top of page

Lantern Jack Excerpt


Lantern Jack (Celtic Magic 2)
Siondalin O'Craig
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Siondalin O'Craig

Sharon’s shoulder muscles shook and her fingers were going numb. She stood in the bed of an aqua blue Dodge pickup truck that was at least fifteen years older than she was, leaning out to hold a golf umbrella in both hands at arms’ length over her cousin Wendy Sherwood and their friend, Tangel Kinjora. The two were standing in front of a stone wall atop a green rolling ridge overlooking the village of Rathafae, a place which would have been just another dot on the map of Ireland between Lough Gur and Limerick, but for the abundance of sheela-na-gigs dotting the countryside, a tidbit which was about to go viral thanks to the fact that Wendy and Tangel were top tier global social media influencers.

The “sheelas” were stone carvings from the twelfth century or maybe even earlier. Carvings of strange little women, naked, squatting with their legs spread, hands holding their vulva open. The one perched on the wall between Tangel and Wendy was well-worn by centuries of hands that had rubbed the rock’s very public private parts, either out of sheer intrigue or for a bit of Irish luck of a type that could not be found in a four-leaf shamrock.

Tangel gave a little shriek. “Sharon, come on! Pay attention, will you? Mellie, hold up a minute. Sharon just dumped rainwater down my back.”

Mellie Sherwood, Wendy’s younger sister, lowered her camera and switched the position of her own red and white umbrella. The misty rain was getting heavier.

“Are you even getting anything useful in this light?” Wendy asked.

Mellie nodded and lifted the camera so that Sharon could look down at the screen as she scrolled through the shots. “Gorgeous,” Mellie said. “The soft light is perfect.”

“And you can see the sheela? And the labels?” Tangel hoisted a tall dark bottle of something she called Irish prosecco. Its label said Cockagee, a hard Irish cider produced by the Cider Mill in Slane using a French process called keeving which made it fizzy. Bartender Liam Quimby at the Lantern Jack had set them on to it and sold them a full case of bottles. Wendy was trying to figure out how to get a few cases back for her wedding toast, and was counting on these photos to be posted on Wendy and Tangel’s Instagram sites to make Cockagee the next global cocktail trend. And how better to make people remember the name than to photograph it next to a gaping stone vagina?

Sharon peered over the womens’ shoulders from her perch in the pickup truck bed. The pictures did look gorgeous. Wendy, the party girl, was tall, thin, pale-skinned and ash-blonde, with wide-set blue eyes that captivated cameras wherever she went. She wore a long, champagne-colored satin dress with a thigh-high slit. Its hem was looking muddy and blades of grass were clinging to her wet bare feet.

Wendy’s best friend, Tangel, the serious one, was exactly the same height and size (the two often swapped clothes), but her skin was deep black and her cropped hair a glowing shade of sunset red. She wore the perfect Irish Faerie dress of pale dusty green chiffon, long legs flowing out of its puffy handkerchief hem skirt. Tangel moved with a model’s grace, aware all eyes were on her in any room. After four Vogue covers, she’d realized that she and Wendy could make more money setting fashion trends on social media rather than modeling things that corporate designers were foisting on customers each season.

Sharon always thought of Wendy and Tangel as two tall trees, growing close together on a hillside. As charismatic and stunningly beautiful as the two were individually, together they were a force to be reckoned with. And Mellie was the quiet little third leg of support, living in their shadow, setting up the photo shoots, making the calls to book product placements, cooking the no-fat vegan meals Wendy and Tangel relied on to keep up their boundless energy, and shooting the stunning pictures that drove their image-laden worlds.

Sharon shifted her gaze to Mellie, and wondered how she and Tangel’s lives would change with Wendy married. That’s what they were all here for, after all: The destination bachelorette party, in late October, in the cold gray rains of the middle-of-nowhere Ireland. Wendy’s fiancé was Deegan Brady, originally from Boston, now a New York historic building developer and art gallery owner.

Wendy was betting she could impress her Boston-Irish future in-laws with a destination hen party on the old sod. When she learned that Halloween -- they called it Samhain here, the woman who checked them into the pub told Sharon -- was the old Celtic New Year. Wendy had insisted that her hen party trip had to be for Halloween. And when her Google searches for anything interesting and sexy had turned up the sheela-na-gigs, well, the destination just had to be here, the big empty spot on the maps around Lough Gur.

Sharon pulled her patchwork jacket tightly closed against the chill and damp. While her cousins and friends spent their time influencing the fashion world on social media, Sharon spent her weekends combing thrift shops and her evenings at the sewing machine, turning out things like her vintage quilt jacket and two-tone wide-wale corduroy trousers.

Wendy and Tangel shared a laugh that brought Sharon’s thoughts back to the photo shoot. Sharon admired their self-confidence, that air of sexuality that clung to their every move.

Sharon wondered if she had missed her chance for having that kind of sensuality in her life. She had dated a really cute guy named Joe when they all were in college at Parsons. He was fun, and they’d had sex a few times on the single bed in the cramped little apartment she shared with three other students, but she found it awkward. She didn’t like his eyes on her, the sense of exposure.

Joe had headed off to conquer the glittering world of advertising in Manhattan, and Sharon’s dreams didn’t run in that direction. She wasn’t sure what she wanted, but she could feel the tug of small towns and green spaces, and a quiet place to sew and steep herself in history books. She’d taken the job in Legerfield as a stepping stone to something. But here she was, ten years later, still single, stuck in the same job, and holding umbrellas for her cousins’ grand adventures.

The raindrops suddenly picked up their pace, plopping into the back of the pickup truck like the pounding of a drum. Wendy and Tangel shrieked and dove through the dinged-up doors into the huge crew cab of the 1970s Dodge D200. Sharon held the golf umbrella over Mellie while she packed up her camera gear, ignoring the cold rain running down the back of her own neck.

As Mellie jostled with Wendy and Tangel, crammed in the truck cab pulling on wellies and sweaters -- jumpers, Sharon mentally corrected herself -- Sharon clambered down from the bed of the truck and stepped up to the ragged ruins of stone wall. She saw the sheela-na-gig clearly for the first time.

The photos don’t do it justice, she thought.

bottom of page