The Journal of the Late Noel Aig

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fatherhood has thrown many of my assumptions about life into a rather harsh perspective. I now realize how much my obsession with heroism can be hurtful to those around me and myself. The problem is, I can’t really help myself any longer. I have to feel useful. I can remember the day that I decided to stop sitting idlly by.

Mum and Dad had gotten permission to take a vacation to Wales. It wasn’t easy, especially since for so many years we had taken one every year, at least until Aunt Abbie died, and most of the Masters considered this excess, especially since this one was out of the country and my sisters and I were particularly good at feeding a variety of spirits. They sat inside, talking to Mr. Brennen and his wife. I could hear them arguing as I sat outside in the twilight, reading a Captain Britain comic.

I am so high, I can hear heaven.
I am so high, I can hear heaven.
Oh but heaven, no heaven don’t hear me.

“Wesley?” I turned around and saw a young woman standing behind me. It took me a moment to study her, adjusting my glasses to miss the glare from the remaining rays of the sun.

“Maggie?” The more I thought about it, the more it looked like her. Most of us had assumed she had died in the fire, but there she was, sitting in front of me. Somehow she looked more adult than before, as if she had aged 20 years in the last five.

“I’m called Elle now.” I started to get up so I could run inside and let my parents know that their niece was still alive, that…that what? She seemed to know I wouldn’t say anything about her visit. The only thing my parents could do would be to bring her home with us, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. She sat down on a step just to the right of me, barely an adult next to barely a teenager.

“Where have you been, Mag…I mean Elle?”

“I finished school. I didn’t expect to find you here.” She shrugged. Something about her seemed accepting or maybe…numb? I couldn’t place my finger on it. Something had happened to her, and she didn’t want to think about it any more than I wanted to think about being exhausted all the time, or the rapes, or the pain. Across the street a few boys were kicking around a football. “What are you doing here?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Brennen are trying to convince Mum and Dad not to go back to Dublin. Said they’re free now, and we don’t have that much stuff to worry about having to go back and get it. But Mum and Dad won’t.” He looked down at my comic and traced the lines of Captain Britain’s costume.

And they say that a hero can save us.
I’m not gonna stand here and wait.
I’ll hold on to the wings of the eagles.
Watch as we all fly away.

Two other kids rode up on bicycles across the street. They took no specific notice of the ones playing with the football when they scooped it up and casually started walking back to their bikes, nonchalantly strutting away with somebody else’s property. For a moment I caught their eyes and was surprised to notice them dancing. These boys took incredible pleasure in their own power.

“Maybe they should do that. Anything has to be better than your neighborhood if I heard right when we used to meet you in Cork.” She looked concerned, like she could see right through me, through my own numbness, and recognized all of the scarring there.

“They can’t. The Finnegans volunteered to act as hostages. If we don’t come back when we’re supposed to, they die, and all nine of their children.” The littlest one, Francis Robert Finnegan, was only seven months old, and I was sure that they would split him on Sunday morning and use his blood for the Eucharist. I wish to this day that that surety was based on childhood hyperbole and not actual experience. The execution of babies was always the worst, the most grotesque.

Someone told me that love would all save us.
But how can that be?
Look what love gave us.
A world full of killing, and blood-spilling, that
world never came.

A couple of the smaller children, likely the owners of the football, ran up and started tugging on the shirts of the bullies. I couldn’t hear them very well, but I imagine they were begging for their ball back. The pleas were answered by a sucker punch to the jaw and the two older children fell upon the other boys, kicking them repeatedly.

Elle noticed my attention, which should have been focused on my long-lost cousin, was instead fixed across the street. “Why don’t you do something about it, then?” I could feel the anger rising up in me with every blow. Their cries were clear in my ears, even in my head. I found myself standing and stalking across the street, picking up all the speed my twelve-year-old body could muster, and charging into the larger of the two boys.

And they say that a hero can save us.
I’m not gonna stand here and wait.
I’ll hold on to the wings of the eagles.
Watch as we all fly away.

I don’t know where my brain went to or what I was thinking at that moment, but I started beating that boy with all of my might. Every indignity I had ever suffered manifested itself in my fists and knees, drawing blood and smearing it across his large, oval face. I wanted to destroy him. I wanted to send him back to the hell that my demons came from. I wanted to breathe fire and incinerate him. I didn’t even notice the comic book still clenched in my hand, nigh unreadable on the open pages from blood stains.

Then I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder, drawing me back to the world. The boy scrambled from beneath my legs as I was getting up, running for his bike and trying not to stumble into his equally frightened friend. Elle stood there with the football in her hand, giving it to me so I could return it to the other boys, most of which stayed a good distance away. I rolled it back to them and watched, a little sad, to see them collect the ball and run away as well.

“Elle, there has to be a way to fight these things. We cannot leave, but we might be able to make them.” I closed my hand around the comic even tighter, determined that I wouldn’t sit by and watch people suffer like that. Not any more. Not ever again. “If you can help me, do it from as far away as possible.”

Her eyebrows crawled up her head, a new expression I’d never seen before. “You’re going to be like Captain Britain now?”

And they’re watching us (Watching us)
They’re watching us (watching us) as we all fly away.
And they’re watching us (Watching us)
They’re watching us (watching us) as we all fly away.
And they’re watching us (Watching us)
They’re watching us (watching us) as we all fly away.

“No,” I said as I looked up at her. “Doctor Strange.”

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