================================================= IN THIS ISSUE === Foreword === News Snaps from Ireland === New free resources at the site === Play the Irish Lottery === The Girl from Galway City by Bree T. Donovan === Belfast by Terence David Cowan === Brian Boru - the last High King of Ireland === Ode to an Irishman by Mickey Moore === My Tour of Ireland by Carol Martin === Gaelic Phrases of the Month === Site of the Month: celticattic.com === Monthly free competition result ================================================= FOREWORD ======== Hello again from Ireland where the last month has seen an election, a referendum, a visit by the US President, and the arrival of the 'Luas' - a new light-rail system for Dublin (badly needed!). Many thanks to our contributors this month and especially to Bree Donovan for her wonderful short stories. Why don't YOU submit an article, story or poem for the next edition? Until next time, HAVE A GREAT SUMMER, Michael WE NEED YOUR HELP! PLEASE - send this newsletter on to your friends or relatives who you think are interested in Ireland. By doing this you are helping to keep us 'free'. Got something to say? Don't keep it to yourself! Why don't you submit an article for inclusion in the next edition? Go here for more information: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletter.htm If you have an AOL or HOTMAIL account then you will get much better results by viewing this newsletter online here: http://www.ireland-information.com/jun04.htm The only way that you could have been subscribed to this newsletter is by filling out a subscription form at the site whereupon a confirmation notice would have been issued. If you wish to unsubscribe then go here: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletter.htm ================================================= NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND ======================= CITIZENSHIP REFERENDUM IS EMPHATICALLY PASSED The proposed change to the Irish constitution has been overwhelmingly passed by nearly 4 to 1. The amendment involves the closure of a loophole that allows the children of non-nationals born here to automatically receive Irish citizenship and for their parents to remain in the country. This legal route to citizenship resulted in thousands of pregnant women arriving into Ireland seeking citizenship for their forthcoming offspring. The national Maternity hospitals were consequently put under severe strain. Opponents of the amendment cited the amendment as racist despite the fact that other European countries operate in this way. Nevertheless the margin of success of the amendment is being claimed by the Government as a justification for the change. GOVERNMENT SUFFERS DEFEATS IN LOCAL & EU ELECTIONS The Fianna Fail Government, led by Bertie Ahearn has suffered badly at the recent Local and European elections. Fianna Fail lost nearly 90 seats on local councils, representing 23% of its previous total. Fine Gael was the major beneficiary and has staged a remarkable turnaround in its fortune after the drubbing it received in the last General Election. Sinn Fein are celebrating also with the election of its first ever European Parliament member. Taoiseach Bertie Ahearn is under pressure to release funding into the public sector, especially into health services. Government funding has been severely curtailed in recent years in an effort to boost the economy. Now that economic growth seems likely over the next few years there may be some room for manoeuvre by the Government. IRISH LEADER MEETS GEORGE BUSH, AGREES EU CONSTITUTION Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahearn has met with US President George Bush in County Clare. A huge security operation was mounted for the short visit which was opposed by some politicians and anti-war groups. Ireland hold the presidency of the European Union at the moment and the Irish leader used his role to reiterate the joint US-EU commitment to the return of sovereignty to the people of Iraq at the earliest opportunity. Bertie Ahearn was also instrumental in getting agreement to the new EU constitution during the Irish tenure as President of the EU. FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN IRELAND STILL BUOYANT Investment by foreign companies is of critical importance to the Irish economy. Recent figures have shown that Ireland has bucked the European trend which has seen investment decline by 23%. An OECD report has shown that investment in Ireland rose by 4.5% in 2003 to US$25.5 Billion. This figure compares very favourably not just within Europe but worldwide. Foreign investment in the United States in 2003 was US$39.9 Billion. WATER CHARGES RECOMMENDED The Institution of Engineers of Ireland has recommended the introduction of a water charge for domestic users. A report by the IEI has shown that water wastage in Ireland is running at almost 50%, compared with 24% in Britain and 10% in some European