Base Camp

"I’m not going to climb it! I told you already, I don’t climb, I climb out of bed in the morning and that’s it. Anyway since when were you pagan?"

-Ha?

"Pagans used to gather here to celebrate Lughnasa thousands of years ago. Then the Christians just like it....like they do."

-Don’t let Fr Moran hear you saying that!

"Sure he’s half deaf anyway, tone deaf at least!"

-Easy Ella! So you’re sure you don’t want to give it a go, for the day that’s in it?

"Nah you go, Tenzing, I’ll stay in the car and count the Northface puffer jackets"

-You used to love climbing it with your mother?

"I used to love a lot of things. Don’t tell me that’s a golf club shaft as a stick?"

-It's a King Cobra! 44inches, 9 degrees; Ben Crenshaw won the Masters in ’95 with this club!

"Some Christian..., bringing a snake to Croagh Patrick! You know there’ll be some smart arse saying you saw your ball up there or something?"

-Ok enough, as your granny would say “Amn’t I to be pitied?”

"Ok, now go Tenzing before the weather turns!"

-You’re too funny Ella

Pat turned, took an extra breath, and starting to climb. It was almost a year to the day. He had climbed this mountain many times, mostly with his beloved wife and family, sometimes with his friends from work and once with an American cousin called Amie, who boasted all the way up about her contented life in America, and cried all the way down about her husband’s infidelity, the psychological stress of belonging to her social class, and about how she used to get preferential treatment in her local ‘Texas Roadhouse’ because she used to know the manager, but now he’s been replaced and the new manager doesn’t give a shit about her anymore. He kept on, using the EI70 X Flex Extra Stiff driver for stability. He stumbled and the scree fell fast, like the tears of a child, and he was reminded of how Ella used to dab her eyes with a handkerchief á la Jane Wyman from Falcon Crest; her mother’s guilty pleasure.

This climb would take him he guessed three hours, which would give him plenty of time to think. He thought about the damned hair in his ears, and the damned hairs in his nose. He thought about people, like Audie Murphy and Oliver St John Gogarty. He thought about the truth and about myths that needed to be debunked, like the ones about Tutankhamen and Columbus, or more significant misconceptions like the fact that Humphrey Bogart never said “Play it again Sam” in Casablanca. He thought about yer one with the white hair from Winning Streak, and for some reason he couldn’t understand, about Billy the Kid. He reached the chapel, couldn’t be bothered going in, took a swig of water from Ellas’s black Mindless Self Indulgence bag pack and carried on down the mountain, keeping an untrained eye out for loose gold flakes.

On the way down he was too tired, too surly and too thirsty to think and just fell down the mountain slowly like a drunken goat. But mostly he thought about how what had passed, and like the Confiteor, ‘what I have done and what I have failed to do’. He wished he could hold her in his arms right now. They had met first in the Star Cinema, 30 years ago. He got kicked out of ‘Company of Wolves’ for ‘acting the maggot’ and had to go next door to watch ‘Girls just want to have fun’ till his friends came out. She was there with her cousin Margaret. She looked up at him and Margaret shouted in her phoney American accent “Stay away from him, he’s a boy!!!” and they both collapsed in fits of laughter. He remembered he couldn’t move, just kept smiling gracelessly till she slapped the dust from the seat beside her and said “Boy...walk? Boy...Sit!” She wasn’t always that economical with words, he thought.

Just then a German tourist passed up behind him and greeted him with a cheerful “Hi”. He was about to use Ellas’s joke and reply “Yeah it sure is” but thought better of it. They had gone to Frankfurt for their honeymoon, and as was their youthful defiance and belligerence, spent their days walking the streets eating pizzas and their nights watching French movies or un films d'amour, as she used to love calling them.

He started to sing that ‘I won’t send roses’ song from Mack and Mabel to himself and it made him cry. It was both distressing and heartwarming. He still had her dresses in his bedroom wardrobe and places flowers on her grave almost every day. Now he had to ‘keep his head kid’.

He could just make out Ella at the base. Her hair was black, her shoes and jeans were black, her nails were black but her eyes were cobalt blue. Ella herself liked the colour of her eyes and the fact that blue is portrayed as an introspective colour, and that Van Gogh described it as a divine colour. His own eyes were a mongrel shade of seaweed green and camel brown.

When she saw him, haggard and decrepit, she bent over and laughed, covered her mouth and smiled, blinking rapidly to dry her eyes.

"I thought you got lost or something? There was something on Midwest about a madman in Murrisk; I thought it might be you!"

-I’d keel over and die from shock if you were listening to Midwest!

Ella threw Pat a half full bottle of Pepsi, and took her headphones off her head. She had a bunch of St Patrick's Cabbage flowers in her hand. 

"Hey Dad, remember these flowers? Didn’t Mam use them for Granddad or something?"

Pat took the flowers tenderly in his calloused hands.

-Yeah, for his warts I think…didn’t do anything for his hay fever though.

He wiped the sweat from his forehead, shook it from his hair and threw the car keys to Ella.

What! You’re letting me drive? No way! Yee Haw!

Ella bounded and twisted around like she was bitten by a snake and hurled herself into the driver’s seat. Pat sat on the passenger seat, overwhelmed and exhilarated. He clutched the flowers, the petals frenzied and chaotic after every mis-timed gear change; the anthers scattering their seeds after every bump.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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