About Me

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I like to write and I like to party, but mostly just the writing. Disclaimer: A lot of these stories are true ones. The memory of growing-up in and around Killybegs. When you hold a mirror up to small communities, sometimes there are those who don't like the reflection. Capote knew this only too well. If you find the refraction just a little too much and would like the angle of incidence changed in your favor, please email me at georgevial@hotmail.com and I will be happy to make a name change here or there.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sketch of a Midwestern Boy

His Dad was of all-American blood, those that had been here three generations or more, but his mother was the daughter of a recent German immigrant. She grew up bi-lingual and used that to her advantage; teaching high school German for the past nineteen years.

She met his dad when she was in college and he just a boy, a private in the Army. Over the years they moved as the military dictated and while stationed on a base in Germany, Frank was born.

Frank Benson, most people called him little Frankie, looked like his father, with his mother’s diminutive stance. He was the apple of both their eyes: the perfect child in every sense.

Earned his Eagle badge at twelve, wrestled in grade school, went to state in high school and was at church every Sunday, nestled between his mom and dad and his younger brother and sister flanked their sides.

The summer he finished high school he was a church camp counselor, praised Jesus and prayed his heart out to the kids. He turned eighteen in June and his Daddy was made Full Colonel. The summer passed in religious bliss except when his Daddy called him from the airport and he couldn’t come to pick him up.

When he went home that Sunday afternoon for lunch his Dad didn’t speak to him, just looked at him with disapproving eyes. Frankie weakly gestured “I couldn’t come, I couldn’t get permission.” But it wasn’t enough.

In August, college started, he went to the better of the state school. Joined a fraternity and wrestled as a freshman. But that was a different league and intramural sports like soccer, Frisbee and running took their place. Average grades were obtained and the Colonel wasn’t happy. They weren’t good enough.

The summer came quick and once again he was a counselor at the church camp, surrounded by other youths blinded by their euphoric sense of righteousness. Even alone one night with a female counselor and she sucked his cock, it was all in the name of Jesus. Every time they did anything it was in the name of Jesus.

After going out to a restaurant one evening, Frankie and several other counselors, that had the night off in the name of Jesus, were stopped by two Buddhists spreading their word.

Frankie and another girl stopped to listen, the others told them to come on. Later, back at the staff-house a girl was crying, screaming quietly that Frankie wanted to listen to the heathen. A thought occurred to Frankie and he asked why couldn’t they both be right as long as they both believed in what they were saying? That only brought condemnation and several people prayed that he’d find his way back to Jesus. As not to upset anymore people Frankie stopped talking about the Buddhists and told them all that he was back with Jesus. The crying stopped.

During his sophomore year he met a girl that didn’t suck his dick for Jesus, she did it for herself and when they had sex it was for herself too. He found alcohol didn’t suit him too well and marijuana gave him a great sense of euphoria, which he’d never attained from prayer.

He cared less about his grades and even less about what the Colonel thought. His fraternity was distant to him and he only met the other Christians to play a friendly game of soccer, but off course, they couldn’t even kick-off without the blessing from big J.

When summer came along the Director of the church camp decided to make him a leader. All summer he was apart from the children, apart from the other counselors. He belonged to the politics that allowed everyone else to enjoy their religious bliss. By the time August came he felt empty inside and Jesus was not his friend: He often called, but Jesus was not at home.

In his Junior year he took a class in World Religions and found the Tao to his liking. He loved the idea of Karma and Chi and the Confucian Code was very human and attainable, unlike the blind faith he’d been fed on Sunday mornings as the breakfast of his childhood.

The new ideas were not very welcome at home. The Colonel warned him not to become a”Fucking Commi’.” His mother told him it was all right to explore new ideas as she had recently become a vegetarian and Jesus didn’t mind.

The other boys in his fraternity forgot he even belonged, except when dues were owed. He found his niche among the kids that he’d always believed were going to hell. Beer, BMX biking, free style walking and pot were the common bonds and what a simple society they made. The Chi was good.

He passed in and out of the church camp that summer as a volunteer because he had classes to retake and places to see. He didn’t mind ‘cause it kept the colonel happy and him free.

His senior year was a blur; it was just one big going away party. They started practicing in August and by May they had it perfected. He walked, Frankie Richard Benson, with no honors or distinctions, with a degree in the liberal arts. The Colonel asked what the hell he was going to do with that. He said he didn’t know, maybe he’d teach. “Teach what?”
“Teach Life!…”

He was allowed to stay at home ‘till August. So until then he worked in the kitchens of the church camp. That way he didn’t have to suffer Jesus looking in on everything he did.

At night when the kitchen was all cleaned up, he and the kitchen guy would go drinking or take a drive down to Lawrence and hang out with his little brother Tom. Tom had had gone through a much more quiet revolution of rebellion than that of Frankie, he slipped under the Colonel’s radar: it was what the first born son did that counted.

The Director of the church camp said he was walking a very thin line and if he cared to cross it he could. And he did. The Director fired him and the Colonel kicked him out of the house.

He went to live with Tom and got a job as a teacher’s assistant at a high school. His car broke down in the winter. The Colonel waited to be asked for help, but instead after a few beers, Frankie, Tom and a few friends took it apart with baseballs bats and a broomstick.

He caught the bus ‘till school went out for the summer, then bought a motorcycle, grew a beard and decided to see America.

That summer he didn’t call home, just a post-card once to say all was well in California. He didn’t need Jesus to ride pillion. He just rode where he Chi, his Karma, his Tao, his own sense of being liked. He saw everything he wanted to see, did everything he wanted and talked to whoever. This was his first season as a man of his own making: not a hollow shell of someone else’s design.

The Great Shoe-off of 2001

Smoke filled the room, music sounded off the crowded walls, voices talked over voices with festive cheers, and glasses clanked and drink spilled joyously on the floor, the bar, people’s heads, just about anything at all.

Down the very back corner a crowd had gathered, they were exhibiting great mirth and joviality. A television set above their heads was showing the highlights of the day’s games, only a few eyes darted up to catch the results, all the others were head first into their pints. They were telling jokes, slapping backs and throwing insults. A rather cosmopolitan group it was, men, women, dark heads, fair heads, tall folks and short folks, laughing folks and serious folks, loud and quiet, a little bit of all sides of life.

Suddenly, a pint toppled over, two men pushed back their stools and glared at each other. Stone, granite cold were their eyes, hands flared out to their sides motionless as two desperadoes at high noon. Neither wavered, neither faltered, the bar became silent, members of the immediate crowd shouted “It’s a Shoe-off, we’ve got a Shoe-off here people!”

