Still The Band Played On (Chapter 1-6)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The story of Benny through his young life, through struggles and hardship he finds refuge in a pipe band when a great legend recognises his talents. Through events both humourous and tragic, Benny was inspired to show his talents to the world.

Submitted: August 08, 2011

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Submitted: August 08, 2011

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STILL THE BAND PLAYED ON

 

Benny Boland lay in the tall grass, the daffodils stretching up to greet the sun. Benny looked along the top of his stick pretending to shoot the red coats as they reached the top of the hill. Bang, Bang, Bang,

“Run for cover at that bush.” Benny shouted to his friend Michel, but as soon as they ran, Boom, Boom, Boom, the boys dropped to the ground and played dead. The thundering sound of the drums rang out, next came the bagpipes, the music seemed to shake the air around them. The boys stood at the bush around the bandstand listening, their feet stuck to the ground, as the men in red coats and kilts made this strange magical music. The pounding of the base drum could be felt in their chest, the rolling of the drums vibrated in their ears and the bagpipes brought it all together to make this wonderful sound. They looked on in amassment as the power of the music seemed to reach inside their bodies, filling them with joy.

When the band stopped to have a break Benny went up to a drummer who was having a smoke.

“Can you teach me to play the drums?” Benny asked looking up at man as he took a drag of his cigarette.

“So you would like to play drums, would you?” He had a gentle warm smile as he looked down at Benny.

“Well yes I could.” He answered.

“It would mean a lot of hard work you would have to practice every day. No saying Ill practice tomorrow, it has to be done every day. If you did that you could be as good as me, or even better. I’d better get back and play, now go ask your parents about becoming a drummer.” He patted Benny on the head and went back into the bandstand. Benny ran back to his parents,

“I want to play the drums, please, please, please.” He sounded like he was begging.

“Jesus Christ, do you hear the noise of them, no way no you’re not getting drums, no, no way.” His dad said.

“But the man said if I practiced hard I could be as good as him or even better.” Benny pleaded.

“No way… If you want to play something play something quiet” His dad said in a soft voice.

“What do you mean quiet?” Benny asked.

“Something like the triangle, pinggggg.” His dad held up his hands pretending to play one. Benny’s excitement turned immediately to a frown. His mother put her arms around him.

“Don’t mind him love we’ll look into it for you,” his mother said.

“When the band finishes bring your dad over and talk to them. Now go on over and watch them. Your father was only joking.” Then she gave Benny a little hug.

“No I wasn’t joking…A triangle is nice and quiet” his father held up his imaginary triangle again.

“Pinggggg”

“Tom.” Ruth said. “It is not nice to tease.”

“Who’s teasing? Me?” Then Ruth stretched her body, sticking out her chest her arms out straight, her breasts on display like a trophy to be caressed by the winner.

“Ahhhh, I have an ache in my back, ohhhh, I think I might need a massage.” Then she looked Tom in the eye, she gave him a seductive smile. “Ah no, maybe I’ll just walk it off.” Then she relaxed.

“Go on Benny I’ll follow you over and ask if you can join.” Tom looked down at the big grin on Ruth’s face. Benny threw his arm around his dad; then he gave his mother a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks ma” Then he ran back to the bandstand with Michel.

Tom knelt close to Ruth. “When you’re old and wrinkled you won’t be able to get away with that seductive carryon anymore.” He whispered. Then she moved close to his ear. He could feel the warmth of her breath agents his cheek the smell of her perfume was intoxicating.

“As long as you can get a stiffy, I will always get away with it, even when I’m old and grey, wrinkled, my tits hang down to my belly button, and my arse is as big as a double decker.” Then she kissed him on the lips.

“Now go after Benny”.

“You have got me so excited I don’t think I can wait till to night.” He was looking deep into her eyes.

“Who said anything about waiting till tonight?” She kissed him again sticking her tongue into his mouth passionately.

