The Blue Bottle
By cheryl potts
Roberta Matthews sat in the work breakroom of the Stanford Insurance Company, drinking bad office coffee with her co-worker, Tina. During these last few months, she had often looked to Tina for advice, counseling, or simple reassurance that her world was not going to end. A year and a half ago, this friend had gone through a divorce while raising a teenage son and appeared to have come out the other side.
Roberta had doubts she would ever be able to accomplish the same.
“I feel so, I don’t know, Tina. Old? Overweight? Kind of like an old mop that was once useful, but now sits in a corner, gathering dust, and no one notices or cares.”
“I remember all of that,” said Tina, setting down her cup.
“My son was angry at me, blamed me for the divorce. I was trying to keep my head above water financially.
People, even friends, treated me like I was a different person. As half a couple, I was fine. Alone, they didn’t know how to talk to me, so most didn’t.”
“So, what did you do? You seem happy now, like you have a life.”
“It takes time. You have to be patient. It’s a big change. And as corny as it sounds, time does heal. You need to reinvent yourself. Once I began doing that, I was able to leave the past behind, growing into the person, it turned out, I’d always wanted to be. My divorce was the best thing that ever happened.”
“Best thing? God, Tina. You make it sound easy. I mean, I don’t think I can ever get the picture of that woman out of my mind. The one Hank left me for. She’s gorgeous, young. It haunts me. David idolizes his father, who doesn’t seem to have any time for his son right now, so the boy is angry and takes it out on me. I don’t know how—
“You know one of the first things I did, when I got my wits about me and stopped screaming at the walls, was get away. I went to Italy. Took Brian. He fought it. Kids, you know. But now he will tell you it was the best time he ever had. We stayed in a little villages in Tuscany, where my great grandparents had lived. You’ve got vacation time coming. Its summer so David’s not in school. Think about it, Roberta. It’s just a thought.”
“David, we’re going to Ireland. I’m taking you on a trip. I want you to see where your ancestors came from. I’m not sure who that was or where they were, but I’m going to look into it. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?”
“We’re going where? Why? For God’s sake Mom. Thought we were going to Santa Cruz for a vacation. Boardwalk and stuff. You said I could bring Pete with me. No way my friend is going to want to go to, where did you say, Iceland?”
“No, Ireland. We’re Irish you know.”
“We are? Oh, yea. Gramma said something about— Bad idea, Mom. I mean, we don’t know a soul in Ireland, and, think its old over there, I mean, they probably don’t even have Twitter there yet.. Rather stay home. You go. I’ll call dad and—”
“You dad is busy, and you’re coming with me. I’ll make you a promise. If you don’t have a good time, I ‘ll never ask you to go on another vacation. And that is the end of this conversation.”
Roberta began reading all she could about Ireland. Using the internet to search her family, she found her relatives had come from County Clare in the western part of the country, an area with many castles, villages and superstitions. There was a small village in the county known for its live music, a band called The Tulle Céili Band. They’d been playing music in many a pub since 1949. Feakle. That’s where they’d go. Feakle, Ireland, to explore their roots and where she could begin to reinvent herself.
“Fecal? Why would they name a town after poop?” asked David.
“No, David. The word translates to tooth. Don’t know why, but it will be fun to find out, don’t you think?”
They landed at Shannon Airport and managed to find where to catch the bus that would take them to Feakle. Roberta had decided after encouragement from her son to not rent a car from the traffic-infested airport and try to learn how to drive on wrong side of the road through the streets of Shannon. She would rent a car in Feakle and practice on the country roads.
The twenty-three-mile trip took them through towns and villages with strange sounding names. Hurlers Cross, Ballycasey Beg, Lemenaghborg, Fontane Bog, Clogher, and Dromore. Signs pointed the way to Kilbarron Castle, many a lodges and ruins. “We’ll take some side trips later,” assured Roberta as David began to show some interest in the surroundings.
“When you learn to drive. Right, Mom?”
