ABIDE WITH ME
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide: When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me!
“Abide with Me.” Lyrics by Henry F. Lyte. Tune EVENTIDE, William H. Monk, 1861.
“Wiggins? That you?” she asked the tall shadow that had parted the curtain. The body flickered and blurred before its shape found focus, but that happened when specters came to visit.
The stranger, now distinct and close enough to share a smile, reminded himself that the old woman was not as lost as she looked. With distinguished familiarity, he posed himself on the edge of her deathbed and, like a priest consecrating the Host, laid a hand on her blanketed leg.
She goggled at him, bewildered but not very bothered.
Confusion was a kindness in these conditions, the visitor thought; it was the awful moments of clarity that upset their dear constructed realities. When the aged remembered that their husbands had departed more than a decade prior and they could no longer retain coherent thoughts, much less express them— well, that caused unfortunate damage to the delicate psyche. To make a go from here would require some tact.
“I regret to say I’m not your husband, Ruth. I wouldn’t be that lucky.” As he leaned in, his face glowed in a way that the late Mr. Wiggins’s did not.
Her pale eyes tightened and traveled the blue folds of his borrowed scrubs. Not a ghost then. But something. Doctor, she seemed to finally decide. Young and cocky and impertinent. He guessed that she didn’t appreciate a fledgling such as himself establishing a first-name basis with a respectable woman of her age. Ah, well, she would get used to it.
Seamus assessed her restraint and thought it best to introduce himself, knowing by instinct to speak up so she could hear him.
“Hello. My name is James.”
Ruth’s eyes and mouth gaped, and she unconsciously spoke her thoughts aloud. “Must be a nurse. No doctor gives his first name without the last . . . or without his title. There’s Dr.—oh, what’s his name? Mc-something-or-other. But he’s short . . . and bald . . .”
Her mumbling dwindled. The young man on her bed was the express opposite of Dr. Mc-something-or-other. The room may have been dim, but even an old girl knew a handsome chap when she saw one.
“He looks like the bloke who models the Burberry suits in the papers. Didn’t know his name before. James, is it? And he’s Irish!”
Ruth nearly giggled, but the sound was sniffy and cracked. “Hello,” she offered, embarrassed by her noises. “I remember you from the adverts.”
Sea covered her hand with his. The feel of unsecured skin over flimsy bones was a favorite sensation he could afford at these quiet bedside soirees. As long as he remembered why he was here and didn’t dawdle. . . .
“Charmed to meet you, Ruth. Your son and daughter-in-law are down in the café. I expect now would be a good time—”
“You going to change the bedclothes?” she asked, struggling to sit up.
“Oh, blast!” Ruth scowled at the dangling catheter bag and gripped the sheet to her chin as if it were her last dignity.
“Ah-ah. Relax, love.” He coaxed her back into the pillows. “No more poking and prodding. I thought we might chat for a bit.” No need to rush through, he thought. There was still time.
“Why, that would be delightful!” Unforeseen energy flared at the suggestion of social company that wasn’t there especially to depress her. “If you just step into the kitchen and fetch my teapot. And don’t forget the biscuits, dear.”
Sea was inclined to indulge these distracting domestic fantasies. After all, this wasn’t about him. This was Ruth’s climactic scene; he was only there to offer direction and pull the final curtain at the end.
Promising to return in a hurry, he exited through the privacy screen and sidestepped the station of another insensible sufferer. He found leftover cups of beef broth on the supper tray by a chilly window that overlooked the shadowy countryside. The outside world glowed orange by the haze of the city’s streetlights and the setting sun in the valley.
From its elevated whereabouts on Headington Hill, the John Radcliffe stood heedful of the steeples and towers of the famous Oxford skyline. Sea was a regular at this hospital, and he knew without looking that the colleges in the west were emptying streams of vehicles and bicycles out into the streets, pedestrians headed home or to the pub for the evening.
Clutching the cool plastic mugs with both hands, he hoped this would make do for the part of “tea.”
“Nothing better than a hot cuppa,” Ruth chanted. Her head shook from side to side as though she disagreed with herself.
He toasted up the mugs and set them on the bedside tray table. “That is so . . . except for maybe a pint of ale.”
