Anna's Odyssey



        I love the freedom of having my own mobile phone. This new spiritual oneness with the universe has been made possible by all the incredible advances in technology made by super duper logical people. I love them all. I now feel I can go anywhere, do anything and be able to connect to friends and business associates at the touch of a button. To be totally cost effective and efficient in my new found business executive role I have decided to try to limit all calls, unless of the crisis variety to two minutes. Short and sweet and to the point showing I am now a busy corporate being whose time is precious and better spent doing lots of busy productive work.

        Alas I am also painfully aware that Iím the sort of girl who needs to talk, to be reassured that I actually exist and that lots of people like and need me. There Iíve admitted it. I seek approval because in my family I have been regarded by most members except Edwina as bit of a familial pariah forever doomed to wander the earth in search of those who think Iím cool and more than just ok. So I have already punched in twelve numbers of people I like so all I have to do is to press one button each time and speak. I know its supposed to be for business but I need to connect to friends especially now that Iím stuck in this car until I get to Wicklow. Also love my new company car, . the smell of newness borders on intoxicating for me.

        "Hi Ruth, where are you ? Ö."Iím heading for Wicklow"Ö." Yeah the weather is shite here as well. Ö." Well you know me I always squeeze, canít help it. " Ö "Well itís either spots or scars and you can always use some spot cover."Ö." Of course it works. ÖThereís a guard over on my right so must go Ö yeah see you this evening at the office. Byeee!"

        "Hi Assumpta, Anna here. Listen if you get this message before I get home can you cancel my electrolysis treatment at Lucyís salon, the number is in my phone book. Thanks a lot. Iíll owe you one."

        "Harry, donít hang out my black and red top as it needs to dry flat. Thanks a lot. Byeee!"

        This surely is the life. Cruising down the highway looking for adventure. I roll down my window and feel the breeze on my face. Feel like singing along to the Bee Gees "Staying Alive" Ah, ah, ah ah, stayin' alive, stayin' alive. I am quite a good Bee Gee, minus the teeth and the crazy hairstyle. Ah, ah, ah, ah, . staying alive. Itís my first appointment today so am very excited and fuelled with enthusiasm. I actually have clients so feel like puffing out with pride. My briefcase is bulging with all sorts of things that they will fall over themselves to buy.

        They will buy. They will buy. They will buy. Must keep affirming. Ah, ah, . ah, ah staying alive. I will buy. No they will buy and I will sell.

        Whoís that divine creature in leathers hitch hiking on side of the road. Blond hair, tanned, tall. Where are you going to? I wonder if there is a company policy saying you canít pick up hitch hikers. Will I? Wonít I? Will I? Wonít I?He could be an axe murderer or a rapist. Or both.? Fuck it I canít cope with this schizophrenic deliberation. Donít think Anna. Just act on impulse.

        "Where are you going to? " I ask sweetly as the Bees Gees fade into the background.

        "Gí day. Down to Wicklow if youíre heading in that direction."

        An Aussie ah even better. Get no gut instinct that he is about to high Jack my new car or have his wicked way with me. Although he could have his wicked way with me any day. Always best to breed outside your gene pool so biologists say. Prevents inbreeding and the propagation of genetic mutants. That is why I am glad about the influx of refugees. Might overall get a better looking race.

        "Pop in" I say as this gorgeous hunk throws his rucksack onto the back seat and is now mere inches away from me.

        He has this most disarming smile and teeth with a tan shine so whitely and brightly.

        "Well" he drawls in his Aussie accent. "Iím Nero Mulcahy, of Irish and Italian ancestry living in Australia and travelling through your beautiful country."

        Feel surge of pride at belonging to so many generations of Irish that we have forgotten the fact that we were once blow-ins from Norway.

        "Iím Anna Moran, and carry the guaranteed Irish label," I laugh.

        "Gí day Anna, pleased to meet you."

        "Travelling for long?"

        "About two months so far. I plan on travelling for another two and then do some part time work to restock the funds. Have you ever heard of Clarinbridge?"

