THE ENDING OF THE WORLD AND ITS GREAT MISFORTUNE
For it was a Monday morning that the world began to fall apart. I was just nearing my twentieth or twenty-first birthday and I was growing up to be a fine young man. My hair was brown and well-kept, and my features were nicely rounded. It was just after potato time and after potato time in Ireland there is nothing to do but to sit on the ground and think about the misfortunate situation in which Ireland and its people were in and had been in since the oldest man in Connemara could remember. The first thing that happened was a tree fell down and killed more than twenty people, but that was not too shocking as such unpleasantness was commonplace. Aye, for the poor Irish people either die of starvation or of a heavy object landing on their poor bodies.
The second tree came down an hour later and killed thirty workers as they hammered away on the railway, but no one in Connemara was surprised when they brought whiskey at three as a true Irish body is always cold and dead. The women said their Coroticus’ and drank the whiskey at once. For it wasn’t even until four that the bodies were cleared from the tracks.
That night it rained so hard that many woke up swimming, and were forced to eat their morning spud in complete wetness, floating over their small kitchens. Many dogs were found sunken, but such unpleasantness was commonplace. It was only after heavy winds carried twenty people up into the sky and didn’t return them did people begin to sense that, even for Ireland, something was wrong.
~For if you are born in this miserable island where such unpleasantness is commonplace, you should expect to live a life of hardship and misfortune. But such a large number of deaths in one day? said I.
~I too am beginning to think that God is in a wrathful mood this morning, but to question such a thing is stupid, replied my mother. She had always obeyed God and had always corrected anyone that hadn’t. She was thin and sharp like an eel.
~For I had not thought of it in that way and I thank you for your wisdom, said I.
Two more houses were burnt to the ground before I decided that even for Ireland this excessive amount of misery was too excessive. I sat down at the shore and began to write a letter to my uncle, who lived in a far more beautiful town in England called Sconthorpe…
As you know, Ireland is full of disease and death and so it is sometimes hard to tell if it is unnaturally so. Uncle, you know that if all was normal here in this misfortunate island where such unpleasantness is commonplace, I would not be writing to you. For recently there has been so much death and destruction I fear the universe is collapsing. Mother has refused to do a thing as she follows the good books too closely. Even looking at the water I see it is grey and smashing upon each other boisterously… Uncle, I plead for your help. Alert the king of this dangerous situation in which Ireland is in.
I mailed the letter that afternoon and it didn’t arrive in Sconthorpe until it was too late. For so many trees had come down upon the Irish that there were barely any left in the whole of county Galway. Fire had ravaged the hills from Toome to Cork and it was thought that the whole of Ireland was burning. It took many days to get adjusted to sleeping by the blazing hill fires, as the heat was uncomfortable. My mother was burnt alive in her sleep and I didn’t notice her until I woke up the next day to find only ashes on her bed. But such unpleasantness is commonplace. People scared by the fire ran into the sea where they froze in the choppy waters. Many days I went to the shore and found gigantic lumps of people frozen and dead. I only wished that the fire would draw closer so to warm them up.
It wasn’t until many weeks had passed did I get a reply from my uncle. He was a logical man and I knew that if there was anyone that could solve Ireland’s problems, it would be him.
Your letter brought me great disappointment for I fear that if the world is truly ending, the sequence of events that lead to the final breath would certainly begin in Ireland. I have alerted the most powerful officials in London and they plan to send the finest Englishmen to relieve the pain in which Ireland has been thrown into. I hope you and your mother are alive and well and that the ending of the universe has not deterred you all too much.
Immediately I rushed to the De Valera Public House where I told them all that the English were on their way and that our suffering would soon be put to an end. When I told them, they all laughed hours into the night…
* * * *
For the trees and the water and the fire and the wind could not compare in the slightest to what God gave us next. My mother had always warned me of the Celtic Kelpie, and Connemara being on the shore of the great Irish Sea, I listened to her closely.
~For it is said that the Kelpie roams the hills looking for people to ride on her back, said she. When she has secured you on top of her, she will run to the water and drown you. When you are dead and wet she will eat you. Beware of the great Celtic Kelpie! She is horse-like and tricks many Irishmen into riding her with her beautiful black stallion mane. For identifying her is not easy and requires skill. She mostly always has sea-ferns wrapped around her leg, and her hair is wet and dripping. Me father’s brother was taken away by a Kelpie and I don’t think we have seen the last of her. One day she will ride through Connemara and I believe that when she does, God will have started the ending of the world.
Right was she! Not long after I received my letter from uncle Marlow did I see her. She trotted along the dune shore, snarling bursts of ripe red fire out of her nostrils.
~The Kelpie has come to visit us! Said I to the neighbors at the De Valera Public House. Bar your doors and do not let her seduce you. Me mother’s father’s brother was taken away upon her back. She will drown you and eat you!
The neighbors sat and drank their whiskey with pessimistic faces. It seemed they had accepted their roles as Irishmen and had decided that since they were to die, they should not hesitate to jump upon the Kelpie and fly straight into the water. We sat in a gloomy Irish silence and thought about the unpleasantness that was commonplace.
~Oh, for is it not time for a song? said a man with nice rounded spectacles and a little hat. He looked tired and moved as if he had been sitting on a bar stool for many years. T’was my mother who said that in times of death and destruction, one must always sing a good song. Many looked at the man in the spectacles but did not answer him. For they continued to drink their whiskey and think about the misfortunate situation in which Ireland and its people were in. He began:
A blacksmith courted me, nine months and better,
He fairly won my heart, wrote me a letter,
With his hammer in his hand he looked so clever,
And if I was with my love, I’d live forever.
