I’m walking up the beach toward Bettystown, north of Dublin.
I see somebody coming toward me from the opposite direction, but don’t pay much attention to this oncoming person until he’s right in my face.
As he passes, I start to mumble “Nice day”, but the words stick in my throat.
Who is this guy?
He’s sunburned red, wearing impenetrable dark glasses. He has a triangular face and goatee. His black hair is moussed upward in two horns. He smiles and bares a set of gold fangs.
The two of us are alone.
He whips off his sunglasses, revealing yellow eyes with vertical pupils.
I take off running toward the church between Laytown and Bettystown, thinking he won’t follow me there. I’m trying to make the sign of the cross but I can’t remember which comes first. Right shoulder? Left?
There’s an old Irish woman inside the church dusting pews with what looks like a dead sheep, but she drops it when she sees my face.
“By Gawd, Girl, you look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
She proceeds to cross herself with such practiced speed that I can’t follow the order of motions.
“Don’t worry, Darlin’,” she says, entering a janitor’s closet. I hear her rattling around and then she reappears with an empty 7Up bottle. She dips the bottle in the baptismal font, fills it, caps it and hands it to me.
“Holy water,” she says. “If the Devil bothers you, throw it at him.”
I thank her and drop a coin in the donation box.
“Come back Sunday,” she calls after me, but I’m already halfway out the door.
When I get back to the B&B my friend Clarice is still passed out in bed. I pry one of her eyes open to see if she is still alive and cringe at its bloodshot splendour. Last night I’d been too jet lagged to party, but Clarice must’ve drunk Bettystown dry.
I wash my hands in our en suite bathroom and when I come out, Clarice is sitting up, gripping my now-empty 7Up bottle.
“I was thirsty,” she says, looking at me with the snow-white eyeballs of a newborn. She grins. “Hey, I feel fantastic—no hangover at all.”
I tell her that she just drank holy water. I also tell her that the Devil scared me on the beach, but she’s not interested.
Instead, she wants to talk about healing properties of holy water.
“Do you know what this means?” Her eyes glow with the anticipation of two weeks of painless pub-crawling.
She throws on some clothes and we walk to the church. The door is unlocked and the cleaning lady is gone. We are two godless California tourists unsupervised in a house of worship.
Clarice goes straight to the baptismal font, her flip-flops slapping the floor like dead fish. I catch funky smells of incense and mouldy hymnals wafting through the place as I follow her.
This time there is a stone cover on the baptismal basin.
Clarice frowns, sets the 7Up bottle on the floor and tries to heave the cover aside. It weighs a ton, but when we both push, it slides off balance and falls with a crash. A piece of stone is chipped off the centuries-old-looking lid.
Clarice shrugs. “Superglue,” she says.
She uncaps the 7Up bottle and scoops up the small amount of holy water in the basin.
Is there a security camera, I wonder, or does God need one?
We walk out of the church with less than a full-bottle of holy water between us. Will it be enough to mitigate a full night’s drinking?
The minute we step off church property, we collide with the Devil, who is baring his gold teeth in my face. Without thinking, I uncap the 7Up bottle and splash its contents into his mouth. He grimaces, cries out, and melts into a puddle of green goop.
Clarice grabs my sleeve and drags me to the bus stop.
“Sorry I used up the holy water,” I tell Clarice. “We could try another church.”
“I’m not drinking tonight. It just doesn’t sound that tempting.”