by Michael E. Lloyd
Chapter 30: Dublin, Irish Republic
‘Wake up, Maelene.’
‘It’s half-past eight over here, you’ve missed breakfast, and we’re landing in thirty minutes.’
‘That late? Wow, I must have been tired!’
‘No, honey, you just lost five hours of your life. Now, I’ve been doing some thinking ...’
‘What, you, Toni Murano? Did it hurt real bad?’
‘Cut it out and listen! We’ll have nearly seven hours on the ground before our four o’clock flight to Madrid. So as long as we don’t get badly delayed in immigration — and who knows? — we should be able to squeeze in a quick visit to Dublin City. There’s something special which I didn’t have time to do when I was here a month ago, and I’d really like to share that with you. And I have another very good idea for lunch ...’
‘Toni, that’s fabulous! Do tell!’
‘No! They’re my little surprises till we’re in the taxi — just in case!’
‘Hmph! How do you say “pouting” in Spanish?’
* * *
Toni’s caution was well considered, but happily unjustified. He passed back into Ireland without a hitch, and Maelene’s simple explanation of a lengthy summer vacation in Europe presented no problem to the modern, tourist-oriented border authorities. Up on the Mater, now repositioned once again off the west coast of Africa, Carla and Quo breathed their own very deep sighs of relief.
So well before eleven o’clock the lovers had dumped their bags in left luggage, and a cab was hurrying them into the city centre. Toni was trying hard to prolong his momentary control over events, but Maelene was not going to let that situation last.
‘Come on, you tease ... tell me where we’re going now!’
‘All right — since you’ve been very good. You know how much I love Renoir and the Impressionists?’
‘Of course! And I’ve always enjoyed their work too, whenever I’ve seen it in art books.’
‘Well, there’s a wonderful collection here in Dublin, which I had to miss out on last month. It has a really famous Renoir, and several works by Manet and Monet and Degas and Morisot, and lots of other fine art. We’ll only have an hour, but ...’
‘That’s perfect, Toni! Thank you! And what’s for lunch?’
‘Tell you later!’
* * *
The taxi dropped them off near Parnell Square, right outside the Hugh Lane Gallery, and Toni soon found The Umbrellas and the other great Impressionist works, and could at last share his longstanding love of them with his other, new-found love.
But just before twelve-thirty, he tore himself away from the paintings and the sculptures, dragged Maelene back out into the street, and aimed them at a nearby sandwich bar. Then, lunch in hand, they jumped aboard one of the frequently passing open-top buses, for a ninety-minute City Tour.
‘Brilliant idea, Toni! We’ll make a project manager of you yet!”
‘Don’t speak too soon, honey. It’s only just begun!’
* * *
‘I expected it to be cooler than this up here.’
‘Me too. But I just saw a display sign — it’s 18 degrees right now.’
‘What’s that in real money?’
‘Hah! About 65 Fahrenheit. Same as it was most of the time in LA. But you’re going to have to get used to Centigrade, you know ...’
‘Stop Number 3: Trinity College!’ said the commentary.
‘So, Toni ... going back to school when you’ve sorted yourself out?’
‘Possibly. But maybe I should switch to a proper training course, with prospects of a real job, so I can pay my share ...’
‘No, you mustn’t think like that, baby. You’re a brilliant musician! I can make good money over here with my qualifications and experience. And I now have that huge leaving bonus from Forretan. That’s yours, for starters. You have to focus on getting back into the groove and aiming at top honours — then we’ll start worrying about your career. Maybe you’ll be able to do a combination of performing and regular work like music and language teaching — you’d be great at those! — and we’ll think of other stuff. I reckon that could be a perfect way of life for you ... and me!’
Toni just smiled and squeezed her hand. It was good to have someone helping him plan things at last — and so generously.
‘Stop Number 5: National Gallery!’
‘I spent an hour in there last time, honey. A lovely airy space, and lots of fine art. But no Renoirs! That’s why we had to visit the other gallery today!’
Maelene grinned and gave him a big soppy kiss.
‘Stop Number 6: Natural History Museum!’
‘Pity you couldn’t have arranged a visit to this place, especially for me, Toni. I’d say that smacks of selfishness ...’
He turned to her with sudden deep dismay in his eyes. She burst out laughing and kissed him again, this time with feeling.
‘Stop Number 10: Dublin Castle!’
‘When I was here last time, with Carla, we talked a bit about war ...’
‘She said that on Dome, these days, there are no more males, and no more wars.’
‘Yeah, she mentioned that to me, the day they recruited me back in Columbia. So, what do you think of it?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Neither do I.’
‘That must be a first!’
‘Stop Number 11: Christchurch Cathedral!’
Toni gushed briefly about the solid architecture, but then fell silent, recalling another fascinating conversation on that earlier tour of Dublin with Carla. Maelene, perceptive as ever, left him to his thoughts.
‘Stop Number 12: St Patrick’s Cathedral!’
Toni was still reliving those earlier conversations. And then he suddenly turned back towards his new companion.
‘You know about all the trouble that Ireland has seen, especially in recent times?’
‘I know a bit, Toni ...’
‘Well ... I’ve never forgotten something written by Robert E. Howard. One of his characters says: Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.’
‘Do you believe that, Toni?’
‘I’m not sure. I guess I usually look on the positive side of things. It seems as though the selfish, aggressive few, on both sides of the divide over here, have somehow been quietened ... for now at least. But is barbarism really the more natural state? And how long does it take to move from the one to the other? And vice-versa? I’d say decline can happen very fast, once things start spinning out of control. But it takes a lot longer to rebuild. So, do you believe what Howard wrote, Maelene?’
‘You know, I think I do. Which is why we all have to strive so hard to keep this civilisation thing on an even keel, right? Respect others, do no harm, cultivate what we already have, and try to create a few good new things ...’
‘Sounds like my way of thinking too. But you songwriters always express it better!’
‘Nonsense! Well ... maybe! But I’ll tell you something else for free, Toni. Howard said Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Notice he didn’t mention womankind ...’
‘Very clever, Maelene!’
‘I mean it, boy!’
Up on the Mater, Carla and Quo exchanged their own silent look, which simply said ‘We’ll talk about that later ...’
‘Stop Number 13: The Guinness Storehouse!’
‘No, we do NOT have time, Toni!!’
He pretended to frown and go into a sulk, and they watched the view in silence again for a few minutes more. Neither realised they were both thinking almost exactly the same thoughts: no silly arguments since they’d left Columbia; no burning issues dividing them at the moment; yet another practice honeymoon, courtesy of Quo. Life was fine!
‘Stop Number 17: Dublin Zoo!’
Maelene kept the memory of her first uncomfortable encounter with Salvatore Pirone completely to herself, and she and Toni stayed lost in their own silent hopes and dreams for the bigger zoo surrounding them.
‘Stop Number 22: Bus Station!’
‘Move your ass, Murano, or we’re gonna miss that plane!’
They hailed a passing cab. The early-afternoon roads were clear, and they retrieved their luggage just before three o’clock. The Iberia flight to Madrid departed right on time, one hour later.
Copyright © 2008 by Michael E. Lloyd