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Apologia Accentia

The vagaries and varieties of accent in Ireland are, to put it mildly, numerous and complex. From one side of the Liffey in Dublin to the other, a mere few yards*, your accent can give away which housing block you grew up in, where you went to school, and most importantly, whether you are one of us or one of them. A well-known Irish writer, Ross O'Carroll Kelly, who once led the Castlerock College rugby team to the Leinster Schools Senior Cup, has a way to parlay the various tones and rhythms of the Irish people that I, as a mere Californian, cannot hope to convey. Growing up in a state where we only have three accents (Valley, Surfer, and everybody else) has ill equipped me to transcribe the difference between a North Sider and a South Sider, much less a Wicklow man from a Kerry lad. So, dear readers, especially you hardy Oirish among my audience, forgive this ignorant Left-coastal fellow's poor attempts at relaying dulcet differences in tone, pattern, dropped or added Haitches and Orrs, and chalk up any offending errors to a sincere but misguided attempt at naturalism. And, perhaps, one too many pints at press time.

*If you still uphold the English measuring system, there exists a publicly available yardstick embedded in the wall of Dublin Castle for all to use as a fair and universal measurement so you can check for yourself how much a "yard" is. According to G, you can also measure 36 inches by something he felt compelled to gesture at his trousers to illustrate. One hopes he was talking about his belt.

I
O'Neill's Pub

This is where Joe always went to get his pint. A small place, just set back from the road, with a few decent seats around the bar and some benches and booths around larger tables in the back. The walls were filled with all manner of memorabilia from the old country, Gaelic Athletic Association jerseys, what he would come to know as hurling sticks, Joyce quotes and something from a strange work called "Swims Two Birds".

Ah, those Irish, he thought, what a bunch of romantic crazy fuckers.

That's what really attracted him to the pub, and to Ireland. At heart, he felt that he too was a misty romantic, a really crazy fucker.

In the corner of the pub, a small band was setting up, and Joe took an appreciative second glance at the girl who was warming up a fiddle. She was young, and dark haired, with fair skin that didn't see too much of the sun. Black Irish all the way, thought Joe, I wonder what county she's from.

Because the band was playing, he figured he'd have a second Guinness, maybe hang around awhile, listen to some jigs and some reels. Maybe they would even have some dancing later in the evening. There were a couple girls hanging around the band who looked like they could be step dancers, with their long legs and stiff, straight shoulders. He signaled the barmaid for another round, and settled back into his booth.

The music started up just as his pint arrived, with the drum leading the way. Joe stared into the dark and still swirling depths as the thump-thump-thump set the pace and slowly the other instruments joined in.

The bodhran drum bled into the background as first the fiddle, then a guitar joined in to the strains of Whiskey in the Jar, a song guaranteed to get a crowd of drinkers clapping and raucous as it played out its simple chorus and its energetic rhythm.

After that, more Irish folk songs, including Galway Girl, calling to mind some combination of exotic and innocent Celtic beauty, and then Rose of Tralee, extolling yet more virtues of Irish Womanhood.

All the while, Joe kept his eyes on the girl, her fingers flying along the neck of the instrument and her bow dashing over the strings in a constantly flowing set of graceful movements; even when the musician was driving hard, short reels and jerky jigs out of the instrument, her movements had a grace that forced the eye to follow them and be amazed.

Joe imagined her growing up, somewhere in Ireland where they told stories around a peat fire and rainy nights turned into impromptu jam sessions when old and young alike started to bring out instruments and play a series of ever bawdier and then ever sadder songs.

Would there be sheep, he wondered, where she had grown up? Would there be narrow roads and the occasional old farmer riding a donkey, blocking a file of old cars trying to pass on the one-lane country road?

He noticed her foot tapping in time to the music, which had now morphed into a much slower song tham the group had been playing. Something about a post office and a jail. Probably a song from a small village where they were the same thing, Joe figured, entranced with the tap-tap-tapping of one slender foot. A foot encased in some kind of soft slipper that was more like a ballet shoe that something he would think a girl would wear into a place like this. Even as the outside light faded and the pub dimmed a bit, he could see how white the skin of her foot was against the black satin of the slipper.

