Flegel, tulips
Georg Flegel (1566-1638), "Two Tulips"
Chapter 3 — Section 2
Pages 65-7363-7154-62
WhereSea-wall, streets of Glasthule
WhenFriday late evening, May 7 1915
levitan, cloudy sky twilight
Isaac Levitan, "Cloudy sky, twilight", 1893

The road squeezed between college and church. Light streamed from the chapel doors where the congregation was leaving after their First Friday. Aunt Sawney would be among them. Jim felt the smother of the coming streets and the coal-smoke from the houses. The memory was with him still of the monastery’s candles and the manufactured sting of whiskey and Macassar oil. He pulled up his collar and made for the shore.

Shiny sky with scratchy clouds. Mares’ tails, his father called them: they had something to do with storms. Thin stars in misty faces, a frosty breath in the nightfall.

When he turned a corner he came on the sea, the sound of it sudden and as always unexpected; and as always he was struck by its equivocation. He heard the tired roar and felt its casual toil, the fresh breeze that whiffed of decay.

... Ave, Maris Stella
Peter Cox, "Muglins by Moonlight"

There were ships in the bay, hulks of darkness against the night, waiting the turn of the tide. The fishing-boats were out, he could hear the men, their reboant calls, but he couldn’t see them. The lights of Kingstown shone in rows, twice reflected, three times, in the slowly moving mirror, while away on Howth, the Bailey Light flashed welcome and warning. He followed the sea-wall to Sandycove, then up past the Point, where the wind hit him full from the sea. He peered down the dark hole that led to the Forty Foot, gentlemen’s bathing-place, then on round the Martello to a thin ledge of grass that gave out on the bay. And there at last it was, the Muglins light, blinking redly, redly blinking. Ave, Maris Stella.

Delaroche, "The Young Martyr", 1855

Gordie maintained he could remember their mother, but Jim remembered nothing. He was only an infant when she died, on the voyage home from the Cape. They buried her at sea. At home they had a photograph-portrait, but his father kept that in his room. Sometimes Jim saw her drifting in the weeds, not weeds but the floating gardens of the Sargasso. Other times she had washed upon the rocks and there she reposed with seaweed in her hair, while all about the candles danced, bobbing on the waves.

He believed it had been his decision to embark on the Thirty Days’ Prayer, though he could not now retrace the steps that had led to his taking it. Over the evenings, in his guidance, the brother had introduced the notion of vocation. But it was unclear to Jim was he to pray for a vocation or only that he hear it should one call. Looking back, he recalled other boys that the brother had taken a fondness to. Had they too prayed thirty nights at his grotto? Each had heard his vocation in the end. Each had disappeared one sudden morning. Seminary, if anyone inquired.

... cá dtéigheann an taoide nuair
F. Ferrozza, "Nightime Seascape Moonlight", date unknown

A bat squeaked past. Hush, said a wave. Rush, said its fellow.

Where goes the tide when comes the ebb?
Where goes the night when comes the day?

He was musing on these lines, seeking their provenance, when a patter of feet behind, a tap on the back of his head and his cap tilted forward over his eyes. He turned wildly.

“There you are, pal o’ me heart.”

Jim blinked. It was Doyler. Dowdy suit and his cap at a rake. Teeth flashing in the gloom.

I say,” said Jim and immediately felt foolish for it.

“Say what?” said Doyler, clambering onto the wall beside and clapping his hand on Jim’s shoulder. He had a bunch of flowers with him which he waved in front. “What cheer, eh?”

“Tulips?” said Jim.

“Aren’t they brave? They will be brave in the morning, anyhow. They’re for the ma. You know there’s hordes in the gardens behind.”

... What cheer, eh?
Maciej Kempinski, portrait, contemp

“You’re after stealing them?”

“Stealing, me arse. Redistribution if you must know.” He leant forward and spat into a rock-pool below. “What kept you at the brothers’?”

“You were waiting on me?”

“Wanted to say hello was all.”

Jim said, “Brother Polycarp has me doing a Thirty Days’ Devotion.”

“Mary and Joseph,” said Doyler. “You’d be all year at that.”

Of course they wouldn’t, only Mary’s month of May, but it was a humorous thing to say. Jim took off his college cap to set it straight, and Doyler said, nodding sideways, “See you got the scholarship all right.”

“I did. I heard and you got yours and all.”

A moment, then Doyler slapped his hand on the coping. “Get piles off sitting here. Walk along back with you?”

