Log 42: Draughts

Log

The Twentieth of August in the Year 2011

My exploration met with success! Today I did find gardens, which I am permitted – though it sore chafes me to admit I am liable to be permitted anything, rather than taking whatever I want; but still I am not hale – to wander. The heat of the noon sun is oppressive, but the light falling on my flesh is most welcome, most invigorating. At last, I have cast off this feeling of entrapment, of entombment, in this place with its ever-white walls, unpierced by sight of azure sky, its air that whispers through grates rather than singing through open windows with Nature’s breath.

It has also greatly advantaged me that at last the good doctors have removed my ivies; the visit to MacManus had been made doubly awkward, and vexatious, by the necessity of hauling along my chirping fluid-filled ivy box, which at the least is on a wheeled stand and thus can be rolled (and used as some manner of support, should one be struck by a wave of weakness and wish to avoid shaming one’s self by falling to the floor like an inveterate drunkard) as one walks. But still and all, I am most cheered thus to be rid of its aid and its incessant chirruping and tugging at my limbs, tethered to it by ivy strands rooted in my flesh. Extricating these from mine extremities in a fit of pique was entirely inadvisable; and made of me a most compliant and complacent patient thereafter.

I had, as well, an amusing encounter. These gardens without the hospital are reached through a pair of heavy glass doors, which took some strength to open; I surmise it to be some form of test of one’s recovery, that if one is incapable of passing through this portal, then one should remain abed. But just without, a reward: a wooden bench, most comfortous, and which affords a splendidly pleasing view; it is flanked by large and vigorous flowering plants, the blossoms of which flood the air with a perfume as lovely as ever met my senses.

As I sat, enjoying my time in the sun (and I did vow that I would roll Lynch’s chair out here on the morrow; on this day, he slept), I heard a rattle-scratch at the door, which was astern of my left shoulder. I turned to look, and beheld two figures at the portal, visible through the glass. One was a youth in the livery of the hospital and apparently in its employ – though I question his actual capacity for such employment – who stood idle before one of the heavy doors, his hands drawn up before his face like a nearly-blind deacon holding his Scriptures, and in the boy’s hands was one of the Verizon-stones that I have seen frequently since our arrival here. This was obviously one of the god Verizon’s most devout worshipers, as he did not look away for an instant, so enraptured was he by the face of his god.

The other personage, clearly a fellow sufferer come here for succour, was an elder woman, her hair white as thistle-down, her face a map of the passage of many and many a year, but her back straight and her eyes clear. She pushed lightly at the heavy door as I watched, the which did make the rattle-scratch sound I had heard; then she turned and stared at the youth, clearly waiting for him to break the chains of inhuman stupidity that kept him from realizing: not only was she a lady of some dignity, not only was she a grandmother and deserving of great respect, but she was a weak and injured patient of his employer, and obviously he had been assigned to see to her needs. Yet there he stood, unmoving but for his thumbs, which caressed the Verizon-stone as obsessively as a friar with his rosary.

I made to rise and carry out the fool’s proper duty, but ere I could do more than stand, the lady threw up her hands and shoved her way through the portal – showing an impressive vigor for her age and condition. The lad, still without looking up – his hair, which fell foolishly before his eyes, may have served as a second barrier to observation of the world, just after his ape-like imbecility – stepped to the side and then quickly through the door which the lady had opened.

Shaking my head and gritting my teeth, still I must first offer the lady some courtesy, as it was so sorely lacking from other quarters. I bowed to her, and gestured to the bench beside me.

The boy sat down. “Let me know if you need anything, okay, Mrs. F.,” he mumbled.

The cast on my left wrist, it obtains, is a fair club: it made a most satisfying thump on the back of the imbecile’s head. He cried out and at last – for a wonder – looked up. I struck down at his god, then, and sent it rattling across the ground – broken into pieces, I saw with no small satisfaction. “Hey!” he yelled, stretching his hands out toward his broken stone, like a child deprived of its sugar-sop.

“Aye, the lady doth need something, in truth,” I growled at him. “She needs to be treated with due reverence, and some semblance of manners. But not nearly so much as you need a drubbing for manners’ lack.”

He opened his mouth to protest, surely, but then a toss of his head cleared the hair from his vision – and perhaps the shaking of his rattling-dry walnut of a head cleared some of the cobwebs from his brain, what little there be of that organ – and he saw my expression. His mouth closed and he slunk off to retrieve his broken stone, which he proceeded to manipulate mournfully, clearly unable to return it to its proper shape. I shook my head once more, muttering a Gaelic imprecation, but I wished to help the lady more than I wished to beat the lad. Though ’twas a slim margin, in truth.

“Please, Madame, I beg thee to join me. This pleasant garden lacks but gentle company – a dearth I vow thou canst most ably fill.” With a flourish, I bowed the lady to the bench, where she sat after placing her dainty, wizened hand in mine and murmuring a delicate thanks for my humble assistance.

