Sitting in the kitchen at the Chateau de Healy
with my feminist cousin Pauline.
Dusk crowding around the window.
She's getting married on Aran
island this Saturday.
I am asking her why I haven't been invited.
"There were a few reasons," she muses. "But really I knew you wouldn't have been into the druids."
Even though she hasn't invited me to her wedding Pauline has an odd and enduring friendship with me.
She knows me like few others do.
Our friendship is not so much proof of the existence of the divine, as proof God has a sense of humour.
We chat pleasantly for a few more minutes before I decide to give her a preview of the latest acquisition to the art collection at the chateau.
"Wait there," sez
I to Pauline. "I've something to show you."
I duck down to my room to fetch the Josephine Hardiman
painting I bought last week.
The painting features Ms Hardiman
and her late husband in a silhouetted embrace. All is done in shadings of blue. A Des Egan poem has been calligraphed
around the forms. It's remarkable I tells ee
. A genuine work of art struck from the gemstone of life.
I bring it to the kitchen.
like that?" sez
eyes fill with tears. She jumps to her feet and hugs me tight.
"Thank you James," she breathes. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is so typical of you."
Dimly I realise something has gone awry. She has understood me to be giving her the painting as a wedding present.
My feelings about this misunderstanding might be described as somewhere a hundred miles the far side of unmitigated panic, shock, horror and despair.
I control myself with no little difficulty before she breaks the embrace.
My mind is working feverishly.
Maybe I can just say to her: "No Pauline. You misunderstood." Or some other light remark. There'll
be no problem.
At this point my guardian angel whispers: "Heelers
it was meant to be."
Pauline leaves the chateau clutching Josephine Hardiman's
incomparable visual paean to the beauty and pity of love.
I sit alone in the kitchen for long moments.
I cannot believe what has just happened.
I make a decision.
"Well, well, well," I murmur grimly. "The druids and everybody else on Aran
island are going to get some surprise on Saturday when I show up. Because Heelers
is going to the ball."