“All right,” said Jim. He picked up his flute-sock and fell into step.

whistler, nocturne blue silver
... same like the shore
Whistler, "Nocturne: Blue and Silver", c. 1875

Peripherally he was aware of a luminescence beside him. Doyler’s blue-gone clothes, so thoroughly brushed, shone like the night sky. He sniffed to see if the smell was there that the fellows had complained of at practice. Nothing, unless his smell was same like the shore.

“Still got that blink, then?”

“What blink?”

“They used call you Blinky for it.”

He’d forgotten that. Blinky they used call him at the national school. “That was years since.”

“Four years,” said Doyler. “D’you remember them soaps?”

“I do.”

“I never thanked you for that.”

“That’s all right.”

“You never split on me. I was thankful for that.”

“Sure, you returned them all.”

“Could have been in bother over that. Himself could have been in bother.”

... briefly was British beef
Bovril, WW1 advert

“You replaced them,” said Jim. “There was no harm.”

“I’m thankful all the same.”

A tram scooted past, looking for speed for the climb out of Glasthule. Bovril briefly was British beef, then all lay quiet. Save for Doyler’s walk. A slip-jig step, crotchet and quaver, crotchet and quaver.

“What happened your leg?”

“The leg? Polis done that.”

“Why would the polis do that to you?”

“Batons came down. I was one in the crowd.” Doyler shrugged. “Was a lot of that in the Lock-out.”

The Lock-out. It was the word they used for the Larkinite riots of a year or so back. The papers had been full of it, mob rule and baton charges in the streets of Dublin. It never really touched Kingstown, let alone Glasthule, save for a while the trams into town hadn’t run on time.

“What were you doing in the Lock-out?”

“Was a newsboy then. The newsboys was the first to go out.”

“Weren’t you sent to County Clare?”

“I got about. Are you straight?”

“Straight?” repeated Jim.

ww1 recruitment ireland
WW1 recruitment poster

“Hold on to these a crack.” He thrust the tulips into Jim’s hand and Jim watched astonished as he tore at a poster on a letter-box they were passing. “When are the other boys coming? ” a strapping Irish soldier inquired, save now his legs were missing. And Doyler was rhyming,

Full steam ahead! John Redmond said
That everything is well, chum.
Home Rule will come when we are dead
And buried out in Belgium.”

Jim blinked. “You’ve turned a right Sinn Feiner,” he said.

“Sinn Feiners, me arse. I’m a socialist, never doubt it.”

This was unchancy ground and Jim was relieved they were approaching the Adelaide turning where the red-brick shops and naphtha flares would prove a civilizing force. Out of the blue, an arm lumped round his shoulder. “’S all right, Jim. Sure no one saw us and Dora’s away in the arms of Murphy.”

“Dora who?”

“Go way, you gaum.”

Jim squinted round to get a view of this queer and friendly character. He had a big round grin like a saucer was stuck in his mouth. His Adam’s apple jogged above his muffler while he chuckled away to himself. The arm round Jim’s neck gave a squeeze.

“Defense of the Realm Act, of course.”

Tramlines glistened under the quietly hissing lamps. The old woman with the widow’s stoop that people called Mary Nights was passing through, her pram of belongings behind her.

“How’re you, Mary?” called Doyler. “What way are the nights this weather?”

“The nights is drawing out,” said Mary Nights from her bent old head.

It was coming late now, and the boy was hooking the carcasses from the butcher’s shutter. Doyler said, “Wait for us a crack,” and darted inside. Jim watched him through the window, bargaining for some broken brawn.

Pieter Aertsen, "Butcher's Stall with the Flight into Egypt", 1551

His eyes were drawn to a shelf at the back, where above the barrels of corned beef, a cow’s head was on display. The butcher had prised its tongue out and curled it over the corner of its mouth, the way it would be licking its lips in anticipation of its own taste. Moony eyes were staring down, contemplating its blood collect on a plate. There was blood on the pavement too where the carcasses had dripped.

After you with the push!”

A drunk had stumbled backwards out of Fennelly’s and knocked into a bunch of fellows. He turned on them with colossal injury.

“Who’re ya shoving at? Who d’ya think yous’re shoving? Come back to me here and I’ll learn yous manners.” He staggered to his feet, cursing and reeling. But he had lost the direction he was travelling and kept peering about as though to find it in the road. “Who is it wants a puck? If ’s a puck yous want, need look no farther!”

