The Halloween Project Day 4: Hand in Hand
This one is dedicated to Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. I’ve had the good fortune to pass days in castles and mountainsides, cities and unsurpassed natural beauty, museums and universities, theaters and pubs. Yet still, there is something about that land…old, and buried and mystical and haunted. And I love it.
The Morris Mini pulled sharply into the car park at the base of the Cliffs of Moher. Ireland, especially this far western coast, the abrupt and spectacular end to the European continent, was even more windswept and biting cold on this hard-edged October day. The Cliffs normally speckled with the usual array of tourists, hikers and amateur photographers was sparsely populated.
Alistair turned to Henry, “Shall we?” he asked, a crisp lilt in his voice.
“Let’s do!” Henry returned with mirrored enthusiasm.
Bachelor brothers, five years apart, had aged to look like each other over the decades. Balding, more than balding, a rim of grey hair surrounding faces almost cherubic in their bulbous cheeks, flecked with the spidered lines of too many glasses of whiskey and wine. Bellies no longer trim, expanded beneath vests which they both sported on every occasion. They resembled the witty actors in a black and white British drawing room comedy of the 1950’s. Emerging into the wind they looked about.
“My, this is quite a gale,” Alistair cautioned.
“I believe a gale would be accompanied by rain, would it not?” Henry asked.
“Not necessarily. A gale is a measurement on the Beaufort Scale,” Alistair said.
“Of course, I stand corrected. Lock the car,” Henry added.
“Do you think it’s necessary?”
“Of course, we have valuables,” Henry responded.
“I suppose you’re right. As always. This time, I stand corrected.”
“And remember your cane,” Henry suggested.
The hip replacement that Alistair had reluctantly undergone six months earlier was healed, but on a hike such as this, the cane was a boon. At first he had protested to having the surgery. They argued, just a bit.
“Plastic and metal in my body! I think not. I’d rather just amble along,” he argued.
Henry countered, “You are hardly ambling, my dear sir. You can barely get out of your chair. Plus, it’s not metal and plastic. They’re using ceramic nowadays.”
“Oh my God, it’s like a tea cup!” Alistair complained.
“Also you know we have to be moving along. We can’t stay here forever. Not in this house. Not here.”
“That I do know, Henry,” Alistair had answered, consented and undertook the operation.
The brothers did move. Sometimes within a year, sometimes a little longer. They very much enjoyed the Cotswolds and remained there for almost three years, the longest of any stay, until things got a little too close. London was fine, but too feverish for them both. The Normandy Coast proved bucolic and restorative, not to mention bountiful. Wales was a nice hideaway, Bangor with the University and afternoon teas in castle keeps was always entertaining. Then, of course, there was Scotland. First, Ayrshire, then Pitlochry, just short of the Cairngorm Mountains.
“A more beautiful place I have never seen,” Alistair stated at the time.
“And now it’s time to go,” Henry added.
They slowly made their way up the steepening path to the views beyond the cliffs. At first they were silent, then a comfortable chatter ensued.
Henry: “Do you remember that young lady? The one you were engaged to? Dorothea I believe her name was.”
Alistair: “Of course I do. Beautiful young girl. Odd name though. Dorothea. What happened to her…in the end, I mean.”
Henry: “Well brother, I saved you, of course.”
Alistair: “Thank you. Sincerely.”
Another hundred feet.
Henry: “And what about that dog.”
Alistair: “Which one would that be? We had so many over the years.”
Henry: “The very little one, the Chihuahua.”
Alistair: “A yes, the Chihuahua. Little spit of a thing.”
Henry: “I’ve always meant to ask you…did you…pardon my directness. Did you eat that dog?”
Alistair: “Of course not! Well not all of it. There’s so little meat on those beasts. And you know that if I had, I would have offered you a taste.”
Henry: “Yes, I know that.”
A hundred feet from the ledge.
Alistair: “But how about the postman in Kent. My word he was a huge fellow. We barely fit him in the freezer. Lasted…what would you say, three months?”
Henry: “Four at least. Wasn’t he part of our Christmas pudding that year?”
Alistair: “Was it he? I thought that was the milkman in Dorchester. No, you may be right, I believe he was. I’ve always commended you for your memory, Henry. A virtual lock box of a mind.”
Henry: “Speaking of locked boxes, do you think those items we’ve left in the bank in Edinburgh. Will they ever…surface?”
Alistair: “I’m surprised they haven’t already. The smell must be atrocious.”
Henry: “Perhaps those boxes are airtight as well!”
Alistair: “Perhaps they are.”
They mounted the last part of the dirt path and approached the edge of the cliff.
“And what about the hard times?” Alistair questioned.
“We had our share of those,” Henry agreed.
“Do you remember those smaller cities in Hungary? The villagers all tasted like...”
“Gypsy,” Henry interrupted, flat with distaste.
“Yes, that’s correct! Gypsy! But what exactly would you call that flavor?”
“Mostly horrible… Just meat of an unrecognizable origin, dirt, unwashed linen, a hint of clove, even…dare I say it… rubbish or feces,” Henry responded, shaking his head.
They came to the edge of the world. The Moher Cliffs edge of the world. Standing, shoulder to shoulder, two feet from the precipice, they gazed outward.
“Absolutely amazing,” Henry said.
“I agree, spectacular view. The height is biblical. How high are these cliffs by the way? And do be careful there!”
Henry answered, clear in his knowledge, “Right here where we stand, over 200 metres.”
“Amazing! And America?” they always referred to the land to the west as America or the colonies, never the United States.
Henry mused for a moment and then said, “Let me get my bearings a moment here.” Then he extended his arm, “There, I believe,” then he adjusted, “No, a bit more to the south,” and he turned his arm to the left just a fraction.
“What a life,” Alistair stated with a deep, warm sigh.
“What a life,” Henry agreed.
The wind pushed against them, pushing them back, down the hill, down their memories, down their collective past. Back to a past filled with interests and activities. And bodies.
Alistair turned to Henry, “Shall we?”
“Let’s do!” Henry agreed.
They clasped hands and stepped, together, off the edge.