by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents
Chapter 11, part 1
appear in this issue.
Chapter 11: Dublin, Irish Republic
part 2 of 2
Donny delivered on his promise, and over the next two hours he and his guest sampled a glass of Guinness in no fewer than four more fine Dublin bars. Toni’s strong impression was that each half-pint tasted slightly different, and each one tasted great. And they enjoyed some more music in two of the bars, and they talked a lot about nothing in particular (and certainly not politics — Toni was careful to follow Donny’s lead) and they watched the world go round.
Carla waited patiently outside each time, watching many things for herself but ensuring she never lost sight of her precious young assistant.
Donny finally said his farewells, and Toni toured the nearby streets for a likely looking restaurant. He stopped as soon as he discovered the Chameleon, and enjoyed a delightful little Indonesian banquet.
As he walked back towards the centre of the city’s nightlife, Carla emerged from the shadows and joined up with him.
‘Ah, there you are! Nice to see you again.’
‘Well, it’s about time I got to hear some music with you, isn’t it, Toni?’
‘We’ll need a place that’s not too busy.’
‘Don’t I know it! Come on, let’s try ...’
And on Wicklow Street they found just the spot they were after: its downstairs bar was crowded, but a separate door lead to the upper rooms where a fine Irish folk band performance was in full swing, with plenty of space at the tables dotted all around.
Toni limited himself to just one more Guinness, Carla understandably didn’t touch the water he unthinkingly brought over for her, and they sat quietly enjoying the music for the rest of the evening.
They were back in the hotel room just after eleven, and Toni’s body clock was telling him it was already well past midnight. But as Carla had whispered earlier, she had another little job for him to do before he could get to bed.
‘Grab your mobile, Toni. We know your detailed travel plans at last, so we’re hoping you’ll be able to spend tomorrow night in a private Manhattan apartment. I want to try and set it up for you right now. You don’t recall meeting its owner last month, but we know exactly what you and he said to each other at the time. So — just place the call for me, and I’ll do all the talking ...’
She dictated the number, and Toni dialled it and then pointed the phone directly towards her. But it rang and just kept ringing. Mr Jeff Dean, recently returned from Venice, Italy, was clearly out and about at six o’clock on that New York springtime afternoon.
‘Oh, well,’ said Carla, ‘we’ll just have to try again in a few hours’ time, after you’ve had some sleep. Hopefully our man will be back home and in bed himself, by then!’
* * *
Toni’s alarm would have disturbed his peace at eight o’clock, but Carla got there first.
‘Wake up, amigo! It’s time to try Jeff again.’
‘Do we have to, Carla? I have a bit of a headache ...’
‘Get a good breakfast and some fresh air, and you’ll be fine. But first, pick up the phone, hit redial, and let’s do it!’
The number was ringing as before. Carla the Handler took a very deep breath, and readied herself to speak and sound just like her protégé.
‘Heck, what time d’you call this??’
‘Is that Jeff?’
‘Yeah. Who is it ...?’
‘Jeff, it’s Toni — you know, the Spanish guy in the club in Venice a few weeks ago. I was searching for students from the Conservatorio. You remember: I play a little piano ...’
‘... “but you don’t have it with you tonight!” Hah! Sure I remember. Good to hear from you, Toni. But hey, it’s three in the morning! How d’you get my number?’
‘Well, you gave your card to Salvatore Pirone, and he gave it to me when he heard I was going to visit New York.’
‘Right. So where are you now?’
‘I’m in Dublin — but I’ll be arriving at Kennedy this evening. Can I possibly spend the night at your place? I want to see a bit of the city before I fly out again on Tuesday afternoon ...’
‘Hmm ... OK, I guess so. Yeah, why not, dammit? But I don’t want to leave the key lying around. I’ll have to wait in for you. What’s the earliest you’ll be here?’
‘Well, the plane’s due to land just before eight ...’
‘OK. No way will you be in the city before nine-thirty. I’ll make sure to be back by then, and I’ll stay here till you arrive. You definitely got my address?’
‘Yes I have, Jeff. That’s great. Thank you. See you tonight, then!’
Toni cut the call on cue.
‘Nice performance, Carla. But I didn’t understand a lot of it. What was ...?’
‘No worries, Toni.’
‘Please forget about it. It will all work out. Now find yourself a pen and paper and I’ll tell you all Jeff’s details, ready for U.S. Immigration ...’
* * *
Promising Toni she would join him later on his second tour, and leaving him to enjoy a very full Irish breakfast, Carla zoomed rapidly over to Spain. She arrived at the Bilbao Conservatorio just as its talented students were making their way in for the start of another tough week of study and performance. Presenting herself to a promising little group — in the guise of a smartly dressed Italian who might easily be assumed to be Toni’s mother — she asked politely if any of them knew where she might find his personal tutor.
The most accommodating of the young musicians led her directly down the corridor to the maestro’s private office and, without further ado, she made his intimate acquaintance. Quo then had a short but very persuasive word in his perfect ear.
* * *
By nine-thirty, Toni was packed and checked out, with his suitcase safely locked away in the porter’s storeroom.
This time he headed due south down Nicholas Street, and Carla soon linked up with him once more.
‘What’s first today, Toni?’
‘Well, I want to start with another Cathedral. They’ve got three in this city!’
‘So which one are we visiting next?’
‘St Patrick’s. Look, you can see its spire already!’
They reached the corner of the cathedral grounds and Toni stopped to take a well framed photo. Then they headed straight for the main door. It was wide open and welcoming, and this time there was no mention of an entrance fee.