Roberta managed to make a stop for groceries after picking up a rented car from the village, then drove to the cottage she had rented, just two miles away.
“Really glad you never had to make a right turn, Mom. My knuckles wouldn’t have made it.”
The cottage Roberta had rented was white and quaint, a red door and shutters, just like the picture on the brochure. And the lake with its dock really was just a short walk away.
“I need to rest, David, then we’ll drive into the village, have a look around. Why don’t you try out the lake. Looks cold, but that’s never stopped you.”
“I could be swimming at Santa Cruz, but, well, maybe I’ll find the Loch Ness Monster down in there.”
“David! That’s in Scot—”
“I know. Just kidding. Take your nap. See you later.”
Roberta woke from her nap to see her son perusing the cottage’s small refrigerator. The boy was always hungry.
“Mom, You awake? There are a bunch of books over there, by the fireplace. Did you see them? They’re all about the birds and trees in the area and the old history of Ireland. Goes back a really long time. You know the Vikings were here once. Wonder if our relatives are in any of these books. Might check it out tomorrow.”
“That would be interesting. Let me know when you find them. I’m hoping to find a nice tearoom in town. Oh, what’s this? I didn’t notice it before,” she said, viewing a tear-shaped, blue bottle setting on a small table near the door.
“That? It’s a bottle. I found it while I was swimming. Saw something shiny down in the water, so I dove down to check it out. Guess the light was coming through the water just right. Got my attention so I went down, only about eight-maybe nine feet. Thought you might like it. I washed it off. Looks like mud inside it. I decided to leave the cork in for now.”
Roberta stood back and admired the dark, blue glass bottle with its long neck. “Very pretty. Will look nice on our mantle at home, don’t you think? Or maybe on a windowsill, so the light can shine through. You ready for town?. I’m starved.”
They found a restaurant highly recommended in a travel book. After consuming big bowls of beef stew and a basket of warm, soda bread served with freshly churned butter, they returned to the cottage. It had been a very long day and curling up under a down comforter in an Irish cottage sounded more appealing to both than finding a pub and dancing the night away, as was the Irish custom.
The next morning, Roberta announced over their toast and orange juice that she wanted to go into town, shopping, hoping to find an antiques store and perhaps that nice tearoom she’d imagined.
“Think I’d like to stay here. Last night, the waiter mentioned there were fish in the lake and I saw some poles on the back porch. Like to give it a try. You have a good time.”
Roberta enjoyed the solitary drive into town. The winding road and trees. The open space. She rolled down her window, something she never did back home. The breeze brushed her face and messed up her hair, and she didn’t care. She realized Tina was right. She needed this vacation.
She parked on the edge of the village and walked several blocks stopping in shops, picking up a gift for Tina, and buying some handmade goat-milk soap for herself. Ah, there it is, she thought, glancing across the street. Mrs. O’Connor’s Village Tea Room. “I knew I’d find one,” she said out loud, as she felt quite pleased with herself.
The jingle of the bell above the door, the small tables with pastel table clothes and the abundance of the pink and rose decor was exactly what Roberta was expecting. And, of course, there was the aroma of newly baked pastries. The familiar smell of coffee was a surprise. She laughed to herself as she sat. Of course, they would have coffee for tourists.
A matronly appearing woman, who could have passed for Angela Lansbury’s twin, welcomed her, introducing herself as Mrs. O’Connor, proprietor.
Roberta explained she was an American tourist and had been looking forward to enjoying a real Irish tearoom. She ordered a cup of tea and added a scone upon the recommendation of her hostess.
A few other patrons sat at tables, all woman, a few with young children.
Roberta noticed a shelf along a back wall holding glass bottles. Some appeared to be old medicine bottles, some had probably held spirits, a few were simply pretty, perhaps having no practical function what’s so ever.
“I see you have a bottle collection. My son just found a lovely bottle in the lake near our rental.”
“In the lake?” Mrs. O’Conner asked, setting down a delicate teacup, saucer, a matching plate filled with scones, and small bowls of jam and butter.
