Dublin Days

CC by Mario Cutroneo
CC by Mario Cutroneo

When Alice woke up in the morning, the weather was beautiful. The room was filled with sunlight and she could hear birds chirping joyfully in the trees behind the window. She yawned and stretched in bed and was just about to get up when all of a sudden she noticed a little golden key put up on her bedside table: at the sight of it, Alice froze in terror.

A gaggle of voices in her head whispered leipreachán, leipreachan. She willed them sheepish but though to herself that rather she was the sheepish one. How could she not have known, what with all her late nights’ work, that someone was watching? Still, her heart pounded in her ears, now vigilant. Had she overstepped the line, with her preparations and her finicky attention to the science of it all? But it was for them, she thought, the little explorers. If only they knew the trouble she were in. But then no, it was not for them to woe, better for them not to know.

Her thoughts hummed with new intensity. There would have to be changes, of that she was certain. Now was not the time to let things slip out of control, not like the last time things did not go according to plan and she had had a panic attack and returned to the medicine cabinet. No high dosage of cold medicine could riddle her out of this mess. This was one she would have to figure out on her own. She was quite certain it had something to do with the way she had approached the whole matter, without the slightest doubt that she may have been wrong. But then things had a way of catching up with her. She should have had more faith. But it was too late for that. The tables had been turned. She must now act wisely, or her lovely little subjects could face various misfortunes, of that she was certain.

And so she loosened her tensed muscles and slid off the white wicker bed, pausing only to grab the little key off the nightstand. Was it her imagination, or was the little thing still hot, having been fingered by tiny hands? Crazy old bat she thought, as she slipped it onto the chain she wore around her neck. As she slipped the sateen bath robe over her nightie (a bold shade of green as luck would have it), and commenced her morning routine, her mind was still abuzz. But then life around her seemed to be going on as usual. She walked through the cozy old Dublin flat to the kitchen nook. Tom was out, but then that was normal by now. Maybe if it weren’t for the pills, or the crazy obsession she had with making everything perfect. As it was, a note lying on the rickety white table read “At the studio, good luck today.” Luck, she scoffed into her morning coffee, if she had had more of it then maybe Tom would have been there that day. The view through the little galley window was on to Merrion Square Park. She could just make out the little statue of Oscar Wilde gazing into the distance as if to say, “Yup, out of the gutter with you.” The sun spilling through the window and filling every cranny of the yellow kitchen with its glittery light only added to the sense that something was in the works. “You want to play ball?” thought Alice, “Fine, then, batter up!” and she reached for the gold nail polish.

CC by Michelle Bartsch
CC by Michelle Bartsch

~*~

They were all quite zippy as they pushed their way into the van. She had had to rent it from a local parish who used it for their youth group outings. God Answers Knee Mail it read on one side. She rolled her eyes, and followed the little oompa loompas into the van, dragging the bag full of sleuthing gear behind her. She settled in beside the driver, Harry’s dad, Phil. He was a professional driver and was deemed worthy by the School Board to accompany Mrs. Alice Clarens’ second grade class (of Our Lady of the Angels School, Dublin) on their Saint Patrick’s Day field trip. Of course, Alice had convinced the board that due to the mystery and detectives stories she had been reading to the children as part of their empowering career topic (and also partly due to the strange things that had been happening to Timmy Lorne when left alone in the cubby room), a Sleuth Scavenger Hunt was a great idea. Thusly they found themselves heading towards the lush forests of the Dublin Mountains, off of Naas road. The parent chaperones would meet them there as they were even now putting the last touches on Alice’s grand plan. Looking through the rearview mirror, she saw all sixteen children, some deep in conversation others trying to keep their personal bubbles intact. She felt giddiness bubble up in her stomach for the first time that day, and smiled as she listened to the burble of her students’ voices, four of whom were determinedly discussing the proper pronunciation of the word penguin.
The van skidded briefly on the gravel parking lot before coming to a halt near a sign announcing the trail-head.

“All right children, let’s do some sleuthing!” Alice said and led the way to the trail. They entered the forest and she set the kids to work with the first clue. They were off down the path faster than you can say detective. Armed with tweezers for pulling the small folded clues out of even the nastiest substances, the first thing the eight-year-old detectives found was a chop of meat. On of the students, a girl named Laura (who had recently taken a strange liking to dissecting animals after the death of her two rats) had the idea of cutting the chop of meat in half, undoubtedly creating a puddle of blood near the ‚scene of the crime.’ The kids were queasy but excited- this was what detectives did, right? Nonetheless, Alice felt that special buzz in the air and wondered how long it would be before they got to meet the real connivers of the forest.

CC Wikimedia Commons
CC Wikimedia Commons

There were many clues, the most memorable having been an elaborate set-up showing how JFK had been assassinated (the mood set by the city backdrop hung by the adult volunteers, and an old car carousel), before it was time for the last one. The clue itself was a yellow paper bag, the riddle being a word that rhymed with plastic and that was to describe their final experience. As the kids huddled in the leafy clearing, Alice had the sensation of being military officer Joseph Kittinger high above the earth on the edge of the space capsule just before free-falling. It was as if she understood the fine workings of the children’s minds and yet felt tiny and insignificant compared to the magic that surrounded them that day in the forest. It was James who finally figured out that although it required an additional syllable, fantastic was the word they had been looking for.

“Mrs. Clarens, there seems to have been a mix-up. Aren’t we the most fantastic things in the forest today?” he asked with the mirth and mischief of an intelligent eight-year-old.

“Aye,” she answered, for she loved her students very much, “but there is more craic to be had.”

With that she motioned the children to follow her quietly on their tiptoes down a little dirt path. There was still one thing she needed to show the little sleuths. For besides knowledge, there is a part of each of our souls that longs to dream and to believe. It needs coaxing to come out, but she thought she had just the ticket.

As they gathered around the old oak tree, the sun formed a dazzling veil around them. Alice plucked the key from around her neck and with fingers bedecked in gold, placed it at the base of the tree. Then, with all the magic of the old fairy tales, and the whimsy of wind-pipe music in the air, the ones who inhabit Ireland’s forests came out to play with the children at last.

Christine Berka

Creative Writing Task