“Are you suggesting we go into the bushes because I’m ready right now” Now he had a big grin on his face. She placed her hands on his legs and moved them up and down slowly as he knelt in front of her.

“Don’t be silly, not in a park full of people.” She looked around at the people that had gathered to listen to the band.

“Now go to Benny.” And she kissed him again. As he got to his feet she said.” You might need to hide your excitement.” He looked down.

“Wow. Thank God for deep pockets.” He put his hands in to cover the bulge.

“How deep do they go? Maybe I should find out for myself.” Then she stretched out her hand.“That’s enough out of you….. I’m already struggling to contain myself……. that’s enough suggestive talk, give it up.” Then he turned to go.

“Hurry back I’m already feeling lonely.” She said in her best Marilyn Monroe voice. She stuck out her chest and blowing him a kiss.

“Your evil you that? Evil” Then he went to find Benny and hiding his excitement as best he could.

 

When the band began putting their instruments away Tom went to talk with one of the drummers.

“I can’t give you all the information you’d better talk to Frank…..Ah there he is come on I’ll introduce you.” “Frank this man would like to talk to you about his son joining the band.” Then he went back to packing up the drum.

“Well young man you want to be a drummer.” Frank shook his hand. Then Tom introduced himself.

“Will you have one?” Tom offered Frank a cigarette.

“Thank you, my brand Woodbine” Tom’s last one. Frank took the empty carton and tore it open.

“I’ll write the address and day and time we practice and if he is still interested we’ll see you next week.” They shook hands again then Frank put his hand on Benny’s shoulder.

“See you next week then.” They watched the band picked up their gear and head out of the park.

 Chapter 2

 

Tuesday night Tom and Benny went into town, they got off the bus at the end of O Connell St. and headed for Parnell Sq. It was a warm summer evening the sky was clear and Benny was full of the jitters.

 They could hear the drums before they got to the building. Tom pushed open the door and a man told them which floor to go to, so up the stairs they went. Tom recognized Frank he was showing a group of lads what to play.

“Well hello, you managed to find us….That’s good, by the way I’m John.” Then he shook hands with them. “There was no problem finding the place I could hear you way down the road.” Tom said.

“Well I’ll take Benny, is that all right?” John placed his hand on Benny’s shoulder. Benny just nodded.

“We’ll be in the other room and we can get you started.” As John led him away he said. “We’ll be about two hours, you can wait, or our local is the Commodore just across the square, and you can come back for him at nine.”

“Ok, I’ll be back at nine” Tom looked down at Benny. “Is that ok with you?” He asked.

“Yea Da fine” There was a big smile on Benny’s face.

There were eight other lads learning to play as well so John introduced everyone.

“Right then, Brian will be in to get you started in a few minutes, and I will see you all later” Then he went back into the other room. Tom went to their local while Benny had his first lesson.

 

Two hours later when Tom arrived back the young lads were in the room watching the band go through their routine. It was very serious you could see the concentration on everyone’s face, each drummer moving in time with the man beside him, each beat, each roll perfect, no expression on their faces, just the slight movement of one foot as they played as one. It was a powerful experience which made Benny more determined to learn.

“Wow, I could feel that go right through me.” Tom said when the lads stopped playing.

“Thank you, I think, wow is a good description, well done” Frank looked at each of the lads.

“That’s it, you can put your kit away that was, wow”.

“Well Benny how did your practice go?” Tom asked.

“Well it didn’t sound anything like that, but I did have a good time.” Benny answered.

“Hey Benny, you did good you are able to keep a beat, now all you need is practice. I’m Brian” he introduced himself to Tom.

“So we’ll see you next week same time.” Then they headed home.

On the bus Benny practiced a little more.

“Mam- my da-dy mam-my dad-dy” He said as he tapped the sticks on the seat in front of him.

“What’s the story, with the mammy daddy” Tom asked.

