House For Sale
Published:A short story published in the Dublin Review
‘Not long now,’ she said.
‘When we stay in Curracloe,’ he asked, ‘are we going to put the caravan near the Winning Post or are we going to the caravan park up the hill?’
‘Oh near the Winning Post,’ she said.
She knew she had answered too quickly. Donal and Conor earnestly considered what she had said. Then Conor glanced at Donal, watching for his reaction.
‘Is that definite?’ Donal asked. As the train slowed down, she managed to laugh for the first time all day.
‘Definite? Of course it’s definite.’
They studied her uneasily for a moment as the train shuddered to a stop. Then slowly and methodically, they gathered up their belongings. As they made their way to the door of the train, they met the ticket collector.
‘Ask him now about the toilets,’ Donal whispered as he nudged her.
‘I’ll tell him that you’re the one who wants to know,’ she said.
‘Would this little sausage like to come to Rosslare with us?’ the inspector shouted, making as if to pick Conor up.
‘Oh no, he has to go to school tomorrow,’ Nora said.
‘I’m not a sausage,’ Conor said.
The inspector laughed.
As she drove out of the Railway Square she remembered something, and she found herself telling the boys what had come into her mind.
‘It was when we were married first, and it must have been during the summer holidays, and didn’t we drive to the station one morning to find that we had missed the train by one second. It was gone and, God, we were very disappointed. But the man in charge that morning was not the usual station master, he was a young fellow, and he was taught in school by your Daddy, and he told us to get back into the car and drive to Ferns and he would have the train held for us there. It was only six or seven miles away, and that’s how we caught the train that morning and that’s how we got to Dublin.’
‘Did you drive or did Daddy drive?’ Donal asked.
‘He must have driven queer fast,’ Conor said.
‘Was he a better driver than you?’ Donal asked.
She smiled as she answered him.
‘He was a good driver. Do you not remember?’
‘I remember he drove over a rat,’ Donal said.
The streets of the town were empty and there were no other cars. The two boys seemed alert now, ready to talk more, ask more questions. When they got home, she thought, she would light the fire, and they would tire quickly after the long day.
‘But why didn’t you just drive to Dublin and forget the train?’ Donal asked.
‘I don’t know, Donal,’ she said. ‘I’ll have to think about that.’
‘Can we go to Dublin some day in the car?’ Conor asked, ‘and then we can stop where we like.’
‘Of course we can,’ she said as she pulled up in front of the house.
‘I’d like to do that,’ he said.
Soon she had the fire lit, and the boys were in their pyjamas and ready for bed. They had become quiet and she knew that they would fall asleep as soon as the light in their room was turned off. She wondered if anyone had called that evening, and she pictured someone approaching the house in darkness, and knocking the front door and getting no answer, and standing there and waiting a while before walking away. She was glad she had missed them, whoever they were.