“That’s what Wiggins would say too,” she said, trying to muffle her strange cackle with the back of her hand. “He sometimes spikes his with a jigger of whiskey.”
Sea always reminded the widows of their husbands somehow.
What was the lad’s forename anyway? Oh, right. Arthur it was.
In the midst of these musings, an unfamiliar opposition struck him: he didn’t want to do it. What he was sent to do, that is.
Ah, but it wasn’t up to him to make that call. He answered to a Higher Power. No matter how much free rein he was given as regarded craft and aesthetic, failing to follow through was unallowable.
How bewildering. He’d not felt any reluctance before; it was not in his nature to resent death. This was Ruth Wiggins’s time. This was how her story was written.
Slightly troubled, Sea ignored the inclination and carried on. “How are you feeling?” he asked, settling himself on the cot beside her undersized form.
“All right,” she said, chin quivering. “I feel . . . heavy-like.” She bit down on her lip with the admission.
Sea knew the ache of lingering. He saw her shame and released it in his way. Ruth seemed to sense this empathy, which she might have ascribed to his professional calling. But no nurse ever spent so much time with her unless they were sticking or scrubbing or shifting. No nurse ever sat down either.
“I must be making him up,” she whispered. “Another ghost.”
“You’re not. I’m as real as you. Only . . .” he smiled and switched gears, “. . . you are a bold woman, Ruth.”
Although the poor dear suffered from shallow breath and a faulty heart rhythm, her spirit was still hale. And yet she hadn’t eaten in days. She was ready.
Ruth opened her mouth to reply to the compliment, but her disadvantaged mind changed the subject.
“Are you going to try to sell me a suit?” she said, brightening with the challenge. “Because I’m a hard sell. Wiggins has already got three.”
“I’m not,” Sea said with a wink. “That’s not why I’m here.” He leaned in closer and his expression turned grave. “I think it’s time you leave hospital, Ruth.”
Trembling and warped, her fingers picked at the pilling of the blanket, and her eyes cast wildly about, not landing and not seeing. “Oh,” she said.
Sea understood. Change was profound and upsetting, and (apart from being born) leaving here would be the greatest transition of all. Sea didn’t change—not ever—and so he appreciated, even if he couldn’t share, her resistance. (Although an uncertainty of his own was taking hold, and he was compelled to press on notwithstanding.)
“Mister Wiggins—Arthur, I mean—he’s been asking for you.”
Tears gathered at the brim of her lower lids, and she clutched the nightgown at her chest, knowing that her memory kept her husband alive while she survived—alone.
“Wiggins is a good man.”
“Ruthie?” Sea used her late husband’s term of endearment. “Would you like to hear a story?”
She gazed up at him and smiled full, looking almost girlish. “I kept all my own teeth, you know. Well, nearly all.” A short frown knitted her face. “A story, you said?”
“You like stories, don’t you?”
“Oh, yes, I like stories.” Ruth’s lips pasted together, making speech awkward and exhausting. “What sort of story is it?”
This was Sea’s favorite bit. “It’s a love story. But I must show you. Will you come?”
“A love story!” Ruth marveled, her cheeks hollowed. “What did you say your name was?”
“It’s James. And I want you to meet the Hero of this story.”
“Not Arthur . . .”
There it came again. That extraordinary rebellious notion. Why should he be left to do the endings? When would he get to be the hero of the story?
Sea told himself to come off it. He must not ask such questions. This role was worthwhile, and he’d spent his life making an art of it. He would not entertain insubordination; he would do as he was told.
He tried to recover and set his sights on the finish, rushing a bit.
“But even if he’s not the hero, Wiggins’s got a part in the story too. Now, we must hurry. The Hero is waiting, because you, my dear, are his lady.”
Her smile faded, and her brow wrinkled deeper.
“That sounds lovely. But, young man, do you realize how old I am?” She hissed, scandalized, “I could be your grandmother!”
Sea hid a smile in his shoulder before he answered. “Em . . . You know, I don’t see an old grandmother. The truth is, I see a strong, fair lass who is weary of this old myth”—he made a sweeping gesture to include all the infirmary props and pain and darkness—“and she is being called to a new adventure. So? The real story now.”
“How?” Ruth asked, her voice like the scratch of a pencil. “You’re going to take a wee journey. Just close your eyes . . .”