“We’ve to do two taps on this stick mam-my and two taps on this stick dad-dy and we’ve to get it as fast as we can” He answered without missing a beat.

 

 Benny practiced as much as he could, and everywhere he could.

“Benny what the fuck are these marks on the radio-gram, you’ve been banging those bloody sticks on it haven’t you? I’ll kill you” His mother shouted.

“Ma they bounce great on it and I can get a real good roll, I’ll show you.” He said

“You will in your arse show me, go ask your father for something to bang on. Jesus Christ, I don’t think God knew what she was doing when she gave men brains.” His mother sighed.

“Ma, sometimes you’re so silly, everyone knows God is a man” Benny went away smiling to himself.

A few days later as Ruth and Tom were asleep in bed.

“Tom, Tom what’s that noise? Tom, Tom, Tom.” She nudged Tom in the back.

“Yea, Yea, I’m up, I’m up” He pulled the covers off himself.

“Ah, that sounds like Benny.” He said sleepily.

“You better go into him because I’ll beat the living daylights out of him if I go.” Ruth said angrily.

“And take those sticks off him.” She added.

“Yes sweet heart” He answered.

“Ok Benny come on keep the noise down your mothers not happy…What time is it any way?

Then he looked at his watch.

“Ah bollox, Benny it’s only half six, Je-sus go to sleep, fuck sake, its Sunday morning what are you doing awake any way.” His dad asked.

“I just wanted to practice that’s all”. Benny answered.

“Practice, practice that’s fine but not at half six Sunday morning, Christ, the birds don’t even get up this early, come on now go asleep” Then his dad put the sticks and drumming pad on the chest of drawers by the bed. Tom pulled the covers up around Benny’s neck pretending to strangle him.

“Your mother will send me into murder you if you disturb her again, if you need to do something, read a book, or do some of your homework” Tom said.

“Ah Da there’s no need for that kind of language” Benny said then closed his eyes.

Chapter 3

 

The years passed, Benny practiced hard and finally it all paid off.

“Well we are going to get you measured up for a uniform and you can play in the St Patrick’s Day parade,” Frank watched the expression on Benny’s face as the news sunk in.

“Jesus, thanks Frank…. Jesus… Jesus” was all Benny could say.

“Ok lads, that was a very good practice, we’ll call it a night, I don’t think we will get any more from Benny anyway, he’s got some news to give his parents, is that right Benny?” Frank gave Benny a wink and the lads patted him on the back.

“Well done.” They said.

 Benny couldn’t wait to get home. When Benny told his parents, his mother hugged him his father put his hand on his shoulder.

“I knew you could do it Benny, I’m so proud of you, that’s fantastic, just fantastic.” And he squeezed his shoulder lightly.

 

Benny walked down through Ranelagh; this was his first day at work. When he looked through the door of Power’s supermarket he saw Mary Kennedy she was the manageress. He walked up to her and introduced himself.

“We’ll Bernard I will get you to work with Lucy” she said. 

“It’s Benny, everyone calls me Benny” he interrupted.

“Ok then Benny it is, I will make sure they put that on your name badge. Lucy, I want you to show Benny the ropes. I will check with both of you later, now off you go.” She said in a very dismissive way.

Later that afternoon as Benny packed he was in a world of his own, when he was grabbed by the shoulder.

“Jesus Christ.” He screamed, which could be heard all over the shop.

“What are you doing there?” Dave said disguising his voice.

“What the fuck do you think? I’m crapping myself, you bollox you frightened the shit out of me, ah what the fuck are you doing here?” Benny asked.

“I work here. I’ll be back in a sec I just want to clock in.” Dave said.

“I think you fancy me, we’re in the band and now you are working with me” Dave added.

“Fuck off, you’ve got nothing I’d be interested in” Benny said; then he noticed Mary looking at him.

“I don’t like that kind of language, so please keep your voice down” she said as she passed him.

