Story for the Day: Cabhrin's Curragh - Part 1
We all have those comforts which we run to when distraught. For Cabhrin Donnegal his curragh, the small Frewyn coracle he build with his father, is forever a source of immense appeasement. It was something that he and his father shared which no one else could touch and nothing else could equal, and when his father's illness consumed their family, Cabhrin often returned to his curragh, to sit and be silent and remember a time when his father could still join him in all the little interests belonging to the lake.
The coat weighing down his shoulders, the clasp from the farmer’s overalls pressing into his chest, the worn and calloused hands browsing his back, and Cabhrin was home again: he was at the lake on the Donnegal lands, he was sitting in his curragh, he was in his father’s arms sobbing outhis sorrows. It had been a miserable day: Aiden and Adaoire had quarreled with one another over something, Cabhrin had quarreled with Aiden and Adaoire, and everyone had been wretched and petulant the whole of that afternoon. Their father’s illness had grown worse, and he had been confined to the house for nearly a week by the time the tempers had risen to such a pitch. Something had gone wrong with the plough, Aiden was bid to fetch the breastplough and begin furrowing the land while Adaoire would take the plough to town to have the share mended, but from Aiden’s insisting that he could fix it himself and of Adaoire’s demanding that the ploughing was not getting done, the sounds of their heated debate reached the ears in the house. Cabhrin was caring for Martje whilst Breigh was feeding Lochan and dressing Shirse, and their mother was in their father’s room, helping him to sit up and drink a tonic the cleric had given them the day before. The shouting had made their mother sigh, had made their father say that he would go out to them and settle them down, but Calleen reminded her husband that he was not to stir out, that he was to remain in the house until he felt himself well enough to walk about. Breigh, the moderator of every argument, offered to settle the business if Cabhrin would look after their younger siblings, but Cabhrin was already gone, gone out to the field to settle the matter himself, tired of their remonstrances and needing an airing from the impression of disease and disorder in the house. Breigh knew that trouble should evince from his going out: Aiden and Adaoire were older and larger than Cabhrin, and being used to reprimands only from their father, a reproach from Cabhrin should only further incite them. A reproof was made them by Cabhrin: he told them to quiet down, as their father was in bed and in want of rest; told them to settle the matter their own way but to be civil about it, and though this reproach had been somewhat mild, Aiden and Adaoire did not like that their younger brother should impose himself in their business. They were united in their dislike of Cabhrin’s intrusion, in their want to get rid of him, and before Cabhrin knew what assailed him, a fist flew at his eye, a knee at his sternum, and Cabhrin was on the ground, bleeding and badly bruised before he was aware. Aiden and Adaoire continued their argument, Cabhrin in his mystery of semi-conscious heart Breigh approach, he felt himself being lifted from the ground, Breigh was saying something to the twins, they were hollering in return, and as Cabhrin was just beginning to understand what was happening, a voice from the house silenced them. They turned, their father was standing at the top of the stairs, his bellowing wrawl carrying from the landing outward, his features flushed, his complexion in a profusion of sweat and violent affliction, his form frail, his chest heaving. He supported himself with the railing and glared at his sons, his countenance in a glow of angry disappointment. To see their father, who was looking very poorly, at the top of the steps, to feel that they had summoned him from the house when she should have been resting, silenced them directly. They stood in a perfect line, their heads down, their eyes low, their expressions ashamed and horrified, their hearts assailed by an awful pang. They had forced their father to come outside, and each of them felt the extent of their humiliation when their father demanded they apologize to one another, which was done directly, all of them acknowledging that their general frustration and impatience had come from their father’s being ill. They were to lose him at latest by the summer, and all the cleric could do for him was to stave off the inevitable a little longer. They hated to see him in such a way, stricken by a condition which had no cure and was being forced on all of them. The apprehension and strain which had been steadily rising had consumed the house, making everyone captious and irritable when they ought to be obliging and understanding. They were all miserable together, but being boys of fifteen, thirteen, and twelve, they knew not how to express their anguish without the angst of adolescence entering into their feelings. Cabhrin was bid to come in the house, Aiden was ordered to fix the plough if he could, Adaoire was told to walk to the southern field and bet the better of his dour humour, and Breigh was asked to clean his Cabhrin’s wound. A violent fit of coughing stopped their father from saying more, and Calleen was instantly at his side to help him back into the house. The twins went in opposing directions to do as their father commanded and relieve themselves of their equal agitation, and Breigh conveyed Cabhrin into the house, bringing him to the hallway where Shirse and Lochan were playing. He was sat down and given a cloth to hold over his eye while Breigh went in quest of some linen gauze, Shirse was hopping up and down demanding to know what had happened, Lochan was frowning at him with all the concern that a child who had no idea of quarrels could furnish, and Martje was lying happily in her crib, croosling to herself as Breigh rocked her back and forth and sat down to clean his brother’s wound.
“Wasn’t my fault,” Cabhrin remembered saying.
“No one said it was, Cabh,” said Breigh, dabbing Cabhrin’s cut with warm gauze.
The incident was not Cabhrin’s doing, but he did feel that it was, for had he not ventured outside, this never should have happened. Aiden and Adaoire would have fought one another, would probably have stopped after a few blows, and there would have been an end to all the frustration frothing in each of them, but Cabhrin went out, to be sore and angry, and probably to vent some of his own frustrations on them, and he was properly punished. His eyes were turned form Breigh as he cleansed his cut, the sting of which reminded him never again to intrude upon one of Aiden and Adaoire’s arguments, and he turned toward his father’s room, where the door slightly ajar permitted him a view of his mother helping his father to his bed. His father’s motions were painfully slow, his limbs a wreck of shambling agony, and once he was laid down upon the bed, his mother set to work wiping the perspiration from his brow and giving him water.
“You shouldn’t have gone out there, Caoimh,” he heard his mother say, as she dabbed a cloth over his father’s face.
His father coughed and wrenched and hemmed. “Had to do it, Cal,” he rasped. “The boys wouldn’t stop fightin’.”
Calleen shook her head and gave a tearful sigh. “They’re always fightin’ these days. I don’t know what’s got into ‘em.”
Cabhrin saw their father reach for their mother’s hand and place it over his heart. “It’s my fault, Cal,” said he, in a dreadful voice. “They’re fightin’ ‘cause I’m not there to manage ‘em and teach ‘em right.” Cabhrin saw their father raise a hand to her cheek. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, restraining his tears. “I’m sorry this is happenin’, and I’m sorry I can’t do anythin’ to make it better.”
“We’re doin’ what we can,” Calleen muttered, trying not to look at her husband’s face.
Cabhrin caught the hint of his father’s movements turning her face to meet his. “It’s gonna get worse, Cal,” he said quietly, his voice faltering, “a lot worse.”
Tears ran abundantly down his mother’s cheeks, and all she said was, “Here’s yer tonic, Caoimh,” though her aspect was speaking a more meaningful conviction.
Breigh had been saying something about this being a most trying time for everyone and they must all do the best they could for the good of the family, but Cabhrin could not hear; he could only listen to his father’s regrets and solemn apologies. How horrid his mother must feel, how bitterly their father must resent his condition and regret his wife’s having to care for him, and these distressing cogitations working on a defeated mind made Cabhrin quit the house, escaping his brother’s tender palpations and racing down the hall, out the door and hastening down the lane as quickly as his legs would allow.
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