Category: Creative Writing

Real Politic by Stephen Brady

“It’s either an arse or an elbow,” he said, breath misting the cold night air.
He had spoken aloud, although there was no-one there to hear. Ordinarily, he was a man who loved an audience. On this occasion, however, he was prepared to make an exception.

Fintan Gall T.D. was standing in front of his Audi 600, perplexed. The car was idling on the empty road, spewing blue fumes in the winter chill. In front of the car, on the tarmac, was a jumbled heap of limbs, wheels, and handlebars. Fintan adjudged that he was looking at what had been, until recently, a cyclist. But he couldn’t be sure. He’d had six pints of stout back at the clubhouse Christmas do, each one chased by smooth yet impertinent twenty-five year old Jameson. He hadn’t even seen the interloper until the bastard upended himself over his bonnet.

“Came out of nowhere, so he did,” Fintan muttered, testing the sound and pacing of the words. “On my life. Out of nowhere.”

He was acute enough to notice the shallow indentation on the Audi’s bonnet, and felt a stab of rage towards the heap at his feet.

He whipped out his phone, fumbled it, cursed. Finally, and with some difficulty, he selected a number.

“Hello? Hello? J.D.? F.G. I know it’s late, shut up a second. Look, I’ve had a bit of a faux pas out on the highway. Could be a spot of bother. Never mind that. I’ll be at the office first thing. We’ll need to straighten this out. Yeah, yeah. Happy Christmas.”

He hung up. He was about to return to the warmth of the Audi when, from the corner of his eye, he noticed movement.

At the sound of his voice, the heap on the ground had stirred.
Fintan’s innards turned to ice. The situation had just become rather less open-and-shut than he’d supposed.

“Hello…?” he ventured.

“Aaaaaaaagh,” said the heap. “Aaaaaaaagh.”

“Hello?” Fintan spoke more stridently. “I’m speaking to you, man.”

“You bastard,” the heap said weakly. “You broke me leg. You bastard.”

“Now, now,” said Fintan, his drink-fuzzed brain stuttering into overdrive. “I categorically deny that allegation. You are engaged in speculation without full possession of the facts. I found you like this. You, my friend, have been the victim of a hit-and-run. Some lad in a van, foreigner I think he was.”

“Shuttup,” the cyclist groaned. “It was you, I know it was. I got your reg. You’re gointa jail, ya bastard!”

“You can have all my details, fella, I’ve nothing to hide. My name is Seamus O’Brien.”

He made a mental note to have his car chap change the plates in the morning. They’d done it before.

But the obstinate heap was still talking.

“I know who y’are! I know yer voice off the telly. You’re that bastard politician, closed down the hospital. And you’re pissed, I can smell it. Oh you’re goin’ down, pal!”

Fintan’s sluggish brain was groping for a tactic. Normally he was very good at talking himself out of corners. But this was proving to be a sticky wicket.

Finally, he hit upon an elegant solution.
“No speakee Engrish,” he trilled. “I don’ know what you talk about Mr. Man. I go home now. Velly solly happy Christmas!”

He started back towards the car. As he did so, the twisted shape on the ground rolled over and spoke again.

“Listen, pal. I’m in the Socialist Worker’s Party. And the Marxist Union o’ Ireland! An’ the Campaign for Universal Bike Lanes. Pricks like you have rid this country raw. I’m gonna ruin you. You’ll never see daylight again!”

Fintan slid behind the wheel and weighed his options. He was seething. His knuckles bloomed white against the steering wheel. A Socialist, a bloody Marxist no less, and worst of all, a cyclist! He was filled with righteous fury, which blew the boozy cobwebs from his brain and lent him a lethal focus. A problem had presented itself, and he was a man who solved problems. His constituents expected no less.

He threw the car into Reverse, backed up about thirty yards, and turned the high beams on.

His target was bathed in merciless light. Fintan revved the engine, exhilarated by the throaty Teutonic roar. His foot, clad in hand-stitched Italian leather, eased onto the accelerator.

He’d make it quick, he decided. It was Christmas, after all.

