Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Polished beginning of "Place of Safety"

This is sort of the prologue...but I'm debating calling it that:


Those who knew Eamonn Kinsella -- and were being honest with themselves -- had to admit that had he been born but ten miles to the west or north, his murder would have been seen as the fitting end to a hard and brutal man. That he drank too much was not the problem; so did most of the men in his pinpoint of the world for it was often the only comfort offered in their existence. Nor was it that he was quick to temper when a pint too many wandered into his heart. Sometimes anger was the only emotion men like him were allowed to hold forth with. And if his wife was seen at market with a fresh bruise over one eye or across one cheek, well...she, herself, was not one to be known for gentleness. Besides, occasionally the only way a man can claim he still is lord and master in any way is by proving it to his missus. But when your sons come to school with plaster over a split lip or a cast on their limbs, and your daughters wear long blouses to hide the markings on their arms, and when a priest is called to quiet the house twice a week, on average -- well, there was something that was simply and plainly wrong.

He was a big man, Eamonn Kinsella, and he knew it and used it against any and all. Though drifting into sloth, he once had worked as a navvy in Belfast, and despite it being years since his last position, his hands remained callused and beefy, his shoulders stayed broad and restless on a frame that stood above six feet, and the strength in him allowed no question of it. His dark hair, bleak eyes and long face brought to mind tortured poets and sad accountants until made lively by drink. At those times, he took on the soul of the devil's fire and fury in all its righteous evil, and it was best to keep away from him. On more than one occasion, his fist sent a man across a table or to the floor for nothing more but that he sipped a pint too loudly while at the counter next to him.

That's not to say all was evil about him. He could sing to make angels weep, mournful tunes of Ireland's ruined past and dead future. And he could spin tales wondrous to behold. You had to catch him between his second and third pint to get the best of it...but if you hit the rhythm right, he'd weave melodious tales of GrianĂ¡n Aileach, the ancient ring fort but six miles and a hundred worlds away from town, or talk about the fairies that live in oak groves old enough to have seen the birth of Christ, even waking his children to share in these stories if he wandered home in a good enough humor, all brought forth in such perfection you'd have thought he lived through each and every one.

He may well have, for all the anger in him. It was hard to see how so much could be poured into one man in fewer than thirty-five years unless he had carried it over from a previous existence. But filled with it he was, and injustices both real and imagined danced forever through his head, all roaring to life at about his fourth pint. He could rage for hours about the horrors of being a working man without work in a land cursed by God, with a wife and five wains to feed. Barely living off the dole, they were, with naught but toast burned over the gas flame and tea made from twice used leaves for their breakfast. Rags on their backs. A two-up, two-down hovel of a dwelling on Nailors Row. No hot running water or steady heat or indoor plumbing. No prospects for a decent job as once he’d had, even though that one had been a cruelty to his back. Now all of life was a cruelty for such as him, and please won't you front me another pint, m’boy?

So it would go for hours at a time. And when the drinking establishments were closed and he tottered home to his six responsibilities (which some old hens said would soon be seven if they knew a thing or two about women) if he hadn't found just cause to floor a man in the pub, he'd find some reason to do so to his wife or one of his sons. All just to prove he was still who he laid claim to be.

And that was all anyone knew of him -- what he claimed by voice alone. Never was there word about parents still living or siblings anywhere, though the coroner mentioned an uncle of his situated in Jamaica. But so little information came with it, many grew to believe he was merely repeating gossip. Another story that circulated was, his parents and family died in the bombing of Belfast by the Nazis and he’d escaped only because he was in jail for petty theft. But that would’ve put him at the age of nine so he’d have gone to an orphanage and for all the complaints he had, never was there word of that, so once again it had to be gossip.

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