Onwards…

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Archive for the tag “short stories”

Revolution: Stories from Ireland Podcast

This story returns to a time when the Revolution was just around the corner. It’s from The West and was recorded in San Francisco. Music is by Martin Hayes + Dennis Cahill and the tune is MacAllistrom’s March.

CLICK FOR PODCAST FEED

A friend who had a radio show on ClareFm discovered that Revolution upset the Ennis taxi drivers for some unfathomable reason. So he’d play it and they’d call the station and scream at him to can the track…it’s 11 minutes approx. He’d let it go for a few weeks and then drop it on them like a bomb, some wet night when they’d all be ranked around the monument in town. One night they drove out to the station and honked until the cops came…I never take a taxi around Ennis…


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Stories from Ireland Podcast

stories Stories from Ireland is a podcast I’ve set up and I’ll be posting spoken word every few weeks. Limbo, the current story, is about going to school in Ireland + it’s 16 minutes long. First published in my collection of short fiction, The West, it was broadcast by the BBC as a play for voices + is included in the anthology Fiction in the Classroom.

This version is on a spoken word CD called Stories from Ireland which has musical accompaniment by Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill. More info here.

Stories from Ireland podcast is free + can be played on a computer or mp3 player. It’s available on itunes or you can subscribe via Feedburner by clicking here: Subscribe to Stories from Ireland Please share this link.


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Long nights, short days with a Clare danceband

The Springs Hotel before the deluge

The Springs Hotel before the deluge

My music career began the year I joined Mickey Moran’s Country and Oldtime Stars. I was seventeen, had long hair and played electric guitar, one of the solid red axes like Keith Richards had. Good for the image, Mickey said. There were four of us in the ‘outfit’, as he called it: himself played a piano accordion, Tats was on the drums, me on guitar and Tony Flynn covered clarinet, flute, maracas and tambourine. Mickey did the vocals and encouraged singers from the floor.

That season, we had a residency in The Springs Hotel, a ghost of a place that had been closed for about forty years, until a nephew of the owner came home from England in a knife creased blue suit and decided to put the clock back.

they're playin' our song, Paddy...

they're playin' our song, Paddy...

He brushed away the cobwebs, swept the floors and opened the doors: everything else was the same as the day it closed, maybe even the drink. The place had an eerie feeling about it, like a Frankenstein movie set. Dim chandeliers and dank carpets, huge wall mirrors, long velvet burgundy curtains, weighed down with dust. Shadows everywhere, strange people passing through, like they were searching for their youth.

The bandstand was in the lounge, a long narrow brownish room with a bar inside the door, a huge floor with chairs and tables strung along side walls under huge tarnished gold-framed mirrors. The Springs took a long time to warm up and only got going when the hot spots down town bubbled over. By then, half the band were drunk. This was my introduction to another side of life after school: steamy dancing, free whiskey, untipped cigarettes and the girls in short skirts who sat near the stage. Life became a minefield of possibilities.

The oddest things happened in The Springs. One night, just as the crowd were loosening up, a bat flew into the lounge and half the women in the place and all the men with toupees went hysterical. We played a waltz and Mickey asked for calm while the nephew, drunk as a coot, tried to catch the creature with a child’s shrimp net. Bottles broke, chairs crashed, tables overturned. But we played on, smiling that everything was ace.

The Nephew: Total control, full flight, loaded

The Nephew: Total control, full flight, loaded

Another night, an elf of a man in a pastor’s grey suit danced into the hall embracing a live-sized cardboard cutout nurse, who held an Irish Sweepstake ticket aloft in her hand: I’ll never forget the way she smiled over his shoulder as they wheeled by the bandstand. Then there was the night the cops arrived, a dozen or more, running like troopers, looking for a weightlifter from East Clare who had overturned a chip van in the town square. One of the lawmen fell out of rank and hung on at the bar. Sans hat and tunic, he lashed back gin and tonic and at four in the morning when everyone was yawning he did an Elvis Presly impersonation: “Crying in the Chapel”, “Wooden Heart”, “Blue Suede Shoes”. Eyes closed in ecstacy, while Tats did a drum solo, he danced off the stage and went to hospital with a broken leg.

where did it all go wrong?

