Read The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne Online

Authors: Brian Moore

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Literary, #Women's Fiction, #Single Women, #Literary Fiction, #British & Irish, #Psychological

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (6 page)

BOOK: The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
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His destination was Bellevue, a municipal park under the shadow of Cave Hill. The park, formal, unlovely, its amusements a mere glimmer of Palisades or Coney Island, had already disappointed him. But he liked the long ride and the view of the iough. From the observation point you could see ships sail out to the Irish sea, watch the soft hills melt under approaching rainclouds. For Madden, it was as though, standing there, he stood at the gateway to all the things he had left behind, all the things he had ever done. It was a link \vith his other world.

But that morning the link was broken. The rain wept itself into a lashing rage and the lawns, the cards, the approaches to the park were deserted. He got off the bus, huddled under a shelter, and, after fifteen minutes, caught the next bus back. It was twelve-thirty when he reacled Royal Avenue again. Time for a bite of lunch.

He had set himself an allowance of a pound a day, plenty, if he watched the drink. But when the bus deposited him at Castle Junction, he turned towards a public house and went in the door of the saloon bar, stiff-legged and eager. The drink had always been a trouble. And now, with so many long days to fill and with the unsurety of his plans, it was the only thing that brightened his homecoming.

Behind the bar John Grogan bid him good day. Mr Madden ordered a Bass Number One and a ham sandwich. John Grogan served it, wiped his hands on a white towel and went down to the end of the bar to check his stock. Mr Madden bit into the sandwich, eased his fedora to the back of his head, and thought of a trip to Dublin. He ate the rest of the sandwich and dismissed the trip as too expensive. Besides, who did he know in Dublin, and what would he do there? With this

 

prospect disappearing, he reviewed, rejected, turned painful corners, came back to old faded dreams, touched them lightly, abandoned them.

He was alone in the bar excepting two men who sat in a booth at the back, talking business over pints of Guinness. Alone, and he couldn’t help thinking.

On the credit side there was the fact that a pound a day was less than three dollars and three dollars would not be enough in New York City. Cheaper to live in Ireland. And May hadn’t asked him for any rent yet. And Ireland was where you wanted to be, he told himself bitterly. Away from that Hunky bastard with his snide cracks and his bigshot ways.

That Hunky. Steve Broda, real estate salesman, Newark, New Jersey; owner of a cream Buick convertible with whitewall tyres; owner of a twenty-five-thousand-dollar ranch style bungalow home; husband of Sheila Madden, only child of James Patrick Madden, of the Bronx. Sheila, long of leg, blonde of hair and one hundred per cent America. Not a sign of the Irish in her. Sheila, a tiny squalling red-face when the nurse gave her into her father’s arms, November, 1922, two weeks after Annie died.

Steve and Sheila, second generation, hating their forbears. Old Man Broda, with his funny talk. He was on to them though. He saw it before I did. That sonofabitch, laying her before they were married, a nice thing for a convent girl. And me, Mr Madden remembered, me he called a dumb Irish mick. Ashamed of me, him that couldn’t keep his trousers zipped until he took her to the priest. And he made her as bad. Ashamed of me, me that brought her up, that educated her, that never left himself a nickel as long as she needed it. A doorman, he said I should have done better-ahh-have a drink.

‘Another Bass.’

The time of the accident. Me laid off, it was only natural she’d ask me to come and live with them. But he didn’t want that, the Hunky, too good for me he was. And then when the compensation came through, you’d think he got it for me, you’d think I was spending his money, instead of my own.

 

Whyn’t you go back to Ireland, Dad? He put her up to saying that. You’ve always wanted to, Dad. Steve will help, I’m sure he will. He’ll help, all right. Anything to get rid of me.

Hell, I got dough. I can get on a boat and go anywhere. Sailing up the Battery. Statue of Liberty. Hello. I’d park my bags and hightail it over to Mooney’s, under the el. See their faces when I walk in. Bad from the ould sod. And how was it, Jimmy boy? How was it? Back from the ould sod. And you can keep it, brother. Argument. That’d make an argument. Culkin crying in his beer about Croke Park in 9. I’d give it to him. Horseshit, I’d say. You never had it so good, Dan. We never knew when we were well off.

The door of the saloon banged open and a man came in, green pork-pie hat, trench coat, white chamois gloves. His shoes were old brogues, beautifully shined. His moustache was straw-coloured, his nose was long and his eyes were large and watering. He looked uncommonly like an ageing parrot.