He imagined some barren Irish landscape under a full moon, where this young woman was playing a long and slow violin solo with her skin glowing almost preternaturally in the cool light of the distant, bone white satellite. And from around the rocks and low heather, small fey creatures would creep out of the shadows to listen, or maybe even more magical, a stately procession of misty figures would wind their way across the moor, saluting her by dipping their phantom standards, weaving from ghostly lances, as they passed, on their way to some fairy tale hunt or secret elven ball.

Or, Joe mused, continuing his vision, perhaps they would halt around her, surrounding the musician with the awe and silence of some great horde paused in their hunting.

Maybe they'd even sweep her away to some fairy lit hall under an ancient hill, where she'd play for elves and goblins and a horde of Irish legends as they danced to her tunes. Then, in the morning, she'd wake up on the hill as the sun rose, alone and chilled, only vaguely remembering the songs she'd played for them and which had poured out so effortlessly the night before. She would remain forever haunted, Joe mused, doomed to chase forever some tune that she would hear in her dreams and constantly try to recapture.

Maybe she'd have a fist full of the fairy gold for her troubles, or her violin would be enchanted to play only sweet, sad songs or even lively jigs where the listeners were compelled to dance until she stopped playing. Maybe she'd never be able to stop.

The slow fading of the other instruments brought Joe back from his fantastical musings, and then the bodhran drum was alone again, slowing down, slowing, and finally stopping as the set came to an end among raucous applause from the growing crowd of onlookers.

By chance, the young violinist ended up standing near Joe's end of the bar. He caught her eye, and motioned to the bartender to add her drink to his tab. As he had hoped, she stepped closer and thanked him for the drink by raising her glass in his direction, still a little too far to get much sound across the loudly laughing and carousing people in between them.

He smiled back, and toasted her in return. Feeling bold, he abandoned his stool at the bar to move a little closer to the black haired beauty. Finally within earshot and reasonable talking distance, he leaned in and told her, "You played beautifully! I loved that song about the post office."

When she answered, her voice dashed any hope he had about long conversations about a distant homeland, full moon nights over Irish heather, or even musical family stories.

 He'd never ask, or find out what county she was from in Ireland. If there was some kind of question about that, it would be which exit on the Jersey turnpike. Her jagged New Jersey accent cut through his vision of who, and what, she was.

"Thanks," she said. Nicely enough, in spite of diphthongs which could cut paper. "It's great to be out here on the West Coast. We're playing up in Frisco tomorrow night, if you're interested."

Joe murmured something polite, and cut his eyes to the left and right to find out if he had a clear path to a seat in some other part of the bar. But he was saved from having to make some excuse and disappear by the girl excusing herself to rejoin the band in the small corner that served as both stage and, during other times like St. Patrick's Day, the buffet area.

Joe debated whether he was going to stay, or just leave to cut off any more loss of his fantasy, but just then, the band launched into one of his favorite Chieftains’ songs-the Raggle Taggle Gypsy Oh, and he decided to sink into a barstool and slip into the words of a Lady seduced away from riches and comfort, to disappear and "Lie in the wide open fields in the arms of a raggle taggle gypsy oh!" He was still fascinated, he found, by the violinist's swift, sure movements, but was more detached than before as he observed her, not falling into some proto-Irish fairy tale this time around. Instead, he found himself focusing on the melody and the words of a song he had never heard before, something about "Black and Tans" and "fight me like a man", an appropriate song, thought Joe, for a bunch of warriors who still fought British occupation of nearly one-third of their island.

On of Joe's favorite quotes about the Irish was "The Irish are those who God has made mad, for their battles are merry and their songs are all sad." He thought about the movie Braveheart, where the crazy little Irishman had painted his face blue and waggled his ass at the English army. Joe chuckled at the image, and ordered another round. What the hell, he thought, the band was here, and there were Irish people in New Jersey, right? Just cops and bookies, like in the movies probably.