        "Er no."

        "Itís a small little village in Southern Galway. Its supposed to be home to the famous oysters. And you know what they say about oysters donít you?"

        "Ah yes," I say a little too nervously. Donít want to talk about aphrodisiacs to this Michelango statue of David type person. But allow myself some thoughts of sucking oysters from his long brown fingers and Ö

        The mobile phone loudly interrupts my fantasies. The stupid phone is on loud speaker so I canít switch it off.

        "Hello Anna. Is that you dear?"

        "Mother who gave you my number?" Iíll kill the mother fucker.

        "A nice polite boy called Harold dear."

        "Itís Harry Mum."

        "I'm sure he said Harold, anyway I prefer Harold to Harry. Itís got a more wholesome ring about it. So you have your own phone now. That means I can talk to you whenever I want, wherever you are. Wonderful these mobile phones."

        Within nano-seconds all feelings of oneness have been replaced by persecution, tormentation and interference. All incidentally brought about the by the technological big brother who keeps tabs, bit like God in the bible. You remember the bit where it says he sees all things and knows all things. Now God has been made redundant by big brother. Only in my case its not big brother keeping tabs but big mother as in overweight Mother.

        "Gí day Annaís mother, how are you ?"

        Oh my God. Heís not an axe killer, but heís fucking insane Maybe all the travelling Australians are previous asylum inmates sent here to Ireland on some left wing not really thought through rehabilitation programme. Replace electric shock therapy with a trip to Ireland. Grant included if you stay there for a year.

        "Hello whoís that Anna? Is there someone with you?"

        Before I get to say itís the radio or cross lines with an alien satellite Nero booms.

        "Its Nero Mulcahy here! How are you?"

        "Nero Mulcahy? Do I know you dear?"

        "No mam you donít know me, but I know your very kind daughter."

        "Are you a friend of Annaís then?"

        "Sort of. Well...we all belong to the family of mankind donít you think, so that I guess would make Anna a friend."

        Please do not say that you are a hitch hiker I picked up.

        "Anna what is he saying? You know how I hate it when people talk cryptic. Is he a friend of yours?"

        "Yes Mum. Now what is it you want to tell me?"

        My mother never gives up. Why did I choose a reincarnated gestapo agent as a Mother is beyond me.

        "Is Nero a colleague at work dear?"

        I am nodding so much and mouthing yes to this non observant totally thick Aussie. Donít they understand sign language in their country?

        "As a matter of fact Iím a hitch hiker and your daughter very kindly is giving me a lift to Wicklow."

        "Anna?" Mother's voice is getting more urgent and tinged with desperation. "Is it true? Have you picked up a hitch hiker?"

        "Yes but heís ok mum. Honest, please donít worry."

        "Worry. Of course I worry. What sane woman would pick up a hitch hiker. Why he could just kill you and nobody would ever know what happened and heíd flee the country and escape. Are you out of your mind?" she screeched.

        My mother has read too many Ruth Rendell crime novels and now feels she has developed an insight into the criminal mind. Hope sheís not giving Nero any ideas, some over the edge type people just need a small amount of suggestion and they flip.

        Decide the best thing to do is to disconnect.

        "Whatís that youíre saying mother? I Ďm just going out of coverage, speak to you soon," as in next week. Press mute button to delete mother. Amazing what technology can do.

        "What did you do that for Nero? That was my mother for Christ sake. "

        "Always best to tell the truth Anna as then you have nothing to fear. Anyway your mum sounds like a nice old Sheilagh to me."

        I am now seriously thinking that Nero is not from Australia but from some Utopian idealistic but slightly remedial planet who has come here to learn that our ways make more sense and he should perhaps try them sometime.

        "You cannot tell my mother the truth!" I retort in a very raised voice bordering on screeching. I mean hell whoís in charge here. Me Anna driver and owner or the hitch hiker who really should be under my rule and beholden to my kindness for picking him up in the first place.

        "Hey take a chill pill mate."

