Roadblocked till now...

One of the joys of my little library is finding information I need in a book I bought years ago...and that information helping me bypass a possible roadblock while helping the story. I'm still working on section one of the book, but I've just got two bits to connect and that'll be that much done. Way behind schedule, but...

Here's some of what I've written...this takes place after Bloody Sunday, where Brendan sees men and boys being gunned down by Army Paratroopers who've run amok.

I turned sixteen on Wednesday, but without celebration; the day was taken up with funerals for eleven of those killed. Tens of thousands filled Creggan to the point it was difficult to move or even breathe. I was in the middle of it with Eammon and once even thought to ask him if I could use his inhaler, but he was fighting to keep at my side and I could tell he was having trouble at it. I was glad he hadn’t been on the march.

Word spread of marches throughout Ireland in support, and later it was learned the British Embassy in Dublin was burned to the ground. On this occasion, the Army was smart enough to keep its distance, only harassing us with helicopters hovering above. There were too many reporters and cameras about to risk another catastrophic attack.

Now it was time for the finger-pointing, with the Army saying they’d been fired upon by the IRA, which was a pile of shite, and Faulkner repeating the lies from Maulding, and Heath appointing Lord Widgery to do an inquiry no one believed would be fair or balanced. The IRA used the murders as proof the British should not be trusted, and I had to agree with them on that, for London went out of her way to prove they couldn’t.

In Derry, there was a numbness that followed. Grief throughout the city. Shock. Disbelief, still. Ma’s anger at Terry taking Mairead and the wains to Toronto gave way to him being brilliant to have seen this coming and done so. Eamonn slipped back into town to see us, with Jackie and Aidan, and they stayed at our place till Friday, then they slipped away, like ghosts. And what struck me most was the lunacy of those in control, on either side, who thought they could end this cycle of death by threatening even greater death...but that’s what they did. Over and over.

Joanna had already agreed to meet with me, on Saturday, to have a late celebration for my day, but I had no idea how she’d be able to. The Army had turned into occupier, complete, and our status as Derry’s Catholic ghetto was undeniable, now.

McClosky’s was still locked up, but I was close to running mad and needed something to do, so I went there and began tinkering with a jeep whose motor was dying for no reason. It took me a while, but I finally was able to focus enough to let myself see it was a vacuum leak in one of the hoses and was easy to replace. I had just finished doing so when a soft knock at the door jolted me.

Thinking it was Colm, again, looking for yet another favor, I snarled, “No one’s here, go away!”

“Brendan?” It was Joanna’s voice.

I bolted over and opened the door and there she was in jeans and parka and gloves, her cheeks bright and eyes smiling.

“Happy birthday,” she said. “Late, but better than never.”

I began to breathe heavy and drew her into and embrace and just held her, close to losing control of myself. The scent of Spearmint whispered from her; Wrigley’s and nothing less, I was sure. She wrapped her arms around me and caressed my back like she would a child, soothing me more than I could even begin to imagine. I said nothing for a full five minutes, just stood there with her until I was able to step back and bring her into the shop and sit with her and still say nothing.

“You never said where you lived,” she said, “but I remembered McClosky’s Auto Repair and managed to find it. Knowing you, I figured you’d be working. That’s how you seem to handle things.”

I just nodded.

“The checkpoints were difficult,” she continued. “But I took a bus across and told them of my aunt in Pennyburn, and that it’s my cousin’s birthday. They were easy about it, but still, I could have been here hours ago...”

“Will you come with me?” burst from me, without a thought.

“To where, this time?” Her eyes laughed as she said it.

“Up Groarty Road, into the Republic. It’s somethin’ I want to show you and we can talk there.”

“Brendan, I...I have to be home by curfew.”

“I’ll drive us.”

“Have you a license?”

“I...I know ways around the checkpoints. Theirs and ours. Will you come?”

She hesitated then shrugged a yes.

