Thursday, July 28, 2011

Flight of Fancy

FLIGHT OF FANCY – A Ten Minute Play


Two men sitting, facing the audience, on high stools in a modern hotel bar. Large mirror to one side. Play opens with Brian waving goodbye to somebody off stage. Rostov looking straight ahead.

You go ahead Jack. I want to stay here for a while. I'll make my own way home. See you in the morning!

(Turns back to bar and observing that his glass is empty calls for another. Mutters to himself half-looking at Rostov who is smiling)

I’ve nothing to rush home for anyway.

That’s unfortunate. Why?

It’s a long story.


(There is a silence as he waits for Brian to expand and when he doesn’t)

You should take a taxi my friend!


What on earth for? Where would I be going? I live nearby.

To the Airport Hotel.


Why would I be going to the airport at this hour?


A flight of fancy. To take your mind off things.

(Rostov pulls a card from his pocket and passes it to Brian)

My card.

I don’t understand. (looks at card) Oh! I do now!


Ever tried it?


No. Is it expensive?


Depends on whether you choose a domestic or international flight.




Exotic destinations. Difference in landing charges. All of that.


How much difference?


Sixty quid on average! One hundred if it is Brazil. Are you interested?

(Brian looks at Rostov and then his card for a little while and then around the bar.)


Yeah . . . mabey.


Good. That’s settled. Wait here for a few minutes and then come outside. White Merc at the end of the rank. Ok?



(Rostov gets up talking into mobile phone and leaves. Brian takes out his wallet and counts money. A photograph slips out and he studies it and then his reflection in the mirror with an intense gaze. 5 minute or so passes and Rostov comes back in.)


Are you coming or what? (Angrily)


No. I think I’ll walk.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Windsong – Breath of Being (Chapter 24 – Alcibiades)


Being The Beginning Sunday, January 23, 2011


1 The Exchange Sunday, January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft Saturday, February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings Friday, February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis Saturday, February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes Friday, February 25, 2011
6 al-Rûh Friday, March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme Thursday, March 10, 2011
8 The Three-Cornered Light Thursday, March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman Friday, April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way Sunday, April 25, 2011
12 Angels Wednesday, May 4, 2011
13 The Cave of Montesinos Tuesday, May 10, 2011


14 Idols Tuesday, May 10, 2011
15 Nightingale Sunday, May 15, 2011
16 The Perfect Square Sunday, May 22, 2011
17 Haunting Thursday, May 26, 2011
18 The Uncontainable Wednesday, June 1, 2011
19 The Ear of Malchus Monday, June 6, 2011
20 Mauvais Pas Wednesday, June 15, 2011
21 Sinan Qua Non Saturday, June 25, 2011
22 Spirit-Level Sunday, July 10, 2011


23 Witness Saturday, July 16, 2011
24 Alcibiades Friday, July 22, 2011
25 Ney
26 Birdsong
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being

Becalming Unscientific Postscript

Chapter 24


“The observer should be an eroticist, no feature,
no moment should be indifferent to him . . .”

