Bardofthesouth.com Date: March 2014
St. Patrick’s Day Issue!
A Southern Missive: Containing special news, interviews, reviews, and articles, written by Rickey E. Pittman—award-winning author, storyteller, college writing instructor, folksinger, and songwriter. In this issue are two Irish stories by the Bard of the South.
About the Bard of the South: Rickey E. Pittman
Read his complete bio here:
The Latest news from http://www.bardofthesouth.com/
The Bard of the South has been booked for the main stage at the 2014 World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Monday, March 17. Jim Belushi will be the celebrity Grand Marshal for this event. Read more about the event here: You can listen to some of the Bard’s Scottish and Irish music samples here:
Other Bookings in March for the Bard of the South:
Gardner, Arkansas STEM Magnet School, Hot Springs Friday, March 14, 2014.
Hot Springs Farmer’s Market, Saturday March 15
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School Tuesday, March 18, Benton Arkansas
Cave City, AR Middle School Wednesday March 19
Mount Pleasant Elementary, AR Thursday March 20
McAllen TX ISD March 24-27
Sunrise Rotary, Brownsville TX Friday, March 28.
New Original Songs by the Bard of the South
“Miss Rio Grande Valley”- So many beauties have come from the Rio Grande Valley. Here’s a song about a man who falls for a beauty queen! (Model for single release cover is Tyler Zimmerman, Miss South Texas) Preview and spend the 99 cents to order the song here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rickeypittmanbardoftheso3
“The 13th Floor” – If you’re superstitious or if you’ve heard about the wild nightlife of Dallas, you are sure to like this song! (Model for single release cover is Amanda Brady) Preview and spend the 99 cents to order the song here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rickeypittmanbardoftheso4
These songs (along with other originals) will be on the Bard’s 4th CD, which should be available by Summer 2014. The CD’s theme is songs of Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.
The Bard’s calendar is filling up for the spring! Book the Bard of the South for your own school, library, organization, festival, church, banquet or other event. His positive, energetic presentation of stories and songs are sure to delight and edify those in attendance. His rates are reasonable and he pays his own travel and lodging expenses.
( 5.) This Week’s Article
On March 17, the world will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, some of the many celebrations in the nation will begin earlier and maybe some will go later than that date. I often do my Scots-Irish program in schools, especially in March. Of course, even if it’s not the holiday, I tell the story of St. Patrick.
Patrick, the son of a devoted Catholic family, is known as the patron saint of Ireland When Patrick was a teenager, Irish raiders took him as a slave, but after 6 years he escaped and made his way back to the British Isles. He became a priest and received a calling from heaven to return to Ireland. Patrick did what the Vikings and Romans could not do—he conquered Ireland! The best account of what he did I found in a great book, How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. If you are interested in Celtic or saint history, you need to read that book!
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A Short Story by Rickey E. Pittman
Green Irish Eyes
“It’s a version of history you won’t find in the books, Neil, ” Seamus said. “The arm of Sinn Fein is long and bloody. Now, Frankie there, he would know. He’s from Belfast. Was a runner for the People’s Army. Hey, Frankie!”
Frankie looked up from his mopping.
“When you get a minute, come here and meet my friend Neil. A good Irish boy himself, he is.”
“Be right with you, Seamus.” Frankie took a drag of the cigarette hanging from his mouth, pulled up the sleeve of his long-sleeve T-shirt above his elbow. A dragon was tattooed on his arm and elbow. As he lifted the cigarette to his mouth, his muscles flexed and the dragon seemed to come to life and roar and the Irish tri-color flag flapped in the dragon’s mouth.
I was not surprised Seamus had a worker who had been with the IRA. Seamus’ pub was an Irish fist in the face of Jackson’s yuppies and bluebloods. On the wall were framed photographs of Michael Collins, Stephen Plunkett, Brendan Behan; there were posters and other ephemera—a tile from the roof of Michael Collin’s house, a Sniper at Work sign taken from a C’maglen street corner, a library marker written in Gaelic.
I held out my hand when Frankie came to our table. “Seamus said you were in the IRA. What did you do?”
