IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Mr. Og - short story by Bree T. Donovan
=== Tourist Driving in Ireland by Susan Faulkner
=== Irish American - a poem by Marty W. Hill
=== Jewelry made from genuine Irish Coins!
=== Morning Song - short story by A.W. Donahue
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Site of the Month: kirsean.com
=== Monthly free competition result
Hi again from Ireland where the sun has finally
broken through to put an end to one of the
wettest July's in years. We are always getting
requests for souvenirs of Irish coins that are
no longer in circulation, especially since
Ireland joined the Euro. See below for some
marvellous necklaces, cufflinks and more made
from real Irish coins.
Many thanks to our contributors who have again
sent us in their stories, poems and reports
Why don't YOU submit an article, story or poem
for the next edition?
Until next time,
ENJOY THE SUMMER,
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
RESISTANCE TO SMOKING BAN GROWS
The recently introduced ban on smoking in the
workplace is being challenged by several publicans
who are allowing the public to smoke on their
premises. A Galway pub-owner was forced to close
his doors after a high court injunction was
brought against him by the local Health Board. A
pub owner in Lettermore in Connemara has become
the first publican to be fined under the new
legislation. Despite receiving two warnings from
a Health Board inspector the publican continued
to allow smoking in his pub and was fined
EURO 1200. Publicans who continually flout the
new laws risk having their licences revoked.
A recent report on the effects of the smoking
ban in New York however, has poured cold water
on the repeated assertions by publicans in
Ireland that the smoking ban has caused a 25%
decrease in trade. The report found that
business receipts in New York bars and
restaurants have risen by 8.7% in the last
year. Employment has also increased by
over 10,00 jobs.
UN CLAIMS IRELAND SECOND IN POVERTY LIST
A UN report has found that Ireland is second
only to the US in terms of relative poverty.
In terms of absolute poverty however, Ireland
is at an all-time low level of 5%. The UN
report measured the difference between the
richer and poorer sections of society and
found that the gap between the two extremes
is widening. The UN report states that a
person is in poverty if they earn less than
half of the average industrial wage.
The same report found that Irish people are
the third wealthiest worldwide, trailing
only Luxembourg and Norway. Ireland's GDP is
US 36,360 (EURO 29,200), Norway's is US 36,600
NEW TRANSPORT SYSTEM IS UNVEILED
Dublin has a new transport system. The
light-rail 'Luas' system cost nearly 800
Million Euro and is still being completed.
The first line runs from Sandyford through
Ranelagh and on into St. Stephens Green in
the heart of Dublin City Centre. A second
line from Tallaght to Abbey Street is due
to be completed later this year.
The Luas works have caused considerable
disruption to the St. Stephens Green are
and plans are being considered to make one
half of the square into a car-free zone.
DEMOLITION OF BALLYMUN TOWERS BEGINS
The end is nigh for the infamous Ballymun
Towers. Despite being beloved by film-makers
the famous scene where a horse is brought up
to a top floor flat in 'Into the West' will
be long remembered), the seven towers are to
be destroyed and replaced with brand new
apartments. The total regeneration of Ballymun
village will cost EURO 2.5 Billion and is among
the largest building projects currently under
way in Europe.
HOUSE PRICES CONTINUE TO RISE
The cost of a second hand house in Dublin rose
by 8% in the first half of 2004. The supply of
second-hand housing rose by 41% in 2003
according to a recent survey. The average cost
of a Dublin house is now EURO 367,000.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the continued
escalation in prices is the willingness of
Irish people to get into debt. Current
estimates put Ireland's debt level at
EURO 80 Billion, rising by EURO 1 Billion
Voice your opinion on these news issues here:
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history details have been added to the Gallery:
K: Kipping, Kilpatrick
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your name at:
Mr. Og By Bree T. Donovan
The radio was playing loudly, a song the little
boy would not be able to recall. The volume was
necessary so that his mother would not hear what
was happening in the next room. She stayed
stationed at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes,
her hands carefully and skillfully navigating
the knife over the slippery, hard substance.
Her husband's hands, slippery with the juice of
the oranges he was forever eating were
carelessly and callously making contact with
the body of their small son. The potato peels
began to blanket the sink as the song on the
old fashioned radio reached the chorus, the
cries of her son mingled with the music. It
was a haunting sound, one that was frequently
heard in the house and always met with her
inaction. She would hear it reverberating in her
ears until the day she died, long after her son
was dead. She continued her peeling, gazing out
the window to the garden she so lovingly tended.
