From Book 3 (Charles)
One day in 1843, Paddy Carlin calls at our door.
“Is himself home?” he asks Ellen.
“He’s doin’ the fire. Do you want to see him?”
“I do indeed.”
By that time, I’m at the door asking him to come in.
“What are you doing calling at this time Paddy?”
“I’d like some words with ya . Can y’ join me outside?”
I tell him that I’m sorry that I haven’t seen much of him lately with my work and playing with the children.
He says, “Do y’ know that Grace is with child now? The baby should be born sometime next year.”
“Congratulations Paddy. Best wishes to you. Welcome to the adult life with the rest of us.”
“Ach, nothin’ to it. It was my pleasure.”
“We should celebrate. Let’s go to Gallagher’s for a glass of stout.”
I tell Ellen about Paddy’s good news, and we walk down to the Cross. Before leaving, I get some money from my Scotland wages. I’ve only been to Gallagher’s a few times in my life because Gallagher is a dirty mercenary, and he wants too many coins for his drinks. I never thought that I should pay that much. In the past, I could afford only the poteen at Aunt Mary’s, but now I have my wages from Scotland, and tonight is a great occasion. I think we can have a couple of pints at the alehouse.
Gallagher offers his sympathy again for the loss of my grandfather. I mostly think that he misses Granda’s business. I introduce my friend Paddy to him and ask for a pint of stout for each of us. I tell him the reason for the celebration, and he congratulates Paddy on the good news.
There are other lads in the alehouse, and I offer them a drink, as well. Two of them accept my hospitality, and I worry that I didn’t bring enough money.
The stout is a wonder to behold in a glass. It is jet black with a foamy white head on it. It is creamy and delicious. It goes smoothly down my throat and I feel grand.
Paddy Carlin starts telling us about his neighbours.
“Oul’ Missus McGoldrick is something. I haven’t spoken to her in a while. I asked how her husband was doin’. She told me that he passed on. I didn’t know that. I said, ‘He’s dead is he?’ and she says, ‘I hope so. We buried him a week ago.’ She’s a hard woman. She and her husband never got along well.”
The fellow standing next to me at the bar overhears and says,
“Aye, Missus McGoldrick is truly a hard woman. I heard that, after Father Boyle prayed over her dying husband, he came out and told her that her husband wanted a few words with her. She went in to hear his dying words. Her husband quietly asked her,
‘Dear, what is that delicious aroma I smell from the fire?’
‘It is only some bacon that I’m cookin’,’ she answered. Her husband then asked if he could have a piece of bacon. Mrs. McGoldrick says to him, ‘Sorry love, I’m saving it for the wake.’”
All in Gallagher’s establishment laugh at this. I believe that I’m being codded by this fellow. It is a joke. I have heard that story a dozen times in the past about other widows. I let it go and laugh with the rest.
Paddy and I drink two porters each and I pay out of my pocket for our drinks and the rounds we bought the lads. Then the other fellows start setting up rounds for us. We are having a good time with all the craic and fellowship when one lad takes a swing at another. He connects and they begin fighting in earnest. I grab one and Paddy grabs the other to break it up. I take my lad outside to cool him off, but when I let him go, he swings at me. I duck and crack him one in the jaw. Down he goes. He has trouble getting up as Gallagher comes through the door.
“That’s all for you, Matthew. Go home now.”
I walk back in and see Paddy calming the other fellow down. Paddy then rejoins me at the bar.
“Bushmills Whiskey for the two of ya,” says Gallagher.
It is apparent that Gallagher is grateful that we stopped the fight. The others at the alehouse would have liked the fight to continue just for the entertainment, but they grudgingly accept that we did the right thing. Paddy and I drink the whiskey. It burns all the way down. I order another round of stout to calm my stomach. This is on Mr. Gallagher, as well. Good man, Mr. Gallagher. He is not such a bad fellow after all.
By the time I reach my cottage, Ellen and the wains are asleep. I quietly remove my clothes and slip into the bed beside Ellen. She murmurs and turns on her side facing me. I embrace her. She is warm and soft. She puts her arms around me and gives me a sleepy looking smile. I will remember this lovely night forever.
Copyright © 2011 by Thomas Gallen