“Like falling asleep,” she said, obeying.
“More like waking up actually.”
Her eyes fluttered open. “What about Wiggins? Will he know where I am—and my sister? Oh, God! I forgot to give her back her stockings. She’ll skin me alive, she will!”
“Shhh. I’ll let them know just as soon as we get you on your way.”
He stroked her head and she quieted. The white hair was weightless, and he imagined that if he rubbed it between his fingers it would disintegrate like cinders. He could see straight through it to a mottled scalp. Despite its temporary capacity, there was something tremendous about the human body . . . sacred even.
“Wait! I’m sorry, Ruth.” Sea hardly knew what he was saying. “Let’s not do this. Not now. I’m not . . . feeling up to it. But I’ll come back another time.”
She recoiled. “What are you talking about? I want to hear the story, you—whatever your name is! You can’t bloody stop now.”
Sea straightened up, her insistence flinging him back to his senses. “Of course. You’re right. What was I thinking. Go on then?”
“Go on,” she allowed, closing her eyes again. “Sing to me, Wiggins.”
“What would you like me to sing, Ruthie?” This was a popular request: a last lullaby. He knew all the songs too. He had recently performed a John Lennon for an old fellow with pneumonia.
“My favorite, please—‘Abide with Me.’ That would be lovely.”
He began to sing in a mellow baritenor: “. . . fast falls the eventide . . .”
Ruth mouthed the words despite her pressured breathing and, when she was able, sang along, a hushed incantation.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see:
O thou who changest not, abide with me!
When he reached the end of the third verse—“Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?”—she threw open her eyes and peered at him again, unblinking and recognizing. Sea leaned away and studied her, impassive, to make sure she didn’t confuse him with the Hero. That would be intolerable.
“What took you all these years?” she said finally, managing to wag a buckled finger at him. “Do you know how long I’ve waited for you?”
Sea laughed for the shock of the accusation. She knew who he was! The audacity to scold him was impressive. But neither her question nor her irritation was unexpected. She softened with his laughter and sealed her sight again with a smirk, back on friendly terms.
“Who ever heard of the angel of death modeling Burberry?” She shook her head and chuckled soundlessly.
He held up his arms and looked down at his scrubs. “What? You don’t like my costume?”
“Wear something proper for your next escort.”
“I will. I mean no disrespect. And forgive me, madam, for the delay. Shall we then?” he asked, one hand cradling the back of her neck and the other hovering over her face. At her permission, he prepared to proceed with the slight yet paramount gesture.
He finished the last verse of the hymn:
Shine thro’ the gloom, and point me to the skies:
Heav’n’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee:
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me . . .
“Amen,” they vowed together.
“It’s been a pleasure to serve you, Ruth.” As he uttered the last, Seamus laid his palm and fingers over her nose and mouth, drawing the last rattled breath from her unsubstantial body.
Still holding her head in his hands, his eyes rolled upward. “Sorry about that, Da,” he said to the ceiling. Then he bowed his head and waited for a rebuke that never came.
Sea arranged the room to look the same as before he had arrived, replacing the cups of broth and adjusting the curtain. He allowed himself an appraising glance at Ruth’s empty form, but it held no further interest for him.
When he’d first started, he would hold the bodies to feel their slack weight, inspecting the pores, fingernails, and teeth, peeling back the eyelids to wonder at lifeless humanity. He touched his lips to theirs, still warm but void. During his tour, however, he had seen so much of the dead that he no longer fancied them. Although remarkable, they were far more appealing when the spirit was still settled inside.
After repositioning the arms and blanket until he was satisfied with their presentation, he slipped out of the room before a nurse could catch him and took off down the near-empty hall. Serendipity surfaced, and Sea met Ruth’s son face to face as the tired man made his way back to discover his mother’s vacant body. Sea smiled and nodded at Ari Wiggins as he walked past with his paper cup of coffee.
There were many of Sea’s kind in the hospital, but none so pretentious as to parade around in human costume. These unseen beings comprised the healers and the minders (traditionally called guardians), both of which were quite different from Sea in personality and demeanor, often less imposing. Sea didn’t usually trouble himself to relate to them, although he was friendly enough and polite with his greetings. He wondered if any of them had suffered from moments of misgivings.
Course not. They were the good guys.
