He pushed further into her and each time it was like riding a bicycle uphill with the brakes on
- Its no good - He turned over in the bed ..
- rest .. Sleep.. Come I would be aslumbering
- Drunk .. that’s what I’d call it ..She turned away from him in disgust .
- Maybe .. Maybe .. But the old girl is flat out .. Flat as a pancake ..maybe in the morning
- what do you take me for . You come in here out of your mind , and all you can do is sleep . You know how that flatters me ..you’re pitiful ..really pitiful
- Ok what the fuck do you want .. splint my dick maybe ?
- you’re worse than Richie .!!
- Yea well that’s your trouble .. you keep backing losers..
- at least Richie was able for it. She seethed
-Oh yea .. ? Well go and fuck him if you can find him… I’d try the Con..
- Smart,, Aren’t you .. Well I know all about your carry on with that Mags one .. That’s adultery unless you didn’t know.. You could lose your job over that .. Just a phone call from me and ..whoosh..
- Ok let me tell you something about whoosh.. You see that cottage you did up.. What’d it cost 2000 k .. where did that come from.. How about all the money that came in here in cash.. For the school.. How much of that was declared.? And joy of joys I’d get per cent of the takings. If I disclosed . you’d be in jail.. Unless of course you managed to fuck the judge .. And I wouldn’t put it past you.. So lets be clear with each other ..
- You’d never do that .. Even you’d never stoop that low .. You’d have to give evidence against me ..in public .
- Try me
-I think its time for you to leave ..
- I thought you’d never ask… and now that I’m out of my tree ..I don’t suppose you’d drop me home in my car.. Even if I did try to drive I’m sure you’d get one of your cop friends to set up a convenient check point..- Fuck you !
She mellowed suddenly . He was unpredictable . Better mollify him . He did know too much .
- No don’t go.. Why do we have to be fighting like this .. I hate it.. Its awful.. The things you make me say.. And the things you say.. I now you don’t mean them.. Please stay .. Kiss me .. Lets make up .Come on Kiss kiss me ..
It was around this time he began to think of why he kept coming back here .t. And she obviously reciprocated the sentiment. How did he let himself drift back into this relationship again . And again. Just an easy lay.. One horney night and she happened to be around. No she didn’t happen anything.. She had begun to meet him by accident ..at the petrol station in the supermarket, just as he headed out to the gym.. There were too many accidentals.
She was in a relationship at the time .. She was a divorcee, had a teenage daughter, and ran a successful beauty parlour . She kept herself immaculately. Whatever features god gave her she made the most of them. She drank very moderately , exercised regularly. Her body was as subtle as a ballet dancers. She could still do those contortions with her body effortlessly. She didn’t smoke and never took drugs.
So how did it start this time. ?. Yes he was just back from overseas. He was heading down to his local when she pulled up at the lights so he had to sit in.. they sat .she was all bubbly and full of charm.. How well he looked and so tanned .. And ..
And so despite whatever hurry she was in they went to a hotel up the hill, a quiet place. He chatted . She chatted . Soon it was closing time. Her car was parked on the tree lined avenue..
-They sat in her car until they both knew the chat would soon stop. It did. She told him how well he was looking again.. Then silence. They looked at one another in the dark. Saying nothing. Then they simply and suddenly merged . It was one continuous kiss ..lasted maybe 5 minutes. He slipped his hand under her loose flowery dress . She said wait.. And she reversed the car away from the light under an old tree. The kiss resumed..
She had no underwear and was already wet.. He pulled her head away from him and looked at her . Then he pressed her head against his chest.. Slowly she turned her head and opened his shirt.. Within minutes he was in her mouth..
That’s how it started . This time . She’d been writing to him when he was away. She wrote about how she was lying on a hotel bedroom masturbating with a banana.. He returned one letter. As his homecoming drew near she wrote to him about plans she had for them to be together. But he was involved with a girl ..over.
- you’re not saying anything.. what’re you thinking
- Please .. You know ..- he sat up holding his head .
- OK ok.. don’t be so touchy ..I know you hate being asked that I was just thinking how different you are when you’re sober …
He got up ,threw a blanket over him and went next door . He poured himself a vodka and sat down lighting a cigarette in the dark .
A holiday romance thing. He was on a 6 day pass and went to the North .. The tour guide stayed back waiting for the traffic in Beirut to slacken. She stated chatting to him in the bar. It was midnight when she went home.. The following day they were to go to the the cliff looking down on Jounee harbour. He had a dread of heights and wouldn’t get into the cable car, much to the amusement of the other men....
