Feel The Fear

Entry by: Obergo

31st July 2017
The Passing

The last time John had a drink he had been on Achill Island in his father’s house and he came round propped against the wall, with blood-stained hands, wearing his father’s favourite suit.
He had no memory of what had gone on in the night, and as he got to his feet in the pale sunlight, his head exploding and in search of water he began to feel the usual terror.
In the kitchen there was an axe in the table and holes in the cupboards. A small cabinet had been smashed and a wooden rail pulled off the wall.
He walked over the the sink, his father’s suit trousers open, and his gut wedging itself through the slightly open flies.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” he said, as he looked out across the field, the orange sun burning an edge across the Nephins.
He turned his back to the window and leant his big body against the sink and looked at his father’s axe. It was thick and shining in the swirling dust caught by the morning light in a way that made him think of his father's cigarette smoke.
He must have come to the thick walled cottage drunk again, along the 45km winding road from Westport. His father had died three months before, gasping into the summer afternoon, when everything outside was so full and dense with life that John had felt only happiness and freedom when the terrible sound of his breathing stopped.
That afternoon he didn’t tell the neighbours, but instead locked the doors and went to Nevins for a pint, off the island, where the bar staff changed in the summer and no one knew who he was, calling Ducky, his best friend to join him.
“Ducky, he’s dead.”
“Dead, Johnny? When did he go?”
“Now, he went an hour ago, will you come to Nevins?”
“Where is he Johnny?”
“He’s in the bed, where the fuck do you think he is? Will you come Ducky?”
There was a slight pause, then, “I’m in the field, Sarah’s in the tractor, I’ll get her to her mam’s and come.”
“Are you still at that craic with Sarah? Someone’s going to get hurt.”
“I am, and she’s a mighty woman. See you now Johnny.”
Ducky was an illiterate farmer who had been one of Ireland’s top body builders in the eighties. John nicknamed him Ducky because while he was training he had lived on bread and water.
Ducky lived with his sister and her family on their farm and had taken it upon himself to teach his six and eight-year-old-nieces, Mary and Sarah to use the machinery. John and Ducky were like brothers.
Ducky walked into the bar wearing a fresh white t-shirt and the jeans he had been wearing on the tractor. The air was hot, and the white skin under the barman’s wispy moustache was beaded with sweat.
“Well, are you happy now John?” he said as he sat down, one arm around John’s shoulder, as he offered his condolences.
John winced.
“I am, I’m delighted. I’m to sell it all and keep the axe, that’s what the old man said. Keep the axe, like it was mammy’s ring, or something.”
“He loved it, didn’t he John,” Ducky rested both arms on the bar and put his hands around the cool pint in front of him.
“I want to throw his body into the sea and never talk about the man again after today,” John said.
“Agh, get down out of there,” Ducky shook his head, and turned towards John, raising his eyebrows.
Johnny nodded from his shoulders, his back rising, so that Ducky was unsure if he had begun to cry.
The last time he had said that phrase John was in the woods behind his house, tying a noose to a tree to hang himself and they were both 26 years old. John was winding a rope around a trunk as Ducky appeared, and continued to tie the half hitches as he stood underneath.
“Agh, get down out of there,” he had said, his big hands laced behind his head as he looked upwards, the wind howling through the scots pine and ash and silver birch.
“You’re da came to get me, saying you were acting the bollocks John, you’re acting the bollocks, what’ll we do without you?”
John left the island after that, and nearly never came back, until Ducky called to say his father was dying, and John had sat by his bedside for three weeks, waiting.
In the bar he turned to Ducky, “Everything that is beautiful, is ugly, somehow, because of him. He’s like a rot, and even to let a thing in, even a woman, Ducky, I can’t. Do you know what I mean?”
“No, not really John, I think you should let it go,” Ducky said.
“It’s like he has turned me inside out and I don’t recognise myself. I play at being John. When he died and the breeze swept through the purple heather outside and the sun tumbled down on it all Ducky, it was the first time I felt right inside and out. But it has already passed, like a bird.”
“He’s dead now,” Ducky said.
Johnny went on, “Do you know what it has been like to feel him growing inside me since I left? I have never been able to let the fucker go. Like a rot Ducky. I was always too like mammy, you remember? Soft, stupid. I went outside to pick flowers, I must have been four or five. I brought the handful into him, he was leaning against the fireplace, smoking in a suit, it must have been Sunday, and he just took them from my hand, without lifting them to his face to smell them or see them properly, and threw them straight into the fire. I don’t know if he said it, but I hear him saying “you little fool Johnny”. And the flowers, like the swirl of cigarette smoke in the sunshine, or the smell of Sunday roast cooked by Breda, or the beautiful design of one of his tables, I hate them Ducky, I hate the memory of them or the thing they are now, repeated in some way, because I think I could have loved them and he smashed that out of me.”
“Sure you never wanted to be a carpenter, and that was it, John,” Ducky said.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Your Dad never let that go,” Ducky said.
John was silent. Then he lifted his eyes and at the crown of his head reflected in the bottom of the mirror behind the bar.
“It’s the lonliness out here. It wasn’t about he tables or the chairs, he wanted me to become a thing that was his, that he could keep. He wanted me to sit in a room and imitate him all day.”
“He had a talent there, didn’t he John,” said Ducky.
John swallowed and looked at his pint.
“Those things he made, his Sunday suits, the way he would stand outside the church in the summer with his coat open, and chat to people, they were rotted out of him out here, and he was never passing them on anyway. See now Ducky, see now who I am, and I'm fucking scared.”