Haunted Bomber by Declan Cosson

It was a pitch black night whose tranquillity was suddenly disrupted as a vast swarm of Avro Lancaster bombers flew in a disciplined formation over the Germanic city below. Suddenly, alarms could be heard below and the pitch black skies were illuminated by flashing spotlights that would beam a ray of light up at the bomber fleet. Within minutes, the sky was suddenly glowing from the bursts of explosions went off around them. The thundering sound of the flack guns could be heard from below as they fired up at the planes. The pounding of these guns battered the planes, notably blasting one bomber’s propellor into inactivity. As this happened, a troop of enemy fighter aircraft swooped in and strafed the hull of the bomber, narrowly ducking it’s turrets who fired back at them with their own machine guns. By this stage, the bomber had two of its propellors knocked out of action.
To make things worse, the crew got progressively thinned and sliced up by repeated attacks by enemy fighter planes. As the radio operator tried to maintain his contact with base, but before he knew it, a stray shell from DCA sliced through him, leaving him bloodied and dead. Despite all of this battering, the bomber continued to just journey towards its target and maintained its position within the formation, dropping hails of bombs upon the factory complex that had been targeted, flattening the facility to little more than rubble. Once it was done, the bomber began to limp its way back to England. Then, all of a sudden, a strange mysterious fog suddenly enveloped the bomber and suddenly, the plane soon found itself diverging completely off course, cut off from the rest of the bomber fleet.

Inside the bomber’s cockpit, the two pilots were still alive. One of them was scrutinizing the controls of the plane, painfully aware of the beeping noise on the panel that alerted him to say “warning, low fuel”. As he observed this, his comrade said.
“We’ve been hit pretty bad, Fletcher! You really think we’ll make it back to England in this?”
“I don’t know, Flint, but we can’t waist time here! We got to try to make it back, at worst, I’d rather die in the Channel than be in a prison camp.”
As he heard this, Flint unbelted himself from his seat, standing up as he said to Fletcher, “Listen, I’m going back to check on the damage, to see if anyone else is still alive…”
“Yeah sure, Flint, go ahead…I’ll try to regroup with the squadron.”
Thus, Flint stood up and headed for the door of the cockpit.

However, little did either Flint or Fletcher know, the bomber was not flying towards England at all. Rather it was flying over the infamous peak of the Brocken, which according to Germanic myth was where the witches held their sabbath. Certainly, there was a very real sense that whatever was happening was not natural at all. Even as he was wrapped up in his leather jacket, scarf and gloves, Flint was chilled to the bone as he maneuvered through the corridor. It was dead silent except for the slow stuttering drone of the engines but the holes in the plane’s hull allowed for the harsh howling wind to be heard from inside. Disturbed by the deathly silence of the scene, Flint shouted. “Hello? Hello??”
As he came across the mutilated and bloodied corpses of his comrades, whose bodies were still riddled with bullets. The sight of all of his dead comrades was not easy for Flint, who honestly wanted to just wake up in his Merry England, living a quaint pastoral life as a yeoman and pretend that this experience was some sort of strange nightmare. For now, he edged closer and closer to tail of the plane and saw that its turret had been blasted open, leaving a hollow hole at the end of the plane. When Flint got to the tail of the plane, he looked down, only to see the peak of the Brocken. This disturbed him, not because he believed in witches or spooks but rather because he knew that they were not heading towards England. As he looked up, Flint could see that there seemed to be a glowing sphere that was sickly green. Baffled, Flint took out his binoculars and realized that much to his horror, the sphere was following them.
His gloved hands trembled from the shiver sent up his spine as he rushed back through the corridor and shouted. “Fletcher!! Captain Fletcher!!! Something is following us!!!”
He kept shouting that as he rushed towards the cockpit. As he heard Flint’s voice become louder and more intelligible to his ears, Fletcher turned around and asked,
“Flint, what’s up with you? Followed by what?”