countries. Daily consumption is running at 160 litres per customer, compared with 110 litres in Europe. The Irish water-pipe network is antiquated and needs major investment. It seems unlikely however that the Government will attempt to introduce such water charges before the next General Election. DEGREES FOR PLUMBERS AND PAINTERS PROPOSED Discussions are afoot between Universities and Colleges and various State Agencies. The proposals would provide for the awarding of university degrees to plumbers, printers, painters, electricians and various other trades where the applicant has completed the recommended training and has sufficient experience. Voice your opinion on these news issues here: http://www.ireland-information.com/cgi-bin/newsletterboardindex.cgi ================================================= NEW FREE RESOURCES AT THE SITE ============================== NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY: The following 7 coats of arms images and family history details have been added to the Gallery: C: Coveney G: Greene, Grogan H: Hicks M: Mullock, Mansfield T: Tobin View the Gallery here: http://www.irishsurnames.com/coatsofarms/gm.htm We now have over 100,000 worldwide names available. Get the Coat of Arms Print, Claddagh Ring, Screensaver, Watch, T-Shirt Transfer or Clock for your name at: http://www.irishnation.com/familycrestgifts.htm ================================================= PLAY THE IRISH LOTTERY ====================== 34 Millionaires were created by the Irish lottery in 2003! You could be next - especially if you use the service provided by www.irishlotto.net http://www.irishlotto.net has been in operation since 1988 and is one of the oldest online lottery sites in the world. With subscribers in 89 countries it is easy to see why so this site is considered as being among the most reliable lottery sites on the web. Their website is now totally revamped! The Irish lotto jackpot is never lower than US$1,500,000 and is frequently worth in excess of US$5,000,000. It can rise to $12,000,000 and more. You don't have to live in Ireland to play and all winnings are Tax Free! The draw takes place every Wednesday and Saturday night on national television (RTE). The jackpot prize is won by matching the first six numbers drawn (1 to 42). A seventh number is also drawn and is called the 'bonus' number. Prizes can also be won by matching five numbers, five numbers plus the bonus number, four numbers, four numbers plus the bonus number or three numbers plus the bonus number. Although people tend to pick their own lucky numbers, a 'quick pick' option is available which instructs the Lotto computer to select the entry numbers. Prizes are tax-free and are paid out in one lump sum. The service offered by irishlotto.net includes: * Entering your numbers in the Irish Lottery and immediately sending you official confirmation of your entry. * Double-checking your numbers after each draw. * Immediately notifying you, in confidence, of any winnings. Payment is made according to your instructions. * Sending you details of the winning numbers for the draws in which you participate. Total confidentiality is assured. No one will know that you have bought a ticket and no one will know that you have won - except you! The entry fees include all postage, handling and agent charges. Got a question? Email the friendly staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at: http://www.irishlotto.net ================================================= THE GIRL FROM GALWAY CITY By Bree T. Donovan ========================= And they are always here beside us, In a parallel point of view, And still they call; the one's who've gone before. Will you take me by the hand when I come through? The Journey Chris de Burgh Dawn, the time of day when the earth is enveloped in the warm embrace of the rising sun. Shafts of newly born light shakily take their first steps into the chilly morn, their heat creating mysterious vapors that mix with the clean scent of freshly fallen rain. Rain is the lifeblood that pulses through the veins of Ireland, infusing its body with deep, ancient shades of green. No photograph could capture the silent beauty of dawn in Castlebar after a night of sweet, early spring rain. It simply exists for the eye to see, the heart to feel, and within the souls of the spirits who live there. Spirits, (depending on who you receive your information from) are as familiar to the verdant landscape as the solitary sheep and the wide blue ocean that surround the little island. A young girl walked alone along an unfamiliar stretch of highway that during standard business hours was predictably consumed with cars zipping their way to all sorts of destinations. On a weekday, a person took great risk if attempting to cross the narrow run of concrete. Automobiles and the people driving them, like time, waited for no one. Even in sleepy Castlebar 'Big Business' had extended its voluminous