He took a lift down to the laundry, where he returned the scrubs and found his street clothes. A middle-aged black woman laughed at him and pretended to look away as he boldly stripped and tossed her his shirt. She knew him from run-ins such as this and assumed he was a graduate physician. Months ago, he had given her an invented name (and an English one at that—Wickham) and established a routine of teasing her, gaining much gratification from her embarrassment. She was always feisty and ready with a comeback, which Sea admired.
“Shouldn’t you be home, miss? Lessons tomorrow, haven’t you?”
“Oh, Doctor Wick, you know very well I ain’t no schoolgirl! I got two babies of my own in the academy.”
Kiki was an immigrant from Jamaica, and she worked double shifts at the John Radcliffe to afford her son’s and daughter’s tuition at a city prep school.
“It cannot be,” he said. “You had me fooled.”
“You’re fool of something, all right!” She laughed.
She pointed urgently at his pants and shot him a sidelong glare. “Put some clothes on, for God’s sake, man!”
He grinned and obliged, thrilled at her attention. “Goodnight, Kiki. Mind yourself going home.”
“Mm-hm,” she replied, sing-song. “And you be sure to keep your backside covered, Doctor Wick.”
“Call me James,” he said for the fourth time. On his way out the door, he noted that it was the first time she had directly mentioned any part of his anatomy. (Or at least he thought she had; it sounded like “bok-side,” and thus his translation was suspect.)
James—Sea—was not yet ready to be gone. It was the start of the Michaelmas term, and the university was in full rush. The feast of Saint Michael was only a designation on the liturgical calendar, but as it celebrated the archangel of the same name, Sea took partial credit for the season and felt welcome here.
After an escort, he liked to be out amongst the population, in their guise, to watch the people and process the experience before the next assignment surfaced. So he set out in his jeans, tee shirt, and trainers into Headington’s residential neighborhood. His was an energetic gait. He bounded off his toes in a way that propelled him almost off the pavement as he moved in the direction of a favorite pub.
It was a foggy evening, and the barstools were all taken by locals and hospital folk, but he stayed because he could smoke out back in the garden if he wanted. And although he would rather make conversation with the men, he wasn’t supposed to loiter and carouse with the public. Instead, Sea quietly ordered a stout at the bar and claimed an unoccupied booth where he could consider his short time with Ruth Wiggins before her passage through the veil.
Not exactly an impeccable performance, but it came out right in the end anyway. Thank God, Missus Wiggins had been a willing traveler.
When an individual comes close to transition, she peeks through the gap to the supernatural world. Seeing things, hearing things . . . things that those living fully on the earthly level—usually busy and sidetracked—can’t validate or comprehend. Those who are fading fast exist in the passageway, half in this world and half in the other. Kind of like Sea.
Ruth Wiggins had been keen to leave—enough with the dying already!—she wanted to move on. Not so with every assignment. This latter sort could be demanding if the participant resisted. Not that Sea minded the challenge or wasn’t up to it. After all, he could cause earthquakes, walk through walls, and take out entire armies in one sweep if he chose to. He, however, preferred a more understated approach.
But, for whatever reason, some people stalled. The end upset them. Or perhaps they felt the pressure of other obligations. A lot of humans he served considered death a kind of destruction to be opposed. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light!” They expected Sea to be sadistic, indifferent, or at the very least, startling.
For that reason, he didn’t always allow his coming to be anticipated. As a self-proclaimed humanitarian, he performed the deed first if he sensed it would be a problem, and then made up a story during the passage. Mercy killing, he labeled it. But his job lost a lot of its charm then; if at all possible, he preferred to meet the individual before they died. Like he had with Ruth.
What a grand lady she was! So spirited, he thought, if a wee bit confused. With amusement, he recalled her objection to being cast as the damsel in a love story due to her vintage. She’d said she was old enough to be his grandmother. In truth, Sea wouldn’t mind having a nana like Ruth—if he could have a nana. That was a pleasing idea. Though, obviously, she was on to finer activities and likely wouldn’t entertain a human role to indulge a pretentious angel of death.
Ruth was living a new story now, with her Hero. . . .
Speaking of whom, Himself might not be too impressed with Sea’s dithering tonight.
