From the Cross

Author: Colm Brady

The end of a stormy journey.

The bus lurched slightly in the wind as we sped through the dark midlands. The radio was advertising holidays in the Canaries and I could see why. A wall of rain was advancing from the west and battering that side. The light outside was obscured by the gunmetal clouds except for one patch of washed out sun directly ahead. This oasis of false brightness was the eye of the storm I reckoned and it lay over my destination.

I had been putting off this visit for long enough but the pressure was on today. It was the anniversary and we were all expected to attend, blackmail.
I had no desire to find closure or whatever the self-help charlatans said one needed but I had come. That, in itself, was progress I supposed.
The lines of rain sluicing down the window at my side reminded me just how unpleasant things were outside. I had visions of running through the storm like King Lear, soaked and deranged � tempting indeed. The cross was up ahead so I grabbed my bag and did the swaying shuffle one performs while moving up the aisle of a moving vehicle. I arrived beside the driver and he recognised me.
“You are getting off up here at the cross, yes?”
“That’s me alright, you have a good memory”
“I never forget a fare, I havent seen you down in a while”
“No, I live in Dublin now, it’s awkward, I work weekends��.”
“You gave up the football too”
“Yeah” was all I could muster.
“Ye have a tidy side this year, could be promoted maybe.”
“Well this is me so thanks a lot ”
“Good luck to you and I, well I was sorry to hear about what happened you know”
“Thanks, I will pass it on.”
The pneumatic door opened and I stepped down onto the wet road. The wind deafened me but there was no rain. That was good.
I started out from the cross and headed up the hill. He had told me one time that the parish was in the shape of a basin with the cross in the centre. The rim of forested hills meant your horizons were limited to a mile or two � no good to a guy of eighteen who wanted to see the whole world, not just one part. The wind whipped the bare ash trees in random arcs but still there was no rain, it wasn’t even cold. I reached the brow of the hill and looked at the great chestnut in its leafless glory. English boys in the books made conkers but we had collected the spiky mine-like fruit and used them as weapons. You knew when you got a clatter from one of those babies. It had been summer when I had made this trip last but the green explosion was over, all was stark and utilitarian � closed for winter.
I reached our lane just as the wind died and the wall of rain returned. I ran past the millstones at the side of the road where once wheat was milled using waterpower � no time today.
There were four cars parked outside the house – the gathering had begun. I caught my breath in the porch and lifted my hand to knock. The door opened before I had the chance.
“Jesus you are soaked, come in out of that.”
I walked into a bank of faces that looked like mine. Nothing to say so we said nothing.
“Here’s a towel, you will have a cup of tea.”
“Thanks, I’m kinda wet alright”
“You should have rung, someone could have gone down to the cross.”
“I am still well able to make it up from the cross.”
“There’s your tea, you have time to change before Mass.”