SIXTH OF JANUARY 1980

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He took the old vinyl record with trembling fingers—Mozart; Meistermusik K. 477 for men’s choir. They didn’t make records anymore, and he’d not listened to that one for twenty years. He mainly listened to the radio or turned on the television. The people on the TV, in the stories, kept him company. Twenty years … 

He felt scared. Her face still existed in his dreams—now in his nightmares. He didn’t have many records; just this one and a few more. Buying that record player? A folly he’d undertaken when trying to impress the girl his mother had wanted him to marry—Sinéad. That was long ago, before he’d sold the farm; before Dublin stretched streets and houses into the countryside. Sinéad. He tried to remember her face. Nothing came, really nothing. Even though his mother had tried so hard to match them—mass after mass, Sunday lunch after Sunday lunch. She didn’t give him a break on the topics of marriage, family, and kids. 

The record now sitting on the player used to be his favourite. He lowered the player’s arm, still trembling, the twenty years weighing down his fingers. The needle head touched the black vinyl track, and he saw that girl's face—unnamed—that girl he’d never talked to; that girl he could not forget, though he tried so hard day after day. 

He remembered January fifth 1980—rather the early hours of January sixth after he’d returned from the pub. Each moment remained so clear. He’d stayed after closing time, like many Saturdays, but this one was his birthday and he’d been playing a few tunes. He went home and dropped his concertina, singing aloud, unsteady on his feet. His dog waited for him, tail flapping, jumping up and over. Of course, it was late, but he was still wide-awake, his energy riding on Guinness’ blood, spirit high and warbling. He didn’t mind a bit of walking in the fresh air. He took the leash, and the dog barked happily. 

“Shussh, you idiot; can’t you see the time? Shush.” He patted the dog. He didn’t plan to walk that far, just a few paces up to the entrance of the Phoenix Park and back.

Clouds lowered the sky to meet the Wellington obelisk, and a strong wind blew, but it wasn’t raining. The dog was lively. It was still more or less a puppy, about a year-and-a-half old. 

“Shussh, doggy; keep it quiet, and keep steady. Do you think I can walk that fast after all that drinking? Slow down; yeah that’s it. Good boy.” 

A running youth knocked him down by the gate. The old man had enough time to glance at his face and see that the boy didn’t seem so young after all. He saw blood and hatred, so much that even his Guinness-impaired vision couldn’t hide it. He shivered. The dog barked, and the younger man grinned, running away faster. 

Our man wasn’t that old, on his sixtieth year, but the evening beers had made his feet and legs leaden. He slowly got back on his feet. The leash had gone, and the dog with it. He heard the puppy barking in the dark, not very far, though. 

“Bloody dog can’t really behave. Uhhh, going to wake up all the damn neighbourhood. Bloody good it does not have a voice, that damn dog.” 

The old man knew the park quite well from walking there daily, but it was late, and his feet didn’t walk that straight. The barking grew closer. The night became darker as well, clouds lower still. 

“Doggy, shush. Would you quiet? Shusshh; come here,” he called again.

He didn’t like the atmosphere—too heavy on his shoulders. It couldn’t be that far now. The barking stopped. The waning moon smiled through the clouds. 

Then he saw her. 

Her white leg appeared first, through the bush, one bare foot turned slightly toward the sky. The effects of the Guinness drained from his body. All suddenly became clear, neat and nauseous. He moved around the bush, needing to get closer. Blood ran along both her legs. One bent in an awkward direction—maybe broken. Little clothing remained, her breasts bare. Blood pooled around cuts on her belly—knife cuts? She was still breathing, barely, a frail path of life he followed: her belly; her breasts; her bruised neck; her fine-boned face; her mouth, unsealed. His dog licked her cheeks, wagging his tail, trying hopelessly to drag her back in life. 

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