the lads from Ballybockock

The final night we performed in The Springs, the place was totally empty. Nobody there. It was the weekend after the Listowel races and the crowd had gone to boogie elsewhere. The party was over, Winter was slicing in and all the sinners had flown. The night was brutally wet and windy and there was a cold blue light on the street. Most other places had closed, but the nephew wanted to go down with the ship. And so he did, keeping himself busy by filling drinks for the band and bringing them to the stage. Have one himself, then another round for the band. I had forsaken bottled beer by this time and was maturely supping shots of vodka with a dash of red lemonade. On we played, windows rattling, breeze whistling through the cracks.
Sometime late, a hippy lady who had a caravan outside the town traipsed into the lounge, black dog behind her. After a couple of pints she came up and sang with us: Marianne Faithful songs. Then the nephew invited her to dance and Mickey slowed down the tempo to a crawl. After another few numbers, the nephew and the hippy were kissing under a fly spattered chandelier, while Tony Flynn warbled “Stranger on the Shore “on clarinet. Vintage stuff. Tats drunkenly tapped along on and Mickey and myself vamped blue chords to fill the gaps.

bar for the band

bar for the band


Before taking his dance partner off to more private quarters, the nephew told us to help ourselves at the bar and lock the door behind us when we were going home. We played the national anthem, drum rolls and all, to an empty hall at half-past midnight, then took up positions at the bar. Mickey asked what we were having and God alone knows what we drank.

At some late hour, I remember being outside, black rain pelting down from heaven, trees groaning in the wind. Tats trying to lock the hotel door and catching the hem of his coat in it. Tony Flynn standing on the lawn, crooning “Blue Moon” towards the one lit window in the Springs. Mickey shouting at us to get into the car.

We proceeded out of town with the utmost caution, took the unapproved way home and got lost. Mickey drove around boreens and bog roads until we ran out of petrol in the middle of nowhere. There we sat in the pitch black, smoking cigarettes, drinking whiskey from a bottle Tats found in his coat pocket. Waiting for daylight, wondering where we were, freezing cold, deafened by the rain dancing on the tin car roof. Tats muttering,
“The road downhill was the easy one, and that’s the one we took.”

Bandwagon, Barrahurra Bog, October morning

Bandwagon, Barrahurra Bog, October morning

A version of this story was previously published in Out of the Blue, a collection of short stories by Eddie Stack



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car photo: kyle cooper, Flicker
all other photos: Michael John Glynne + Clare County Library


Biddy Early, St. Patrick & County Clare

Clare is the only county in Ireland that St. Patrick never set a foot in. He made several attempts to enter the territory but was repelled each time by the Clare druids. In 450AD, Patrick and eighty five monks marched through Kinvara and down towards the Burren. It was in late spring and the saint was buoyed by the conversion of Galway and the establishment of a monastery at Killnalicka. There was lots of hymns and chanting but when they approached the inlet of Kylesaile, (which marks the border between Galway and Clare) the procession was struck dumb. Not a tweet. Then they couldn’t move their legs, it was like they were rooted to the ground. The tide was filling and the muted monks started to panic, Patrick waved his crozier at the heavens, but God just told him to go back north when the tide turned.

Burren Bizzare

Burren Bizzare

The following year, Patrick tried to sneak into Clare through Tubber, but again he was outdone by a barrage of huge boulders which tumbled down from the Burren. Another time he thought to cross the Shannon from Tipperary, but twelve harpers on the far bank addled his head and his flotilla was swept downstream and ended up in Fenit, Co. Kerry.

In 468, Patrick was converting souls around Gort when he heard that Oisín had returned from Tír na n-Óg. He immediately sought out the old warrior and they met near Kilbeacanty where Oisín once had a lover. Forgetting what he was told in Tír na n-Óg — that it only takes one prick to burst a bubble, Oisín fell for the Saint’s plámás and got down off his horse. Once he touched the soil of Eire, he withered into a three hundred year old briar and babbled like a river. Saint P baptised him and the poor man immediately croaked and died.

What happened next is only known to the cognoscenti of Clare folklore: Patrick commandeered the horse that Oisín had rode from Tír na n-Óg on and headed for Clare. He figured it was a magical mount and he was right. He figured the Clare druids would be no match for the animal and that in a few days he’d convert the county. He was wrong. The horse had a mind of its own, took to the sky like a bucking bronco and kept going. That was the last anyone saw of St. Patrick and the date was March 17, 468 AD. Biddy Early used say that when Pat had 1500 years or more done orbiting the earth, that he’d return to Ireland a different man. She said he’d ride back on a white mare and carry gadgerty from the stars.

