Christopher O’Riordan, is 28-years old comes from the rural village of Rockchapel, Co. Cork. He achieved a BA. Honours Degree in English & History in Carlow Collge in 2015. Currently he is undertaking a MA in writing at NUI Galway. Where he focusing his interests on both poetry and fiction writing. Also, he frequently writes lifestyle and opinion pieces for online media sites.
The Number 13 Bus Limerick to Abbeyfeale
By Christopher O’Riordan
I laid back. Resting my heavy head on a second-row seat on the 21.35, Number 13 – Limerick to Tralee bus. The ten-wheeler was more full than empty, definitely a glass half full for me as my bag on the seat next to me had me riding solo.
The audience behind the driver was the usual collection – OAPs, inbetweeners, students, and a baby cradled in a young mother’s arms. The rather tetchy driver glanced at his phone, I imagined his Clarks hitting the pedal. Our journey had begun.
Across from me, the young mother stared out at the world that passed us as we ventured out of the city. The hood of her Adidas rain jacket covering most of a tight knitted reddish face. A face which carried a light smile, a gentleness like a rainbow on a soggy limerick day. Her baby slept between her clenching arms. I wondered was their glass half full?
My mood was like a hedgehog, one which was hung-over and awake in December. It wasn’t my day and added to this my Samsung had given its buzz, signalled its last breath. I pulled down my woolly cap and attempt to zone out, slip away, and wake up in Abbeyfeale.
Eyes open. Twas your one, the mother across from me.
Her volume climbed a few notches. The call was addressed to the driver, but it seemed a battle to catch his attention. Maybe he was tuned into the radio which rattled away loudly – Well loud for a bus anyways. He obvious was a dedicated Live95 fan.
Came out with more of a limerick tang, the like stinging like dying bee and her face was a little redder.
‘Whaaa?’ uttered the driver in the typical tone of a bus driver whose mileage is too high.
‘Could ya like turn down d’musik a tad. Just herself sleeping like.’
‘Move back if you want it quieter,’ he answered as crudely as a parking attendant in an empty car park.
‘…but tis colder way back…’
No reply. No move.
To be fair I felt somewhat for her; with the young baby in her arms. Not that I could tell how old the little girl was as a heavy pink blanket was wrapped tightly around the mother’s prize. Just the very tip of the baby’s head could I catch in the dim bus. The baby was young, if you had said her first breath was taken yesterday, I wouldn’t say you were wrong.
As the bus drove out of Limerick, it was filled with life. The radio’s 80’s hits were mixed with boisterous Friday chatter, and I guessed I was the only one with heavy eyelids.
I heard the mother say to a man seated a row behind her that the baby girl had come in at 8 pounds 3 ounces.
‘I was in at a Quarter to five, and out having a smoke by Quarter past like,’ she said.
Was it just a tad of love I heard in those words or was it a lust for that biteen of a smoke?
The lad was a Kerry man, I had heard him tell how he was from Listowel. A baseball cap lay on his balding head and he must have been heading for his sixties if not older. He was now in full conversation with the baby’s mother. I saw that he’d nearly squirmed his head between the seats as his eyes took in all of the baby.
‘Whar abouts wud you be from now?’ Asked the Kerry man
Damn me. So much for getting some sleep. I was listening. I had conceded defeat, had become locked in; my nosiness gripped my ears, I could smell a story for this fellow was a chatty man. I reckoned he was what my father called a bit of a Boyo, in his youth.
‘Era from Newcastle, living in Abbeyfeale’ the mother replied.
‘Ah…And and am… Tell me this now, is d’girleen’s farther from dere too?’
‘No era he’d be more Rathkeale.’
‘Ah…I see. God bless. So you’d be on yer own, wuld ya?’
‘I would, just me and Naomi.’
‘Aran’’t you a great girl and tell me wats your name?’
‘Niamh. Aww thanks, Are you a farmer yourself?’
I wondered was she looking for road frontage.
‘Niamh wat? Era sure, you know I’ve dry cattle and a bit of land.’
This was followed by the typical of would you know? Which a triplet of No’s followed before.
She’d be my Aunt’s mother,’ Niamh finally declared.
‘Ah, I know her well.’ Tommy said triumphantly.
‘I suppose you’ll take it easy in the morning, though I hear farming, be tough these days.’
‘Era it can be tough. But sure once there’s meat in da sandwiches I’ll be fine. I’m Tom they call me big Tommy…’
‘Tis nice to meet you, Tom.’
We’d travelled through Adare now and they were in full conversation, in top gear, over the speed bumps, although it was “Big Tommy” doing the asking and Niamh answering.
Was Niamh’s father and mother living in Abbeyfeale? Would she drink? Would she drink much? It was like a survey. Maybe I should be taking notes.
‘Do you drink at tall?’
He would make a fine guard. One that would leave no stone unturned, one whose ears would be everywhere. But I suppose I couldn’t talk. I was listening, nibbling away at a pack of salted peanuts which I had found in the back arse pocket of my jeans
‘Era I’d have a bit of Bud like.’ Niamh answered.
‘Ah…and wuld you drink whisshey…Ha?’ Big Tommy asked with excitement.
‘Era you know like…sometimes.’
I glanced back again to take Tommy fully in and saw his face surprisingly sober, almost troubled looking.
Naomi, the little baby girl, was an Angel. Snoozing silently the whole journey, through all the talk. By the time the bus had passed through Rathkeale, I knew Niamh use to work in Supervalu in town – I’d never seen her but I suppose she was on maternity leave. I looked over again. God Naomi may be an angel but children do wreck you still I thought; her mother looked like she battled through many a storm with heavy black bags under her eyes.
‘Wat’s yar number, Niamh?’
‘Em ah I tell you, Tommy I can never remember my own.’
‘Era sure I’m the same’ Tommy answered before saying.
‘Mine do be 087….’
I smiled. Tommy wasn’t going to give up. He wanted a connection, Niamh took the number, which he’d even wrote it on the back of an old mass card.
‘Ever go to da church,’ Tommy asked.
‘No…No good that be,’
‘True but da chatter afterward can help.’
My journey was nearly over. So was Niamh’s and her baby’s. As we entered Abbeyfeale Tommy said his final farewell.
‘Twas grand stuff meeting you. And tis not raining. Have you far to walk? And remember my number if you ever want…to chat.’
And with the Baby in her hands, Niamh got up from her seat. Our eyes met and her face was now solemn. As the bus entered Abbeyfeale, I stood up waiting, behind Niamh and her baby Naomi.
‘Bye Niamh, you’ll make a great mother one day.’ called out Tommy.
The driver cursed and hit the brakes. I fell to the ground, hitting off Niamh on the way down; she lost her grasp on her baby with the shock. The little baby spun out of her hands rolling out the pink blanket, rolling of the bus door, splashing into a puddle. It was a baby doll.
The off tune radio plays:
Niamh chased her baby as it flows away.I looked at the bus floor, my salted peanuts scattered everywhere.
Blue lights flashes through the windows.
‘Holy God. Is the ambulance there? ‘Shouted Tommy.