P.W. Bridgman’s third and fourth books— Idiolect (poetry) and The Four-Faced Liar (short fiction)—were published in 2021 by Ekstasis Editions. His writing has appeared in, among others, The Moth Magazine, The Glasgow Review of Books, The Honest Ulsterman, The Bangor Literary Journal, The Galway Review, LitroUK, LitroNY, The High Window, The Maynard, The Antigonish Review and Grain. To learn more, visit him at www.pwbridgman.ca or follow him on Twitter: @PWB_writer1.
By P.W. Bridgman
The last half-mile took us on a rutted path up through a cow field, barely visible on the map we’d brought: the map which was soon turned to a pulpy mash.
We left the car in Doolin. To trek on ancient footpaths to the Burren Way—to the tiny white stone house we’d rented, perched within view of the sea and Doonagore Castle—seemed only right. So, we locked the car, shouldered our rucksacks filled with wine, bread and cheese, and set off.
Partway there, the Atlantic conjured a mighty squall from nowhere. Slanting rain suddenly began pelting us without mercy. Still. We laughed, didn’t we? Instantly soaked to our skins, we laughed and laughed until McAleer’s disapproving bull—somehow on the loose, somehow also conjured from nowhere—spied us and charged.
How we ran. Like children, losing our footing, catching each other, slip-sliding until we fell in and crouched, covered in mud and dung, behind a dry-stone wall.
Sure, the brutish animal lacked Piaget’s object permanence. Its primitive rage now without a visible target, the whipping wind foiling its sense of smell even, the bull snorted and stamped to no purpose, confused and all the more riled.
Then a new crack of thunder startled it (and us) and we heard the bull bolt away in a clamour of fear. I peeked over the top of the wall and watched its bulk, slip-sliding too, disappear finally over a small hillock and on its way to town.
Safe now, more or less, we sloshed the remaining quarter mile to our tiny white house and let our nineteen-year-old selves in.
I had dreamt endlessly of arriving there, of being alone with you there. I fretted over how, nervous and shy, we might finally bridge that last distance between us, once settled inside the house that was to be ours from Friday to Sunday.
The wind rattled the windows. I lit the oil lamps and started a fire in the grate.
Facing me, you removed your muddied jumper and, hesitantly, I shed mine. Then bits of our clothing began to drop away, alternating like figures of speech, like participles dangling and falling…like words in a whispered conversation.
Together, we edged nearer the fire, savoured its warmth and flickering whiskey light until, at last, there was nothing between us and nothing and everything left to say.