“What am I going to talk to them about?” he said.
“Oh Felix,” said Laura as she planted a kiss on his ginger beard (did she see the grey hairs appearing?)“No-one expects you to talk “medieval”. What would Miranda say? ‘Be Yourself!”
Miranda and Kieran had walked with them last year along the Camino.
When they started he had known Kieran for many years and he had seen their love grow (almost eclipsed by his own) in the last 100 or so kilometres. Now Miranda was about to give birth at any time and despite the remission of Kieran’s leukaemia, he knew that they must sometimes think of their time together as somewhat borrowed. He reminded himself of that now.
“You’re right. That old Felix charm. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.”
But the look on her face told him that both were really wondering at this point.
“Well, whatever,” Laura said vaguely. “Good food to be had though!”
That at least increased Felix’s spirits considerably.
* * *
“The thing is,” said Peter Callaghan, after the main fish course had beenenjoyed by all, “that despite all the hype about the Camino, Compostelas and stuff, that none of it has any basis in history. In fact, prior to the 7th
century, anyone who was anyone claimed that if James preached here at all, he had virtually no converts and anyway he went back to Jerusalem where he was beheaded and his body thrown outside the city walls. End of St. James. Sorry,” he said, looking around to see if he offended anyone’s religious sensibilities.
“Ah, but you forget,” said one of the Spanish professors (what’s his name? thought Felix)
“Stone boat, winds of providence, miracles . . .”
Everyone around the table laughed. Felix topped up the wine glasses, and Dr. Callaghan of Dublin continued.
“Nice story! Why interfere with it? You can be sure the Cathedral won’t!”
“Nor the Xunta de Galicia,” said someone else.
“Of course not.” Felix was surprised to hear that the voice was Laura’s.
He was delighted to see that she was issuing forth from the kitchen with some sort of yummy-looking dessert. “With thousands, tens of thousands of people, tourists coming here every year, why interfere with a profitable
myth . . . ?”
“That’s the sad part,” said someone else (was it the same someone else?
Felix had to remind himself that the Ribeiro and Albariño wines were strong—especially in their cheap state which was all they could afford).
“Do you mean to say,” said another someone else, “that the Xunta knowingly encourages tourism on the basis of St. James even though they know it is a lie?”
“Now, hold on now . . .” said yet another someone else.
“Coffee anyone?” said Felix.
* * *
“You didn’t add much to the conversation last night,” Laura said to Felix as he prepared for his English class that day.
No,” said Felix.
* * *
“Felix. Felix! Look at this! Just in from Miranda and Keiran.”
Laura was in front of the laptop, Internet established only that day (blasted Telefónica!).
Grabbing Felix’s elbow with the force of a vice grip she pulled him so close to the screen that he could hardly see the picture: Miranda heavily pregnant and Kieran grinning, sporting a fine fuzz of hair after his chemotherapy, his hand on Miranda’s bump. In his other hand there was a copy of his book Pilgrimage to Heresy, finally accepted by a small but influential Irish publisher.
“Typical!” said Felix, “Trust the boyo to get both things right at once.” But there was great affection in his voice.