Tomorrow, I’ll be performing at the Daily Harvest Bakery and Deli from 9:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. I had such a grand time last week. I met so many cool people. Here is a story I wrote: “Green Irish Eyes.” I haven’t submitted it yet to anyone, but I thought I’d post it here. Let me know what you think of it, okay? (email@example.com)
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.