Frankie looked at Seamus a moment, then shrugged his shoulders. “They called me a go-to guy. Sent me to make small weapons drops and messages. What’s it to you?”
The bluntness of tough Irish boys always catches me by surprise, and I sat there thinking of how to answer.
“Don’t get pissy, Frankie. He’s as Irish as we are,” Seamus said. “Neil is a songwriter with a true gift for words.”
Frankie nodded. “Well, he and I will have a good talk sometime if he’ll buy the drinks. Have you seen Morgan?”
“She’ll be here later tonight.”
“When you see her, tell her I’ll be out with Tommy tonight. We’re going to check out a new club in Mound.”
“You want me to tell my daughter that her fiancée is going to a strip club?”
“Naw. Just tell her I’m going out. We’ll talk later, Neil.”
“Do you know my daughter, Morgan, Neil?”
“She’s a lucky girl to meet a guy like Frankie here. How about you? Do you have a sweetheart?”
“There’s a girl . . . let’s just say the first time I saw her she took my breath away.”
“Does she feel the same?” Seamus asked.
“I don’t know for sure. I’d like to think so.”
Frankie said, “I better get back to work, Seamus.”
“Aye.” Seamus reached out and squeezed Frankie’s arms. “Would you look at those muscles, Neil. He’s got the arms of an Olympic weightlifter. Best bouncer I ever had.”
That’s when I really squirmed.
* * *
As the weather was mild, I left the bar for a table on the covered patio. Morgan strolled into the club about eight. A natural beauty, she carried her slender frame with an air of ease and confidence. Her long red hair was pulled back under a ball cap, and she wore a maroon sweatshirt and jeans. As I hoped, she sat down at my table.
“How about a beer, Neil?” she said.
“Sure.” I signaled Mary, the waitress, as she bustled by our table. “We’ll each have a pint and a glass.”
The Conleys had launched into another song, and the singer’s voice sounded very Irish, though as far as I knew, he had never been to Ireland. He pounded his bodhran with a tempo that matched my heart.
Mary returned with our drinks and we lifted our shot glasses. “To Ireland,” I said. “And to a beautiful lady.”
“To Ireland, and a handsome man,” she replied. “And to other things.”
We drained the shots and we sipped our beers. A little bit of froth from the stout clung to her lips, and she licked it off. It was difficult to not stare and lose myself in those green eyes.
“What are you looking at?” she asked.
“Your eyes.” I quoted a few lines of a poem by Frances Collins:
“So stir the fire and pour the wine,
And let those sea-green eyes divine,
Pour their love-madness into mine.”
“I like that poem. I’ll take your reciting it as a compliment. Eyes are not usually what a guy notices.”
“Shakespeare called eyes the windows of the heart, and others have said that beauty enters the soul through the eyes. Okay, sorry. I’m rattling. You’re just so cute you make me stupid.”
She laughed. “How do you like my cap?” she asked.
“I like it fine.”
“What does it say?”
“It says, Kiss Me, I’m Irish.”
“Oh,” she said. “Okay.” She leaned over and kissed me. One of her girlfriends hooted. Morgan gave her the finger.
I heard Seamus call out, “Morgan!”
“Be right there,” she said. “Well, I’ve got to help my father tonight. He’s a little short on help. Thanks for the drink. I’ll send Mary out with another Guinness—on me.”
When Morgan left, I moved to another table so I could see inside the bar. She had slung a towel on her shoulder and stuck a bottle opener in her back jeans pocket and as the crowd was picking up, she scurried about from table to table, picking up dishes, wiping off tables, and taking orders. I joined the line at the men’s room. As she walked from the bar into the kitchen, she passed me, touched my middle-aged waist with her hand and said, “Wish we could talk more, but it’s really busy. I’ll have to catch you later. How about tomorrow night?”
“I’ll be here.” I walked out to the car whispering, “Stupid . . . moron . . . what are you doing?”
