11. The Discovery

Brian bade O’Driscoll farewell, turned left round the corner of the barn and was almost blown off his feet by a huge gust of wind. It was one of those corners where the wind was strong at the best of times. He battled against it for a few seconds before it dropped to almost still calm causing Brian to stumble. O’Driscoll’s cows were in amongst the ruined stone cottages of the deserted village, eating nettles and sheltering from the wind. They looked dolefully at Brian as he warily edged past them on the opposite side of what was once a stone wall. It was more like a small grass ridge now, with limestone rocks poking through the top every couple of yards.

Brian liked cows, they never answered back, hardly made a sound and they left you alone. He liked rabbits for the same reason, in fact he liked rabbits even more, they never made a sound. Ever. And they made better gravy. The sky was getting blacker by the minute but even after a short while on Inishbog he’d got used to this and knew they’d blow over. His coat was drying out in the hard wind and the fleas appeared to be less active apart from under his armpits which he kept scratching. This only served to make the fleas even more active.

Wingnut on the other hand was as happy as a pig in muck. He was only scratching on one side, the side where he’d actually got fur, but it had given him a new lease of life. He sneaked warily behind the wall, he’d had a kick from one of those cows in the past and had decided chasing rabbits was safer. He nearly caught on one once. Only once. He never got anywhere near them every other time.
The black clouds didn’t pass over. They stopped right above the island and let it all out.

The water gushed down the drainpipe outside the tiny stone hut on the harbour top, spurting out of the hole six foot off the ground, projecting a jet of water right across the small pavement at head height. Gimpy walked straight into it, got soaked even more than he already was and swore under his breath. He turned the corner and began the short but steep drag up the hill to his cottage. He’d been to the old man’s grave to tidy it up a bit.

Brian, notwithstanding the ever increasing activity from within his shabby old flea ridden Barbour, was happier than he’d been for years. He had a quick scratch here and there, drew breath and suddenly realised how wonderful the world had recently become. This despite the rain coming down almost sideways and stinging his face like hundreds of Lillipution arrows. Wingnut went up front as usual, sniffing at everything, peeing on most of them as well. In the distance the Atlantic surf was creating a crescendo of noise but the sea was pretty much obscured by a huge cloud of spray stretching the whole length of the strand. Even further in the distance easily visible above the spray, heaving up and down as if in slow motion, was a cargo ship piled high with wood. The man from Preston’s Pools wondered how on earth it didn’t fall into the sea.

When the brains were being handed out at school, Gimpy was busy trying stare out a seagull which was having a poop on the stone gate post, so he missed out on the last brain by a few seconds, but his heart was in the right place, slightly to the left adjacent to his lungs. Not that it showed too often, he had his Mr Nasty image to maintain, even of it was just a figment in his own imagination. Sean Kelly was struggling down the hill with a bucket full of peat briquettes and looking like a giant orange lobster bouy in his wife’s caghoul.
“Been somewhere?” Gimpy asked Sean.
“No” replied Sean sarcastically.
“Oh” said Gimpy with indifference.
The two of them passed each other like ships in the night.
“What a total waste of a good pair of legs” Sean thought to himself.
They went on their respective ways.

As Gimpy reached the top of the hill, the land levelled off and the track narrowed into a sheeptrack which forked one way to the peat bog and the other to Gimpy’s cottage. Gimpy took the fork to the peat bog. In the distance he could see the small figure of Brian stumbling over the tufts of grass between the bog.
“What an idiot” he shouted to himself. The wind and rain carried his shout down the hill towards Sean. He carried on towards the neat piles of peat briquettes which were supposed to be drying in the air but instead were being soaked through by the incessant rain.

Sean caught up with him and noticed Brian as well just before he disappeared around the hillside out of view.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Gimpy.
“Er, no, probably not, unless you were thinking that lump of lard will get himself stuck in the bog”.
“Aye, that’s what I was thinking” said Gimpy triumphantly.
“Come on then, lets go and save his life” sighed Sean.
“Who?” said Gimpy with the merest hint of mischief in his voice. Sean gave Gimpy one of those sideways glances that Siobhan hated so much. Gimpy laughed out loud as if to say “gotcha”.
They both heard it. The faint bark of a dog, more of a yelp.
“That’s it, he’s in. Sounds like Wingnut’s raising the alarm.” announced Sean.
“Come on, lets get going” said Gimpy.

The rain had turned parts of the sheeptrack into a river and where it levelled off, the ground around the purple moor grass was soft and small lakes a foot or so deep had formed. When it changed to bog grass and rushes you avoided it and when the soil turned black and was devoid of plantlife, this was soft muddy peat bog and could envelop a small animal in matter of minutes. This land wasn’t for the faint hearted. Almost all the islanders were farmers or from farming stock and knew this type of terrain like the back of their hand. Even so, it only took one tiny mistake to get yourself into big trouble.

