One imaginative participant from Missouri to this year’s Ireland Writing Retreat, Libeth Tempero, lost no time in putting creative words on the page, transforming her immediate arrival in Donegal into an intriguing tale of misadventure and drama.
Into the Wyle
by Libeth Tempero
McGinley Bus. 9:40. I made it. I was only a little concerned when I carefully said I needed to go to Teac Jack in Bunbeg and the driver scratched the gray stubble on his chin. I almost didn’t understand him when in a thick Irish accent he said, “Where?” When I contacted the inn on how to get there, the email said to tell him Teac Jack, but his lack of comprehension at that part was obvious in any language. His face lightened a little with Bunbeg so I repeated that.
The Irish countryside started out looking like so many trees. Miles and miles of trees. Rock music blared out the ‘Back Street Boy,’ something about another chance or a new start or something. Does no one in Ireland listen to Irish music? Oh, well. Just as fields and towns emerged from behind the monotonous wall of trees, the combined exhaustion of a month sleeping in a room with a nine-month old as my thirty-four-year-old daughter recovered from a stroke meant jet lag hit.
The girl in a bright orange bus company vest came from the back of the bus to ask where we were going. I called out, my €20 in hand. Only after the girl was several seats ahead did the thought reach through my sleep-fogged brain, ‘Teac Jack, should I have said, Teac Jack, not just Bunbeg.’ Never wanting to make a scene, I thought I’d just catch her on her way back. There was no way back. The orange vest disappeared at the bus stop as she reached the front. ‘Oh well. Told the bus driver twice, it will be OK,’ my sleepy brain said.
‘Gortahork.’ Time to get off this modern bus and onto a transport van. That was the clue to call Eamon Taxi as I was instructed, hoping that, as well as a ride to Teac Jack’s, he would say where to meet. Busy. Try again. Ringing. No answer. The last passenger is saying this is the end of the line. Oh, God, this is a church parking lot! Tears start edging from behind my eyes. This is the last chance! She has got to help me. Quickly, tears now dripping off my face, I say. “Can you help me please? Could you talk to the bus driver?” I am barely holding back outright panic. This is a gravel parking lot. Is that a graveyard over there? How cold does it get here at night? Could I sleep here? I should not have been so independent. I should have called my contact person, Columbia, like she instructed. I don’t even know where I am if I could reach someone on the phone now.
She keeps patting my leg and saying “You’re grand.” It feels more like someone reassuring a little girl saying “There, there, you’re OK,” when I knew everything was going to hell in a hurry.
“First,” she says “it is not Teeack Jack, it’s Chaj.” I have a very bad ear for strange words. I know I cannot talk to the bus driver about this.
“There are two Teac Jack’s, are you going to the one” the word garbles and I nod, “or the one in Glassagh”
A word I know. “Glassagh, yes that’s the one.”
“I’ll talk with him. Sure it’ll be fine.”
The Gaeltacht both confuses me and reassures me. I watch as the bus driver runs his hand down over his face. In any language he looks distressed.
“Teac Jack is not on his route,” she says. “He came on the other road and is going to have to call to find out if he can change his route to take you there.”
A flicker of hope. “Thank you. Thank you.”
He gets off the phone and motions for her to come closer. More Gaeltacht words.
He is shaking his head. She comes back to me. “I am so sorry. He says you have to get off here. I live near there but there is no room in my car.” I follow her off the bus and she gets into her tiny car with her husband, her giant suitcase, and a dog who is eager to see her.
It is late and starting to rain. I miss my new rain jacket, lost in Dublin airport. More ringing, I can’t reach the cab. I start walking. It is a lonely road. A car is coming. I used to hitchhike. Maybe… The car slows down. He doesn’t look at me. Just pushes open the door. I throw my suitcase in the back seat and climb in. The car smells funny. Maybe he is a fisherman.
He is a young man, maybe in his twenties. Nice looking. Nice looking until he looks at me full on. He has one eye considerably lower on his face. His mouth is distorted on that side too. Maybe he has been in an accident. He could be a very nice person but that is not what I am feeling. I pull on the handle of the door just as he takes off, fast. Too fast for these roads.
Stay calm. “I am going to Chaj, Glassagh.”
It does not even seem to register. I am lost on the winding roads. At last we stop and he opens the car door, grabbing my arm with one hand that seems like it is made of rock and pulling my suitcase out of the backseat with the other. I smell the salt on the wind. I have made a horrible mistake. I am sixty-two years old. How have I gotten myself into this?
We reach the boat that is tied to an iron ring in the rocks. I am not light but he lifts me by my arm like I am nothing and throws my bag in after me. He then jumps in and starts the boat’s motor before I can get up off the floor. I am scrambling for the pier when his hand is on my foot pulling me back in.
No one even knows that I am missing. He lands the boat. Pulls me to a cottage, says, “Cook.”