The next night, I was back at my table. Seamus nodded when he saw me, but didn’t stop to bullshit like he usually did. I thought he was just busy till I saw him sitting at the bar gabbing with a few of the customers at the bar. When I saw Morgan, I forgot about Seamus, about Frankie, about anything but her. She stopped at the edge of the patio entrance and smiled when she saw me. She was a striking tableau in her high heels, black pants, and a black tank-type shirt and jacket. Silver earrings dangled from her ears and her hair was folded and clamped.
I waved, like a completely smitten and undone simpleton, and when she made it to my table, I stood and pulled back a chair so she could sit.
We drank more than we should have. She reached for my hand and squeezed it. I melted, and she knew it.
“Let’s go for a drive,” she said.
She stood and led me by the hand outside. We took my car and drove to the post office where she mailed some letters. At least one was addressed to someone in Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. From there we went to the Wildlife Refuge and looked at the moon and shooting stars. I followed the trail of one heavenly monster as it sliced through the blackness and found myself looking into her eyes.
“We really shouldn’t do this,” she said.
“I know, but I don’t think I can stop myself.”
We kissed, and then I said, “You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to take you to Ireland someday. I want to be away from Jackson, in a world all our own. I want to kiss you whenever I want, to walk down the street holding your hand. I want to belong to you and I want you to belong to me.
She sighed. “I’d like that too.”
“I found a writer, a Madame Delphine Gay de Girardin, who said, ‘A woman whom we truly love is a religion.’ I think she was right. And I think you’re my religion.”
“Enough daydreaming and pretty words, English professor. We know what we’re here for.”
The next day, Morgan called me. “We’ve got to talk, Neil.”
“No, listen. I’m not up to you breaking my heart. I like you—a lot—but I’m not going to see you anymore if it’s not going to go anywhere.”
“I don’t know about you, Morgan, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m sure I’m in love with you.”
“You say that now, but you really don’t know. Let’s give each other a week’s space. If I don’t hear from you, then I’ll know for sure. It will hurt me, and you might hurt some too, but if we handle it now, it’ll be manageable. We would have real problems anyway.”
“You mean with Frankie?”
“Yes, and with my father too. He wouldn’t handle it well. You’d be losing a friend.”
“You’d be worth any price.”
“We’ll see. Goodbye, Neil. One week.”
I avoided Seamus and the pub all the next week. Sat around the house and drank
mostly. The week finally passed, but when the deadline to call her came, I sat and looked
at the phone, unplugged it, and went to bed. The next night I drank half a fifth of Bushmill’s while I looked at the phone, passed out, and barely made it to the university in time to teach my 8:00 class. I felt as paralyzed as a Prufrock. The next night, I drank the other half of the Bushmills. In spite of my self-medication, I didn’t sleep well that night, and in a hypnagogic state I realized that I couldn’t let her go. The devil take Frankie and Seamus. If Seamus were a true friend, I figured he’d get over it and he’d help Frankie get over it too. Frankie had more important things to do than to fool with me anyway—like going to strip clubs and killing British soldiers and such.
I called Morgan every hour the next day, but there was no answer. I called the bar and asked Mary if she had seen Morgan.
“No,” she said. “She and Frankie left for New Orleans. I think they’re going to catch a plane to Ireland.”
I opened another bottle of Bushmills, filled a glass, and sat down to think. Only two days late. I flipped through the cable stations looking for a movie to take my mind off of Morgan. It must have been Irish Day or something. The Devil’s Own, In the Name of the Father, Patriot Games, The Crying Game—none of them suited my mood at the time.
I heard my back door open. Maybe it was the whiskey, but I said it anyway. “Morgan?”
“No, I’m not Morgan, lad,” a male voice said. The accent was thick with Irish.
I started to get up from my chair, but a vice-like hand pushed me down. “Just sit right there, lad.”
I looked at him. He was middle-aged, wore a stocking cap, a thick gray sweater covered by an old British field jacket, and camouflage pants. “Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”
“My name is Lorcan, a friend of the family you might say.”
“You mean Seamus?”
“I do. Hell, you’re brighter than they said you were. Well, Neil, you’ve created quite a problem, and I’ve been sent to fix that.”