tendrils, dragging the town's people away from their quiet living spaces and depositing them into the dirty, demanding cities of Dublin and beyond. It was a necessary evil. If one wished to remain living in Castlebar, one must allow him or herself to labor elsewhere. The World market, like automobiles and their drivers, and time also waited for no one. She carried a small backpack over her shoulder, and anxiously scanned the area for any sign of life. Checking her watch her stomach began to churn with dread, and the remains of the vast amount of alcohol she consumed the previous evening with friends in the local pub. She could rouse not a one of her beloved chums when morning came and she had to be on a bus for Galway to keep an appointment regarding a very important internship. Her mind raced, as her large blue eye explored the strange landscape. She knew her professor would be enraged if she missed this meeting. He had gone out of his way to arrange it for her. A professional person would almost never deign to meet with a lowly, university student on a Sunday, but this particular social worker had upon the recommendation of Professor Deghan. As she looked at her watch again, the girl could feel the minutes quickly and quietly slipping away from her, like the puddles evaporating in the early morning sun, along with her chance of finding the bus stop in time to make her interview. 'Damn it!' she half shouted into the empty street. Suddenly her heart jumped at the sound of jingling coming from behind. The sound carried the soothing quality of wind chimes, and brought immense relief, like finding a set of lost car keys and waving them triumphantly in the air. She turned to see a woman with wild, wind-blown, red hair in a long white dress walking towards her. 'Thank you Saint Jude!' the girl whispered taking a swift external inventory of the approaching woman. She could not have been more than ten years the girl's senior who was all of a bright and hopeful twenty-two. The jingling came from a charm bracelet the woman wore on her pale wrist. As she came closer, the girl could see the woman was smiling at her, almost as if she knew the young student would be on the very same road as she at the very same time. Re-adjusting the backpack over her shoulder, the girl offered a most optimistic greeting. 'Hallo! Oh, I'm so glad to find someone up at this hour,' the relief was obvious in her voice. The tall woman in white was right next to her now. The girl felt a strange sensation, like cold and warm air swirling together all around her as the woman stood at the girl's side. The newcomer was not threatening, but was as out of place here on this desolate road as the lost younger woman. 'Would you know the way into town, and where I could catch the bus goin' to Galway City?' The air around the woman had an odd sweetness to it, like the morning rain. Still smiling, she spoke. 'Good mornin. I am headin' into town meself so why don't you just walk with me?' she hesitated, 'That is, if ya want to.' The girl chuckled her joy at that moment could not have been any greater had she found one hundred Euros in the street, 'Oh, yes, I would love to walk with you. I have been wandering around in one big circle for an hour now. It was desperate!' 'I know what you mean', the woman gently grasped the girl's arm and led her in the opposite direction from which she had been walking. 'When I first came to Castlebar, I was forever getting lost. It was quite maddening. But, you know what they say, the best way to learn your way around any place is to be completely immersed in it, and then have to find your way to the surface once again. Kind of like a baptism of sorts. 'Well sure then mine is a baptism by fire!' the girl exclaimed. 'Only the strongest can walk through fire, so take heart.' The woman extended her hand, the one encircled with the shiny charms. 'I'm Derry, and it is a pleasure to meet you. Although I'm sorry it's under such stressful circumstances.' A particular charm on Derry's bracelet caught the girl's eye as she took the outstretched hand. A beautifully crafted crescent moon shone in the early light. The girl thought it strange to be noticing the nocturnal symbol on such a bright and sunny morning. 'My name is Benvy, and to the contrary, I'm very happy to meet you now!" 'Benvy, the Lady of Meath.' Derry remarked. 'That's right. Not too many people besides my parents know that."' 'Not too many people are aware of a lot of things they should be.' --- This story is continued in the online edition and can be viewed here: http://www.ireland-information.com/jun04.htm#story
The two began to walk towards town. Benvy took note of the particular lightheartedness of the helpful stranger. 'Are you always up and about at this hour?' she asked.
'Not always, it depends on what Fionne, my husband is up to.' Derry's smile was genuine, and her brown eyes flickered like russet flames at the mention of her lover.