“Yes. It has quite a unique shape, not like any I see on your shelf. I believe it’s old, but not a chip or crack to be seen.”
“Could it be, I mean is it possibly, um, would it perhaps be blue? “asked Mrs. O’Conner, sounding hesitant to ask the question.
“Why yes. How did you know?”
“He, your son, found it in the lake? Not by the lake or—but in the lake?”
“Yes. He said it was buried in the mud and he—you see he likes to dive down and find things. Has great lungs,—swims on a team. He said he had to dig it out. The light was just—why do you ask?”
“Wait. Don’t say another word. Ladies, all of you,” she called to her customers. “Come over here. You must hear this. Angelina. Sit here,” she instructed a young woman holding an infant in her arms. “All of you, bring your chairs and sit. I need to get my husband. He’s finishing up the baking in the kitchen. Don’t speak till I return.”
The women stared at each other, asking questions with their eyes, as they congregated around Roberta’s table. Roberta nodded, smiled to the women as they arranged their chairs, having no idea what to say to them.
“Has Mrs. O’Conner gone batty?” whispered one of the older patrons. “She’s always so levelheaded, sensible. What’s gotten into—”
At that moment, the woman returned, a quite rotund man with graying red hair, followed her. He wore a flour-covered apron and wiped his forehead of sweat as he entered the room. “Maggie, I don’t have time to listen to the lady’s gossip. The buns are needing kneading and the—”
“Hush, Finn. Just listen. Believe you won’t be sorry, and the buns can wait.”
Mrs. O’Connor sat and looked at each person now crowded around the small table with a one-pointed intensity. “What you are going to hear may change your lives. You’ll be the first to hear of this, what Mrs. Roberta Matthews—an American tourist, she is–has told me. Now, it might mean nothing, but— Go ahead, Mrs. Matthews, tell the ladies the story exactly what you’ve told me. Leave nothing out, if you please.”
Roberta repeated what Mrs. O’Connor was calling a story.
“Oh, dear God,” said a woman dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt stating, “ I (heart) NY “. “You don’t think—”
“Could it be, I mean, the lake and it’s blue and deep in the mud and—”
“Mercy! What if it’s the—”
“It’s just a bottle,” said Roberta, interrupting the uproar. “People find old bottles all the time. I don’t understand.”
“Tell her, Mrs. O’Connor. Tell her the story.”
“You see, Mrs. Matthews, around 1820 or so, a young woman, Biddy Early her name, and her husband moved from Kilbarron to here. She grew herbs and knew how to heal, but so did many around these parts. The couple lived in a little cottage not far from where we sit. Her husband died and she remarried. The two had a son and that husband died. They do that, you know?”
“I suppose. Go on.”
“Because she was a widow trying to raise a boy, she was quite destitute and was about to lose her home, for the little she got from the healing wasn’t enough, you see. She was to be evicted. A group of policemen came to her house to throw her and the boy out onto the road. Just as the men approached the house, she heard her dead husband’s voice as clear as you’re hearing me now, say ‘Stay where you are’.”
“That’s what she heard, she did,” agreed Angelina as she patted her infant’s back. The others nodded and murmured their assent.
“At that, the men froze in place, couldn’t move a muscle, blink an eye, say a word or move a foot from the road. There they stayed for over two hours, they did. Then Biddy Early told them to go home. That broke the spell, the men left and never came back. Well, sadly her son, Tom was his name, died as a young man. Then one day it is said he appeared to his mother and gave her a blue bottle, thought to be a gift from the fairies, it was. He told her that it would make a living for her.”
Fairies and spells. That’s one reason I came here, thought Roberta, wishing her son was here to hear this.
“All the woman needed to do was look into the bottle and she’d see the future. She came to know how to cure whatever ailed a person, as long as they followed her directions completely, exactly, not a breath of deviation.”
“Not an inch,” added a quite thin woman wearing horned-rimmed glasses who had brought her teacup with her to the table.
