here soon and we can’t have you poking about where you’re not wanted."
The boy felt his face flush crimson as he fled from the room. The sting of injustice occupied his soul for he was the only one who had ever spoken to the old man when he was alive, surely he had a right above the rest. Perhaps spoken wasn’t quite the word for when you encountered the old man you listened. More than anything he was eager to point out to the boy books: veiled, impenetratable, life-affirming books, which intoxicated him with the passionate intensity of words that flowed off the pages. Books with arcane forbidden names like Rimbaud and Nietzsche and Lorca and Camus. Thinking of the old woman polishing around them, their pages firmly locked closed, he considered how unjust it was for such creations which blaze out of a long- silent mind to end up wasted there. His mind soon passed on and was unwillingly drifting back to the last time that he had spoken to the old man, a memory still close enough to be almost unbearable to relive, not yet soothed or anaesthetized by time. He had found him in his usual restless state, arched over the washbasin, the light bulb glinting on his baldhead, speckled like a prehistoric egg. He had heard the boy enter the room for he had glanced up and addressed him without turning across the mirror. The boy stood gracelessly as the old man shaved and sang what sounded like a forgotten hymn, something about "the International". Suddenly the old man stopped singing and it seemed an absolute melancholy invaded the room and the boy could see him absorbed in his reflection. Then, with head in his trembling hands, he broke down and sobbed relentlessly not turning to notice as the embarrassed boy fled from the house. It was the last time the boy had seen him alive. The memory had deeply troubled him and his mind betrayed him by continually reliving it. Stepping outside as he had done that last time he reluctantly found it was still morning and he had no idea what to do with himself. Kicking pebbles against the wall and avoiding the cracks in the pavement he wished he were elsewhere. Then it occurred to him that his father was in the pub and perhaps he would know what to do.
Under a lowering sky, helicopters circled the city like shepherds. In another time they would have played Wagner to scare the natives. Nowadays though no one took any notice of them for they were used to the omnipotent hum from the heavens. Gone were the days when old drunks would lob beer bottles onto the heads of shoppers in a vain attempt to knock the trespasser from the sky. Now it was best to ignore them. At night they hid amidst the constellations, disguised as wandering stars they’d roar out of the sky falling like stukas to startle trees filled with sleeping birds and petrify children to hide beneath their blankets. A lonesome drunk staggered along struggling to find his feet as if the street were the deck of a storm tossed ship with a thirst for whatever drink he could lay his hands on. He had started on whiskey and moved onto harder stuff; white spirits, brake fluid, antifreeze, formaldehyde siphoned off Lenin’s tomb. What he knew but no passerby did was though he was a deadbeat with breath like a blast furnace his head was filled with stars.
Avoiding eye contact the boy overtook the drunk and trudged on through the closed, tumbling, ramshackle terraces, the houses drunkenly dragging each other down onto their knees, little honeycombs of human happiness and suffering crushed impossibly close together. There was a certain mythology about the pub that he had heard from the other boys who claimed to have been served despite their youth. He envied these lads, older and wiser advocates of mysterious forbidden taboos such as sex and alcohol and he would learn how to return their knowing glances, like freemasons, to save himself shame when in fact the things they spoke of terrified him.
At this hour the boy knew that the pub would appear closed on the outside but the locals would be locked in, before hours. He passed the bar three times before entering it. It was a place to be entered into with hushed reverence like a church or a library and he felt its power as he slowly began to push the door open using the full force of his body.