As he burst into the cockpit, Flint spoke in a voice that sounded as if he had a stammer as he blurted out.
“I’m not making this up, Captain, there’s a sickly green orb on our trail and it’s…”
The moment he heard Flint talk about a sickly green orb, the scaffolding needed to construct and hold up Fletcher’s serious tone fell like a pile of bricks as he asked in a more sarcastic tone,
“Flint, how much did you drink before we left? That’s sounds like yet another one of those “Foo fighters” that have made such a sensation in the press!!”
“As I said, I’m not making this up, would you please take a look for yourself Captain.”
“Flint, with all due respects, I’ve got a plane to fly…the less time we waste up here, the sooner we get back to England, understood? We seem to be completely cut off from the bomber fleet!!”
Flint sighed in despair when he heard this. But before they could say anything, the orb got closer and closer to the bomber till suddenly, both Flint and Fletcher were forced to close their eyes as the plane briefly blazed in green, a bright sickly green before it suddenly faded out. When the green glow was gone, Flint and Fletcher looked to each other. Fletcher could only look confused as he asked, “What the bloody hell was that?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out!”
And with that, Flint slowly opened the door of the cockpit and crept back out into the corridor of the plane.
But when he did, he felt an incredibly strong sense of disbelief as he saw what seemed to be a green mist pour through the plane and as if it had a mind of its own, the mist split off into different sections, each seemingly having a mind of its own as they entered the corpses of the dead men. As someone who was not prone to superstitions, Flint was completely confused by what he saw. Before he could turn back to tell Fletcher, he heard movement and some weird noises. Though these noises sent a chill up Flint’s spine, he just thought that the noises were simply the wind pouring through the battered and torn hull of the plane which continued its slow drone.
So he turned his back on the macabre sight and headed back to the cockpit. But as he did so, little did he know, but the corpses began to animate and move themselves, slowly jerking themselves to stand up straight, their battered hands turned into claws and as if possessed by some unnatural sorcery, the corpse’s eyes opened, no longer the blue, green or brown eyes they originally were, but they were now blood red, red as crimson. Soon, one of them opened his mouth to reveal rotten teeth and let out a slow and echoing groan. It wasn’t long before Flint heard all of this groaning. Completely bewildered, Flint called back to the cockpit asking. “Fletcher?? Are you hearing all of this, Captain??”
“Flint, what in the name of Christ is going on back there??”
“I don’t know…I…”
When he heard the groan again, Flint turned around and what he saw reminded him of one of those hammer horror films he saw back in England. For now, a rotting bloodied corpse was starring right at him, extending its foul clawed and skeletal hand at him as it groaned. Chilled to the bone, Flint seemed paralyzed with fear, too terrified to scream, especially as more of them showed up. But when one of them lunged at him, Flint managed to shrug the creature off and he grabbed an axe that was attached to the plane’s wall so that when the ghoulish corpse lunged at him again, Flint swung it at the creature and split its head in two. This bought Flint time to run, but though he bolted towards the cockpit door, he quickly got exhausted halfway through the trip.
Thus, he panted heavily as he sought to recuperate his strength, but he was so tired that the axe strained on his hand.

Meanwhile, Fletcher was in the cockpit, but because he heard the groans, he grabbed his gun on instinct and went back to see what was happening to Flint. As this was happening, Flint could hear the moaning again as the ghouls closed on him. He desperately tried to raise his axe but found that he was too tired to do so. He felt completely paralyzed as if tormented by pure fear and disbelief over what was happening. “This is happening, this really is happening!”, Flint said in a panicked voice as he saw the grotesque corpses of the ghouls lunging out at him. But then, suddenly, there was the sound of a gun banging in the background as bullets whizzed past and slammed into the heads of the ghouls, killing some of them. As he turned around, Flint saw Fletcher with a smoking pistol beckoning him to come along. As this happened, Flint summoned the last of the strength and rushed back, finding some energy to shake off a clawed hand that tried to grab onto his boot. After stamping on the boot, Flint followed Fletcher to the cockpit as he asked in a panicked voice,
“By the love of Christ, Fletcher, what do we do now?”
As he sealed the door of the cockpit shut, Fletcher could hear the sound of the last propellor sputtering to a halt and the sound of a beeping noise on the control panel warning him and Flint that they were out of fuel. Hearing this, Fletcher snapped to Flint.
“Give me that axe of yours and get our parachutes, we need to abandon plane!”
Thus, Flint scrambled for the parachute packs and fitted his onto his back as Fletcher swung the axe to smash open a window of the cockpit. It was just in the nick of time as the ghouls were slicing their way through the door. However, by the time that the ghouls finally burst through the door, Flint and Fletcher had just managed to bail out of the cockpit. Flint had never felt as hopeless and as confused as he slowly floated down towards the ground, clinging onto his parachute as he saw the Lancaster bomber that he had just been in go spiralling to the ground, being ripped to shreds by the pressure as it did so.
Flint hoped that the crashing of the plane would kill off all the ghouls who had possessed the bodies of his fallen comrades. For now, Flint and Fletcher slowly floated to the ground, eventually touching down on dry earth. As they looked up, the two seemed to be near some sort of mountain range. As they looked around, Flint asked. “Where are we?”
“I don’t know Flint, but we are certainly not in England.”

