One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week is no stone unturned.
This is a bit of a ghost story…..
When I was on holiday in Ireland in my early twenties my cousins, Aine, Jessie and I borrowed Uncle Paddy’s car to go to a party in the next village.
We were excited, all dressed up in our fancy dresses and high heels, keen to meet some boys or drink Mary O’Mahoney’s famous home made cider.
We had one potential fly in the ointment – Uncle Paddy’s car. It was an old Vauxhall that had been rebuilt after several late night plunges into the ditch near Uncle Paddy’s house which he blamed on poor lighting on the road but which we all knew was due to his tendency to have one whiskey too many.
The car shook and rattled as we drove towards the party. The noise was so great that I was beginning to think the rumours Uncle Paddy had put an old tractor engine in the car were true.
We made it to the party (only just) but when it came time to go home Uncle Paddy’s car wouldn’t start and we were forced to walk home. Jessie was frightened to walk home along the old, winding country roads so we decided to walk along the beach, passing the cove where the fishermen caught shellfish.
The moon turned the sea white. The sand was silver. The cove sheltered us from the wind but it began to rain. We were dragging our feet, the damp sand curled around our legs, making us shiver. ‘I don’t think I can make it,’ said Aine. ‘I am exhausted.’
‘You just drank too much cider,’ said Jessie. ‘I saw you knocking it back.’
I saw an old hut in the distance, perched on a rocky outcrop. ‘Why don’t we shelter there for a bit?’ I asked. ‘Until it stops raining.’
To my surprise Jessie and Aine shook their heads. ‘That’s Johnny Andy’s hut,’ they said.
‘I don’t think he’d mind,’ I said.
‘Oh, yes he would,’ said Aine. ‘He would really mind.’
‘I’ll square it with him in the morning,’ I said. ‘I’ll buy him a bottle of Guinness.’
‘You can’t,’ said Jessie. ‘He’s dead.’
‘What are you talking about?’ I asked.
‘Johnny Andy was a fisherman. He died at sea. This was his hut. He haunts it. We’re not going in there.’ Jessie and Aine stood together, shoulder to shoulder. I could see they were shaking slightly.
‘Oh, come on, you don’t really believe that do you?’ I asked. ‘It’s just an abandoned hut. I’m going in there. It’s freezing out here. And I’m soaking.’
Aine grabbed my arm. There was panic in her eyes. ‘You have to give an offering if you use the hut or he’ll come after you. He doesn’t like people using his hut.’
I looked at the faces of both of my cousins and saw they were convinced of the truth of this tale.
‘Alright,’ I said. ‘I’ll give him this.’ I pulled off the gold bangle I’d been given for my last birthday and stamped into the hut, placing it ceremoniously on a shelf at the back. ‘There’s your offering, Johnny Andy. Thank you for letting us shelter in your hut.’
The rain fell and fell. Aine and Jessie sat by the door, knees quivering as if poised for flight. The sea was as choppy as water bubbling in a pot. The rain pinged on the old hut’s roof, making us jump. We didn’t sleep. We didn’t speak. We just waited for the rain to stop.
I was dozing off when Aine shook me awake. ‘It’s stopped,’ she said. ‘We can go.’
She and Jessie were out of that hut and striding along the beach before I could even gather up my stuff. I thought of grabbing my bangle but knew they would get in a complete state if they found out, so I decided to come back for it in the morning.
As I stumbled along, cold and drowsy, I could have sworn I heard the swish of oars through the water. I turned around and saw the blurry outline of a small boat in the distance, but when I wiped the sleep out of my eyes I saw there was nothing there at all but the sea.
In the morning the sun was shining. I made sure Aine and Jessie were busy then made my way back to the old hut. The beach was deserted except for some gulls circling around a school of fish. I pushed open the door of the hut. The bangle was gone.
I searched that hut from top to bottom, scouring every nook, every cranny. I even turned over rocks, shells, pieces of driftwood outside, so that literally no stone was left unturned, but the bangle was gone.
I ran back to the house, angry at my cousins.
‘It’s gone,’ I said, bursting into the kitchen where they were drinking tea. ‘My bangle. Someone came along last night and took it. They must have heard us talking. They’re probably having a good laugh right now.’
‘It was him that took it,’ said Jessie.
‘Johnny Andy. He came for it after we were gone. It’s in his treasure chest now.’
Aine and Jessie nodded sagely. I wanted to accuse them of taking the bangle themselves but they seemed so convinced it was Johnny Andy that I went back outside and stood on the rise at the back of the house where I could see the deserted beach in the distance.
The sea was calm now. The waves rippled softly as if stirred by fairy wings. Children appeared, carrying buckets to gather crabs. A woman wearing a long, green cardigan came along, filling her pockets with shells. More children turned up, throwing seaweed. I wondered if any of them knew that the cove was haunted by the ghost of an old fisherman who expected payment for the use of his hut and that he had my golden bangle firmly in his clutches.
Image by Smurfz at Deviant Art.