by Jake McCabe
Lane looked up, stuck his tongue out for some reason, and fixed his hair in the vanity mirror again. He kept rolling up the window, fixing his hair in the vanity mirror, then getting overheated five minutes later and rolling it back down. Which messed up his hair. I darted my eyes to and from the coast road, watching him rotate through this process three or so times before saying something.
“You know, you really are a foolish person.”
“You’re so base, you’re like an animal.”
“Fuck you.” He rolled down the window.
This was the first August of the time we spent in Ireland. That previous year, Lane’s father died and his fiancé Claudia left him, so he gained thirty pounds, quit his law firm, moved into a white-walled cell of an apartment, bought a gun, then got rid of the gun. Then he asked if I would leave the country with him. He was my best friend. We were both 27 years old.
That morning we’d decided to go for a drive through The Burren, in search of a church he went to a few times as a boy. He wanted to see a priest and give confession, clear his mind. The Burren’s landscape is in its way identical to and wholly different from the rest of Ireland’s southwest coast, in that the hills are the same, the small towns off the skinny highway are the same, the lonely thatched cottages, all the same, but instead of the lush green-ness you might associate with the area, everything is stone — the ground is stone, the hills are stone, like science fiction, limestone bedrock left over from the ice age. If you haven’t seen it you should go.
“Why are you paying attention to what I’m doing with my hair?” he asked. “I’ve got a lot of shit on my mind. This is a big day for me. It makes me feel good, to have the window open. And then to roll it up again to fix my hair. What’s it got to do with you, anyway?”
Not too long ago, we’d moved to the house he’d inherited from his father, who had inherited it from his father, the one who was actually Irish, who had actually lived there. Lane never met him. He wanted to flip it, fix it up, maybe rent it out or sell it. He offered me half the money, which I needed at the time; I lost a lot of money on this tough Dominican boxer who was undefeated before I bet on him. I might have just borrowed the money from Lane and stuck around had he not already helped me settle a large debt a year prior. I felt I owed him. Even if he hadn’t given me money, I’d have felt I owed him. There was a time when Lane was my only friend. Plus, I had nothing going on. I’d been doing long days at the call center. I’d never been to Ireland.
Work on the house stalled; of course it did. We had no real skills, and no money to hire contractors, let alone a designer. The logic was that the house was a shithole, not easy for a layman to improve. But — one month just to get the bathroom done. The day we finished it, I remember looking at one another, happy, but nervous — the bathroom was small. If we failed to do the living room or kitchen right, we could destroy the place. There were only two bedrooms — would we share, one bedroom at a time? What was our plan?
So we did nothing for a few days, then took this ride — he had plans at ten o’clock with Jessie, the girl who wore an eyepatch and worked at the bookstore across from the beach. He knew her from his childhood, when he’d visit town with his parents. I guess he’d had a crush on her; she had both eyes back then. I was the one who had pressured him into asking her out. He did it in the bookstore; he bought two books, but hadn’t known one was in Irish. This made him nervous (“She knows I don’t speak fucking Irish.”). Either way, he hadn’t been involved with anybody since Claudia left, so it was a step in the right direction.
Though it also gave him something else to beat himself up over. We had conversations that all-of-a-sudden led to my “honest opinion” of the eye patch. “Are you sure it isn’t weird?” he would ask. “I think it’s kind of sexy.” Too, he was worried she wouldn’t like him, that he wasn’t sufficient. If there was a word for what Lane felt he was not, and what Lane wanted to be, that’s what it would be — sufficient. He told me Claudia wouldn’t have had any reason to leave, had he been enough. Before his father passed, Lane would call me and say he had no idea how to take care of a dying person. Even when I needed to borrow — “borrow,” we said, as if I could ever pay it back — all that money the year before, Lane was apologizing to me, saying he’d heard a rumor that the Dominican kid was unbeatable and he shouldn’t have told me, etc. I was excited for his date as he was.