Soon all was quiet, except for the muted sound
of the child's whimpering. He huddled in a corner
of his room clutching the soft, well worn teddy
bear that his mother had made for him. The boy
named him 'Mr. Og.'. The sting from where his
father's hands collided with his skin was still
strong, and fresh welts covered over existing
bruises. Tears fell from his deep green eyes,
landing on Mr. Og's velvet brown head. The
child, Finn, placed a hand over his mouth so that
his sobs would not be heard. His father was
forever telling him he was weak, and even at the
age of seven, Finn understood that crying after
a beating would most certainly be considered the
ultimate weakness. He gulped in air. His throat
felt swollen and raw as he swallowed breath and
tears. He closed his eyes, the long dark lashes
shutting out the familiar sights of his room,
his 'safe place', oddly, his father never
confronted him here. Finn leaned his head against
the wall the ringing in his ears was like the
clanging of hundreds of telephones ringing
This story is continued in the online edition and can be viewed here:
He tightened his grip around the bear and tried to calm himself. He was always in a heightened state of awareness, like a deer in the woods, forever wary of the hunter's gun. He never knew when his father would become upset with him. He had long since given up the effort of trying to anticipate what would set his Da off. Finn knew no matter what the immediate reason his father would offer, (today it had been that the boy did not finish his breakfast) underneath it all was his father's bitter anger over his son's disease. The child could not fathom all the twisted levels of his father's dysfunction, nor did he understand what being a diabetic meant. All the boy knew was that there were many times when he did feel weak and tired. Playing outside with his friends, he would often begin to feel as if 'the world was spinning.' He would ask the other boys if they felt the same. They would simply laugh at 'crazy Finn', but when he would lose consciousness, his playmates would run in fear, being thoughtful enough to summon Nuala, Finn's older sister.
His friends, the few that had chosen to remain knew that Finn's sister was the one to call when he was in trouble. They also were instructed, as was Finn himself that when he began to feel 'the world spinning' he was to eat a small piece of the candies she put into all his pockets, and return to her immediately.
As Finn sat in the darkened room now wiping his nose with a dirty shirt sleeve, the smell of oranges overwhelmed him. His father had been so close. It was if he had infused Finn's very clothing with the scent of his beloved fruit. The odour made the boy gag. He was thinking his father must be right. Finn desperately tried to fight off 'the spells' as his mother referred to them, but he was helpless to stop his body from succumbing to the unattended diabetes. What Finn did not know and would not until he had reached adulthood, was that his parents were the very ones responsible for 'the spells' by their indifference in ensuring he received the proper medication and care. They would make minimal effort to obtain insulin for him, and assist him with the proper nutrition, but all the scared little boy curled up in the shadows knew was that there was something terribly wrong with him, something that was his fault and prevented his father and mother from loving him. He buried his tear streaked face into Mr. Og and prayed once again that whatever it was he was doing wrong, the Lord help him to be the kind of child who would be worthy of his parents' love.
He woke to the feeling of his sister's soft hands against his face. She whispered his name, and he could smell the plate of mashed potatoes and vegetables she brought for him. He looked at her with luminous eyes, the eyes of an old soul. Often times his mother would have to look away when her boy would stare up into her face. His eyes bore right through her very heart. They were emerald, like their beloved homeland, Ireland, but unlike anyone in their immediate family. She had a feeling that he was not of their family, even though she had carried his developing body for nine months, and delivered him not without great pain. She was still certain that he was not of this world. His eyes reflected a destination far removed from his present situation. Despite the horrible violence inflicted upon him that she most certainly was a party to in her refusal to confront it, he radiated a feeling of peace that was disturbing in its vastness. He was a dreamy little boy who was most happy walking alone lost in his thoughts. His mother wished she could see what he was thinking. He drew such wonderfully vivid pictures. She had unearthed some once under a pile of clothing in his room. The colorful depictions expressed his confusion and pain, but always there was strangely an element of joyous wonder of the world, even though she knew first hand the hell that was his home.
On her death bed she would say that her son's unearthly eyes never left her. She did not see him again soon after his seventh birthday. He would live only to age thirty, but to her, he would always be that peaceful, creative, angelic little boy. Finn was the one she called out to when she died.