 

It was the morning of the Paddies day parade and the lads met at Stephens Green, Frank took roll call.

“That’s good everyone here.” He winked at Benny.

“You’ll be fine, If you feel nervous just watch the man in front of you, but I wouldn’t have put you here if I didn’t think you were ready.” Then he patted him on the shoulder.

“I hope you remembered its tradition not to wear anything under your kilt” Jimmy whispered to Benny

“Oh yea, Barry told me but its fucking freezing,” Benny answered.

“Ah when we get marching you’ll be fine. The first time is the worst but you get used to it” Jimmy smiled.

There was a lot of hustle and bustle as the marshals organized the bands and the floats into position then sent them on their way.

They got into line Frank gave the count in, the drums burst into life, the pipes joined in, they were ready to march. Benny’s hart pounded like the base drum. He was too afraid to look at the crowd along the side of the road, so he watched the sticks hitting the skin; his hands seemed to know what to play. It was as if the sticks were an extension of his fingers. He heard the base drum give the signal to get ready to stop, the first tune was over. Now he took a chance to look around. His nerves disappeared as he saw all the kids waving and cheering as they passed by, now they came to a stop and were getting preparing to start the second tune. Each time they stopped Benny looked around and even began to waved back to some of the kids. When they finally finished at the end of O Connell St they headed for the hall to put their kits away then down to the Commodore for a pint and a sandwich.

Benny went straight to the fire and raised the front of his kilt.

“What the fuck are you up to Benny,” asked Brian.

“My bollox is shriveled so much I think I’m growing a cunt.” He answered. We’ll poor John lost it, a mouth full of beer sprayed out on to the floor, coughing and choking at the same time, he couldn’t catch his breath. The bar burst into laughter.

“You should always make sure you are well padded down there.” Brian said when he eventually stopped laughing.

“I was told we weren’t to wear anything under our kilts it was tradition.” Benny sounded annoyed. The bar broke into laughter again. Jimmy and Barry raised their glasses

“Cheers” They said together.

“You fucking bastards my arse is frozen,” said Benny.

“Too much information” said Barry.

“You wankers, I know now what they mean when they say brass monkey weather.” mumbled Benny.

“Come on have a drink. A club orange for the lad” said Brian with a giggle.

“When you heat up a bit get some soup and sandwiches into you. You did well today, I’m proud of you. Cheers” Frank said then handed him the drink.

 

At the next practice Frank gathered them in a circle

“Right now we all know the right attire to wear under our kilts” The lads all cheered.

“Good on you Benny, harrreeeee,”

“All right leave, him alone, after all he nearly lost his manhood” Frank smiled.

“Now it’s time to work towards the all Ireland’s.” He looked around at them rubbing his hands together as he thought.

“We know what to play, you play it perfectly but we need something more.” Every now and again he looked at one or more of the lads, as if wanting inspiration from them.

“We’ve won the last two years, so the judges will be expecting a lot from us. The other bands will be praying to God that we lose we will pray we don’t so what can we do?” He looked at them hoping to get an answer.

“Ok then, Benny.” He pointed at him. Benny nearly shit himself.

“Ah yea.” He stuttered.

“What’s your favorite song at the moment?” Frank asked.

“It’s ah. From me to you. By the Beatles.” Benny answered looking confused.

“That’s a good one, right I want you to sing it for me, and any one of you that know it join in, right off you go.”

 As Benny started to sing Frank started to play the drums. The lads looked at each other, then they joined in singing and playing, the tenors, the base all took part.

“Now that was fun, we’ve never practiced it but you all enjoyed it.” He had his sticks in one hand waving them as he explained what he was looking for.

“I want you to enjoy what you are playing. Ok when it comes to the compotation none of you are to go shaking and jumping around like Keith Moon or smile and laughing like Phyllis Diller.” That got a giggle

“But be relaxed let the music flow down your arms, down to your fingers and into the sticks.” Then Frank started to play, his foot taped, the sticks barley moving but the power of his drumming filled the room, you felt mesmerized, all as you could do was watch and feel the magic of his performance and when he stopped it was as if someone had woken you from a beautiful dream.