Haddock's Bar & Grocery

Haddock's Bar & Grocery

These prophesies danced around the head of Gertie Gorm as she approached the stranger in Haddocks Bar and Grocery one fine Saturday evening last May (see here for story background). A half glass of whiskey in her right hand, a shopping bag in the left. She said,
“Excuse me sir, but I know the face…”
“Hello,” he greeted, “I’m Patrick.”
“Well I’m happy to meet you, and tell me by any chance, did you come to town on a white mare?”
“Bloody Hell!” he laughed, “you got me in one! Are you clairvoyant?”
“I’m Clare through and through,” Gertie said, “born and bred for ten generations and more if anyone can count back that far.”
They shook hands, Gertie’s eyes brimming with tears,
“You’re the perfect man for the job,” she whispered, “perfect.”
Mr. Haddock set up another round of whiskey and went into the kitchen, where his wife and himself and tried to eavesdrop on the conversation in the bar.

“I can’t let Biddy down,” Gertie said, “you’ll have to help me.”
“Biddy who?”
“There’s only wan Biddy — Biddy Early of course.”
“Okay, well…if there’s anything I can do, I will…I mean within the bounds of reason, time, energy and all that jazz.”
His phone flashed. A twitter from Uggi39: Ballytutu beat Castlegreen 2 – Nil.
“What d’you call that machine?” Gertie asked.
“That’s a Yphone…great workhorse, Jap job.”
“Japjob,” muttered Gertie, “Japjob. You have the right equipment.”
“Well that’s half the battle…so can you tell me what’s the job?”
Gertie looked around the empty pub and whispered in his ear. Mr. Saint looked stone faced for a few seconds and muttered “Jesus! I wouldn’t know where to start…I mean I could send out a few twitters and see what would happen.”
“Twitters?”
“Yes. Look…”
He held his phone and scrolled down to a tweet from Kayleeband: #PleaseHelp! Lost my Green Poodle in Stephens Green today. Ansers 2 Danzer. Reward.
“You can ask any question and get an answer on Twitter.”
“Twitter,” muttered Gertie.
“And if I don’t get an answer in Twitter, I just go to Google.”
“Google? You have great brains,” she praised, “I get anxious even on d’aul phone…Google and Twitter would give me the fits…”
yphone

Mr. Haddock politely ushered them from the premises when Patrick began playing saxophone notes on his Yphone. He linked Gertie Gorm towards the church. She was singing “Down by the Glenside…glory-oh, glory-oh to the bauld Fenian Men.”
He helped her up on the white mare, balanced her on the saddle.
“I live beyond in Scroppol,” she slurred, pointing west.

Mr. Saint led his mare from the car park as the worshipers washed out of the church after Saturday evening Mass. Some blessed them selves and sprinkled a double dose of holy water at the sight of Gertie Gorm on a white mare, Mr. Saint leading the horse by the bridle. They clip clopped slowly through the quiet street, Gertie smug as a raja on an elephant.

About a mile out the Scropal road there’s a bridge over the river and Gertie explained that Biddy said the first blow must be made over water. Patrick Saint halted the mare on the middle of the bridge and the animal snorted nervously. He fished the Yphone from his coat pocket, he had 4 bars of reception and he cautiously twittered: @patricksaint anybody know where’s Biddy Early’s magic blue bottle? #Ireland, #Irish, #Clare #BiddyEarly, #folkmedicine, #magic.



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Biddy Early shadows Twitter fan, in County Clare, Ireland…

Biddy Early Country

Biddy Early Country

On a misty Saturday afternoon recently, a man slowly rode down from the Knockmore Hills on a white mare. He stopped at the village of Ahacoolawn, and tied the mount to a lamppost in the church parking lot. He walked along the dark side of the street and asked a kid on a tricycle where he could do the Lotto. No Lotto machine here, the youngster said, try Ballygong, and away he pedaled down the footpath. The horseman took a mobile phone from his coat pocket and twittered:
#Urgent. Is there a lotto machine in Ballygong, Clare, Ireland?
Biding his time for a reply, he scanned the village and saw Haddock’s Bar and Grocery. He squinted like Clint Eastwood at the bright red shopfront and strolled across the street to the premises.