‘Goddammit, it’s cold!’ he called out. ‘John, set me up a glass of port, like a good man. First today. And bow’s our American friend today? What’s the word from New York?’

‘I’m fine and dandy, Major, fine and dandy,’ Mr Madden said, giving his old doorman smile, his big tip wink. ‘But that rain’s a helluva note. Wouldn’t you say that’s a helluva note?’

The major peeled his gloves off and sat down on a high stool beside Madden. His hands were delicate, yellowed by tobacco, and permanently shaking. He drew the glass of port towards him carefully and lifted it fast to toss back in his throat.

‘Godblessus and saveus, but that warms all the way,’ he said. ‘Now, John, I’ll trouble you for a ,piece of that meat pie and another glass of this excellent port.

John Grogan put a slice of pie on a plate, put a knife and fork beside it, poured another glass of port. Then he wiped his hands on a towel and stood with his buttocks resting against the back of the bar. He folded his arms, a quiet man, a watchful man.

Major Gerald MahaffyHyde ate the pie, every last crumb of it. He drank half of his second glass of port. Then he saw

 

John Grogan waiting, a quiet, watchful man. He took a ten shilling note from his handsome wallet and paid. The wallet contained only ten shillings. He put the wallet away, slid the change into his trousers pocket and turned to Mr Madden.

‘You know,’ he said reflectively, ‘there’s no country in the world where the cost of living is going up the way it is here. And it’s these damn socialist influences over in Britain. That’s what did the damage. Never mind whether our fellows are in, or those labour cranks, the result is the same. The harm’s been done. Soak the rich and all that. And dammit, a man like myself, retired on a pension, he’s the victim, do you see? These damn socialists have no use for us. They’re out to ruin us, that’s their game.’

Mr Madden cradled his Bass. ‘Socialistic, eh? Back home in the States we had that trouble.’

‘Most interesting,’ the major said, nodding his parrot head. ‘Of course, you fellows over there didn’t stand any nonsense. Quite right too. Harm’s been done here. Sometimes it makes

me wonder whether a fellow wouldn’t be better tO find himself some island to retire to. Like the West Indies. Cheap, lots

of servants, sunshine and damn good rum.’

A bare-breasted native girl shyly dropped her sarong. Tuan Madden patted her smooth rump, raised a rum punch to his lips. ‘M’mm, something in that, Major. I never thought of it that way. Not like Ireland, cold and rain all the time. You know, a guy could go out there, set up a little business, something the natives don’t have, maybe a curio shop for the tourists. A little capital, you could have yourself a time.’

‘Get away from it all,’ the major said with relish. ‘Let them have their century of the common man in Ireland if they want it. People like myself, people who helped to keep the country running when these socialist fellows were hanging around the street corners of Britain, we’re the ones they’re out to get.’

Apolitical, Mr Madden dismissed all this. ‘Get yourself set up, maybe a little store, get some local help to work for you, sort of supervise, eh?’

‘O, I’ve been out in those waters,’ Major MahaffyHyde said, looking speculatively at his empty, port glass. ‘Jamaica,

 

Bermuda, Haiti, Cuba. Some wonderful spots. I remember in Haiti, it’s a nigger republic, you know, some of the white men there lived like kings. Great whacking big houses, villas, mansions, a dozen servants. Pretty little mulattoes. Hot blooded little things, the tropics, the sun does it. Fondle a few round bottoms!’

‘Great big white mansions,’ Mr Madden chortled. ‘Brother I’ His eyes saw past the oak panelled bar to a distant shore.

‘Niggers run the place,’ the major said. ‘But there’s no race hatred. Everybody speaks French.’

Mr Madden saw Harlem, remembered an ugly incident on Lennox Avenue. P,.azors. Ugh! ‘I don’t like jigs. New York’s full of them.’

The major looked longingly at the empty glass in his hand. ‘This is different, old man. Some beautiful little brown wenches in these places. Get yourselfa maid and all the damn comforts of home for about three pounds a month.’ He tried a gambit. ‘Care for another?’

‘Dark meat, eh?’ Mr Madden chuckled. ‘No, no, this one’s on me-John- two more.’

‘Why, there are red-headed natives all over those islands,’ the major said. ‘In Jamaica, blacks, name of Murphy. The Irish planted their seed there, all right. Olden days, pirates, deserters. Some wonderful stories. And their descendants. Imagine having a brown nubile little Murphy on your knee.’ His parrot lips curved wickedly. ‘We Irish conquered by peaceful penetration,’ he chuckled.