Søren Kierkegaard
The Concept of Irony

The cold wind that whipped up the dead-dark waters of the canal beside the brooding figure funnelled the spray into icy needles that pierced into his skin and froze one side of his face. They forced him into pulling the parka hood tighter around his head as he gingerly stepped over the detritus of earlier junkies to slide deeper beneath the shelter of the bridge where, in the shadow cast by the streetlights, only his exhaled frosted breath gave any sign of him actually being there. Bloody typical, he thought. Defined by what we give back not what we take in. He dug deep into his pocket and pulled out a bottle. Having unscrewed its cap with fumbling, numbed fingers he lifted the bottle to his lips and drained its last measure. He looked at the bottle in distaste, before tossing it into the water.
From where the man stood he was still able to see the door of the ground-floor apartment in the expensive new development on the opposite bank. Above him, at street level, the estate agent’s sign was rocking wildly in the wind, and proclaimed the availability of Phase 3 and the development’s name, in big, bold letters: THE LACEWORKS. He knew that the name derived from the old canal-side building on the site and watched with some amusement as the letters were dissected by the wind into an open mesh of cardboard mush. He smiled at this, knowing that inside Apartment 2, she was likely to be wearing lace. She liked to make love in its mesh, leaving its invitation on, pulling them, him into the cobweb of her entrapment. At that point he felt his testicles lift with the thought and hoped all the drink he had taken would not interfere with his laceworks. Should have popped a Viagra, he thought, as he felt his crotch.
Reassured he held his hand out into the beam cast by the nearest streetlight and looked at the face of his watch. It was 11.10 pm. Just then, from the corner of his eye, he saw the light over her doorway flicker into life. The door opened and the huddled figure of a man exited, stooping low before he furtively walked away at speed. The door closed and the light went out. He decided to remain hidden in the darkness of the archway for a few minutes, hoping to see her shadow, hoping perhaps that she would come to a window and would look out, look out for him. Time passed as only the time of waiting passes: slowly; defying physics with its laws of expectation. She did not appear as a window-shadow and, disappointed, he stepped out from beneath the archway, climbed the wet steps with some difficulty, crossed the bridge, approached her glossy, blue door and pressed the bell; once, twice before keeping his finger on it.
The light overhead eventually flickered on and the door opened slowly, partially. ‘Quit with the bloody noise,’ her voice said through the gap.
He pushed against the door but it only opened inwards a small amount. The latch chain was still in place, he realised. An eye appeared and then disappeared again. ‘Less me in, Angie,’ he slurred.
‘You’re early, Mac. I said 11.45,’ a young woman’s said dismissively. Smoke from a cigarette escaped through the gap.
Jasus, girl. Only by ten minutes or so. Let me in, will ya. It’s an awful night out here.’
‘I don’t want any of my clients bumping into one another. You know that! Those are my rules.’
‘Fuck the rules, Angie! I saw your last trick leaving. Poxy looking character! Whatever do you do for him?’
‘Wouldn’t you like to know? How long were you watching?’
‘Twenty minutes or so. Whass diff . . . difference does that make?’
‘You sound pissed, Mac. I think it would be better if you went away.’
‘Do you mind if we discuss this inside? It’s fuckin’ freezing out here!’
There was a long pause and then, ‘Take your foot out of the way.’
‘Sure,’ he said and did. The door closed again and he could hear the latch being removed. He pushed against it and it opened.
The girl retreated in front of him but hesitated half-way down the narrow hallway to stub out her cigarette in an ashtray on a small table. ‘Go on through, Mac, you know the way,’ she said indicating a doorway to his right. ‘Pour yourself a drink, if you must – though by the smell of you, you have probably had enough already. I’ll be with you in a minute. I want to grab a quick shower.’

