Mrs. Hasty’s geese
We swung into Hasty’s yard in our Datsun Bluebird, holding the car door shut with baler twine. My granny swapped soap with her during the war. When I was born, she had reached out, offered beestings from their finest cow. But my mother, from Tullamore, a young nurse, awkwardly declined. It was unpasteurised. Its properties unknown.
This time I was eight, we were there for her eggs. Rapping the iron knocker on the door. Her dog going ballistic, drawing her up from the belly of the house to greet us. “Stop it”, she’d say in a quiet hoarse voice, but he didn’t listen. Her grey straight hair bobbed around the corner. She needed her glasses to see us. To take our order. To get to the hens. Past all the geese in the shed. Their white necks swaying in anticipation. She counted six, eight, a dozen and my mother paid her with thanks. Knowing those eggs were worth more.
Years later, while stood amid the bustle of Rosemary Street, Belfast, the smell came to me. A mix of bleach, poultry and sweet pastry. Conjuring the flourish and movement of the woman in my hand. Her skirt swishing against the wind. White sheets billowing on the line, daffodils trumpeting on the lawn. A smell I would lean on, to bring me back. When office politics and angry emails get the better of me. I dream of being one of Mrs. Hasty’s geese.
Up a tree, high on mushrooms picked by a guy called Tone, the anthropology student enquired after his name. “No son of mine will be called Wolf”, his mother had said, so they called him Tone. His English accent – Sherwood. She wondered if it was real.
“Open your Crown Chakra”, he said. Her unawareness opened wide. “Don’t do this for anyone else.” The mushrooms were taking effect. And the student was higher than she’d ever been. Sprawled across a fishing net spanning five tall trees. Fractal grid patterns shapeshifted. Until a line snapped with the weight. Unraveled like a snake towards them. Her knuckles turned to teeth. Tone’s voice bellowed up —
“Get the hell down from there. Use the rope”.
With rising fear of burnt hands. She refused. And then the rant came tumbling— One broken leg and it would all be over. Ambulances called. The Gardaí. Their huts bulldozed. Get back to class. Stop playing ‘tree protester’. She was cursed. The Celtic Tiger now unleashed. The authorities would knock the ancient oak. Build the bypass. A fierce wind rattled through the leaves. She closed her eyes, summoned the might of Gráinne Mhaol, and jumped.
The light of others
Let’s go for a long walk through the woods, cave under the wisdom an ancient oak. Let’s not mention the power cuts, lost suitcases, the sound of breeze blocks falling. Let’s kiss under branches starting to bud. Open the curtains tomorrow, go to work and let everyone in.