I wanted so badly for Jessie to like him. Over the years, we’d both managed one another during our respective plunges off the deep end, but his spiral was becoming a long one, and I felt I owed him more than I could give. My patience, which for Lane ought to have been infinite, was dwindling. I needed him to be calm.
“You should just shave your head,” I told him in the car. “Wear a hat. Your hair fucks you up, gives you anxiety, shave it. Your outfits fuck you up, by a bunch of one shirt you like and wear it every day. Eliminate bullshit. Woah.” There was a sharp curve in the road. I wasn’t used to driving in Ireland. Speed limits too fast, roads too narrow, barely any lights at night, everything on the wrong side.
“I always used to threaten Claudia with shaving my head.” Silence, then: “I really do believe it was that fucked up surgery that made everything sort of go downhill with her.” Claudia suffered a botched operation on her ear canal a few years prior, which caused her to miscalculate her distance from the sounds she heard. “I would be standing right behind her in the kitchen,” he said, “and she would think that I was talking to her from the bathroom, or the living room. And I would put my hand on her back, you know, and she would fucking freak out, she would think I was some intruder about to rape her or something. And then she would sob for ten minutes. This happened like twice a week. Of course it was my fault. I should have made my presence known. I’m just awful with sick people.”
I’d heard the story many times before. It was insane to me that any woman elected to live with Lane at all. I only had one very serious girlfriend, and she bailed before we got there. Which isn’t to say she wasn’t willing. We were in the process of finding a place for the two of us, but I ended up in a bad way one month and I maxed it out at a casino in Michigan City. I remember the drive there — black road, night time, winter, talk radio, only me and truckers on the I-90, me knowing that I was on my way to lose everything, also, maybe I’d get lucky. I was drunk. The police came to my apartment. She e-mailed everyone we knew. Everyone left me but Lane. This was about five years ago. A story for another time. But despite all that, in our friendship I was the normal one. So it puzzled me that Lane kept Claudia around as long as he did. I always worried she might leave him. And when she did, when he called, there was that deflating sensation — the thing you saw coming, arrived. And then we came to Lahinch.
“All these little stone huts are left over from the famine,” he said. He was always talking about some little thing, hard to keep following. “Did you know the famine was a genocide?”
“That’s great,” I said.
“No — sorry.”
“I’m trying to make conversation here.” The radio was off — the only station we could get out there featured Irish rap music.
“Sorry,” I said. “You try driving.” He had no license, which I liked. It made me valuable; he had to keep me around. But I really, truly, hated driving in Ireland. The car felt like some awful creature I was trying to control as opposed to just an appendage of my own body, the way it was back home.
“My Dad told me that if you can find anything in the huts, it means nobody living there survived.”
“What if they just left their shit?” I asked.
“Do you think Jessie will keep the eye patch on if we have sex?”
I thought about it for a moment. “I imagine at first she would,” I said. “But if you guys get serious she’ll probably want to like take it off, if it’s uncomfortable.” Lane nodded. “Although,” I said, “if she feels sexier keeping it on, that’s what she’ll do.”
“That’s what I was thinking. I used to collect shit in the huts all the time when I was a kid. I used to think it was worth something. It isn’t worth anything. This is totally a crap-shoot, finding this church, by the way. I’m kind of just going off these vague memories of which roads my Dad would turn down.” Then, just seconds later: “Well, no,” he said. “I know where I’m going. It just seemed more romantic to pretend I didn’t.”
“That’s a big hut, right there,” I said. Out the window was another famine house, stone and roofless, taking up about as much ground-space as a Chicago row house. It seemed to have two rooms.
“Maybe part of it was a stable for donkeys.”
“Maybe they had a big family.”
“They all had big families.”
“You know, I looked it up, they do have baseball out here. I know Dublin has a team and it’s like other counties must have teams because otherwise who would they play? Maybe we could catch a game. Maybe you could play.” Lane was a tremendous athlete when we were younger, and even walked on the University of Michigan’s team. He quit his sophomore year.
