Ah To Be In Ireland! (a short story) Part Six
Ah To Be In Ireland! Part Six
Seamus thought about his response to whether or not he would ever return to America.
"I wouldn't go back to New York in a million years--shure, I made good money, and we had a foine good aparrtament with runnin' water, but..."
The stranger cut off Seamus by volunteering a bit of information.
"I was Stateside once--never again. The only work I could get was operatin' an elevator in a department store. I took one look at them phony ladies bedecked with jewels and I knew I had to return to me green fields with braes and purple heather; I missed them dearly.
"All of America ain't like New York," Dermid reflected.
"Oh, but shure who wants to go out to Arizona or some place like that with scorpions and giant spiders--shure there's no work out there is there now?"
The stranger, Seamus and Dermid all had another round of stout and listened to a man play a flute from the back of the room. Dermid caught Seamus staring as though he were a thousand miles away.
"I'm glad yer stayin' put, Seamus. Yer roots is here in County Antrim and yer blood knows it well."
"Aye, of God aye. I wouldn't laive the place; it would break me heart."
"Seamus, did I ever telly ye what happened to me cousin Sean in Belfast?"
"Sean O'Reilly is it? The one who can't read nor write?"
"What about 'im?"
"Well, the silly auld mahn finally got his driver's license by identifyin' the various types of signs on the road. He took his auld lory through the sthreets of Belfast. He went through three or four red lights when a policeman finally pulled him over and said, 'Yer ahfter goin' through a red light--didn'y ya see it now?' And Sean answered, 'Aye, indeed I did, and it was lovely.'"
"Dermid, them O'reillys is some people now, shure they arre."
They all started to sing and ordered another round of stout. When they sang of Kevin Barry, the Irish soldier boy, tears came to Seamus' eyes. After the bartender asked people to leave the pub as it was closing time, Seamus and Dermid staggered homeward up a country lane past thatched and slated cottages and misty brays with the moon occasionally peeking through dark layers of clouds. Seamus could see himself going through this routine for years ahead spending all his spare money, and, if only for a fleeting moment, realized why he left Ireland three years ago.
A few months later after school had started, Seamus busied himself with the potato harvest. God it was hard on the back. He never remembered his spine aching like this before. And those constant rains soaking him to the skin out in the middle of the fields was more than wearisome. One dark and gloomy late afternoon as he returned from the fields, he overheard Maeve.
"Oh that dirty old schoolmaster--oh wait, wait till you see what he did to me!"
"What," Cathleen asked hysterically, "what did he do--he didn't...he didn't......"
"He knuckled my shoulders until they became purple as heather, that's what he did!"
"Oh, thank God," her mothered retorted.
"Thank God, Who's side are you on?"
"I mean, Maeve, shure I thought it might have been somethin' else he done."
"All because I said I didn't think learnin' Irish history was all that important in this little insignificant Catholic school in Glenarm. After all America is more important."
"In Ireland you don't talk back to the school masters, Maeve, as ya do in the States."
"Mommy, I've been in American schools for the past three years and ...oh, I hate this place! I hate gettin' well water every day before breakfast. What kind of place is this with no runnin' water, no toilets, no televsion--not even at O' Brien's hotel. I hate this place!"
Seamus came into the house and immediately noticed how dishevelled Maeve looked. Patty remained silent as if in a stupor.
"What's wrong? What happened, Maeve?"
Maeve exposed her black and blue shoulder and explained what Master Williams had done. She cried and sobbed harder for more sympathy.
"I'll talk to the master about this, I will!"
"Daddy, it's no good--he'll just pick on me all the more for the rest of the year!"
Patty added his two cents.
"Gee, school is for the birds. All we learn is nutty Irish history. I can't stand the stuff. Look what they did to Sis!"
Seamus didn't know what to do. His face was contorted with anger.
"I'll spake to the master, shure I will!"
Cathleen secretly hoped her husband was beginning to see the light again.
A good good to read is Kerby Miller's Emigrants and Exiles (1988) on the complexities of immigrant and emigration.