MICK emptied the bottle bin and put the cap back on the Guinness keg. He was getting too old for this shebang now. Lately, he found himself getting breathless a lot. He straightened up and flexed his shoulders.
“Mick, what in the name of God are you at? Have you pain?” Rose enquired, arriving in the cold room, laden down with trays of freshly prepared beef burgers.
“I’m grand, Rose, Jesus can a man not stretch in peace anymore?” Mick replied.
“I’ve something to say to you now and I know that you won’t like it,” Rose announced.
“Go on so, shure when did that ever stop you?” Mick asked with a smirk.
“I’ve seen a decline in you this past month or so. What you need is a thorough M.O.T. in the hospital.
"What do you think you pay all that private health insurance for? I’m telling you, if it were me, I’d be taking myself up to the city every year and getting the once-over.”
“I’m fine, Rose, just tired.”
“Would you do me a favour and call up to Dr Murphy, get yourself checked out? If you go now I’ll hold the fort. Go on, I’ve half an hour ’til I finish.”
Mick knew that she was right, he sometimes thought that Rose could read his mind.
He strolled down the village to the nearby surgery. The waiting room was empty and a minute or so later, Jack opened his door and beckoned him in.
“How are you, Mick?”
“Not too bad, thanks Jack, I hope I’m not wasting your time. I’m here under Rose’s strict orders.”
“Oh well, there’s a lady I think I’d be inclined to obey myself,” Jack said laughing good-naturedly.
Mick explained how he was feeling, and as he spoke, Jack put a cuff on his arm and checked his blood pressure. Taking out his stethoscope, he gestured to Mick to raise his shirt. He listened intently to his breathing, instructing him to take deep breaths a number of times.
“Well, everything seems fine, but just to put your mind at ease, I will write a referral letter to Dr O’Sullivan, a cardiologist in Cork. He’ll send you an appointment as soon as he has one, but I’m not unduly concerned.”
“Ah that’s great, thanks Jack.”
“A holiday someplace warm mightn’t be a bad idea either Mick, especially after the winter we’ve put down.”
Mick paid Jack and as he departed the surgery, he came face to face with Maura O’Connor. He stepped back, holding the door open for her. To his surprise, she stopped.
“Mick,” she said with a clear and strong resonance, “ I need to talk to you. If you have a half hour to spare in the coming week, I’d be very grateful if you could call. Of course, I understand if you don’t want to.”
“No Maura, that’s fine, “ Mick answered taken slightly aback, “I’m around tomorrow afternoon, if that suits you?”
“Actually, I’m at the hospital every day, but how about next Wednesday evening, around 7?”
“That’s grand. See you then,” Mick said, turning to leave.
“Oh, and Mick, I’m very sorry,” Maura added, before rushing into the surgery.
Rose pounded the GAA pitch, her resolve increasing with each lap. She was determined to get into shape before the summer months.
Oh no, it couldn’t be.
“Wait up and I’ll join you.”
Mags Houlihan appeared by her side, trotting along without any difficulty. Rose increased her pace.
“I saw Mick coming out of Dr Murphy’s this evening, shook enough looking. Is he okay?”
“Oh gosh, I’ve no idea, I don’t ask him anything about his personal life,” Rose said, cutting her off abruptly.
“Between yourself and myself, that poor creature is probably lonely. Shur, he’s been denied a family life, and hot dinners on the table, all because that femme fatale, Hannah O’Connor - is that what you’d call her - dug her claws in once upon a time and never released them. And, Maura herself would agree with me. Haven’t I heard the spats many a time and I up there. ‘Tis a very selfish thing she did, to not want a fella but deny anyone else a cut off him either, especially a good-looking man like Mick. I hope the two sisters have put their differences aside now for the sake of Hannah’s recovery. Stress like that wouldn’t be good for anyone, and believe me there’s no love lost between the two of them.”
“Ah stop, Mags, where is this coming from? You can’t say any of that for certain,” Rose interjected.
“Indeed I bloody well can,” swore Mags, “I’m not one for gossip, but believe me when I say, there’s a lot more to those two than meets the eye.”
The remainder of the walk was taken in silence, each woman lost in thought. Now that Mags cast her sharp wit over the exchanges she’d heard in No.1, the more her suspicion grew, that Maura may not be as innocent a bystander to the accident that beset her sister two weeks previously.