“I like to wonder who exactly these people were,” Lane said.
“I bet it was like a dad and a mom and like eleven kids. And the kids are all sick and shit. Probably only one son who can work, and the son’s is dying. What a pussy he would think I am. The dad.”
“Maybe that’s what you should confess to the priest.”
He laughed. “Bless me father, for I’m a great big pussy.”
“Do you smell that?” I asked. “Are you wearing cologne?”
“Fuck,” he said. “Fuck!” He reached over and laid on the horn. Birds flew off into the air.
“Please don’t do that,” I said.
“Can you smell it from where you’re sitting?”
“I mean it isn’t like oppressive—”
“I thought I’d put some on for tonight, but now I must smell like a douche bag.”
“No, no.” He opened the glove compartment. “If I smoke enough cigarettes, I won’t smell like cologne. You know Claudia got me into smoking. If I die from cancer, she’ll have killed me.”
“That won’t help. And what if she doesn’t like the smell of cigarettes?”
He tore the glove compartment apart in his madness. Cigarettes landed on my lap. A lighter fell between my legs. He grabbed the pack, and dug in for the lighter. I hoisted myself up. “Jesus,” I said. “You fucking psycho. I’m just saying that I feel like if you smoke cigarettes you’ll be worried that you smell like cigarettes and cologne and it’ll drive you crazy and you won’t shut the fuck up about it all day.”
Lane lit a cigarette, and turned to look at me. “What do you mean I won’t shut the fuck up about it?” he asked. “Do I do that? Do I seize on things like that, do people say that about me?”
I saw the cows on the road at the last minute, and whipped the car over off into a little ravine. We got out of the car, inspected the damage. No too bad. Dented hood — no smoke. A tire was flat. The cows just stared at us. They stared at us like they spoke English. They wanted us to explain ourselves. Lane walked over and hugged one.
“Have you ever hugged a cow?” he asked.
“I feel like that isn’t a pressing issue,” I said. I wondered if he was relieved we crashed, like an external force had delivered him from the day. “Do we have a spare?”
“Of course,” he said. “Do you know how to change a tire?”
“Shit. It’ll be fine,” Lane said. “We’ll figure it out. This will be fine. I’ll get the spare.”
“We need to tow it out of the ravine, first, I think. Obviously.”
“There’s no cell reception out here,” he said. “Fuck. I think the town with the church is over that way.” He pointed off toward absolutely nothing. “We can do whatever we need, get a tow-guy, put the tire on there. I’ll even have time to go do confession.”
“Okay,” I said. This was ridiculous, but there was no other conceivable plan. Our phones were useless, no reception.
“What if we stuck to the road?” I asked. “I feel like that’s safer.”
“No,” he said. “It’s too winding. Cutting through The Burren will be faster. This will sort out. What time is it?”
“Oh,” he said. “Yeah, we’re fine.” I was nervous it might rain. Lane was wearing his date clothes, a white button down and green slacks. He wasn’t thinking about rain — if he was, he would have said so. “It’ll take us forever to get there walking on the road,” he said. “I’m certain the town, Lisdoonvarna- I’m certain it’s this way.”
I don’t know what it was — maybe a defense mechanism against hopelessness, maybe we’d barely had anything to lose anyway, but we were calm and started walking.
The Burren is a desert of stone. A hundred or so square miles of identical limestone sheets that once made up the bottom of a sea during the ice age. Later, I would learn that it’s not uncommon for travelers to get lost in its tundra and die.
“Alright,” I said. “Fuck the road, then. You want your cigarettes?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Have we got any water?”
“Do we need water? I thought the town is just over that way,” I said, and he mumbled something about having a dry mouth.
I opened the trunk of the car and collected the cigarettes, two bottles of water, and a flashlight. I put them in a backpack that was on the floor.