Mr Madden slapped him on the back. ‘I bet you did your bit yourself, Major, when you were with the British Army, eh, Major?’

‘By God, I did, James. By God, I did!’

John Grogan quietly placed a glass of port and a bottle of Bass on the bar. He wiped his hands on a towel and went back to his books. Major MahaffyHyde sighted the port glass, grasped it in his shaking, delicate hand and leaned back, a good mercenary, giving value in talk. Encouraging Madden to dream, helping him towards drunkenness, towards the open confessional of drinking talk.

 

‘By God, I think you’re right, James. A fellow like you, an American, he’d kalow a lot of tricks. Why, you fellows are natural salesmen. Dammit, if Americans could sell refrigerators to the bloody Eskimos, they could sell anything to those niggers. Yes, James, I can see you taking your ease in your own villa with a couple of comely bed-warmers by your side.’

‘You got a point, Major. You got a point. Now, take the business end. Take soft drinks. Now, if I could get a concession…’

Shortly after four, John Grogan ceded his place at the bar to Kevin O’Kane. Before leaving, he respectfully approached Mr Madden and asked him if he xvould mind settling up now. Mr Madden stopped talking. Major MahaffyHyde excused himself and went to the toilet. Mr Madden paid the reckoning. Major MahaffyHyde returned to find Mr Madden sitting with the dejected air of a man who knows he is half drunk and has been caught for all the rounds. The major felt in his pocket and threw some silver on the bar. ‘One for the road, now,’ he said. ‘My treat. Let’s drink to the new king of the islands.’

‘Mine’s a double,’ Mr Madden said roughly. Sonofabitch never paid for a drink. Yankee walking free drink concession, that’s how he figures me.

He remembered Creeslough. How often he’d thought of it in the years when he rode the subway trains, when he stared across Times Square on rainy afternoons. How he had seen it in memory, transformed, a vision of peace and a slow peaceful way of living. And the reality, when he went back. The long bleak street and the warm cosiness of LafFerty’s pub. Free pints of porter, boys. Madden, did you say your name was? Well, is that a fact? A son of old DintT Madden, of the Glen. Well, do you tell me now? Well, thank you very much, I will have another, Mr Madden. And what is it like in the States these days? Do you tell me so? All of them, country boys and men with their tongues hanging out, waiting for him to buy another. Spilling his guts out to them, talking about the old days and them, Donegal men, listening to the

Yank, waiting for him to stand another round. And when he stopped buying, they began to talk about corn and crops, and pigs and the fair day. All a million miles away from what he knew. He had no place there.

And now, in Belfast, the same game. Your own fault, Mr Madden told Mr Madden drunk. After this one, get the hell

OUt.

The double whiskey was served. He drank it in anger. Then got unsteadily off his stool and said good afternoon to the barman.

‘I’ll walk along with you, James,’ the major said, putting

on his white chamois gloves. ‘I got a date.’ ‘Oh-hob! A lady fair?’

‘Yeah.’ Trapped by the falsehood, he elaborated. ‘A Miss Hearne. A business proposition. We might go in a deal together. I got something lined up.’

‘Well, that’s interesting. I didn’t know you were going to set up shop here.’

‘Ahh, I got a couple of deals cooking,’ Mr Madden said hurriedly, shutting off the talk. ‘Be seeing you.’

He went unsteadily to the door, pushed it open, met the wet face of the afternoon. Rain. What a country!

He walked out into Royal Avenue, crowded now with people going home from work. His fedora rode the back of his head, his drinker’s face was wet with rain drizzle. Can’t go home like this. Loaded.

A honking post office van honked at him and the driver roared a local insult: ‘The tap of yer head’s chocolate I’

‘Get the hell outa my way,’ Mr Madden roared, stumbling in the gutter beside the van.

A black uniformed policeman took his elbow. ‘Get back on the pavement. The light’s against you.’

Mr Madden was sobered by the sight of the arm that held his arm. ‘Okay.’

Watch it, he counselled his drunken self. Watch it. You’re loaded, he could take you in.

He nodded to the policeman and the policeman let go his

 

arm. He walked off.crookedly, watched by the policeman. A movie. Sleep it off. He saw a movie house. Paid, went inside, sprawled out in a back row and slept. Snored. Somebody complained. An usher’s flashlight found his face, woke

him

He watched the movie for a while, slept again and opened

his eyes when the lights went on at the change of programme. His watch said nine. He went out, ate in a cheap caf and walked back to Camden street. Another wasted day. The hell with it.

BOOK: The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
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