        "Chill pill? Have you lost your mind? Look I already have a low credibility rating with my mother and now lets just say Iím in serious deficit."

        "Hey I thought Irish parents were a lot more liberal these days"

        "Says who ?"

        "The media."

        "Well the media are wrong. My parents equate liberty with a loose living dope smoking culture to be nipped in the bud before it takes hold of their offspring."

        Being liberal in Ireland means liking foreign take outs and not stoning or murdering refugees. So do not give me your media bull shit. You could have pretended Nero and spared me a lot of grief." I explain hoping Iím making sense cos I feel so mad at this guy for getting my mother on my case.

        There is like this two minute silence during which we sit like wooden figures, in my case silently fuming to be replaced by simmering and finally to a state of forgiveness for perhaps Nero knew not what he did.

        To sever the silence I put on the Bee Gees and we were automatically united by singing along together. Bit like Sony and Cher but with different music.

        "How deep is your love, your love. How deep is your loveÖ"

        By the time we reached Wicklow town we had almost every song on the tape, my rage had diminished and Nero seemed happy and relaxed in my company. So much so he wanted to meet me for lunch and insisted it would be his treat.

        "Itís not against your Celtic protocol?"

        "No lunch is permitted. Iíll meet you by the town hall at 1.30, and if Iím late then take a walk in the park and Iíll see you there."

        "Good luck with your appointment Anna," he said as he gathered his belongings and left my car. I watched him as he walked down the street, never once looking back. Nice butt, very nice butt. I like butts, neat butts though not wide squidgy ones. Mine isnít that neat but its not woesomely squidgy either. Plenty of room for improvement, maybe will try butt squeezing exercises and delete dairy same as Cindy Crawford.

        I had to ask directions six times to Mrs Carmichaelís house. Some well intentioned people who hadnít a clue where the house was nonetheless pointed me in the wrong direction each time. Too many should be lefts became rights and eventually I had to concede defeat

        By now I was over a half an hour late and started to feel anxious and panicky. I felt completely disorientated, not knowing what meant up the road or down the road when it all seemed the same. Right, . St Christopher, patron Saint of travel, please guide my way and Iíll light a load of candles, give up chocolate, stop biting my nails. Another five minutes of confusion bordering on dementia. St. Christopher, where are you, over and out. Anna Moran here remember me. Look Iíll even go to mass next Sunday. Still nothing. Ahh I forgot poor Christopher's sainthood has been dissolved.

        The poor sod has been demoted as part of the churchís repackaging programme for the 21st century. If he no longer works for the big guy, I wonder what he does now, probably having a fag hanging out with unemployed heavenly youths, having a life for Christ sake instead of spending his day shovelling petty requests. Who will I try next. St Jude is obviously too busy so I went onto St Anthony who actually enabled me to sight the house but failed to show me a road to the house. This was beginning to turn into a nightmare on Elm Street. I could see the house standing majestically on the hill top but there was no fucking road. There wasnít a single human in sight, which was starting to un nerve me somewhat.

        I need to stay calm and plot a course of action. There was nothing for it but to abandon my car, I made sure I locked it and set out on foot to get to my desired destination. I invariably feel a lot happier in myself when I have decided upon a course of action, my tension dissipates and I feel embalmed in the spirit of adventure.

        I spied what seemed to be a hole in the ditch not destined for human use as I snagged my tights on protruding briars that I stamped up and down upon as my mark of disapproval. Right composure before I set out to the house on the hill. The first field was empty thank God but it was full of Cow patts that I had to avoid threading upon with my life. I hate the smell of country air and those who say they do must have a shit fettish. I hate smells so felt like gagging as I dashed frantically between cow plops. One field down, . about three to go. Ah ah I see a fence so I can get through to the next one with no worries other than the sight of a bull eyeing me as his prey.