The place was so dark he wondered whether it was trying to fool itself that it was night. People could spend entire lifetimes with arms outstretched trying unsuccessfully to find the exit. It took his eyes a while to accustom themselves and he didn’t wish to stand at the door for he could feel eyes already peering at him so he kept walking down the steps and almost into a stool that had placed itself in his path. He could feel the eyes quickly shift around the bar to give the appearance that no one was staring at him in particular. Stepping into the bar was like stepping back fifty years. All along the walls were long-dead railway line ads, a faded proclamation of the Irish Republic, an antique clock with no hands, a poster of a man carrying a horse in a cart: Guinness for strength, a fiddle without any strings, rusted metal signs for obscure archaic goods: Athlone woollen mills, Gallahers snuff, Hudson’s soap, Shag tobacco, Andrew’s liver salts, old dusty bottles, sepia photos of railroad crews and people dancing and people making poteen in the hills of Connemara, hollow radios, portraits of Irish writers like Joyce and Wilde and Beckett hounded off the island. A plaque caught his attention "Authentic Irishman for hire. Storytelling and singing, dancing and carrying on. Available all hours. Experienced drinking companion. The only man in the world who would step over a dozen naked women to get to a pint of stout." Puzzled he turned to face the bar. Random groups of men and some women were sitting around in clusters talking in a constant murmur with no distinction of words, their warehouse eyes shifting from the pint glasses to the floor to the pint glasses. Now and then an effigy appeared at the bar to ask for "the usual" and then slide back into a dimly lit corner, amidst empty stools and chairs and tables. Sitting alone and divided, sinking to the bottom of a pint glass, waiting to curse at last orders. It was there he found his father.
His father’s heavy-lidded glazed eyes briefly lit up with a spark of recognition as they found the boy.
" Well if it’s not the wandering Jew… Hey Charlie have I ever introduced you to the wee man?"
" Aye manys a time".
" Here boy grab a seat wi your poor auld da and tell us what you’ve been up to".
Without pausing he turned to Charlie and said "He’s a right wee Einstein this boy, he’s head’s never out of the books, isn’t that right? Half the time he’s in a world of his own."
" Takes his brains after his da does he?"
They both laughed as if scripted. "Fuck I wish".
" You can think too much, you remember that, boy"
" Aye and sure it’s the quiet ones you watch"
" Do ye mind when ye were that age? Eh… not a fucking care in the world" they said as if he wasn’t there. Silence.
"Here Charlie give us a song, come on boy". His father momentarily shook himself to speak.
"Naw not yit. Ask me again after a few pints".
The boy was proud of his father, encouraged by all his mates who seemed to admire the man for he could drink any fool under the table and could dish out a good hiding. He had made a name for himself. It was a respect that came from far-flung anecdotes and dubious history rather than any direct affection. The boy felt a warm glow when his father told him stories of his youth, which he excitedly passed onto his friends. They all began "You wouldn’t think it to look at me…" Of legendary drinking binges and mythological fights ending with phrases like "Not so fat I didn’t catch ye, ye bastard". When he was small, about the size of a thimble, he’d read of Finn Mac Coil and imagined the giant with his father’s head; so immense that men followed him playing tournaments of handball against his buttocks. Back when the world was at his feet and not on his shoulders. One thing was certain his father was a character. Yes he was a good old Irish character. And he was nothing if not proud.
But he had never really talked to him, never really known him and he feared sometimes that was because there was nothing to know. He was a workingman who had worked everyday of his life and had little, if any, education. Like Sisyphus rolling that colossal boulder up the precipitous mountain to amuse the gods. Born back when the world was black and white. He wore his thick accent with satisfaction even though in terms of employment it made him a marked man; indeed in the grammar schools the priests taught elocution lessons to weed it out root and branch. A man who had struggled everyday of his life without even realizing it or complaining. Maybe that was the problem. The boy often wondered why his father and those like him were the builders, creators of a society, which sought to exclude and destroy them. It just didn’t seem fair. Recently his age had begun to tell on him, his previously jet-black manic beard had faded to salt and pepper gray, his eyes sunk deep into his skull. Had he noticed it himself he would have shrugged it off with "Aah well, sure it’s just a machine for living in". The boy didn’t realize that this man, this once passionate, living, free soul had worn his fingers to the bone and had been forced to beat himself to pieces pointlessly like waves against the rocks. Everyday an old man was occupying his reflection more and more.
He looked at him there, stared at the drink in his hand, the whiskey. How strange it was that it was called a spirit, as if it were a ghost, as if it were in the process of haunting his father.
