Dún Bristé, by Aidan Furey
Thirty miles from the town of his father, Dún Bristé rose from the sea like a defiant fist.
The autumn wind whipped, throwing sand-like rain sideways into his face. His suit was soaked, his white shirt transparent.
Ahead, the grey-black sky merged with the grey-black sea in an unclear horizon.
‘Remember how you taught me how to be strong?’ he asked, gritting his teeth.
His fist moved quickly up from his waist and came to an abrupt stop at his chin.
Taking the bottle from his pocket, he let it touch his lips as he scowled at the solitary rock.
Upon his eighteenth birthday, he had made his escape—a job on a cargo ship, The Eos. He boarded her at Belfast and then sailed to Southampton, where he paused before the onward journey. To mark this new chapter of his life, he got a tattoo—a small crimson anchor on his right wrist. Then he drank too much and awoke the next day on a park bench. The Eos had sailed, and he had not.
‘It was raining the night she died,’ he said, looking up at the weeping sky.
‘Remember how I ran from room to room crying out for her?’
His head dropped and his eyes closed, his breathing becoming slow and heavy.
‘You told me that McGuire men didn’t cry. You put me into the garden, to sleep with the dogs. I was nine!’
He stayed in Southampton and a life formed around him—a humble job, a one-bedroom flat, then a little more. He never went back, until…he did. He returned to tell the old man that there was a grandchild, a girl with raven hair and sea-green eyes. He came to tell him that he would never see her, and that he took no lessons from him. After his speech, he expected violence or repentance, both of which he would have resisted.
But the old man had played his ace. He had died. Beer-bruised and alone.
‘There’ll be no tears for you,’ he muttered, but the wind forced the words back. He raised and emptied the remainder of the bottle, then threw it towards Dún Bristé.
He stepped forward, feeling the edge of the world move under his feet.
‘Remember when we came here?’ he asked, staring over the brink.
The wind wailed, the angry waters bloated and then burst, spitting venom upon the rocks.
‘I went too close to the edge and you grabbed me. You held me. I could feel your breath on my neck,’ he said. ‘Remember?’
He closed his eyes and let his body sway in the storm.
Opening his eyes once more he blinked into the wind and rain.
The dark clouds moved quickly above as the sea swelled and crashed below.
Ahead, Dún Bristé, the light and dark layered rock stood before him, unmoved.
Aidan Furey‘s short stories can be found at various places both online and in print, including The Tangerine, Ireland’s Own, Boyne Berries and The Honest Ulsterman.