“Thank you, Louise. May I continue?”
“Aye. Sorry. I just so love this story.”
“Anyway, the farmers brought their precious animals to her when they were sick. They’d go away well. The heartsick brought their stories, and she knew the perfect words to console them. People would come from far away, and Biddy Early would know they were on their way, see ‘em in the bottle, she would, then surprise ‘em by meeting ‘em on the path.”
“The Church, Mrs. O’Connor. Tell her about the Church.”
“Aye, Martha, I was getting to that part, if you don’t mind. The Bishop forbade all of Feakle, all of County Clare, to go to the woman. Claimed she was an evil witch. The people were to go to the church for healing. True, but clergy were asking for money. But Biddy Early never took so much as a farthing. She would take food and, I heard, lots of whiskey, jugs of poteen, but never coins. The Bishop never knew, but many a priest found his way to her cottage. in secret, of course, for their own healing. The Bishop would have had a tantrum if he’d known.”
“So, you, all of you all believe this, this story about healing and a bottle and a woman who—”
“Oh, aye.” The ladies all began talking at one, “My grandfather. He—”
“There was the story of farmer and his pigs and—”
“Mrs. O’Flaherty tells—”
“Okay. Thank you,” said Roberta. “It sounds as if the stories are many, but, well, anyone could have thrown that bottle into the lake. I’m sure David could find more bottles if he—”
“You need to go there, Mrs. Matthews,” said Finn O’Connor standing behind the seated ladies.
“Go? Go where?”
“Aye. You do,” said Mrs. O’Conner, nodding. “To Biddy Early’s cottage. Go alone. Make your way through the brambles and go inside. Listen. Just listen. Here is a map,” she said as she drew some pencil lines upon a napkin. “’Tis most dilapidated, but we would never tear it down. You park here and walk up a little hill. It’s hidden from the road, but you’ll find it. All who have ever sought it, have found it.”
She easily found the cottage nestled within a green overgrowth of tangled foliage seeming to protect it, holding it in place, hiding it from harm.
Roberta had not been inside a church for a very long time. But in this moment, she felt as if she was about to enter a sacred place.
Just as Roberta stepped over a limb blocking the doorway to the Early cottage, she heard the sound of a flute. At least that is what she thought she heard. She was sure there would be no one playing a flute out here. Probably just the wind, but found herself looking around, just in case. What is that sparkling amongst the leaves? She looked more closely and saw nothing. The tale of this woman certainly has my imagination working overtime, she thought as she walked through the open doorway.
One bare room, white walls, dirt floor, a few small windows covered with spider webs. What’s to see here, she wondered.
“Sit down and I will tell you.”
Roberta froze. A woman’s voice, but no one was in the room.
“Please, sit down.”
Sit? There’s nowhere to sit, she thought.
Behind her was a small wooden bench that Roberta knew had not been there a moment ago.
“You have come to inquire of the bottle. So many have looked for it and it has been recovered in the past, but I have always made sure it was thrown back, and the memory of finding it erased by all You see, Roberta Matthews, the powers within it are too great and would be terribly misused today. The world is sadly different now. Such greed. Back when many more fairies played here, people knew it for the healin’. Oh, yes there are fairies here. You heard and saw them as you were coming in. They take care of my cottage, the garden.
Roberta wished to speak, to inquire, to—
“You’re wondering if the bottle is mine and if you should throw it back into the lake or keep it. That’s why you came. ‘Tis mine. And if you keep it, know you could become quite famous, at least around these parts as the owner of Biddy’s Magic Blue Bottle. You would be offered more money than you can imagine. You would have hundreds knocking at your door just wanting a look at it wishin’ for a healing. Some would offer to take it off your hands. Museums all over Ireland would be callin’ you. And you, Roberta Matthews, would be miserable. The pain in your heart you’ve been feeling over the transgressions of your husband is nothing compared to the anguish and agony you would feel. Your son? He would die here on Ireland’s soil. And the village? There would be destruction and sorrow, such despair and suffering beyond belief. But, if you don’t keep it, the healing of your heart will give you the freedom of real happiness. You shall have a good future, full of love, peace, gentleness. All good things. And your son will continue to grow as he is meant to, someday becoming a fine, contributin’ adult, respected by many throughout the world, You have a choice to make. ‘Tis Important for you know that for the healing to take place, you need to do exactly as I say or the healin’ won’t work. Roberta, are you listenin’?
