Chapter 8: Michael Kilkenny’s Wake, Take the Bullet

Posted on April 28, 2013

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This is the antepenultimate chapter. I always wanted to use that word.

I have been holding off publishing this chapter because I know I’m going to rewrite it. A classic farce requires a chase scene and I realized this is the place for it, but while I’m working it out in my head, the story and readership are languishing. Likewise, I just went back and made an edit to Chapter 7 that I felt was really important. Besides, it seems people are all saving this up to read some other time and serialization isn’t really working. I’ll probably insert my fix before anybody notices! Any feedback on that?

Chapter 7

8 Take the Bullet

And so an hour later we had Mr. Thompkins in a buggy with me driving, and thinking to not hurry back. Sean ran up, winked and tipped his cap to me, “I have just the thing for our sporting American chap. Can I recommend going by way of the Old Kings Hill?” It was a fine day, with blue sky and clouds like cotton puffs – none of which helped the mill wheel grinding in me head. The horse clip-clopped along until we came around the side of Old Kings Hill and there we stopped with a dozen or so other carriages.

“What is this?” exclaimed John.

“How could I forget? A few of the boys are having a road bowling match today.”

“Road bowling?”

“Yes, you take the bullet, a steel ball, and bowl it down the road. The person who gets to the next village with the fewest throws wins.”

“All the way to the next village?”

“All the way.”

“Which is?”

“Six miles as the donkey walks.”

“And traffic waits?”

“Of course. It’s only polite. Otherwise it would take forever to finish a match.”

He looked at me his lips twisting in a grimace. Just then, he looked across the fields and noticed a train chugging along.

“I thought you said the trains had run?”

“Well, I said you had missed the morning train.”

“And that it would take all day to get to the county seat?”

“Well, yes, especially given that there was nothing else to do today, and road bowling along the way.”

“You don’t suppose I could jump down, run over, and wave that train down?”

“I suppose you could do all of that, but I would not have high hopes that it would stop.”

“On account of the importance of keeping to schedule and all.”

“We do take great pride in that.”

“I will take my chances.” With that, he grabbed his bag and hopped down from his seat, then ran off across the field waving his hat and hooting at the top of his lungs. I do suppose they stopped the train just to see what all of the fuss was about.

It did indeed take me all day to get to the county seat, but I managed to turn my pint money into a 20 pound note, thanks to a bookie who didn’t anticipate the impact of the wake on our local boy, Seano. He done me proud holding his head between bowls and twice visiting behind a tree but never leaving the match nor turning away refreshment. It was a shame, a real shame that he lacked the concentration to negotiate the curves at the base of the hill, trying to pitch across the bend thrice before he landed one on the road, might have been better if he’d stayed the course.

When I arrived, imagine my surprise to find Mr. Thompkins had completed his business and returned home on the evening train. It took me until near midnight to make it back, and the old horse sorely used.

It was going through my head the whole way home, the pub was closed and I was going to have to rouse the boys and tell them to get ready for the funeral after all, there was nothing for it. After that, I had not one single idea on what to do with this perplexing man. It was like catching a lamprey, every time we had a hold on him he pulled another surprise.

I pulled into the yard and there was me Betty on the porch, arms crossed in a way that said I had more to worry about than a cold dinner. At that moment I would have given the farm to tread places with my dear dead friend Michael.

Excuses were ready to pour from me lips like whiskey at a wake, but I did not get the chance.

“Out prancing around and playing your little games with Michael are ye Mr. Reilly?” says she, “You hold your drinking tolerably, and farm well enough that I don’t much harass ye, unlike many another woman in the valley.”

“Aye, and…”

“But ever since you and that leprechaun Michael Kilkenny hatched that mad scheme, barely has a cow been milked or a fence mended on this farm, and you out half-kilt our only horse I see!”

“Aye, and…”

“Aye, and nothing. Tonight your American friend and your daughter were arrested, arrested, for poaching, and are in jail. You won’t be seeing the inside of this house until she is back in it, and maybe for a good long time after that.” With that she was in the house and me standing there with my hat in my hand.

I took Nell to the barn to curry and feed her. While I was nipping at a bottle of potin I keep the stable for just such occasions and Paulie sneaks out to bring me a crust o’bread and cheese.

“Mr. Thompkins shows up here about supper time, oh you missed a good one, bacon and boiled cabbage, and says I’m looking for Bobby. She runs up to her room and gets changed. Seems there’s still hours of daylight and he wants to fish the ‘evening hatch’ and so out they go. The lord himself caught them as he was out walking! He went to thump Bobby with his shillelagh, and him and Mr. Thomkins had fisticuffs over it. Liam snuck up behind him and laid Mr. Thomkins out, though he allows he was sorry to do it.”

I finished the crust while he was telling me the story, and my head was whirling like a leaf in a stream. The fraud exposed and me poor, dear Roberta ruined too! Me bones and brains almost as tired as each other, I sent him in lest he also incur his mother’s wrath and sat down on a hay bale with me bottle and that’s the last I remember.

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