Then the group switched to an entirely different kind of song. A slow, aching melody that was sung by one of the women who Joe had taken earlier to be a dancer. She looked, well, completely ordinary. She had blue eyes, a decent autumn California tan, and was wearing stuff right off the mannequins at Macy's in the mall up the road.

But the song…was…amazing. There was almost no tune, and he couldn’t make out the words at all. It was a softly sung series of tones, almost whispered as a chant, and the entire room grew hushed and then fully silent as the singer continued. For a period of long, but also somehow all too brief, minutes, Joe hung on every tone, without understanding a single word of what was being sung.

At one point, the oddest thing happened, and Joe had no idea what to make of it. A little old man, dressed in nondescript jeans and a shapeless shirt, stepped out of the crowd at the bar and crossed silently to the singer, stepping bodily into the band's space (something that would normally result in a brief but predictable interaction with the Pub's weeknight bouncer, a thickset woman with tree trunk legs whose name was, according to a patch sewn on her shirt, 'Shanice'). But even Shanice was enthralled by the singer's chant and made no move to stop the old codger, even when he got so bold as to take the singer's hand in his own arthritic fingers and start to swing her wrist if simultaneously shaking her hand and winding her up like a toy doll.

The singer didn't even pause, but seemed content to have the strange little man tugging and swinging her arm around. In fact, she seemed to appreciate it, as if the old man was actually winding her up and providing fresh energy through his weird connection and strange movements. She closed her eyes, and her voice seemed to swell into the room, even though Joe still couldn't make out the words themselves. They sounded almost German, but there was also a syllabant fluidity that had a French or Italian feel to it.

Abruptly, the singer reached a crescendo, and Joe realized that she was crying, and she cried out the last few discordant syllables, and then suddenly collapsed into the arms of the old man, who led her away after a few moments, still held tightly to one hand as he escorted her into a crowd that was still spell-bound.

Even Joe, who would have been hard pressed in normal circumstances to call what he had just heard "music", had to shake himself a bit to bring himself back into the room from wherever he had been transported by the song from that very ordinary young woman and her elderly admirer.

The room erupted into applause, and the band picked up the pace with an oddly lively rendition of Dirty Auld Town, as if it was played at 45 rpm instead of a more sedate 33 1/3. Joe applauded along with the rest, and as the pub's patrons settled back into half-listening and half talking amongst themselves, he found himself craning his head to see the little old man and his rather surprising young woman he had guided off the stage in such a strange manner.

Joe pushed through the crowd, and finally spotted the pair at a tiny table in the back of the darkest corner of the pub. They were talking quietly and there were two small glasses on the table in front of them, both empty. On a hunch, Joe made his way back to the bar and asked the flame-haired bartender if she knew what they were drinking. She winked at him, then leaned over and whispered "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." She settled back behind the bar and resumed polishing glasses. Joe knew she wasn't flirting; rumor had it that she and Shanice had a thing going, but he pushed his luck anyway.

"No, really, I'd like to buy them a round." At Joe's continued insistence, the bartender looked up at him, pursing her lips in thought."

"Ok," she said, "but you don't ask what is and you pay in cash." She looked around, then turned her back on the patrons crowded around the bar and did something just out of sight below the row of beer taps. Magically, she turned back around with three glasses, each filled about half-way with a crystal clear liquid. "Forty bucks," she said, looking Joe straight the eye as if daring him to challenge the price.

Figuring that is was some expensive vodka, Joe obeyed the order not to ask any questions, and put two twenties on the counter. The bartender raised a finely shaped eyebrow, and Joe tossed a ten dollar note on top of the other money. "And that's for your trouble," he said, a little awkwardly. As the money disappeared into the bartender's hand, she gave him another wink and turned away as if dismissing him. He picked up the three drinks and carefully navigated through crowd back to the little table.