What was that about? And what dreadful timing! Never before had he questioned the scheme of things, nor his part in them. Endings made good beginnings, he thought. And he’d always done what he was supposed to do, which satisfied him, and Heaven expected no less.
That was what Sea lived for: the esteem of his Maker.
Sea called him Da. Da called him Sea. Of course, Da wasn’t wholly male. “He” wasn’t exactly female either, but something . . . Other. And both. Sea was uninterested, however, when it came to arbitrary pronouns and opted for whichever captured his fancy.
The Hero was rather like a dad to Sea. He had created him, after all. He gave him his trade and entrusted the lad with his beloved beings. It was a critical and honored position. And Da was mighty craic too—a good-humored, playful tease. Indeed, being in his company was the ultimate euphoric experience. Second-best was being with the humans he so doted on. Sea was far gone with affection for him and wanted nothing more than to remain a favorite in Da’s clan.
Then there was Hugh, Sea’s mentor and superior. Hugh was more like his ma, scolding and knocking him about the head when he was wayward. Hugh was protective and worrisome, threatening Sea and the newer agents with the dangers and consequences of unacceptable behavior and unauthorized intimacy with the mortals. But then, if he thought Sea wasn’t listening, he sang his praises to any who would listen . . . which was usually his Da. And when the lad did all right, Hugh acted as if he had created him.
Talk of the devil. As Sea studied his foamy brew, turning the sweaty glass in his hands, he sensed a form moving his way. The weary meddler slid into the booth across the table from Sea. This must be bad, he thought, if the boss was coming after him here.
“How goes the battle, lad?” Hugh asked.
Sea ran his tongue around the front of his teeth, then smiled a greeting. He impishly stuck his long legs up under the table to rest on the seat next to Hugh.
“Right, sir. Grand, thanks. This is a shock. You want me to order you a pint?” he said, lifting the glass.
The ancient Celt pulled a face. “Honestly I don’t know how you stand that rubbish.”
The gentleman looked much older than Sea. His hair was colorless, his face ragged but friendly, with pearly stubble and tired eyes. He was wrecked. Been in the wars. It wasn’t natural for beings like Sea and Hugh to age; it only happened in response to intense trauma or years in rebellion. It was indeed curious and caused all manner of rumors, but the latter never told what past affliction transpired to alter his appearance so. He’d been this way since Sea came to train under him. Whatever it was, it seemed that Hugh hadn’t recovered.
“What brings you here then?” Sea took a nervous swill. Did Hugh come because of what had happened with Ruth Wiggins?
“I’ve got a yoke for you, Seamus.”
Sea noticed a wariness about Hugh’s mouth, despite his light manner.
“What makes you come personally?”
Direct orders usually came in the form of foresight. Sea would be overtaken by a vision of the future. In it, he was shown where to go, whom he was taking, and what for: aneurysm, drunk driving, flood, fire, shipwreck, disease, shooting, pills. . . . The rest was instinct.
“It’s not personal, of course,” said Hugh. “It’s, em . . . delicate. Unpredictable perhaps. We need our best.”
It was Sea’s turn to pull a face, even if it was affected. “The best?”
“Now you’ve only been at it—what—half a decade? Not even . . .”
“Oh! You don’t say? Why don’t you get Wesley then?”
“Wesley is more than competent, but he lacks thoughtfulness. He prefers the quick method. Violent manners—”
“Mm. He’s a beast.”
“Well, he is what he is. He does as he’s told. He’s quick—concerned with the end result. You, on the other hand, appreciate the process, and it affects your work. You have a way with them. A tasteful quality, if sometimes dramatic. They want to go with you. They trust you.”
Hugh reached across the table and patted the lad’s cheek. Then he raised a finger in warning.
“But you’re proud, Seamus—”
“Sea,” he corrected.
Hugh took a pen and a beer mat from his jacket pocket and scribbled on the golden sails of the Galway Hooker. Ah, look who’s been in the pubs now, Sea said to himself with a smug smile.
“Right. I am requesting your services tomorrow afternoon. Long Island, New York. Here are the coordinates and the time.” Hugh slid the coaster over to Sea.
Across the pond again. This was one way Sea had come by his sobriquet. Although stationed in Oxford, he was a transatlantic death angel, serving all English-speaking peoples of the world.
