There You Are
By sean mcnulty
Moloney set off northwards again, up Steever Hill, which was by all accounts a much easier hill to ascend, with numerous paths running down it like neat stairways as though it was nationally protected or something, making Long Gully across the way, with only its uneven trails and cracks for navigation, look neglected horribly by government and God. You got the feeling, with all the flora one had gotten used to seeing down in the valley slowly vanishing from sight, that you were stepping into another world, one more sympathetic, even polite. Daisies began to peek their good-humoured little heads out left and right, and the larkspur got taller, bluer and more elegant, while clusters of red clover were taking shape all across the hillside. The butter and bladderwort of the bog began to fade away, the crow and cranberry becoming a thing of the past. Now you were entering a more refined and demure domain that should rightfully have been located a million miles away from all the rutty festering of the bog.
Dispassionately, Moloney marshalled a large block of phlegm in his mouth and watched as it shot out and hung foaming from a willowherb petal like larva that soon a great pest would emerge from.
By the time he reached the top of Steever Hill, the sun had sunk away in the west and the strange red mist it cast over the wetlands had departed too. The Chister Castle sat about five miles out, ruined. They wouldn’t even photograph that old thing for a history book these days. And why would anyone want to? Built by looters, it should be seen as a monument to looting and looting alone, not the regal and magnificent and abominable presence it apparently once was. Stretching the whole way from the castle to the hill and ending right below where Moloney stood was a chaotic forest roof, the treetops hugging and fighting with one another in the breeze. Around here they simply called it ‘the wood’. If it had been named in the past, that past was an ancient one, for not even the dead in their graves could remember it. The Oul Lass used to say the wood was enchanted. If you went in there, you were playing with dark forces, fairies and such, who didn’t much like the carry-on of people, so you should stay well away from the place. Sure he didn’t believe any of that bygone bull. Didn’t every wood in the country have a ghost knocking about in it somewhere? Still, it gave off a funny smell, one he didn’t fancy much. He had not ventured into the shadowy place in years. Some memories of running about in there during childhood stuck with him, but there were no spirits rising up in those memories.
Down there as a boy he’d spied on the Oul Lad being unfaithful to the Oul Lass near the big stone ring. Not with another woman, no, just with a piece of paper, a sex rag of some sort, and he was pulling the tool of himself merrily. When the Oul Lad was done, he tossed the paper on the ground and marched off, and later when the coast was clear the young Moloney went to have a look at what it was the devil patriarch had been using to deliver his ecstasy and to maybe have a pull out of it for himself but alas he found no salacious material at all, just a page from a local Farmer’s Weekly with not a single picture on it. Just a load of words. He wondered how the Oul Lad had been able to arouse himself at all but as he looked through the sections he noticed that a number of words had been circled randomly, suspiciously. The words when isolated from their articles were benign, safe words in the world of farming, you might say, but if you thought long and hard about them it was possible to picture something dirty in your mind.
He praised the Oul Lad for his powers of imagination that day, for his ingenuity in the development of agricultural erotica; it had been the only time he ever saw fit to reflect on the inner world of the man, and he saw in that moment that it was rather more profound in there than he’d considered before. And so he rose to the challenge set by his forebear and employed the selected words in the Farmer’s Weekly as he pulled thoughtfully upon his own tool.
In a way, he had witnessed spirits rising, he then thought to himself. Just not the boogy-woogy type.
Moloney turned and looked down at the house of Hayes Elder to his right, an oddly-shaped thing if ever there was one, with a roof that looked like a seashell, except one that was plain, patternless on the outer part. Now there was a man who might have been able to help them obtain obscene images back in the day – what with his famed ventures away from Seanad Éireann. Sure didn’t the fool only last in the senate for two years – two wretched years – before he had to renounce his seat when it came out that he’d co-financed the British sex comedy The Amiable Dottie Cox in 1975, a film Moloney knew the Oul Lad would have given arms and legs to see had he been able to. He’d yet to see the film himself but he had plenty of stills from it back in the farmhouse that he’d sent away for, along with many others, from many productions which remained unavailable in the region. The cabinet was coming down with pictures of ladies that were naked and barely and he thanked the heavens he had them all to his own good self but wasn’t it an expensive business all the same...
The senator’s house was kept better than Chister Castle, for sure, but it too was a monument to looting.
What a plush homestead indeed! Paid for in titty-flicks.
Modern Ireland. There you are.
Image: Wikimedia Commons