Then he wasn't sure what to do. Introduce himself? Make a toast? Joe stood awkwardly for a few moments, and was finally mercifully noticed by the old man, who touched the young woman on the arm and gestured at Joe. He said a word that sounded like "poochie", and the girl gave a small smile then motioned Joe to sit in the empty chair.

He set down the drinks gratefully, and then sat himself down as well. "You sing beautifully," he started out a little hesitantly and got no farther as the old man laid a hand on his arm. Joe realized he was being shushed and fell silent.

The girl and the old man picked up their drinks and motioned Joe to do the same. He slowly raised a glass and tried to repeat back the short word they uttered as they tipped their glasses against each other, a word that sounded like "Slansh", and then he tossed back the clear liquid.

And immediately began a coughing fit as the liquor burned its way past his tongue and set fire to his throat on its way to eat a hole in his stomach. At least, that’s what he imagined as he sputtered and fought for breath and tears filled his eyes. There was a wheezing sound, and Joe was grateful to realize that it wasn't coming from him. The old man was laughing at him and his distress; the girl smirked a little too and spoke for the first time. While not from Jersey, she was clearly American, but Joe had no time to be disappointed as he struggled for breath.

"Sip it next time; it's not a shot of Patrón."

"Well then," said Joe as he got his breath under control and his vision unblurred, "What in God's name is it?"

Both the old man and the girl crossed themselves rapidly, almost reflexively at his blasphemy, but it was the girl who responded first. "That, my friend, is pocheen, and the auld fella there will tell you there's no finer drink in the world than pocheen from your own still."

She was definitely American, yet there was some undefinable otherness about her speech that kept niggling at Joe. It wasn't an accent, exactly, if anything she had the flat vowels of the Midwest, and it was certainly not a lilt. Joe cocked his head to listen more closely as she continued speaking, after she sipped at her glass and wiped away a few residual tears that he was just now noticing.

"Thanks for the drink; do you know what day it is?" Joe had to shake his head, a few of his own tears from the coughing fit still smarting in his eyes. He…sipped…at the residual pocheen in his glass more slowly, but still had to keep a cough under control as it lit a trail of fire down his esophagus.

"Today is the day they murdered the great Michael Collins; shot him down in the street like a dog," as she said the name, Joe saw the old man's mouth move in a quick prayer and watched him cross himself again.

"The Great Man himself, butchered like a common goat." Joe had it now. She didn't have an accent, but she had a distinct cadence to her speech, something that put him in the mind of his cousins from the Black Hills of South Dakota. Additionally, her word choice was odd. Who said things like "…shot him down in the street like a dog" anyway? At least, who under the age of fifty would use that expression? It sounded somehow quaint, or old fashioned.

But her laugh, which seemed a little incongruous in light of the topic of a man being murdered, was pure American Girl. She must have realized that he was puzzled at her word choice, "That was more for him," she gestured at the old man, "But it's true. Today's also the day my cousin Mick got laid in the ground up in Colma. He is­—was—an army sergeant, killed in Iraq last month." There it was again, that odd word use—laid in the ground was a strange way to talk about a funeral, unless you were writing a poem or some literature thing about dying.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Joe said, in the absence of anything else to say. "It's a shame, the loss of life in foreign countries." This could be dangerous ground, so Joe kept it light. After all, he had no idea who these people were: they could be rabid Tea Party Patriots for all he knew.

"Ah," the woman said, "He was a crazy fucker. Got knifed in a poker game because he wouldn't stop looking at some guy's sister. Poor Mick." She sipped her drink, and Joe saw the old man cross himself again as she said the dead soldier's name. "I'm Marie, and this is my Grandfather, Parraigh."

Poor egg? Was that really a name, Joe wondered, or a nickname? "I'm Joe," he said aloud. "And I very much enjoyed your singing. I've never hear anything like it before. What was it called?"

