Ah to Be in Ireland! (a Short Story) Part One
Ah To Be In Ireland Part One
Seamus O'Neill slowly trudged up the stairs of a dingy building to his apartment as though he were ascending Mount Purgatory itself. He had been in New York for three years since 1957 and was getting more homesick each day for his green glens of Antrim. As he approached the door, he heard the clamor of his two children shouting at each other. Just as he grabbed the door nob, Jimmy Schwartz, a Brooklyn-born, middle-aged auto mechanic, rounded a corner in the hallway.
"Jimmy, mee boy, have ye had a nice day of it now," Seamus asked.
"Nice day, hell. Those bastahds bring in der cars flush outa oil and says to me 'th' thing ain't woilin.' What da hell do dey expect, the dumb joiks."
"Ah, now Jimmy, don't let them things get ye dowun. They can't help it now. They're probably bisniss men or somethin.'"
"Business men hell! What kinda business do dey think they're in when the dopes don't know they ain't got no oil unda de hood?"
Rumbling thunder from a storm over the skyscrapers echoed in the hallway. Seamus had never felt so sticky.
"Well, Jimmy, don't let it get you dowun."
"Yeah, yeah. See ya later, Seamus, okay?"
Seamus nodded his head sideways and winked in Irish farmer fashion and opened the door of his apartment. Cathleen, his wife, was in the kitchen fixing supper.
"That you, Seamie?" she shouted with an Americanized accent not quite covering up her brogue.
"Shure, it's me; who else arre ya expectin' womahn?"
"Get in here and quiet them kids dowun, will ya? Since school closed fer summer, all they do is look at television and fight wid each other over which cartoon to watch."
"Ah, come on womahn, I been workin' all day. I don't want to face no kids now. I meself would like to watch the 'teley' a wee whoile."
"You yerself would like to watch the 'teley' a wee whoile," Cathleen said mockingly. "Listen to that phony Irishmahn--you might think yoo was still in County Antrim. Why don't you get rid of that silly way of speakin'--it just shows you up in front of people who count."
"Cathlee now, I wouldn't wanta watch damn fool television in the first place if I wasn't a respectable American as ya'd have me."
"Well, what do ya want mahn, yer a custodian of an entire big New York building, and what would ya be in Ireland but a middlin' poor potato farmer with dirty old whiskers and black fingernails?"
"I came Stateside on a trial basis, womahn--if I didn't like it alright, we was gona go back to old Ireland, and ahfter three years heeere, I have me doubts. Do ya hear me? I have me doubts!"
Their wispy twelve year old son Patty twisted and turned on the couch and finally extracted himself from a cartoon his sister Maeve wanted to watch.
"You two people fight, fight all day. Mom, why don't you pipe down and let daddy watch television?"
A pale-faced, ten year old Maeve, chewing a wad of bubble gum, had become quite irritated.
"Shut up, Patty, Popeye is on."
Seamus was shocked by his daughter's insolence and shouted, "I'll pop yer eye if ya don't stop talkin' that way!"
"What would you know daddy, when yer nothin' but an immigrant," Maeve snapped back.
Her father was hurt to the quick but tried to cover it up with a stern look.
"Where did ya hear that talk now?"
"That's what the kids in school call us--ignorant immigrants."
"I'm a custodian, a hard worker," Seamus implored. "I earn me sixty dollars a week--I ain't no loafer like a lot of them spicks. What do they mean immigrant?"
His children had become bored with the argument, and they slumped back in their chairs to watch more television. Cathleen felt sorry for her husband and tried to console him.
"Seamie, I guess I've never thought of it that way, but surely we wouldn't be called no immigrants back in County Antrim."
"Why th' divil should we stay heeere, then? Seamus pleaded.
"Hush, don't be silly now, I was just talkin.'"
As the television blared in the livingroom, Seamus and Cathleen sat in silence looking through the rain-soaked kitchen window at brick walls of ugly buildings and distant radio towers blinking on and off somewhere aqcross the Hudson River, a river they never crossed. Back in Ireland they had to squint hard to see the nearest neighbor. Seamus wished he could smell those damp ferns of the Irish woodlands and the rich peat smoke rising from the chimneys. Their thoughts were interrupted by knocking on the door.
This short storyis based on a true story involving some of our American-based Irish relatives.
© 2011 Richard Francis Fleck