Jim turned aside and found himself facing the blind lane that led to the Banks. Only a hundred yards from home, yet he had never been inside. There was no call for deliveries to the Banks. Gordie said he saw a naked woman there once. He used go down to buy bait when he was too idle to dig his own. He maintained it was like a party inside, with all sorts being drunk, red spirit even, and indeed you often heard singing in the night hours. Shrieks too, and sometimes, worst of all, that mad laughter that goes on too long and loud.

A marvel to picture tulips in such a place.

The Banks was the worst, but all about there was hardship. The dwellings beyond his father’s shop, the courts behind the butcher’s. You heard them at times, and if the wind went strange you had to smell them. But if you looked, you need never see more than shops and solid house-fronts. And when he looked up Adelaide Road to his father’s shop on its watch upon the lane, he saw it for once not from his schoolfellows’ view, as a dowdy and hucksterish stores, but as his customers must see it: the last and least, but still part of the strip of well-to-do that hedged their lives.

... bo-o-und me
Sheet music, "Oft in the Stilly Night"

Oft in the stilly night,
ere slumber’s chain has bo-o-und me—”

It was the drunk out of Fennelly’s who had begun to sing.

“Fond memory brings the light
of other days aro-und me—”

Moore’s old melody. Under a gas-lamp he stood, in its puddle of light, lurching a little; his face cadaverous thin, though his voice, for all it rasped, surprising true. He aimed his song above the rooftops to where the night sky shimmered, while he told the tears of his boyhood years, the words of love he had spo-o-ken.

László Mednyánszky, "Old Tramp", 1880s

So ardent did he sing, each note might carry a breath of his life. People passing stopped to hear. And seeing them gathered, he stumbled among them with his hat held out. It was easy to credit the truth of his song, that his dim old eyes, they once had shone, that his heart, once cheerful, had been bro-o-o-ken. Two coins chinkled in his hat. And so it was when nights were still and sleep had yet to bind him, round him shone that other light, fondly to remind him.

A creak in his voice, and the spell broke in a raucous cough. He sought to regain his moment, but he could not. People who drifted away he followed with his hat. Those drinkers who had crowded Fennelly’s door set in to mock him.

Jim retreated in the butcher’s doorway. There was another boy, he saw him in his mind’s eye, who when Doyler came out took hold his arm and strolled him away up the other direction. But Jim was not that boy, and now when Doyler emerged with his parcel of brawn, he stood mutely by, sensing the darkened mood.

“Mary and Joseph,” Doyler muttered, “in the street and all.” In a jerk he had the pieces of his flute whipped out. “Are you straight, Jim Mack?”

That question again. Jim cautiously nodded.

“Hold on to me flute, will you? I might not catch you before practice again. Will you mind it for me?”

“All right.”

Henry Scott Tuke, "Portrait of Johnny Jackett", 1900s

“Next week then. I’ll see you there.”

He had been bidden to go. It was so quick, Jim wasn’t sure what was happening. “We could maybe meet before, if and you wanted.”

“Aye maybe.”

The drunk was hacking in his sleeve again, and one of the mockers from Fennelly’s called, “Have you a licence to go hawking in the street?”

Doyler spun round. “Get on, you gobshite. Can’t you leave a body in peace?”

“Who said that?” yelled the drunk. “Who’s it calling me a gobshite?”

Jim edged away. “Is he all right?”

“Is who all right?”

Jim cocked his head. “Your da.”

“I said I’ll see you.” The apple in his throat was leaping now. He swallowed and the voice tempered. “Look, pal o’ me heart, right? If he decks me with the flute he’ll have it fecked again.” Still Jim didn’t understand. “For to sell it of course or to pawn it.”

Jim slowly nodded.

“Go on, then, before he catches on you have it.”

In the shadow of an archway Jim watched the encounter of father and son. Mr. Doyle shadow-boxed in his circle of lamplight. “Who called me a gobshite? Was it you called me a gobshite?”

Philippe de Champaigne, "Still Life with Tulip and Skull", early C17

Doyler caught him by the arm. He muttered something while he held out his brawn. In a wild flail his father had it knocked to the road. “Is it you is blackguarding me? Look at me, mister, when I talk to you! Look at me, I say! Who d’ya think you’re looking at? Ladies and gents, do yous know who it is? Do yous know who it is now, ladies and gents?”

Like lazy sparks the tulips had fallen. Doyler bent to retrieve them and the brawn. And when the father raised his arm it seemed to Jim the son had offered his neck for the blow.

“‘Thus in the stilly night’—This is the whore’s git I has to call me own. And there’s a whore inside did bounce him on me.”