Fergus P Egan

Black Donnelly, Rats and Pigs

I want to get past Black Donnelly's horrible place; but not before my uncle is convinced of things there. Was it really a nightmare I had last night?
No! I am certain of what I saw.
Rounding the bend, there it is. Black Donnelly's place in the spent bog, as bleak and foreboding as ever. Parked in front is Mickey Motor's motor-car. And Mickey peering in through the front window, cupping his hands to his eyes against the glare of the dirty panes.
«I brought two pigs for Donnelly. He's not in the slaughterhouse where he ought to be at this time of day. And there's no answer from the house. He must be dead or something!»
Mickey goes around to the back, to enter the slaughterhouse by the trapdoor, the one used to haul the carcasses by the winch. There is an entrance to the house from the slaughterhouse. Mickey seems to know his way around the forbidding place. We wait for Mickey to reappear. My uncle hammers on the door with his fists.
He shouts, «Mickey! Mickey! Are you there? What's keeping you? For God's sake, Mickey, answer me!»
There is a sound from the house. Mickey, or someone, is falling about in there. Is he tripping or slipping or what? At last the sound of the front door being unlatched, and Mickey stumbles out holding on to the wall for support. His black boots and blue overall knees are wet, so he must have fallen on a wet floor. He moves away from the door, still leaning on the wall for support. Then he vomits and slides to the ground. He is shaken, pale and weak. Nevertheless he grips my uncle's wrist like an iron vice to prevent him from entering. I am still down at the road, but I can hear their lowered voices.
Mickey is still spluttering and coughing bits of vomit. «Donnelly — dead.»
«Do you think the lads from Cork…?»
«No! Too gruesome. Not even the Tans at their worst would have done this.»
“Done what?”
Mickey grips him with two hands to impress upon him not to enter. «His chest. His heart cut out.”
«With his own knives?”
«I don't think so. It's too crude; many hacking cuts; more like he was gnawed.”
Now my uncle slides to the ground. So bewildered am I that I almost laugh at the spectacle unfolding in front of me.
This is the evidence — what I saw last night was no dream.
I shut my eyes. How quickly things change.
297 printed pages
Original publication
Fergus P Egan



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