'I see. So, he must be at home still sleeping, and this is your only time for peace- away from him' Benvy jokes. Derry turned to the girl, and searched her wounded eyes. She could see what the girl had experienced. Benvy's eyes were lovely, but they were hidden behind smudges of dark charcoal pencil that circled the rims. Her eyelids were painted with an even darker blue, and her thin lips outlined with lipstick the color of cotton candy. The shape of the woman was difficult to make out. She wanted it that way. The baggy cargo pants and at least two layers of black sweaters underneath an unbuttoned denim jacket kept her body safely hidden from any unwelcome glances. Benvy had her share of boyfriends, being that her long black hair, intriguing eyes and unassuming manner attracted all kinds of suitors. Her fist year at University brought not only interesting studies of 'the classics', but the learning of the classic Irish male character as well. She spent time with would- be artists, writers, rebels, drinkers, and those who had no clue as to what they planned on doing with the rest of their day, let alone their lives. Benvy's heart was broken at age twenty by a man ten years her senior. He promised her unwavering love and devotion, but one month later, he was on a plane bound for the New Zealand. He said he needed to 'find himself'. Benvy did not hear from him again. He, and her heart were still lost. She never completely forgot the shame and devastation of the love affair. She resolved to not make the same mistake twice, and permit herself to be emotionally tied to another man. She knew she was young and reasonably attractive, and she planned on enjoying her youth for as long as she could. She was acquainted with quite a few married couples, and like her own parents, they all clung to the sacred vow, 'till death do us part', but took every opportunity, save death, to be parted from their spouses for precious periods of 'alone time'.
'Peace?' Derry finally spoke again, trying not to reveal all the knowledge she had gained simply by glancing into the girl's eyes. 'Oh no, you misunderstand, Fionne is my peace. I have no desire to be anywhere other than where he is.
'Ugh!' thought the girl. 'This woman is probably a servant to her beloved husband. I hate women like that! And where is the great man now anyway?' She considered the road ahead, as the town slowly came into view.
Derry began to laugh, and her companion began to suppose this seemingly kind stranger must be daft. 'I know how I must appear to you now!' Derry exclaimed. 'A pathetic, Old World Irish bride, tied to her man's boot straps and smilin' all the while.' Benvy looked away, ashamed that her face must have revealed her very thoughts to the woman. 'There are still many women like that I know, and many men who want nothing more. Piety isn't it?' Derry sought the girl's eyes once more.
Benvy was relieved. Derry had not taken insult of the unspoken thoughts. 'To be sure I have no clue about what love is, but I am quite certain about what it isn't. That's a piety too I guess?' humiliation shaded her voice.
'It's a shame that so many people take what is precious in others, and use it for their own selfish gratification. And knowing what something is not, is just as important as knowing what it is - maybe even more so. Like you knowin' you weren't headed in the right direction, and that caused you to ask me for assistance. Now we get to enjoy the walk into town together, and know one another a little. Life is about sharing our hearts, sometimes for great periods of time, and sometimes for only as long as it takes to reach a bus stop.' Derry indicated that they were close to town now. They reached the town's center before Benvy even realized it. All around them quaint shops with brightly colored shutters appeared to be unoccupied along with the rest of the town's people on this tranquil Sunday morning. The pub that just hours before had been filled with thunderous music and laugher was as quiet as a church sanctuary. The little department store, 'Harringtons' greeted them with its finely dressed mannequins blankly staring out from spotless windows. The stationery, music and bookshops were all closed up tight. Their only occupant was the ever-warming sun slipping its way through the windows. There would be no other inhabitants that day.
'It's so quiet, almost as if we shouldn't be here. Are ya sure the bus will come by?' Benvy whispered, her earlier anxiety returned.
'Oh yes, it will be here. What time is your appointment?' Derry probed.
'Half-past noon.' the girl answered without thinking then realized the improbability of Derry's question, she added, 'But how did you know I have an appointment?'
'Derry waved her hand in the air, causing the charm bracelet to tinkle once again. She was still trying to familiarize herself with her newly acquired spiritual gifts. There were many times she felt as if she was the same woman she had been before being reunited with Fionne. In many ways she was the same compassionate, fun-loving, curious individual, but she now had a special insight into the hearts of others that only she and Fionne shared. 'Oh, I, uh, just assumed you had some kind of appointment to keep, seein' how anxious you are to get to the bus.' she offered.
This seemed to appease the preoccupied girl. 'Well, yes, you're right. And if I miss this interview my future is lost!'
'Oh come now, it's not so bad as all that, is it?' Derry reached for the girl's wrist to check her watch. 'See, it's only quarter-past eight. The bus will arrive at half-past nine, which will get you to Galway by half-past eleven.'