“Right lads, that’s what I want.” Said Frank.

“You must be joking, that was fan -fucking -tastic.” Benny said in amazement. The lads laughed at Benny‘s outburst.

“Ok, give me your best, that’s all I’m asking for, win or lose, as long as you give me your best I’ll be happy, make sure your early for the bus Saturday morning and no hangovers till after the completion. Right that’s it, goodnight.” Then Frank started to put his kit away.

Chapter 4

 

 When the bus pulled into Balmorals car park there was bands from all over Ireland and Scotland.

“Ok, get your gear and be ready to tune up in ten minutes.” Frank said as we got off the bus. It was a bright sunny day the atmosphere was fantastic. They watched from the sidelines and were having a bit of a laugh to try ease the nerves.

“Well Benny what do you think.” Brian asked.

“I’d hate to have the judges job, their all brilliant. I’m feeling a bit nervous, are you sure I’m ready for this.” Benny asked.

“Frank wouldn’t have let you come if he didn’t think you were ready, you just give your best, that’s all we need. Come on. Let’s get into formation we’ll be up soon.” Benny and Brian gathered their gear and got ready.

“Hay Benny I hope there is no surprises, you are wearing something under your kilt?” Brian asked as an afterthought.

“Yea, I am, but I could have done without them to day its bloody roasting.” He answered with a grin.

They all gathered together as the results were being given out, the tension could be seen on their faces. Their name hadn’t been called out yet and the judge was getting near first place. The judge looked out at the bands as he came to first place, the crowd fell silent, it was as if everything stopped moving, you could have heard a pin drop. Everyone seemed to hold their breath in case their breathing made too much noise. Then the judge raised the sheet of paper and read

“First place, Fintan……”  The rest of what the judge said was lost under the screams as the lads threw their hats and jumped and cheered like a bunch of women at a Beatles concert.

“In case everyone didn’t hear the result I will give it again.” The judge said.

“From Dublin the Fintan Lalor pipe band first place ………” The screams started again.

That journey home on the bus was like a bar on wheels, it didn’t seem to take long to get home to the local where the cup was filled with a bottle of brandy, whisky vodka gin and topped up with beer and passed around for all to join in the celebrating, three years in a row, 62, 63and 64 All Ireland .Oh what a night.

That night Benny managed to get drunk, even though he was only fifteen, too young to drink, but it was something he felt he should be a part of. That was also the night he met Julie the daughter of Paul one of the pipers. She was also fifteen even though they had seen each other before this was the first time they sat and talked together.

”Hay, Benny come on over and join us” James said he was sitting with his girlfriend Ann, Barry and Sandra, Julie and Yvonne.

“The girls have been telling us what they like in a man, like tall, slim, good looking, kind, you know. So Benny, what do you think are the best features you would like in a woman?” James asked.

“Tits” Benny replied in a slight slurred voice.

“What do you mean tits? There’s got to be more than Tits? Sure a cow’s got tits.” James said smiling, and the others giggled.

“Well yea that’s true, and what do you think the first man that ever milked a cow was up to?” Benny answered thoughtfully the alcohol was taking affect he was talking a little slower now. James and Barry burst out laughing.

“You dirty bastard” Ann said. Then Julie asked. “What makes you think it was a man that milked a cow first?” Benny looked at her for a few seconds.

“Ok then, what do you think she had in her mind when she was giving it a good squeeze.” .He answered. That was it Ann gave him a slap in the back of the head.

“You filthy bastard” she said. That was the start of a real good night.

 

As the years went by Benny looked forward to each competition, or parade, or just playing in a park, it seemed to be the highlight of the year for him, there was always the butterflies in the stomach at the start, but when it got going there was nowhere else he would rather be.

