Flash fiction piece #4 for 2018, inspired by ’Nathan Burgoine’s challenge for the year! I’m still loving this, even though I wrote this entry in one go. Yeah, maybe I won’t leave it to the last second next month.
Some help for non-Irish speakers. Sometimes names are pronounced differently, depending on where the people live on the island. I’ve included how I’m choosing to say them in this little glossary. Also, some phrases in Gaeilge don’t directly translate.
Names: Síle (Sheela), Gráinne (Groyna), Séamus (Shay-mis), Cáitlín (Cawch-leen), Páidraig (Paw-rick), Máire (Moyra), O Cionnaoith (O’Kinney), Dálaigh (Dayla or Daly)
- Dia duit! Dia is Muire duit. (Good morning. Good morning to you.) But it’s closer to “God to you” and “Mary to you.”
- Sasanaigh (Englishmen.)
- Mo chara (my friend)
- Eejit (Idiot, but more of an English word just pronounced with an Irish accent)
- Omadaun (also an idiot)
And now onto our story!
In a verdant rural community on an emerald isle, two friends met at a fork in the road, surprised and delighted to have each other’s company. For surely a trek into town was always made better with a good long chat.
“Dia duit, Gráinne!”
“Dia is Muire duit, Síle!”
“Lovely morning for the messages!”
“’Tis. I just delivered the little ones to the Hedge and am off for the market.”
Gráinne tilted her head as slate-blue eyes squinted with suspicion. “Do ye feel right about the Hedges? I half-wonder if it’s a waste of a good day.”
Síle placed her basket on the dirt path to town, tightening the kerchief that had blown from her raven-black hair. She wished the cat’s curse upon the wind for being so troublesome. “I do, luv. I think gettin’ yeer letters and numbers proper is a good thing. These Sasanaigh want to keep us Catholics daft by forbidding schooling, but I tell ye, the Hedges are sent by God above. I want my Cáitlín and Pádraig to use their loaves. Some learnin’ will keep them sharp. I meself might not have me letters, but good ol’ Da taught me the maths. That’s why I never get cheated at the stalls.”
Her friend nodded. “True. I could use more of the maths meself. Séamus O Cionnaoith is a right clot. He might have the appearings of a mortal baker, but he’s the devil himself for taking what don’t belong to him.”
“Ah, it’s too crisp to talk of things what chill the marrow. Tell me instead, for I want to know, what’s that lovely plant ye’re carrying? It looks like it came straight from Heaven!”
Gráinne proudly displayed the specimen in her clay pot that boasted luscious white blooms with a tinge of pink. “Isn’t it grand? Hellyber, it’s called. A woman from the turkey country sold it to me dead cheap after I told her my woes. Mystical like a faerie she was and such a good listener.”
“Ye mean she comes from Turkey, mo chara. That’s what it’s rightly called.”
“How do ye know that?”
“Cáitlín loves the atlas.”
“Ah. Well, didn’t I tell her a problem I’ve been having with an eejit rat and wasn’t she the one to offer the cure? The hellyber kills vermin faster than ye can say yer own name!”
“Gracious!” Síle made the sign of the cross. “Be careful with that, then!”
“Bah, I’ve mitts for the sap. I’m not afeared of burns.”
They continued on the road winding into town. More thatched and stone cottages dotted the landscape. The friends gossiped with fervour, nearly dropping their plant and basket after partaking in a hearty giggle.
“I’ll say ten Hail Mary’s tonight to clean the sin right out of us,” said Síle, laughing.
“How be it sinful when we’re not telling fibs? The man’s a pox. I hope the devil uses his spine for a ladder.”
Síle made another sign of the cross. “You mustn’t say such things, Gráinne. Vengeance is for God alone.”
“I’ve no patience for men what take glee in ruining a woman. Oh, and he could charm the habit off a nun, Séamus could.”
“Ye think I’m telling falsehoods, but Sister Máire is in a right state because of the rogue.” Gráinne stuck out her belly to emphasize the point.
Síle gasped. “Not Sister Máire! Poor soul. She’s so young. Just a novice.”
“Yep, and not the only one in town whose dough he poked. I know widow Dálaigh cried herself dry because of the gobshite. He’s a cheat in all the ways of the world!”
“Surely. But I don’t see the draw meself. It’s a good bet his bread is harder than his thingie. I’d rather be with a day-old loaf than with that omadaun.”
This time Síle dropped her basket. She quickly bent down for it, dusted it off with the once-white apron resting upon her skirts, then made yet another sign of the cross.
“Ye must hold your tongue, Gráinne. Our Father can hear yer words and will punish ye come the day of Judgement.”
Gráinne scowled. “I’ll take me chances. I reckon O Cionnaoith’s sins will far outshine mine.”
“Oh, ye mustn’t presume the Lord’s will!”
The woman holding the lush plant stopped in her tracks. Síle paused as well. Gráinne placed the hellebore on the ground, stood up again, and gently cupped her friend’s shoulders.
“It’s sweet how pious y’are, Síle, and I know Saint Peter will have barely a tick against ye come yer death. Ye’ll pass a quarter hour in Purgatory then be off to eternal bliss.”
“I fear for yeer soul, mo chara.”
“Ah, don’t. I might not have the hedge-school learning, but I’ve wits of me own, and can be taught a thing or two what’s useful.” Gráinne collected her plant and trotted along with a spring in her step.
Síle decided to put sinfulness from her thoughts and focused on the list of required foodstuffs stored in her mind. She sometimes allowed herself the indulgence of taking pride in her ability to retain information.
The two women entered the town gates, suddenly greeted with a fury of activity. It seemed like everyone from the surrounding villages had decided to fetch their shopping for the week.
Gráinne smiled at her travel-mate. “My sweet woman, I must take my leave of ye.”
Sile raised her eyebrow. “Oh? I thought perhaps we’d do the messages together.”
“Would love to, but I’ve a dire task that cannot wait. Idle hands, ye know.”
Gráinne darted away without another word.
Síle called after her. “What is it that ye must be off like a feather in the wind?”
Her friend swirled round. “I told ye. I’ve a rat to kill!”
Síle turned away, her expression perplexed. When she looked back, she caught Gráinne crossing the threshold of O Cionnaoith’s bakery.
“Wait, Gráinne! Wait!” screamed Síle, forgetting her basket and running like she’d just caught fire.
Ye Filthy Rat © 2018 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.
Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a story about a little green guy who’s on a quest to save half the person he loves. Cait is currently working on a prequel to ’Cosm called The Stealth Lovers, a rom-com military space opera. When she’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts for indie authors and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also really likes cake.