‘That’s more like what I expected,’ he said, as they strolled through and began to admire the finery of the interior.
‘There do seem to be big differences between your churches, Toni.’
‘Yes. I can’t fathom it either. They’re supposed to be the homes of love and charity, but most of the time they just seem to represent the territories of huge landowners who’ve inherited differing myths and have a fundamental desire to hold power over their flocks.’
‘You do have strong views on this, don’t you!’
‘Not really. Only when I put my mind to it. I ignore it most of the time. If people want to find reasons to squabble and fight, that’s their problem. But they do cause an awful lot of harm to many others who really don’t care ...’
‘You’re not just thinking about Ireland, are you?’
‘Oh no! It’s world-wide, Carla. I’m talking about the clash of religions at every level, not just differences within individual ones. I think it’s at the heart of the Earth’s problems, and has been for a very long time.’
‘Yes, I’ve observed some evidence of that myself.’
‘What about Dome? What happens there?’
‘No religions, Toni. No myths. No sacred cows. They were all a construct of the male’s power bases. Females have little time for that, especially when they evolve into having to do all the daily work, instead of just the biggest part of it! We gain all our spiritual sustenance from the simple joy of living. We need give thanks only to one another.’
‘So nobody ever looks for anything deeper?’
‘Well, the very elderly often seem to hanker after something, as they approach their death. But we watch carefully for that to happen, and when it does, we know it is time to redouble our care and love for them, and then all is well.’
‘How simple ...’
‘Yes, things have become very simple on Dome. It makes for great contentment and widespread peace.’
‘No arguments? No fights? No conflicts?’
‘Of course there are fights. And sometimes they threaten to escalate. But they are always caused by just a small excess of pure Doman selfishness. No-one ever tries to justify them by some apparently superior myth. Everyone can “see” what’s going on, and we soon sort things out with a solid unspoken debate. Sometimes the power bases ebb or flow slightly, but that is just an unavoidable function of geography and resources. We take such shifts in our stride: they are as natural as the waves of your seas. But we make sure that nobody suffers unduly. If that threatens to happen, we simply put the upstarts to full and public shame, and they soon stand down.’
‘Paradise found, Carla. Paradise found.’
They took a lengthy, quiet walk after that, all the way east to St Stephen’s Green and then along past the museums and the government buildings until they reached the National Gallery.
‘Let me guess what you’re after here,’ smiled Carla, as Toni opened the door for her. ‘I’ll bet it’s some Renoir paintings!’
‘How on earth did you know that?’
‘Sympathetic vibrations, Toni ...’
But he found no Renoirs in the Impressionists’ Room. So he asked an attendant.
‘I’m afraid not, sir. We sometimes have one or two in a special exhibition. But there is a very famous one — The Umbrellas — over at the Hugh Lane Gallery near Parnell Square.’
Toni was disappointed, of course, but with Carla close at hand to listen to his intermittent eulogies, he spent an hour enjoying the countless other fine exhibits and the light and airy spaces of the beautiful building.
They emerged soon after noon and Toni found a friendly pub on Grafton Street, for another swift Guinness and a juicy burger, while Carla stayed on general watch outside. He checked his guide book for Parnell Square. A pity: it was some way beyond his planned route, and he was running out of time ....
He met up again with Carla, who had remained unaccosted near the front door, and they crossed the street and wandered around the huge expanse of Trinity College grounds. It reminded her of a similar institution in England that she had visited with Toni, two or three weeks before, but of that her Illuminator sadly now had no recollection.
Then they came out on College Street, admired once again the palatial Bank of Ireland, and pointed themselves north. They crossed the Liffey and pressed on up O’Connell Street till they reached the magnificent old General Post Office. Toni took a quick look inside.
‘Amazing,’ he gushed when he rejoined Carla. ‘It’s like going back in time. It’s nearly two hundred years old, and it’s immaculate inside. It looks just like the post office must have done about a century ago! They’ve probably kept it like that as a monument to what happened here in 1916 ...’
‘What was that, Toni?’
‘It was the heart of the Easter Rising: the start of another big conflict. It only lasted seven days, but it led on to the Irish War of Independence against the United Kingdom. You can still see the gunshot scars on the portico — look, just there.’
‘Religion, or land, or greed, Toni?’
He fell quiet, and Carla waited. She could see he was thinking very hard.
‘Standing on the bones,’ he finally murmured.
‘Sorry, I missed that, Toni ...’
‘Oh, it’s from another Janis Ian song, Mary’s Eyes. It’s all about the troubles Ireland has seen. But it points to friendship, and hope, and renewal too ...’
They walked on towards the remarkably tall and slim Spire of Dublin, and Toni checked his guidebook.
‘Isn’t this stunning? And so new — it’s only been here three months! Apparently it replaced the Nelson Pillar that was bombed nearly forty years ago.’
‘It too seems to be pointing up in hope.’
He nodded silently. Then he looked at his watch. ‘Oh well,’ he said, ‘I shan’t have time to visit that other gallery.’
‘Perhaps you can do that on your way home. You do have a return ticket to Dublin, you know.’
‘Of course I do. Good. But I must go on just one block farther now, and take a quick look at St Mary’s. Then I will have seen all of Dublin’s Cathedrals!’
Fifteen minutes later, Carla disappeared behind a bus (‘See you later!’) and Toni hailed a cab. Before three o’clock he had picked up his case from the hotel porter, and the taxi was on its way again, hurrying him back to the airport.
Copyright © 2006 by Michael E. Lloyd