Yet to this day, against all logic and the long years, I still have the vision that one day the world will turn and the sea will give up its dead.
It's Rawney's curse. It's stupid, of course. There are more pressing things for me to dream of, and worry about. There's my finals and who will I love, and what will become of me. There's The Troubles that infect the land north and south alike. The violence is like a retrovirus moving furtively through our blood, biding awhile, then suddenly striking. It kills some, and deadens the hearts of the rest of us. It's a wonder the EC hasn't quarantined the Irish.
Not 'til I was grown did I learn for certain that The Troubles had caused me to come live with my grandda in his cottage at the seaward end of Cobh, even though I was rich. I was that rarest of things in a place like Cobh, a trust girl. My father had his own electronics company that sold things all over the world, and he had business with a manufacturer of small airplanes near Belfast. He and my ma drove up there one May day in 1979, planning some business and some golf. My da was a demon for golf. He said the finest courses were in Ulster. On the fourth day of the trip, they were killed. It was a motorway crash, I was told. Something that at eight I could understand. My da and my ma came home in very polished black coffins with beautiful brass rails and silver handles, but the men in charge of everything wouldn't allow them opened for the wake. The coffins seemed to rest so lightly on the shoulders of the pallbearers that I felt they must be very strong men indeed. Or else that the pretty black boxes were empty and the funeral mass and the long, slow march to the burial ground were just part of some game. Maybe my da and ma had run away and hid somewhere, but everyone had to keep it secret for reasons I couldn't puzzle out.
But I knew it was no game once Rawney mashed my hand with his big rough one and began to cry. "Your da was a fine lad, but he made a mistake," Rawney said. "He believed he was one of the hard men. Never thought that there's always someone harder." We were standing between the two fresh mounds of wet dirt, the fancy black boxes on either side and a priest before me muttering Latin. I liked my black dress and black patent shoes and black raincoat, all new. "He should never've got mixed up with that lot, not for all the gold in the world," I heard Rawney say quietly. "Remember this all your days, Una Moss. Never trust a Prod. They're bent, never straight. And they hate us Catholics to the heart."
Later I heard other things. My best girl Fallon Fitzsimmons eavesdropped on her da saying softly into the phone that Liam Moss's death was an assassination, no question, even though neither the IRA nor the UDA nor some other bunch of initials she didn't get straight claimed responsibility. Only the British SAS did their murdering on the sly, like criminals, Fallon'd heard her da say. But I was too little for any of this to mean a thing. I didn't know what assassination was. A motorway smashup seemed in my grief and loneliness exactly what happens to the parents of girls who sometimes hadn't been respectful or well-behaved, or who had in rage at some punishment or other wished them dead. It wasn't for years that Fallon's whispered secret made a part of my mind flash once with perfect clarity, and then go dark and dead.
Fallon was good. She understood no better than I what her father had said so furtively into his phone. She'd just put her arms around me and squeeze hard whenever I cried, which I did off and on right out of the blue for months. I wept almost every day for awhile when I had to leave our house in Cork and my pony and my friends nearby and my own warm room and go to live with Rawney in Cobh. There was talk that my da's friends were against it, they thought boarding school with the nuns in Waterford or even England would be better for me. But Rawney was my closest kin, the da of my da, so he had rights, it was his son gone from us, and he was stiff about it. I'd live with him or he'd know the reason why, by Christ.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...