Roberta, still astounded, could only nod.
“Good. At 7:27, on this very night, when the moon is exactly full, David is to throw the bottle back into the lake. Tell him to throw it as far out as he can. And in that very moment, when you hear the bottle splash down in the water, know that not one villager not your son, not even you, will remember seeing a blue bottle. It will, once again, be as it was. People wondering if the bottle was still with the fairies, hidden by magic or perhaps its where the fish enjoy its beauty. Truth be known, Mrs. Matthews, I had the priest who gave me my last rights take the bottle and throw ii in the lake.”
As Roberta drove from the cottage she felt as she were in a dream-like state, or was this what some called enlightenment, nirvana? She had a sense of floating but was acutely aware of her surroundings. The trees, the greenest she’d ever seen; the sky with its clouds, lovingly and protectively covering the earth; the air scented with heather; the birds, dancing in the air just for her entertainment.
Could this be a spell of a witch? she wondered. All we need to do is throw the bottle back and we’ll will be happy. I think only a magic witch could make such an offer, a very good magic witch. Oh, my. Am I believing what I am saying?
As Roberta drove up and saw her son, she could feel the magic begin to fade as he informed her he’d caught a trout from the dock, but threw it back.
“Didn’t think you’d be wanting to clean and cook fish on your vacation. Made me some money today, so I thought I would treat you to dinner at Peppers. Hear their soup is real good and they’ve got live music. The kind you like. I sold that old blue bottle to a guy. He—”
“Sold! The bottle? To who?” The euphoria was completely gone now.
“Some guy named Jack He said he’d heard about in town I think he has a shop selling—
“Oh, for God’s sake, David. We got to get it back. Return his money. Offer bit more if needed.”
“Mom. It was just bottle. Pretty and probably old but— I didn’t know you liked it so much. I’ll find you another one tomorrow.”
She looked at her son. He will die on Irish soil. Did she believe this? Were the words she’d heard simply her imagination or has she spent the afternoon with Biddy Early?
“Mom. What’s wrong?”
“Come on. The village is small. We need to find the man, this Jack. We need to get the bottle. I’ll explain as we go.”
Roberta drove at speeds she did not know she was capable of, often forgetting that one’s lane was on the left side of the road in Ireland.
“Jesus, Mom. Slow down. It’s just a muddy ol’ bottle –not worth getting us killed over.”
As best she could while managing curves, blind corners and hay wagons, she told David what Biddy Early had told her—all except that he would die on Irish soil if the bottle was not returned exactly as directed.
“And you believed her, um it, a or whatever you think you saw, er heard? I mean, Mom, these are superstitious people, living in the last century You can’t—”
“You weren’t with me this morning in the tearoom to hear the stories of Biddy Early. So many stories, some must have held a bit of truth. A Mrs. O’Connor, a very down-to-earth woman, sent me to the cottage and I heard a voice, I know—oh shit, what are those damn sheep doing in the middle of the road?”
“There. Over there, Mom. The shop with the Irish flag. I think that where Jack—oh, jeez. Look at the crowd. My god. Everybody in town, all one hundred of them must be trying to get in to see it. Or whatever one does with a magic bottle. Aladdin never got this much attention.”
They parked across the street and wasted no time approaching the tightly packed crowd, bodies, pushing, shoving.
“Let me in. ‘Tis my turn.”
“Been waitin’ for over an hour.”
“I need to touch the bottle. My baby. He’s . . .”
”Let the old folk in. We need the blessin’ of Biddy Early.”