Strange news is come to town, strange news is carried,
Strange news flies up and down that my love is married.
I wish them both much joy, though they don’t hear me,
And may God reward him well, for the slighting of me.
A third verse would surely have followed if the door had not been opened, and if the great Celtic Kelpie herself had not been revealed at its threshold. Her hair was black and wet just as my ma’ had described to me. She was tall and lean and fire flew out of her nose and mouth.
~Tis the Kelpie! said I. No one moved. Hands rested on the bar table and did not wiggle one bit. Everyone was fixated on the great Irish strength of the Kelpie, who’s wet, tangled hair yanked in the soft breeze. Her eyes were hard enough to break glasses with her stare, and the yellow centers resembled the hills she walked upon.
~For if the only choices an Irishman has, said one man, is to die of a tree’s weight, of a swallowing body of water, of a powerful wind, or of a four legged bitch, I shall choose the latter! With these brave words he jumped upon the Kelpie’s back and waited readily for his doom. The large horse sneered once more before reversing out of the public house, turning towards the water, and dashing off with such a speed the fastest thing on earth could not beat it. The sound of the Kelpie and the man crashing into the ocean was heard all around Connemara, but such unpleasantness was commonplace.
That night I began my walk to the top of the tallest hill in Connemara. Its rocky ground seemed to grumble just like the Kelpie and seemed to break every time I took a step. Water was flying so fast in my face I believed God had ordered his angels to throw buckets of the dreadful stuff. It took me many long days and nights before I reached its summit, where I could clearly see the misfortune with which Ireland had been plagued. There I wrote my second letter to my uncle.
I do not intend to be weak and needy, but things in Ireland have escalated. This morning a sea-horse took away a young man upon her back. I do not think we have much time and I suppose that the whole of Ireland will be burnt to a crisp and sunk by the end of May. Please send the help of the English soon!
* * * *
It was not long after that we saw the arrival of a large English ship. It was wooden and had the colors of the union painted upon it. Such a beautiful ship was not seen often and many people were fixated on its prettiness. It was so large it overlooked the whole of Connemara as it rolled into the rocky shore.
~Tis the largest ship I have ever seen, said a woman.
~With such a beautiful manliness does it swim towards us! said another.
Aye, for the large boat excited the people so much, we broke into dance. Fiddlers and pipers and flutists jumped upon us and we hopped around for many days, singing “The Hills of Connemara.”
By the end of this time the boat’s charm had worn off and we all walked back to town to meet our visitors, who sat at the fountain smoking fags.
~Hullo, said the leader. We have been sent here to help the lot of you.
~Aye, said myself. Ireland is in a great deal of trouble and we have now resorted to the strength and courage of the Crown.
~We should be able to solve the problem quickly. I have a bitch at home and the lads and I don’t like Ireland, said the man.
~We hate it, said another wearing a similar uniform.
~In fact we plan to be out of this misfortunate place by tomorrow, said the leader. So come on then. Show us what’s the matter.
We lead the yeomen to the burning hills where they looked upon them with confidence.
~Shouldn’t be too hard to solve this one. Just use the water from the sea. Do you have anymore?
We then walked over the mountains to the highest peak where the wind was good and strong. They laughed and said this wasn’t the ending of the world but just a very pathetic island. Two of the men flew high into the sky, and after five or so minutes their uniforms were barely visible, but such unpleasantness was commonplace. We then took them to my house where they swam around a little bit and suggested that we open the windows to let the water trickle out. Then we took them to the forest. After witnessing the trees fall down upon many Irishmen and many of their men, they suggested that the soil in Ireland was weak like its people and that such misfortune must be expected.
~Are there anymore problems you’d like us to solve? said the leader.
~Aye, for there is one more, said myself.
We took them to the dune-lined shore where they had arrived and told them to sit on a log. We spent many hours calling the Kelpie before she finally arrived, blowing puffs of hot air from her nostrils.
~What is that! said the leader. He jumped so high his little hat fell into the sand.
~Tis the great Celtic Kelpie, said I. Beware for she drowns you and eats you.
~Oh Lord! for Ireland is either hell itself or the world is truly ending. Such a terrifying creature I’ve never seen.
The Kelpie circled us for many days, grumbling as she walked. The whole time the yeomen stood with great fear stretched across their bodies. The Irish played with an old Hurley ball and a stick. Me mother always said that it is either fear or will that puts the man on the Kelpie’s back, the Irish had neither. Finally, the beautiful beast stopped in front of the Englishmen and seductively licked her lips. For once she has set her target she will certainly win. All thirty of the remaining yeomen climbed upon the poor Kelpie’s back, who struggled to carry them to the water where they all crashed in pathetically and were never seen again.
* * * *
The following Tuesday not a tree or a drop of rain came down upon the Irish. It seemed that the rate of death had only exceeded recorded history in the time the yeoman had joined us. The Kelpie I never saw again for as long as I lived. When the ending of the world ended, people swam out of their houses and sang a tune as the sky became dark. Never again did we send for the English and as we sang the last verse of the last song, I became aware of the humor involved in the idea that no one will ever truly know if the happenings in Ireland that year was the ending of the world or just a typical Irish month, but such unpleasantness was commonplace.