Called One Summer In Cork, this story was written by Christine Kannapel, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. You can catch up with previous episodes at www.echolive.ie. Here is he eighth episode in the series
IT felt like ages, before we heard Sarah’s voice coming down the hall. She appeared with a doctor in tow. I swear I had seen the doctor before.
“Hello,” he said, his voice low. “I am Doctor John Donovan. Please, call me John. Now, the warden will not let me examine you closely. I have to do my best from outside these bars.”
The doctor reached his hands through the bars and felt for Rory’s pulse.
“Open your mouth,” he said, speaking with an orderly tone. Something about that tone was very attractive.
“Alright, let me look at your eyes.”
He pushed Rory’s eyelids back with his thumbs.
“Alright, now cough.”
Rory blushed, but he coughed, and with a short nod from the doctor, all seemed to be well.
“Yes, it’s what I thought, Sarah. He has a mild case of grippe. Have you had any hallucinations?”
Rory was about to shake his head, but Sarah gave him a threatening look.
“Is that why you thought you had to visit the well? A hallucination urged you to?”
“That explains it. You really should have rested awhile longer and Sarah, you should have watched him. Fevers can rattle rationale.”
Sarah smiled. I noticed that he hadn’t called her by her last name. So far, no one seemed particularly formal about the custom of using surnames out of formality. However, it was odd that the doctor should use her first name. There was a sense of familiarity in the way they looked at one another and stood so close together. Perhaps he was the old family doctor. Though he seemed too young to be.
“Come, we must report our findings to the warden.”
Rory grabbed my hand as I turned to follow Sarah and John.
“I will return tonight, I promise,” I whispered.
“Please do,” he said, “really, like.”
The cellmate, who groaned at us earlier, did so again, annoyed.
“Yes, Warden, the boy is ill,” John said to the warden.
The warden eyed him, then Sarah, and then me.
“Yes. His fever seemed to cause some delusion. The fever however, has dropped significantly. The boy should be well enough to plead his case if he must.”
“Well, then I will send you with a note to be admitted to the mayor as to plead the lad’s case.”
The warden’s scratchy quill filled the room with its scrabbling. He folded the promised note and shut it close with hot wax and his seal.
We walked without exchanging a word until we were at the top of Grand Parade.
“Thank you,” I said, “thank you so much, doctor.”
“I haven’t succeeded yet, have I? But anything for my dear friend.”
The doctor’s face lit up as he said this, Sarah bowed her head.
“I will go to the mayor and see what it is that I can do from here. I have to return to the country this afternoon to tend on one of my patients, so I will send word by tonight on the outcome. I doubt that the mayor will have a ready answer. It will take time.”
There was a shadow of a smile when the doctor mentioned that he had a patient in the country.
“Thank-you again, doctor,” I said.
“Please, call me John,” he replied, bowing his head and taking his leave.
Sarah watched him as he disappeared into the crowd.
“I suppose all we have left to do is to sit and wait,” she said.
“You two like each other, don’t you?”
“Well, I suppose we do ‘like’ one another, we have much in common. There is nothing not to like about a man like him.”
“I mean, you have romantic interest in one another. That’s why you were out in the country? You were meeting with him during his rounds?”
“I could not say,” Sarah said curtly, her lips tightening together.
She clearly didn’t want to talk about what was so apparent.
“Well, I really hope Rory can be saved. That this all can be figured out.”
“The mayor is merciful and understanding. So remind me, why have ye come from America?”
Sarah’s question put me off guard. I had yet to come up with a story, or essentially, a lie. The best thing for me to do was to continue in letting everyone assume Rory and I were married.
“Because of Rory, but we are trying to go back home now.”
I wasn’t really lying anyway. We were trying to go back home.
“I know ye are from America, but there is truly something different about ye.”
The clock chimed from the hallway. It was eight in the evening and we still hadn’t heard a word from John. I wasn’t sure who was more nervous, Sarah or me.
Then, as if to answer our doubts, John arrived.
“Why have ye called for the doctor?” Sarah’s father cried, as John was admitted into the sitting room. “And this one of all the ones.”
“Supporter of the unrest that those United Irishmen are promoting. It’s 1798, god forbid. The sight of him is unpalatable. The time in France during your medical schooling has gone straight to the head, sir!”
There was my answer as to what year it was. I had almost completely forgotten in my concern about Rory. 1798. The French monarchy was disassembled and Europe was about to feel the throngs of Napoleon. The western hemisphere was revolutionising. From listening to Ben babble about his PhD research, I also knew that Britain, or the English Parliament, was clenching its fist.
“I have not come here to speak politics. My apologies for any offence,” John said.
“What news have ye?” Sarah said.
“The mayor will release the boy.”
My heart, which had been beating like the wings of a hummingbird, calmed.
“I must go tell him, now!” I said.
I stood to leave.
“We should all go together. It is too late for us to venture out alone. Well, besides you, Father.”
William Martin rolled his eyes and before he could say anything, the three of us rushed out the door.
The city was surprisingly quite. Candles flickered in the windows of the houses, providing lighting in the streets. Once, in our rush, I think I tripped over a rat, but nothing else stirred. Or maybe it was a foot of someone unseen.
“We are here to examine a prisoner,” John told a new set of guards from this morning.
“Which one?” one of the guards replied.
“A young man charged with making a pilgrimage and indecency.”
“Ye will be wanting to speak to the warden concerning that lad.”
A chill raced down my spine. That was not the response we wanted.
“We have to see him, now,” I said.
“Ye will have to come back tomorrow, sorry. The warden is retired.”
I pushed my way through with impatience.
“Come back, missus!” the guards shouted after me, but I was running.
The warden’s office was dark, there was no sign of him, and so I ran on, down the hallway to Rory’s cell.
“Rory!” I cried, the racket of the guards, Sarah, and John running after me competing with my voice.
But when I stopped, my hands gripping the bars of the cell, he wasn’t there.
“He’s gone, lass. Gone, disappeared,” Rory’s cellmate said.