I finished with the jeep and drove us away in it, and it wasn’t easy to do the avoidance I’d so confidently told her of. A couple of times I had to travel down alleys not meant for a car, but the jeep was narrow enough for it. We finally reached Groarty and it was a fairly straight drive...but in the distance you could see a patrol at the border and I’d heard they’d even damaged the road to make the crossing difficult, so I turned onto a side street and stopped under a tree.

“We’ll need to walk, from here.”

“Where are we going?”

“It’s a circle fort atop a hill...”

She shifted into bright and happy. “Is it Grianan Aileach?”

I shrugged. “Maybe.”

She laughed. “Why didn’t you say it? I’ve heard of it in history class and would love to see it.”

“Now’s your chance.”

We hiked along the hedgerows of fields, keeping them between us and the patrol, and it was good we’d both worn boots, for yesterday’s rain had made the earth sticky and mean. We reached the brook that marked the border, and it took me a moment but I found an area narrow enough for Joanna to jump over without touching the water, and the whole time I keep a scan going over the countryside, especially along Groarty Road down to the hollow. But the patrol seemed not to notice us, for there was no helicopter racing up or Paras or even a constable’s armored support sniffing about. They were still focused on the Bogside and furies exploding in Belfast and other towns, doing all they could to blame the evil they’d perpetrated on the Catholics who’d been done to and now dared to want equality and justice.

We tramped up the muck and through a field to climb a fence by a lane that would lead us back to the road, where we stopped for a breather and looked about. We turned to face up the hill and the fort was just visible at its crest, the slightest of bumps nestled atop the growth surrounding it.

“Is that it?” she asked. I nodded. “Doesn’t look like so much.”

“It isn’t,” I replied, “not till you’re up there.”

So along the rough narrow road we walked, passing field after field, and she chatted as we went, saying nothing deeper of herself than how her family followed the Clyde, of Glasgow, in football. And how she visited the family in Edinburgh at least twice a year, the last being on Boxing Day. She, her parents and her brother would pile in their estate car, catch the ferry in Belfast and have a grand time of it for two days.

I’d already told her of my aunt in Houston, married to a man near half again her age who owned a real Irish pub near some university, with three wains and all of them my age or younger, and how they’d send gifts at Christmas and Easter, which is why I had my new NASA cap. I got a card on my birthday holding two tenners, not mentioning Ma had snatched them up the second she saw them. I’d never been off the island, and I was a bit jealous of her trips away; it sounded wonderful, going someplace else. Anyplace else.

“I’ve thought of hoppin’ down to Cork,” I said, finally joining her in talk. “Maybe over to Liverpool and sign on with a freighter or passenger ship.”

“Do you have a passport?”

I hesitated, not having thought about it, then said, “Not yet.”

“You should get that, first. And then I suppose it's no more Edinburgh or Dublin?”

“Arra, just...just thoughts,” I said. “Sittin’ on the walls lookin’ out over the Bogside. Dreamin’ of...of possibilities. Like travel ‘round the world and back again. See something other than just this place.”

“And then what?” she asked, seeming to be genuinely interested.

I shrugged. “Maybe come back, when I’ve some money. Start a repair shop like McClosky’s.” I cast her a quick side glance as I added, “Get married. Have a family.”

“You don’t dream for much.”

It seemed a perfectly fine thing to wish for, so I snapped, “You said that before.”

“I know, but haven’t you even thought of being a doctor? A solicitor? Living in Paris to learn a new language? Anything like that?”

I snorted. “Me, a doctor. Funny.”

“Why’s that?”

“I’ve no head for university. My doctoring is for cars and toasters and tellys.”

“You never struck me that way.”

I snorted a laugh. “Never?”

She was to my left and reached over and caressed where her name was etched onto my arm and said, “Never. I just don’t think you’ve had the support you need to see how bright you truly are.”

And from her touch I felt a moment of life in me, again.
More to come...


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