 

Twitter1At the grocery counter inside the door, an elderly woman chatted to the shopkeeper and his wife. They lowered their voices when he entered and watched him sit on a stool at the bar. The old woman wondered if he might be an outlaw, with the long black coat and wide-brimmed hat that shadowed his face. But his gear looked new, and he could be a millionaire too, like that what’s-his-name who lived in the manse below in Greenaquilla.
“Grand day,” Mrs. Haddock smiled, coming to the bar counter.
“Beautiful,” the man said quietly, “Could I have a hot whiskey please.”
She tried to place his accent but a whiff of horse sweat got in the way and she backed off.
“Hot whiskey,” she said, “I’ll have to boil the kettle.”
“No rush,” he said, took the phone from his pocket and looked at it. A twitter from Blupak: you won’t win the Lotto tonight! He pecked at the keypad.

the-crow-eusebiu-rusu

Mrs. Haddock went to the kitchen and put a kettle of water on the gas stove. An odd drink to order on a fine afternoon in May, a hot whiskey. Maybe he had a cold or something. She blew her nose, returned to the shop to get the whiskey but instead rejoined her husband at the grocery counter.
“Well Gertie, if I were you,” Mr. Haddock was saying to the customer, “The Sultan would be the last man I’d ask to do that job.”
“But sure what can I do? There’s no wan else around to do that kinda thing anymore.”
“I’d be wary of The Sultan,” Mrs. Haddock said, “But the Lord have mercy on poor ol’ Mickey Conboy, but if he was alive and he’d do it, an’ do it well.”
“Now you’re talkin’,” the woman agreed, “Mickey was the last of d’aul stock, God be good to ‘im.”
“Usen’t Mona Daly do that work too?” Mrs. Haddock asked.
“She wasn’t worth a damn,” Gertie muttered in disgust, “useless…an’ d’you know what? She’d drink twice the amount of any man…”
“She’s a right terror,” JJ Haddock agreed, “sure the evenin’ of Martin Fuller’s funeral we couldn’t get her to go home. And the language outa her was desperate…”
“You need a sober person for that job,” Gertie said, “no use havin’ a lac-kay with a shake in the hand or a loose tongue.”
“No,” Mrs. JJ agreed quietly, “that kinda thing has to be low-key.”
“Anyway, as long as things wouldn’t get out of control,” Mr. Haddock muttered.
“Things are out of control already JJ,” said Gertie, “Our time is over in this country. And d’ye know what, when the hippies moved in around here, we thought the place was finished…but the hippies are streets ahead of what’s goin’ around now…”
“The hippies are grand people,” Mr. Haddock agreed.
They became silent and peeped at the stranger who was looking at his phone. He chuckled and they watched until the kettle whistled from the kitchen and Mrs. Haddock cried,
“Oh God…I forgot about the hot whiskey.”
chris maier

Uaineas twittered: where the @#ck is Ballygong? Gagagin posted: nearest Lotto to Ballygong is Killamoneen. Blurp4 said: we’re all getting plastered at Nobby’s place.

He put down the phone when a steaming tumbler of hot whiskey and a bowl of sugar were put in front of him. Mrs. Haddock apologised that she had neither lemon nor cloves and he told her not to worry, it was fine. His mobile phone was flashing on the counter and she hurried back to the others and said,
“D’you know what I was just thinkin’ Gertie, would any of the hippies be able to do that job?”

Biddy's Bottle

Biddy's Bottle


Silence for a few seconds. Mr. Haddock wondered why the drinker was tapping on the phone like a woodpecker.
“Hippies wouldn’t be able to handle a job like this,” Gertie said slowly, “sure Mary Tom went to a hippie lady beyond near Gort there a few years ago with a similar situation and the whole thing went completely haywire. Haywire. It all backfired and poor Mary ended up Inside.”
“The hippies wouldn’t know much about that kinda thing,” JJ Haddock agreed.
“But to give them their due,” Gertie said, “they’d help you out if they could…some of ’em are very handy. And obligin’ too.”
“Sure there’s all different kind of hippies now,” Mrs. Haddock sighed, “and sure there’s the crustys and the…the what d’you call ’em?”
“New agents?” suggested Gertie, “A lot of them aren’t right hippies at all, at all. Right hippies ate mate, grow their own tabaccy and drink all around them. But they cause no trouble.”
“The right hippie believes in peace,” said JJ, “peace and love…you’d see it there on the television.”
The stranger laughed at his phone and they stopped talking. He looked around and asked,
“May I have another hot whiskey please?”