The two kept their eyes fixed waiting for the other to make the first move. The tall blond man, they called him the Viking, for his Scandinavian appearance, even though he spoke with the thickest Irish brogue you ever heard. His knees moved, just a twitch, then another deeper motion, then he pulled his feet up off the ground and showed his trickery; one shoe hanging off the foot of the other. A great move, not a match winning move, but the gathered people could tell they were not dealing with a novice of the Shoe-Off.

Now the other man took his turn, he went by the name of Sells, as he sold things, not very original, but then who the hell makes the rules of nicknames, in that game their can be no limits, although there should be with some of the names you hear about this place. Sells knew he had to make his first move count, he had to draw first blood as it were. This was not an adversary to toy with, so digging deep into his reserve from many an epic Shoe-off in the past he closed his eyes and mediated. He blocked out the people around him, the television, even George’s offer to buy the next round and that never happens. Sells had become one with the shoe.

As if by an invisible hand his shoes slipped off his feet and lay perfectly parallel to each other about five inches in front of his body. Then he stood up from his stool, eyes still closed and genuflected as if in the deepest prayer of austerity. The crowd gasped for now The Shoes were exactly where his knees would have hit the ground giving the perfect resemblance of one who’s feet are at their knees, like some kind of carnival freak and even demonstrated by taking a few steps forward on his truncated legs. Finally Sells opened his eyes to receive the acknowledgment he deserved from the people about him.

“Beat that ya big Viking feck! and George, I’ll have that drink now.”

All eyes fell to the Viking, what could he do to beat that, people began to mumble and turn away, the Shoe-off looked to be over. The talk picked up and drinking recommenced. Sells was about to shout in victory when he saw the Viking go into what could only be a spasm. He shook his head and hands, then clenched his fists tight and became still, stretched out his long legs, pointed his toes inwards. The hush fell to the amazed crowd, what could this man do to beat the impressive knees-with-feet move?

With the toes turned inwards he slowly lowered his feet to the ground and began to wiggle his feet out of his shoes with the precision of a surgeon. Where the shoes had come together on the ground they made a perfect triangle and now with the feet removed they stood alone, like some Celtic monument to the Feet Gods. And there it was the perfect shoe-move. Men choked on their pints, the women flushed and felt queer in their breasts. The Viking looked up with what could only be called the “eye of the champion.”

A voice called out from the audience announcing “Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we have a winner, a new Shoe-off King, you’re the man big fella and by the way how tall are ya?”

Emerging Man

Waking, dry mouthed from the night’s excesses Conor lifts his bleary eyed head from the pillow and stares in disbelief at the alarm clock. Had tomorrow come already, just a few moments ago it was yesterday and that seemed to be endless?

The shower water pelting down upon his throbbing head seemed to clear the cobwebs at least until the Panadol took effect. He began to think about last night’s events. “What was her name? Yes Edel, that was it, brown hair, big boobs, eyes…shit can’t remember, but then who the fuck cares. We danced and drank, went clubbing on to Avalon, yeah that was sweet, she moved like a mink. Back to her place for some shagging and man was she ever good.” He began to laugh as he remembered that he had fallen asleep during their second bout. She had to wake him and call a taxi to send him home, calling an end to the night.

Twisting the shower off Conor felt a sharp pain in the wrist of his right hand, “Damn,” then he remembered why. Some guy had bugged him in O’Brien’s before he met Sarah and he decked him out cold, one shot, the good old right still worked a charm. Been a while since he’d done that, “and do you know what?” he thought, “it felt good.”

Conor grabbed a towel and began to dab himself dry all the while smiling and laughing to himself thinking “shit that was a good night.”

He stepped in front of the mirror and there gazing back at him was a red-eyed wreck. He grabbed his face with his two hands and squeezed, spread his fingers a little and peered out between them. “I’ve to stop this craic, it’s turning me into an old man.”

After brushing his teeth, the hair was fixed, the body clothed and with his gym bag over his arm he was ready to leave.

Since he lived smack in the middle of the city he walked to Bewley’s rather than driving, the traffic could take forever. His brother Jack was meeting him there for lunch, he had to be there in ten minutes, so the pace was brisk.

He passed an old drunk lying in a door way, Conor stopped, backed up a little and handed the man five pounds. The man’s face showed amazement and Conor said “Go on, get some food in ya, ye’ve a lot of drinking to do later,” the man smiled and Conor was on his way.

“Bunch a bana-aa-nas-sss pound” shouted the old knacker at the fruit and veg stand on the side of Dame Street. Conor hated her, she hassled him every day to buy and he always replied “forgot my wallet.” Recently she’d taken to replying to this with “Ya miserable Nordy.” To which he would reply “And fuck you too.” They’d developed a real hate relationship over the last six months since Conor had moved into the apartment. Some day he planned to buy something from her and shock the Dub’ shit out of her.

Hitting the bottom of Grafton St. Conor found the milieu of endless walking people a tad irritating. “Why the fuck do they all have to be walking in the other direction?” This was Conor’s thought and he was right, no matter which way you wanted to go on this, Dublin’s premier street, everybody else appeared to be going in the complete opposite direction just to impede your travels.

He shouldered his way up to Bewley’s, inside he found Jack already starting on a pot of tea. “I’ll have some-a-that,” and poured himself a cup, adding just a drop of milk, so sparingly in fact you’d hardly even notice he had poured any at all, then he took Jack’s water glass and poured some of it into his tea too. Now the cup was perfect, and age old tradition passed on to him from his mother, and destined to be passed on to his children, if such a day would ever come where he would actually have a cup of tea with offspring of his own.
“Fancy some grub?” asked Jack.

“Nah, my insides are wrecked, just tea for now.”
“Well I’m gonna go up and get some, back in a minute.”
“Grand job.”

As Jack left to go through the self-service line, Conor looked around the restaurant. Bewley’s always gathered the most pretentious crowd in the city. Young South Siders with no dining-out etiquette, only the knowledge that people of their stock ate at such places as this. As Garry was chastising all the people in the restaurant in his mind, he saw a waitress walking towards him with a tray full of dishes. He tried to catch her eye, but she just looked ahead trying not to drop her load.

“Damn, I missed that one,” thought Conor as she walked past him and on through the kitchen doors.

Robert sat down to regain his place at the table and Conor felt obliged to fill him in on what he had just missed. “Jaysus man you missed that, wild fine doll just went into the kitchen, she’ll be out in a minute, serious set on her.”

“Jesus Christ man, you’ve tits on the brain. So, you have a good night last night with that bird, what was her name?”
“Rachel,” Conor answered smiling.
“Yeah, Rachel, I was off with her friend Michelle, shagged her rotten baby, how’d you do?”
“Same as yourself and I was good, yeah, yeah baby, made her really horny.”
This imitation of Austin Powers was a regular part of Conor and his friend’s daily dialogue. In a way he idolized the sexy, super spy, shagadellic.
After lunch Conor and Jack stood among the bustle of Grafton St. talking.
“You be home after work Conor?”
“Nah, meself and Shane are hitting the Old Dub. Yah coming for a pint?”
“Nah, don’t fink so, I’ve a ton o’ shit to do for work.”
“Well I’ll drink one for ya then man.”
“You do that, I’ll catch ya later.”