'Really? That will give me time for a quick shower and change of clothes!' Benvy brightened.
'And you even have time for a cup of coffee and something to eat. I'd say after all the drink ya had last night you ought to put something' in your stomach.' Derry winked.
'But how did you….'
'Now, don't go gettin' all spooked. The answer is simple enough, I can smell it on you, and I am assuming you are a university student.' Derry offered her supposition.
'Well, then, as I said, you drank some last night!' the woman smiled.
Benvy liked Derry. She was easy to talk to. She didn't judge her like so many people did. Derry understood her, and truly wanted to help, and be a friend. It had been a long time since someone simply wanted to help with no expectations. 'Then I would love a cup of coffee, but is there any place open now?'
'Of course!' Derry said without reservation, and lead the way around a corner and down a narrow street. At the end was a small shop with a sign extending out into the road - 'The Castle Cafe'. Someone was just opening the door as the women come upon the shop cozily nestled into the layers of brick wall that enclosed it. The person outside waved to them as they approached. It was a man, small in stature, but Benvy could see his mischievous grin as he called out to them, 'Bout time ya got here! I was beginning to think you had taken off to Westport with the morning birds!' His green eyes sparked as they rested on Derry, like a sparrow alighting onto a tree. Benvy knew instantly by the way he looked at the woman, this must be her husband. She wondered if any man would ever look at her with as much love and delight as this man did his wife. It made her infinitely sad and happy in the same instant - a feeling like the impossible just may be realized.
'Pipe down now! I had some work to do first' Derry teased him, and then bent down to kiss him full on the lips.
'Well, at least ya made up for it in your greeting!' he playfully ran one hand through the red tresses, and extended his other hand to the girl. 'Good day to ya! I'm Fionne.'
'Benvy could not help but giggle as she shook the man's hand. She remembered a rare childhood moment, when she secretly happened upon her parents kissing. Fionne and Derry made her feel giddy. 'Hello, I'm Benvy'.
'The Lady of Meath! Ya don't say? Well 'tis sure an honor to meet ya, dear lady!' Fionne smiled at her with the same authenticity as his wife.
'It's good to meet you too, Fionne. As a matter of fact, I haven't been so happy to meet two people like you and Derry in a very long time!' she grinned like a child who has just been given a favorite toy.
'Now she's only sayin' that because she needs to get to the nine-thirty bus, and have a cup of coffee and a scone before we send her on her way!' Derry softly touched her husband's cheek as she took Benvy inside. Fionne followed closing and locking the shop door behind him. The girl was too excited to notice his actions. The strong, welcoming scent of freshly brewing coffee permeated the air inside the shop. Its warmth fogged over the windows along the front of the cafe, lending the charm of a Yeats poem. The walls were adorned with the work of local artists, both young and old. One can tell by the more finished, refined portraits of elegant flowers in vases compared to the carefree, broad strokes of a child's imagination as he or she pained a train or sailboat bobbing along the Castlebar River. Various sized wooden tables were set about the large tiled floor, and at one table located by a great bay window facing Lucan Street, sat an older gentleman sipping tea and reading the newspaper. He glanced up long enough to nod greetings to Derry and her guest then returned to his paper.
'Mornin', Rory!' Derry called out to him. 'This is Benvy. We need to get her some nourishment.'
The bearded man in a thick wool sweater regarded the three to query, 'And you trust Fionne dare to help ya? I bet he can't even boil water for a cup of that wretched instant tea!'
'Very funny, old bird. You just sit tight. I got things covered. She won't leave here knowin' hunger to be sure. Now read your paper and keep out of me way!' Fionne shouted making his way back behind the counter. Encased in glass were pastries to entice even the pickiest of patrons. Each confection bursting with fresh fruits: strawberries, blueberries, apples and peaches. And if that did not quell a customer's craving, there were large, sugary donuts, scones crammed with raisins and walnuts, miniatures slices of pound cake and iced cookies. This was only what Benvy's first glance could register. She was sure if she took a lengthier survey, there would have been even more delicacies to chose from.
'Do ya know what you would like?' Fionne asked her as he tied an apron behind his back.
