Is it myth that the world lies thinner in parts, that boundary lines are not only made for cattle, hawthorn planted not just for its bloom? The cat didn’t think so, braving the road to lick its gossamer edges, to see what lay there amidst the roots of spring. I could have told her what rested beneath that tree, should have warned her not to venture beyond the wall.
“Oh god, where did you find her?”
“Just over the far side.” Matt had turned as he walked towards me, knew I’d look given half the chance.
We buried her up the back corner, the small trowel almost snapping with the rock, our knuckles raw as we scraped and burrowed. We sat then in the sun, cigarette clenched between dirty fingers, clothed in the drift of its smoke.
“I wish we’d put a fence up or something.”
“Dee, you can’t fence a cat. This wasn’t your fault. Lads do over a hundred on that road, no one is safe on that thing.”
“Margaret Higgins walks it.”
“Margaret Higgins has some direct link with God that we just don’t know about. She’s putting full tenners on the collection plate I’m sure of it.”
There was a cockiness about Margaret alright, a hi-vis-less swagger that seemed to stare down each passing car. Her head furrowed in concentration, I’m sure she never noticed what lay beyond the stone wall, never wondered about the tree, how odd it was to be left like that alone on the fence line. I had commented to a visiting neighbour once, how it sat so beautifully, as if each branch was hung with snow.
“That’s where they buried the children sure. Tis an old lisheen.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
The neighbour’s voice so matter of fact, as if that was the tree’s only purpose. “The wee uns, the poor wee things, from the famine and the like. Not baptised you see, had to be put somewhere.”
I thought about it now, methodically flicking the dirt from beneath each fingernail, each click like the thud of a midnight wagon hitting off the sodden fields.
“Do you think she was going to play with them? That they called to her?”
“What?” Matt squinting at me in the dying evening rays.
“You know, the children.”
“Dee seriously, would you stop.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just the more stories I hear about this house the more I think we made the wrong decision moving out here. I doubt even the whole of Galway has enough sage to clear this place.”
We hadn’t moved in two weeks and the stories began filtering through. The old farmer bulldozing the ring fort on the hill above the house, as if the cows couldn’t just walk around it. How he couldn’t find anyone to help him. “Afraid the faeries would come after them sure, said nothing good would come of that kind of carry on.”
I wasn’t sure when the forts became the home of the little people, when it was that souterrains went from a simple place to hide to the very gates of the underworld. I didn’t think I believed in all that stuff either until they said the farmer was found dead in the field a few days later. Heart attack they said, that or he’d angered the heritage Gods at least.
I looked up from my hands, watched the last of the light fall beneath the hill.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s just cos I’m feeling so crap about the cat, but do you not think it’s a tad unlucky our new house seems to fall directly between a bulldozed fairy fort and a children’s friggin graveyard? That has to be some bad mojo, no?”
He could see the tears beginning to well, the shake in my voice as I ran my fingers through my hair. “Come on, a good sleep is all you need.”
“Yeah. Maybe you’re right.”
We woke the next morning to find the small mound empty. Matt saying it must have been the fox, that we didn’t bury her deep enough. I didn’t tell him where I thought she’d really gone. That perhaps we didn’t need to buy so much sage after all. The children would be appeased at least.
Claire Loader was born in New Zealand and spent several years in China before moving to County Galway. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Crannóg, Dodging The Rain, The Bangor Literary Journal, The Cabinet of Heed and Crossways.