His eyes sparkled in the evening sun, and Gertie clutched the counter. She saw the smiling eyes of a preacher from a cowboy film she’d seen in a traveling road show. It was long ago, but the story flickered before her in patches and she heard drifts of lonesome harmonica notes and the crackling of a campfire on the prairies. And if he’s that smart on the mobile phone, she thought, he’d surely find an answer. He doffed his hat and Gertie whispered to Mr. Haddock,
“Sweet Jesus, that’s the man for the job. Give him a double whiskey and fill a small wan for myself.”

Banjax9 twittered: I’d get outa there rapid if I were u.

fly away


credit: Biddy Early Country pic by Mary Gaynor

GLOSSARY:

Biddy Early: herbalist, healer, wise woman from Clare (c. 1798–1874). Renowned to be faster than Google to come up with an answer, Biddy is said to re-appear around the county when times get tough.

lac-kay: from the Irish leath-cíall =half-wit



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Bob Dylan in Dublin: in the shadows of Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, Wilde and Behan.

With Bob, a wedding could be a funeral and vice versa

With Bob, a wedding could be a funeral and vice versa

The Point Depot, or O2 as it’s now known, is not my favourite venue. It’s cold, hard, with the feeling of a huge warehouse or converted factory, which made steamships for the river Liffey that is on the other side of the road. Ok, it has been refurbished, face lifted, jazzed up and renamed, but it’s still a barn of a place with bad acoustics. It’s the biggest indoor arena in Ireland, and it’s where all the big concerts are. After attending few gaga gigs there, I said never again, I didn’t care if Jesus and the 12 Apostles were playing there, but I wouldn’t go.

But then a few weeks ago I got a call from a good friend, he had a ticket to Bob Dylan for me, plus all the trimmings. All I had to do was get to Dublin…being a decades old fan, I couldn’t let Bob down. Memories of all the times I’d seen him over the years flooded into my heart — Dylan and the Grateful Dead in Oakland, CA in 1987…his 1990 US Tour when the Pogues played support and I was invited along for the ride…Tramore, when Van the Ram danced on the side of the stage while Bob crooned Ramona…The Greek Theatre in Berkeley when Neil Young played with him…Bob and Tom Petty in Sacramento…maybe it was somewhere else, the memory is hazy on that one. When push came to shove, I put prejudices aside, and went to see Dylan in Dublin at The Point.
rs dylan

We got to the venue about 30 min before the gig and were fast-tracked inside — connections, you see. I declined the balcony seat and went down on the floor, weaved and wriggled through the throng until I got to within about 25’ of the stage. Everyone was packed close as sardines ahead of me…all ages, the retired parish priest look alike, latter day hippies, girls with the giggles, serious dudes with very serious cameras, a few drunk cork guys wondering where the jacks were. Heavy breathing, perfume and alcohol, everyone waiting for Dylan. The lights dimmed, the punters erupted as shadowy figures crossed the stage and the show began with a bang.

Under a wide brimmed hat, black suit with yellow trim, Dylan, center stage on sunburst Fender guitar rang out ‘The Wicked Messenger’…an odd opening number. The vocals were muddy but the band was tight. Bobby’s voice was unmelodic, croaking, rasping and if you didn’t catch the words you could be forgiven for thinking he was singing ‘God Save The Queen’, or worse. His three guitarists stood stage left, dark suits and hats they were like the Blues Brothers. The drummer thumped as if he was in a stadium and the pedal steel guitarist beside him looked like he was ducking sniper fire from somewhere. They were an odd lot and they packed a steady punch, swampy blues with a touch of the Chicago Chess sound. Although I doubt a vast percentage of the crowd caught five consecutive words that Bobby sang, they went wild.

Tracks: painting by Dylan

Tracks: painting by Dylan

Sidewalk by BD

Sidewalk by BD


There was no word to the audience —he could have been a dumb plumber coming into someone’s house to fix a pipe — he unstrapped his guitar and stood off center stage behind keyboards…The vocals slightly improved and I recognized ‘Girl from The North Country’ from a run of words rather than the melody which didn’t seem to follow even the chord sequence. But what can you say? Bob is an artist, not an entertainer. He rarely does covers of his own numbers, and as they are his own, he’s liable to do anything he likes with them, including deconstructing the melody completely or matching words of one song with the melody of another…something I thought only Shane McGowan could do.