His sister sat before him now holding the warm plate in front of him. He was grateful for her presence, at least he would be safe for the rest of the night. He wanted more to sleep than to eat, but he knew it was useless to argue with her. When Nuala said to eat, he did so even though his stomach turned with every morsel that was ingested. After he had made the great effort of eating all that he could, she put the plate aside and smoothed the greasy hair from his eyes. He smiled at her, and the look of pure love and trust it reflected only confirmed the decision she had made earlier in the day. 'Come then love, let's give you a bath.' she said taking his small hand His smile faded. He never liked anyone to see him naked, but he also treasured the feeling of sinking deep down into the calming, warm water of the tub. Nuala was always gentle with him so he nodded his agreement.
When she picked her brother up he tried not to cry out in pain, but as soon as his exposed, beaten body was in the water, she sat back in horror, seeing bruise on top of bruise. His eyes were so large in his sunken face. He looked like an owl staring back at her, pleading in silence for her help. 'My God!' was all she said and brought the child close to her. She began to cry tears of sheer disgust and frustration. 'Sweet Finny, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.' She wept into his chestnut hair.
He broke free from her hold and put a soapy hand up to her cheek. 'Don't cry, Leela. I'm okay. Please don't cry.' His words made the tears push further from her eyes, but she desperately tried to compose herself for his sake. She looked into his wounded face and a fierce determination filled her whole being.
Looking down at her little brother's wounded body she made a vow that she would never break. 'You will be okay, Finny. I promise you that.' The boy believed her. He knew she always did the best she could to shield him from their father's rage, and that was enough for him. He slept that night, unbeknownst to his parents, cuddled next to his sister feeling the blissful escape that sleep offered.
The next morning the sun streamed into the room like golden strings of thread. Finn blinked his eyes open, and saw his sister hastily packing suitcases. He tried to sit up, but his body felt like a thousand pin pricks were jabbing at his skin. 'What are you doing, Leela?' he asked in a panic. It appeared as if she was leaving him. If she did, what was he to do? His mind raced and his eyes immediately began to fill with tears. She came to him sensing his fear.
'Finn, don't cry. I am not leavin' ya. We are going to be together, and no one will ever hurt you again.' The boy did not understand the gravity of her statement. He looked into her blue eyes, the color of their mother's, but Nuala's were much softer, and kinder. She was only seventeen years old, but she felt years older having lived in this house. He reached out and stroked her long, dark hair, much like his own. Everyone who saw them concluded they must be related. For years to come most would think them to be mother and son, and they became as much. He saw her reach for the all too familiar needle, while slightly raising the blue flannel pajama top to uncover his forearm.
Throwing his head back he squealed, 'NOOOO!'
'Shh... Now you know you must be my brave boy.' she soothed.
Before the needle made contact with his skin, releasing the life sustaining insulin his body needed, he raised his head to look at her. 'But you just said no one was going to hurt me!'
She paused holding the needle in mid-air, her heart so full of love for this child. She leaned in and kissed his cheek. 'No one but me giving you your insulin will ever hurt you again.'
He wrinkled up his mouth preparing for the unavoidable. 'I can be brave for that.' He said offering her his arm.
Nuala quickly helped Finn dress. He stayed close by her side as she led him into the kitchen. Their father had left for work hours ago, and their mother was once again at her post doing dishes at the sink. She turned when she saw her two children enter. Nuala began to take things from the refrigerator: insulin vials that she bought with the money she earned from her job at the local grocery store after school, a bottle of milk and other small items the boy could not make out. He stood quietly waiting for his sister. Their mother was shocked to see the two in their coats and hats, suitcases in hand. It looked surreal to her. The children reminded her of the pictures of Irish who immigrated to America only to arrive at Ellis Island with no more than their suitcases and dreams for a better life. Finn and Nuala were not unlike their ancestral travelers in that regard.
Wiping her hands on a towel their mother spoke, 'Goin' somewhere are ya?'