 

For Bennie’s eighteenth birthday he treated himself to a Triumph 25o, he was glad to be off the Honda 50. He would pick Dave up and they would go to work together and go to practice together.

“Have you organized your holidays for Scotland” Dave asked as they locked up the bike.

“Yea I did it last week” Benny answered.

“Shit, dragon face was off last week, who did you sort it out with.” They called Mary Kennedy dragon face, because when things went wrong for her, her facial features kept changing.

“I went to Simon and I made sure he put it on the calendar. So if dragon face has a problem she can take it up with the boss.” He answered.

“You cheeky bollox, she’s going to be pissed off with you for going over her head” he was saying as they came to the front door of the shop.

“Ah shit, the bitches are in strength this morning, I think you’re fucked” said Dave to Benny as they entered the store.

“Well Benny you didn’t turn in for work yesterday, do you have a good excuse for me.” Mary asked very sarcastically.

“Ahh. Yes my girlfriend is on a new pill and it makes her really horny, so we had sex all day yesterday, I couldn’t turn down a chance like that.” Mary looked shocked.

“Actually I lost count after the eleventh time and that was before lunch,” he added.

“Yes, well that’s enough of that” Mary said trying to interrupt, but Benny took no notice of her, he was now looking at the other women who were around Mary.

“I was totally shagged, there was no stopping her, any way I wouldn’t want to.” He managed to say before Mary butted in.

“Yes, yes, yes, that’s enough I got the picture.

But there was no stopping him now.

“Gee, I never thought to take pictures,” he continued. “You know as a kid I liked playing in a bush but this puts a whole new meaning on it”.

“Yes, yes that’s enough, I don’t think your mother would like to hear of your antics,” Mary sounded like she was making a treat.

“No I’m sure she wouldn’t but if someone told her, she would tell me da and he would ask me what pills Julie was on, so he could get some for me ma.” Benny answered looking her straight in the eye.

“That’s it, come on there’s work to be done, go clock in, girls no standing about, go, go. A day’s work to be done” Then she headed for the office. When the lads were out of ear shot, Dave turned to Benny.

“Are you off your fucking head or something, couldn’t you just have said you were sick or had a pain or something”. He asked.

“I did have a pain, I’d a pain in me mickey but I didn’t get that till I was walking home last night.” The lads just laughed.

 

At the end of another band practice which Frank said went very well.,

“I know we’re read, you have got the tune’s off to a tee, but have you all organized time off for Scotland, I don’t want to find myself missing a drummer when we are just about to board the boat?.” Frank looked serious.

“Yea, Yea, sure” they answered.

“Ah not yet” Dave muttered

“Well you would want to get your finger out. We are getting tickets next week, so get it sorted.” Frank said. “He’s just afraid to ask dragon face, that’s all that’s wrong.” Benny said smiling.

“Who?” Asked Frank.

“Our manageress” said Dave

“Ah, I don’t know why they even made her a manager, she couldn’t manage an orgasm in a dildo factory, even if batteries were included” Benny added to the conversation.

“That is a terrible thing to say about your boss” John said with a laugh.

“John they don’t need any encouragement” Frank tried to sound cross but couldn’t stop the smile.

“I’ll get it sorted by the weekend.” Dave said.

“Well see that you do; now that’s the end of business for tonight. I’ll see you all next week, goodnight” Then they headed to the local for a pint.

Chapter 5

 

The journey to Scotland was a bit rocky. It was lucky Frank gave us a warning.

“No one better turn up on Friday with a hangover. I want you all ready to practice as soon as we are settled. There is no drinking till after the competition then we will either celebrate or drown our sorrows” he said.

 

They sat around the table looking at the grade 2 Hamilton Shield. They had won it two years ago in 69 and again now.