Roberta and David stood, unnoticed behind the throng. “Dear God. What have we done? Come on, David. We need to get inside.”
“Excuse me. I need to get through. Pardon me, if you please.”
“’Tis the American. The boy who found it. Let him through. Make way for the American.”
The crowd quieted and parted, frustration became reverence. The people’s nods resembled bows as they allowed the two to pass through and into the small shop.
The crowd was even more dense than outside. herewere shelves with colored boxes and cans. Barrels holding apples and nails. Racks with dresses and shirts hung. A man stood behind a counter, beaming. On the counter stood the blue bottle which had been placed within a glass case.
“. . . . so now that I have the precious treasure in my–David,” the man said gleefully, spying the new arrival. “This, ladies and gentlemen, is the fine American lad who sold me this gem for a more than a fair price. You have no idea what a gift you have bestowed upon our fine village. The Magic Blue Bottle, lost for over one hundred years, sought by many, but now sitting in my shop for the world to–
“Sir, sir,” interrupted Roberta. “Um, I am David’s mother and—”
“Oh, fine lady. Give this woman room. David’s very own sweet mother, here in my fine shop to celebrate our—”
“You don’t understand. You see, I spoke with Biddy, um, I mean she spoke with me and—”
A murmur arose from the crowd. “She spoke with Biddy Early?”
“I’ve never heard of her speaking to . . .”
“Yes. I went where I was directed, to her cottage. I entered and I heard her voice as clear as you are hearing me now.”
“What did she say?”
“Tell us. Her words.”
“Yes. We want to hear.”
“She told me the bottle has to be returned to the lake or I will experience great sadness and all in this village will be met with great misfortune. Grieving and heartbreak beyond destruction. And—and David, I’m—I am sorry, but she said you, you would die on Irish soil.”
“Mom. die? You didn’t—”
Turning her attention quickly back to the crowd she said, “Tonight, at 7:27, exactly when the moon is full, my son is to throw the bottle back, as far into the lake as he is able.”
“No. She’s lyin’,” came a voice from the back of the room.
“She wants to keep for herself, I say,” said another.
“My husband bought the bottle fair and square,” said a pretty, young woman, looking familiar to Roberta, “and it is his to do with as he sees fit. It that not right, Jack?”
“Aye. ’Tis mine. ’Tis ours, Angelina. Will bring us prosperity beyond our dreams.”
A woman came forward from the crowd. “If I may speak.”
“Mrs. O’Connor. Oh, I am so happy to see you. Please, tell these people—tell them. David, this is the woman that directed me to go to the cottage, to ask if the bottle were hers, Biddy Early’s. She knows. You know, Mrs. O’Conner. You know the truth. Tell them, please. It needs to be returned—”
“Aye. My grandfather knew the witch Biddy well and I know he only dealt in truth. He told me many a time of the Godly woman and her magical deeds. He knew that the woman’s words were always to be taken seriously, never doubted or misconstrued But if they were, dire if not fatal circumstances would befall the very one seeking help. I believe the American is telling the truth. I believe she heard the words of Biddy Early and we best, if we know what is good for us, must make sure the bottle is returned exactly as directed.”
The room became silent.
“I wish to buy back the bottle, giving you four times what you gave me.” The voice of David was strong, sounding self-assured. He stood tall next to his mother. “The bottle belongs in the lake. Not on your counter for gawkers to see or you, Jack, to make a fortune taking money from the poor, hoping for a healing or prediction. If my mother’s words are true and the bottle remains, your town and all in it will be devastated, and, apparently, I , I will die.” His voice grew shaky. “I’m only sixteen. I’m too young to—Is it worth taking a chance that the words are perhaps not true?” He looked around at the crowd. He saw looks of confusion, nods, the shaking of heads. He heard murmuring and grumbling. They were not in one accord.
“The boy is right,” said Mrs. O’Connor. “Are we a greedy bunch or do we believe in the loving blessings of our ancestors, those who walked these very streets before us? Some still see the fairies dance out on the hills. I have. Have you, Maggie? And you, Mrs. O’Toole? You said you’ve seen them.”