        Time to side track and try the next field that was waterlogged and slushy with dilute cow paps but I guess that was preferable than the bull so I took off my tights and shoes and made my way barefoot and now very miserable to the next field that was miraculously overgrown with rapeseed. Felt like the girl in the Timotei shampoo add as she communes with nature and her hair hangs loosely in the breeze. I bet she didnít smell of cow dung though. At last I have left the outback and am back on the road to civilisation. I feel like some diligent girl scout as I go in search of a dog leaf to clean my feet with.

        At last re-shod I find myself on the road that my car should have taken. Why oh why do things happen to me arse ways. I followed the road as it wound its way up to a dilapidated country manor house. Its walls screamed out for paint and it was surrounded by wild and straggled gardens. Two goats eating what seemed to be some shrubs eyed me suspiciously as I crunched up the gravelled drive. I kept thinking of the Billy goats Gruff and if they really killed the troll and if they could kill trolls then they could kill me. I wonder if goats can sense fear in the same way as dogs do. I try to block all my thought and fear processes in an effort to divert their goatish minds from my terror of being eaten alive or maimed for life.

        The place was un naturally quiet. No cars on the drive, maybe there has been a nuclear alert and I am the only fool above ground cos I didnít know. Or oh my Christ everyone in the house is dead due to crazed Charles Manson type killer and what if heís still in there and sees me coming. I work myself up to such a frenzy that Iím breaking out in a cold sweat. I knock on a door whose knocker had the face of a fallen aged angel. The noise seemed to reverberate through out the house. Silence. Nothing. " Is there anyone there says the traveller knocking on a moon lit door" Traumatic moments require the medium of poetry to be best expressed and understood. Just as I was about to concede defeat I heard the patter of feet and the noise of the bolt being drawn back.

        "Hello, my name is Anna Moran. I made an appointment to see Mrs Carmichael at 11 oí clock today," I say to what seems to be the housekeeper of the house, a small heavy woman in her sixties, obviously sweating from the exertion of coming to the door. My first encounter with humanity filled me with such joy that I wanted to kiss this woman and throw myself upon her bosom for comfort and solace.

        "Sheís out in her Gazebo in the garden over there towards the left. Youíll have to see how she is. Poor love, her world has come to an end since last night. Of course we all knew what was happening but the wife is usually the last one to know," she said in the manner of one who gives the barest minimum of gossip and expects me to find out the rest.

        Oh my God I am now about to have an insurance meeting and itís going to turn into some melodrama that I can well do without...I must learn to detach and become business like and focused on policies. Now what did she request? I think it was something about a pension fund. Right I need to remember my spiel. Our pension plans are indexed linked which means. Oh fuck, what does that mean. It means I suppose more money. Best to keep it simple and not too confusing.

        I spy Mrs Carmichael sitting on a swing in her gazebo. I had never seen a gazebo until then but it sure was a fitting place for the ethereal looking lady of the manor. I hope she isnít in the initial withdrawal stages of retreating into her inner life to try to cope with what ever it is has happened. Itís got to be man trouble cos she looks shell shocked and very fed up. Do not make judgements Anna, just smile and do the job you were paid to do.

        "Hello Mrs Carmichael Iím Anna Moran."

        "Thank God youíve come," she said looking around her in a slightly manic way. Her dishevelled hair and smeared make up spelt major trauma. I momentarily wondered if I should put her into the recovery position that Iíve seen on ER but decided against it.

        "I should have known better. I should have read the signs. Late meetings when he was with her in their little love nest. And the irony was I thought she was my friend. Can you imagine I was so stupid to think she was my friend?"

        I watched her as she repeatedly wrung her hands and started making these little groaning sounds. The insurance company hadnít prepared me for this so decided to do it my way Anna style cos I had to do something for this poor woman whose husband had obviously done a runner with her friend. Some friend.

        "What happened?" I ask in best Claire Rainer type voice, as I attempt to gently coax her to speak.

        "Miranda came here to Woodlawn two years ago as part of the village hunting group. Everyone loved Miranda. She lit up a room when she entered with her presence and infectious warmth. We became close friends, taking trips out to the city to take in a show or do some shopping. I felt she was like the daughter I never had," she said wistfully as she struggled to remember and perhaps to understand how all this happened.