Brian wasn’t in trouble though. He was sat on a grassy knoll with his head in his hands when Gimpy and Sean got to him. Wingnut was in the middle of the bog though, stood on a small raft of reeds staring down intently at something in the bog. It looked like a body.

The rain stopped abruptly. The black clouds cleared and blue skies took their place. Brian sensed he wasn’t alone and looked up to see Sean and Gimpy standing on the opposite side of the peat cuttings, eyes on stalks. Wingnut wagged his tail momentarily, never averting his eyes for a second. He’d swum to the raft. The bog had filled with water gradually over a period of a few years and it was crystal clear, you could see the bottom and although the water was only 3 feet deep, the peat underfoot varied from firm to a couple of feet deep so it wasn’t an option to wade in.
“Well I’m not getting it” said Gimpy.
Brian looked up and managed to stifle a nervous laugh. He always did it when he was nervous. Sometimes it came out like a parping noise, other times it was a high pitched squeak. Sean looked down to where the squeak came from.
“I can’t swim” muttered Brian, a tiny bit embarrassed at owning up to it at a time when a modicum of bravery and decision was called for.
“We need a rope” said Sean.
“Throw a stick into the water” suggested Gimpy nonchalently.

Both Brian and Sean looked incredulously at Gimpy.
“Are you for real? I’m not on about the bloody dog” said Sean.
Brian came to life and questioned Gimpy’s sanity. Of course he wasn’t as well versed as the islanders regarding Gimpy’s negative IQ.
“I don’t believe what I’ve just heard, there’s a body out there and how do you know it’s a him, it might be a woman?
The wind dropped suddenly and a shearwater winged around the edge of the cliff surprising both itself and the three men. Wingnut ducked and crouched on his haunches for few seconds watching the bird veer away into the distance.
“Jesus wept?” said Gimpy in genuine shock “I never saw that”.

There was a few moments of silence before a gust of wind awakened everyone’s senses.
“Gimpy, go down to Egan’s, ask Joe what he reckons we should do and come back. Right?” ordered Sean. Gimpy nodded.
Gimpy set off over along the soggy sheeptrack and slowly disappeared into the distance.
Wingnut let out a loud yap which startled the two men. Brian had regained his composure and had assumed a rather more mature posture.
“We need a ladder” he suggested.
At that moment Wingnut leapt into the water and swam the few yards to the opposite bank then ran round to where the men were standing. He shook, soaking them both through again then sat between them.

Joe listened incredulously to this story Gimpy was stringing out. He looked outside at the driving rain and looked at Nora who’d been standing behind the bar polishing the same whiskey glass the whole time. It must have been the seriousness in Gimpy’s voice that alerted them both that this was real and not one his usual cock and bull stories.

Nora stopped polishing and hung the glass upside down by it’s stem in the wooden rack above the bar. “Well, you’d better go. Shall I ring the police?” she finally volunteered.
“Yes, you’d better do that” said Joe as he made his way to the coat rack to put on his old waxed jacket.
“I’ve got an alluminium ladder round the back Nigel, go and get it and I’ll see you round there in 5 minutes, I’ll just wait and see what the police say”.

Gimpy never moved, he was gawping at the dusty bandolero of Underbergs above the bar, wondering what they were.
“Nigel?” shouted Joe. Not a flicker.
“NIGEL?” he shouted again.
Gimpy looked round to see what Joe was shouting about and saw Joe glaring at him. Nobody ever called him Nigel. Even his Dad used to call him Gimpy.
“Gimpy…..” Joe finally said softly “Go round the back, there’s a ladder, I’ll see you there in 5 minutes.”

Gimpy did as he was told and went out into the rain and headed for the barn to get the ladder. Looking up at the black skies and not wanting to get any wetter than he already was, he stayed in the barn and sat on an old grass roller and waited.

“A body?” came the crackling voice from the phone.
“Yes, in the bog” said Joe for the third time.
“In the bog?” asked probably the most stupid policeman in the whole of the Ireland for the fourth time. “Which bog?”
“We’ve only got one feckin’ bog” shouted Joe down the phone.
“Hey young man, don’t you take that tone of voice with me or I’ll….hello……..”
Joe had slammed the phone down.
“HEY, don’t you break our phone ” yelled Nora.
“Well, he’s a dick, a complete idiot. His Dad was an idiot as well. It’s Devlin, runs in the family, thick as two short planks” said Joe “Come on lets go, Gimpy will be like a drowned rat by now.
“I’m not going, what use will I be, I’ll stay here in case Devlin rings back? said Nora, privately quaking at the thought of a dead body in the bog. And that was final.

Joe and Gimpy set off up the hill to the bog together. Gimpy was quite talkative, most of it totally irrelevant to the job in hand, most of it shouted because the wind and driving rain made hearing that bit more difficult.