At 8 a.m. on Monday, there was a knock on the window. He is the Russian with a broken heart, his face wet from the rain. “It’s for you,” he said. “It’s a piece of yew wood. I passed the salvage yard on my way and found it. Is this the tree that saved you?
Yes it is, ”I said, totally taken aback. “How did you know that? ”
“Your sister told me that when you were sick all those years ago, they gave you the drug Taxol from the yew. You have to keep it and thank it every day for giving you life.
“I definitely will,” I said. Honestly to God, the heartbroken Russian is a lot more elusive and complex than I thought. One could only be moved by such a beautiful gesture.
While I’m making coffee, he walks in to drop more stones on the bathroom floor. Sounds very cool, if I say so myself.
“I was talking to Masha about your bathroom floor,” he says, referring to his girlfriend, “and now she wants a stone floor in Dún Laoghaire’s massage parlor. She says stepping on pebbles is like reflexology, good for the feet.
Lord, I thought, if Masha puts him on the case, the job will never be finished. He’s a demon.
Over coffee, he seems to be relaxing, looking approvingly at the many solid locks on the inside of my door.
“Since the murder of my sister Siobhán, I am much more afraid,” I say.
“In that case, I’ll get you better ones,” he said. “These are 18th century iron locks from a Victorian bank. The strength of a lock must be related to the value of what it protects. I feel that this house is very precious to you.
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“Now I’ll find a place to nail the yew. Somewhere hidden so that only you know its meaning. Detaching a floorboard, he lifts it up and carefully nails the piece of yew to the back, then gently dabs it flat. I can’t help but shed a tear in the kitchen after when I’m alone.
On Tuesday, coming back from the Mugs cafe, I am accosted by a stranger.
“I see you are building yourself up,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I say, telling myself that she is hallucinating and that if I built, it was none of her business.
“Well, there are building materials on your alley. ”
“Truly?” I said, doubting his story.
“I haven’t seen you looking for a building permit in the Dalkey News. “For those of you who are not from this charming town in County Dublin, the Dalkey Newsletter is a small periodical which keeps all ‘Talkie Dalkies’ informed of new or rejected town planning applications.
This is what I call a hot read – of course I am very sarcastic.
The local muzzles are glued to it. Especially the richest. Dare anyone to dig a hole near their mansions. Of course, they would eat you with salt.
“My mother Muriel is very afraid that you will obstruct her view. She asked me to give you this letter. The writing, drunk and spider-like, was obviously written by an older person:
“To whom it May concern,
I’m a neighbor of yours and wondering if you would mind calling me to discuss your building plans.
Construction plans, my ass. I am redoing my bathroom. What are they talking about?
Wednesday, I go to visit Mrs. M, hoping to have a little craic. Of course, there’s nothing I love more than snooping around in a big house. And this one is huge. Of course I am in my element.
As I tan my tanned calves outside the door of his mansion, a frail little face appears, conveying a life of sickness at least I think.
“I feel a little casual today, my dear,” she said.
“Sorry to hear that,” I said, handing him a lemon cake from Thyme Out.
Inside, a huge picture window overlooks a vast expanse of Dalkey Sound. It is an exquisite panorama, worthy of Naples. Her arrogant daughter did not warn me, or not enough, of the “oxygen crisis”.
“I will put on my oxygen mask which allows me to continue. Can I? “Said Muriel.
– Not at all, I say.
We talk a little about Dalkey and the nocturnal walkers who read the town planning applications by torchlight after midnight. Sneaky feckers. With hideous regularity, she tore the two plastic oxygen lines up to her nostrils and then took a deep breath. “Worry about what you are building makes me spin in my bed. “
I say nothing, hinting that I am building. I really want to know what she heard.
She looks at her damn copy of the Dalkey Newsletter.
“I don’t want to lose my sight,” she sighs, clasping her hands over the plastic tubes, squeezing them inward, the oxygen gurgling strangely: Sssshhhh, bubble, bubble, bubble. “This noise will stop in a moment,” she said. “They say it keeps the blood in my heart.”
The greed of some. As if my shy little cottage could block anyone’s view. Suddenly, clutching her heart, she looks me in the eye.
“Is this cake a bribe?” She said speaking a little louder than before.
“A bribe?” I said, deeply offended. “A bribe for what?” “
“To soften the situation that awaits me,” she said, her voice now shrill at odds with the hushed atmosphere of the living room.
“I’m not building anything,” I say, very gently. “If you want to know, I’m remodeling my bathroom. ”
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “My daughter tells me there are building blocks in your path.”
Well, at this point, I’ve had enough. I hear her dog bark and decide it’s a good time to go.
She herself removes her tubes and suddenly stands up. The color returns to her cheeks, a miracle indeed. Up and down the pink carpet she walks, yes, walks, stopping every now and then to raise her copy of the Dalkey Newsletter so high that it looks positively dangerous. The frail old lady is gone.
AAnd then I notice something interesting and shocking at the same time: his oxygen tank was never plugged in.
She glances over her shoulder and waves to the dog. Her beloved dog is sort of an extension of herself, I thought, small but very capable of biting.
I couldn’t wait to get out of his mausoleum with his fake oxygen bubbles and stupid accusations. Honestly to God, they would be fighting over a mouse hole here in Dalkey.
I’m jogging down Lacy’s driveway next to the cottage and what do I see?
A pile of cinder blocks near the trash cans. Inside the cottage, the heartbroken Russian is organizing tiles.
“Who owns the blocks outside?” ” I say.
“A builder asked me if he could leave them there until he picked up his van.”
“You have,” I said, “no idea of the chaos these blocks have caused me.”
It didn’t take long for the troublemakers to deal with the kilt, did it?