To keep ourselves from walking in a giant circle, we kept tossing a water bottle in the direction Lane thought Lisdoonvarna was, walking up, retrieving it, and tossing it again.
“Look out for you know,” said Lane. “Civilization.”
“Fair warning,” he said. “They have a dog track there, in the town we’re headed to.”
“Sure,” I said.
“I could be talking to the priest for a while. Just play pool at the pub with some guys. Or actually-”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. But guiltily enough, I’d placed a hundred euro on Ireland’s rugby team that morning. They had an exhibition match with South Africa in the evening. And I figured since we’d been attached at the hip since we got to Lahinch, and since I still had quite a bit of money saved up, and since this was about to be my first night to myself, and because I really was quitting that shit once and for all, I could place a hundred euro, nothing, and bet it all on the game and just go to the pub and see how they did. I’d figured it in my head as paying a hundred euro to simply watch a match, like pay-per-view. And maybe I get money after. I wouldn’t expect to win. If I did, cool, fun. I’d spend it on beers with Lane.
I grabbed the water bottle, heaved it as hard as I could into the distance.
“Don’t throw it that hard,” he said. “We could lose track of it. In fact, we probably just did lose track of it.”
“Then why don’t we just like pick a landmark out in front of it and walk to that?”
“Everything looks the same,” he said. “I have plans tonight, I can’t be wandering around this psycho place all afternoon.”
“Better watch your step, then. You’re getting mud on your penny-loafers.”
We hopped over cracks in the rocks. In the distance a lamb hopped around a bush growing up from the limestone.
“Maybe we’re on somebody’s property,” he said. “That’s why there’s sheep and goats and shit. We could try and find their house, use their phone.”
“But who knows how much property they have,” I said. “We could get turned around.”
“Yeah,” said Lane. “I think we’re right by the town.”
It wasn’t for an hour or so that we began to despair. It was a quiet panic. Like any acknowledgement of our being lost would make it official. Instead, we just stopped talking, except when discussing how to traverse the landscape. This is how the argument over the cliff began. Lane picked up the water bottle and tossed it as far as he could, only to watch it disappear into the Earth in front of us — we’d been walking uphill, and assumed the ground just tilted back downward. Instead, we got to a thirty-foot drop off. It seemed to run perpendicular to our route, as far as we could see in either direction. At the bottom of the drop-off sat a spring the size of a small swimming pool. The water got darker near the center of the spring. I didn’t know if this was because the spring was deep or murky.
“Not uncommon,” said Lane. “There’s one near Lahinch my dad and I would swim in when I was a kid. The water’s probably warm. My Dad was so different back then, before Mom died and he went kind of nuts.”
I knew Lane’s father well, but the only time he and I ever spent alone was a half a year or so after the accident that killed Lane’s mother. We were in high school. Lane was passed out drunk on his living room couch, the DVD menu screen playing softly on the television. Lane’s father came in drunk and offered me whiskey, and poured himself a glass, then proceeded to cover in great detail the events surrounding Lane’s mother’s death, how they were driving back from visiting her parents in the suburbs, how they were driving behind a car pulling a boat, how the trailer somehow disconnected from the car and flew through their windshield, how it didn’t really crack her skull or anything like everyone said but really just pinned her against the wreckage, and how it was the removal of the boat that actually killed her — because after it pinned her it was the only thing keeping all her organs in place. “It was slow and loud,” he said. I never told Lane about this.
“I feel like we should walk around this cliff,” I said.
Lane didn’t listen to me. He was getting naked. “You’re going to climb down with all your clothes?” he asked. “You’ll get them all dirty. Can I see the backpack?”
“I’m not taking my clothes off,” I said. “I really don’t think we should climb down the cliff.” I handed him the bag. He launched over the side of the cliff. He pumped his fist and whisper-shouted “Yes!” when the bag cleared the spring and landed with a crack on the rock below.
“Are you out of your mind?” I asked.