She appeared at the door and turned on the light,
- you’re not starting again ?
He tried to steady his trembling hand .
-No ! finishing .
She sat on the floor near his chair .
- we always fight when you drink
-I’m finished now. If you’d let me..
She put her head against his thigh as he drank .
He was emerging from his drunk persona . His voice changed
- there are a lot of miserable creatures in this world-
- do I make you miserable too
- oh Christ ..leave it , He was pleading now
-Ok I ‘ll leave it.. You just get so cross when you drink ..I don’t know what to say everything I say seems to be wrong.. .
- forget it .. Forget it all .. I’m too drunk .. Let it be .Please .
-You’ll come back to bed ..
-In a while ..
He sat there the glass trembling in his hand in the dark looking like some caged thing with the door left open not knowing if he had the courage to escape .
He went to the easel where she’d started a sketch . He turned over the page and took a charcoal pencil . He squinted obliquely at the blank page and stretched out his hand which shook violently now. She was still standing in the doorway.
- come on back to bed . You’re not well.
- no I’m not ..definitely not.
- do you think this will help you.
- well it‘ll keep the goblins at bay fro a while go on back to bed I‘ll join you in a while
She turned away
- I hate to see you doing this to yourself ...what about your classes ?
- Yea the wayward musical prodigy has fallen again - cheers !
- Lets be friends .. Come on,, Come back to bed . I wont bother you .. Just come back..
- in a little while ..Ok .. Give me a little while ..
He sat back and reflected again She offered to drive him round the bay and up to the statue overlooking Jounee . A round trip of 10 miles.
From the beginning he fond her funny in a bohemian way. She looked like a Spanish gypsy. Yet she had an eastern exoticism that like the dance of the veils concealed something elusive . She doted and teased him in a sympathetic way his fear of the cable car despite coming as he did from the war raging in the south . The following day he skipped the scheduled tour and went for a ramble up along the shore line from the back of the hotel . An unexpected thunderstorm caused him to seek shelter under an awning at the back of what transpired to be a night club. The club was shut yet there were people inside . The owner came out and with what little Arabic he had he conveyed that all he wanted was some shelter. The man looked at him . He was genuine ., The proprietor taking pity on his situation took him in. gave him a beer and invited him to see the club, which was built beneath the basement . He was quite taken at the way the structure carved from rock appeared to give the impression of a deep cave with dangling stalactites. The owner sensing he might get some easy advertising offered him some of his special wine and arranged for his driver to take him back to the hotel . He gave him two complimentary tickets for that nights show . It was a family club he explained , which Mark took to mean there were no hookers there .but he accepted the mans hospitality and thanked him for the drive home .
Later he met up with the rest of the group who had gone to Byblos for the day Dyna was there and seemed to greet him like a lost puppy . Later as the others were going into Beirut for the evening he declined and went again to the bar where Dyna joined him .
He’d been thinking about her all day .and now she made no move to leave when the traffic had subsided .Duna didn’t drink . She was happy just to see him do so., impishly reminding him periodically how many drinks he’d had .
Later he mentioned about the club and the tickets . Would she go. ? It was a family club he assured her as the proprietor had assured him. She demurred . There were a number of clubs on the seafront. They drove down and as he’d come in the back way he had to check the tickets to say which one it was . No , she would’nt go there . She didn’t explain why not and he didn’t ask .
They went for a walk along the corniche and as it got chilly they returned to her car. Sitting in the car , the smell of the sea blowing in from the Mediterranean he told her how much of home it reminded him .
In one of the silences where neither made any effort to dispel the little aura he asked her why she hadn’t gone home when the traffic cleared .She said she thought he was lonely .
Are you lonely too he asked her . She was thinking about him all day she told him . They were both lonely. And he got an impulse to kiss her looking at her silhouette against the street light. He desisted knowing the sensibilities of her race . But she turned to him and her eyes she seemed wide and wanton . She inclined her head a little to one side . We are two lonely people she said and their faces converged . Do you mind. he asked . Her lips parted , and her long lashes drooped . It was a slow .. Almost platonic kiss . ..soft and gentle ..then it turned to one of a sublime union Their tongues found each other and explored one another .. Then she withdrew quite suddenly .. I‘m sorry I shouldn’t .. but she cupped his mouth softly .. She was involved .. She told him . With a pilot . She didn’t know what to do or say . He was going in a few days ..
