IMG_3966The oyster trembled in its shell as Trevor held it shakily at arm’s length. This was it, he thought, for Queen and Country.
But still he hesitated. He cursed the day his editor decided it was a good time for him to take a trip south of the border. ‘To see how the others play,’ his boss had said, laughing as he tossed the embossed invite across his desk.
He cursed the so-called ‘peace agreement’ and the ‘Good Friday accord’ and everything else that had conspired to bring him to this point, standing on the banks of the Corrib beside a marquee tent with a fresh pint of Guinness in one hand and a slimy bicuspid in the other.
‘How’d’ye eat these things? I’ve never had one of them in me life…what d’ye do wi’them?’
His voice sounded like a bunch of empty tin cans rattling around in a barrel. I tried to hide my grimace from the hapless Trevor. We were already tucking in to our fourth tray of oysters that afternoon.
The day began when we followed the parade of Oyster shuckers in their national dress from Eyre Square as they followed the pipe band led by the Lord Mayor to the World Oyster Opening Championships, diverting along the way to amble, sociably, through some of the pubs on the festival pub trail. One pint of creamy headed Guinness earned you a tray of half a dozen Galway oysters. There was no sign of Trevor, the whiny voiced northerner we met in the hotel the previous night.
Trevor told us he’d never been south of the border, that he was a journalist with ‘a wee community paper’ in Belfast and that he drew the short straw and was sent to Galway. He made it sound like an assignment to the front line in a foreign conflict.
‘It’s this peace agreement, y’see,’ he confided, somewhere around his fifth free pint provided with gusto by the brewery man with the generous plastic, ‘my editor thought it might make a good angle to cover one of these free state festivals.’
As the night wore on Trevor’s apparent paranoia became more obvious. Particularly when the singing began. When we offered to sing ‘The Oul’ Orange Flute’ in his honour, he fled from the bar and wasn’t seen again until now.
‘Trevor,’ I said to him, ‘we missed you this morning on the pub crawl. There’s nothing like the hair of the festival dog that bit you to set you up for the day.’
Trevor did look the worse for wear. He was unsure of us because, though friendly and approachable, we might  be pulling his leg. In the culture shock of his travels and the fuzzy stupor of an evening of free beer and a hangover that  left him feeling someone had dropped a manhole cover on his head, he didn’t know whether up was down.
He dressed in a hurry and probably in the dark. The flies on his trousers were half undone and he missed a button on his shirt, leaving two opened buttons on top with only one buttonhole between them. Half the collar of his black blazer was tucked awkwardly into the collar of his shirt.
But that was less distressing than his physical appearance. His thin, sallow skinned face was drained of blood, darkening the hollows of his eyes even more.
But he was gamely waving the open shell about in the air, determined to perform the task he’d been set. He had to eat an oyster.
‘Put it to your lips, close your eyes, tilt your head back and swallow,’ we advised.
‘What does it taste like?,’ squinting Trevor asked, the oyster still at arm’s length as though it might spring from its half shell with a murderous rebel yell.
‘Don’t chew it,’  I offered, ‘you won’t taste it the first time. Just let it slide down…’
‘Like snot from a walrus,’ my friend offered, unhelpfully.
‘Don’t mind him…lash it into you,’ I exhorted.
Trevor closed his eyes and tilted his head back as he opened his lips and the succulent bicuspid slid down his throat. His previously ashen face turned a glowing puce pink.
‘’Swallow,’ I said.
We could see Trevor shrink before us. His Adam’s apple chugged impulsively. And as the oyster slid down his throat his face drained to grey then a pale, unhealthy, greenish pallor.
We stared at him in bemused alarm.
‘Are you alright?’ I asked. It was clear something would give. Trevor’s volcanic hiccups were about to erupt.
Convulsing, the colour rushed back to Trevor’s face as quick as it had left him but in reverse order of green, grey and then puce. My friend, recognising the signs, lifted his pint out of harm’s way as a feed of Guinness from the night before made its way from the shaking Trevor in a projectile green arc with the oyster leading the parade.
Nonchalantly side stepping the bilious shower, we exchanged glances. A smile hovered around the corner of my friend’s mouth, ‘Oyster says No!’ he declared.

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