As he closed the front door behind him she turned and walked towards a bedroom at the very far end of the corridor. He had never seen inside that room, as it was not the space she used for clients. He watched her disappear. Tall with natural blonde hair falling onto her shoulders she was wearing a silk, embroidered night-jacket that just reached the curve of her firm buttocks. A chain dangled below the hem of the jacket, disappearing into the cleft of her buttocks and a needle-worked dragon near her shoulders appeared to be laughing back at him. She had Mickey Mouse slippers on her feet. He wanted to follow her but instead turned right into the small living room and poured himself a vodka – neat – before he sat down on the soft leather-covered couch. Like a glove, he thought, moving his hand over the surface.
Frozen faces and fixed smiles stared at him from across the room. He stood up to look at the pictures in their silver frames on the mantelpiece: a first holy communion photograph with her parents and younger sister, all golden hair extensions of her; a school holiday photograph with friends, their faces gilded with the freedom of it; her eighteenth birthday party and long-legged exuberance; the night she received her degree in Philosophy and Economics and . . . ‘It is all so fuckin’ normal,’ he said aloud before downing the vodka in one. The white spirit seared his throat. ‘What the fuck are you doing here Mac,’ he asked himself, staring at the pictures.
‘What the fuck are you doing here, Mac?’ a voice asked, from behind him.
He jumped. He hadn’t heard her come in and wondered how long she had been standing there. He turned to face her. The silk gown was still in place but loosely wrapped to reveal a bodice of black lace. The slippers were gone and replaced by high-heeled red boots that lifted her higher, pushing her chest forward and bottom back. ‘You star . . . startled me,’ he said, slurring the words.
She smiled, a thin smile. ‘What do you want, Mac? I’m already in enough trouble for coming forward to say that you were with me the night of the robbery.’
‘I really appreciated that,’ he said. He instantly sobered, knowing what was coming next.
‘You didn’t give me much choice, threatening me with telling my mother, about what I do,’ she said coldly.
‘I’m sorry about that, Angie. I was in deep shit and didn’t know what else to do. I really am very sorry.’ He moved to touch her but she pulled away.
‘You’re always sorry, Mac. For yourself and . . . Forget I said that.’
‘No you’re right. You are always right Angie.’ Cormac McMurragh slumped down into the couch again. Tears coursed down his cheeks.
‘Would you like a coffee?’ she asked kindly.
‘No. Thanks.’
‘How about doing a line?’ she invited in a matter-of-fact way, as if one was as convenient as the other.
‘Well I do. Excuse me a minute?’
‘Sure,’ he said watching her leave.