        Suddenly her face darkened and her features seem to contort into what can only be described as unadulterated hatred. No more Mrs Nice Guy.

        "How was I to know she was a trollop. A scheming wench who deliberately set out to seduce my Godfrey with her female whiles and charm. I know he thought her cute and amusing but that was all. At least that was what I was led to believe. Do you have friends?"

        "Yes I do."

        "And do you trust them?"

        "Some yes, but others no."

        "Well lets just say I was rather naÔve and foolish to trust Miranda. How she must have laughed as she screwed my bastard husband under my very nose." I loved the way she said the word bastard in a posh voice, making it much more descriptive and effective. Some people you cannot imagine saying rude words as they appear too refined and posh to let down their guard whereas with me I always curse like a trooper so much so that it has even lost itís effect for me and for those who know me. So when I say bastard nobody blinks an eye. I could just as well say heís a strawberry. Fucking prick.

        Right now I wonder what motivated that bitch Miranda to steal an old foogy twice her age. Perhaps she has unresolved father issues but donít think I will mention this just yet. Maybe she doesnítí know what she is getting herself into. I always think that you should do am interview with any ex partner to gleam what people, especially men are really like. Bit like a truth CV really. And what is it with middle aged men? Is it wicked willieís last chance at recapturing his long lost thrusting abilities. Do men get some sort of menopause where they kinda dry up too and begin the process of shrivelling. Is this the rage rage against the dying of the libido. What ever it is, it drives some men quite mad.

        "Sometimes the wife is the last person to find out these things," I say quietly in deference to Mrs Carmichaelís pain and obvious anguish.

        "Quite. But she is still a trollop, stealing whatís rightfully mine."

        "Well of course she is."

        "Do you really think so?" she asked with such pitiful eyes that betrayed her sense of rejection and sadness.

        "Of course. She sounds like a right heartless bitch."

        My answer seemed to please her as she smiled, . albeit a plaintive smile but a smile nonetheless. We were making progress of some sort but I wondered when I could tell her about the index linked competitive pension plan. How could I break this gently to her without hurting her feelings?

        "I knew youíd understand. Godfreyís 56 and that, that woman is only 28. During our marriage together I was unable to give him any children but we were happy. At least I thought we were. Now Iím not so sure. I had this inner need to compensate for what was missing from our lives so I excelled at being the good dutiful wife who pandered to his every whim. Not that Godfrey ever said anything intentionally cruel but there was always this void that we both failed to address. I wanted babies so badly, children to hold and love and cherish beyond reason and I guess he wanted an heir for the estate."

        "It must have been hard on both of you, especially you."

        "It was but I managed to live with it in my own way. In a way it was like I was dancing as fast as I could entertaining his work colleagues, putting up with his insufferable family, tolerating his hunting and drinking and his pathetic jokes. I even visited his sister in the psychiatric hospital in Wexford every week, poor dear sheís a chronic schizophrenic, totally delusional and it is hard mind you listening to the same stories every week about how the doctors were trying to poison her and inject her with germs. Have you ever been married?"

        "No not yet," I say although I hasten to add that I did want to get married some day.

        "Youíll understand then what itís like. Itís not just them you marry but also their family and itís usually the wife who takes on that burden and believe me it can be a burden at times."

        I resolve to choose an orphan as my future betrothed to avoid the plague of in laws cos by her accounts they were an added burden she could have done without.

        "See what happens when you give a man your heart and your soul." She began to sob silently, tears flowing down her cheeks to rest on her white linen pants. If that was me I would have bawled but maybe thatís cos Iím a commoner in comparison to her. Lady like soft tears. Mine would have been great saline blobs all messy and slobbery, my nose dribbling mucus into my mouth, my make up smeared and streaked.

        She whispered so faintly that I had to strain to lip read each syllable.

        "And now sheís pregnant with his child so how do you think I feel?"

