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November 30, 2016 / catherinebwrites




The Burning Bush 001.jpg


(Illustration and inspiration :  Marc O’Connor)

      There he is, over in the corner.   Near the fire.   Best seat in the house.   Case on the table.  Hat off.  Overcoat open.   Billy the Bar brings him a pint of plain and a ball of malt.

They call him The Burning Bush because Billy saw him one time in Beggar’s Bush.   As for Burning… well…some people  swear that they’ve seen little fires all over his coat, like flaming polka dots.   And rumour has it that, once you see the polka dot flames, you go off and do something surprising.

I suspect he likes being around literary types because this place is heavin’ with them.   One or two heavy hitters and their wannabee satellites.   After work, office workers and a few Civil Servants, like me, come in.   I asked him once if he came here for the poets.   He just smiled.

I come here because it’s handy to work… and o.k., I admit it, writing’s a bit of a hobby.   I thought that he’d make a great character for a story , that’s why, when Billy the Bar is run off his feet, I take The Burning Bush his next drink.   It’s a chance to get him talking.   Not that it’s worked.   The most I ever got out of him was that his favourite poem is Wandering Aengus.   I went into a hazel wood because a fire was in my head…   You know the one.

“It was me inspired Yeats to write that.” Sez he.

Yeah right!   The Burning Bush is old, but he’s not that old.

He seldom opens that case of his but, the occasional time that he does, people say that a silvery light shines out.   And that the light is so bright that it’s blinding and you can’t see him or what he’s doing.     I had serious doubts about that, till I saw it myself.

The case is a battered, old-fashioned thing with clickety clasps and celtic-y stuff painted on the lid.  Mostly he leaves it, untouched, on the table.   Then one evening, when the place was hoppin’, I brought The Burning Bush his drink.

“Put it out of my way.” He said and slid the case in front of him.   He rested his hands on the lid and winked at me.   He clicked the clasps and opened the lid a crack.   Silvery light flooded out and he seemed to melt into something wafty, floating above me, like a sprite… And then it was gone.   I blinked and there he was again, hands on the open lid of the case and the silvery light making him look young.

I craned my neck to see what was inside the case and I couldn’t believe my eyes.   It was filled with silvery fish!   Alive and swimming in silvery water!    I must be seriously scuttered, I thought.  Then his coat sprouted polka dot flames!

Next thing he plunges his hand into the water, grabs hold of a fish and launches it into the crowd at the bar.   The fish flapped about a  couple of times but no one at the bar seemed to notice.   Suddenly there she was.   Maura Connor.   I always notice when Maura Connor comes in yet, this time, I’d missed her.  A line from Wandering Aengus sounded clear in my head,

It had become a glimmering girl

Mind you, Maura Connor was neither glimmering nor a girl.   She was fine figure of a woman with a billowy bosom that I longed to bury my face in.   I’ve had a bit of a thing for her since the first time we met in Áras Mhic Dhiarmada.     I think about asking her out all the time but so far I’ve not had the nerve.   I reckon I make up in longing what I lack in courage.

But somehow, this time, I found myself going over and tapping her on the shoulder while the old timid me watched in surprise.

“Fancy a drink?”  Says this new me.

“I thought you’d never ask!” She laughs. “I’ll have a G. and T.”

I order the drinks and bring them back.

“So…”  She says as we clink glasses. “When are you going to ask me out?”

“This very minute.” I reply.



“Well, why don’t we finish these drinks and head back to mine.”

Morning-afters are normally a fuzzy confusion but, on this morning after, I was bright as a bee.  I remembered everything from the previous night as clear and as the hot, sea-side Sundays from childhood.

I didn’t see much of The Burning Bush after that.   It was all me and Maura.  Me and Maura eating together.   Me and Maura cuddled up on her sofa.   Me and Maura laughing our legs off at some silly joke.   Me and Maura dancing till three in the morning.   For my birthday she brought me to Prague.  Berlin for Christmas.   Madrid for Easter.   Boys oh boys, this was the life.  I moved in.

She had an e-business on the side which was how she could afford the trips. Nothing big but it turned a nice profit, enough for life’s little luxuries as she said herself.    She sold ladies fashions, discontinued lines, which she bought from several wholesalers.

I helped by answering e-mails, taking orders and, packing them for delivery.  She had the whole thing streamlined.  She and Shauna, her friend since primary school, choose the items.   Maura priced and promoted.   Shauna collected the goods and delivered.   And now,  with me helping, we could move more stuff, profits went up and I got my cut.

Me and Maura started talking about settling down and buying a house.   I met her family, they loved me.   She met mine, they loved her.   I brought her to Paris and proposed at the top of the Eifel Tower.   How’s that for style!   We set a date for the wedding.

I started taking an interest in fashion – though I wouldn’t be caught saying that out loud!   But it made sense.   I’d browse fashion sites to get my eye in and for the fashion lingo.   It came in handy when I had to answer a query.   Then, a month before the wedding, Shauna arrived with her breath in her fist and a bundle of stuff she’d collected.   He eyes were lit up, her cheeks flushed.

“Jesus Maura,” she said. “that was a close call I…”

“With the car?” Maura interrupted.

“The car?   Oh yeah, yeah, right, with the car.”

It clearly was nothing to do with the car.

Later,when I was packing a gold brocade evening suit, Original Price 1,899 Euro, Our Price 750 Euro.    It looked vaguely familiar.   Then I noticed a tag.   Brown Thomas.    But we never bought from Brown Thomas.  I checked the label.  It was Versace.  I Googled, Versace Prêt-a-Porter and there it was, part of this season’s collection.  So definitely NOT a discontinued line.

“I think Shauna might be shop-lifting.” I told Maura after dinner.

Maura drained the last of her wine.

“Not shop-lifting, love… liberating.”


“Have you any idea what kind of outrageous mark up there is on those outfits?”


Well. they  can afford to reduce them by 50, or even 70, percent in the January sales.   They’re ripping us off.    We’re just restoring the equilibrium.”

“You could end up in prison.”

“So could you.”

I didn’t know what to think.   How could the woman I love be a crook?     What should I do?   Send an anonymous letter to Brown Thomas?  Tip off the Guards?   Call off the wedding?   I churned it around in my mind for a week and finally decided to have a word with The Burning Bush.   He’d got me into this, maybe he’d have an out.

There he was, as usual, near the fire.   Case on the table.  Hat off.  Overcoat open.  A pint of plain and a ball of malt in front of him.   I sat down and told him my tale.

He smiled.

And pluck, says he, till time and times are done,

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

“That’s no kind of answer.” I said.

“Apples,” he said with a wink and he took a long pull on his pint.   “Silver and gold.”

I stayed for another half hour or so but not another word passed his lips.

Later that night I woke up with Maura’s long hair in my face.   She turned towards me.   Her eyes opened briefly and she smiled.   Then she slept again.    The solution seeped gently into my head.   I’d marry Maura, I mean, she was the love of my life.  I’d pluck the apples and I’d enjoy them.   We’d have a child, maybe two, and gradually, gently, over time, I’d wean her off crime.   Children would make all the difference.   Wouldn’t they?


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