Monday, 14 March 2011

Wellington Memorial, Phoenix Park, Dublin (world second tallest man-made obelisk!)

An extract from Peril. Ger's in a mess, still reeling from the beating...

In the morning, still a little spaced out, I make it to the 8:37 train in one piece. For a change I take a seat facing the back of another and, Jo’s borrowed MP3 player connected, close my eyes to the sound of Norah Jones. When I next open them, I’m the only one on the train except for a Chinese guy who is collecting rubbish left behind by the now departed passengers.
 It feels like I’ve been away from Dublin for a long time. The Liffey is swollen and charging seaward, like a huge artery full of brown blood. No sign of all the usual debris that clutters the river bed at low flow: shopping trolleys, traffic cones, children’s bicycles, dead Romanians.
There’s a breeze crossways over Heuston bridge, an earthy smell leaps over the Luas tracks. I don’t hear the music until I’m across the other side and then I stop short, both captivated and cautious.
Ilie’s face is serene as he coaxes the melodies from his guitar’s strings. He sees my shoes and lifts his gaze to mine. I hesitantly smile at him. This is real, he’s here playing guitar. It’s how things were before. I only have two Euros in cash so I bend and place it in his cup. He says nothing and there’s no change to his expression. This can’t be the man who attacked me behind the station, if it ever even happened. His crippled leg is intact, the crooked knee cradling the round swell of his guitar.
I straighten and step forward but then two things happen at once. The music stops and I let out a shout. Something hard has struck me painfully in the shin. Stepping back, I stoop to rub my shin and see a plastic carrier bag. Ilie is holding it to block my path. He drops the bag to the ground with a clank and parts the plastic to show something metal and heavy inside, bent and stained dark brown in several places. It looks very much like a murder weapon.
Self preservation tells me I should grab the bag from Ilie and hurl it into the Liffey, but my body is not responding to the instinct. Instead I start to back away, only to find a hand on each of my arms. Two youths flank me, clad in sports gear. They’re both taller than Ilie but the family resemblance is unmistakable.
I look around the street, hoping for some authority figure to rescue me from my predicament. Ilie barks a little laugh and rises surprisingly easily from the ground with the aid of his crutch. He holds up the evidence bag and says “Follow me.”
We move in the direction of Phoenix Park and I have to hurry to keep up with his surprising pace. Heavy traffic forces us to wait in a gaggle at the Coyningham Road pedestrian crossing. I’m hemmed in by the three of them. On a good day I would fancy my chances in a fair fight with any one of them, maybe even two, but it’s not a good day. My brain is floating in a bowl of soup and the old bones feel detached from their muscles.
The man turns green and we shuffle forward across the junction. Now we are immediately outside the new Criminal Courts of Justice and there’s no shortage of authority figures to appeal to. Garda Síochána cars are everywhere, as are TV news vans, reporter crews setting up cameras and testing microphones. There must be a high profile criminal case in the offing. That could be me. Two officers on the top step of the entrance gaze curiously over us from the saddles of their mountain bikes. Ilie looks gives me a narrow-eyed look over his shoulder. Make your choice. Us or the law. I don’t break my stride.
Once in the Park, I let Ilie walk ahead and develop a distance between us. There’s a steady flow of cars down the middle of Chesterfield Avenue, the thoroughfare that transects these 1750 acres of parkland. It’s quarter past ten in the morning and I wonder where all the traffic is going at this hour. The kerb is lined with parked cars of every size, shape, age and colour. A car thieves’ paradise if it weren’t for the ever-present law officers, two of whom are slowing up the traffic as their huge horses clop steadily along the tarmac. Once the horses pass by a shove on my shoulder brings me back to reality. The two lads are right behind.
Ilie weaves slightly along the footpath, avoiding the drooping branches of trees heavy with fresh growth. Beech trees at a guess, I’m no horticulturist. As I endeavour to follow the scampering Romanian musician, Wellington’s Monument rises hugely up on our left. Several degenerates are sunning themselves on the giant, sparkling granite steps whilst drinking cans of beer. More Gards on foot are heading towards the morning drunks. I consider again the choice between incarceration and Romanian revenge, but Ilie has second guessed my hesitation. He stops, turns and holds the bag aloft. I’m firmly in his grip.
We move on apace. A warm breeze helps the sweat to form on my forehead and I get a whiff of something earthy. Can it be me? Or is it my escorts? A burst of resonant snorts and trumpeting explains it: we’re about to pass the African residents of Dublin Zoo. Like them, I’m enclosed in a yard of my own shite.


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