He continued to stare back at the pictures until she returned. Her face was flushed and her eyes glistened. ‘Anyway it wasn’t all that bad,’ she giggled. ‘That cute detective, Flatley was very nice about it. I told him that you were my sugar daddy and that I only did it now and then to help with college expenses. More of a gift than a service, I told him, from desperation. He said that he understood and that if I cooperated he would not pursue it any further. Is he a man of his word?’
‘I . . . I think so,’ he reassured.
‘Good,’ she said teasing him with her eyes. ‘Because I might just, accidentally bump into him again, some day. He has a cute bum.’
‘I didn’t notice,’ he growled.
She sighed deeply as she combed her hands through her hair to lift it before letting it fall again. Her chest rose higher and the loosely tied belt undid spontaneously as she pirouetted in front of him. She stopped suddenly and rested her hands on his knees. ‘You’ve always said that you can only afford me once every two months or so. What are you doing here again so soon?’
‘I don’t know,’ he said, leaning forward to pull her gown open and stare at her breasts, crosshatched beneath the lace bodice. He touched a pink nipple, which became instantly erect, before moving his hand down towards her crotch, where he knew the lace ended. ‘I thought we might –’
She pulled away from him and took the glass from his hand. ‘No freebies, Mac! You know that.’
‘Yes.’ He pulled out an envelope with crisp notes in it and placed it on the seat beside him. ‘I thought we might just talk and then perhaps . . .’
She waited for him to finish what he had begun to say and when he didn’t, she picked up the envelope and counted the notes. She smiled. ‘Up to you, Mac! It’s your money and you can spend it any way you like. There’s about an hours’ worth of my time here.’ She held up the envelope, waved it in his face before she put it in the pocket of her gown. She then moved back towards him and taking his hand guided it back to her crotch. She held it there and moved against his fingers. ‘Oh God, that’s nice. What did you want to talk about?’
‘I . . . I . . .’ he began.
Her rhythm against his fingers got faster and faster, her breath came in short fast bursts that blew warm on his face. She curled his fingers into a fist and pressed against him even harder. She was laughing…Mac suddenly pulled his hand away and interrupted in her reverie she glared at him. Wanting to continue she instantly brought her own hand back to her crotch. Her glare changed to a first a look of frustration, then annoyance. ‘I’d actually like a fuck, Mac . . . then we can talk,’ she said harshly.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked, threatened by the demand and the brutality.
‘I’ve had a really weird sort of day, all fetishes and S&M stuff. Distance fucking, I call it, most of it being in the head. It pays well but leaves me randy but frustrated, all that giving. What I’d like right now, Mac . . . What I’d really like right now is a simple straightforward ride, your kind of riding. Fast and furious! Besides which you have a dick the size of a donkey and I need that inside me right now.’
‘Don’t say that. Say it like . . .’
‘Say what, Mac? Like I enjoy it?’ She started to laugh. ‘Come on, man. Get real. Of course I like it. I love fucking, any which way, size or sequence, and getting paid into the bargain makes it even better. This is not some Freudian fantasy, Mac and I’m not your mother. I’m not some ideal, a random dream that you somehow hope we will both wake up from and think it never happened. This is what I am, Mac. This is my being and I love it, love myself for it. Either ride the wind or get blown away!’
‘Shit,’ was all he could say before he got up from the chair. He made for the drinks cabinet on the far side of the room but suddenly and desperately unsteady had to lean heavily against the mantelpiece. His hand stretched out to anchor himself and pushed against one of the smiling frozen faces. The picture of Angie in her communion dress and hair-extensions clattered to the ground. The girl instantly rushed over to pick it up, and then replaced it, carefully lining the frame up with the others.
A chain-gang of smiles, he thought.
She turned to him, her voice softening. ‘Please, Mac. Fuck me first and I’ll then give you two hours of my time. All the time in the world to talk.’ She let the robe fall from her shoulders and stepping forward quickly pulled at his trousers zip until it gave. She pushed her hand deep inside his trousers and whispered, ‘There you are my donkey, come to mama. Mama wants to ride you so hard that you’ll bleed.’
Mac watched as her eyes suddenly glazed over, the line of cocaine kicking in even more. He was having great difficulty focusing. She was looking up at him and whispering the words but it was like she was staring at a nothingness: his nothingness. Like Rio, he reminded himself. He had come to Angie’s looking for some sort of harmony, some sort of understanding, some sort of anything tangible and now, as he watched her suck his cock, all he felt was indifference. It was as if she was, as Rio was, no longer there to sense. ‘Fuck you,’ he suddenly said, pulling away from her. He pulled up his zip and headed for the hallway.
There was a brief moment as she stared blankly at the spot where her hand still is and where he had been. Her pupils oscillated from side to side at first but then steadied as she turned to call after him. ‘Bu . . . but, Mac,’ she slurred. ‘What about the money?’
‘Keep the money, Angie. You’ve earned it,’ he said quietly without looking back.

The door opened and the light above flickered on.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blue-Iced Engines

A Birthday Train To Wherever You Want

Blue-iced engines haul

With marshmallow pall

And sponge detail

On liquorice rail

To that special place

On a two year-old’s face

Where gelatine delight

Is a wonderful sight.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Windsong – Breath of Being (Chapter 23 – Witness)


Being The Beginning Sunday, January 23, 2011


1 The Exchange Sunday, January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft Saturday, February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings Friday, February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis Saturday, February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes Friday, February 25, 2011
6 al-Rûh Friday, March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme Thursday, March 10, 2011
8 The Three-Cornered Light Thursday, March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman Friday, April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way Sunday, April 25, 2011
12 Angels Wednesday, May 4, 2011
13 The Cave of Montesinos Tuesday, May 10, 2011


14 Idols Tuesday, May 10, 2011
15 Nightingale Sunday, May 15, 2011
16 The Perfect Square Sunday, May 22, 2011
17 Haunting Thursday, May 26, 2011
18 The Uncontainable Wednesday, June 1, 2011
19 The Ear of Malchus Monday, June 6, 2011
20 Mauvais Pas Wednesday, June 15, 2011
21 Sinan Qua Non Saturday, June 25, 2011
22 Spirit-Level Sunday, July 10, 2011


