By Perry McDaid
“Once upon a time,” she said, staring into the near distant conifer forest which swamped the porch with its melange of fragrances. The fading sun seemed to spark off the flecks in her slate-grey irises…like iron filings in a heated crucible.
“I asked if you ever had a great love.”
Jinny smiled condescendingly. “Now what would you know of great love, Bridie? Sure you’re only fifteen.”
Bridie pouled, as she liked to call it: a hybrid expression between a scowl and a pout. She muttered something under her breath.
“What? I think my battery’s flat.” Jinny tapped her hearing aid with a wrinkled finger. “I didn’t quite catch that.”
“I said, ‘no…inkling, that’s why I’s asking yussil’”
“You know…slang for yourself.”
Jinny frowned, trying to reverse-engineer what the actual words had been.
Presently she shrugged. What did it matter? These days, respect for your elders was something for archaeology. She retreated into her memories.
“I’m not deaf.”
“Did you?” Bridie did not point out out the obvious association between hearing aids and deafness.
“Did I what, dear?” Jinny saw no reason why she shouldn’t play on her declining hearing. Her grandniece displayed no reservations in doing just so. What had she really said? Jinny remembered she’d determined not to pursue that. What did it matter?
“Did you ever have a great love?” Bridie droned, apparently jumping past the testy stage straight to the resigned.
Ah, she’s upped her game, Jinny thought, then pondered on when she had begun regarding these occasional little interactions as contests. It shouldn’t be like this.
“I met him at a disco,” Jinny began, turning slightly to peer into her grandniece’s eyes for ridicule. She found only curiosity. “He was tall, big-muscular—not the plastic-looking ripped sort of thing you get these days. He was a farmer and was built like one, only taller than most and prettier than any other boy I’d seen.”
“Prettier? You sure it wasn’t a girl.”
Jinny pretended she missed that. “He walked me home at the end of the night and we talked and talked as if we had known each other forever. He had the funniest take on the most serious of subjects and had me laughing until all my teenage cares melted away. Then we talked some more.”
“What about?” Bridie let it go temporarily that Jinny had ignored her taunt. There was plenty of time.
“About our studies. He was a good student as well as doing his bit on the farm. About life in general…and about our feelings. I knew there would be hell to pay when I got home, but we held hands, sat on a hayrick over yonder…” she pointed to an adjacent field “…and watched the sun come up over those hills.”
“You sure it wasn’t a girl?”
Jenny smirked beneath the wrinkles. “Pretty sure.”
“So what happened?”
The door creaked open and Bridie’s grand-uncle ambled out onto the porch behind them. He shook one long leg and then the other, as if expecting something to drop out of his trousers. Bridie looked uncomfortable.
“I had him for breakfast,” Jinny guffawed. “Isn’t that right, Pat?”
“Couldn’t walk right for a month,” Pat chuckled. “Neither of us.”