“I know we are good, but I didn’t think we would be bringing it home again so soon. Well lads, here’s to you, cheers” said Frank. After all the drink that could be consumed, and we couldn’t sing anymore and the floor was the safest place to be, it was still not enough celebrating, we were bringing home the Hamilton Shield. This was our Beatles roof top gig, this was our white Christmas, this was our walking on the moon. After a week of floating on air Frank brought us back to earth

“Right lads I have a few new tunes for you to learn, we need new material for next year, and now is the time to prepare for it.” Then he passed out the sheets. We all got our drums read and stood in a circle so Frank could see all of us.

“Ok lads, oh yes, but it is still a fantastic win for us” and he punched the air.

“Right one two” and the drums rolled into action.

 

Benny drove up to Julie’s house the engine of his Triumph purring very low when the engine stopped the road was now silent and empty. Julie came out of the house, as she reached him she said in a low voice,

“I’m late” Benny looked stunned for a second. Then he took her by the hand

“In that case love we should get married.”

“You’re proposing because I’m late for…” she stopped.

“Well we do love each other don’t we?” He asked.

“You want to get married because I’m late for band practice?” She smiled.

“No, no, you said you were late, you know, I thought you meant late, you know” He stuttered

“I am late, I’m late for practice Anyway we use protection don’t we, so I’m not late that way.

But yes I will marry you.” And she kissed him.

When they stopped outside the hall they could hear the band,

“The band sound pretty good even without you” Benny raised his elbow to protect his shoulder as she gave him a dig.

“By the way, you’re late for practice too” she said.

“We don’t have practice tonight” he answered.

“Oh yes you do, I saw Brian today, he asked if I was seeing you and if I would I tell you practice had been changed to tonight and not to be late…So your late.” Then she kissed him.

“Can I tell them inside we are engaged” she asked.

“Yes, of course you can, yes.” He answered then drove off.

When Benny entered the room, practice was started.

“I’m sorry I only got the message” he said getting his drum sorted.

“I thought you were meeting Julie at six” Frank asked.

“Yea but she told me she was late.”

“Oh shit, Benny you better marry the girl so.” Brian interrupted.

“That’s what I thought too when she said it to me but she meant band practice not the other late.” Benny answered.

“Well thank God for small mercies” Frank added.

“Oh ah, I proposed to her,” Benny said softly.

“Why” they asked together.

“Because she said she was late” Benny said shrugging his shoulders. All the lads laughed.

“You’re fucked” John said.

“Welcome to the I. F. A.” Barry said

“What’s the football association got to do with it” Benny asked.

“No, the I’m Fucked Association” Brian answered and they all laughed.

 

That night was wet and windy when the Benny went to unlock his bike.

“Benny are you coming over for a pint” Dave asked as he pulled his collar up to block out the wind

“No I’m going to meet Julie back at her place I think we better get things sorted now we are engaged” he answered.

“Right then lets know how it goes, see you the weekend” Dave said.

“Ok, see you Saturday in Humphrey’s” Then Benny drove off.

As he drove up through Ranelagh a car pulled out from the path, it had no lights on or gave no indication and knocked Benny off the bike. He tumbled and skidded along the ground when he stopped he didn’t move.

When Benny woke up he was in hospital, he looked around there was five other men in the ward with him. “What the fuck happened” he said to no one in particular. One of the other patients rang for a nurse.

The doctor came in to examine him.

“Ok Benny, I’m going to ask you a few questions and you answer as best you can.” At the end of the examination the doctor said “That went better than I expected, you have lost some feeling in your left leg, now over time that should come back”

“What do you mean should come back?” Benny interrupted.

“Your injuries have caused some swelling around your spine, we thought you might be totally paralyzed but my examination now shows some feeling in your right leg and that’s good. The next few months will be tough but we should have you back on your feet.” The doctor said

“So I’m going to be back to normal soon” Benny inquired.

“We’ll see how it goes, one step at a time.” The doctor answered.

