A Letter to Lachlann

(Written Dec 2023)

Farquhar Hubert Solomon applied his peeler to a potato and slid away a section of skin.

  • Oh, Deòiridh, he said.
  • Yes?
  • Tell me, when did Lachlann last write?
  • Oh, a few weeks back.

Farquhar lowered his peeler and waved it slightly while eyeing the spud. From her chair by the fire Deòiridh Raghnaid MacCrumb eyed Farquhar.

  • Why? she asked.

He applied the peeler minutely and sliced. Perfection.

  • ‘tis nothing.

She narrowed he eyes briefly and then returned to her book.

  • I heard, Fearghas Grant Melville said from the stove corner, that Lachlann Ninian McCallum died.
  • My dear Fearghas, said Deòiridh, where did you get that from?

Fearghas opened the stove, lifted a small log from the floor and put it in the flames. Regarding it for a moment, he then closed the stove door.

  • My dear Deòiridh. I heard from Seònaid Kirstin McCracken, he said.
  • Now you know she’s a liar? said Deòiridh.
  • Aye, she is, said Farquhar. Lachlann is made of steel.
  • He’s a strong one, agreed Fearghas.

Deòiridh, distracted, put her book to one side and watched Farquhar make a bigger pile of perfectly peeled potatoes and Fearghas stacking the stove, perfectly. She looked at the cup beside her and picked it up, empty. She waved it in the air towards Feargas. He saw it and came over, took the cup and returned to the stove, taking a tea towel he lifted the big kettle and poured some tea. He returned to her and proffered the cup. She had picked up a pad and pen but took the cup, nodding her thanks.

  • I’ll write to Lachlann, I did mean to reply. Dear Lachlann, I hope you receive this letter, a-l-i-v-e, and well, she intoned as she wrote.

Fearghas shook his head to Farquhar as he returned to the stove. Fearghas stroked his great beard as he peered though the glass in the stove door.

Deep in the castle they head the great front door bang. Far off rapid footsteps sounded on the great stone floor of the big hall. Then a tapping of scurrying up the wide bear wood staircase. Gradually the steps came closer and closer. Then finally the wooden door burst open.

  • My ears are fair burning, said Seònaid Kirstin McCracken owner of the footsteps.

Before she clasped her hands to her ears, they saw indeed that they were as red as could be.

  • Cold out there, is it? said Farquhar.
  • Bitter, bitter.
  • Deòiridh is writing to Lachlann.

She took her hands from her ears.

  • Why? Why would she? I heard he had passed.
  • Aye, this is why she is writing.
  • But it makes no sense, if he is passed.
  • Aye, aye.
  • Nothing makes sense these days, said Deòiridh. Gone are the days of sense. Make her a tea Fearghas.

Fearghas occupied himself precisely making a tea and offered it to Seònaid after she had taken off her coat and as she took a seat on a stuffed armchair.

  • Of course, I heard it from Slàine Neilina MacWilliam.
  • Ah, now that would explain much, said Deòiridh hovering her pen over the paper.
  • Much, said Farquhar.
  • Why? asked Seònaid.
  • The MacWilliams are great storytellers, from way back.
  • They are, I must admit.
  • Aye.
  • Aye.

Deòiridh had been writing avidly.

  • I feel, she said. He’s alive, this letter wouldn’t write otherwise.
  • But you were always a letter writer, said Fearghas.
  • Oh, but not to the Other Side. That wouldn’t work.

Farquhar put down his peeler and eyed the potato pile. He considered his work done. Picking up his empty cup we walked to the stove where Fearghas already had the big kettle waiting to pour. Cup filled, Farquhar muttered thanks and perched on a tall stool by the heavily curtained window. Here he could view the room while supping his warm beverage. The others were watching Deòiridh write.

  • When was Lachlann here last? he asked.
  • Oh, it’s been many years, said Seònaid. I barely remember how he looked.
  • Pasty, said Fearghas. Never looked well.
  • But Farquhar said he was healthy as an ox? said Deòiridh.
  • Healthy but never looked it, Fearghas corrected himself.
  • Aye, said Farquhar.
  • Aye, agreed Fearghas.
  • Well, that’s me finished, said Deòiridh. I’ll post it in the morning.

Farquhar, still perched on his stall, started into space. The others were quiet as the flames crackled in the stove. The room, never so well lit, was prone to the flicker of the stove. He was aware of some presence in the room, but it escaped his vision. When he let his eyes avert, he could see it. In the corner stood a very tall human shape wearing a huge black hooded cape. It held a massive scythe that far protruded across the room over their heads. He put it down to fancy, as if he looked directly at the corner, it wasn’t there.