His friend Charlie was a retired labourer from the country, a huge doorful of a man like staring up at some monumental statue. This man with his thinning silver hair and his quiet scathing humour, this man who built his own home with his bare hands, this man with an affinity with the earth, who had laboured tirelessly through the rise and fall of empires and governments, wars, holocausts, inventions, discoveries, epidemics, earthquakes, and yet remained the same, the same as a thousand years before, a man of utter integrity who thought with his blood and whose wisdom lay in folktales, an intellect founded on inspiration whilst others were shackled by education. He would say storms are coming because the mountains looked closer and pains would emerge in the joints. He was almost always right. The council had appropriated his farmland to build a housing estate. He had received adequate compensation but had lost his focus, his purpose. The boy was often enchanted and often infuriated by the occasional phrases of Gaelige that Charlie would self-consciously launch into a conversation. It was a strange distant mantra that he had known all his life that had pervaded everything and yet he knew nothing at all about it. It hung with a terrible beauty over everything he encountered. It had an allure, the voice of warriors under this same sky who had had pitched bloody battles, who had had elected kings to live lives of sweet debauchery, with hedonistic orgies and drunken banquets where milk and honey flowed, men who earned every breath and died as they lived: on their feet men and women who lived lives in which myths and legends were as real to them as TV was to us, wondrous people now turned to dust and buried under supermarkets and car parks, their gods gone, forgotten. If we must have gods let them be spectacular he thought. And yet he feared it. A language with more poetry, with arcane blessings and curses, "Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat"- "May the cat eat you, and may the cat be eaten by the devil." It made the language he spoke sound harsh, abrupt, awkward, without poetry. This language, this Gaelige angered him when he heard it spoken, the language that he did not know, the language that made him feel an exile in his own homeland, the language he hated because he was placed outside its mysteries.
Charlie rose whilst putting on his coat. It seemed as if he had been waiting for some time to do so.
" Are ye going Charlie? Sure, stay for a while yet."
" Naw, I best be heading on. Got to get back to the wife…see ye later lad", he said ruffling the boy’s hair as he left.
" Awwwh…God bless us and save us" his father yawned. Silence.
"Better git some of the auld firewater" he said to himself before rising and returning to the bar.
The boy admired his father’s drunken swagger from a distance. He was a smart man though not in the conventional sense. A believer in that naïve revolutionary idea that human beings if unobstructed and given a level playing field were decent creatures, he had spent many a drunken night in heated debate with drinking partners over politics. They would shout his father down and tell him to leave the politics to the politicians and he would rise to his feet and bellow, "God forbid you bastards think for yourself". The boy wondered why his father’s ideas and stories were saved only for those drunken nights, his words, as if written on water, might as well have evaporated from his mouth. Yet he relished his role as zealous activist of the public houses claiming "he who is born to hang will never drown" and there were many who had taken him on and been outwitted, slouching to the toilets where they’d dictate an eloquent riposte of all they should have said with a felt tip pen on the back of the toilet door beside the party boy phone numbers and slogans of the cubicle situationists. There were many people who badmouthed him calling him a wasted alcoholic behind his back. They said he was as useful as tits on a bull. His path would be soiled with whispers of "that fucker thinks he is somebody". It was perhaps because of his words. Once he had enlightened the boy, "Listen son, people don’t like to be told they’re not free. Or that their thoughts are not their own. Just as the dead don’t like to know they are dead".
The shattering of glass suddenly awoke the boy from his daydreaming. On the way to the bar, his father had stumbled and knocked into a table of drinks, spilling the contents. A group of young boys were sitting at the table waiting to watch a football match and roared, almost in unison, "Hey fucking watch it".
" Sorry lads…"
" Ye auld fucking prick"
" You’ll be buying us replacements"
" Listen boys I’m sorry…act a’ God," he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of copper and a crumbled up bus ticket. "All I have’s shrapnel…"
" Are ye fucking joking?"
The barman intervened leaning over the counter, "Hi boys keep the noise down. What’s the problem?"
" This fucking cripple knocked over our drinks…"
" Listen to tell ye the God’s honest truth I’m skint."
The barman motioned him over and talked in whispers, which the boy strained unsuccessfully to pick up.
He could see his father nodding then shaking his head and then he returned. For the first time he looked small.