Nuala stood in front of the woman she would no longer regard as their mother or as anyone of importance in their lives. 'Yes we are. I am taking him to where your sick husband can no longer hurt him!' Their mother stepped back in mild surprise. This was not the first time Nuala had stood up for Finn. She had even come between father and son during the abuse. When Nuala was home their father never raised a finger to Finn, because he would never raise a finger to his 'darlin' girl.' Nuala even threatened to take Finn away from them, but being that she was only a teenager, their mother dismissed her threats as an impossibility. What their mother did not know was that Nuala had made arrangements with a friend who was of age and rented her own flat, which she offered to share until Nuala could make more permanent arrangements. She stood in front of her mother now, a look of defiance on her otherwise pretty face.
'You will do no such thing. Now put all that back and get yourselves ready for school!' the mother commanded. She still did move from her place in front of the sink. She didn't feel any other demands would be necessary.
Her daughter's eyes flashed with anger and resolve. 'The hell we will! You are worthless!' Finn looked to his sister astounded at her words and the venom they contained.
'You watch your tone with me lass!' their mother answered still smarting from the emotional slap from her daughter.
'You watch this! You take a look at this!' the girl said pulling up her brother's white woolen sweater. Finn was baffled by his sister's actions, but he knew as always in this house, to stay still and quiet. He saw his mother's body sway slightly and he wondered if she too felt 'the world was spinning.' The bruises on her son's body were as vivid and colorful as the pictures he drew. But these were portraits of unbearable pain right there on the canvas of his skin, impossible to ignore.
Nuala screamed hurdling all her disgust and frustration at her mother. 'Look at what you let happen to your son! Where were you? You will never see him or me again- not unless you and that brute of a husband of yours can admit what you have done to Finn!' Finn began to shake, frightened by his sister's outburst and seeing how it upset his mother. Nuala instantly regretted putting her brother in such a difficult but necessary position.
She knelt down to address him. 'Remember what we talked about Finny, no one is going to hurt you again.' She pulled his sweater back down over his trousers. He thought about the small vials of insulin in her bag and for once was grateful if indeed that was all the pain he would ever have to face. He trusted his sister more than anyone and he needed her more than anyone. His expressive eyes gave her his agreement. Their mother stood, trying to hold back her own tears of remorse, not saying a word. She knew she was as powerless to stop them from going as she had been from stopping her husband's abuse of her son. Years later she would realize with bitter regret that she was only powerless because of her own weakness and fear. She did not have Nuala's strong will. Strange as it was, the young girl possessed the unshakable purpose of her father, but she had used it to stand up for herself and her brother, rather than to berate and abuse as their father had.
'Say goodbye to your son!' Nuala spat as she moved towards the door with her brother in hand. Their mother neither moved nor spoke holding the gaze of those piercing green eyes for as long as she could, but Finn's eyes looked beyond hers. As his sister whisked him out the door, the last thing he saw was a full bowl of oranges on the kitchen counter. Then the door closed behind them. The two were just beginning their lifelong journey. They would never be separated for too long, and he never again felt a violent hand on his body. Because of his sister's brave actions, Finn grew into a gentle, loving man with a quick wit, contagious laugh and a great passion for helping the children of his country. Again and again he risked his life working against the violent forces that occupied Ireland, against men much like his own father who crushed all that was beautiful and innocent for their own selfish motives. Finn's thirty years of life were filled with the dreams and passions that most men who reach old age never realize. He fought against brutality, traveled to America, fell in love. Finn touched the world as an angel does when brushing his wings quietly against the earth and then is gone.
Finn's mother went to his room after her children walked out. Her heart was heavy, but in a lighted corner, it was easy at the thought that her son would finally be safe. Sitting on his bed, her eye caught something lying on the floor. She knew immediately what it was by its simple shape. She had created it. She reached down and took Mr. Og into her hands. She pressed the bear against her cheek and let the tears she had held back for what had been ages to come. She knew where her son was going he would no longer need the comfort of the familiar bear. But she would hold on to the small stuffed animal until the day she died, and when she did, she passed it on to the woman that her son had given his heart to.
Some thirty years later, that same woman, the keeper of Finn's heart would lie in her bed in the dark of night. She clung to the bear whose arms constantly needed sewing the face worn down to white patches in spots, and the once bright yellow ribbon around his neck tattered and faded. But the bear was a symbol of which she would never let go. The deteriorating bear represented the unbreakable power of love and life. Finn's hands, the hands that once touched her so lovingly and gently, had long since let go of the bear and her, by letting go of his life. But this bear was a precious reminder in the most simple and glorious of ways that the permanence of love and the strength of a promise long survives the grip of violence and death.