Then this is all wrong ? -no this is not wrong she said ..but .
She too had felt that attraction ..no explanation … she just found him lonely and a little lost.. And she kept thinking where he’d been when the group were in Byblos .
It was an impulsive thing ..Could he .. Would he take a few extra days leave ..
She did not dissuade him . She just said things don’t often just happen like this ..He rang in to say that he was taking a few more days .. He was owed them any way
. They drove down the coast and booked into a tourist hotel..
In the morning she came into the bathroom just after he’d showered.. He was beginning to shave. She leaned against his shoulder looking at him in the mirror. They were both in that post coital trance.. They kissed leisurely and they made love again , slowly ,,so slowly..
She came see him at the airport when they were leaving. He was then 36 and she 26 …..
He sat there in the dark thinking again how suddenly his passion for this strange girl had raged .The suddenness of the light startled him.
- Oh come on back to bed . you’ll just cold out there .. She was again standing at the door clutching herself in her slight negligee
-In a while ..
- put this over you . She threw a dressing gown over him and kissed his cheek
- “ friends ?
- Friends - another while please .
- Kiss -
She kissed his open listless mouth .
-I can sleep now that we’re friends again.. I hate falling out with you.. don’t stay too long. Will I turn off the light
When he had returned he was surprised that she hadn’t replied to his letters. Then one Sunday afternoon he decided to ring her home . He held on with a searing urgency .The line was good.
- Dina .??
The voice had a distinctly inquisitive . It was her mother’s voice .
- . No .. She not here .. She is married now .. She is with her husband ..she lives in the mountains..
Jesus ! - the shock ; he’d been duped . She was married . Maybe even all that time she’d been seeing him .. Why ? And to think he was about to go out to see her ? Oh you fool ..fuckin fool !
She was awoken by a soft thud on the floor. She turned on the light . He was dressed .
- what’re you doing ?
- I’m going ..
- where ! how.?.
- Forget it I’ve called a taxi…. don’t say anything ..I’m Ok .. I’ll call you ..-
- I thought we’d made up..
- look at me ..I need .. It ..To go a rest .. I need to go somewhere ..
He’d finished the bottle and was swaying though his speech was unimpaired . He was often like that when he was on a bender.
- what about money..
- no its ok.. There it is now my taxi..
- kiss me
- see you
- you’re not still mad at me ?
- ring me Write ..
He paid the taxi and got out at Lees . It was an early house on the docks. It catered for early imbibers . It had an early licence. Funny the types you met in there . Some dapper gentlemen all ready for a days work. ; Some respectable types , lawyers , shopkeepers .. And wasters like him. They all knew each others routine . They‘d go to work . Manage their affairs competently for a few hours . But they would be out at eleven to get another fix.
He sat in his usual corner. No one felt any obligation to make any salutations or pay any heed to the conventional courtesies, they were all souls stranded in this together. All the contriving in his own way how to get through the day . All bonded in the affliction of alcoholism. You never asked for money there No one ever had any to spare. No one bought rounds of drinks. No one was ever celebrating. No one sang a rebel song or recited poetry . They were all creatures like so many scattered leaves . Only the wind pushed them on and swirled them hither and thither, and only when it’s rage abated could they settle again.
It was a dark morose place and only these shells ..these shadows of men they once were drifted in and out ..of a kind of nebulous existence ; Some passed away every year. But their passing too was marked with no prolonged grief. Their mourning was as casual and insignificant as marking a new day.. Nothing.
He took tot his cannon when his hands settled .. It was a simple polyphonic movement for three voices. It had a Christmas ambience ,
At 9.30 he rang brother Ryan .
Little needed to be said . He was embarrassed in so far as a man so familiar with making excuses for himself that no apology was even given and none expected. He went through it anyway
- Ryan .. Its Max .. I need to come in.. usual thing.. Sorry sorry
Brother Ryan made no admonishment . He told him he’d expect him that afternoon
- But Mark . we have a new abbot . He’s sticky about “repetitive” as he calls them. You’ll know him. . He resents this place being used as a doss house .. You‘ll understand .. well I hope he looks kindly on your circs.. Se you later then.. Just stop drinking now. Promise me that much .. don’t be compromised when you arrive ..