The young dispatcher read the message and mentally worked out when he must leave England.
“You’re not giving me much to go on.”
“It’s a drowning, lad.” Hugh sounded sorry to say it, and he didn’t make eye contact with Sea. “You’ll know what to do when you arrive. Just promise me you’ll get there.”
“I promise, sir,” Sea said, intending to go ahead of time to gather any details.
“Thank you.” Hugh sighed. He looked around the pub, seeming less than impressed. “You are being careful, aren’t you, Seamus?”
“I am.” Sea stared at the wood grain in the table. He didn’t mind getting caught in a bar, but he despised having to endure a lecture from Hugh.
“I understand this, you know. We all fancy them—the Lord’s choice creations. The mortals are entertaining and even seductive. But you mustn’t get too close. It’s not right to mix. And you would hate to have to cut a life short because you weren’t using precautions.”
Sea gulped his stout. He thought of Kiki and the glorious long legs that he imagined held her up under that white uniform. The hardworking mother of two and wife of Santiago. It would be tragic and shameful to have to take a life from its temporal story because he’d revealed too much.
“I know what I’m doing.”
Hugh looked down his nose. “So let’s talk about this pride, hm? You insist on going about like this—seen—on display. Watch it, lad. Don’t let it get you into trouble.”
Sea laughed. “You nearly said I was the best. What could happen?”
Hugh’s expression changed from sober to downright severe. “I was the best once.”
Sea held his breath, hoping for elaboration.
“And I was proud. And I didn’t think I had to mind myself. And I’m miserable for it still, you understand?”
“I’m sorry, sir. I wish there were something I could do for you.”
The elder sighed again, but the release was burdened. “Be there tomorrow.” He reached across and tapped the coordinates. “Do what you do. That would be something.”
“So . . . who’s covering for me here?”
He leaned his head back and groaned. “I should have known. This is a setup, isn’t it? Tell him I want a full and proper report when I return. Not one poor dying drunk overlooked, or I’ll have his hide.”
“You’re incorrigible.” Hugh shook his head. “It’s almost impossible to tell you two are friends.”
“Not my fault! After so many centuries of watching over cattle and sheep, I have taken the role of wolf. One must be as sly as the competition if he’s going to stay ahead.”
Hugh clicked his tongue. “Seamus, that’s really not your style. Don’t sink to his level. It doesn’t become you.”
Sea stuttered for a retort but found it interrupted by a new voice—one not as gruff as Hugh’s, nor as grandiose as Sea’s.
“Indeed it don’t. You ain’t talking about me, are you? Make room, old man.”
Wesley waved Hugh aside and scooted into the booth, pushing Sea’s feet off the bench which caused him to sit up abruptly.
“You miss them beasts, do you? Surely that’s where you get your sensitivity, See-mus.”
“Better than the present company,” he said with the hint of amusement. “And if you must call me Shay-mus, you can pronounce it properly.”
Sea and Wesley grasped hands over the table and grinned wider.
“Stableboy,” Wesley muttered.
“Enough! Look, lads. I need to be off,” Hugh said. “I’ll leave you two to your juvenile malarkey.”
“Aw, don’t go, Hugh,” said Wesley. “There’s steeple jumping tonight.”
“Move, you rascal. And you had better mind yourselves and leave the city standing, you hear me? I won’t hesitate to ground you in Finland again.”
Hugh removed himself from the stall, eventually satisfied with their disingenuous promises to behave.
“Slán agaibh, boyos.”
“Slán leat,” said Sea, watching him go.
“Yeah, goodbye then!” Wesley called after.
Sea snorted, noticing how their respective worldly digs had impressed certain regional characteristics on them, such as speech, customs, and appetites. Whereas he and Hugh had whiled away lifetimes in Ireland, Wesley was a Londoner before even Shakespeare had arrived on the scene.
The latter lowered his head and affected a dour tone. “Finish your pint, See-mus. We got some free hours, yeah? I say we head to London and go Underground, if you know what I mean.”
Sea swallowed the rest of his warmish brew and flicked the beer mat away; he wouldn’t need to memorize latitude and longitude to end up where he was called to go.
“Race you there, Weasel.”
With his head start, Sea didn’t see Wesley catch and pocket the Galway Hooker before it slid to the floor.