by Myles Abroad
A mother and her children have an evenful time as they visit a local shrine.
Word Count: 1261
The Legend of the Well in the Garden.
Mary eased her car off the small country road onto the hard shoulder that served as parking. In front of her, the usual brown tourist sign, indicating 'St Crawley's Well', pointed through a narrow gate in the overgrown hedgerow. Mary looked in the rear view mirror at her three children anxiously bouncing to get out of the car and sighed. Since it was a beautiful summer's morning, out of character for Ireland, she had decided to take her Sister's advice to bring the children here for an outing.
"We're here. Your aunty Carmel said it's a nice spot. I hope she's right."
She turned around and smiled at Sally who was patiently crammed in between two booster seats; their noisy occupants a blur of slobber and grasping fists.
"Sally, give us a hand with the twins, will ya?"
Eight-year-old Sally unfastened Michael from his seat and helped him out of the car while Mary took Brendan firmly by the hand after doing the same. Together, restraining both boys, they passed through the gate, releasing them to run up the narrow path. The path was enclosed on both sides by whitethorn and wild rose hedging. To say it was maintained would be an exaggeration as Mary kept having to untangle wild tendrils of growth from her clothes and hair; growth that had not yet seen the clippers that year.
They rounded a corner, to hear gurgling water coming from a spring which emerged from a small rise. The water bubbled down mossy stones into a pool that was neatly ringed by stones. A small stream flowed briefly from the pool and then disappeared once more underground. A beautiful grassy area ran to the pool ensconced in the shade of several mature trees.
Entering this garden was like a refreshing balm for her weary soul. Mary breathed in deeply, invigorated by the fresh county air. She and her children went to the edge of the pool and dipped their hands in the cold, clear water. The bottom of the pool gleamed with coins broadcasting people's wishes and aspirations. Both Michael and Brendan had also spotted the coins and were leaning over the edge in an attempt to liberate them from their watery grave.
"Michael, Brendan! Stop that. You's can't take those coins," Mary said sternly.
They immediately obeyed, for the moment suitably chastised. Mary then noticed a stainless steel dipper was chained to the stones where the spring emerged. How it had managed to remain un-pilfered she didn't know.
"Look. We can take a drink from the dipper," she said.
She held it under the running water, allowed it to fill and handed it to Sally who drank while the twins thirstily looked on. They then, each, took their drink. Satisfied they both ran off to explore the garden while Mary quenched her own thirst. She joined Sally who was studying a tree that had the misfortune of growing closest to the pool. The poor thing was adorned, with ribbons of all colours, bits of cloth, socks and even the odd knickers; someone aspiring for either virility, fertility or both.
"Why have people tied things to the tree, Mammy?"
"Some people believe tying something personal to a tree near a pool that's blessed will help them. It's like throwing a coin in the pool for luck."
"Will we do that Mammy?"
"Sure we're grand Sally. We don't need to do anything like that."
Mary saw a plaque and walked over to it with Sally.
"This talks about the legend of the pool, Sally. It says that a long time ago St Crawly had a pain in his head. He was shown this well by the apparition of a mysterious woman. After he drank from it, the pain disappeared. He then blessed the pool."
"Is that true Mammy?"
"I don't know Sally, but if you don't drink water you can get a headache." She replied but thought to herself that St Crawly most likely crawled out of bed on a morning after too many jars the night before. He found this well, drank from its cool waters and his hangover eased.
She kept reading. "Sally, it also says that this water removes bunions. All you have to do is soak your feet in it."
"Sure that's great Mammy. Granny is always complaining about her bunions. We can bring her here, can't we?"
"We can," Mary replied, thinking she should have kept her mouth shut. Knowing her Mother, this would become a regular place to visit.
She read on but was interrupted when Sally pulled on her arm. "Mammy! Brendon is about to throw a big stone in the pool."
Mary whirled around as she heard a splash.
"Brendan! You can't throw stones in the pool. Michael put that stone back! Sally, if you can, will you take that stone out of the pool."
She turned back to read the plaque running her hand through her hair. She felt a sharp stab of pain in her finger and pulled a small white thorn twig from her hair. She sighed and continued to read when Sally came back, having retrieved the stone.
"Sally, it says that it helps women have babies."
"I hope that doesn't mean I'm going to have more brothers."
"No dear. We have enough," She said, laughing to herself that she should have read the label before she drank. It also explained the knickers.
She started to read on about the miraculous cure for glaucoma when Sally yelled, "Mammy, sure Michael's pissing in the pool."
Mary whipped around. "Michael. Stop that! Brendan! Don't copy your brother." She yelled as she marched over to them. Michael couldn't stop mid flow but at least Brendan hadn't started and only had to pull up his pants. To her horror, though, she heard voices coming up the path. She quickly pulled up Michael's pants and drew both her boys away from the pool as a group of tourists emerged into the garden followed by a priest who was waxing lyrically about the curative waters of St. Crawley's pool; encouraging them to taste of its sacred waters.
To her amusement she watched an older gentleman untangling a whitethorn branch from an old woman's cardigan.
An old couple approached the pool. The woman saw Mary and smiled.
"Hi. What cute kids you got there!" she said as the man she was with kneeled down and reached into the pool with cupped hands.
"They're cute alright," Mary said cringing as she watched the man about to taste the water Michael had just defiled.
"Mammy, we have to tell them..." Mary quickly covered Sally's mouth, watching incredulously as the man drank the water. She smiled at the woman.
"My daughter was just saying that there is a dipper you can use to take a drink."
"Why thank you." She said and turned to address the man taking the drink. "Hank, did you hear that? This nice lady says there's a dipper we should use." She looked in the direction Mary had indicated and then smiled. "Why, there it is," she said pointing.
Hank looked up smiling. "Thank you," he said, standing up. "That's got to be the best water I ever drank!"
Mary, relieved that he wasn't complaining about the taste, made a hasty retreat back to the car dragging the children with her.
That evening, after she regaled Carmel with the story, she said: "They can have whatever legend they want about that well but from now on, we have our own."