He took the bus which took him south over the cattle pastures faded in the watery light , across the streams and the wide expanse of the river Shannon then out into the country where the Abbey lay in its own grounds . Brother Ryan greeted him.
- God you look terrible Mark .. - he refrained from saying anymore. The man was sick . He looked worse than he’d ever seen him before. He looked at him now as he sat on the bed abandoned to his fate ; like one who this time he had no fight left. He was unshaven . He looked dissipated and dishevelled .His once handsome face was flushed and bloated . The eyes were vacant and rheumy and flitted intermittently in his guilt then drooped again in abandon .
- There’s some fresh underwear and a habit if you wish in the closet . Otherwise I’ve left a pair of jeans and a couple of jumpers..
- I’m bad this time Ryan.. I know .. I’m bad ..
He didn’t expect any sympathy . He received only the hospitality of a stray animal ..
- I’ll leave you now , you can come down for supper at nine if you wish.. There’s some coffee and milk there . .
- Mark ! he said .
-Just kneel with me now and say a prayer with me ., then looking at his old friend he wondered if he should call a doctor ..
- No , Thanks Ryan .. I’ll manage ..I know ..- he stood to embrace his friend , who couldn’t help but notice his frailty .uncertainly he said
-I’ll leave you now . I’ll drop in in the morning.
He suffered the horrors that night and all the following day. He went for a walk in the woods and through the haze of his tortured cravings he reflected on the absurdity of the conversation he’d had with Elish .
It made no sense . She held no allure for him.. Only the convenience of disguising his drinking. Making it look more socially acceptable.. And it suited her vanity to have even him escort her wherever she wanted to pirouette. Until it became obvious to even the casual observer that he had fallen from the wagon and his face grew boozed and bloated and his excesses were too obvious to hide . Even then he lingered on.
But things were different with Dyna . At least he thought so. .And the plans he made to return. He felt such an idiot. So he did the only thing he ever did when some confusion presented . He took to the bottle .. and he’d stayed on not wanting to sober up.. The fool he was . He loved this woman .. Even in those few short days he’d known her he knew he knew loved her. He never felt like this about anyone before, His world had been a dreamlike entrancement thinking about her . The spontaneity of their lovemaking..
In the splintered world of unrequited logic he battled on , the following day being as gruesome as the one before. It was the aloneness of it all that most frightened him, that feeling that he was unlike the others that his sin was self imposed , self inflected and that it was doubly wretched for hurting others as he did. Not so much Elish ,But now and then he felt like a gust the awful shame of the pain he’d caused his parents and family. .Luckily his parents were now dead , ; but they went feeling there was something wanting in them to have him turn out as he did.
His brother and sister had by now disowned him . They had been disappointed just so many times too often, and despite the promises he made , and however earnestly he ended up on another skite again. He despised himself anew .
His teaching job was almost gone . Probably was gone by now. Who could trust their pupils with such a flawed music teacher .
By the third day he felt up to eating . He put on the habit and went to matins , and when the monks retired to their cells for their adoration he crossed the keep and went to the chapel . He went up the winding staircase leading to the and took out his manuscript. And laid it on the stand . He touched the notes as he pumped the bellows but no notes sounded yet . His was afraid and uncertain at first . He played the notes a second time with all the valves closed . He played it again with a viola accompaniment , He tried various valves . And then he played it smoothly and freely . The piece took on the rhythm of the reveration of the chapel. But he needed voices . It would work..
He played the second part while he hummed the first in synchrony .he could hear it in his head , but he needed the third voice.
He felt the presence of someone near at hand and turning around he saw the organist sitting at the end of the pew. He was looking studiously at the him.
He nodded ..
- yes !- It’ll work.- he said coming softly over to the organ drawing up another stool..
They spoke in a wordless language of musicians. The organist placed his fingers over different chord sequences without touching the keys .Then he arched his brow and nodded . Mark nodded in assent .
They played the cannon in three parts now , and its yearning moved him..
They finished .
- the choir are rehearsing for Midnight mass
The abbot would be privileged if you were to play the premier here on Christmas eve
_ I thought he distained any overt display of pride or hubris or whatever ..
The organist smiled .
- I think he’d accept this..
- Its Abbott Kennedy isn’t it ..
- yes , you remember him ? He does you . You know he’s a Latin scholar.. - - he said almost abstractedly
- does he know I’m here
-Oh yes - he has new rules regarding house guests.. He’s challenging a lot of our stuffy old orthodoxy
- how so ?
