McCool (The opening of Chap 1)

by Aidan Andrew Dun

McCool: the story of a love-triangle set against 21st century international conflict.

In this verse-novel (which preceded Unholyland) a modern warlord deployed to the Middle-East at the start of the narrative leaves his wife anxious, loveless, childless. Gala James, wife of Colonel Parker James, relocates to London to resume her career as an art-journalist and here her path crosses that of celebrated and controversial war-artist McCool. However the development of their affair is far from straightforward. McCool: a meditation of the world-turned-upside-down through the power of love.

Here are a few sonnets from the opening of the novel…


News came on a grey morning.
One of those defeated days
when spring is frigid, yawning
exhaustedly in a frozen haze;
unable to discover in mist
the many promises kissed
into the land with sunshine
only two weeks before, when fine
words were said by the Lord Sun
to his Lady, the green-eyed earth,
when Maytime first had her birth:
‘I’ll make you so warm, darling one,
I’ll bring you golden summer joy.’
(What a brilliant solar playboy.)


At eight a Tornado GR4
crossed the house so low to the ground
it troubled the exterior door,
made the coffee urn resound;
shook the glass breakfast table,
sent a shiver (it was unstable)
made of it a transparent drum:
see-through mirror-like tympanum.
Gala looked at her husband Parker
as the jet whined off across Rain Hill:
‘He’s down in the dirt.’ There was a chill,
the day seemed immediately darker.
Then the red postvan roared straight
through the opened electronic gate.


The letter informed of deployment,
transference to the Lebanon.
The Queen’s Deathshead regiment,
Royal Lancers, would be gone
in a fortnight, sudden clearance
due to new belligerence,
in view of theatre-escalation,
involvement of another nation.
Their commander, Col. Parker James,
would plan and mount black operations
with drone backup, combat-stations
skyside, smartfire, cosmic flames
at his beck and call. Gala waited.
Her man seemed truly checkmated.


She felt the first drop of rain,
knew his heart accelerated;
sensed his emotional pain,
understood he was elated.
They moved the table in together
out of unforeseeable weather,
two tall Caucasians in failed sunlight,
not saying much, the low-level flight
still covering them with abrasive
thunder, unearthly sound (as when
steel furnaces of hell slide open).
His ‘Over soon’ wasn’t persuasive.
Inside, a tidal wave of tears
broke suddenly: Gala ran upstairs.


That night the sky seemed to lift;
they loved frenziedly till dawn.
Song of the doves began to drift
through open windows; across the lawn
sunlight stretched warm fingers,
like a hand that sweetly lingers
on the hip of the tender earth,
horizon of warmth, giving birth
to new days. They loved again,
kissed slow lips, then slept till noon.
Not for years, since their honeymoon,
had these two drunk such champagne
from eachothers’ mouths in passion.
(Parker’d strayed in a husband’s fashion.)


Two weeks later in heavy rain
a Globemaster flew the regiment
out of Brize Norton, the huge jetplane
banking through grey firmament,
camouflaged ghost that slowly ceased
thundering away to the east.
Gala drove home in floods of tears;
the Isle of Purbeck heard her prayers.
Near the Great Rift Valley Parker
also prayed as Syrian missiles,
Scuds (of range three-fifty miles)
overflying the wartorn B’qaa
violated Lebanese airspace,
threatened his destination airbase.


In back-lanes of the peninsula,
Gala, in the big house that night
felt her grief bear down: insular
pain. Despairing, she took fright;
sat up late by the fireside
searching the Iliad, warbride.
‘Fate: no one alive ever escaped
that; no hero or coward’s reshaped
the destiny with which we’re all born.’
Gala confided to her journal
what she’d not said to the Colonel:
‘Already I’m the woman wartorn;
I pray you will not be hurt
yourself in the cruel desert.’