“Aye, I see them,” said a small woman, of great age, holding a basket of brightly colored flowers.
“The magic of this place is still here. Oh, there are those that forget and some don’t believe in it, but most know of it. Give back the bottle, Jack, and David, throw it as far as your strong arm can manage, exactly when you were told. There is nothing more to say.”
As Mrs. O’Conner scanned the room looking at each person in the eye, as if to make sure each had clearly heard her. “Now, Jack, provide some towels for David to wrap the bottle in to keep it safe, and the two of you leave, with the bottle in hand and return to the lake. If anyone dare to interfere, know the wrath that will be bestowed upon us will be on yhose shoulders.”
Roberta and David backed out of the shop, nodding to the crowd. A few reverently reached out to touch the toweled, blue relic as they passed. Roberta found herself holding her breath, for she had no idea what might happen. Was the authority of the tea shop-woman enough to keep the crowd from grabbing the bottle? Running away with it? Though she was not one to pray, she found herself asking God that enough had believed her story.
They reached their car with no incident, and Roberta wondered if David’s heart was beating a fast as hers.
She drove back to their cottage, much more slowly and cautiously than when they came, the bottle carefully cradled in David’s lap.
“Thanks mom, for giving Jack the hundred dollars, I mean euros. I had about a dollar in my pocket. Brave talk and no money.”
“I’m proud of you. You spoke well. That crowd could have gone berserk. Were it not for what you and Mrs. O’Conner said, who knows where’d we be.”
“You were brave too, speaking up like that. You hardly mentioned what would happen to you. Happiness or heartbreak. Big difference there.”
“They had to hear about their own village. They don’t know me. My happiness is none of their concern. I’m starving. We have time to eat a bite before the moon is full. There’s some sandwich meat in the fridge along with a Guinness or two. Think you’ve earned one.”
“A Guinness? Me?”
“One. When we’re through, we can wander down to the lake. Watch the moon and wait for 7:27. You will return to the lake what belongs to the lake and I will return to my bed after a most trying day.”
“No one back home is going to believe this,” said David, taking a bite of his sandwich. Told them I knew Ireland would be boring. Might be easier if I let them believe it.”
Just as Roberta was finishing the last drop of the dark ale, she heard a noise outside the cottage. “Did you hear that David? Sounds like voices, men’s voices.”
The sounds became louder.
David went to the window.
“Jesus. There’s a crowd out there. Twenty, maybe thirty of ‘em. A crowd, looking like a mob. They’re coming this way.”
“Oh, no. The bottle. They’re after the bottle. I thought they’d . . . I should have known. We can’t hide it. They look till they find it.”
The sound of the voices grew. Hollering, drunken shouts. Roberta knew they would stop at nothing.
“It’s ours. Give us our bottle.”
“Give it up, Americans. Hand it over.”
“Come on, fellas. Let’s break down the door.”
“Oh, dear God,” said Roberta as she reached for the blue glass in a feeble attempt to save it, save herself, save the village, save her son.
The moment her hand touched the blue glass, words came from her mouth. “Stay where you are.” Words, not spoken by her, but coming from somewhere deep within her. The words were strong, forceful, full of authority. And in that exact moment, the crowd outside became silent. The yelling, the shouting, the raving simply stopped.
“David, “she whispered. “Look outside, through the window. Don’t open the door. Be careful.”
“Mom. come look. They’re like statues. Stopped, like they can’t move. All of ‘em. Frozen in place. Fists raised and rifles in their hands.”
Roberta started to chuckle. “Just how Biddy Early was saved from being evicted. Mrs. O’Connor told me. ‘Stay where you are.’ Those were the words of her husband, and the policemen turned to statues for two whole hours, stuck on the road. They couldn’t move till she released them. Then they went away and never came back, and Biddy Early kept her house till she died. Come on. We have a date with a full moon and lake. You carry the bottle.”
