It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… let’s go exploring!
Calvin & Hobbes
Or to quote a more esteemed source – enter Gabriel García Márquez – life is what happens when we extract a story from the details we do remember. Our experiences are filtered through the imperfect vessel that is our brain and the very idea of who we are. Tales can be relayed in multiple forms because, in part, they are formed in so many different ways.
In that vein, our experience of Madrid and the Irish element infused in it can be told through a variety of structures, and today we are pulling you closer to the heat of the fire, away from the flickering shadows, and into the world of the novel. Unfinished as it is, it contains a series of stories I am trying to write as an Irishman in the Spanish capital, with my imperfect eyes and imperfect self. What it is, however, is the authentic voice of a man of a certain generation living his specific moment in the unfolding story of Madrid.
Without further ado, here are two excerpts from the work in progress that is Travelling Man. The two pieces are examples of the more surreal parts of the book.
Irish Stories in Madrid
‘How about a game of chess to settle the matter?’ offered Lùg.
‘Pah!’ replied the Spanish god, who lacked the gift of foresight.
Lùg shrugged his shoulders. He knew that one day, in a place called Hollywood, the game of chess would be a narrative device where matters ranging from drug selling to intergalactic invasions could, once and for all, be settled.
All the colours, apart from blue, were finding their place in the world.
‘I just invented a new word – sleveen’, declared Lúg. He folded his arms and stared into the ground, waiting.
Ah Here, Leave It Out
*Contains Three Swear Words!
‘Get those fucking snakes off my lawn!’ roared a tall man. He was endowed with a big pointy hat, a luxurious bead that stayed soft without the intercession of artisanal beard oil, and a long staff that could, in the dim light of an Irish twilight, be mistaken for a shepherd’s crook. He, being Saint Patrick, allowed himself that moment of voluble anger.
‘Relax, Paddy’, said Saint Fintan, one of his best buds.
‘Fintoooo’, chanted St. Patrick. He had spent most of his life in Ireland and had by now picked up a twang. ‘If it’s not the snakes, it’s those bloody kids playing hurling out front. How can I write a letter of excommunication when all that hub-bub is going on?’
‘P-Mesiter’, Fintan said in an awkward and doomed attempt to relate to his best friend on an equal footing, ‘You’ll give yerself a stroke’.
Speaking to himself rather than anyone else, he muttered dark oaths about being left alone. After a few moments of a silence sparsely marked by slitherous slander, he walked over to Saint Fintan, gave him a high-five, and sent him on his way. ‘Check ya later, Fintoo. You put the ‘Fintan’ in fine thang’.
St. Patrick was trying to put a brave face on things. Word had reached him that a king in Munster had kidnapped some Christians. To make matters worse, one of his mates went blabbing to other bishops about one of his youthful indiscretions. Against his better judgment, Patrick had confided in his friend a small sin of his teenage years. The bishops, who had time on their hands owing to the fact the Irish seemed to be taking to the whole Christianity thing fairly handily – in fact, one of them was often heard exclaiming ‘this shit sells itself!’ – they decided to hold it over Patrick’s head.
‘You’ll have to write a book of confessions, I’m afraid’.
‘Oh yes,’ added another. ‘Full disclosure’.
To that end, he was busying himself with writing it. As soon as he had thought of a brilliant turn of phrase, a snake would slide in and nip at his ankles. ‘Ah, ya wee bastard’. Having the gift of foresight, he knew the invention of socks were only four hundred years away. Suddenly panicked by the thought of a snake making bits of them, he let out a huge sigh, which moved like a gale through the white mesh of his facial hair.
Now distracted, he sprinkled some homilies into a few of the paragraphs, thereby stretching out the word count. He knew Brigit and Columba were working on their own texts, and he didn’t want to be caught short. Brigit was trying to launch a franchise centred on a teenage detective, while Columba was attempting to relate his sideways view of the world via that timeless shtick of the grumpy old man.
His irritation was increased further by his insecurity. There were smarter bishops, better-educated ones able to speak publicly. Thus, entire sections pertaining to homesickness, danger and doubt were proselytized into vindications of the big fella upstairs.
Spying one serpent, he picked it up by its tail and flung it out the window. The snake, oblivious to its crime, became the focus of all of Saint Patrick’s anger.
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