by Niall Crowley
Kilbrittain mass, Coolmain dip, and a full Irish, that’s Christmas morning. Always had been, and, it appears, would always have to be. She sits stolid in the car, watching the big swim from above. The path is deemed treacherous at her age, the weather too chill. Neighbours wave and shout good wishes. None stop to chat.
A spread of dappled sand and green weed. Pasty bodies hop from one foot to the other, stretched along the lip of the sea. Disembodied voices, bursts of laughter, and an array of Santa hats. Some have taken to the water, her two among them.
Swimmers come in types, to her mind. There’s the showboat. All splash, hurtling into freezing tides, surfacing with howls of faux pain. That’s Mary, her eldest. Pure bluster, successful but alone. There’s the dawdler. Unsure, hunched over and waist deep, hands patting at the ripples. Pat, her second. Still with his childhood sweetheart, no ambition beyond clerical ranks.
Their visits are sporadic, but Christmas is obligatory. The loss was intense when they moved away, too early. Loneliness assailed, and she had curled up tight into its embrace. She knows that nastiness seeping out as she watches them, sadness turns to anger whenever they arrive. Maybe it’s just to protect. There’s the flailer, too. Arms akimbo, beating at the water, all movement and no momentum. That would be her if she still swam. Trapped and angry, a volatile mix for Christmas.