23 Witness Saturday, July 16, 2011
24 Alcibiades
25 Ney
26 Birdsong
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being

Becalming Unscientific Postscript


The sirocco (Scirrocco scillocco sirocco It., Sp. siroco xaloque, Pg. xaroco,
Pr. Fr. siroc, sirocco South-East wind; from Ar. schoruq (scharq east) ) – An
Etymological Dictionary, T.C. Donkin, (1864) – is a hot, oppressive, and often
dust-laden wind blowing from North Africa across the Mediterranean to southern
Europe. Known locally as the khamson.

Horace called this wind the plumbeus Auster, heavy as lead.

“And the ‘Ãd, they were destroyed by a furious wind,
exceedingly violent . . .”

The Qur’an
surat al-hãqqah (The Catastrophe); 69, v. 6

Chapter 23


“The fear instituted at the Retreat is of great depth; it passes
between reason and madness like a mediation, like an
evocation of a common nature. . .”

Michel Foucault
Madness and Civilization

“The psychotic ‘loss of reality’ does not arise when something is missing
in reality, but on the contrary, when there is too much of a Thing in reality.”

Slavoj Zizek
The Metastases of Enjoyment

Having turned off the main road just outside the village, Ahmed al-Akrash stopped. He left the car engine running, turned on the interior light and once again checked his map and the directions that had been given to him. In the distance he could just make out the forest of pine, stretched across a low hill like a saddle. Not too far away, he thought, before he accelerated down the narrow, twisting secondary road. A mile or so later, driving too fast, he almost missed the forester’s access lane and braked late to send a spray of bark, moss and mud high into the air. He slowed, drove slowly along the pot-holed track, deeper and deeper into the forest, until finally he found what he was looking for. Two old crumbling stone pillars, the directions had said. He angled the car through the narrow gap between them only to find his progress blocked by a padlocked modern steel gate. Turning off the engine, he opened the window and listened for a moment. He got out, looked around and then climbed over the gate and began to walk the last stretch to his destination.
The laneway was an avenue of conifer and holly, standing sentinel behind crumbling perimeter walls, the stones just about tethered by clinging ivy. He noticed a brief movement in the forest to his right and strained to see in the dusk, his heart beating fast. After what seemed an eternity a large puck-goat, horned and bearded, ambled into a clearing, stared back at him for a moment, before disappearing again into the gloom. Ahmed al-Akrash relaxed. In the distance a square-tower type castle rose up above the canopy of trees and he could see surrounding scaffolding and materials for a new roof.
Suddenly, he stopped abruptly again, frozen in time and place by the deep baying of two large dogs that were coursing down the lane towards him. He’s hated dogs, ever since . . . He thought about running, looked for a tree to climb but then picked up a rock from the ground and tested its weight in his hand. A sharp shrill whistle sounded and the dogs, a pair of Dobermans, instantly pulled up, laid down with their paws forward, eyes locked on Ahmed’s every movement. He felt unable to move, paralysed by his fear. The rock was heavy in his hand. A man sauntered down the track toward him, smoking a cigarette. He flicked it away as he approached and the red tipped butt arced through the night sky. ‘They don’t like visitors,’ the man said brusquely.
‘Welcomes are sometimes worn out,’ Ahmed replied, throwing away the rock.
The man relaxed and immediately lit up another cigarette. He leant down to pat the two dogs on their heads. ‘You must be Ahmed. I’ve been asked to give you every bit of help I can, by our mutual friends – Malachy MacGaoth at your service,’ he said with a grin.