Record of a Day Rendered Entirely in Clichés by Stephen Brady

At the crack of dawn
I rose and shone
Had a breakfast of champions
And blew out the stops
Grabbed the bull by the horns
And hit the street
To meet and greet
The great unwashed;
I wended my way
To join the club
Waiting for the rub
Of the green
To set the scene
Of what might have been.

I left no stone unturned
While the home fires burned
And the powers-that-be
Had an air of mystery.
But the empty vessels
Made an unholy noise
And the unstoppable force
Met the immoveable object
And the next thing I knew
It was an open-and-shut case
Of “we are where we are”
where I was.

At the eleventh hour
In my ivory tower
I circled the wagons
Got my ducks in a row;
I let sleeping dogs lay
Where every dog has his day
And all the world was a stage
When we were on the same page
I was flavour of the month
‘Til I was yesterday’s news
My talk was cheap
But I didn’t lose sleep
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks!
I’d been out of the loop
Landed right in the soup
And I was the last to know
I should have gone with the flow.

 

At the end of the day
It was a game of two halves
I was ahead by a nose
But got pipped at the post
By the Host with the Most
And if turnabout is fair play
You could colour-me-amazed
When the chickens I counted
Didn’t come home to roost.
For the grass it is greener
Where the rolling stones gather
No moss.
(No loss.)

 

Too many cooks spoiled my broth
And a soft answer turn’d away Wrath
But there were too many chiefs
And not enough indians.
Many hands made light work
Of my best-laid plans
(I’d had the whole world in my hands!)
So I beat a retreat
To a threadbare room
Where I quietly fumed
Til the sun was under the yardarm
And the day
dodgily
damnably
done.

THE CASE OF THE MOBILE FIELD SHELTER by Tina Irving

The snob suddenly had an urgent desire to get a field shelter built for her new horse, a lovely grey Andalucian gelding called Freckles. Well, he was her friend’s really but he quickly became part of the family he was so loveable. Factor 3 was brought in to design the shelter and advise on the type of wood needed. It was duly built. “Where are you going to put it” asked the guru and his sidekick mini guru. “Wait and see” said the snob. She called up the local farmer, a gorgeous man from Barrock. He was known as Man Barrock. He was very handsome. If only she had been quite a few years younger…anyway, he subsequently married the local beautiful and elegant blonde bombshell. By far the best looking girl in the county. They made a beautiful couple and went to New York on their honeymoon. The snob digresses – again. Man Barrock came down with his tractor. They hitched the field shelter to the tractor, and Man Barrock started to tow it up the field. It had been built on skids.

The village idiot was out fishing. It was a Friday night. The snob walked in front of the tractor, guiding the gorgeous man from Barrock and showing him where to put the field shelter. The guru was in stitches of laughter when he realised what the snob was about. Man Barrock didn’t understand why she wanted the field shelter right in front of the village idiot’s window. Only about 50 yards away. The long suffering wife could be seen frantically phoning someone. Sure enough, it was the village idiot. He flew in from his fishing, moored his boat and drove like a lunatic up the drive. He was furious. We tied down the field shelter and left. The snob, Man Barrock, the guru and even the long suffering partner were in fits of laughter. The snob was heard to say that she hadn’t had as much fun since her granny died – her beloved grandmother would turn in her grave.

“The village idiot was seen racing off in his car, not to extract his boat, but down the road to see the laird. There was nothing they could do. It was Friday night. The planning office was closed. Anyway, it was a temporary structure and could be moved. Result! The snob was all for going and unhitching the boat from the pier, but the long suffering partner thought she had done enough.

A few weeks a later, the snob was on Orkney with her equestrian pals. It was really windy, so they couldn’t go out driving as planned. The snob received an urgent phone call from her long suffering partner. “The field shelter” he gulped. “What now?” asked the snob. “It’s blown over the fence and is upside down in the village idiot’s field.” “Oh no” said the snob. “I’m coming back anyway. I’ll be on the next ferry. Get Man Barrock and Man Barrock 2.” “OK” said the long suffering partner, clearly distressed about what the village idiot might do.

The fence was flat. Fortunately the horses were incarcerated in their stables. The mad colt, Biff, had been a bad boy – again – and the long suffering partner was under strict instructions not to talk to him. Nothing. Except feed him. Don’t try and muck him out. He would get kicked. Off at a tangent again. Oh dear. Mind like a flea.

