By: Morgan Macvaugh
I know where the end of the world is. It lies in Stromeferry, at
the foot of a house, by a loch that drinks in the night and leaves
it cold. Mountains, white-capped with snow, but black with
stars, circle it, leaning in to hear the voices seeping past stone
Protected, my back nearly touching the woodstove, I sit on the
hearth, watching as the ten of us young gather around the gray
men. One with a guitar, the other, our guide, asking him to play.
He grumbles good-naturedly, tugging at the strings and twisting
the knobs until they sing in key.
“A Song for Ireland,” says our guide. His voice is thick with the
moorlands, rising up into the high. He looks to us, eyes glinting
firelight. “You haven’t eard anything til you’ve eard him sing it.
The most beautiful thing.” He says beautiful like bee-U-tiful, like
it’s something to stop stare at and ponder.
The man with the guitar scoffs, but finishes tuning, and parts his
lips. The voice that comes out is slightly rough with age and wrin
-kles, but the tune is silky, and weaves through the couches and
chairs and something in the moment stills us. When he finishes,
the moment is broken, and my youth resurfaces with the others in
loud claps and whistles. The guitar man slips a fleeting smile as
the sound dances and clatters along the wooden floor. Runs a cal
-loused hand through his gray mane. “Well now. A song fer a song.
Who’s got one?”
I blink. The others call out for “Hotel California,” “Brown Eyed
Girl.” “Can you play that?” a girl asks.
“I can play anything if you gif me the tune.”
More songs called out, tunes by Billy Joel, Coldplay. “Rivers
and Roads.” And I’m not sure where it comes from, but then the
words are past my lips. “You know, ‘The Parting Glass’?” And
the guitar man stops and pins me with eyes so pale I think for a
moment he’s blind.
“What did you say?”
The words feel heavy and pointed and the room goes silent. My
cheeks are fire. “’The Parting Glass,’” I ask, “Do you know that
old Irish song?”
“Strangest thing,” he tells me softly, slowly, like thinking aloud.
A smile’s shadow imprinted on his weathered face. “I was listenin
to that on the way o’er.”
And our guide looks between the both of us and brushes his chin
with a slow hand. “Aye, that is strange.”
The man with the guitar sits up in the couch, bends over his in
-strument. “I’ll play it, but you ave to sing it.”
“No, I… Really, I can’t—,” but his eyes are firm and his fingers
are curled over the strings.
“A song fer a song.”
And he plays the first chord and time’s not stopping, so my voice
emerges from my throat and tiptoes around the room, a high, dis
-used thing. His strings call it forward. The fire crackles behind us.
And it seems there is no more breathing; the world ends here.
morgan macvaugh is a junior Creative Writing major. She is currently
surrounded by Highland Coos in Scotland, and loving every minute of it.
She would like to give a huge thank you to her family, especially Mac, for
always being encouraging.