“We can’t turn around,” said Lane. “We start turning around, we get turned around. Our best bet is to walk in a straight line. We know this.”
“Right but we have to make our decisions together,” I said. “You can’t just go throwing the bag with our shit off cliffs.”
“But this is a non-decision.”
“You’re fucking naked in the middle of the wilderness, and now everything you’ve got is down there.”
“I don’t want to drag my shirt all over the mud and then possibly into a pool of water before I have to go pick up Jessie.” He covered his dick with his hand, though I’d already seen it.
“Where’s this town, man? Nobody’s going to be picking up anybody if we don’t get to the town, Lane.”
“Well we’ll get to the town, Connor.” he said. “It’s like what, seven?” He spoke with animation, talking with both hands so his dick flopped around between his legs. “I want to get to the town. That’s why I’m about to slide my bare ass down this fucking cliff and retrieve our bag, so we can keep walking. So we can get to the town.”
“Let’s not fight,” I said. Even though we weren’t, really.
He walked over to the edge of the rock face, exhaled, squatted down to his knees, gingerly stretched a leg over the edge of the cliff. He immediately lost his footing and fell. He could have died, but he didn’t. I heard a scream, and then the sound of his body scraping against the rock face.
“I’m alright,” he yelled up to me. “Kind of.”
When I walked over and looked down at him, he was sitting in the spring with his arms stretched out along the edge as if he were in a hot-tub. The drop didn’t seem so crazy, now. Still, here was blood running down his face — I couldn’t see it then, but it was all over his back as well.
“I broke my finger,” he shouted up. “It doesn’t hurt right now, but it’ll hurt like shit soon.”
I climbed down the cliff pretty easily, and stepped around the spring to keep from falling in. That’s when I saw his back. Scratched up, bloody.
“Get in,” he said. “It’s like about as warm as the air.”
“Lane,” I said. “No. I think we’re in trouble.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked. The blood in his mouth made his teeth all red. “We have to decompress so we can keep moving forward,” he said. “That’s what you do, in situations like this. For instance,” he said, holding up his finger, which was bent backwards into a perfect right angle, “I lied before, when I said this didn’t hurt yet. I am currently in terrible pain. But it’s useless to-”
“I’m saying I don’t think we’re going to get you back in time to meet Jessie. I think we should hydrate, fill the bottles with this water, and make sure we get to the nearest town so we can make the calls we need to make.”
“We have three hours,” he said. “We’re going to find the town, stop my bleeding, see a priest, hitch a ride back to the car, change the tire, go home. Let’s just consolidate our power here for a second.”
“No,” I said. “Let’s get a move on, Lane.”
“I can’t put a shirt on right now. How bad am I cut?” He turned around.
“Not bad,” I said. It was kind of bad. “Try and dry off at least.” He stood up, walked over to the bag, and used his pants like a towel before putting them on.
“I bet this spring washed my cologne off,” he said. He rummaged through the bag. “My finger really is in so much pain. Also, our flashlight’s broken.” He pulled the broken flashlight out of the bag. He looked at the sky.
We chugged the water in the bottles, filled the bottles in the spring, and kept walking. We threw the busted flashlight to keep us going in a straight line. When it got too dark, it would be of no use. Lane kept his shirt off, afraid to bleed through it.
“Why’d you say that about baseball?” asked Lane. The sun had begun setting.
“Before you and Claudia split up, we went to like fifty Cubs games that summer. You went on some tangent about wishing you’d known when your last day playing baseball was. It might be a good way for you to get some confidence.”
“Claudia used to never let me eat her ass,” he said.
“Really? You used to talk about eating ass all the time.”
“Lies. I haven’t eaten ass since I was like 18. I remember it, it was the day my dad went into remission the first time. My aunt called to tell me but I missed the call because I was eating Amy Dunne’s ass.”
“Telephone wire,” I said.
“Is that some gross sex thing?”
“No,” I said. “The horizon.” I pointed. He stood next to me, leaned down and squinted.