By the time the snob got home Man Barrock were there. What to do. The guru came to the rescue with ropes and clips. Barrock 2 and the snob climbed over the fence. The village idiot was watching through the window… not daring to come out and face the snob. The field shelter was retrieved and put it in a resting place outside the long suffering partner’s big shed. Lovely. “

The Sage of Shanleys by Stephen Brady

J. J. Shanleys’ Bar sat on a lonely road facing out on the grey Atlantic. To the south lay the bare tundra of the Burren. And all around the hills, a funeral country on the ragged edge of the old Continent.
J.J. was leaning on the bar, studying the funerals in the paper – “Who’s Who In The Underworld,” as he liked to call it. The door to the bar popped open, admitting a squall of rain and the roar of the sea. He glanced up, and saw two strangers in the doorway.
“Come on in, folks. Shut that door behind ye.”
The door was closed, and the newcomers advanced into the bar.
They were a couple in their thirties, both tall, sandy-haired, athletic. They were wearing expensive raingear and matching baseball caps. The man had a Nikon slung around his neck. They both wore rimless glasses, through which they peered in the taproom’s gloom.
“Come on in,” he said again. “Pull up there and warm yeerselves.”
“Thank you sir,” said the man, and the pair climbed onto barstools. The woman looked down at hers as though it might give way beneath her.
“Now.” J.J. closed the paper and straightened. “Welcome to Shanley’s. Last stop before the Hudson Bay! I’m J.J. Would I be right in saying ye two are new to the parish?”
“That’s right,” said the man, blinking at J.J. in a not-unfriendly manner. “I’m Todd Garrity. This is my wife, Shanice.”
“Hi,” she said.
“Are ye from the States?” asked J.J., a little sardonic.
“That’s right, sir. Milford, Delaware. Go Eagles!”
J.J. didn’t know what to say to that, and a pregnant pause ensued.
“So…! What can I get for ye, folks?”
“How about some tea?” said Shanice. She was looking at J.J., but she seemed to be looking through him, at the same time. “You guys always have tea, right?”
“Right y’are. Two teas coming up.”
He went into the kitchen, leaving Todd and Shanice alone.
“I’m telling you,” she said in a low voice, “we took a wrong turn. That old woman at the post office was making fun of you. That Kilfana place, it’s not out here. There’s nothing out here. Except this place.” She looked around at the bar, and shuddered a little.
“It’s fine,” said Todd. He laid his Nikon carefully on the counter. “We’ll get our tea and use the restroom. Then we’ll get out of here.”
“The sooner the better. There’s something weird about this place. And I don’t like the way that guy’s looking at you.”
“What guy?”
Shanice made a minor motion of the head, and Todd followed it.
There was a man there, sitting at the far end of the bar. Todd could have sworn he wasn’t there when they came in.
The patron was barely visible, and seemed to be solidified from the shadows. He was ancient, a mountain of a man, wearing dirty brown clothing, a shapeless felt hat squashed down on his head. A rich, loamy odour issued from him. His face was a mass of wrinkles and weather-raw skin, from which a pair of narrow eyes glinted.
“There ye are,” the patron rumbled. His voice seemed to make the windows rattle.
“Good afternoon, sir.” Todd’s Mom had always told him there was no excuse to forget your manners, even before Saint Peter. “We didn’t see you there.”
“No,” the denizen growled. “Ye wouldn’t have.”
Silence ensued. Shanice was scrolling intently on her phone. Todd was starting to wonder where their tea was. And he was acutely aware of the denizen’s eyes, heavy upon them.
“Very windy out there,” he ventured.
“April the 12th, is it?”
“Um… yeah. Today is April 12th.”
“Well then.” The customer raised a glass of black liquid to his face, took a pull, and set it back down with an air of satisfaction. “That’s the reason for that.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Always a big wind April 12th. Every year. ‘Tis to do with the craters, out in the sea.”
“Really?” said Shanice, without looking up.
“Indeed. Big wind April 12th. And it always blows in a couple of strangers.”
Another silence followed that remark, punctuated only by the wind and the muted roar of the sea.
“This place is not so bad,” said Todd, drumming his fingers.
“I’m telling you, we took a wrong turn. Oh for Heaven’s sake.” She was trying, without success, to pull up Google Maps. “Can’t get a darn signal in here.”
“Did ye come out from Knocknagrealish?” the patron enquired. It took Todd a moment to make sense of the question.
“Oh yes, that’s right. A very helpful lady at the post office gave us some directions.”
“On the wrong wrong,” muttered Shanice.
“Not at all,” came the reply. “That road out from Knocknagrealish is the best road ye could be on.”