"Why, thank you Sir," said Marie, a little formally, almost as if uncomfortable with the praise, "It's an old song, nothing you'll have ever heard before."

Joe jumped on this, "I've heard lots of old Irish songs…Whiskey in the Jug, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, Dirty Old Town," Parraigh startled Joe by giving a snort and spitting on the ground suddenly. He hadn't said anything, but somehow Joe knew he was being mocked. The old man muttered something that Joe didn't understand, but his granddaughter must have, because she replied to him in that same, semi-Germanic language she had been singing in earlier. The old man looked at Joe, and said two words, "Shaw Nose".

What the hell did Shaw Nose mean? Was it like "poor egg"? Marie came to the rescue.

"Seannos is a kind of singing. Literally, it means 'Old Style' singing. The songs you mentioned are maybe a couple of hundred years old, or a few decades, if you're talking about that stupid Gas Works song." The old man spat again, but Marie ignored him and continued, "A song which, by the way, wasn't even about Dublin. Seannos singing, the style and a lot of the original words, go all the way back into distant Irish History, lost in the mists of time." She gave a little smile that might or might not be mockery.

Joe had never heard of this kind of singing, and decided that the smile was definitely mockery and he was probably being messed with. "Really?" he asked, "Dirty Old Town isn't about Dublin? I guess Molly Malone wasn't Irish either, then?"

Once again, the old man spat on the ground, and his granddaughter interpreted. "Well, we don't really know, since she's likely completely made up and the song was probably written for some ribald dance hall show, not as a lament for a real lost soul. Because, well, it wasn't just cockles and mussels she was supposedly selling. That's why Dubliners call the statue 'The Tart with the Cart’…if you see her, you'll see what else she is clearly displaying for sale. Not that there weren't a lot of people dying of fevers around that time in Ireland. Actually," She added darkly, "Fevers and other ailments brought about by poverty and ill-use."

There it was again. The strange vocabulary kept nagging at Joe, and he kept noticing the different ways Marie stood out in her speech patterns, but he couldn't put his finger on what exactly was odd about her words. He also noticed the old man tapping suggestively on his now-empty glass, and he realized that a hint was being dropped.

"Um, another round?" he asked, and then added hopefully, "Maybe something a little less strong?"

The old man burbled something, and Marie translated for Joe, "Same again, if you please." Sighing, Joe got up and went back up to the bar, braving the evil eye of Shanice as he took up conversation with the bartender again.

"Two more, of whatever that was." He was trying to avoid destroying what was left of his tongue and throat, but the woman with the fiery hair was having none of it.

"And for yourself?" She asked pointedly.

"Ah, Guinness, please, just Guinness."

Instead, she set up the two glasses of pocheen and added a third glass, half full of an amber liquid, to the collection.

"Whiskey's on me, as a reward for at least trying the other stuff." She nudged the glass forward and Joe could smell a thick, smoky tang coming off the liquor.

He'd never really drunk whiskey, so he sipped carefully after raising the glass to the barkeep. It tasted like a blend of fire, smoke, and some indefinable sweetness. It didn't burn going down, but it did sit glowing in his stomach as it settled, and he felt that glow spreading to his head a bit as he returned to the little table in the shadows.

When he sat, the old man raised his own glass and said something in what Joe was now realizing must be Gaelic. He clicked glasses with the old man and looked to Marie for translation.

" 'May you have long life and great fortune' " she provided, and Joe clinked his glass against hers; Irish toasts are always so jolly, he thought, as he took another sip. But the old man wasn't done, and added a few short words to his benediction with a wicked bit of a laugh. His granddaughter translated again, with a neutral expression on her face, "And may you never die 'til I shoot you."

swallowed reflexively. Well, the toasts were usually so cheerful, at least.

He must have showed something in his face, because both his tablemates chuckled. "Don't worry about that last bit," said Marie. "He's just messing with you. He's very protective of me."