Conor headed towards the Liffey and on to the bottom of Marlborough St., to the gym, the daily cure for his hangovers. Only for all the drink he’d be in great shape, but as it was, the gym and the drink balanced each other out. It maintained him at a healthy and very strong level without loosing the drinker’s physique, and that didn’t come cheap.

The routine usually consisted of 40 minutes serious lifting and a couple of hundred sit-ups. Then it was 30 minutes on the bike, which he didn’t really enjoy, but it gave him a chance to eye up all the women in the place. The good old bike had got him laid several times already since he’d joined the gym. Nothing seemed to be biting today and he let his mind wander, rather than his eyes.

He began to mull over his current situation: “ Twenty three years old, single, thank fuck, head chef, good restaurant, good wages, great social life, nice car, grand apartment, perfect roommate, the brother and good health was always a bonus. There had to be more,” but for the life of him he couldn’t think of anything else.

His eyes popped open as a buxom blond took to the treadmill in front of his bike. She was wearing lycra shorts and a sports bra; that was it. As she ran, her boobs nearly came out of her bra. She looked at Garry and smiled and he thought, “lunch has taken a bite.”

When she finished running he approached her. They talked chitchat for twenty minutes and it turned out she knew this great little place to get a bite to eat near her flat.

Before they had their food eaten, both had consumed four glasses of wine and with the blood flowing to all the right places so early in the day, they left their plates and some money and headed to her place.

This was no shy girl, Anne was her name, and she led him straight to her room. They frantically ripped of each other’s gym clothes and she pulled him into the shower of her en-suite. After washing each other down they fucked like dogs on her bed for a whole hour and then fell exhausted, to their respective sides of the bed.

Conor dozed off and Anne got up to make coffee. She looked in on the naked sleeping Conor and thought “What was it about this man that made me do this so freely?” She walked over to him, stroked his hair and kissed his forehead: This was the kind of man she could marry.

She let him sleep for about forty minutes then woke him with a warm cup of coffee. He kissed her and grabbed her into the bed beside him. They played about for a while, until he asked, “What time’s it?”
“Four fifteen”
“Ahh, shit I’ve to be to work in forty-five minutes.”
“Can I call you” she asked.
“Yeah, here’s my number, give us a call this weekend, we should go out.”

He hurriedly put on fresh clothes from his bag. Kissed her goodbye and bolted out the door, up towards the Green. He had to pass over O’Connell Bridge and as he did he stopped in the middle of it, went over to the edge and stared down into the river. All that water just flowing, a couple of hours ago it had been in Kildare or somewhere and now it was flowing out the bay to be diluted with the Irish Sea, “Wonder if the river minds loosing its identity in such a big sea?” He mused on this for a moment, thinking about how his life was just like the river’s: he had come from a small town and now he just seemed to dissolve into the all the other unknown faces that plodded around the city. There was just not much that set him or anyone else apart. He had no real identity, that worried him, his life had to be more than just this. How he had imagined his life would be when he came up here first. He’d stop drinking, womanizing, settle down a bit, put a hundred and ten percent in to his work and start carving out his place in the world, but none of this he had achieved yet; still just river water flowing into the big sea. Then he realized what time it was and said out loud “Fuck, got to be going.”

He arrived in good time for work. He moved into his little kitchen and relieved Shane. “I’ll see you later man in the Auld Dub about eleven, alright.”
“Yeah, I’ll already be tanked up, so ya better catch up quick!”
“I’ll start on that before I close here.”

The restaurant had 50 or so booked in and another 40 walk ins. The meals all went fine and Conor loved flirting with all the girls at work. The Maitre de was a 29-year-old red head, real slim and sexy. Conor shagged her and she still had a thing for him, but he had conquered that land and moved on. He’d love to get a bit of action from Sinead, a college student attending UCD, the snotty University on the south side of the city. He’d tried her a few times, but she was too wise to his reputation and remained unconquered.

He always kept a change of clothes at work and showered there too, he downed a few Bailey’s as he prepared to go out for the third time that week, and it was only Wednesday night. His life had turned into one big night out, really hard to tell where one night ended and the other began. All the faces he met, drinks he took, heads he punched, lips he kissed all appeared one homogenous blur in his mind.

He caught up with Shane in the Auld Dub. It was one of those newly built pubs in the Temple Bar area for Dublin’s new young and rising class. Not really Yuppies like the Eighties produced, but a different breed, more assured, less flashy and heavier drinking. A traditional band played some Christy Moore in the far corner, that made talking a chore and more often than not when someone went close to your ear to tell you something all you got were some muffled sounds and a earful of saliva. The air was saturated with smoke, some people didn’t mind it and others like Conor abhorred it. After only one drink he decided they should move on to another place to so they could get a bit of action, and give his ears some reprieve from the noise of the band.
They ended up in Peg Woffington’s the over priced, over rated ass-hole of a nightclub on Nassau Street. It was a glorified basement with a bar, overcharged admission and drinks and the people who went there, on a regular basis, over rated themselves.

Conor hit the bar like a wild man who’d been in the desert without a drink of anything for days. He turned around to hand Shane a beer but he was stuck in some bird and standing next to him, all wide eyed and horny, was no one but the waitress from Bewley’s he had seen this morning when he had lunched with his brother.

“I saw you at work earlier today, you from around here,” she started the conversation.
“Nah, from Donegal, Killybegs. Up here working, where are you from?”
“Just out the road, Dalkey, I go to Cathal Brugha, just work the odd day in Bewley’s.”

They talked for ages, flirting and giving each other the eye until last rounds were being shouted by the incessant bouncers, clanging their bottles and shouting “All right folks, this is a nightclub not a hotel, you can drink all night, but you can’t stay here.” He asked if she would like to walk and she said that would be good. They walked up Wicklow St. to the Green and ambled around it in the opposite direction as they should have been going, their talk was free and full of humor, neither were too intoxicated that it was just drunk talk, but actual conversation. Conor hadn’t actually talked to a girl in a while and found it quite refreshing rather than the usual hopping into the sack straight of the bat.

As they passed Planet Hollywood, toward the top of Grafton Street, Conor asked her if she’d like to come back to his place for one. She said no, but he could walk her back to her bus stop for the No. 8 and come into Bewley’s for lunch and then maybe they could see about breakfast another morning. Garry was caught a little off guard by her refusal but with her last prompting remark Conor thought it worth his while to walk her safely to the bus stop and be the gentleman. She kissed him quickly, but soft and gently, before she boarded the bus.

