Chapter 7: Michael Kilkenny’s Wake, Swimming in Beer

Posted on April 14, 2013

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For all 3 steadfast readers.

7 Swimming in Beer

Chapter 6

The next morning I was snug in me bed, pondering how delightfully quiet an entire hungover town could be, when there was a terrible pounding at the door, what I believe the Americans call a “knock.” In my feeble condition I made it to the door in my night shirt and there stood Mr. John Thompkins.

“I’m sorry to get you up, but what time is the funeral, sir? I can’t seem to find anybody who is up.”

“Funeral. Funeral.” I repeated. How is it that we missed every simple thing? Grit was in my eyes as if I’d slept in the flue and my mouth was unfairly dry for all the whiskey I had shared with it not so long ago. I think the pounding may have been in my head and not at the door at all as it seemed to reverberate yet. “Today is a day of mourning, the funeral will be tomorrow.” It was the best I could do. I just wanted to go back to bed.

“A day for Michael?”

“No, for the rest of the town.” Betty burst out behind me. “They’ll put Michael in the ground, but it is the rest of them that wishes they would be joining him.”

I could see he had dark words on his tongue but when she spoke and we realized she was in the room, the storm cleared from his brow in a way I was deeply envious of, the one in mine seeming to settle in for a good long while not to be dispelled by a pretty lass. “I love this village, and the hospitality is unequaled,” he tipped his hat to us, “but this trip is vexing, very vexing.” He pursed his lips and seemed to think. “There’s nothing for it, is there? We’re not in Manhattan, are we?” He seemed only then to remember us. “Well, I have some business I can attend to at the county seat. What time does the train leave?”

Oh, the vexation of this man! My brain was fair rattled. I looked at the mantle clock, “It looks like we’ve missed the morning train,” I gave a stern look to Betty, “Why don’t you meet me at the pub in an hour and we’ll sort out a ride for ye?”

He turned to go and then turned back with a snap of his fingers, “Since I’ll be at the county seat, if you like, I could file Michael’s death certificate. I’m sure nobody’s thought of it, but it’s one of those details I’d gladly take care of for you.”

“The death…certificate…” Forgotten it! Of course we’d forgotten it, we weren’t lawyers, were we? We were going to resurrect the poor deal Michael the moment we got this crazy Yankee to go home. “I’ll be asking after it this very morning.”

Half an hour later, I was joining the boys over a pint to soothe our nerves.

Michael was sitting in the corner much working over a scrap of paper, and holds it up just as I enter:

“Here is me obituary, what do you think?”

I took it from him and read it aloud, “One of the county’s dearest inhabitants passed away on Saturday last in the person of Mr. Michael Kilkenny, after a short illness.

The late Mr. Kilkenny was a well-known fisherman, and spent all of his spare time on the banks of the local rivers. He often succeeded in large catches while other anglers failed. He was an expert in tying his own flies, and was well-versed in the habits of the finney tribe.

He was a grand man, of a very upright and kindly manner, and was fond of relating incidents of note in the old town in his early days. He always enjoyed excellent health, and recently worked as a ghillie. He belonged to a very old and respected family and gained and retained the esteem and respect of all who knew him until the end.

His shadow will remain by the fishing brooks in the memory of the present generation of fishermen during their time.”

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This obituary was added as an edit. It came from a genealogy of my good friend Sharon O’brien’s family. I read the original “finny tribe” and I had the epiphany I was of the Finney tribe, literally, metaphorically, and now literaturitively I realized I had to find a place in the story for it.

“And what do you think?’ asks he.

“I think it’s a bit bold, but it pales to the point that you need a death certificate and funeral, on account of the American is expecting to take one to the county seat and attend the other.”

“A death certificate! We don’t even have a doctor.” Shamus held his head in his hands, whether from consternation or libation, I wasn’t sure.

“The American does have a point,” said Donovan appearing out of the shadows in the back of the pub like the Green Man himself, “You can’t put a man in the ground without a death certificate.”

“So quick to bury me now!” Says Michael, his head wrapped in linen bandage. “In me fine casket I just paid for. I think I will be keeping me eyes on it just a while longer.”

“Well,” says I, “If you don’t go into the ground, then the American will want to go fishing. It buys us another day.”

“Actually two,” says Shamus looking at the mantle clock, “if we put him on a buggy instead of the train, he won’t get there until this evening. It will take him all day to do his business and get back.”

“At what expense to me dwindling sum? Soon, I’ll have less money than when we started.”

Say Donovan, “Well, there are the diggers, the Father saying kind words and impugning us to do better, the plot, and of course the stone.” He took out a pencil and a small notebook, “What would you be having above your brow for all eternity!”

“Ach!” Screamed Michael, “And how much is that?”

“Much figuring and scratching ensued, “well for a basic stone, we could do it for say 2 quid 25d?”

“A hundred and twenty-five? My dying is the best thing that ever happened to this town! Would you all loved me so much when I was alive I would’ve been swimming in beer and fishing every day.”

We looked around at each other. ‘Tis true that Michael had suddenly become very dear to us, and his success ours. My da always said, “If you want praise, die.”

“That’s settled then, a funeral tomorrow, but we need a death certificate, and how will we be producing that?” Says I.

“It’ll have to be doc Byrne,” says Shamus.

“The vet?”

“He’s as close to a doctor as we have, him having delivered half the men in this room and most of their babies,” he finally looked up from the table, “and being a bit short on account of some trouble at the races.”

“And now I’m covering the bets of a vet who cannot even properly fix a horse race, how ruined am I!”

“He’s a right proper fixer when he’s sober, it’s not like delivering a baby, there is an art to it,” says Shamus. “I imagine he could do it for say 3 pounds, it being an official document and all and there being significant risk…”

Michael looked at me, “Risk. And here I was going to solve all me problems and go fishing too. Now I’m dead and my estate wouldn’t fill me glass.” At which he looked so forlornly at his empty glass that I ordered us both another one, keeping Betty’s prudence in mind.

“I’ll see if the doc is up,” said Shamus.

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