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Frank E. Lee

Bak and Bo were treading carefully through puddles caused by rain when Sob shouted from the shelter of the Lucky Leprechaun.

Giggling they made their way to the door of the drinking den. Inside two bull necked shaven headed diamond studded brothers from Bermondsey were playing pool under a shamrock bedecked bodhran bearing the legend Up the RA.

“See that bodhran”, Bak mumbled. “Tis mine.” Bo leaned on his arm, her long blonde hair cascading across his shoulder. “Strands of gold,” he whispered. “Strands of gold.”

“Have you my money,” Sob snapped. “I have been very patient.”

“How can I raise money when my bodhran has been captured and held prisoner by two English invaders,” he replied, his eyes bulging at the sight of the shamrocks entwined around a clenched fist.

“You lost it in a card game,” Sob said quietly.

“I was cheated, just like their army; the English guys did not play fair.”

“I’m English,” Bo giggled.

“You were drunk.”

“They took advantage of me.”

“I want to take advantage of you again, “Bo whispered.

“Insatiable,” Bak mumbled into her golden hair.

“I want my money and if I don’t get it I’ll chop your ‘effin fingers off.”

“Ah Jeysus Sob, no need for that kind of talk in front of an English lady.”

“Your ‘effin fingers… and for the last time I’m warning you don’t call me


“OK Sob, sorry, Sean, Sean O’Brien, we Irish should stick together, especially in an awful Chinese place like this…”

The three of them stood on the porch, and watched the rain spread across the paddy fields towards the lake. Behind them the loud clack of snooker balls banging against the table forced Bak to tap his toes and drum an imaginary bodhran, to lose himself to the music inside his head.

“Brendan Anthony Kavanagh,” Bo whispered in his ear, nuzzling close, darting out her tongue.

“Bak and Bo, we go… on for ever.”

Sob shifted uneasily.

“You were gone long enough. Bo, B.O., body odour,” he said with a sudden laugh.

“How dare you,” she snapped. “Bo is short for Bow jew lay; my aristocratic father loved fine wine.”

“She is an English lady,” Bak said dreamily, tapping his fingers on the porch. “She is the mother of my future children, a diva, a visionary.”

Through the rain he could see flickering images of his past like a film, projected on the waves of water and he striding the set like a youthful Oliver Stone or an intense Quentin Tarantino directing, moving through the scene in total command and control.

“You are miles away,” Bo said gently, brushing his sun bleached hair curling into ringlets around his neck.

“I was watching my life past,” he said wistfully. He had tried – the gems in Cambodia, then the old women growing hash – a ready supply of income, but the Triads would chop your fingers off. He shivered at the memory; it was all money up front now, and even Sob was threatening to dance on his digits.

“It is my birthday tomorrow,” he said sadly. Bo laughed. “I know it is your birthday but we have no money, but I want to give you a present.”

He walked away but glancing behind he saw Bo close to his friend who seemed upset.

“What’s wrong with him,” he called out. “Coming down from a bad trip or what?”

“He is sobbing,” she called back.

“Sob is sobbing,” he declared laughing.

“He is overcome with home sickness,” she said gently. “He misses Ireland.”

“Sweet Jaysus I’ve heard it all now. The world is our home – we are not herded by mere territorial boundaries – we are citizens of the universe, soldiers of the solar system; the advance shock troops of a new world order.”

From afar she looked at him quizzically – it was only hours before that they had shared the magic mushrooms, he had rejoiced in their closeness, she leaning into him, making him feel like John Wayne in a Western or Robert De Niro in the Bronx.

”Sob is upset he wants to go home.” ”Don’t we all,” he drawled. “But where is home now – we are together so we are home. “I’m getting a beer and some sticky rice, you want some?

“I’ll stay with Sob,” she said.

Bak walked to the bar and from a distance watched her close to Sob.

“Blondie is getting very palsy with your mate,” one of the English brothers remarked. “Was all over ‘im where you were away – two of ‘em like bleeding Romeo and Juliet – never seen the like of it Paddy.”

He glanced over his shoulder and saw them move along the porch – he had noticed it – they seemed to be whispering and then pretending to ignore each other. He was no fool.

“Must be something going on,” he heard himself say.

“You say something Paddy?”

“Told you before Brit boy I’m not Paddy. Call me Bak like everyone else.”

“Bak and Bo, what a show, sheer madness,” the bartender laughed.

“Not as mad as a member of the British National party running an Irish pub in an awful part of China.”

“Won it at cards didn’t I?”

“Like you won my bodhran.”

“Fair and square Paddy.”

Off on the porch Bak could see Bo and Sob close, she leaning into him, the very same way she made him feel so special. From the first night he saw her dancing in the seedy bar, almost owned by the Triad gang leader, she was prized—a western, blonde, a dancer and he had rescued her – had taken her away and protected her from pimps and drug dealers.

“Your beauty, my brawn,” he had told her.” “A new dawn.”

Now she was cuddling up to Sob, gazing into his eyes, nodding her head as if he was conducting her, and he felt her slipping away, tired of him and his dreams – his birthday – 30 long years – time to move on –– it was time to call a halt – she would not abandon him – he would be first to leave this time – enter the set he said to himself and shout cut. Take two.

Sob and Bo re-entered the bar. Sob reached up and took down the bodhran as Bo advanced before him. Quiet on set he said mentally; this is a take. Bracing himself, he decided not to get angry – he would be Gary Cooper or Gregory Peck in those old black and white movies; a strong silent type. Couples break up every day --just don’t get angry – hold back – think – do not rush in - then he heard the soft sound of Sob playing the bodhran, the notes lingering and re-echoing on goat skin and he heard her voice, that perfect English cut glass accent and it danced with the rise and fall of the music.

“We have no money,” she said. “But I wanted you to have a special birthday present.” The beat of the bodhran increased and he recognised the melody. Her words merged with the softness of the bodhran as she said, “Sob has been teaching me your favourite song.” Tears came as she sang last night as I lay dreaming and he was back in Spancil Hill, in County Clare, in the wildness of the Burren, singing and laughing as the rain swept down from Tiger Leaping Gorge and the bodhran beat out with a primitive urgency, compelling him home and all that he had left behind.

Glad he had held his tongue, and for once had not rushed in without thinking, he was now on the verge of 30 and maybe, he considered, beginning to grow up at last. The words died away, many miles from Spancil Hill, and he embraced her and said, “Time to move on, time to go home.”

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