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Careful what you wish for.

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posted on Mar, 16 2009 @ 03:53 PM
Hi all. My first short story. Enjoy.

Early Thursday afternoon. O’Shea’s pub was deathly quiet. A pile of rags that was an old man sat in a darkened corner, snuffling and blowing liquidly into a sodden handkerchief the colour of parchment. Somebody was reading a newspaper in the snug. The clock on the wall above the wood panelled bar ticked slowly.
Sean sat on a stool with his elbows on the bar top, alternating between watching a repeat of a hurling match playing silently on the plasma screen and tracing lines with his finger in what was left of the beaded moisture on the outside of his pint of Guinness. Twelve rings of drying foam on the inside marked each sip he’d taken and they led down to a now almost non existent head. Four more sips to go and he’d have to order another. He sighed. What an exciting life.
‘Have you your tractor working now?’
Sean looked up at the barman.
‘I have, so,’ he answered and sighed again. ‘Oil pump went. But didn’t Tom over in Rineen have the self same yoke sitting in a box in his barn. Brand new it was.’
‘And what did he ask you for it?’
‘Fifty euros and a promise to help repair the roof on his cow shed at the weekend.’
The barman’s dishcloth buffed another whiskey glass to sparkling perfection and placed it next to the rest. They shone flawlessly and stood in faultless rows.
‘Fifty euros,’ the barman repeated shaking his head. ‘Brand new me arse. Sure, it’d probably been sitting there since his Daddy was buried.’
‘Ah, it was cheaper than buying from a supplier. And besides; who’d have a part for that old heap now that wouldn’t be fierce expensive?’
Sean took another sip of his stout. It was getting warm.
‘Did you ever take the missus up to Cork?’ he said.
‘I did,’ replied the barman. He gazed into the snug. The reading man folded his paper, placed it on the table and headed for the toilets.
‘That’s nice,’ Sean said. ‘I suppose traffic was awful.’
‘It was.’
‘Ah,’ Sean relied, nodding. The second hand on the clock ticked on and clicked loudly when it lined up with the others to hit the hour. Three dull thuds sounded where a chime used to exist. ‘Where the shops busy, then?’
‘I wouldn’t know,’ said the barman. He turned and looked at the perfectly arranged bottles in the glass fronted refrigerator. They didn’t need touching. ‘I left her at the entrance to the English Market and went for a pint.’
‘Best to let the women do their own thing,’ agreed Sean. He took another sip.
‘It is,’ replied the barman. ‘She wasn’t best pleased with me after, though. Fair let fly when she saw the state of me.’
Sean laughed. ‘Had a few, did you?’
‘I did. Got chatting to the landlord. Hardly put me hand in me pocket all day.’
Sean looked around the bar. At the empty tables and chairs. Through the dusty windows into the village’s deserted, grey main street.
‘There’s plenty going on in Cork,’ he said wistfully. ‘I suppose the bar you was in was busy.’
‘It was too,’ the barman replied. ‘As busy as a one armed bricklayer in Gaza.’
Sean laughed again. He stared at his pint. The man in the snug returned from the toilet, sat down and disappeared behind his paper.
‘I should really get to Cork, too,’ Sean said, staring into his glass. ‘Haven’t been away from the village for ages. Gets a little boring.’
‘It does,’ said the barman and crossed his arms. He gazed at the plasma television. The clock moved on. ‘Tyrone are taking a fair beating there.’
Sean nodded without looking up. ‘Gets a little quiet.’
The barman looked at Sean, then back to the game.
‘What would you rather have, boy? Cork or here?’
‘I’m not sure,’ Sean said after a pause. He looked over at the old man in the corner. He was coughing and muttering to himself in alternate bouts, shaking his head slowly and tutting softly. ‘I just don’t want to end up like that.’
‘Ah, there’s a lot to be said for a peaceful life,’ said the barman.
‘Oh, I know.’ Sean lowered his voice. ‘But just look at him, will you? What good has a peaceful life ever done him, tell me that? He’s done nothing but shovel #e and freeze his arse to stone in the winter. And what’s he got to show? A run down cottage even the rats won’t share.’
‘Maybe that’s all he wants.’
‘But perhaps it’s not,’ Sean answered. ‘Maybe he wanted to have a better life. Or, he wanted to do something else. Not farming. See something else other than cow’s arseholes and soil. See the world. See…something else. Well, all I can say is that this is not all I want.’ Sean sighed. ‘It’s this village. Nothing ever happens.’
‘Well, you know what they say, boy,’ the barman said. ‘Ballyann; it’s in the arse end of nowhere and proud of it.’
He folded his cloth and wiped at the already clean taps. Looking into the snug revealed that the reader had gone. He lifted the bar flap and went to retrieve the empty glass.
‘The farm’s doing ok, isn’t it?’ he called from the other room.
‘Oh, no complaints,’ Sean replied. ‘Made a profit last year.’
‘Well, if I had your money I wouldn't be talking to you here.’
Sean laughed again. ‘It’s not just about money, though, is it? It’s about…I don’t know. Perhaps I need a break. Meet some new people.’
The barman closed the flap and placed the glass in the empty dishwasher.
‘Why don’t you console yourself with that little filly I saw you talking to on Saturday?’ he said in a conspiratorial whisper. ‘That blonde girl from over the way. She looked like a fair goer. Get a few ciders into her and then horse yourself into her too. That’d make you feel better, so.’
Sean nearly spat out his mouthful of Guinness.
‘Jesus, Liam!’
The barman laughed and lifted the television’s remote control from a shelf. He flicked through the channels until he found a black and white movie. Sean drained his pint.
‘I’ll have another there,’ he said and patted his pocket for his cigarettes. ‘Just nipping out to poison myself.’
‘Right, so,’ the barman answered as he began to pour a new pint. Sean pulled the crumpled pack from his overalls and delved back into the pocket to retrieve a ten euro note. He tucked it under the edge of his pint and slipped off the stool.
As he passed him by, the old man looked up and mumbled something unintelligible. Sean stopped. The smell of unwashed clothes and skin and ingrained cow muck was really quite strong.
‘What’s that Fintan?’ Sean said wrinkling his nose. ‘Jesus. Will you ever wash? You’re as ripe as hell.’
Rheumy eyes stared back at him, blinking without recognition.
‘A Dhia dhílis!’
Sean groaned. ‘English, Fintan, English! I don’t speak that much Irish apart from being able to ask to be let to go to the toilet. And I really don’t want to talk about God.’