        There and then I abandoned all business protocol and held her while abandoned her social restraints and howled, still no mucus but at least her tears were wetter and more abundant.

        "There there I said to her as if she was a child. Let it all out. Good girl. Thatís a good girl."She needed this cathartic release so that in time she would release her grief, come to terms with her trauma move on. I read all of this in a magazine so am aware of the steps involved. I wonder if everyone follows the same formula. She felt so fragile and delicate that I felt a strong urge to protect this strange and beautiful creature. She has fabulous hair; I mentally resolve to try platinum blond the next time I dye mine.

        "All men are bastards" I say which seemed to please her enormously as her sobbing ceased and she began to hiccup.

        " They are?"

        My Lord this woman is totally naÔve maybe too protected from the outside world if sheís never thought that.

        "Why of course they are." My reinforcement of the idea pleased her even further. A smile was threatening to form on her lips. I wonder if she has had injections to plump out her lips cos theyíre perfect. Mine are like so thin and poor, hers being more upper class and fuller.

        "But where do I go from here? How can I bear to see them together waking hand in hand doing the things we did together?" as her sobbing recommenced.

        "Well," I say suddenly recalling the movie The First Wives Club, "you donít get mad, you get everything."

        "Everything." She repeated the word everything in the manner of one who had undergone a religious experience. It had the desired effect of getting her to focus on what she could do restoring her own sense of personal power.

        "Is this what Relate advise? So soon after the break up?" she asks.

        Relate. Oh shit fuck damm she must thinks Iím some Relate advisor.

        "Mrs Carmichael Iím not from Relate. I sell insurance. Do you remember I had a scheduled appointment with you this morning to discuss a pension plan."

        Her eyes glazed over with incomprehension and disbelief. After all I had become her marital advisor of sorts and she did seem pleased with what I was telling her. We were making real progress here Above all I didnít want her to regress to grief and despair, not in the least. Suddenly she seemed to burst forth from her cocoon murmuring the following words in a somewhat mesmeric and somnambulistic manner.

        "Life cover "


        "I want life cover on my husband."

        Why do I get the strange feeling that I am about to be hired as her private assassin. I mean I wouldnít have to kill the guy but Iíd know and would mean Iíd be guilty by association? I could on the other hand do my job and wash my hands of any nasty consequences in manner of Pontious Pilate when he allowed Jesus to be be crucified. I wonder what Godfrey looks like cos if I could see him and how happy he is with his new woman and about to be mother of his child I would run to the hills and not look back.

        "Well we can look at the policies together and you can decide which one is best and how much you want to invest."

        "Ok but can we reschedule for tomorrow morning at 9.30 because I am meeting my solicitor in about thirty minutes." Mrs Carmichael all of a sudden became remarkably composed as though her emotional outbursts had occurred to someone else, somewhere else. She had this natural dignified air that I did once tried to emulate when my mother paid for deportment classes but I just didnít have it. I guess Iím a throwback to some inbred hill billy but Iíd love to be able to dress in flowing chiffons with a straw hat yet without looking like one who has been hired as a farm hand to milk cows or shear sheep.

        Of course I had to agree to rescheduling the appointment but this would necessitate staying overnight in Wicklow. And buying some new underwear and tights. Still needs must. I wondered if I might be able to charge it to expenses. Hmm. Yes this was an emergency and plans have to adapt to changing circumstances. This was a chance for me to see just how well I could use my initiative and stay perhaps in a nice hotel like a real professional person. I could obsess about being an accessory to crime in the confines of my hotel room but for now I was happy making decisions proving to myself that I was a capable and remarkable executive in my chosen field.

        Mrs Carmichael rose like the phoenix from the flame, breaking forth from her grief induced state. She was already moving on to stage two of the break up. Revenge. Hell hath no greater fury than a womanís scorn. And I second that. In fact if she kills Godfrey off I shall rejoice, rejoice. That bastard strawberry deserves to die. And as for that whorish trollop Miranda, she deserves to be alone. There my conscience is clear when it comes to life policies, as long as they are justified.