'What's with that?' Rory called out from his table at which now was sat a young priest as well as the feisty older gentleman. Benvy could not believe her eyes. The black-robed man was not there a moment ago. 'Don't tell me you intend on cooking something?' Rory continued his barrage on Fionne.
The priest snickered, and added, 'I think he just likes the official look it gives him.'
'Yeah, kinda like your collar, eh, Father?' Fionne responded with equal banter. 'Now who would believe such holy nonsense?'
'Same fool as to think you're a cook!' Rory yelled and laughed at the same time.
'Oh leave him be, boys!' Derry went to the men's table. 'He's just tryin' to do his job. You should know that!' She picked up the newspaper sitting on the table and swatted at the cantankerous man. All this was becoming a bit much for Benvy who was seeing the café come to life in mere moments.
Fionne leaned over the counter to address the concerned looking girl. 'Don't pay any attention to him, Lady of Meath. He's gettin' old! And well, you know how that goes...' Fionne shook his head in mock concern.
'I heard that!' Rory then ducked another swat from Derry.
'Now what is it you would like?' Fionne gently encouraged the girl once more.
'Well, I... I must say, it all looks so lovely' Benvy breathed, 'but, oh, and if it's too much trouble, I will understand, but, I would love a cappuccino.'
'A cuppa what?' Fionne's grin was plastered on his face, as he gazed at her in complete ignorance of her request.
'A cappuccino, you know, espresso with frothed milk. Please, forgive me, it's too early for that, I apologize, coffee will be just fine.' She acquiesced of her own accord.
'Doesn't even know how to make a cappuccino! I told you Derry, and if you swat me with that blasted paper again, I will stick the Father on you!' Rory grabbed the paper from her.
'I do too know how to make a cap...cap... I know how to make one! I just drew a blank dare for a moment!' Fionne asserts as he tightens the apron around his waist. 'Now, fine lady, why don't you go and have a seat with the old bird and Father Cian. They're harmless, I promise, and I will deliver your beverage to you meself.'
Benvy hesitated, not wanting to impose on Fionne and Derry's generosity. 'Are ya sure? I would be happy with just coffee.'
'Nonsense! No one is happy with just anythin'. You go rest yerself.' As Benvy gingerly walked over to the table with the strange men, Fionne called out, 'Oh, Derry dear!'
The response was swift. 'Benvy, take a seat right here. These two will behave, I assure ya. I'll be right back. And don't worry, we will get you on that bus to be sure.'
The girl took a seat as both men stood up in chivalrous fashion, and then they began to chat while Derry went to her husband's aid.
'What the hell is a cuppa chino?' Fionne questioned as she met him behind the counter.
'Cappuccino, my love. It's just what Benvy said, espresso coffee with frothed milk. That machine behind you will do all the work.' She pointed to a large brass contraption with four little spouts on the end.
'Calm down. I'll get the espresso, you just fill this with milk and I will show you what to do.' She handed him a silver pitcher, into which Fionne clumsily dumped cold milk.
'Not so much, Fionne! Only fill it half-way!' Derry admonished, but touched by his helplessness. He was like a little boy trying desperately to be a grown-up. It was quite endearing.
'Right! Sorry. Ya ever wonder why we get these kind of jobs, while birdman over dare gets to sit and read the paper?' he poured some of the milk back into the bottle.
'Because we are special, remember? That's what keeps us together.' She kissed his hands.
'Right, no arguments 'bout that'! He stole another kiss while the others were occupied in conversation. She did not resist.
'Come on now, the young lady doesn't have all day!' Derry chided. She showed Fionne a spigot jutting out from one side of the large metal machine, and addressed him in a serious tone, 'Now when I turn this on, you put the pitcher of milk underneath the spout, but only half-way, got me? Only half way!'
'Okay, Okay, fire away, love!' he nodded.
'I know, I know, half way! Let's do it!'
Derry turned on the machine, and Fionne thrust the milk under the spout, upon the instant warm milk sputtered and spattered out all around them, like full, fat snowflakes. Derry shouted over the din of the machine and air-born liquid, 'I said half-way!' She quickly turned off the appliance. The unbelieving three at the table silently surveyed the two coffee concoctors in shock. There stood Derry and Fionne covered in milk while Fionne muttered, 'It was only half way, I swear!' Then he began to laugh with such boisterous pleasure, the others could not help but join in.