“Nay, milady, thou hast my gratitude for thy fair presence, which doth make this good garden all the more lovely.”

The lady arched a brow at me and then laughed. “Well, aren’t you the honey-tongued devil,” she said.

I bowed my head at the compliment. “‘Tis only meet to whisper sweet words into this well-perfumed air, and only a gentle manner should greet such a rare and beauteous lady as yourself.”

She snorted (in a most unladylike manner, though to say true, it made me glad, for though I can don a semblance of manners, ’tis not to my comfort, who am happiest with my salty brethren and the buxom tavern-wenches who keep us company) and said, “Too bad I have to be followed around by Justin Beeber over there, then. Though his manners are about what I expect from his generation, in this country, at least.” She shook her head at him – I would swear she spat! – and then turned to me. “You’re from Ireland, unless my ears have finally gone on me. I thought I heard you use a touch of the Gaelic to that hairy dullard.”

I bowed my head once more. “Aye, milady. I find my mother tongue to be unmatched in the application of vigorous insult. And if I may, I am Damnation Kane, of the Ireland of old.”

She held out her hand, and I took it and brushed a kiss across her knuckles – gnarled they were, but her grip was strong. “Margaret Boyle Flanagan, born in Dublin but raised on these barbaric shores. A pleasure, Mister Kane.”

“Nay, the pleasure is mine, milady, especially knowing thou to be of the right and proper blood.” I winked and placed another kiss on her hand, and she laughed. A proper laugh, too, full-throated and honest. A tavern-wench’s laugh.

“Tell me, Mister Kane. Do you play draughts?”

This was a good day.

 

Log August 22nd

This place, this hospital, has at last become hospitable. Though the food remains questionable – ample in quality but sorely lacking in savor – all else is grown most comfortable. La policia did return to question me once more, but the same application of hand to head and furrowing of heavy brow did foist them off once more. I feigned to remember a detail or two, selecting the most apt of MacManus’s tale; ’tis to be hoped they will be satisfied with this narrative, and be off to find an imagined ship and imagined enemies, and leave us in peace. The medicaments given me by the doctors have greatly eased the pain of my wounds, and my strength returns rapidly; the bedchamber and washroom adjacent are small, but adequate to my needs, and clean and well-maintained by the staff, who are numerous and generally quite solicitous. Now that I am ambulatory and can visit my companions at will, and with access to the gardens and my newfound and most delightful friend Margaret Flanagan – I find these accommodations most satisfactory. We will stay here, I think, until our hurts are well healed.

Margaret (as she insists I call her) is a woman of grace and gentility – though not, I must hasten to add, in the manner of one of those insufferable noblewomen, haughty and priggish. We have spent much of the last two days in company in the gardens; we found the means to play draughts, and with this and with conversation were thus occupied for many hours, though the time seemed far shorter, in our tranquil and enchanting amusement. Between games we walk through the gardens, her hand on my arm for support, and talk endlessly. I had her cackling like a hencoop over the exploits of my young self; particularly the occasion when my cousin Colin and I determined to set a trap for a giant, an endeavor that ended with a sheep bleating piteously, a-dangle from a tree limb with a rope about its middle, and Colin’s Da flat on his back in a mudpuddle, as Colin and I hied for the hills. Margaret, in turn, sang me a ribald song about a Scotsman which I must learn to heart so I may sing it for O’Gallows, that half-Scotch bastard.

Aye: with Margaret and the gardens to fill my days, and restful sleep o’nights, I find myself – happy.

 

August the 23rd

Today I met with Lynch and MacManus. I had woken in the night from a dream of the Grace, and bethought myself to read again the letter I have from Vaughn. This sparked my curiosity, when I read of how my companions held clues to the whereabouts of our beloved ship – or rather, the means to ascertain such knowledge. I called Lynch to come to MacManus’s room, and we discussed the matter.

They had clues, indeed, but none of us knows the meaning of them. Lynch had been told two words, which had been repeated often enough to root them well in his fevered memory, though the lad knew but the syllables and not the sense: the word “setting,” and the name Clio. I wonder if my educated friend Llewellyn meant to refer to the Muse of history. Or perhaps it is the name of a person, or an establishment hereabouts; I recall seeing taverns and eateries with similar names in Florida, while we sojourned there.

MacManus, who had maintained control of his faculties despite his wounds, had been given directions. He had been told, by Vaughn, to return to the point where they had docked the Grace – an old and unused pier in a quiet harbor not far from here – and then proceed, with his back to the ocean, for 100 paces, there to turn left and walk 30 more. Simple enough, but as these instructions had been withheld until after arrival at this hospital of St. Vincent, MacManus had no idea where they would lead. I hope then when we stand at that spot as directed, the words given Lynch will reveal their meaning, as well.

But this can all wait for another time. I must eat, and then sleep, and then – draughts!

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