By Eamonn Finnegan
“The best day of the year!” said Kate as she pulled open the curtains in their bedroom on a sunny spring morning in Waterford. Her reflection in the window revealed a pretty young woman with short dark hair and a healthy complexion. Her husband Ronan rolled over towards her.
“Let’s go to Inchydoney Beach,” he suggested.
Once on the shore they strode down the strand to the right of the Hotel. There was plenty of time for a long walk. Soon however they noticed a dramatic change in the weather. There then developed a curious correlation between the speed at which they pressed forward and the advance of the awful conditions. The temperature dropped and the wind blew powerfully. The sand stung when it flew into their faces. The combination of sea mists and sand blasting resulted in them becoming hopelessly lost.
“This is all your fault,” Kate accused Ronan. They stopped, Ronan said nothing, Kate shrugged. “I’m sorry,” she added. Ronan took a deep breath and focused. “If we both look down we should be able to track our footprints back,” he suggested. Kate agreed. However, the promising plan soon became an impossible task. They were trapped. Unexpectedly they heard the voice of a man.
“Caught out by the Cork sea mists is it?”
Kate replied, “Hello, we are over here, hello!”
Out of the swirling void emerged the dark figure of a man. He was of average height and clad in a black great coat that fell to his feet. He wore a simple black seafarer’s cap adorned by a small plastic peak. He had the face of a man who lived his life outdoors. Kate noticed that his pale blue eyes had an otherworldly look to them. Ronan thought he was the living embodiment of someone suffering from PTSD.
“Just follow me, I’ll lead you!” he shouted over the noise of the wind.
Before they had a chance to move, a majestic golden retriever ran up and turned his back to them. He crouched down, bared his teeth and growled at the man. The fisherman aimed several kicks at the dog, who refused to give way.
Ronan shouted, “Take it easy, will you, the dog’s just frightened!”
“That creature isn’t afraid, he’s evil, I tell you! He’ll lead ye to your deaths,” roared the man. The animal came to Ronan’s heel and gently placed his nose in his hand. Ronan looked down at him. The dog licked his hand and looked up at Ronan with pleading eyes. Ronan had grown up with dogs and he knew what to do. The dog moved away slowly and the young couple followed him. “Have it your own way so!” shouted the man with venom.
The three slowly and carefully trudged away. Ronan noticed that the dog had no collar but was fit and in excellent condition. He walked ahead and then stopped so they could catch up with him. With great skill he led them back to the road. As soon as they were away from the beach the weather appeared to improve. Although exhausted, they breathed a sigh of relief. It was still impossible to see clearly and despite their best efforts their canine friend could not be found. They slumped into each other and embraced.
“I hope he’s ok,” said Kate. “I hope so too,” said Ronan.
The pair stumbled towards the Hotel. As they opened the beach bar door, the wind caught it and announced their arrival. They sat down at a convenient table and ordered coffee from a charming middle-aged woman with the nametag, ‘Joan’ on her blue uniform. “Tis the worst I’ve seen it,” she said. “It‘s bad all right,” agreed Kate.
Before he knew what was happening Ronan was sitting through a detailed retelling of the events of their morning. He noticed that Joan listened with rapt attention. When Kate finished Joan hurried away. She came back with the manager, who introduced himself as Mr Tom Darcy. Immediately he proceeded to castigate them both for upsetting his wife!
“I’m so sorry Joan!” pleaded Kate, “I didn’t realise I was frightening you!”
Joan and Tom looked at each other and sat down. Tom spoke first.
“You really don’t know about today, do you?’ he asked. “Today, what about it?” questioned Ronan. “Where do you two live?” cut in Joan. “Waterford, why?” answered Kate.
The older couple relaxed. Joan spoke. “You should tell them Tom.”
Ronan cut in. “Look, what’s going on here?” he demanded, “we have had an awful morning and we don’t need any more nonsense, thank you!” Tom raised his hand in a calming gesture. “There is something you should know.”
He took a deep breath and began. He told them about the fisherman who had tricked their daughter and his own son by leading them to their deaths in the sea. It had happened on that beach a year ago to the day. The son had a Golden Retriever named Séamus who led Tom and Joan to their bodies. He also guided some locals and the Gardai to the man’s house. The fisherman shot the poor animal dead with one barrel of his shotgun and then turned the gun on himself. His last words were shouted at the crowd. “Have it your own way so!”
Kate and Ronan sat in stunned silence. Tom excused himself and left. Joan insisted on walking with them to their car. “You look after yourself now,” she said quietly. Instinctively, Kate hugged her and as she did Joan whispered in her ear. “My poor girl was pregnant. Tom never mentioned it but that was the cause of the whole thing. The fisherman wouldn’t hear of his son marrying her. In response to his stubbornness, they had threatened to run away together.”
Three weeks later, the result of Kate’s pregnancy test was positive. When a beautiful baby boy was born, they instinctively knew what to name him.
They called him Séamus.