“That’s got to be like four miles away,” he said.
“Maybe you can skip confession.”
“That would make this whole adventure meaningless.”
“It already is meaningless.”
The telephone wire never seemed to get any closer. Soon, the sun set. But we knew which way the town was, so we kept on in the dark. We had to make our way over the rocks slower. It got chilly, so Lane put his shirt on.
“I should take a weekend back in Chicago,” he said. “I want to visit dad’s grave.”
“I’ll hold down the fort here,” I said. I couldn’t go back. “I forgot your Dad did go into remission, that first time.”
“He never really believed he did, or that it meant anything. I guess he was right. He was always wincing, you know, like he hated being alive? What’s that poem? My Dad went, like, very gently into that good night.”
“Damn,” I said. What else? “If we left five minutes earlier, those cows might not have been in our way.”
“Like my Dad,” he said. “The part about Mom he couldn’t get his head around was the part before they got in the car at all. He stopped between her parent’s front door and the door of his car to bend over and tie his shoe. He maintained that had he not done so, she wouldn’t have died.”
“Jesus,” I said. “I guess we shouldn’t think about shit like that.” I knew he wanted to discuss his parents further. I couldn’t do it. The sun was down, but the moon was full and bright — a little luck to balance out the day.
“Here’s a hut,” said Lane, pointing to a famine house I hadn’t seen. Part of the roof was rock and still sitting over the wall. “I bet there’s some loot in here.”
“We should keep moving,” I said. He ignored me. I followed him. We walked through the threshold, and Lane found a decent sized candlestick that shimmered in the moonlight. There was no limestone in the hut. The ground was damp, muddy.
“Is this Sterling Silver?” he asked.
“How the fuck would I know?”
“I’ll give it to Jessie.”
“You’re gonna give her a candlestick you found in a shitty little house?”
“Maybe,” he said. “I don’t even know if it’s legal to take this shit. Like how come there’s just so much shit everywhere, wouldn’t it be gone by now? Are we like grave-robbing?” An uncertain look washed over his face. “If we’re robbing graves, we’re robbing graves,” he said. “Let’s take it.” Then, “Wait,” he said. “I’m turned around.”
“Which way does the door face? Which way are the wires?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s too dark to see them.”
“We have to take our best bet,” he said.
“If we do that we’ll die,” I said. “If we stay here, we’re fine.”
He peered again out the threshold into the distance, as if his doing so would make manifest a light, a house, anything toward which he could walk. “No,” he said. “There’s no lights, there’s no lights. There’s no lights, we’re in the middle of the wilderness. Fuck!” He stomped around and punched himself once in the face.
“So we stay here through the night,” I said.
“I guess,” he said. Then he thrashed around for a second and tried to pull some of his hair out, but stopped. He slouched against the wall, slid down the stone to the muddy ground. I assume must have further hurt his back. He whimpered. “Fucking car,” he said.
“Jessie will understand,” I said.
“We’re never going to flip that fucking house,” he said. “We can’t flip a house! We have no idea how to flip a house!”
“You’ve got to try and stay calm,” I said.
“I tore all the pipes out of the walls my Dad grew up in.”
“Only in the bathroom,” I said. “And he didn’t grow up there.”
“Please, can we try to find the town, Connor?”
“We’re better off in the morning,” I said.
“It’ll be fine,” I said. “This is a valid fucking excuse. We aren’t even lost anymore; we’re in sight of the telephone wires, it’s just to dark to see them. Jessie will understand. You’ll apologize. It will all be fine.” I could only hope. His opinion of himself might not survive the apology, and if things didn’t work out with Jessie I would never emancipate myself from his surveillance. But I was on my way to sleep. Once I laid down in the grass and dirt there, I felt almost relived to have become misdirected.