MacGaoth held out his hand. Ahmed took it, keeping one eye on the dogs. ‘I am Ahmed al-Akrash. It’s good to meet you.’
‘You look a bit worse for wear,’ MacGaoth observed.
‘I’ve been hiding out.’
‘Come on in. I’ve some fish on the go. Are you hungry?’
‘Good.’ MacGaoth whistled sharply and the dogs bounded up and ran ahead of them towards the castle.
‘What about my car?’ Ahmed asked.
‘Give me your keys? Gabriel will bring it up.’
‘Young fellow who helps me . . . with the building, don’t you know. Thick as a goat . . . but he can drive.’
‘I saw one!’
‘A goat! Big male . . . in the forest.’
‘Did you now? Must have strayed from the farm down the road. They make cheese.’
As they neared the base of the castle Ahmed looked up at the steel scaffolding surrounding the ramparts. ‘How old?’ he asked.
‘From 1230 or thereabouts. Used to be a monastery here as well. That lump of rubble over there.’ MacGaoth pointed to an old archway and a collapsed wall. ‘It takes all my time to keep it from falling out from under me. Quiet though, and private.’
They reached the main entrance. It was a low Norman-arched doorway. Ahmed began to stoop to enter but suddenly noticed a strange carving in the capstone over the door. It was a female figure, with her legs wide apart and her two hands coming down behind her thighs to separate the large labial folds of her sex. There was a finger-sized hole between the folds, the lower margin of which was smooth and worn. The figure’s face was contorted. Ahmed’s face betrayed his disgust.
‘A sheela-na-gig,’ MacGaoth said, as he watched his visitor’s reaction.
‘A what?’
‘A sheela-na-gig, the strange idol carvings that appeared in Irish churches and castles in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. No one quite knows the reason. “Sile” is the Irish for Julia and a “ghig” is an old hag or midwife. Midwives were often thought of as witches and perhaps these were put up on buildings to ward off the evil thought associated with them coming into the church or castle. Like al-Uzza perhaps.’
Ahmed said nothing, but remained disturbed by the carving.
‘Put your finger in the hole there, and make a wish.’
Allah preserve me, no!’ he protested.
‘Come on in then.’ MacGaoth directed him inside. ‘Gabriel!’ he shouted at the top of his voice.
A thin boy, sixteen or seventeen at most, Ahmed estimated, appeared from nowhere. He had a high forehead surmounted by red hair. Arabic red not Irish, Ahmed noted. The boy grinned, and Ahmed watched as the three metal studs planted in the skin below his lower lip seem to separate in different directions.
‘There was a call for you, while you were down the lane,’ the boy sneered, in a high-pitched rasp.
‘Who was it?’ MacGaoth asked.
‘That cokehead wanker you set me up with, who was so spaced out he couldn’t fucken do it. What was his name again?’
MacGoath’s eyes narrowed in annoyance. They flicked in Ahmed’s direction and then back to the boy again. ‘Watch it Gabriel! No names!’
‘Just telling you, dude. I’m pissed off with all that other fucken’ shit you have me doing for the two of ye.’
‘Go get your man’s car, will you?’ MacGaoth ordered, tossing the youth Ahmed’s keys. ‘Remember to open the gate.’
The boy grunted and stuck a middle finger in the air close to MacGoath’s face.
‘What did he mean by that?’ Ahmed asked, glad to see the back of the boy, whose voice irritated him.
‘None of your concern, Ahmed!’ MacGaoth said with finality. ‘Come on in.’
The door closed behind them and they immediately turned into a narrow spiral stone staircase that brought them up to the first floor of the tower. Ahmed looked around at his surroundings. There was a large fireplace with carved heraldic inscriptions and a roaring fire; a large oak table, four high backed chairs, and two rocking chairs. There was a worn thick-woven carpet on the ground.
‘Take a pew,’ MacGaoth instructed, but immediately sensed that Ahmed did not understand what he meant. ‘Take a chair Ahmed. I’ll get us food.’