“Goodnight Conor O’Hara, see you for lunch.”
“Goodnight….” He couldn’t recall her name! He tried again “ Goodnight Ms. Bewley’s, I’ll see you there, eleven thirty in the morning,” he recovered with a smile, a wink and a nod.

On the way back up Grafton Street he ran into Shane with his bird. She had a girlfriend with her and yes it would be no bother for Conor to walk her home and take good care of her, real good care of her.

Bulmers cans sprawled across the coffee table, an ashtray next to them over flowed its bowels of butts and gray ash. The smell of both hung heavily in the air, the sharp nicotine odor cut thorough the air and the fermented apple smell of the Bulmers lingered everywhere. The opening of a window let in some welcome air and expelled some of the stench, from too many other mornings like this the smells had worked their way into the carpet and furniture.

The open window let in some extra light too. Clothes and shoes lay scattered all around across the floor and a comatose body occupied the sofa, wearing only its boxer shorts. Empty take-away food containers adorned the counter in the kitchen and next to them were many unwashed plates, glasses and sets of silverware. The sink itself was full of gray grimy cold water, filled the day before with good intentions, but now adding to the overall feel of filth.

Slowly the room began to take shape again, the water was replaced with hot fresh soapy water; dishes began to appear in the drying rack clean. The empty cans and ashtray were disposed off into a plastic sack. The television was switched on bringing life to the room and causing the body on the sofa to stir, reaching down for the rest of its clothes, dressed without saying a word and lethargically let itself out of the apartment.

Some Fibreeze was sprayed to combat the habitual stench of stale beer and cigarettes. A stack of men’s magazines has been toppled and it was righted and those that had got wet from splashing beer were throwing out with the cans. The corner of a poster curled up on itself, trying to force the rest of it to fall off the wall; it was re-tacked and looked decent even though the poster’s subject could never be called so.

Music came in through the sitting-room door from one of the two bedrooms in the apartment, some Indie kinda Grunge that was popular in the early nineties and was now making a come back in the new millennium. A male figure with a bath towel around its waist stood in the doorway looking at the person who had started the clean up. They met eyes and grinned and then began to laugh uncontrollably. They were more than friends, they were brothers and they were laughing at the thought of their mother worrying about them moving to the city together and not having her to clean up after them. They knew she’d kill them if she seen the state of the room and she was due in an hour for her monthly visit. They had to get their asses in gear and get the place and themselves cleaned up before she arrived and dragged them kicking and screaming back to their hometown because they were unfit to look after themselves.

Conor and Jack managed to get the place clean in time for their mother’s arrival. Before Conor had time to announce to her that he had to meet someone for an early lunch, she told them she was dying for a cup of decent tea and was famished from her drive up to Dublin and that they would go to Bewley’s for a nice lunch and a cuppa.

Well, this worked fine for Conor as he had told Ms. Beweley last night he would be in around eleven thirty. Now a big issue here for Conor was that he is the apple of his mother’s eye and even though he has three brothers and they all know Conor is the favorite and this has lead to some advantages and disadvantages. One of the greatest disadvantages is that no girl will ever be good enough for Conor in the eye’s of his Mother Rose. Probably why he just sleeps around and never settles with one girl: none will ever be good enough for his mother and therefore none will be good enough of him.

Something about the girl he had met last night told him she was different and maybe it was serendipity that his mother wanted to go to Bewley’s for lunch.

As they walked down the street to Rose began her monthly inquisition of the two boys:

“Have you been going to Mass?”
“Yes, Mum,” replied Jack lying through his teeth. Conor decided to take a more honest approach.
“I work a lot of Sundays and I just don’t get time, I try to go Saturday evenings but I usually work then too. But I’ve been on my hands and knees praying most nights.” Conor said this a little too sarcastically and his mother picked up on it.

“Conor you’ll burn in hell with all those other sinners. When I get back to Killybegs I’ll ask Father Sharkey to say a Rosary for you and I’ll have a candle burning for you that the light will lead you back to Mass.”

“Christ-sake Mum, don’t you think that’s a bit much. This is the 21st century and people do have lives and can’t spend every free moment rhyming off prayers. Like how often do you even pray?”

“Don’t you dare challenge your Mother,” she said firmly and then adding for the record. “I pray every hour on the hour and every hour I choose the soul of one of you boys to pray for and now I see my prayers for you Conor have been landing on deaf ears!”

“Mum, I’m not going to hell, I’m just living life and having a good time and from the stories I hear from Dad about you when you lived in Dublin, when you were around my age, I reckon you did quite the bit of living!”

“Well that may be so but I’m praying for forgiveness now so I won’t burn in the fires of hell like all the heathen in this city.”

“Fair enough Mum, I’ll pray for redemption when I’m your age for now I am going to do a bit of living.”
“Will the pair of you give it a rest. You’re like two politicians arguing over some-fin that is not worth the air ya breath” Jack interjected. “Call it a truce, at least till we get through lunch?”

The two antagonists looked at each other and silently agreed to Robert’s wise counsel. The rest of the walk was filled with questions about their jobs, shopping for groceries, what they do with their spare time and had any of them met any nice Catholic girls?

“Funny you should ask that Mum, you’re about to meet a girl I met last night. She works at Bewley’s and I told her I’d been in this morning”

“Arrah Garry, I can’t be meeting some girl you met out in a nasty night club. She’s probably a tramp, meets guys every night she goes out and you are just the flavor of the day.”

“Well, I’ll say nothing, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” Garry left it at that.

The trio made their way with Conor leading, to the section he had seen the girl in the day before. Mary’s head was stretched out, bobbing over and back like a bantam hen, eyeing the room for a hussy that fitted the description in her mind of the harlot her son was going to have her meet.

They seated themselves and a girl that was not her served them. By the time the meal was half way over there had been no sight of elusive one. Conor was thoroughly disappointed and Mary was thoroughly pleased.

Jack was getting a little impatient and made up the excuse that he had to be getting to work, even though he had scheduled to have the whole day off to spend it with his mother. Really he had to meet some of the lads for early drinks. His favorite soccer team, Hib’s, was playing their arch rivals, Rangers, in a big game this evening. It was tradition to go on the beer early to be in the right state of mind to do a wild bit of cheering down the pub.

“Mum, I’ll see you again next month, tell Dad I’ll call him tomorrow about how the big game goes tonight.”
“I hope Jack you are not going out to the pub to watch that game?”
“Naw, I’ve to work late and I’ll get one of the lads to record it for me” he said this with a wink in his eye to Conor that his mother didn’t see.
“You’re a good boy Jack, I only hope you are a good influence on your brother. See if you can’t get him to go to Mass with you this Sunday.”