He finished his drink swiftly and then lifted his coat and draped it across his arm.
"Fuck it son, kiss the hand you cannot bite", he murmured without making eye contact.

Emerging into the blinding daylight like stunned nocturnal animals in headlights the boy sped ahead of his father who was feeling his snug drunken glow already subsiding and cursed as he repeatedly put his arms into the wrong holes in his coat. With the fading glow of intoxication he felt a stirring nostalgia for those times when he had thought more of the future than of the past, more of what will be than what might have been. For the first time in his life the boy had realised his father wasn’t invincible, he didn’t know all that there was to know, he was prone to disappoint and that if he was some kind of God it was a God rapidly in the process of drowning. But he was a good man for all that counts. The boy crossed to the bright side of the street where the numbers were even, just out of reach from the shadows of the houses, which grew along the ground as the sun sunk like a deadweight and the clouds dragged cumulonimbus debris across the sky. It hadn’t rained for days and the sun was faint and distant. It was hard to believe that this was the same sphere of flame, which was an orchestra of warmth in the summer, which could melt the tar on the roads, evaporate reservoirs and conjure the landscape into rising waves. The city slept in the artic distance, its towers climbing onto each other’s shoulders, competing to invade the skyline. Under the same sun it was dawn elsewhere, illuminating some strange land he had read of; like the Silk Route into the Far east or the Siberian Steppes or the scorched savannah plains of Andalusia. The boy ran on faster as the wind whipped the breath from his lungs scything down from the mountains and through the terraces.

On the way home he got to thinking of the dead man. He was like a different race to the other old men who repeated tired old jokes over and over as the mechanisms in their head slowly, slowly ground to a halt. A solid man made out of the elements, his atoms being the same as those of granite. He was one of the few that when he talked you wanted to listen. Even near the end he was unreconciled, unappeased, uncontent, undefeated. Maybe he had left something behind.
As he arrived home his mother was silently preparing the dinner and the children followed her into the living room to crowd around the TV. His father now bitterly sober called each member of the family an impressively original and explicit obscenity for hiding the remote control until he realised that was exactly the object he had been waving at them in contempt. His mother rolled her eyes. His father belatedly calmed when he discovered a fascinating bruise on his arm he couldn’t remember getting. She had tried many times to make him disappear completely, driving him out to the outskirts and leaving him there but he always found his way home.
" Why don’t we have a conversation for a change?"
" Wise up".
" Naw I’m serious… turn that racket down".
The TV was turned down to a groans of disapproval and when the silence brought not conversation but a heightened awareness of the sounds of eating and digestion his father clearly agitated reached over and turned the volume up. His mother and father got on like a cross on fire. They had gone beyond even wishing themselves unmarried, they had surrendered.
All eyes glued on the flickering screen. There was nothing really on. His mother momentarily broke the hypnosis without taking her eyes away from it.
" There was a young lad washed up at the point last night."
" Suicide… most likely".
" No-one even knew he was missing".
Silence. Father turned the volume up further.
The boy missed the days his father would light the fire and they would sit up intoxicated by wondrous tales, some of which would visit him alone at night but he regretted hearing none. He could remember a poem about a frog who, looking into a lake in the dead of night, had believed it was the moon. Another story had haunted him, a true one, of an ancient town in the mountains, which had suffered a goldrush, which brought famine in its wake. The inhabitants died out and it was decided to flood the town to make a reservoir for the nearest city several hundred miles away. Whenever drought comes and the reservoir dwindles, the spires of the old town church and the rooftops of the ghost town reappear, the bells tolling to the ghostly congregation with each lap of the waves. It had taken him a long time to shake that from his dreams. Now the fireplace was filled with ash, it hadn’t be lit in so long they said there would probably be a nest blocking the chimney and to do so now might burn the house to the ground. And yet the boy longed irresistibly to see it. With the spellbinding rhythmic attention of the fire departed, his father lay sleeping his face illuminated by the television glare, dead to the world.
Turning out the light of his bedroom he stood for a moment in the darkness alone but for the crest and ebb of the fleeting cars, sailing along the road outside and vanishing into the night. He opened his window and climbed down the drainpipe. He had until morning.