He talked into the night. “Fuck,” he kept on saying. “I can’t believe this.” I ignored him and pretended to sleep. I tacked a second prayer onto my first, a prayer for the rugby team. Though I thought, however feebly, that it might be better if I lost. If I won, I’d keep going. Still, I thought this could be okay; as long as I only ever bet money I’d made after betting the initial hundred euro. I was thinking about this when Lane started weeping, and saying he was filthy and going “my finger, my finger.” I think he was rubbing mud on himself. No matter. My thoughts became abstract and turned to dreams and I fell asleep. I doubt Lane slept at all that night. I felt bad for not sitting up with him, but very old friendships can afford that sort of unkindness. I dreamt about a strange teenage girl trying to buy me drinks at a bar, a very strange and sexual underage girl throwing herself at me, and I kept saying, no, no, Jesus, no, but she told me that she was already my wife, and somehow I was certain she was Lane. I didn’t try to analyze it in the morning, because I don’t believe dreams mean anything, which is good, because had I tried to think it through, it may have made sense.
Lane woke me up in the morning. His face was bruised, and he was much dirtier than I was — obscenely dirty. He looked frightening.
“I always thought we should go camping,” he said. He laughed, I laughed. It was okay to laugh — it was morning now, the telephone wires were clear in the distance. We were fucked up, but not in peril. The ocean’s early mist gave us half-empty life.
We didn’t talk as we walked a couple miles to the phone wires. We were too eager for deliverance. When we got there, it was, unfortunately, more highway. But a directional sign said we were a mile from — to Lane’s credit — Lisdoonvarna.
“I told you,” he said.
“I never doubted you,” I said.
“I could feel you did but it’s okay.”
A pub was open, so went in to eat. The bartender looked like she was around Lane’s father’s age, when he died. She thought we were vagrants and told us to leave. But we told her the story, and offered us two free beers. Though we’d have to pay for our breakfasts, and she gave each us a whole pitcher of water. She offered Lane the landline to call Jessie. She didn’t have an iPhone charger, so we were still fucked there.
“I think I’ll go to the church and do confession first,” said Lane.
“Father’s giving mass,” said the old man. “He’ll be in here around eleven.”
“I thought there was always one in the confession booth,” said Lane.
“You think he just sits there all day?” she asked.
“We need new clothes,” I said.
“There’s a store down the street,” said the bartender.
“Did the rugby team win last night?” I asked.
“Nah,” said the bartender. Fair enough. “Call that girl,” she said.
But Lane wouldn’t do it until he spoke to a priest first, so we waited. Also — a side, but I think it’s worth noting — Lane’s not even a practicing Catholic.
When the priest arrived, Lane gave confession at the other end of the bar. The priest wasn’t excited about it, and the bartender had a funny look on her face, and I hated the whole thing. Like we thought all you ever did in Ireland was give confession in a bar. I was about to explain it to her, to tell her that I knew this was in no way normal and that Lane was a unique person, but before I could open my mouth Lane screamed like a he was being killed. The priest had set the bone in his finger. We all laughed. He used a snapped-up coaster and tape as a splint. It was great to watch.
Then Lane called Jessie, who had been hurt by his disappearance. She didn’t believe his story, so he challenged her to get lunch with him there in Lisdoonvarna where she could see his dirty clothes and mangled body. Technically, it was my idea to invite her out there. He didn’t want her to see him at all.
He didn’t look well when I left. Nervous, sweating. He asked the bartender if he had deodorant, but the bartender only had soap. After that, there was little I could do for him.
“Be yourself,” I said. “Maybe run and buy a clean shirt before she gets here. You can still show her the dirty one.” He nodded.
I took the candlestick, to protect him from gifting it to Jessie. I left to find a mechanic, to see if he could take me to the car and help me get it back on the road. He could, he said, when he was done changing his buddy’s oil. In that time, I went and pawned the candlestick — I got thirty euro for it, which, I felt, because it was extra money, could be harmlessly bet on a fast-looking dog.
Jake McCabe is a fiction writer from Chicago, Illinois.