“What about that crowd, those men? Will they ever melt, or break, or whatever people do when they’ve been spelled. And what if they can move and—”
“Don’t worry. I am pretty sure I know what to do, how to release them, and they’ll not have a clue as to why they are standing there with fists in the air and holding guns. I could wait till morning, but I’ll let them go as soon as we return from the lake.”
They walked to the dock and stood, David gazing into the water, watching the moonlight play with the lapping waves, holding the bottle as if it were a new born infant.
Roberta stared at the time on her phone. “Are you ready, David? You have three minutes.”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Two minutes. You know what to do, don’t you?”
“Throw with all my might and hope I don’t miss.”
“Miss? How could you— Stop being funny and just throw. Five seconds.”
“He raised the bottle, ready to hurl the blue glass back to where he’d found it.
“Is that music? Sounds like a flute.”
“It is a flute. Don’t worry. It’s just the fairies. Three, two, throw!”
With all his might, he heaved the bottle high into the air. As if being carried by moonlight, the arching bottle gleamed brighter than any falling star they’d ever seen.
The sound of the flute grew louder and then they heard the awaited splash.
Roberta and David strolled back to the cottage enjoying the brightness of the full moon. When they came near their house, they were astounded to make out what appeared to be a large group of men standing in the shadows.
“Are those guns in their hands?” whispered David, peering into the throng.
“I didn’t know the Irish like to hunt at night,” said Roberta. “It is cold out here. They should go home.”
At those words, the men turn and walk away, silently, as if hunting for the night was over.
The next day Roberta and David drove into to town to have breakfast. “Drop me off here at Jack’s. Might get me some bait and a souvenir for Pete while I’m at it. You go ahead. Get us a table. I’ll be there in a few.”
“Good morning, “said the man behind the counter. And what may I help you with this morning?”
“Um, well, I’m just looking for now. Maybe a souvenir or two to take home.”
“Home? So, where you from? Is that an American accent I hear? Welcome to Feakle and to my shop My name is Jack. And yours?” The man offered his hand.
“David. David Matthews. Yes, I’m from America, vacationing here with my mom. We’re renting a cottage out by the lake.”
“Not much happens around here The lake is nice. Full of perch and bream. I’ve got some good bait here for you if you’re needing it.” Jack wandered to his window and looked out. “It really is a pretty day today. Sun shining. Rare around these parts. If it’s not rainy, it’s foggy. A sunny morning makes me happy just to be alive.”
“Yes, Jack. For some reason, I’m really happy to be alive this morning. Must be the sunshine.”
David and Roberta went to Peppers that night for dinner and to listen to the Tulle Céili Band. David danced with many an Irish lass, young, old and some in between, and though his feet were hurting, he didn’t stop his dancing or smiling till it was closing time.
Among Pepper’s patrons was an American journalist from San Francisco, widowed about three years. The bar keeper, knowing, as Irish barkeepers were meant to do, that he and Roberta were both from California, introduced them. The two talked, drank, laughed, danced, and even tried to join in the singing of a tune now and then. He told her he would call her when he returned home, and she was quite sure he would.
A year later, the two married.
Fifteen years later, David, became a successful physician and eventually, the primary developer of an actual cure for a fatal respiratory disease. He would be greatly loved and admired throughout the world.
In the small village of Feakle, the fairies continue to dance on the hills, tend the tangled woods around the witch’s cottage and show themselves to anyone who dare believe.
They had heard Biddy Early talk to the lady in her house, and later, when the moon was full, were the only ones to remember watching yet another throw the bottle into the lake, laughing and cheering as they heard the splash. They did not know if this was the tenth or perhaps the hundredth time the bottle had been found as fairies are not good at counting. But, as always, they were thankful to Biddy Early for allowing the bottle to be discovered and for letting them feast their eyes upon it one more time.
Biddy Early felt it was the least she could do to repay them for keeping her garden exactly the way she wished it to be.
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