NaPoWriMo 2018 – #29 The Heart of a Saint

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The heart of St Laurence O’Toole has been returned to its home in Christ Church Cathedral, but gardaí are being tight-lipped about how the relic was recovered.”

The Journal.ie April 28th, 2018

The Heart of a Saint

I wandered into Christchurch Cathedral last night. Well, I admit I was drinking all day in the Brazen Head and needed to clear my head. The gate of the Cathedral being open like, I thought I’d sit for a while and ponder the state of the world. I found my way inside, let’s say I may have used an implement to gain access. I was drawn to this wooden box, a reliquary they call it, in one of the alcoves. There it was, just sitting there, so you don’t pass up a chance like that. Could be worth a few bob you know. I stuck it under my jacket and legged it. I just caught the last bus home, sat upstairs on it I did, the reliquary on my knee. Even then it felt a bit strange, like something was ticking inside. So I gets it home, opens up the box, and bejesus there’s this thing, a pumping heart inside. And it was an old heart, I could tell. All grizzled and marbled, a very old man by the look of it. I wondered who the man was, and was he missing his still beating heart. There’s nobody I know would pay money for a thing like that. So next morning, I went for a walk down the high street, took the box with me, looking for somewhere to dump it. I bought the Daily Mirror. There on the front page: “Saint Laurence O’Toole’s heart goes missing”. Jesus Christ Almighty, I had a saint’s heart in my hands. That can’t be good. How was I to get rid of it. I thought of the butcher’s shop, you know, stick it in the bin with the offal and off cuts. But then that might have gone to pet food, and that didn’t seem right for a saint. I thought of the hospital, leave it outside the morgue, but who knows with those guys they might have taken it in for dissection practice. It was still beating away in the box, seemed to be getting a bit agitated. I sat down next to an old fella having a sandwich on a bench. I just left it there by the bench, but the old fella came chasing after me “you’ve left your heart behind”, he says. How did he know it was a heart is what I want to know? Probably heard it beating away I suppose. I couldn’t get rid of it. Everywhere I went, someone would see me and come roaring after me “You’ve left your heart behind”. “I know, I know” says I. So the only way I got rid of it, was by going out at midnight, nobody around, covering it up in a Tesco’s bag, climbing the gates of Phoenix Park, running into the trees and leaving it there. As I ran away I swear I could still hear it beating. I rang the Gardai from a phone box, told them where to look, and next morning, sure enough, I see a patrol car going into the park. So it’s back in the alcove in the Cathedral now, and the priest is happy to have his saint’s heart back, and I’m relieved to be rid of it. Though, you know, I sometimes miss having a beating heart in my hand.

Note to Gardai: This is a work of fiction


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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: George Hodan

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(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #21 – “Have you seen Mickey Finn?”

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The disused Jam Factory / railway station at Newbliss

I did a fair bit of writing today, but nothing interesting would come. So I borrowed the house bicycle and cycled into the nearest town, Newbliss, for a pint of Guinness. I came back with a story.

 

Have you seen Mickey Finn?

Somebody has dropped a cigarette into the tub, next to the bench where I’m sipping a Guinness outside the pub in Newbliss. The shrub is emitting smoke, threatening to turn into a burning bush. A man in the doorway says “For fuck’s sake” and tells one of the smokers to go in and get a pint of water. After several pints of water, the fire is extinguished. A man recites a list of names which includes “Jimmy the Dog” and “Mickey Finn”. There must be hundreds if not thousands of Mickey Finns around the world, but how did Jimmy get to be called “the dog” I wonder? A white van pulls up, the driver shouts, have you seen Mickey Finn?”. The doorway man says “No”. It drives off. Being close to the border, I’m wary of why someone might be listing names, or enquiring the whereabouts of another. I’ve nearly finished my Guinness when a red Ford Focus pulls up. A man about my age, but much heavier, gets out, comes straight up to me, says “Hello, where are you from, you’re welcome, would you like a pint?”. I accept his offer. He disappears inside and re-appears some time later with two pints of Guinness. He wants my life story and when I mention the Tyrone Guthrie Centre he says “Great man, great man, he paid for my first pair of shoes”. I confess to knowing little about Guthrie and he fills in some of the gaps. Guthrie was a Protestant and had no children. He left his huge estate mostly to the Irish Government to be used to promote the creative arts but also a significant part to his Catholic neighbours. “Where is he buried?” I ask. “Hop in and I’ll show ye” he says. We’re in the red Focus driving to Aghabog Church of Ireland cemetery, where Guthrie and his wife and his ancestors are buried. It’s a large, but not enormous headstone. We then drive back towards the town but he veers off, up a country road. “Do you want some fun?” he says. I’m a bit concerned by the question, but before I have time to answer, he has swerved a hard right into a field and is speeding around it, wheels spinning. He comes to a halt next to hedge with a hole in it. “Come in” he says “Have a cup of tea”. “Is your wife home?” I ask and am relieved when he replies that she is. We duck through the hole in the hedge to a bungalow, with a new Jaguar parked outside. That’s mine” he says “The wee Ford is Sarah’s”.  Inside, his wife Sarah seems unsurprised to see a total stranger following in her husband’s wake. “Will you have a steak sandwich?”. “No thank you, just a cup of tea”. I sit and am presented with a mug of tea, a plate piled high with steak sandwiches and another plate of Swiss Roll. “Ah, Just have one, at least”, she says. I daren’t tell them I’m vegetarian, knowing the disbelief it would cause. I force down a steak sandwich and a piece of Swiss Roll, wash it down with the tea. “Well now, let’s get you back” he says. We jump into the Jaguar this time and speed off. He stops at a bridge over a disused railway line. “That was the railway station”, he says. “Joe Martin and Mr. Guthrie bought it and started a jam factory. Irish Farmhouse Preserves it was called. Mr. Guthrie put a lot of money into it. I’ll say no more. But we used to pick strawberries and blackberries for the jam making. That was my first job. That’s how I got my first pair of shoes.”

 


 

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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image : Mike Hopkins

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