Gone: Part One

She rolled over.  His space was empty. He was always there.  ‘Where is he?’ He wasn’t in the kitchen either.

‘Early to work?’ ‘Hardly – he hates it’

She hadn’t even heard him budge. Later with the police quizzing her she strained to recall traces of heat in the bed beside her when she woke. But the warm space where he had always been – the  kind of  warm  you could just sink into – was, she thought, cold. But she couldn’t be sure.

‘How long had he been gone?’

‘Gone?’ She had no idea. He was always there.

‘What did they mean by gone? Gone where?’ They were always together. There was no accounting for him being anywhere without him. She couldn’t tell how long he had been gone. The very concept was unfathomable.  She simply couldn’t reconcile their life together  with what gone meant . Their life – always together.

She stared at the Detective. She was speaking to her again.

‘Do you understand Mrs Mahon? This is serious.’

‘Mrs Mahon, Mrs Mahon’

‘I understand’

‘Mrs Mahon, we need your help’

‘I’m not Mrs Mahon – we are not married – we never married. You know we just  decided one night in the concert hall that we would never marry. I’m not Mrs Mahon.’

‘Mrs Mahon do you remember anything else about that night?’

‘Of course – I remember everything.  Sparkling chandeliers, violins. The night we decided not to marry. I remember everything. It was more important than deciding to marry.’

‘Not that night Mrs Mahon – Tuesday night, just past. Do you remember anything about Tuesday night?’

‘What kind of a detective are you? I’m not Mrs Mahon!’

‘Sorry. I’m sorry Mrs… Finola.  May I call you Finola?’

‘Yes, yes.’

‘Tuesday Finola. Can you remember anything about it?’

‘Yes, Tuesday. It was every night. We went to bed. We left the radio on. We always leave the radio on until we go asleep.’

‘Was it on when you woke up Finola?’

‘Of course not. We don’t leave it on all night. We are pensioners. Jim works part time still but we are pensioners. Do you know how much electricity costs? Or could you even find out …. Detective’

‘So the radio – the radio was off when you woke up. Who turned it off?

‘Not me. I never turn it off.  It must have been Jim. Probably after the concert broadcast from Vienna finished. Yes, Jim turned it off. It couldn’t have been anyone else. There is no one else. There is just Jim.’

‘Where is he?’

‘Jim?’

‘Yes, Jim’

‘He’s dead Mrs Mahon. He’s dead. He is at the mortuary. I’m sorry Mrs Mahon but we need your help to find out what happened. If we could just piece Tuesday night together we might be able to figure it out.’

‘I told you, I’m not Mrs Mahon. For god’s sake. I’m not Mrs Mahon.’

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Himalaya

 

Icy waters pour into the country as a  reverse tide pulls silt, animals, stones, plants, power and shards of beauty from all over the world.  Below flapping birds, the river stretches ahead providing a perfect landing strip. Skimming their landing surface, the striking striped heads of  Baa Headed geese can be seen through the light of morning.  Their  goslings are nearby and ready to fly. All of the world has arrived.

The city is a vast playground where the fluorescence of rhododendrons and atomic primulas mingle with the bass sounds of markets.  The music of the people modulates the air with the deep  beats of the Caribbean. Young men move through the crowds parading their cultivated spikes of joyful colour confusing the Baa headed geese.

How can you compete with a Mohawk celebrating the life of circus red and electric blue? The geese, it seems, are not the only show in town. Soon they realise they share their platform with the intoxicating sounds, colours and textures the river pulls into the core of  the city  from around the globe. All  the world is here to see in all of its intoxicating beauty.

Young women stripe and curl their hair, listen to the screams and melodic tones of punk and rap vibrating in time with the urban scape they navigate. Their boxed leather jackets rub shoulders with Drag Queens picking their precise steps to the disco superstore.

Fragrant trails of elegance hang in the air moments after those statuesque queens have moved on, turned a corned and disappeared. Somewhere a clock is ticking, licks of fire whisper to life  and a user slips into the numb haze of the opium addict. Free of their pain they miss the distracting glistening of the mini globes turning and spinning in every area of this vibrant world.

Icy shards that made the perilous journey from the Himalayas float on the surface of the river. Glinting like mirror balls they attract the giant Himalayan bees who  have followed the  path of the  breakaway ice as it cut across the plateau of Tibet into the ocean and towards the city.  Busy and bee like, the constant buzzers  build  three-foot-wide homes on the remains of what was once a glacier.

When their combs finally begin to slip over the edges of their ice floats the giant bees retreat to the crevices of the metropolis’ rising buildings. Window washers smoke the bees and pull nets of thick gauze around themselves. They pull 15-foot sponge extensions across the giant screens of London offices that let  workers  look out at the ever growing world.

