The Shadow Of Mrs. Prior
By sean mcnulty
--Dere’s Mrs. Prior. She’s a bit a shtuff, isint she?
McGurk is referring to de most mysterious woman in de town who is now walking past with a shopping bag and a fancy French bread sticking out of it. And a Republican News under her arm.
It’s Saturday at de square and Dixon, McGurk and meself are sitting dere watching all de people go past, doin der shopping. You feel like yer in a fillum because when each person passes by it’s like you’re cutting to a new scene.
The scene gets exciting when Mrs. Prior walks past. She’s wearing a tight black dress with a long brown coat on de outside and blueberry-coloured hat. She has a foreign look about her, sharp-edged eyes, and a small pretty mouth. Black hair goes down her back like a spill. She never wears make-up but you’d tink she did because her skin is so white ya’d tink it was icing sugar.
But she sees de tree of us lukin at her and says:
--Whut are yooz tree moomins lukin at?
We go all quiet because we don’t expect her to say anything to us. However. Should have known. She’s a fierce-looking woman is Mrs. Prior after all.
I tink she must either know my secret love of the moomins cartoon, or she watches it herself and dislikes it so much she uses it as a term of abuse for people.
She shrugs us off and keeps walking.
--I wonder if she’s on her way to meet Mr. Prior, says Dixon.
--It’d be stupid of him to come back here, says McGurk.
It’s been in de news all week dat Mr. Prior escaped from de prison he was in and de police back and fort de border are now after him. De R.U.C must have been fairly stupid because it said on de TV dat he ambushed a prison gard and stole his uniform even tho de uniform was much too big on him. Dey said he was swimming in dose clothes as he walked out of de prison no bodder. Apparently one of de gards even joked wit him when he was walking out saying he better get a new uniform dat fits him.
Now Mr. Prior is on de run and everyone expects him to be showing up in town any day now.
I can see people lukin at Mrs. Prior as she walks and de luks she gets are suspicious and scared, but she gets the odd friendly one from a supporter.
--Imagine escaping from a prison like dat, says McGurk. I hope one day I can do dat.
--But yood have to go to prison first, says I.
--I’d take me chances.
--It’d be good to come back to a woman like Mrs. Prior, says Dixon. I’d say she’d give you a hero’s welcome and ride ya senseless.
--I told ya, says McGurk. It’d be stupid to come back here. All de police will be watching.
--Where wud ya go den? says Dixon. Where do ya tink Mr. Prior went?
--I’d say he’s in de church, I say. It’s hallowed ground. Dey can’t touch ya.
--Nah, I wudn’t trust de priests, says McGurk. Dey’d dob you in, de bastids. I’d go far away. America. Las Vegas. Plonk meself down at a slot machine and never leave. Lovely waitresses bringing me all de food and drink I want for de rest of me life.
Dixon says: What if he comes back here anyway and de Brits turn up at der house when Mrs. Prior is in de middle of ridin him?
--Ya’d be hopping mad wit dem, wudn’t ya? says I.
--Yeah, says McGurk. I’d have a gun ready at de side of de bed. I’d finish ridin her first, at me leisure, den take all de soldiers out one by one.
--Go and fuck, says Dixon. De Brits wudn’t let ya do dat. Dey’d riddle ya wit bullets and cart ya off starkers. Buck-naked pictures of ya all over de fronts of de papers.
--I wouldn’t mind dat. It’d be a gud way to go out.
Dixon den says something absolutely mad. He says: Will we follow her and see if she leads us to Mr. Prior?
--Are ye mad? I say. We can’t do dat.
--It’s a gud idea, agrees McGurk.
--What if she sees us behind her? She’ll kill us.
--Don’t be a pansy, Lucas!
So we get up from our seats at the square and start tracking Mrs. Prior through de town hoping she’ll lead us to de escaped Mr. Prior. She hasn’t made much distance since passing us, not too far ahead. We keep well behind in case she luks back and follow her as she walks past the Courthouse and on up Crowe Street.
I notice she walks in a very graceful high-ranking way. Most of de udder women in town wud be jiggling along now like broken machinery but she carries herself like a princess of de land.
--I wonder if she’s on her way to de home bakery, says I.
--Nah, she’s got her bread bought already. Luk. She’s crossin.
Mrs. Prior crosses de road and starts heading for St. Patrick’s.
--I told yiz, I say. She’s goin to de church. Dat’s whur Mr. Prior’s hidin.
So we skip over de road ourselves and make our ways towards St. Patrick’s. A question often asked about St. Patrick’s: Is it a church or a cathedral? Who de fuck nose? It’s certainly de biggest holy house in de town. We’ll all be in here soon making our confirmations. Should make a few squid from dat.
Mrs. Prior goes into St. Patrick’s but we hold back at de gates so she won’t see us. Den Dixon tells us to wait and runs up de steps of de entrance himself and sneaks in to check.
He’s not in dere long. When he comes out, he tells us dere’s no sign of de convict at all and Mrs. Prior is just kneeling in de pews wit her head down praying.
--I wonder why she’s prayin? I ask. Her man’s already escaped, hasen he?
--She’s prayin fur hopefully a gud ride soon, says Dixon.
We hang back behind some cars in de car park outside and wait fur Mrs. Prior to come out.
When she eventually does so, she crosses de road and turns up Chapel Street. She hasn’t seen us yet. We’re getting to be proper ninjas at dis stage. Sho Kosugi wud be mighty prowd. All de same, we keep a gud safe distance between us as she princesses up de street past de library. Chapel Street is one of my favourite streets in de town as it’s so quiet and it has de library dere.
--Will we go into de library after dis?
--Ah, we might.
--No, says Dixon. I tink de woman in dere saw me robbin a buk last week. She might grab me.
--Whut buk did ye rob? I ask.
--Watchers by Dean Kuntz.
--Shit, says McGurk suddenly.
While talking about de library, we haven’t noticed Mrs. Prior. She’s stopped a little bit up de way. And now she’s facing us. She’s twigged we’re following her. And she has a smile on her face. It’s a devil smile.
--Fuckin hell, says I. What’ll we do?
--Quiet, Lucas, says Dixon. Just act normal. Keep walkin as normal.
So we keep walking.
But Mrs. Prior starts walking too. Towards us. Very slowly. Pacing.
--Oh shit, says McGurk. She’s comin right at us. And McGurk shits himself in dat moment and legs it back de way we came. And dey’re always calling me de pansy!
The devil smile on Mrs. Prior’s face is unchanged as she takes dese slow unhurried steps towards us. A shopping bag with a French bread sticking out of it has never been so frightening. It gets to be too much fur us and Dixon and me stop in our tracks. Mrs. Prior stops too. Den she yells out:
--Moomins! Yiz pack a moomins!
Mrs. Prior turns and keeps walking up Chapel Street. And we’re clear.
She gave us a proper scare, she did.
--That was close, I say.
--Ah, she wudn’t have done annyting. Shur we only wee fellas. She knows dat.
We turn and head back towards de square.
As we’re passin de courthouse, we see a garda truck park up and some gards get out of it. Dey’re typical gards. Tall and strong-lukin. But something in der faces isn’t right. Dey luk sad and hungry and tired.
--Dere ye are, says Dixon, as we pass dem. Mr. Prior’s still on de loose fur sure. Goes to show prayers work. She’ll be ridin in no time at all.
When we get back to de square, we see McGurk dere, and I call him a chickenshit pansy, and we go back to sitting and watching de scenes in de fillum flick from one shopper to de next.