'Well done, Fionne! Let no one ever accuse you of not having courage!' Rory sputtered like the coffee machine as tears streamed from his eyes.
'Ah flip it! Look! There's still enough in here for the Lady's exotic drink!' Fionne gleefully cried holding up the milk soaked pitcher. Derry poured the espresso into a tall glass and Fionne with great flourish added what was left of the heated milk and proudly carried it, and a plate full of fresh scones to the table. 'Madam, your breakfast!' He placed his grand offering in front of Benvy.
She glanced from Fionne's face to the still laughing Rory, to the priest, and finally to Derry who viewed them all with great affection. 'Thank you, Fionne, this will be the best breakfast I will have for a great while I am sure!' Benvy giggled.
As Benvy ate she told them of her impending interview, her studies, and her long term plans to be a social worker. At the mention of Benvy's career goal, Fionne flashed his brilliant green eyes at Derry, and gave her hand a squeeze. 'Ah! So that is why you left me this mornin'!'
'I know what you must be thinkin', Derry, me, a social worker? Of all the incompatible professions for someone like me to enter.' Benvy looked downcast.
'Not at all. You see, Fionne and I both know what a wonderful social worker you will be.' Derry reached for the girl's hand.
'How can you say that? Look at me! I was drunk, lost, and would have been late for my interview if it hadn't been for you. How can someone like me help others? I'm a complete mess!'
Derry stroked the girl's head in a mothering gesture. Her touch was warm and comforting, like a cup of hot tea on a cold, winter's afternoon. 'The same way Fionne could take the chance on making that cappuccino for you. If the spirit is willing, all the rest will follow. You have a great desire to help others, am I right?' Derry coaxed an answer from the girl.
The girl shook her head, still enjoying the woman's tender touch.
'Then you will. And I believe you will be one of the best social workers in all of Galway city! You just have to believe that as well. I think you have known the same pain and struggles as many of the people who will come to you seeking help. And you will know how to heal them.'
Benvy glanced up again to the faces of her unusual companions: Rory, the old man who could never be simply considered dismissible because of his age. Cian, the priest with a quiet, genuine grace, but without being pious or judgmental, and Fionne and Derry, their devotion to one another as obvious as the love in the children's art work displayed on the café walls, but so too, their individuality and mutual respect of one another. This was what love is. She thought as her eyes took them in. They were like the exquisite scenery she had been too distracted to enjoy earlier on her walk. The four bewitching strangers were like a portrait of great complexity and magnificence. 'I am in the process of healing myself, aren't I?' Benvy said softly.
There was no time for an answer. Fionne noticed the clock on the wall as it registered twenty-five minutes past nine. He quickly got up from the table, motioning for Benvy and Derry to do the same. 'Time to get you on that bus to Galway, Lady of Meath!'
Before she took her leave of the easeful gathering, she shook hands with Rory and Cian, and then was escorted outside by Derry and Fionne. The bus was already pulling into the curb in front of Harrington's store.
'No worries, you'll make it!' Fionne reassured as they ran to the corner.
When they reached the bus, Benvy was the only passenger to board. She turned to Derry and Fionne one last time, 'Thank you so much for your kindness. I won't forget you. Maybe I will see you again if I come back to Castlebar, or you could come for a visit to my town? I would love to show you Galway!
'You've already shown us the best part!' Fionne winked.
'Take care, Benvy. And be sure to show those pretty, confident, unadulterated eyes of yours at the interview! You know what they say, the eyes are mirrors of the soul!'
The girl hugged them both. 'I won't forget how you helped me.'
'And I won't forget how to make a smashing cuppa-coffee-o!' Fionne grinned, and she boarded the bus. As it pulled away, she watched them, Fionne and Derry arm in arm on the corner, and then she noticed the most exquisite birds escorting her bus out of Castlebar.
Back at the Castle Café, a very confused proprietor was unlocking the door. He entered the vacant, clean café. Everything was as he left it the night before, save for the cappuccino machine being warmed up already, and a newspaper left on one of the front tables. 'Hum...Now who could have done that?' he asked the empty room.
Bree T. Donovan Moorestown, NJ, USA