We’d been talking together a good while at the roadside and I made to move on.
Then he spoke up again,
‘Oul Peader on our road’s bad.’
‘Ah… he can’t be the thing this while.
There’s two smokes in the house this week an’ more.
He had the priest an’ doctor.
With a step forward, a shrug and a shuffling back.
He doesn’t want to be the author of a rumour.
‘.. there’s no sign of death upon him.
But sure, what am I talking about?
Sure that says nothin’ in these times.
Still, the years is there…’
A point of agreement…
‘Aye.. the years is there.’
‘Aye.. and there’s no telling at all when a man gets up in years an’ him ailin’..’
Now he palmed his growth of beard as if puzzled to find it there.
‘Well, as they used to say, ‘The want of the people’s a poor want.’
A short pause.
An’ Kate’s away to Yankeeland..’
I was watching a field where the heaps of top-dressing lay half-spread, musing maybe on spring, and didn’t pick up his phrase – even though he said it with the customary inflection of half-query – the precaution of the news-carrier.
‘Kate.. Kate.. Aw, no!’
‘Aye, boy.’ His shoulders gave a heave.
‘Put out the fire for the first and last time an’ turned the key in the oul’ thatch cabin.
Off be air to Yankeeland.
It was lonely be herself.’
He wasn’t being sentimental. It was one of the few surviving thatched cottages.
It was hard not to think of the nights when music and dance welcomed the returned emigrants there …
… another example of Michael J’s work ? …
… Cullyhanna/Crossmaglen series ? …