“I’ll see what I can do, but hey, you just don’t know with these pagans! I’ll see you at home later Conor,” and as he reached over to shake his bother’s hand he sent the milk jug flying over the table spilling into Mary’s lap.

“Arrah, Jack. Look what you’ve done ya big egit.”
“Sorry Mum, I’ve to rush. Bye.”
“Conor where’s the toilets till I get myself cleaned off.” Conor pointed and off she went muttering something to herself, Conor reckoned it was probably some payer specially for the removal of milk from a pair of pants! That be a real fancy miracle, put Lever Brother’s right out of business.

Conor sat alone at the table, looking around to see if he could see the girl. She had said she would be here and with this thought Conor caught himself thinking ‘what the hell do I care’ and tried to put her face out of his system. Tried to tell himself that she was just another in a long litany of girls he’d take to before he settled down a million years from now.

Rose seemed to be gone an awful long time, it must have been a real long prayer she was reciting he figured and began to laugh like a mad man sitting all alone. Just then a hand plopped on his shoulder.

“Hi ya, there handsome,” it was her, Conor was speechless, he still couldn’t remember her name, then seeing the name tag on her uniform, he recovered.

“Hey, how are you Sarah, we’ve been in here a while, you get home safely last night?”
“Yeah, I got home safe all right, Da was up waiting me, he’s a big dote, always waiting to see if his little girl gets in home, oh yeah, sorry I’m late, I was put upstairs on a different station and couldn’t get down ‘till now. So how’s things with you today?”
“Fine, my Mum is in town, she’s here, just went to the bathroom. You want to meet her?”
“Ach, I don’t know, maybe we can meet up later?”
Conor was disappointed at this refusal, he’d never asked a girl to meet his mother before and this rebuke was a bit much. “That be fine,” she saw the hurt in his eyes.
Before she had a chance to respond Rose came back from the bathroom like a miniature whirlwind all flustered.

“Conor, can you believe the people here, I was in the bathroom, with my pants up to the hand-drier doing nothing unusual and in comes this pup of a girl telling me to stop being obscene, that old women like me should be in a home and not making a spectacle of themselves in public. Like can you believe the cheek.”
“Mum, calm her down there, yeah that’s wild terrible, but I’d like you to meet my friend Sarah.”

Rose turned to inspect the hussy that was leading her little Conor astray, she eyed her up, making a mental note that she was too skinny, her boobs were to large, her hair too long and not tied back like a good catholic girl’s should be, and her blouse was too tight fitting! After this observation, she slowly and coolly extended her hand to Sarah and said, “Pleased to meet you, Conor says you’re nice” and that was all she said, her face didn’t even break a smile.

Sarah extended her hand too and repeated “please to meet you” returning the cold stare.
Oh hell, thought Conor, a bloody stand-down on their first meeting, this is not a good start. To break the tension Conor interjected some lighthearted conversation.

“Mum, Sarah lives out in Dalkey and goes to Cathal Brugha, studying Hotel Management. Didn’t you work in hotels in Dublin when you were her age.” Garry was too late to prevent the error of comparing Sarah to his mother.

“Yes, I did, but that was when Dublin was not the dirty, fast city it is today.”
Sarah stood up for her city “It’s not that bad, I’ve lived her all my life and I don’t think it’s that fast or dirty.” Sarah finished this off with a blank expression as if to say retort to that.

“Well, I just read in the Times, about all the bad things happening in the city everyday and I don’t remember there being too many murders or robberies when I was living here. Young people these days have lost all morals, they’ve gone to hell.”

Conor couldn’t help himself, he had to join in on Sarah’s defense “Mum. I’m young, does that mean I’m immoral, am I going to hell?”
“Well Conor if you keep that tone of voice with me and keep not going to Mass, then I’d pretty much say you’re going to hell!”
“Rose, I don’t think I am going to hell, I go to Mass every Sunday!”

People had actually begun to stop in the restaurant and listen to their conversation, when Rose noticed this she turned to the gawkers and shouted “Get a life, you too are going to hell!”

This was too much for Conor, he had to get his Mum and Sarah outside and calmed down. “How’s about we three go for a nice walk in the Green?”

Both just looked at Conor and headed for the door out onto Grafton Street. Garry was thinking to himself that whatever chance he had with Sarah was gone now thanks to his mother’s insolence. Out on the street Conor took a good look at Sarah, her hair was down now, last night it had been pinned up. Her skin was tanned, not really dark, but an outside tan, not like most Irish girls with their milk-white skin. Her eyes were looking a deep marble brown. He didn’t really notice them last night, but now they were magnificent.

Sarah and his mother walked side by side, a little ahead of Conor. Neither were talking, Sarah was just staring ahead, Rose was looking at the ground and glancing to Sarah every once in a while. As they entered the Green the three came parallel to each other with Conor in the middle. Conor was thinking about his walk around the perimeter of the Green last night with Sarah. With only the two of them it had been a pleasure, now it was agony. They made it the whole way around without making any real conversation. Mary was being ignorant and Conor knew that when he got home with her later he would be having quite the argument.

Sarah didn’t say much either, she smiled every so often at Conor and this gave him hope that something may be salvaged yet of this day. Mary stopped abruptly, pivoted on one foot and look at the two younger ones and announced;
“I’m going to Brown and Thomas to do some shopping, Conor I’ll see you back at the apartment later, we’ll have dinner after that, your lady friend can come along if she likes.”
“Thanks mum, how’d you like that Sarah?”
“I don’t know, we’ll see, I might be doing something with my family.”
Mary couldn’t resist “Are we not good enough for you?”
Sarah went to open her mouth but Conor went first “Mum, just go on, we’ll give you a call,” and Conor being the apple of his mother’s eye he had to ask before he could let her go and have a clean conscience “you all right Mum?”
Mary said nothing in reply just winced her face, tried a little smile and walked away.
“Sarah, I do apologize f or my mother’s behavior, I don’t know what got into her, she’s usually not too bad, apart from being a freak Catholic.”
“No, need to apologize to me, it’s plain to see.”
“What’s plane to see?”
“That you’re her boy.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
“You don’t get it do you? She loves you so much Conor, that no girl is good enough to take her place, not that I am saying I want to be with you forever, but she is not ready for any girl to come on her territory.”
“Well, that’s probably why I haven’t ever introduced her to any of my girlfriends since I was fourteen.”
“Are you calling me your girlfriend?”
“Na, I was just making a reference” Conor flashed her a big grin as he said this and added, “How much longer have you off today?”
“The whole day, why?”
“Well I think we should go for a drink.”
“It’s only one in the afternoon Conor, are you serious?”
“Hell yeah, sure it’d be good fun, come on.”
“All right, I’ll go.”

