The Stonebreaker’s Yard

A light drizzle falls on the yard, dampening the gravel – changing it from light to dark grey. Over near the gable wall, there’s a pattern of dark circles on the ground that the rain can’t shift. Just days old, they show no signs of fading.

A small bird resembling a starling appears in the Stonebreaker’s Yard. She hops about weightlessly – stopping to inquire at a blade of grass growing near the wall before moving on to a mossy patch covering a concrete pillar.

The drizzle falls at a slight diagonal – an easterly breeze bringing with it the faint smell of hops from St. James’s brewery. The starling hops over to the stained ground and observes the strange arrangement that is not unlike the constellation they call Orion’s Belt, made of seven red stains and some smaller blotches here and there. She then orbits the constellation in a solemn parade, all the time careful not to enter its blackened red circumference.

Across on the wall, a spray of purple wildflowers grows out of a crack lending the only bright burst of colour to the place. Beyond in King’s Hospital, May has seduced the flowerbeds into full bloom. The seeds must have blown over from there.

After encircling Orion, starling lifts up and is gone just as a heavy crow thuds down. The crow moves with an inelegant gait along the shadier side of the yard, shifting its bulk along the trail of spent cartridges strewn in an almost straight line across the gravel. Some are misshapen like old bones, others perfectly intact. All are used. And there will be more added tomorrow. Two men’s worth of cartridges – whatever that may be.

The crow squawks a long cry not unlike the wail of a grieving widow, incensed at the arrival of another feathered visitor. Down glides a white dove, and lands in the far corner of the yard, where the twelve coffins lie. She lands on the first of the unvarnished coffins, arranged side by side.

Blue cards attached to their lids are wilting in the rain. Ink dribbles from the cards making illegible blue tears of the names. One or two can still be read, but those more exposed to the rain have just some final letters left. PEARSE is still clear to see, but NKETT, AC BRIDE, LBERT are all that remain on others.

The crow stretches his obsidian wings, rain running off the feathers giving them the sheen of wet tar. With an awkward hop he lifts himself onto an upturned lid. It belongs to one of two empty coffins sheltering beneath the lip of an overhanging roof.  Their cards are perfectly dry: MC DERMOTT, CONNOLLY. They will be filled tomorrow.

Again, the crow squaks its sickly screech and the dove soars and sails over the wall. All left of her are two white feathers that fell near Orion’s Belt.