The hinges of the stripped, wooden door creaked protestingly as Mrs. Logan's tangled tresses appeared around the corner. Her eyes focused fleetingly on the muted green wallpaper that hung forlornly in dejected strips from the crumbling grey bricks. Smoke, the stench of whiskey and the odour of disease enveloped her. The putrid aroma that emanated from his decaying flesh wafted sickeningly through the closed stifling atmosphere and entrapped itself in her repulsed nostrils. She crinkled her nose in disgust. Briskly she pulled the tattered curtains apart, allowing the harsh reality of morning to flood into the shadowed room.
"Jack wrote me." Her words were emotionless. The old man perked up.
"Did he?" She drew out the suspense.
"Well, woman? What did the boy have to say for himself?"
"He's coming home." Her words were barely audible. A light that had been long gone flickered fleetingly in his eyes.
"But I don't want him back!" She spat the words at him.
"Meisse agus Pangur Ban Jack!" he hissed in exasperation. "He's your son, woman."
"He's your son too, and it's because you've filled his head with your fairy stories that I want him to stay away!"
"I told him the truth...the Movement and what they stand for - what I stand for..."
"You'll get him in trouble . . ."
"Jack knows the truth . . ."
". . . mixed up with them."
"Them! Them? You can't even bring yourself to say the name." He shook his head in disgust. "Say it. Say it woman! Provos." He whispered the word, then louder, "P...R...O...V...O...S... Provos!" almost a defiant scream.
"Maybe I can't," she admitted quietly, "but at least I don't glorify them or what they do."
"I was one of them once."
"And you idolised me."
"Fool that I was."
She busied herself with tidying the room. She beat the threadbare rug against the wilting wall so that a miniature tornado of accumulated dust added its loot to the decay to the room.
"And now your own son's not even welcome in his own home," he continued to berate her.
"Why? Why? Answer me damn it!"
"You know well."
"Ah, it'is me that you point the finger at."
"If you hadn't . . . encouraged . . . him all these years . . ."
"The boy had a right to know the truth!"
"...and now that he's a man?"
"He'll do what's best . . . for himself, for Ireland."
"You just want him to take your place in the . . . the Movement," the word seemed to stick on her tongue like a stale peanut butter sandwich. "...achieve what you never could . . ."
At this accusation, he growled in anger, flailing his arms about wildly, his eyes blazing. In the furore, a half empty bottle of whiskey, balanced precariously by his bedside was turned on its side and spewed its contents onto the yellowed sheets. Frantically, he dived to salvage the precious liquid.
"Nimble for a man at death's door," she observed dryly.
He righted the bottle with quivering arthritic fingers, shaking his head despondently more at the loss than at her words.
"You always had a sharp tongue in your head," he sighed resignedly.
"Now its all I have left." The emotionless tone in which her words were delivered, reinforced them.
Briskly, she bundled the soiled sheets together, turned on her heel and slammed the rickety door into its crumbling frame. The sound reverberated, mingling with the old man's cough that followed protestingly after her retreating footsteps.
"Shadowed Homecoming" was published in "Gathering Force, A collection of writings", Number 2, Autumn 1995. Published by Hilltop Publications, Colac, Victoria, Australia.
Copyright © 1994 Ilanit Tof, All Rights Reserved.