Later, once the food was cleared away, they sat in the rocking chairs, nursing cups of coffee. Gabriel had been dispatched to town, money in his pocket, ‘for a few pints’. They waited for the sound of his motorbike to disappear into the silence of the forest. ‘Mightn’t see him for a week,’ MacGaoth said, as he leant forward to stoke the fire.
The two dogs were sprawled out between them, their eyes remained always on Ahmed. He looked at them. ‘What are their names?’ he asked.
‘Sam and Del . . . Samson and Delilah in full. Appropriate don’t you think?’ MacGaoth asked.
‘What do you mean?’ Ahmed questioned, confused.
‘Samson, the first suicide-murder terrorist and what you’re about to do,’ MacGaoth said bluntly, in an almost distracted fashion.
‘Why do you say it like that?’ Ahmed was taken aback by the bluntness.
‘Like what?’
‘Suicide-murder, like it’s a category?’
‘It is.’ MacGaoth stopped stoking the fire and looked at his visitor directly. He continued, ‘It is a category, an identifiable part of the spectrum that includes suicide, suicide-murder, murder-suicide, murder, each with their own stimulus, purpose, goal, emotion, cognition and consistency.’
‘It is not that easy to define,’ Ahmed protested.
‘On the contrary, it is my friend, but perhaps not so easy to explain.’ MacGaoth countered.
‘You sound knowledgeable?’
‘I was a psychiatrist in a former life.’
Ahmed noticed for the first time that MacGaoth’s eyes are tinged yellow. ‘And now this?’
‘I told you. It’s not easy to explain.’
‘Try,’ Ahmed said.
‘I spent many years working with the victims of political torture, trying to heal their spirit, trying to understand why such evil existed, trying to erase that evil with goodwill, good intention, good . . .’
‘I realised it was pointless. Evil does not recognise the existence of good will or good intention, either in an individual being, or being in general and despite the claims of citizen sociologists and pragmatists has no capacity for justice, or charity, or reconciliation. Healing the spirit of tortured men and women was an exercise in futility when their spirit remained forever terrorized. I discarded my inward desire for truth in favour of an outward expression of that truth.’
‘Which is?’
‘Evil will only see its reflection when confronted by a greater evil, and is terrorised into submission.’
The image of the Sheela-na-gig flashed in Ahmed’s consciousness. ‘Are you prepared to die for that conviction?’ he asked.
MacGaoth brought his hands up to cover his lips, and looked at his visitor for a long time. ‘Good God, no.’ He laughed off the suggestion. ‘I am not yet that ambivalent. I still see death as the end of reason.’
‘Your own or others.’
‘My own, of course! I still hold out some hope for myself. Living is my challenge and I leave the business of dying to the martyrs and the martyred. ’
‘You have a strange sense of humour,’ Ahmed said sadly.
‘Somebody once said, Kierkegaard I think, humour is always a concealed pain but is also an instance of sympathy.’
‘Is that it? Is that why you want to help me? Sympathy?’
‘Perhaps but also because I believe that existence, each being’s sense of being, lies within the individual and no one else.’
‘Is it madness?’
‘What you intend?’
‘Are you a fanatic?’ MacGaoth asked.
Ahmed thought for a moment. ‘Fanatics are full of doubts. That is what drives them. Me, I know the sun will come up tomorrow, I know what is in my soul.’
MacGaoth smiled. ‘Do you believe you’ll come back again and do this . . . do what you intend, another – what is it, ten times?’
‘Do you see it as a duty?’
‘To a political cause?’
‘Not really.’
‘To your faith?’
‘No. . . well, perhaps yes, but in a very specific way, a conviction of right over wrong, a certainty of a greater good. As you have mentioned it’s part of the truth in me, part of the reflection that is my becoming. Part of my witness.’
‘A conviction of righting wrongs. A true shahid: the original meaning of the word, not a martyr but a witness.’
‘What drives it?’
‘My soul.’
‘Explain what you mean.’
‘My soul is everything that I am,’ Ahmed continued. ‘It penetrates my being. It has ammâra, whispering its breath in my ear, commanding me to evil because of my desire for revenge. But in sensing that desire it also has lawwâma, a righteousness returning me to the path from that evil so that finally I might achieve mutma’inna, tranquillity. It is everlasting.’
‘Ah! The eternal soul of a martyr! An escape from the examination of the angels?’
‘I am having it now, Malaky!
Touche. And if there was another way?’ MacGaoth teased.
‘Are you a djinn sent to tempt me?’
‘What happened to you to make you want this witness as you call it, Ahmed?’
‘My grandfather was a stonemason in the village of Deir Yessin. In 1948 the Hagana Jewish fighters entered the village and butchered men, women and children. My grandfather was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem then brought back to the quarry where he worked, and shot.’ Ahmed stopped, and looked at MacGaoth. ‘It’s ironic really.’
‘You and me, the coincidence of history?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Deir Yessin is now known as Kfar Shaul, and the site of Jerusalem’s main psychiatric hospital.’
‘And what about you?’
‘My madness?’ Ahmed al-Akrash looked into the fire. ‘I am . . . was a teacher of mathematics and geography, displaced in a distortion of both logic and location to Sabra refugee camp. On 15 September 1982, Phalangists instructed by the Israelis, stormed the camp. My wife and only child, a girl of seven, were butchered with a meat cleaver but not before they were both raped. I was unable . . . I could not save them. In my anger I drove out towards the border. Attacked a patrol with my bare hands, with rocks. They laughed at me, set their dogs on me.’
‘I understand you now.’
‘My fear of dogs!’
‘Not just that! Everything.’
‘My witness.’
‘Yes.’ MacGaoth studied his visitor for a moment. ‘And what is the duty to your faith, that you touched upon?’
‘I cannot go into that too much, for your sake more than mine, only to say it is a question of intercession.’
‘I see. It’s revenge so?’
‘Retribution. It has always been our way . . . even before Islam.’