The pair went back down Grafton Street to O’Neill’s pub, a trendy pub, very popular among the twenty somethings. When you went in first it looked like a small affair but as you walked further in you found that it snaked around, revealing nooks and crannies everywhere. They found one such nook to nest into and Conor went up to get himself a Bulmers and a Budwieser for Sarah. While the barman was getting the drinks Garry let his mind wander off:

‘Right, what am I doing now, I’ve pissed off the mother, I’m here in the pub with Sarah and where do I go from that, I don’t want to have dinner with the mother, don’t think Sarah wants that anyway, and how do I go from one in the afternoon to bed with Sarah when the mother is lurking around, maybe when I call the mother to tell her I’ll be back for dinner she’ll go off home early to Donegal, a shit, why am I even worried, I’ll just have a few drinks and it’ll all work itself out.’
“Hey, sir, hey” a voice was calling Conor.
“Your drinks, that’ll be four pounds eighty.”
“Cheers mate.”
Sitting back down beside Sarah he took a big gulp of his Bulmers and felt the sweet nectar flow throughout his body loosening all the joints, making him feel at ease, letting his tongue loosen up a little too. Ah, this was more like it.

“Conor, your mother is quite a character, don’t be worried about her offending me, I am a big girl, I can look after myself. She’s nothing compared to my ex’s mother, Jeannie. She was a real Blackrock bitch, you know the snotty South Side kind. Jesus, she gave me a time every chance she got.”

“Glad to hear it. Sarah, this has been a weird beginning to an afternoon. Let us start all over again. How are ya?”
“I’m fine Conor, how are you?” She replied laughing.
“I’m great now, you know what?”
“Your wild good looking,” Conor wasn’t much on compliments, but he felt compelled to say something to her.
“Thanks, you don’t look so bad yourself!”
“I mean it, since I saw you yesterday and then again last night I’ve been thinking about you. I’m not the sort of fella that likes to settle down or anything, but for some reason I get this strange feeling from you.”
“Strange, what do you mean strange?”
“Like, I like you or something.”
“Well, that’s encouraging for a girl, you like me or something, I hope something is as good as liking!” The two began to laugh at their silliness and waved at the nearest waitress for another round.

They stayed drinking in O’Neill’s until about five and by then they had quite a few beverages put away in them.

“Sarah, I’ve to call Mum, tell her we’ll see ourselves for dinner and for her to go ahead with Jack.”
“Conor, I can get us free dinner at the Hilton if you like?”
“Of course I like, how do you do that?”
“I work there on and off at large banquets, along with the job at Bewley’s, I know enough people there to get good service. After you call your Mum, call a taxi to bring us over there.”
“No, bother” replied Garry.

During a superb dinner they had two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon between them and for desert they had a few Bailey’s and ice. Conor was staring into Sarah’s eyes, and she was just looking at him with a smiling face.
“What are you looking at Mr. O’Hara?”
“Oh, it’s Mr. O’Hara now is it?”
“I was just looking at you and wondering how the hell I met you and have come to be across from you in the Hotel Hilton, half drunk, well fed and most of all, I haven’t kissed you yet!”
“Does that annoy you that we haven’t kissed yet?”
“Not annoy, makes it more challenging.”
“Why, have I been a challenge?”
“Compared to most of the tarts I meet here in Dublin, yes you have been a challenge, for heaven sake, I’ve seen you in the day time, I don’t know when I last saw a girl that I met the night before during the day!”
“Conor I want to kiss you!” This threw Conor for a loop.
“Excuse me?”
“I said I want to kiss you.”
“Well I don’t think the Clarabell Restaurant in the Hilton is the best place of that. Can it wait?”
“I can get us a room here, it can wait until then.” Her smile was beaming and Garry couldn’t control the smile on his face either, he didn’t know if it was from the alcohol or pure happiness. But this was a good day in the life of Conor C. O’Hara.

They rode the elevator to the sixth floor and went down two corridors, Sarah stopped at room 628 and punched in the code. She was acting very cool, but Garry was holding his breath getting very nervous, which was not his usual self. He didn’t feel in control of the situation, somehow he felt like he was being seduced, but now was not the time to be getting philosophical, he was in a posh hotel room with a beautiful woman and she wanted him, he didn’t care who was in control if the end results were the same.

Sarah had brought a bottle of Cabernet up with her, got it from whatever connection she had to get the dinner and room. She opened the bottle with a screw she pulled from her pocket and poured a glass each.
“To us.”
“To us” replied Conor.
After taking a sip, she put a hand to Conor’s chest and pushed him backward onto the bed. Conor landed in a sitting position and took a gulp of his wine. Sarah began to sway to and fro, as if to some music in her head, putting her wineglass to her mouth and taking small sensuous sips. Then she put the glass down on a dresser and began to undo the buttons on her shirt. Conor just looked on in amazement. She looked up slyly as she undid the last button and as she stared him straight in the face she let the shirt fall off her shoulders and onto the floor.

Conor had to take a deep breath to prevent himself from hyperventilating. He wanted to reach out and pull her close to him, but her little show was not finished and he was being really aroused. As she undid her pants she walked slowly over to him and standing just inches from his face, she let her pants fall off her hips.

She now stood in only her bra and panties of white lace, she bent down to Conor and cupped his face in her hands and kissed him, then pulled back and looked at him. He was speechless, it was the greatest kiss he had ever tasted, the feel still lingered on his lips. He wanted more and put his hand out to her, she came in closer and straddled him, bringing her mouth to his once again.

They began to make love and for all the countless times Conor had performed this act in the past few years with nameless girls this felt like the first time, he felt like a virgin in her presence. Their lovemaking lasted for hours, sometimes taking a twenty-minute rest and commencing again. When they got hungry late in the night they ordered room service, ate a little and then went back to lovemaking.

Around four in the morning they lay spooned up in bed, Sarah was perfectly curved into his body, her skin felt so soft under his touch. They were talking about nothing in particular, conversation didn’t matter much now, all they wanted to hear was the sound of each other’s voices no matter what the words were.

As their eyes got heavier and to talk took an effort Conor leaned his head a little closer to Sarah’s ear and whispered “I love you.”
Sarah didn’t respond, she was asleep, and as Conor found himself falling asleep too, he thought to himself ‘at least I can tell her again in the morning.’

