Now You See Her


OKAY, IF YOU’LL ALL just gather around me for a few seconds, I’ll give you a wee bit of information about this glorious building in front of you.” The guide smiled encouragingly at the group of tired and somewhat bedraggled-looking tourists milling around the front of St. Anne’s Shandon Church. “That’s it, darlin’,” he cajoled in his exaggerated Irish lilt, the emerald-green scarf in his hand waving impatient circles around his portly frame. “Move in a little closer, young lady. I won’t bite you.” His smile widened, revealing a bottom row of spectacularly stained and crooked teeth.

Good thing her husband hadn’t made the trip to Ireland after all, Marcy Taggart thought, taking several reluctant steps forward. He’d have interpreted the poor man’s lack of a perfect smile as a personal affront. People spend all this money on facelifts and designer clothes, and they forget about the most important thing of all—their teeth, he often fumed. Peter was an orthodontist and therefore prone to such pronouncements. Hadn’t he once told her that the first thing that had attracted him to her wasn’t her slim figure or her large, dark brown eyes but rather her obvious regard for oral hygiene, as evidenced by her straight, flawlessly white teeth? To think she’d once found such statements flattering, even romantic; Marcy marveled at it now.

“Can I have your full attention, please?” the tour guide asked with only a hint of reproach in his voice. He was clearly used to the casual rudeness of those in his charge and had ceased to take offense. Even though the largely middle-aged group of twenty-four men and women had paid a lot of money for the day’s excursion to Cork, the Republic of Ireland’s second-largest city, with a population of approximately 120,000, only a handful of those in attendance had actually been paying attention to anything the man had been saying since leaving Dublin.

Marcy had tried, she really had. She’d repeatedly instructed herself to focus as the guide educated them on the history of Cork during the seemingly interminable bus ride, 168 miles of severely congested highway and narrow country roads. She’d learned that the name Cork was derived from the Irish word “corcach,” pronounced “kar-kax,” meaning “marshy place,” because of its situation on the river Lee; that it had been founded in the sixth century AD and now served as the administrative center of county Cork, and that it was the largest city in the province of Munster. Corkorians, as they were known, often referred to Cork as “the real capital of Ireland.” Its nickname was “the Rebel County,” the town’s reputation for rebelliousness having something to do with its support of the English pretender Perkin Warbeck back in 1491, following the War of the Roses. Today it was better known as the heart of industry in the south of Ireland, the chief industry being pharmaceuticals, its most famous product none other than Viagra.

At least that’s what Marcy thought their guide had said. She couldn’t be sure. Her imagination had an unfortunate tendency to get the better of her these days, and at fifty, her once prodigious memory for facts both useful and otherwise was no longer what it used to be. But then, she thought, grit-filled eyes surreptitiously scanning the glazed faces of her fellow travelers, all clearly years past their “best before” date, what was?

“As you can see, because of its envious hilltop position, the tower of St. Anne’s Shandon Church dominates the entire north side of the city,” the guide was saying now, his voice rising to be heard over the other competing tour groups that had suddenly materialized and were jockeying for position on the busy street corner. “St. Anne’s is Cork’s prime landmark, and its giant pepper-pot steeple, which was built in 1722, is widely regarded as a symbol of the city. No matter where you are in the downtown area, you can see the marvelous stone tower, on whose top sits a gilt ball and a unique fish weather vane. Two sides of the tower are faced with red sandstone, the other two with white limestone, from which the colors of the Cork hurling and football teams are taken.” He pointed toward the large, round, black-and-gold clock in the middle of the bottom tier of the four-tiered steeple. “Corkorians depend on Shandon clock for their time and its weather vane for their weather forecast.” A gentle chorus of bells suddenly drifted down the hill from the church, bringing forth oohs and aahs