"Oh," said Joe, "Ah, well, I'll do my best to behave like a gentleman." Something had been puzzling him about the old man, and he took the opportunity to ask while there were no toasts and no lessons on singing to be heard.

"I have to ask," he started, a little awkwardly, and then went on in a rush to get the question out, "But does he understand what I'm saying? He keeps answering me, but you have to translate for him, and I notice you aren't translating what I'm saying." Clearly now trying to look like he certainly didn't understand what Joe was saying, Parraigh looked away as if bored or disinterested in the conversation.

"Oh, no, he understands you perfectly. He just refuses to speak English." At that, the old man spat, somehow conveying the notion that, of all the things he had spat at in his life, this idea of speaking English was the absolutely most spit-worthy thing he'd ever flung a glob of phlegm at. Then he smiled widely, and Joe saw that he had only a few teeth in his mouth. Parraigh pointed at the gaps and muttered something. Reflexively, Joe looked to Marie for translation.

"The British," she explained, "Knocked out a bunch of teeth when he and his family refused to speak anything but Irish while he was growing up."

"Huh?" said Joe, "When was that?" He thought Parraigh was far too old for the stuff he remember U2 singing about in the 80s, so he couldn't figure out when the man would have been growing up under such harsh conditions.

A burst of rapid fiddling and a resurgence of the thumping drum cut through any reply she might have made. There were shouts from the pub patrons who were encouraging the band to play their hearts out. Which they were beginning to do their best to accommodate.

"You'll excuse us for a minute, right?" Marie asked, as she and her grandfather stood up. "He loves this song." Joe nodded a yes, and Parraigh and Marie stepped away from the little table and blended with the crowd as Joe watched them go. The song was some kind of fast reel (or was it a jig?), and the listeners kept interjecting cries of "YIP!" and "GO!" as if it was some Jazz scene from the previous century. The music crescendoed, there was a burst of cat calls and exuberant encouragement, then a thunderous roll from the bodhran drum. It ceased suddenly, the music replaced after a half second of silence with boisterous round of applause from the audience.

Joe felt his own heart hammering in his chest as if echoing the now-silenced drum. There was something breathless in the pace and the volume of music like that, and he could picture the drummers driving the battle fury of Irish soldiers like bagpipes drove the Scots into a fighting frenzy.

Slowly, the crowd broke away from the band, and the pub returned to just the normal roar of a bar on a Friday night. The dark haired, pale woman packed away her violin as the rest of the players stacked their instruments in a variety of cases, boxes, and bags. Clearly, the gig was over and Joe had no idea he had spent so long talking sitting and talking to the odd Irish pair about language, broken teeth, and music.

He looked around, as people settled back into their groups and sat back down at their tables. Marie and her grandfather must be in the little cluster around the band members, talking about the set, but he couldn't see them for sure.

The dark haired fiddler stopped at his table as she headed for the back door. "What did you think?" she asked, her East Coast accent grinding on Joe's ear.

"I loved it," he said, dodging his eyes around her, looking for his drinking companions, fearing the East Coaster would invite herself to sit down if he was too inviting. "You're all really good."

"Thanks! By the way, I'm Sally."

Clearly, she was waiting for his name in exchange. Finally, he relented in his search for the two Irish people, "I'm Joe," he said, extending his hand and looking at her eyes for the first time. They were deep brown, and he had to look away as something seemed to pass between him and her in that glance. Sally shook his hand, also glancing away and over her shoulder at a band mate who had called her name.

"Nice to meet you, Joe. Don’t forget, we're up in San Francisco tomorrow night. We'd love to see a friendly face!" she passed him a flyer announcing the name of the band, "Fenian's Hounds", and the hours for a show at another Irish pub in San Francisco. The band's website address and a contact email were at the bottom of the flyer, and Joe imagined the harsh accent asking for his own email to add to the band’s fan list. He realized that he was being rude and a little petty; it wasn't the violinist's fault that she was from Queens's borough, not County Galway.