The two men rocked back and forth in their respective chairs without speaking for some time. MacGaoth eventually got up and Ahmed watched him pacing the perimeter of the room. His mobile phone rang and he answered it.
‘Yeah. No problem. He’s here with me now.’
There was silence for a moment as MacGaoth listened, his eyes flickering intermittingly to where Ahmed was staring into the fire. MacGaoth’s face suddenly contorted, his voice hardening to solid hatred, as he shouted into the phone. ‘Listen to me when I talk to you. I know what I’m doing. That’s done. It was all too easy to swap your sample. Security in the lab was shite, as they are in the middle of changing locations. You’ll have no further problem from that quarter. Now fuck off and stop annoying me.’ He hung up.
‘Problems?’ Ahmed asked looking up.
Their eyes met and Ahmed felt he had to know. ‘You never answered my question Malachy.’
‘About madness?’ MacGaoth moved in close and leant on the armrest of the chair. He stared at Ahmed, their faces about six inches apart.
‘I have looked into the eyes of many “madmen”, perpetrators and victims both, Ahmed. Whatever it is that they see, or feel, or imagine, is beyond my full comprehension. It is for their eyes only.’ MacGaoth withdrew and moved towards the stairwell where he turned and looked back. ‘I became unable to discern a distinction between the inner reality of an individual “madman” and the supposed sanity of the external reality of civilisation and its endemic “madness”. That failure is perhaps the real reason I stopped doing what I was trained to do.’
‘What now?’ Ahmed asked.
‘Come, we will make Yihya Ayyash, proud of us.’
Ahmed’s eyes opened wide in surprise.
Malachy MacGaoth smiled, taking pleasure in having caught his visitor off guard. ‘You see? I also have my idols. Listen Ahmed. I’m very good at what I do, what I enjoy doing. I’ll have you smelling of musk. I will show you the truth of the matter, how to strap it on, how do detonate it, how to focus its force . . . how to bear witness.’

A sheela-na-gig from north County Galway