Bree T. Donovan
Moorestown, NJ, USA
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TOURIST DRIVING IN IRELAND by Susan Faulkner
On arriving in Doolin, there was an article framed
on the wall at our B&B, which I did not read until
after the fact, that tourists cause between 5% and
8% of the accidents on Irish roads.
There are probably several reasons for this:
* Most folks are used to driving on the 'right'
side of the road.
* The driver is trying to sight-see along with the
passengers who have promised to help navigate
* Many of the streets, even in the cities, are
barely wide enough for 2 cars side-by-side and
folks tend to travel the middle until a vehicle
* The car itself and the locale are most likely
unfamiliar to the driver
* Some drivers are driving under the influence
of time change and corresponding jet lag
* We were told by our travelers insurance that
their car coverage is not accepted in Ireland
so tourists need to be sure to pay the extra
10 euros or whatever per day for liability.
We had an accident, luckily (?) with an American
living in Australia, also driving a Hertz car,
that I did not see until we were head-on on a
dark rainy night on a curve preceded by a dip
from which he had come.
He said I was in the middle of the road, turned
first slightly to the right (instinct prevailing)
then toward the left (rational mind took over)
where I was supposed to be. Neither of us had
much room to negotiate as there were stone walls
on both sides of a narrow road with no lines.
We were both going slowly, but our right fronts
hit doing damage to fenders, hoods,lights and
pushing my bumper against the wheel. Best of all,
no one was hurt, we proceeded to our B&B, two
blocks away, together amiably we filled out the
accident forms and called the Hertz company,
and no garda (Irish police) were available at
10:30 pm for what they called a minor accident.
Mostly they were all stationed at Shannon
airport for President Bush's security.
Next day a local mechanic checked out the car as
undriveable and I rode with the tow truck driver
to pick up another. My companions did wash,
reorganized our stuff and relaxed, cozy in our
B&B during the only wind and bad rain of our 14
As we had not paid the 'extra charge for rental
car insurance' we were liable for a total of
936 euros including towing. That is about 1176
American Dollars. There is a chance that my credit
card will pay it - maybe! The reason we had not
taken the 'extra car insurance' was because we
had paid a lot for travelers insurance and
thought we were covered. Trouble is, it is not
honored for car accidents in Ireland or Italy.
After I picked everyone up we drove the new car
only as needed. Hertz would not let me take the
insurance and the liability was now Euro 2000.
Scary thought!!!!! On top of the previous Euro 936.
All in all though, we had a wonderful third Irish
trip, in B&B's from Dublin South along the coast
up to the Burren and the Aran Islands. Must have
walked 50 miles and learned so much. Two of us
are going back next year as well. We stayed at
several great B&B's and now really feel that is
the way to go getting to know real Irish people,
and getting tips on things one might never hear
I just thought this info could be helpful to
others. Folks might like to check out more than
one rental company via the internet and read
carefully the provisions. They vary from one
company to the other.
Susan was lucky! She had an accident with a
fellow tourist who was likely to be more
sympathetic to her. Apart from the United
States, Ireland is the most litigious country
in the world! People go to court here for
anything. Our insurance costs are through the
roof, mostly caused by personal injury claims
and especially those related to car accidents.
If you do have an accident with someone in Ireland
the best thing you could do is call the police
(the Garda) immediately. The person you had an
accident with may seem to be reasonable and
understanding, but there is always the possibility
that they will later check in to the local
hospital in order to make a (false) whip-lash
claim. Get their car registration number, take
pictures of the scene, get their insurance number
(it is on the insurance certificate on the front
window of their car) - call the garda!
Get free Irish tourist information here:
IRISH AMERICAN by Marty W. Hill
Hours spent wondering what the cool breath of
your sea felt like on my skin
Where I came from, where you had been
The tear in my eyes reflecting your soul
In it's raw green winters
and soft trill of a church's toll
the damp of the earth
where my family lies
nameless, unknown and tears uncried
No one can understand the emptiness
when you don't know who you are
You struggle to find a name
a photo with a face
under a sky with the same star
Ragged and unwanted we left our heart
knowing that we could never come home
the thousands of miles to keep us apart
Our mother's names dying when we did
never to be spoken
but the love of the land of our beginning
We search and wish to belong
A twist of fate of two lands
a love equally as strong
We are who we are
our memories lost
our lives divided by poverty
with it's cold cost
We are the Irish of spirit
which will never die
Home is a land under two bits of sky
Marty W. Hill
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Morning Song by A.W. Donahue
'We'll keep the home fire burning,
keep the flame of Liberty alive-
For the fire burns bright
in our hearts tonight,
for the long lost prodigal's return
ever mindful of the prodigal's return.'
