Chapter 2: Michael Kilkenny’s Wake

Posted on March 10, 2013


Author’s Notes

Chapter 1

A Pence Too Much

In the cold months, June seems like a long way off, and I did not think much of this conversation until I pulled its tattered threads together from memory just now. It’s a shame the way finances work, just as you have the time for the pub, there is nothing on the farm for money, but for a few chickens and eggs. I have seen too many men ruined by carrying a tally there in the bad times to do it myself, but my Betty is a wise woman who puts a little away so that once or twice a week I can pull a mug without giving her a lie about it. Thus it was about a week before I saw Michael again. He was alone in the corner, hunched over a piece of parchment, scratching his unruly red mop and chewing on the nub of a pencil.

“You look like a man sore vexed. Had I but enough for two pints I would surely buy you one…”

“Ach,” says he. “Were I so wise as your wife, I would know not to give you enough to buy beer for another man when it’s your own troubles you should be quenching.” And thus I sat down, much relieved that I did indeed have enough for a second pint and him knowing about it and not bothering me none.

“Besides, that, I think I have solved all me problems for the short term and even the foreseeable times ahead.” And with that he pushed his scrap over to me. There, much smudged, crossed out, torn, and otherwise obfuscated was a well-camouflaged bit of prose;

Fish an unspoiled Irish stream for one week. Just you and your ghillie on the private water. 25£, room and board included. Payment on Demand.

“Are you mad?”

“Do you think it’s too much?” he asked.

“One pence is too much! You cannot rent another man’s land. This is fraud. You will go to prison.” I have told him again and again O’Malley uses a radiator to make his poitin. I feared it had finally driven him daft.

“I will go to prison,” he pointed the pencil at me, “if I don’t pay me fines. I’ve paid good money over the years to use that stream. I’m just recouping me investment with some additional interest.”

“How will you get away with it, this is a small island, all things considered, and you renting another man’s land is as likely to go unnoticed as the Pope in the pub.”

“The lord be away on business for months yet. I plan to run the ad in the New York Times. I hear tell that those American sportsmen will pay that much to put on fancy duds and rope milk cows, thinking they are cowboys. Or go to Africa to shoot lions. They already caught all of their own fish and shot all of the buffalo, so they have to go elsewhere.”

“Everybody here will know.”

“Well, of course they will know, I’ll be putting him up won’t I? I’ll be needing the proper respect in the pub won’t I?”

“You cannot expect the whole town to just lie for you.”

“Surely, not the whole town. Do you know, by the way, how much Peter is owed?”

Peter the Publican, we called him.

“And that has to do with the price of milk in Dublin how?”

“A quid by me alone. Fifty quid for the season! Me fine is 5 quid. Room and board at the Widow’s will be 2 quid, leaving for my living expenses exactly 16 quid. How much will the farm make in June?”

I sputtered and thought vainly for some method beyond logic to convince him otherwise.

“But Liam…”

“Liam has the biggest bill here at Gentleman Johnny’s, over two quid. Surely that’s why he took the job, him as big a poacher as me but not even able to feed the family with it. I had me a chat with his wife over the hedge row the other day. I think Liam will be fine with all of this. Thanks for reminding me.” He did some scratching “I’m down to 15 quid.”

I scratched my head under my cap and held up my fingers for two pints. When Molly showed up I pointed at Michael and said “On him.”

To be continued, comments welcome, please.