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”
“‘Tis a perfect circle, that road. Follow it long enough and it’ll take ye anywhere.”
Shanice was looking hard at the barfly now. But she could detect no humour: the crumpled face remained unreadable.
“Where’s our darn tea?” she muttered.
They glanced toward the kitchen. The sounds of tea-making were faintly audible, but there was no sign of J.J.
“Say,” said Todd. “when we were coming out on that road, we saw kind of a stone circle. On the hill, a few miles back. Would that be what you guys call a ‘fairy fort?'”
The sage put his glass down, hard.
“No. That would not be what you call a ‘fairy fort.’ There is no such a thing. This ‘fairies’ lark was concocted by the conquerors, to make the natives look backward. Flim-flam is at all it is. ‘Fairy fort’ me eye…” He drank, grumbling.
“Hey, if I offended you, I apologize.” Todd raised a hand, palm out. He was in Human Resources, and had a number of gestures on call to defuse tense interpersonal situations. “But I guess you’d be the right person to ask. What is the significance of the stone circle?”
“‘Twas the house of the Banshee.”
Another silence descended. Shanice returned to her phone. From the kitchen still came faint sounds, shifting and clanks.
“Won’t be long,” Todd said. “We’ll be on our way soon.”
“Good.”
“Still, this place ain’t so bad. It seems kinda… I don’t know… familiar?”
“Please. Next you’re gonna tell me you feel some ancestral connection to this dump.”
“Well, maybe I do.”
She looked up, and her gaze was hard.
“Well I just hope you remember whose idea this was. It wasn’t me who wanted to come to this crappy country.”
This was true. Since Todd’s father had passed the year before, he had talked of little else but finding the land of his forebears. Shanice guessed it was a mid-life thing, and had tried to hook him up with a life-coach. But he wouldn’t let it drop. He’d started talking a lot about his Grandma (whom Shanice had always thought a dismal old witch), and about the townland in County Clare that her people had departed a hundred years before. And now they were here, or in some godforesaken place in the same general area.
“I hope you know,” she said, “that I’m dealing with a lot right now. And I hope you’re getting all this out of your system.”
Before Todd could answer, the rumbling voice came again from the shadows.
“D’you know, you look fierce familar to me. What’s this your name is?”
“Garritty, sir. Todd Garrity.”
The sage nodded, or at least the massive head tipped back into the darkness, then returned. “That’s right. Fierce familiar, you are.”
Ignoring his wife’s gaze, Todd leaned over the bar. “Actually, sir, my family name was Garraghy. From around this area originally, we think.”
“Would that be Garraghys from Kilfarnagh?”
Todd was so stunned he had to grip the bar to keep from falling backward.
“That’s right! That’s what my Grandma used to say. Her Mom, my great-grandma, left from Kilfarnagh with all her people.”
“That’s right,” said the sage. “Margaret Garraghy, wasn’t it?”
“That’s right,” said Todd in wonderment.
“Knew her well. When she was a wee gerl.”
“Oh for Heaven’s sake,” muttered Shanice. She looked over at the kitchen door. But where a chink of light had been visible before, now was only darkness.
Todd said, “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s not possible. Margaret Garraghy left Kilfarnagh in the 19th century. Sometime in the 1880s, we think.”
“That’s right,” the sage said equably. “A grand sweet gerl. They called her Maggie Poll. Somethin’ funny with her left eye. A finer wee lass you couldn’t meet.”
Todd was dumbfounded. All of that matched with things his Grandma had said. All of it taking place in this bare country, more than a century ago.
“Todd!” his wife hissed. “Don’t be an idiot. That guy spins yarns to tourists all day. He’ll hit you up for a drink next. What’s the matter with you?”
“And yourself, young lady.” The denizen addressed her for the first time. “What was your family name?”
She considered not answering, then said: “Schwarzheim.”
The sage drank, and returned to a complacent silence. Todd found that he could not stop staring at the man on the far stool, half-eaten by the shadows. And it seemed, as he studied the mountainous figure, that moss lay in the wrinkles of his face, that swatches of grass grew on the backs of his hands, and that when he moved fine curtains of earth would sift from the creases of his clothes.
Shanice Garritty was staring out the window at the ocean. The sounds from the kitchen had long since ceased. And she realized that they would never get their tea, or leave this place, or see Springtime in Milford again. The only sound in Shanley’s bar was the neverending miles-deep rumble of the sea

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