At a Dylan show you have to throw expectations out the window, preconceived notions out the door. Bob doesn’t stand still. He follows a star somewhere in the sky, like the Three Wise Men did long ago, and he relates his experiences to us poor mortal souls. He doesn’t want to be boxed in, labeled, categorized, rest on his laurels. With Dylan, it’s always Onwards, he takes the road less traveled, sometimes making a new road altogether and when people begin to follow, he gives them the slip and branches off somewhere else. You never know what he’s going to do or how he’ll do it, you may not like it nor understand it, but it will nearly always be brilliant and touch a chord, stir the heart, draw a tear and answer an unasked question.

Bob really enjoyed his gig at the Point. I was close enough to the stage that I could see him smile occasionally. He was rocking, vamping those keys and arching his body like a cat that had the cream and more. His guitarists watched him like hawks…. Bob typically rehearses at least 50 numbers with the touring band and they have to be ready for the unexpected, a change of key, a change of tempo, a change of style. That was the common thread running through the Point Gig — nothing sounded like it did the last time we heard him play it. Not even his great old classics — ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, ‘Desolation Row’, ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again’. But they were all brilliant.

there must be some way outa here..

there must be some way outa here..

After every number, he turned towards the audience and gave a slight nod, a hand gesture, then consulted his set list. He took his time, like a guy wondering if he’d have the soup or the salad. Then he had a word with the pedal steel guitarist and we were away on another mystery tour. Bob boogying, throwing out Georgie Fame sounds…creating chaos out of order like one of those musical quiz shows, until a string of words gave away the title of the number. Then the crowd sang along, many times singing the popular recorded version rather than the revisionist track Bob was on. The only song I recognized from the get-go was ‘Blind Willie McTell’, and that was because of signature piano solo intro.

Bob-Dylan@18
The one part of the old Dylan sound that remained unchanged was his harmonica playing. Of course the audience swooned every time he blew the mouth organ. And how he blew it…or bluesed it for ‘Blowin’ in The Wind’. The audience sang louder than the band, but Bobby was singing a different version of the old chestnut…it seemed more relevant, not stuck back in the Sixties, a song for our times, a message between the lines.

Dylan and the band took a bow, he didn’t introduce them, didn’t say one word to the audience during the show. He appreciated his response with a nod and a wry smile, gave a flick of a wave and was gone. He’s got everything he needs, he’s an artist and he don’t look back.

Thanks Mr. Dylan, hope to catch you again around San Francisco in late August.

And Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, Wilde and Behan? I’d say Wilde and Behan would probably have not seen the gig at all, they’d have hung out back stage, drinking their fill and avoiding each other…Behan might have staggered on stage for the encore —uninvited. Wilde would have tried on all Bob’s hats. Yeats would have been furious and stormed out after the first number, raged up the Quays composing a letter in his head for the Irish Times. Joyce would have been scared stiff by the noise and the crowd…Sam Beckett might have tried to persuade him that Bob was a fan and had read Dubliners…Joyce would have said ‘The hat worries me. Does he carry a gun?’
And of course Paddy Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien would have given the whole shebang a miss and hissed at each other in McDaid’s bar…

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Finito

Note: This is fiction, inspired by a lot of talk I’ve heard about therapy and therapists over the last few days…
therapy

Dr. Horace Steiner’s therapy room was warm and smelled musty, with a faint whiff of heating oil. His patient, Larry Ryan, lay on the couch sobbing and Dr. Horace let him be, inhaled deeply and gazed out the window that overlooked High Street. He frowned blankly at the head shop on the opposite side and wondered what fantasies and troubles his next patient, Mary Kelly, would bring. After Mary he’d have lunch in the Cuckoo’s Nest on the quays. Today was Friday and they’d have crab cakes on the menu. He’d have crab cakes, French fries, tossed salad and a glass of wine. Maybe two glasses of wine.

Horace was retiring age, but reluctant to give up his practice. There were a number of reasons for this. First, he didn’t know what he would do with his spare time, he hadn’t any hobbies or interests: once he did — stamp collecting, bird watching, a spot of polo when he was younger, golf every so often. But he’s lost interest in all of that stuff now. Second, he dreaded being at home all day with his wife, his third wife, Mary Lou. He sighed and wondered if he needed therapy himself: three wives in thirty years, not a record by a long shot. Larry King had eight, or was it nine?Could he manage a fourth wife? Mary Kelly flickered through his mind and he flexed his shoulders. No, not Mary Kelly, not another Mary.