When Conor woke he didn’t recognize his surroundings and felt a little disorientated. Then the place came back to him The Hilton. He propped himself up in bed and stretched his jaw. Turning to his left he saw the empty half of a bed where Sarah had been the night before, on the bedside table there was a letter:

Sorry to leave you to wake alone, but I thought this would be the easiest way. Last night was the most amazing night I have ever had with a man and Conor you are an amazing man. Before I fell asleep I heard what you said and although you didn’t hear me, I said it back to you “I love you.” I had to leave before you got up or else I don’t know if I would have been able to leave at all. I have not been perfectly straight with you Conor, I'm engaged to be married. I graduate from Cathal Brugha in about five weeks and then my fiancee and I are moving to Dusseldorf in Germany. He is going to manage one of the Hilton Hotels there, he is currently in London at Hyde Park. That is how I got the room here, I’ve good connections. I don’t know when I will be back in Ireland. I just want you to know Conor that I love you and will not ever forget you. Somehow I know our lines will cross again sometime in the future, I wish it could have been different. You’ll love some lucky girl one-day and I’ll be forever jealous of that.
Love you,
Sarah Daly

‘Shit’ thought Conor, wasn’t thinking that!
As he walked back along the Green from the Hilton, he looked over into it and smiled, smiled big and wide and said out loud “Some girl.”

Pouring a Pint of Guinness

The selected vessel had to be perfect, exempt from all impurities, streak free and dry, not too cool and neither too warm; its environs had to be perfect too. The craftsman choose one that fitted the standard of the age honored tradition he had been taught since he could lift his own weight in liquid. Holding the holy vessel up to the light he saw that this was indeed a fine choice. Light that shone through a chink in the curtains hit the surface and splintered into all its magnificent elements.

With the sleeve of his shirt rolled beyond the elbow, he began the ceremony. The veins rippled in his forearm as he held the vessel tilted to the perfect angle and brought his right arm around in a large arc to pull the device that would loose the heavenly juice.

Instantly the coffee-brown foam swirled around the sides of the glass and swished like an angry ocean at the bottom. On and on the nectar of the hops flowed till the vessel was all of three-quarters full. Then the craftsman carefully placed it aside to let the vessel and its precious cargo work their magic.

The bottom most of the vessel turned dark as the darkest night, the rest still swirling the distinctive brown with spouts of blackness and purple shouting through it and falling upon that which lay to the south. The proud craftsman looked on at his creation as near to perfection as anything came to in life. He knew the time allowed for the settling and those seconds pounded in his head as he restrained his hand from taking the vessel too soon and sacking the beauty of the ceremony. When a hundred and nineteen of the poundings had gone through his ears he lifted the vessel once more and brought her to the source for one last suck from the nipple of life.

This time his right arm pushed the lever up rather than pulling down as he had before. The liquid did not tarnish the perfect blackness created by the settling, but made itself one with the rest of the liquid. As it flowed, the head now white as the snow atop mount Errigle on a winters morn, rose to the rim and stopped a fraction of an inch above the edge magically keeping it from flowing over and tainting the outside.

The craftsman took the vessel in his hands for the last time, and placed it on the mahogany-alter in front of him. He felt as if it were his child and giving up part of his own being was the hardest task asked of a master craftsman, and no matter how many times he performed the ceremony it was as hard as the first he had ever given .

A new hand came to clasp the vessel now, not one of a creator like the craftsman but that of a destroyer, the drinker. As cruel as the drinker appeared now, savagely gulping down the holy liquid, it was him that gave the vessel and her cargo its reason to be. For there was no greater shame for a master craftsman than to have one of his creations refused by the barbarians on the other side of the wooden alter.

This savage however, returned nothing to the heart broken craftsman but the empty vessel, gutted of her cargo and all the Neanderthal had to say for himself was “Hey man, that was a great pint!”

The Man with too Many Hobbies

It was the summer of 1995, the year I did my leaving Cert and got the hell out of Newbridge College with Five honours and four hundred and thirty points to show for all my Dad’s money.

For the summer I was working in the Sail-Inn, the crappiest pub in town and possibly the worst restaurant in town, not because of the food, it was actually good, after all I was the chef, but for the d├ęcor. It was falling all around Vernon and Peggy and their hairy arm pitted daughter Janet. Vernon built the place like a Chinaman, as my Dad would say, he stacked one addition on top of the next. It was great fun to work there, I ate the best of the food and drank all that I wanted, not that the bosses ever knew. I think they must have had a fair idea, but they kept quiet as I only got a hundred and twenty a week and worked about the same number of hours.

I’d been through a few girlfriends that summer and around the end of July I meet my childhood dream girl; Karen Callaghan. She was beautiful, dark hair, dark skin, from a good family, she was the captain of the Rathfarnam girl’s school hockey team, that made her body fit too. I fell in love with her when I was about ten or twelve, when I’d seen her walking up the big pier with her father. I was on the Golden Rose with my friend Jonathan and all that night we talked about her and other girls as we listened to Elvis and I slept on the floor beside his bed. We were best friends; drifted apart since then.

Well, life was good and for the first time in history, that I can remember at least, Ireland was having a hot summer. Everyday was warm enough to go out to the beach at Fintra, the most amazing beach in the world. I’d been to a few foreign countries and never have I seen one that compares to Fintra. It’s a mile of golden sand with a cove at one end and wrappes around the other, out of sight, what we called the sinking sand. Local legend had it that a plane crashed there during the war and sunk beneath it. Often my brother and I would have a look, but we never saw anything.

Saturday’s were the best days because I had a split shift everyday between two and five, however Saturdays meant that everyone else was off and I could actually get to see people. This Saturday I’d taken my bicycle to work rather than my mother’s car. I took the car a lot since Derek was in Spain and I didn’t have to compete with him for it. On my break I cycled up to the beach, Karen said she would already be up there.

The tide was out when I got there and I spied around the beach to see if I could see any of the people I knew. I didn’t, so I asked some familiar faces lying half-naked on towels. They said Karen was down with my Dad and others on his new boat.

That was the first I knew Dad had a new boat. He had bought a semi-rigid a while back and the damn boat came apart at the seams in the middle of the bay, he and Jenny had to paddle the thing back to the pier. Wish I had seen that sight.

I could see the boat way off in the distance and I jogged all the way down to the shore, then wadded in and when it was deep enough I swam out to the boat, Christ I was in good shape then. Guess that’s what two years in a boarding school does to you; exercise your mind and body, damn that sounds Buddhist, that’s a good one a Dominican Buddhist!

As I swam closer I could see the boat was a beauty, white with a blue strip down her side. Karen was on board, she was looking perfect as ever in a red swimsuit, I called it her Bay Watch suit. Damn she was beautiful.

My Dad was looking twenty years younger on the boat with the latest design in sunglasses. Life was good to him back then, he didn’t have many worries. He smiled a lot and wasn’t quite so cynical, at least that is how I remember it.

When I was a kid growing up, I always wanted to be rich, so this girl would like me, her name was Mariead McGing. I thought she was the most perfect thing in the world when I was six, seven and eight. I got to sit beside her in third class, before I moved schools and was I ever happy. I always believed being rich would make her love me. Her dad owned one of the big boats and to be rich was the only way to make her love me. I slowed danced with her at my Conformation disco in the Forester’s Hall. I wasn’t yet so rich, but a little older and I didn’t feel intimidated by her anymore and love her I did not. Now, at Fintra beach, on Dad’s new boat with the most beautiful girl in Killybegs, I was rich; rich beyond my wildest dreams.

