Thursday, 16 January 2014

When a Banshee sings, a prince finds peace, when she screams the devil licks his lips

It was dark, the blackness of a closed coffin, eyes struggling to see.  Outside of the farm cottage walls he heard horses clipping over cobbles, bridles jangling and wheels creaking as a wild wind rustled leaves like a dress pulled off by a lover.  Suddenly he could see, through a window, clouds scurried from the moon like mice away from a cat.  And he was standing trying to open the kitchen door. The black cast iron bolts were too high for his stretched out fingers and the hooves drummed ever louder and shook the ground making him fall down, ever down into the silvery light.

Cormac jolted awake, the dustmen were making their usual Tuesday morning racket with bottles and cans being sorted and thrown into the hatches of the revving recycling van. He could see his breath misting in the cold of the room, it was that bloody dream again. He shouted out to the pokey dirty-grey room, with its thick green curtains hanging up with string and cobwebs,

‘Not yet, I’ve still breath.’

Sighing, he reluctantly threw aside the three duvets, the old dog blankets and the odd curtain and before putting on his woollen hat - heating cost money, more bedclothes didn’t.  Bending down carefully, he pulled on furry slippers over thick purple artic frost-frighteners, and threw on a wool blanket with a hole cut through for his head before tying bale string around his barrel stomach and layers of long johns and vests. To his mirrored reflection he said, 

‘I might look like a sack of spuds but I'm as warm as a bag of chips.’ 

Once out of the bedroom, he shuffled carefully down the bare wooden stairs and corridors – the carpet along with most of the future had gone to pay her bills as the loan shark banks were too impatient to wait for his death.  

Opening the larder door and sniffing the milk, he suddenly caught the scent of heather on a warm autumn day and heard horses pull a carriage to a door, the wheels creaking but no neighs or the shouting of whoa as the slap of leather reins pulled in silence. Then the rumble of traffic burst back in. He shook his head, he wasn’t ready. 

Walking over to the greasy, rusty stove, he picked up the dented kettle and went to the only working tap to drum in water. Back at the stove he battled with matches and banged hobs to get the gas hissing into two horned misshapen flames.  He shook out the mug’s dregs and then popped in yesterday’s tea bags, dried and ready to be pressed into service. Pouring in the water, and cursing from the sting of the hot handle, he left them to brew, as he switched on the radio that burst into the room with chants like sunbeams that after cold winter rain summoned rainbows. He shouted, 


and the news of floods and indiscretion in high places shouted back.

Grabbing his mug, he stumped upstairs, got back into bed and pulled the bedclothes around him shouting,

‘This wasn’t the dream; this isn’t the life I danced every night for.’

Knocking the tea back, he sat up and threw the mug over to the dusty shelf of leaden cups and medals, knocking over fading pictures of ball-room dancers, the men like splendid waiters and the women in swirly lace and thick make-up.  Looking up and around the room, he raised his arm and wagged his finger saying,

‘I was the all-county champion once, and Sean’s friend’s sister had sworn I was made for a TV programme they planning. But she never came back to me.  They did for her of course, she got on. Always was the better dancer and only left me for the all -England champion because it got her on TV. I’ve still got the VHS Tapes even if the video went wonky.’

He fall back in to the bed before whispering,

‘She loved me enough to leave the house for her debts.’ 

Perhaps, he fall asleep, this time the door was open and he looked out to see a black carriage, and four headless horses stamping their feet.  From the carriage’s open door hundreds of white hands fluttered out like summer cabbage butterflies all clapping. Then a woman of sunlight curves and moon beam eyes stepped out with a diamond-glass bowl of warm blood and floated over to him singing of Princes who stole the land of gods so people could dance with fairies. The bowl rose from her hands and rose higher and nearer his head as he said,

‘So this dance is over.’

Soon he would be anointed and his fathers arise to greet him. He turned to a window that looked out into a summer morning of the old country, the boys running naked to the wooded pond, diving and throwing water at each other from a broken metal pail, each screaming and giving as good as they got - a time when dreams were fun.