Larry moaned and stammered an incoherent sentence. Horace turned his head away from the window, exhaled quietly and said,
“That’s the saddest story I’ve ever heard in my entire career. She took you for 200k, shot your dog and ran off with your mother’s hairdresser. That’s awful, really awful.”
Larry wailed and curled into the fetal position.
“Horrible,” Horace said, “really horrible, no wonder you’re in such a state.”
He left his chair and went to the cluttered desk in the corner and searched for something. Pills. He took up this bottle and that, read labels, cast them aside. Picked up another, discarded it, then another. Finally he found the correct container, Zibrax. He poured a glass of water from the cooler and shuffled to the couch.
“Here,” he said quietly to Larry, “this pill will help you.”

Larry took the medicine and Horace advised him to lay still, inhale deeply and watch his breath. Horace put a tape into his boom box and played new age flute music, then lit a stick of incense.

Back in his chair, Horace glanced around the therapy room. It was in a mess but he hadn’t the interest to tidy it. If he were charging top dollar for consultations he’d have a cleaner in. But the Irish wouldn’t pay top dollar for therapy. The Irish didn’t understand they had to pay someone to listen to them and try and unravel their messes and tangles. They confused him and he could never figure if they were really telling him how things actually were with them or if they were making it all up. Like Mary Kelly for instance. Was she really having an affair with a priest? And did they really go to Amsterdam every month to S&M parties? He didn’t know what to believe. The Irish had very fertile imaginations.

Larry was moaning again, the pill wasn’t doing the job. Horace glanced at him, pathetic clothes hanger in a crumpled suit. Larry was an engineer, worked in an office across town. Sad story, if one could believe him. Now he was bawling and stammering nonsensically.
“Take it easy,” Horace said quietly, “take it easy Larry.”

The phone on the desk rang and Larry quietened. The answering machine clicked in: Horace’s wife Mary Lou cried ‘Don’t forget to get milk’.
Larry sobbed again and Horace moved near him.
“Ok Larry, ok…now, here’s what I want you to do…I want you to raise your left leg high as you can off the couch and with a much force as you can muster up, slam it on the couch and shout ‘I’m angry and upset but I’m ok.’ Do that five times with the left leg and then do it with the right leg.”

Larry did what he was told and Horace returned to his chair and stared out the window. He wondered if Larry’s girlfriend really shot the dog. Shot the critter with Larry’s duck hunting gun. Freud would say she was shooting Larry by proxy. Of course Freud also said the Irish were the only race in the world that couldn’t be psychoanalyzed. Admittedly Freud was wrong about a number of things, but maybe he was on target about the Irish. And then it struck Horace that if he retired, he might write a book about his years giving therapy to the Irish. There was plenty of material. Subversive ballerinas, Buddhist butchers, film star typists, lesbian nuns and gay jockeys. If he had known Ireland was so weird, he’d never have left America. He should have researched the move more thoroughly. The countryside enchanted him and he was in love with Mary Lou back then and everything looked rosy, even the grey Burren hills. They came over for a tryst weekend from New York and fell in love with the place. His mind rambled back to that weekend, arriving in Shannon, driving up the coast, smoked salmon in Lisdoonvarna and an afternoon shag on the deserted beach at Bishop’s Quarter.

He forgot about his patient until Larry kicked the wall with a thunderous bang that jolted Horace. Larry was in a frenzy, legs and arms flaying and thumping. Horace was taken aback. Larry jumped off the couch and attacked a filing cabinet.
“Whoa!!” Horace shouted, “Whoa, Larry…take it easy man…calm down…”
But Larry was ‘out there’ tearing around the room, battering furniture, shouting ‘I’m angry and fed up and fucked up and nobody gives a shit and you just take my fuckin’ money and buy milk for your fuckin’ wife…”
“It’s ok Larry…it’s ok…”
“It’s not fuckin’ ok!!”
Larry lifted the couch with the ease of a circus strongman and flung it at Horace. The analyst fell on the floor with a scream. The phone rang again and Larry picked it up. It was Mary Lou with another reminder about the milk.
“There will be no milk today,” Larry panted, “’cause the cow jumped over the moon and I’m damned if I’m goin’ to run after her…I’ve done enough running in my life…I’ve had it…finito.“
“Finito,” moaned Horace, as the door banged and Larry rattled down the stairs, “I’ve had it too. I’ve had it with the Irish…Freud was right…they’re too much for us…too much…they’ll kill us before we cure them…”

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