posted on Mar, 16 2009 @ 03:54 PM

Fintan nodded and smiled toothlessly. ‘Le mo shaol!’ he said with forced, near breathless emphasis.
Sean glanced over to the bar, wishing now he hadn’t been so polite.
‘Something about “never in his life”,’ Liam translated. ‘Leave him Sean, he’ll be at it for hours. Besides, he’s got great notions about himself. Like the goats in Kerry.’
‘Spásárthach!’ the old man said loudly and coughed weakly with the effort. He pointed at his chest. ‘Eachtrannach i…mo…féarach!’
The barman laughed and shook his head in dismissal. Sean looked at him questioningly.
‘What did he say? In his pasture?’
The old man nodded enthusiastically again and placed his hand flat on the table. He made a whooshing noise as the hand imitated something taking off.
‘Lom láithreach…lom láithreach…’
Sean turned to Liam.
‘Straight off or straight up…’ the barman said.
‘…trí…mother crann…’
‘…through some trees…’
‘…tháinig mearbhall orm…’
‘…then he got dizzy or something.’
‘Feckers,’ the old man spat and stared at his near empty pint. He started to fidget angrily.
‘Would you like a Guinness, Fintan?’ Sean interrupted, eager to stop the man from starting another tirade. The old man’s eyes brightened.
‘I’d love one, so.’
Sean gestured to Liam, but the barman was already pouring a second pint. Smiling, Sean stepped outside.
A few minutes later, he came back in trailing a mouthful of smoke and delivered the new drink.
‘Go raibh mile maith agat,’ the old man said wearily and took a large gulp.
‘You’re welcome,’ Sean said. He looked down at the man’s hands as they held tightly to the glass. Disinterested, watery eyes meet his as the pint was raised to the man’s beard enveloped mouth. For a moment, it looked as if Sean was about to say something further. But on shaking his head and walking away he retook his seat at the bar in silence.
Liam placed his change in a pile on a beer mat.
‘What’s up?’
‘What did he say? Fintan. When he said spors…spaarsth…’
‘“Spásárthach”?’ Liam interjected.
‘Spaceship. The old looper said there was a spaceship in his pasture. And aliens too.’
‘Jesus,’ Sean said quietly. ‘He’s gone fair mad out there.’
Liam nodded. ‘Mad as a spoon.’
They watched the film with no sound.
In time, Sean finished his pint and ordered another. He looked over his shoulder at the old man. Fintan was shaking the dregs of the foam into an open mouth and swallowing noisily. Obviously satisfied he had got as much as he could from it, he put the glass down, stood and hitched up the rope belt that kept his buttonless overcoat closed. Shuffling unsteadily, his dirt encrusted boots flopping hollowly against his feet, he rounded the table and pushed open the swing doors that led to the street, then stopped.
Slowly he turned around. He eyed the can of air freshener the barman was placing on the bar top and then held Sean and Liam’s gaze.
‘You off there so, Fintan,’ Sean said.
‘The village is home,’ the old man replied. ‘It’s your home. You’d miss it ‘twere it gone from you. Or were you taken from it.’ He stared at Sean. ‘Careful what you wish for, boy.’ Then he left.
Sean craned his neck to watch the old man carefully step down from the high curb and onto the tarmac and begin to cross. He walked with his hands thrust deep into his tattered pockets, his halting pace decided by age and ills, his small figure insignificant against the wide, empty space. As he reached the middle of the road, he stopped and looked up. Sean turned back to the bar.
‘Poor old eejit.’
‘He is at that,’ said Liam as he placed the new pint down and helped himself to Sean’s pile of change.
‘Feckers!’ shouted Fintan’s voice angrily from outside. ‘Leave me be!’
The room lit up brilliantly and only for the briefest of moments.
‘What the hell was that?’ Sean said, turning around.
He looked into an empty street.

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