Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Widow Ryan.


Only by the skill and strength of the fishermen, did the currrach continue its crazy dance. The blackened, and jagged land, threatened at every meeting. As the boat surged up once more, young Michael was passed swiftly, through the safe and salt-hardened hands of the rowers. And then into his mother’s waiting arms. 

She sat bewildered and broken hearted. Once again she was at the mercy of these strong, silent men; men whose eyes reflected the grey-green of the cold and hungry sea, the same sea from which they attempted to steal a living everyday. Its waves licked rabidly at the tarred sides of the canvas boat, hungry for its cargo.  

Maura sat in the prow, alone with her son, and she had the mark of widowhood on her. In the small island community, it was both a mark of respect and shame. 
As the island receded into the sea, she did not look back. Aloof in her widow’s shawl, she kept her eyes fixed on the mainland, as behind her, the island that had once appeared to hold all of their dreams, rose for one last time, before  finally disappearing forever,  beneath the waves. 
Onward the currach twisted and rolled over the backs of great ocean swells, that heaved out of the Atlantic, like the backs of the great whales that migrated past the Island shores every year. The men who rowed were silent, each lost in their own rhythm of breathing and effort. They were impatient to have the journey over, but careful because of their knowledge that the sea was scornful of men who showed impatience. 
There was a small knot of people, dark and huddled together for shelter, waiting on the pier, and  it was from this group that a hand reached down to help her with her first step back onto the mainland.
“Let’s get you inside, out of the cold,” she heard him say, and when she looked for young Michael ,  he was already standing by the the strangers side, waiting for his mother.

He escorted them across the road to the pub, and insisted on her having a whiskey.
 “It will warm you up, ” he had said.

“Now. In three swallows!

 "One for the past," and they reflected for a moment.

“One for the present,” and she could feel the warmth coming back.

“And one for the future,” and their eyes met.



©Copyright Niall OConnor
Images borrowed from the web

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