-Irish Rebellion Song, circa 1920
Johnny Kavanagh woke in the small hours of the
morning to his mother's sobs. She'd been crying
for days, and it didn't seem like she would stop.
He didn't understand why she cried so much, it
kept him awake at night and left a pit of
unexplained sorrow in the hollow just below his
breast. His father was gone, he'd taken the broken
bundle of bones that had been his brother to the
parish priest to bury. That meant Johnny, too young
to be a man and go with his father and too old to
be a babe and comfort his mother, was lost in a
silence broken only by a spark of rage he couldn't
explain. He wasn't old enough to know sorrow in
its true form yet, and his conception of pain was
being smacked upside his head while wrestling
with his dead brother.
When sleep proved impossible, he lit a fire in the
low room where David's body had lain, stretched
out like Christ on the table. His grandmother,
the widow O'Shea, sat in the corner, smoking a
pipe thoughtfully and looking every so often out
the window into the lane. When the light caught
her cheek in the right way, he could see the
gleam of tears, other than that, Grandmother's
grief was invisible. From the other room, he
could hear Aunt Cathy whispering to his mother.
A low rumbling came from his stomach, and he
walked to his grandmother, who started a little
bit when she spied him sulking in the
near-shadows of dawn.
'My word, boy, I thought ye a ghost, ye looked
just like yer poor brother,' she tisked in the
back of her throat and took a drag on her pipe.
The smoke she exhaled billowed on the air.
'I'm hungry,' he said, and pointed to his stomach.
'We all are,' his Grandmother said, but she only
sat there, 'There's nothing to eat, naught in
the whole city, it seems.'
This story is continued in the online edition and can be viewed here:
Little Johnny sighed and sat on the floor,
sitting before the coals and poking at them with
a twig. An empty pot hung over the orange-red
rocks, and he eyed it. Maybe if he rubbed it,
one of his father's genies would pop out and
grant him three wishes. He didn't raise a finger,
though. He may have been a boy, but he was old
enough to know that stories were only stories,
and that there was no such thing as magic.
The English had killed it.
After awhile he stood up, restless, and walked
over to his grandmother's window. He couldn't
see anyone outside. The town was in grief, and
black smoke overhead reminded him of the band
his father sometimes wore around his arm. But
he soon tired and sat back down on the floor.
His eyes were drawn to the table where his
brother had lain, and even with the light
obscured by sadness he could make out blood,
just a tiny bit, on one of the corners, where
David's hand had dripped crimson tears.
They brought him in two mornings ago, and he
still remembered the hail of curses to fall
from his father's mouth, and the cold chill of
his mother's screams. David's eyes were open,
staring blankly at the ceiling. Johnny watched
his father put pennies over them, and wondered
why he was doing that, when they needed food
so much in this house. There had to be better
uses for coins, he was old enough to know that.
Below his brother's pale face his chest was a
red ruin, bone and blood and flesh twisted by
hot lead. His father used his coat to cover the
wound, but Johnny saw it, so did his mother.
Maybe that was why she couldn't stop crying,
the wound had scared her so bad, like dreams
did to him sometimes.
The door opened and his father came in. He had
a sack and he put it on the table. A loaf of
bread fell out, and Johnny watched his father
walk into the other room. There was the muted
muttering of a shift change and Aunt Cathy came
out, her red hair dazzling in the light of the
sun, now breaking through the smoke. She said
something to Grandmother, and then came over
to Johnny, hugging him fiercely to her.
'And how are you today, me fine boy?' She asked, `
and stroked his hair. He leaned into her,
enjoying her soft caress. After a moment he
looked up at her, his eyes darkened by shadow.
'I'm hungry,' he said, and Aunt Cathy smiled.
'We're all hungry.'
