Gone to Kildare

It’s a Saturday, a few weeks ago, and I’ve been collected from the bus stop in Cabinteely. As we do, of a Saturday, on the way to the yard, we discuss the horses and ponies, and Lainie wonders who she’ll get today. Jenny is a current favourite, and all the kids are always talking about Lollipop [who is a boy; I think this is a terribly wrong name for a male pony]. She passes comment about Black Jack, who is a tough auld boot, but lots of fun.

‘I haven’t seen him around, I don’t think,’ I say, never sure which pony is which: there’s another little black pony called Bandit, and he and Black Jack are so alike they could be twins. I find it hard to keep all the ponies straight, especially the grays. Can’t tell grays apart to save my life.

‘He’s resting,’ Lainie replies. ‘He’s gone for a rest in Kildare.’

I exchange a look with Lorraine, Lainie’s mum. The look we share is one of chagrined, alarmed amusement, full of the reluctant knowledge that it may be… ‘A euphemism, right?’ I mumble as she drives, and we both wince with awareness.

Now I keep thinking of Kildare, less as the heart of the Curragh, and of Brigid and her holy well, than as the last stop in the life of one of the ponies from our school. It looms with all the fearsome bitterness of Bergen Belsen, and I shudder to think of those rolling fields, most often viewed by me out of the window of a train heading for Cork, fields playing brief host to horses on death row.

Or, Black Jack could actually be resting. Free, for a while, of the relentless heels of the little girls, free to roam those fields, almost taunting those rail travellers with his freedom, the freedom of the Curragh and the miles and miles of green.

You know what— I don’t wanna know. I was going to ask one of the instructors, but something keeps stopping me, that something being the absolute eejit I would make of myself in front of everyone if I’d heard that Argo had gone to Kildare. That time, when I couldn’t find Delilah … I can still feel the breathless anxiety I felt then.

So I don’t really want to know what Kildare means. That moment of adult-aware smugness has passed, and I’d just as soon imagine that horses having a lovely holiday, sitting outside a caravan and roasting weiners. Slathering on the sunscreen, passing round the pony nuts, not a care in the world…

No, it’s in there now, the knowledge is in there, and I can kid myself all I like, but if I’m still around when Argo goes to Kildare, I won’t be able to picture him filling out postcards and knocking back the lager. I’ll know what it means, the suspicion is enough, and my heart will break.

Kildare. Wish I’d never heard of the place.

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