Only the bravest screen cleaners  have been known to poke the combs with their long poles in the hope that some Himalayan honey would be theirs. Largely unattainable the uninvited poking usually sends combs spinning downwards instigating chaos on the ground hundreds of feet below. The bees survive; they have, after all, survived the Himalayas.

For now, their honey is in ruins but soon the bees will join the huge Himalayan Cranes standing 20 feet high in the Thames. They will begin to build their homes again.  Just as a wonderful Crane swallows an electric eel whole, a stalking Queen passes the river and marvels at the wide flapping of the birds wings and the halo of bees around its head. Perhaps I will add Crane wings to my next show she thought and moved around the corner. Someone in this world of worlds is bound to like  it.

Time Capsule: Part Three

Death was constant in Ryan’s world.  Never far from his thoughts, it had become his closest companion. Death surrounded him, swaddled him and propelled happiness of any kind away from his heart. The Ryan wing constituted his last heave of ambition in life.

He examined the thick dust that furnished his living quarters. Sparsely decorated there were only a few  dark paintings of Romans at the foot of a crucifix  hanging on two of the four walls.Those paintings had followed him from cell to cell throughout his adult life. Imagined Romans frozen as their gaze turned towards  the hanging head of a dying man.   He felt just as sure of what they were looking at as their look  suggested: death.  He turned away. 

“Dam paintings! How many walls in how many countries have they slanted across?” His room echoed his words and threw them back. As always he was the only one present to receive them.  A life of blank walls  marked by  religious reproductions and plastic saints  stretched before and beyond him.  He drained his glass and luxuriated in the dry burning sensation it left behind. His version of dying  had rendered him bitter with a sharp tongue oiled by the shadow of a whiskey hangover.

Down stairs the front door closed. The far away thud of oak meeting its frame meant the school administrator was leaving, eight minutes before time.   Ryan watched  without moving. Through the corner of the window he saw her cut down the avenue towards another figure standing at start of the  elms.   Raising her arm in a wave she exposed a scrawny limb.  For a moment her  figure was a moving reflection of the dead trees reaching  into the fog.

“That rag and bone of a secretary! Who is there to meet her now?” Just as the couple  took the  turn of the avenue they moved out of view. Ryan envied her effort  but viewed her actions with  cynical misogyny.  He felt she had lived too much. Her choice of  evening tipple over dinner  and thick coffee over breakfast had taken their toll.  The accounts rarely balanced and the flesh had fallen from her frame leaving  worn twin sets hanging on angled clavicles.

He thought of the job that lay before him.  The day’s digging had  pulled lozenges of clay from the from sodden foundations. Weeks of rain had washed away the straight lines of  the new school’s  grounding. It  had only taken the JCB a few angular movements to expose the skeletons from their unmarked and unmentioned graves. Ryan knew those skeletons did not belong there.  Clean bones, white, straight and solid they seemed  longer than any human limb could ever be.

He had sent the digger away with a story of an unbaptized children’s burial ground.  It would take more than one drink to dispel the ache he now felt. Concealing the bones of lost children would deaden any life that had survived death’s tight swaddling.  One more whiskey and he knew he would face his own grave. It would be worth it for the school though.  It would be worth it in the end.

 

 

Time Capsule : Part Two

Autumn arrived as it was destined to do. Rain poured and continued to pour. Each day brought the endless oppression of the previous night’s rain quickly followed by more rain. Progress made on the new school wing  had come to a halt. Cloudburst after cloudburst was washing the new  foundations away. Their edges no longer followed the guidelines so carefully set out by stooped ground workers in the Spring and Fr Ryan no longer paced the site in the hope of stepping out new developments.

Relentless weather  was eroding the whole area, transforming it into a muddy mess. A damp smell of open clay hung around the school.The foundations barely contained the water that filled them, water that would take months to dissipate. St. Jude’s was once again living up to its reputation as a lost cause. Clouds gathered. Ryan could barely withstand an upward look.  He was irritated. The avenue’s dead Elms were even more foreboding now as their  leafless arms stretched up into tumults of weather. September had returned and his plan to open  the new school wing was now further from fruition than ever. His time, it seemed, would never arrive.

Ryan’s moment had been deferred. ‘Move the goal posts’ the architect quipped. But he could  not fully understand the implications of  irretrievably lost time. Ryan passed through each day with a pithy bitterness, answered his student’s questions more curtly than ever and felt a bristling in his mind that could hardly remain contained for much longer. His evening Powers had increased to two and now three. Darker evenings were being  calibrated by the snap of bottle tops twice a week. Nothing soothed his impatience. What had begun as a small whisper of ginger after dinner, was now three large whiskys. It left Ryan with a burning mouth to match his burning mind and by the end of each evening his brain was crawling with regret.