“Are you with the Ira?”
“That I am. Of course, if I told you that, I’d have to kill you.”
“I don’t care who you are. Get your ass out.” I rose from my chair but his fist hammered my nose and knocked me back down.
“Now, don’t irritate me. Look at you, a bloody mess you are.” He tossed me a handkerchief. “Wipe your nose, and take yourself another drink of that good Irish whiskey.”
While I chugged down the whiskey, I watched him open his jacket’s side pocket and fish out a roll of duct tape, a pistol, and a Black and Decker drill. When I set down the bottle he tightly bound my feet and arms with the tape. “Why are you doing this?” I asked.
“You can’t go around breaking a young Irish girl’s heart now, can you, laddie. And you insulted your friend Seamus by sneaking around with her like you did. Did you think that Seamus wouldn’t notice you were seeing his daughter? And Frankie, he’s not one to piss off either.”
“Well, tell Seamus I’m sorry. Just have Frankie come over and kick my ass. I’ll make it up to him.”
“Sorry, laddie. My orders were clear—kneecap you, both legs, then one bullet to the head.” He taped my mouth shut, held up the drill, and spun the bit. “Now, what is it the doctor says? This is going to sting a little bit.”
Actually, it hurt a great deal, but the pain in my heart screamed almost as loud as I did when the drill bit into my knee. I didn’t even think about how bad the pain was. I had always thought my last thoughts would be significant, peaceful—that they would be emotionally charged, summing up my life, finally fitting together all the jagged pieces of the puzzle—that I would find clarity and meaning in the tragedies, the losses, the failures—even failures like this one. But my thoughts weren’t about those things at all.
All I could think about was Morgan—and I relieved the dreams I had experienced since the first time I had seen her. I imagined her kiss, the softness of her hands, of walking with her in Ireland. My last conscious thought was how lost I was in those green eyes. And my conscience whispered some lines from a Longfellow poem:
A pretty girl, and in her tender eyes
Just that soft shade of green we sometimes see
In evening skies.
A Short Story by Rickey E. Pittman: “A Gift From Erin”
A GIFT FROM ERIN
WHEN THE TRAIN FROM NEW HAVEN STOPPED AT GREENWICH, FIONA SPOTTED A MAILBOX ON THE TRAIN PLATFORM. She told the conductor she’d be right back and exited the train, briefcase and coffee in hand. She dropped a letter addressed to her sister, Martina, now in Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland, and then walked back to the train.
After returning to her seat, she laid her briefcase in her lap, and drained the Starbucks café au lait. She searched the blank eyes of the travelers waiting on the train platform. All seemed distant, as if they sought to look through her, beyond her. None appeared to be policemen. She felt suspicious about one man, but when his eyes met hers, he indifferently raised his newspaper.
“Wall Street bastard,” she whispered. “Just like the Fleet Street English.” She remembered the suited British detective who had arrested her sister last year in New York’s Grand Central Station, then taken her in handcuffs on the next flight to Belfast. At her trial, Martina was given a life sentence for her supposed role in a bombing. When Fionna heard of her sister’s extradition, she promptly joined the IRA and was given the task of raising money in America for guns and assistance to IRA children whose parents were being brutalized in British jails. At Yale, she had mounted an effective letter writing campaign to encourage the many IRA POW’s, and this past summer had gone to Cuba for special training. The result of that training now lay in her lap—a briefcase full of gelignite, a present for a visiting British diplomat—a gift from Erin. The Englishman was scheduled to deliver a speech outside Grand Central Station at two o’clock. Fionna had been directed to get as close as she could, and at 1:55 p.m., set the briefcase down and walk away. A pre-set digital timer would ensure the death of another enemy of Ireland.
She lifted her wrist and looked at her watch. It was only noon. She should reach
Manhattan ahead of schedule.
Across the isle sat an old man with a long, white beard. Next to him sat a young girl. The little one held an hourglass, holding it up and giggling as she watched the sand flow down.
