An Early Childhood Chapter 13 Part 4



Continued from Chapter 13 Part 3.

                “Well, Holy God!” I said, and I poured myself another whiskey. Knocking it back, I watched as Tancred fought, and fought he did. I drank another dram as he pulled an arrow from his quiver but it was knocked from his grasp because it was still before nine pm and he didn’t want anything to look too gruesome at that hour, so he thumped the pat rafter who’d knocked it from his grasp and smashed two more pat rafters’ heads together. By the time he had been utterly overcome by the group of pat rafters, he’d felled some fourteen odd of them and I had had a few more shots of whiskey. Jarlath O’Halloran the bar manager and I exchanged glances at each other after staring out the window, our mouths agog. But I took full advantage of his mouth agoguery, and I punched Jarlath O’Halloran in the face and knocked him senseless. After two more whiskeys, I tied him up with strips of curtain fabric known as a mix of cretonne and a kind of industrialised crepe paper, and left the pub after another three glasses of whiskey and a couple more glasses of whiskey that acted as a kind of a chaser. I staggered after the group of pat rafters as they frogmarched Tancred to the local gaol and I peered through the cell window to see Sean Tubridy O’Reilly and Fletch Curtis in the cell.

                My own heavy drinking notwithstanding, the men had been captured! I read on the noticeboard outside the gaolhouse that the three men were scheduled for execution at high noon the next day unless Paddy Flanagan gave himself up, in which case they’d be spared. I was immediately reminded of my near execution of the cobbler in Aunt Molly’s town when I wanted to apprehend Dizzy Mac Flash, and I couldn’t but help appreciate the irony and I knew that Floudh Rak was behind this woeful threat to my men, related to the Fair Folk as he was.

                I certainly needed help in their rescue as I didn’t feel I’d be alive for long if I gave myself up, and I could never see the British giving up my three fellow rebels if I surrendered myself, so I decided I’d go to John Fisherman-O’Reilly – who had been driven to madness by his vision of a beautiful woman in her big Fokov wagon – to see if he would aid me in my hour of need, irregardless of whether he was mad or not.

                John Fisherman-O’Reilly sat despondently on the bank of the River Shandy in his usual spot, staring into the murky depths of the river with a face on him like you’d never seen before. He was wearing a brown leather jacket, khaki trousers, and a cap, as was the fashion for madmen who were part of a group of private soldiers-for-hire.

                He’d been at that same spot for the last three hundred days, on and off with a bit of a break now and then, in an effort to catch the Trout of Fierce Intelligence. As I approached he put a finger to his lips.

                “Sshhhh…” he said, “You’ll frighten away the fish.”

                I looked into his bucket of bait and I saw that he was using the best, most expensive and top quality bait you could ever hope to use to catch a fish—maggots of the Tsetse fly.

                “I see you’re using the master bait,” I whispered.

                “Sshhhh…” John Fisherman-O’Reilly said again.

                So I remained motionless for a few minutes in deference to the man I’d once thought I would die for – but was now having second thoughts if I’m completely honest – until there was a tug on the line and John Fisherman-O’Reilly began to reel in whatever it was on the end of it.

                A trout broke the surface of the waters.

                The trout squealed “I am Professor of Tautologies—release me or else!”

                John Fisherman-O’Reilly said:

                “Are you the Trout of Fierce Intelligence?”

                “I am or I’m not.”

                “What’s tautologies?” John Fisherman O’Reilly demanded to know.

                “The study of taut,” the fish replied.

                “What’s taut?” John asked.

                “Your line is taut because I’m on its end—release me!”

                John ignored the fish’s protests and swung his rod out of the river to leave the fish wriggling and flapping on the grass at the water’s edge. He removed his knife and with a flick of his wrist sent the knife into the fish’s head, killing it. He immediately gathered some kindling and firewood and began to light a fire.

                “He who eats the magical trout will be blessed with fierce intelligence,” John Fisherman-O’Reilly chanted over and over, as he recast his line into the water and set it down on the bank in case even more fish were drawn to the lure.

                “When you’ve eaten the trout, will you help me rescue Fletch, Tancred and Sean?” I asked.

                “I will of course, Paddy,” John Fisherman-O’Reilly said, as he put the fish on a spit and set it up over the fire. “I need more firewood, Paddy. Wait here and mind the fish till I get some more wood. But whatever you do, don’t touch the fish.”

                I sat at the fire watching the fish cook and I thought to myself what a tasty fish it was, its redolence drawing me into a kind of trance as I sat there watching it.

                A blister appeared on the fish, and I thought to myself maybe I’ll just burst that blister with John Fisherman-O’Reilly’s knife, it won’t do any harm to the fish. So I picked up the knife and burst the blister and some lovely juices came out of it and I nearly cried with delight.

                Just then, there was a tug on John Fisherman-O’Reilly’s line. I picked the rod off the bank and reeled in a second not quite as intelligent but almost identical looking trout. I looked at the second trout and I looked at the trout of fierce intelligence on the spit. Then I looked at the second trout again. Then I raised my eyebrow in a cunning manner.

                When John Fisherman O-Reilly returned to his spot on the riverbank with his hands full of wood, there was one trout on the spit and no trout on the bank.

                “Ah, Holy Janey Mac-a-roni,” he said, “I would’ve thought it would be cooked by now.”

                “Indeed. Its incapacity to cook has perhaps something to do with the relative humidity in the air, which is quite high for this time of year and renders outdoor cooking impractical.” We sat in silence while I watched the fish cook on its spit, John Fisherman O’Reilly eyeing it greedily. I no longer felt the need for John Fisherman-O’Reilly’s help, so overcome with the intelligence was I.

Continued in Chapter 13 Part 5.