He gave her his full attention. "That sounds great; maybe I'll see you there." Surprised at himself, he realized he meant it. The pub was starting to empty, and there was no sign of Marie or Parraigh. He wondered if Sally would stay for a drink, but wasn't sure he could take an entire conversation with that accent.

She smiled and said, "Great, I'll look for you. I owe you a drink, after all." She turned to go, and Joe let her move away without stopping her. He was unaccountably pleased when she turned and flashed him a last smile over her shoulder before disappearing into the darkness that led to where her band mates were waiting.

Joe stood up after she left, and slowly walked to the bar, scanning the room as he did so. He was starting to feel the effects of the mixture of Guinness, Pocheen, and whiskey on an empty stomach, but even with slightly crossed eyes he was sure he wasn't seeing the two people he had been sitting with over the past several hours. They must have left without saying goodbye.

At the bar, the redhead was wiping down a final few beer spills, and Joe realized that the whole place was deserted. How long had he been here?

"Last call was 15 minutes ago, sorry buddy," said the bartender. "I figured you would have gone home with that fiddler." She glanced over to see if Shanice was watching, "I sure would have, if she'd made it that obvious."

Joe didn't have time to talk about the East Coast musician, or debate her charms with a bartender. He wanted to know about Marie and Parraigh.

"Those people I was sitting with, do you know them?" He managed to speak without slurring too badly, and was pleased at the fact. "I can't find them."

"Oh, you mean Marie?" the bartender tossed her hair as if dismissing the name, "she comes in every now and then, and if there's a band, she does some singing in that Gaelic stuff. But I don't really know her. Seems to cry a lot when she sings, but the customers dig it."

"And her grandfather? Does she bring him along too?" Joe noticed a slight frown crease the bartender's forehead.

"Honey, the only thing I know about her is that her grandfather is dead. Most times when she's in here she's talking about how bad he got treated by British people back home, and how her whole family got run off their land and had to come here." A light dawned in her eyes, "I think today was the anniversary of his death. She always orders from under the counter." The bartender winked, "One for her and one for what she calls 'the dear old man'. I figured you were a friend doing the same thing.

Confused, Joe stumbled back to the table in the shadows. Three chairs, nine glasses. Just as if three people had been sitting and drinking and talking, as he remembered them doing. The bartender must be fucking with him. Again.

But then he noticed something that he should have seen before. One chair was still tucked under the table, and the glasses lined up neatly in front of it were each still holding their contents, as if ceremoniously waiting for some expected guest to appear and drink them down.

As he turned and half-rushed, half stumbled into the night, he barely felt the faint breeze that brushed his neck in what was otherwise a still evening, and totally missed the shadowy figures of a stooped old man and young, uniformed soldier, taking seats at the table he had rushed away from in confusion.

II
Flight of Fancy

Security was everywhere, of course. We had to stand in line to stand in line…to stand in line. From ticketing, to baggage check, to security, to customs, to the departure gate it was an endless spiral of slow shuffling travelers who all knew the drill but were tired of it any way. And that was just to get out to the boarding area. All the while being pursued by green clad flight attendants wearing both significant make-up and generous helpings of perfume.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

John Steinbeck once said "There were never enough books" or something like that. And I've been doing my best to address that problem since writing my first story in 3rd grade. I was lucky to adventure to Ireland during the Great Recession and spend time drinking Guinness in pubs, exploring wild trails and odd neighborhoods meeting strange and interesting people. Did I mention the Guinness?

Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
James Joyce, Mark Twain, Bill Bryson and Christopher Moore. I love Joyce's slice-of-life images, Twains over-the-top "reportage", Bryson's self-effacing humor and Moore's all-out energy and love of his genre.
Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
So easy-Maria Doyle Kennedy. I fell in love her acting in "The Committments" and all over again in "Orphan Black"
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
Letting my true voice through. It's not a traditional start-at-point-A and then proceed-to-point-B book. I want it to feel like you've discovered a trunk in an attic, full of old photographs and journals.

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