The image brought her grandfather to mind. Fionna had gone to Ireland to visit him one summer at his small farm outside Baliná. One day she helped him in his garden. As he hoed, she followed, scattering seed along the shallow furrow. When they finished planting, her grandfather scooped up a handful of the sandy soil and let it run through his hand. “I am glad you came to see me. I wish Martina could have come.”
“She’s busy, Da.”
“Yes, I’m sure the Irish Republican Army keeps her very busy. But those she has chosen to work with will bring her and our family nothing but grief. Life is too short to give yourself to a cause one cannot win.”
Shaking her head to clear away the daydream, she whispered, “We will win this struggle, grandfather, we ourselves.”
At Portchester, a young man boarded and sat next to her. “Hello,” he said.
An Irish accent. Christ, she thought, these Irish buggers are everywhere.
After she opened a copy of An Phoblacht/Republican News, he said, “An Irish girl, are you?”
“Name’s Seamus,” he said. “And you?”
“I come from Ulster. Where is your family?”
He glanced at the newspaper. “Are you with the IRA?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I don’t care much for them. They knee-capped my brother with a Black and Decker drill when he wouldn’t join.”
“I am sorry for your brother, but war always has casualties. Every soldier knows that. Besides, if you want to compare bad treatment, I could tell you of how the British broke my sister’s jaw when they arrested her.”
“Sinn Fein is not an army. They’re a bunch of thugs.”
“Why don’t you fuck off if you don’t like my politics. Anyone truly Irish is committed to uniting all of Ireland. Only then will Ireland have peace.”
“You’re living in a dream-world. The Irish, even Irish-Americans, won’t support the IRA anymore. You try to look like noble freedom fighters, but running drugs and guns and killing innocent people with sniping and bombs make you look like terrorists. Anyway, let’s change the subject. I don’t like arguing with a pretty girl. Where are you going?”
She looked out the window. The train still had not pulled out of Portchester. “To Grand Central Station. I’m going to leave a gift with someone. And you?”
“I’m going to hear the SallyMacs. They’re an Irish band from Memphis playing at some reception for an English big-wig.”
“He’s a British diplomat.” Glancing at her wristwatch, Fionna saw the time had not changed since Greenwich. “Damn it,” she said. Slipping the watch off her arm, she shook it, then banged it against the window. The second hand still would not move. “My watch has stopped. I’ve got a deadline, and I don’t want to be late. What time do you have?”
“I forgot my watch this morning, Colleen. Sorry.”
“Don’t call me a Colleen. My name’s Fionna.” She leaned toward the old man across from them. “Sir, do you know what time it is?”
He shook his head. “But it’s always later than we think.”
“Shit,” she said as she slumped back into her seat. “Crazy old man.” Finally the train began moving, and after what seemed an eternity, pulled into Grand Central Station. Seamus left his seat before the train stopped and stood at the door, talking to the conductor. They both turned and looked at Fionna, and Seamus smiled and shouted, “Erin go bragh!”
As soon as Fionna stepped out of the train, a Transit Officer stepped in front of her.
“Miss, please come with me,” he said.
“What’s the problem?”
“I’m sure there’s nothing to it, but a passenger complained that you attempted to sell him drugs. We are obligated to check these things out, so please follow me.”
He led her to a small room and pointed to a chair. “Have a seat. A female officer will join us in a few minutes.”
After several minutes, Fionna said, “Look, I resent this harassment, and I have no intention of being strip-searched. You Americans better wake up and see the rights you’re losing.”
“I’m sorry, Miss. Things here have changed greatly since 9-11.”
“There’s an appointment I’ve got to keep, and you’re going to cause me to be late. You better have a hell of a good lawyer.” She cursed herself for not bringing her pistol with its silencer. “What time do you have?”
“It’s 1:59. What time is your appointment?”
Fionna glanced at her briefcase and laughed. “Two o’clock.”
“What’s so funny?” the officer asked.
“You’ve had anti-terrorist training?”
She handed him the briefcase. “So you know what gelignite is. I intended to present this to a British diplomat. It’s a gift from Erin and the Irish Republican Army.”
“Shit!” he said.
Fionna glanced at her watch. The second hand was now moving.
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