Stretching to his utmost he managed to scale the wall from the alleyway and landed in the yard. As he moved stealthily towards the back door he wished for a cloak of silence to wear on his movements, which seemed somehow amplified. His heart stopped in the second between seeing the face in the window and realising it was his reflection. The door was unlocked and opened effortlessly. He inched along the wooden corridor holding his breath and gritting his teeth with each step. Candlelight lay in wait along the floorboards from under the door. Closing his eyes he pushed the door open. He had the fear of god in him.
The body hadn’t stirred and was there alone.
A crucifix had been forced into its hands. At the bookcase he opened the drawer and found it was filled with junk. Bundles of photos, sketches and writing were forced together, when they had found him the entire room had been covered with sprawling texts and great sweeping arcs of manuscripts. The photos immediately caught his eye. A group of men and women embracing with eyes towards the sky. Behind them steep fertile hills lined with fluid regiments of Cypress trees gave way to a limitless delta. "Catalonia 1936". Another had a young man with a rifle on his back, perhaps even the old man, embracing a strikingly beautiful woman so long ago it is likely they are both dead, yet alive for that camera flash forever.
On the back a scrawled quotation "We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie may blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here in our hearts and it is growing every minute." Buenaventura Durruti.
Strange names and places hypnotised him: Orwell, Auden, Hemingway, Simone Weil on the Huesca ghost front, Gaudi’s magnificent Barcelona, the shrinking lake of L’Albufera, the Ebro delta, the 300 towers of Onda, La Coruna the city of glass, the Navarra bullrun, the burnt highlands of Castile and the steep fertile hills of Euskadi, Fermin Salvochea, the last stand of the philosopher Unanumo, the brothers Ascaso, the poet Hernandez, Bajatierra, Besteiro, the death of Federico Garcia Lorca.
Names that couldn’t be of this world.
Newspaper cuttings revealed that the old man had been a volunteer in the International Brigades, the Connolly Column who had gone to fight fascism, battle the night and fog and forge the revolution, to be tortured and die amongst olive grooves and sierras fighting for the ghost republic in the name of human decency. And to return to be labelled a "premature anti-fascist" and be blacklisted from employment and benefits, forgotten about, ignored, washed up like wreckage from some glorious armada.
As the boy lifted the dead man’s notebook a loose page fell onto the carpet. He raised it up to the light and found it to be another newspaper cutting in Spanish with an English translation. It showed a photograph of a jubilant crowd, smiling and cheering holding him, the young old man aloft on their shoulders. He had scaled the walls of the Fascist fortress in Grenada, had ascended the flagpole and swapped the Fascist "for God and Country" banner for the Red Flag of the people.
In the diary and in the photos the boy caught glimpses of a world beyond the pub and the church and the television and the dead. A world where people created rather than consumed, where they drew a line in the sand and stood together, where no-one had too much to lose, where another world was possible, where people refused to be collaborators to their own undoing, where man was reinvented, where blind indifference was not an option, where the more you own was not the more you are, where history had not ended, where everything was questioned, where tomorrow was another word for never and what is was turned into what could be.
And the boy understood why the old man had fought at the end; it was not the fear of death but adoration for every single precious second of life.
The boy jumped as the grandfather clock wound itself up suddenly and chimed. Outside the clouds had burst and it was raining torrentially, the Gulf Stream swept in over the Cliffs of Moher and tempestuously lashed down on all of Ireland who faced the desolate Atlantic alone. The boy closed his eyes and imagined rain so relentless all windows would shatter and the soil could take no more and the floods would sweep down the terraces, drowning trainloads of commuters and washing the concrete from the streets. Outside the storm lanterns were dying out one by one under the downpour until all that was left was the blue vacuum of night, which sapped all colour from the soaked earth until morning.
In that room beneath a sky that fell into infinity past archipelagos of stars the boy silently uncovered the mirrors so that the dead would see that they are dead and the living would see that they are alive.


copyright © 2005 darran anderson, all rights reserved

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