- Well he questions whether our true vocation in life is to teach boys of the privileged classes , should we not have a more interrogational role with the community.. He wants to bring back Latin wherever he can., make the community more relevant. To the congregations Lets say he’s regarded by some as reformist and by others as more of a fundamentalist , but that ’s become such a pejorative term .. it’s the patrons we worry about . You know 2 thirds of our funding comes from them .and they , needless to remark are none too keen on opening the school doors to the working classes . We live in changing times ..
The organist took the manuscript and studied the lyrics . The repetition of the invocation was verbally clumsy but the musical arrangement was undoubtedly inspired .
- He’d be interested to have a more conventional Latin interpretation of this. .But music is not on his list of his priorities We‘ll be lucky to keep Midnight Mass going if he becomes anymore shall we say “ zealous “ -
He fell into the routine of the monks quite easily. He helped in the kitchen did some gardening and by degrees the choir warmed to his cannon . It had some nuances from the conventional cannon yet it was quite captivating and they rose to the exhilaration of its harmonies .
The Abbott met him frequently but always formally.The relationship was as fluid as it had been between he and with the other monks . The Abbott maintained an old fashioned reserve . He was not keen on the idea of introducing a new ideas and having heard the piece he expressed his unease at the idea of changing the format of the traditional canonical style , but given that even he conceded that he lacked a musical ear he found the piece moving . He was concerned with the Latin . The grammar was clumsy and the wording either overly verbose or naïve in expression . He wondered if he might take some liberty with the composer .
- By all means ,please do
- As I say , I am not artistically inclined .but the format of the cannon is something I am familiar with phonetically at least .I might try some restructuring of the wording then ?
- I d be very pleased if you did .
The liturgy on Christmas eve mass in the catholic faith is the most exuberant expression of devotion . It is extravagant and emblematic and in its purest form it is adulation to the point of idolatry. There being a fine line between the two .
It was as the congregation expected it t be lengthy . It was divided into the Kyrie:which followed by the Gloria This is the Angelic Hymn or greater doxology and is an ancient Christian hymn of thanks, praise and triumph for redemption.
Now in the sibilant echoes of a chapel on this Christmas eve , the restrained coughs abated , the congregation sat down .
The plain chant before formed a bland musical backdrop to the cannon .
The sound of the choir sang in their reserved but plaintiff soaring paean to God . Then the opening notes of the cannon began .
To even the unrefined ear its notes carried the soul through the incensed air , through sorrow and yearning to atonement and forgiveness and finished with an exhilaration which stirred even the most stoical ear , until its final notes of open unbridled joy.
There followed an almost timorous silence at the Abbot came to the lectern.
The homily was different from the usual . It laid down a challenge to the congregation ; asking them , his congregation to judge themselves against the words and life of Christ. It was furious and humble and meek and demanding all at once . Then leaving the podium the Eucharist followed then the Communion .Prayer after Communion
After the silence or song following Communion , the priest then invites the faithful to pray, which closes the Communion rite. Then the Concluding Rite , and finally the Greeting and Blessing For the last time the priest and the people exchange greetings.
The congregation were now at ease . As the Dismissal was announced and the mass ended with the solemn blessing of the congregation.
As the choir sang out the cannon again the people were disengaging from the formality of the liturgy and the seasons blessings were wished across the pews .
Mark was not conducting .He was not even in the chapel .
When the applause rang out after the last of his cannon he had made it as far as the outside perimeter of the Abbey . He had run the distance of the rugby pitch and as he touched down the ball he heard the applause from the sidelines of so many November evenings . He was carried on further into the deepening fog . The frost and fog drew him on to the boggy ground surrounding the Abbey . He pushed on in the cold to clasp of the ever enticing heather .
The fog drifted in and as congregation emerged uplifted from the pews still in the exhilaration of the cannon .But he heard nothing. He felt the warmth of the enticing bog drift over him in another kind of delirium .
It was the first time he felt the glow of warmth of the spirit utterly engulf him and he went dreamily into that enchantment. The sublime feeling of freedom from his demons , and the soft seduction of the heather made him succumb ; his sins and the knowledge that as he went into that slowly into that ecstatic dream now engulfing him; knowing that he could no longer be the cause or the carrier of any more pain.
He pushed further into her and each time it was like riding a bicycle uphill with the brakes on