Rule of Law

Maura Candela

 

A few weeks into the invasion of Iraq, Oona's husband Jack participated in a 10K charity race organized by firemen in his brother Mike's old firehouse. Diane, Mike's widow, would no longer go to events like that. By then, she'd started to say things like she'd had enough of the "cult of the dead" and she couldn't take anymore. They would all meet in a bar after the run, Diane said, and by the end of the night, those men would think they had more of a right to cry over Mike than she did. She said that she got no comfort from them; in fact, she resented them for still being alive. At that pronouncement, Oona saw Jack flinch. So, it was up to Oona to take Diane's hand and say, of course they understood; she must do whatever she needed to get through.

In the bar afterwards, those guys were rejoicing over shock and awe. Or at least the loudmouths were. Oona wasn't saying anything—she knew where she was. She moved away from the bar to the back room where the owner had arranged a gallery of celebrity mug shots. "Looks like everyone in America has gotten arrested at one time or another," Oona mused aloud to the man next to her. "Oh Lord, Bill Gates has a mug shot! T'isn't possible!" When she drank, her accent infiltrated.

"Frank Sinatra looks no worse for the wear," the man responded. "Old Blue Eyes, beaming through even in a black-and-white photo."

Another man, lean, bright-eyed, with thin lips that seemed poised to speak, interrupted their exchange by asking Oona if she'd ever been to a Sinatra concert.

"Not a fan," she said.

He leaned against a pole and looked her up and down, smiling, "I'm taking you for a Van Morrison fan."

"Why? Because of my accent?" Oona turned, scanning the photos on the brick wall. "Is he on the wall, too?"

"He's not up there, and I'm just guessing at your musical tastes. Do you like him? Yes or no?" There was some unpleasant urgency in his speech.

"Yes. Sure."

"I have a spare ticket."

"You want me to buy one ticket from you?"

"Well, I could take you and then you wouldn't have to buy it."

"Very generous, but no, thank you."

He said a friend had dropped out and, seriously, Oona could have the concert ticket, no strings attached. He'd mail it to her.

The first man pointed out the obvious to Oona. "But at the concert you'd still have to sit next to that dog."

When Oona declined again, the thin-lipped man said, "I don't see any rings on your hand." He appealed to the other man. "She looks divorced, doesn't she?"

"I'm married. I've an allergy to gold. My husband's over there. He's Mike's brother." She pointed to where Jack sat at the front of the bar in his running gear, a blank look in his eye and a third place medal hung around his neck. Like a winning horse brought to stall, the fight out of him. He was bringing a pint glass to his lips and listening to the man next to him. Just from the set of his shoulders, Oona could tell Jack was bored. As was she. But they wouldn't go home just yet. Jack was hell bent on representing the O'Reilly family. Especially since Diane had refused to show.

"Mike and Jack used to run together. They both ran the marathon four years ago." Oona stopped speaking. She felt she was trying too hard to recommend herself to these men. As if she wanted credit for her connections to them. But it was a behavior everyone engaged in then.

"Is he a fireman, too?" the man with the thin lips asked.

"No, a cop. A captain. Joint Terrorist Task Force."

"Fighting the good fight." The man put his thin lips together, admitting Jack into his privately approved club of worthies.

Oona nodded, about to slip away when the first man said he wanted to appeal to her understanding as an Irishwoman. She started to say she'd lived here for twenty-one years but he said, hold on. He said he and his wife had just returned from Ireland, a trip of a lifetime, spoiled by how hostile the Irish were to the war. Everywhere he went there was nothing but Bush-bashing.

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