This was so much of an echo that he looked at his
grandmother, but she only sat there, looking out
the window. It was now bright enough to see his
sleeping rug in the opposite corner, and the
picture of Saint Francis of Assisi hanging on the
wall over the hearth. Aunt Cathy saw him looking
and smiled grimly. From the next room he heard a
loud wail and a muffled cry.
'My boy! My boy!'
It was his father's voice. A moment later his
mother's rang out, loud and cold.
'Goddamn you, England.'
It was the first time he'd heard that phrase, and
he didn't understand it. But it had a ring of
menace to it that he couldn't ignore, and he
looked towards the door, hoping he wasn't in
trouble. It was that tone his mother used when she
was mad at him or at his brother. Aunt Cathy swung
her head up to listen, and when she looked back at
him, she saw his fear.
'Don't worry, little one. 'Tis not you she storms
Johnny nodded. He knew that, but it was good to
be reassured. It had something to do with David.
His brother had been so badly hurt that he wouldn't
wake up, ever. Grandfather was hurt that bad once,
and although death was a strange concept, he
grasped its meaning. He would never see David
again, nor would his mother or his father. Maybe
that's why they cried. Maybe they would miss him
too much. He hoped they wouldn't go to where he'd
gone, and leave him alone with Aunt Cathy and
Cathy took up the loaf of bread and filled the
kettle on the coals with water from a pitcher on
the table, using the pot to stir the embers up
into the semblance of a flame. She looked back
'No tay today, me boy. So we'll take our water
Johnny nodded and sat against the wall. His
mother's sobs were gone now, as were his father's.
But he sensed them just below the surface,
waiting to be stirred up like trout in the river.
He remembered fishing with Dave once, and how
they'd come home, dripping wet and without a
catch. Father had laughed and thrown their
clothes on the grate over the fire to dry. As if
commanded by his thought, his mother cried again,
a shaking, shifting sound that ground against
his ears and his eyes and tore at his heart.
Some time passed in silence.
'Poor souls,' Grandmother said from the corner.
Her pipe was empty, but she sucked on the end
still, trying to smoke what wasn't there.
'May the Lord Jesus be with them and comfort
'Amen,' Aunt Cathy said from the table. She
wiped up the blood, but it took some doing.
Her arms were sweaty and straining. 'There used
to be a good bit o' singing in this house come
mornings, but those days are gone now.'
'Aye,' Grandmother said, 'A shame it is, too.
Yer sister had such a pretty voice.'
Johnny cocked his head, this he understood less
than the grief from the next room. Why should
his mother stop singing because Dave went away?
Why should his father keep from the merry jigs
and reels he was so famous for?
'Ah, water's boilin,' Aunt Cathy took the cups
from the shelf above the hearth and poured
steaming draughts into three of them. She handed
one to Grandmother, but the old woman did not
drink. She gave one to Johnny and he sipped at
it, testing its heat. She took a long draught of
her own and handed out slices of bread cut so
thin he could see through them in places.
'This is no way for a human being to live,'
Grandmother said, 'Drinkin hot water and eatin
a waif of bread in the mornin. My father told me
about the feasts they used to have in the time
of Cuchulain. T'weren't any English here then.'
'Aye', Aunt Cathy said, and looked towards the
bedroom door. 'But there'll be better times.'
'Amen, if that be a prayer.'
'If only it were.'
Johnny sat in the corner, watching them. Outside,
he could hear some children playing, but knew he
wouldn't be joining them. He stared at the table
and looked at where his brother, nearly a man,
had lain, pennies over his eyes and chest covered
by a cheap, torn coat. He looked at the hearth
where his mother sang every morning in the Irish,
her voice untangled by the tears that now kept it
from coming without sobs. He needed to hear her
sing, but Grandmother was right. It would be a
great piece of time before anyone sang in this
house again. A groan came from his stomach and he
drank more water. It came again and he looked up
at Aunt Cathy.
'We all are,' she said, but sliced him another
piece of bread, this time a little thicker.
'Take your time with that because it comes dear.'
'Aye,' said Grandmother, 'But not so dear as
dignity, now does it, or freedom mayhap? Bread
costs only a man's coin, but the things we really
need, the things we crave, why... those things
cost God's given blood, don't they?'
Aunt Cathy said nothing, but Johnny saw her nod.
A tear rolled down her face, and he watched it
drip into the fire, where it hissed on the coals.
By A.W. Donahue
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