Lives often turn on disregarded detail and unnoticed incidents. Ryan however,  could no longer ignore either. His thinking was alert to every single word and movement as though his life had consisted of some sort of reviewable design. No longer able to withstand the  memory of his uneventful years, doubts poured in and left him questioning  every decision he had ever made. The new school wing was to be his legacy. It would qualify a life spent in a dead end. Unlike a number of his peers remembered for their crimes,  he would be remembered for the transformation of a dilapidated school for the disadvantaged as he heard Department officials refer to his students.

At any other time a new school wing would go under the radar but the Church was desperate for positive news and Ryan knew it. This was his last chance to piece together a memory for those who would  come to Jude’s after him. It was his last opportunity before old age truly set in to become someone.  With each flood however, time and funding disappeared. He was drowning in a crumbling dream. Loss breaks on the back of irrepressible change and for Ryan the more things remained the same, the more he lost.

Turning a cracked  tumbler in his palm, he considered all of the small life knocks  that had left  deep impressions on him.  Unknown bruises were surfacing and the details of their occurrences were becoming unbearable.  The new school wing had become an impetus for change that was now  being stifled by weather. What would at any other time be hardly worth his regard was now  ruining Ryan’s resolve. Ryan would die a no one, a thought he simply could not stand.

 

Time Capsule: Part One

Iron on rock screeched across Jude’s school yard. Children covered their ears while Father Ryan closed both eyes. He pause and  waited. Opening his eyes, he moved towards the noise. Beyond the window the limb of a machine pushed elbow like into the earth. He couldn’t help but watch the mechanical beast work. It was like spying on some new kind of species in the schoolyard, foreign and transfixing, the new yellow machine responded to commands with a fluidity rarely seen at Jude’s.

Pulling a bucketful of clay upwards, the digger extended a giant arm, swivelled and swung  towards the outer  walls of the school. Ryan saw it  turn, open  its jaws and dump clay on a growing mound. Scraws upon scraws, the mound grew while small stones rolled to the bottom and well beyond its edge. The students here may not well have the same response level as that digger, Ryan thought to himself, but something was certainly changing.

Momentum was gathering of late. Even Ryan was standing a little taller and straighter. Increasingly aware of  time, he could recently be seen striding across the city streets with measured intent. “The school must grow” was etched  mantra like in his thoughts and his visage had set into that of man with a singular goal in mind.  “The school must grow.”  And now that funding and planning were both in place, Ryan resolved that the whole business would be completed by Christmas. Time was pressing and another year could not pass without the turning of the key in his new flagship building.

Sounds of earth being suctioned away from itself had filled the air since digging first began. Garden crusts untouched for almost 90 years gave out as machines ruptured the lawns. Since then  teaching at Jude’s was even more toilsome than before. Penetrating the mind of a Jude student on a good day was a big ask, on a noisy day filled with machines, shouting and digging, it was a dead loss.

At lunch time the children stuck themselves to the wire fence erected on the perimeter of the building site. Ryan often joined them under the pretence of supervision when in fact, he too was mesmerised by the progress being made. Each day veins of rock and clay were extracted layer by layer leaving a skeleton of old foundations exposed to the world. Muscle was being pulled from bone.

The grounds of the institution had been undisturbed since the building of St Jude’s  at the start of the last century. Originally an orphanage and later a school, it  was one of the few remaining religious properties to withstand  the boom of the last 15 years. True to its name, Jude’s was seen as a lost cause and not worth bothering with by local or national property developers.

Encased in its own dark, foreboding aura epitomised by peaking gothic windows, the school easily dispelled any passing interest in the site. Perhaps it was the steep drive up to it that dampened  the appetite of any possible  investor. The  skeletal long since dead Elms lining the avenue, suggested a sinister past  where death slept but which could sidle up beside you should you linger too long.

Given all that had happened in the last 20 years, it was a wonder the grounds had not been confiscated  by the state. There had been fears of forced sales at one point. All of that seemed unlikely now. Ryan learned from whispering inspectors and  judges that the state was more interested in leaving the past to the church than confiscating its property, allowing him to work on expanding the facilities at Jude’s.

The whole disruption would  be worth it. With a bit of luck and a spell of  dry weather  the new building  would fly up. The children, currently being schooled under the damp high ceilings of old orphanage dorms, would soon move into the Ryan Building as he liked to think of it .Ryan had worked alone in the expansion project and was delighted to think that the fruits of his funding campaigns, chats with the bishop and school board and late night letter writing sessions  to the local  political elite would become manifest in concrete by Christmas.

The Ryan wing would house Jude students in what would be the most technologically advanced school in the district: Jude’s would pioneer the seamless join between student and IPad. IRyan he thought smiling and affording  the indulgence. Who was to know of such minor flirtations with his ego? after all, he would confess and all would be forgiven. Surely dedicating his life to lost causes  allowed brief lapses in modesty once in a while? He was just a man after all and others had done worse, much worse.