outwait outrun outwit


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Cigarettes have replaced writing. Smoking, I watch silver hares cross the evening sky, their underbellies rose-kissed as they leapt above the dark spine of mountain and town. As I gathered my thoughts, they start to assume the elusive shape of clarity, only to scatter at a ping from my phone.


Last night I twisted my ankle while walking Sam; he pulled too hard, I fell. He sniffed me, and then rolled in the grass next to me, revelling in the trace of an invisible, dead thing.


The pub was busy. My friends gathered in a snug by the bar, dubbed "the farmer's corner"; we were settling in for the night. But there was a loud kerfuffle in the front room: a Traveller—small, bruised nose, obstinate mouth—had been denied service, and an assortment of locals—farmers, a funeral director, a prison guard—crowd around him. The mother-in-law said the Traveller had threatened her, he called the sister-in-law a racist when she tried to persuade him to leave, and the husband, after vigorously ejecting the Traveller, argued with mother and sister because the sister called the gardai, and the sister remembered how it had been like, in the past, the small violences of families. All three went to bed late and upset.

"You know this is related to Tommy," said Brendan, as our corner emptied, the calm of the evening broken. What? The "domestic" (as such disputes are colloquially called in this country)? Or the reaction to the Traveller, which bordered on hysteria? Traditional outcast and scapegoat, the Traveller is a lightning rod not only for tribal antipathy but also those weird feelings that rise in the wake of the father's death, which can't be simply shut out and dealt with by any other authority than the psyche. Or so we might speculate.


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