Dad sped the boat out the bay and I looked at Karen and wished I could have paused life there and then. I didn’t know it then, but that was the zenith, soon it would begin to dip down, down till it hit the lowest of low points.

Part Two

After a year of college in Dublin, an eventful year in which I two timed Karen and broke up with her, much to my regret and made some great friends, one of which decided to head to France with me for the summer.

I was now dating this tall blond, the twin sister of my roommate’s girl, she was everything a man could want in a woman, but she was no Karen. I came home just before I was to go to France with Damien and I was up visiting her in Donegal, when my Grandfather died suddenly.
I was there when he had his stoke and he said his last words, last coherent words, to me. We were giving him a little sup of brandy to thin the blood and he slurred “a wee drink’s good for ya, as long as it’s medicine.” I loved him and his passing really got to me. I’d never known death before and the fragility of life got to me. I felt like Mersault in The Stranger and what cared I for life, if we could all go at a moments notice.

I went to France all the same and returned not long after. I was in bits. Couldn’t seem to get it all together, I cried a lot and didn’t really know why. We got the boat out a few times, but nothing like the summer before. It rained a lot and when it wasn’t raining my Dad and mother were fighting and that made me not want to be in the house at all.

I didn’t go back to college and worked all winter in Dad’s factory. The boat was stowed away in some place in Northern Ireland for the winter to get serviced.

She was taken out a few times the following summer, but then Dad was getting separated from Mam and the boat was being ignored. He bought a tarp that covered it all and now the tarp never come off. The algae that use to come off with one wash was becoming permanent and the blue strip was fading and the boat was dilapidating in our front drive.

I didn’t feel so rich anymore and had to get away from home because like the boat, our family life was deteriorating and there was no escape like the first summer, when the days were warm and you could take the boat out the bay and leave all behind.

I do remember one Saturday in the summer of 1996, when we did take it out, I was up the stern and sleeping off a late night. I let my feet dangle over the side and a dorsal fin came up along side to check us out; cured my hangover fairly quick. Since then I can’t remember when we last fished or skied or just took her out for a good old run. There were too much other things happening in life and the boat, the symbol of richness that made me feel content was forgotten about.

That fall I went to Galway to another college and by Spring I had fallen in love with an American girl and ended up spending the summer with her in the Midwest for the summer of 1998.

The years were rolling by, I hardly noticed them at all, it felt like yesterday I had left boarding school one of the most successful students. It’s amazing all the factors that can go into screwing up your life.

That summer was bliss. I learned to live a whole other life and it made me happy. I was 1200 hundred miles from the sea and I didn’t miss it at all. I rowed boats out on small lakes and caught fresh water fish and played games and sang songs and fell in love everyday with my girl. I loved her more than anything and for the first time in years I forgot about Karen and the good, rich life I once had. This one, this summer in the Heartland of America surpassed that one.

In August I came home and didn’t really talk to anyone much, I didn’t even notice that we had a boat anymore. Mum had moved out and Dad was grumpy all the time. I worked for him till December, without talking much to anyone, I became a hermit up in my room and I had taken to mountain biking because of a friend I lived with in Galway. I used that to escape to the mountains and back roads, where it was just me and my thoughts, until I could head back to America.

I arrived back in Kansas City the day after Boxing Day and a whole new chapter began in my life. Commenced college for the third time and this time I wanted to stay, something I didn’t feel with the other places. English was the game as I had slowly been giving into my desire to write, it was a lot to do with all those hours I spent at home not talking, had to express myself somehow.

Jill went back to finish school in Texas in the middle of January and I stayed in KC to keep up with college. I loved the air she breathed and I did all I could to fit into her world; It was so different from my old one. I loved her a lot at the time and desperately wanted to be accepted.
When summer came again and she returned we didn’t love each other anymore and I was in love with Shannon. Somehow we just were in love, we made love one night and that was that. I broke up with Jill and carried on without skipping a beat. It was strange, but I loved Shannon in a way that I could never love Jill, even though I loved the air she breathed.

Shannon came home with me for Christmas and it was a good time. Being winter, we didn’t take the boat out but I took a look at her and perhaps it was because I was in love again, but she looked better than she had in years. I was rich again.

Whatever it was we too fell out of love about two months after we came back from Ireland. But we let it linger on for another eight months till I got brave enough and ended it. It took me another year to really get over it. I loved her so much I broke it off and from a far I can see that I loved her too much to stay with her. I would want her to live in a glass bubble, with only me and my love, but she had too much living to do and didn’t like me anymore.

I got pissed off in America and came home in August of 2001. I didn’t want to go but I was not in love and hated my job and most of the people I worked with. The first week I was home I got Dad to take the boat out. She looked like shit again, she started easy enough and we took her out the bay for a run. She made it as far as Drumanoo Head before the belts went on her and we had no radio or cell phone to call for help. I was scared for a while because the rocks were coming closer and closer, but Dad was not and he took the engine cover off and McGivered the engine back to one piece taking the belt from the water pump and putting it on the fuel pump and steamed the boat all the way home at about five knots.

When we got back to the pier I took her out to the petrol station and washed her for about an hour and a half. Dad had taken up horse riding and car racing and the weather had been terrible every summer and this one was no exception and the boat was ignored and let go to waste. It was a shame since she still looked fine and the seagull shit and algae came off with some love and care. When I was finished washing her I took her up to the house, the new house Dad lived in with his girlfriend, he didn’t live at home anymore. I think my mother was there but I didn’t see her because she was off the planet. The summer after Granda died, Granny died too, that left her depressed and her separation from Dad shortly after really put the last nail in the coffin of her sanity.

The boat was reversed up against the fence of the horses’ enclosure and there she has been left. I was up the other day and she is still there all-alone. It looks stupid out of the water, like some kind of alien artefact or dinosaur up on a trailer with the tarp over her, a ghost of what she use to be.

When I look at her I am reminded of the day I cycled out to Fintra and sat with Karen Callaghan in the back seat, while Dad with his sunglasses, skimmed her across the warm Atlantic Ocean, it feels like a dream now and I often wonder if it was.

My old life is like the boat, its been washed and stored away for another time. There is too much else now to go back to it. It will slowly erode silently away under a tarp. New hobbies have taken its place, life keeps moving.

I graduate college in a few months, eight years after I left boarding school. What have I really achieved? More than just a degree, I’ve earned a lesson in life. I have to let the boat and all its memories go lie in their grave just like my mother, let them all sleep their peaceful sleep of the ages.