Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Tolka Romance by Bill Zunmoon

  1. Chapter 6
  2. .
  3. Lionel discharged himself from the Mater Hospital still suffering from amnesia, although he was sure in his mind that this was a type of rice pudding. Trouble was, he couldn’t remember. Neither could he remember his name or his address or how he had landed in hospital in the first place. The only clue to his former existence was a red and white scarf with the name ‘Shelbourne’ emblazoned across it.
    He hailed a cab. “The Shelbourne,” he said peremptorily and the taxi sped off down Eccles Street, leaving Lionel on the pavement.
    He reached the end of the road on foot and tossed a coin. He caught it in his left hand so he turned left down Dorset Street heading in the direction of Drumcondra. Somewhere Sandie Shaw was singing “Always Something there to Remind me,” though Lionel suspected it was only a recording. Strange how he could not remember his own name but he was still sharply focussed on barefooted singing stars of the sixties.
    On and on he walked as the yellow sun slipped slowly down behind a bunch of poplars and then shot back up again, as though stung on the backside. He passed Fagan’s. “Spare the price of a pint of Bass, pal?” an old man accosted him. Lionel thought he looked familiar and stopped. “What is Shelbourne, old man?” he asked. The man looked quizzically at him and scuttled away, the cord of his deep-pocketed anorak trailing the ground.
    He reached the corner of Richmond Road and tossed another coin, though it might have been the same one as before. This time he caught it in his right hand, so he turned right, down the row of red-bricked terraced houses. Somewhere, Andrea Corr was singing “Forgiven, not forgotten,” though as she was up in Dundalk, Lionel couldn’t hear her.
    As he walked down the street, Lionel’s brow furrowed. Then his elbow furrowed and the little dinge below his ankle followed suit. He came to a large red double gate upon which someone had scrawled the name “Quasimodo.” That rings a bell, thought Lionel and approached with trepidation. Remember, he urged himself. I must remember! Damn this rice pudding.
    The gate was locked and the turnstile beside it was fairly well on itself. He pressed his fingers against the metal sheen, willing his memory to return. Somewhere Elvis Costello was singing “Remember you’re a Womble” but Lionel instinctively knew that the bespectacled crooner could not be trusted. Suddenly the sky seemed to turn black and a large shadow squashed him against the gate. With difficulty he turned around and there facing him was a familiar figure.
    “Karen,” he whispered, and his memory came rushing back like a memory rushing back from somewhere. “Karen, you look lovelier than ever. Darling, I’m sorry for whatever I did. It was wrong of me and I know it. I’ve been a damned fool. Can you ever forgive me, darling? Can you? Can you?”
    The burly policeman stroked his ginger moustache carefully and considered Lionel with a detached air. Years of psychological training led him instinctively to mark Lionel down as a nutter. Somewhere Patsy Cline was singing “Crazy,” though Lionel was sure she was dead.
    “Yes of course I forgive you,” said the policeman and the couple embraced warmly. “However,” he said, disentangling himself, “I fear you may be confusing me with somebody else. This Karen. Can you describe her for me?”
    With a tear in his eye, Lionel described the angel that was Karen while the policeman dutifully jotted down the particulars, interrupting only to enquire if “moustache” had an “o” in it or not. “She sounds quite something,” he said, when Lionel had finished. “I knew a girl with a flatulence problem once. She really blew me away. Well,” he said, laying a kind and compassionate hand on Lionel’s shoulder and an evil and spiteful hand on his head. (Lionel idly wondered how two hands could have completely different personalities.) “I hope you find her.” He turned and walked away, whistling a sad, melancholy air, that sounded like “Mama we’re all crazee now,” by Slade.
    I’ll find her, vowed Lionel under his breath. I was her. She was me. We were one. We were free. If there’s somebody calling me on, she’s the one. He glanced up at a poster adorning the wall of the turnstile. “Next match – Shelbourne vs Kildare County. Friday May 16th,” it said.
    “Good lord!” said Lionel. “A talking poster.”

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