A Small Commotion



Set in the timeless heart of Dublin, this is a tale of Jealousy and Guinness, 'visitors from over the water', the simplicity of pencils, Plimsol lines, 'broken men', flame-haired women... and all points between...



Gilly walked into the bar late of one September evening. Outside, O'Connell Street shone wet beneath a sky that was no more than a momentary blossom of promise while tomorrow's rain lay still dark of the horizon, drowning a sun like the burn in Gilly's throat.  Once inside, he hung his derby on the rack beside the door and ordered a pint of stout. Taking a great draught of ale, he pulled in the blue haze, well-rubbed atmosphere of the early bar, mostly filled by people with movement in the way they set, trying not to get too comfortable in case the night and the drink took them unawares. Gilly took the gill that remained in his glass and moved across to his usual table, setting it down dark against the polished copper.  


Beside him a small commotion was raised, with laughter curling the smoke above the table in the corner. There was Timulty, dark, fiery eyed, bellowing great guffaws beside Mulrooney's broken, leprous grin, and across from them O'Keefe, the quiet, the listening. In their midst was a great man whose skin shone with the glow of a pale autumn; whose eyes pushed them back into their seats from where his words teased the laughter out of their wet-day, rain-tomorrow faces. Gilly hadn't seen him before, he would have remembered the great shock of sun-bleached hair. He slid farther along the bench to listen until Timulty saw him,

      " Gilly! Gilly, come here! "


Gilly blushed, as though he'd been caught eavesdropping.

      " Come here and meet Clancy. Just this minute from over the water."


Gilly slid up towards them as Timulty turned to the great man,
      " Clancy. This is Gilly. Gilly from the Bank."

The mans hand moved towards him. Gilly viewed it with some apprehension until Clancy gave a short barking laugh,
      " Come on, now, " he said, " Don't be afraid to shake the steadiest hand this side of the water. " 
      He turned it slowly in the mid-air,
      " Look! Five pints and not a tremor! "
      He turned his head away,
      " A wager on the sixth?"
      Gilly looked at the dregs of his glass,
      " I'll get them." he said.

Gilly returned from the bar to find a space had been made for him beside Clancy. As he sat, the conversation fell around the table towards him,
      " Over the water?" he said.
      " Aye." said Clancy, " The Pond. The Big One."
      " American?" asked Gilly, marvelling at the potential stupidity of his own question.
      " Aye. Second generation."


Mulrooney sniggered. Clancy pulled darkly at the stout,
      " My Granfer. Pushed out by the Blight in '45. Settled in Chicago and promised himself he would grow nothing anymore except older."
      " What happened to him?" asked Gilly.


Clancy's smile wrinkled the corners of his eyes,
      " He died. Same as the fuckin' rest of us!".


Mulrooney giggled at Gilly's discomfort. Timulty's eyes fell dark and O'Keefe sat watching, as if he were waiting for a sudden, more sullen cue to laughter.
      " But before he did," said Clancy, " he planted the seed of old Ireland into my father and now here I am come back like a ghost to see what it is you've got, and to tell you what it is you're missin'."
      " And for sure we don't have much." said Mulrooney.


Clancy laughed out loud,
      " God, man. This country! It's beautiful! Don't you ever look up when it stops raining?"
      " Ah, we would," said Timulty, " if it ever stopped fuckin' rainin'."
      " Ah! You don't know what a jewel you have," said Clancy, " Why, I've been to places where they haven't seen water for years."
      " Thenů what do the landlords put in the beer?" asked Timulty.