“I play drums in a pipe band, I will still be able to play, wont I?” Benny pushed for an answer.

“I would have to say no, you will suffer with back pain, if you try carrying a drum for any length of time it will be painful, so you probably wouldn’t be able to march”.

That hit Benny like a brick wall, his drumming days were over.

The weeks in hospital dragged by but eventually he was able to get out of bed and go to the guest room in a wheelchair; at least he was able to get out of the ward.

One day the hospital ward was noisy so Benny got into the wheelchair and headed for the guest room, as he pushed himself down the corridor he saw Frank coming towards him.

“Well where are you trying to escape to.” Frank asked,.

“Going for a smoke come on, you can join me,” he answered. They sat there looking out over the golf course at the back of the hospital having a smoke and just making small talk. Finally Benny said “I can’t play the drums anymore.” This was something he found harder to deal with even more than his injuries.

“I find that hard to believe, I heard you injured your back not your hands.” Frank’s words surprised him.

“Yea but I can’t play in the band.” Benny’s eye’s started to water at the thought of this.

“You won’t be able to march or enter into competitions, but you are very talented, and the band still needs you. You know me; I don’t say anything I don’t mean.” Frank was looking directly at him.

“But what can I do?” Benny asked.

“I thought you would never ask.” Then Frank produced drum sticks and pad from a bad he was carrying.

“There play for me” he said, and handed Benny the sticks. It had been nearly six weeks since he held a pair of sticks. He put the pad on the table in front of him, he looked at the sticks, they felt good to hold again but inside he felt like his hands were shaking.

“Go on give it a bash” Frank tried to encourage him. Benny sat motionless the tip of the sticks resting on the pad. “I know it’s been a few weeks since you’ve played but it’s just like riding a bike” Frank said softly.

“Julie won’t like you calling her a bike” Benny said with a smile then he started

“Mam-my, da-dy mam- my da- dy” till he started a roll.

“I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor, but John won’t like knowing you have been taking his daughter for a ride….. See you can still play the drums, so when you’re out of here I’ll expect you at practice as usual, just make sure the nurses don’t take them off you, you can get in a bit of practice while you’re here.” Frank now had a big grin on his face. Benny got a sharp pain and dropped one of the sticks.

“Ok that’s fine for now. It will take time, but now you know you can play and you will be back in no time at all.” Frank picked up the sticks and put them in a bag.

“There now, just practice a little every day I’ll check in on you again soon.” Frank shook hands. Benny held on to it as if it was a life line, a tear even rolled down his cheek

“Benny you’re going to be fine you just get better, you know hospital food isn’t good for you, you need to get a decent meal into you. You need some good homemade dinners and you’ll be as right as rain Then Frank gave him a pack of cigarettes and left the hospital

 

When Benny got home he spent a lot of his time looking out the window, he would practice while he watched the days pass by. He broke up with Julie he wasn’t ready to have someone look after him. Now the only night he looked forward to was when Brian would collect him for band practice. Frank would come to see him from time to time encouraging him to get off his arse and use the crutches.

“You need to get some fresh air in your lungs” So the two of them would go for a short walk.

“I’m going to join Rathcoole they are a young band and I feel I’m being challenged again. It feels good to have something to achieve.” Frank said.

“Speaking of achievements I got a letter from Dave he is working on a building sight as a carpenter in Boston , he’s doing well for himself ” Benny gave Frank the letter to read.

“I didn’t know he was a carpenter.” Frank said surprised.

“No he wasn’t not when he left here, but he is a good bullshitter” Benny smiled.

“When did you see him last” Frank asked.

“I was in hospital that was the third time I had to go in to get more operations to try straighten things out That was about two years ago. But he writes often. Shit the years are flying by.” Benny said thoughtfully

“Ok I’ll be off, I’ll be in touch” Then Frank got on his bike and cycled off.

A few months later Frank got in touch.

“We are playing with the Chieftains would you like to join us.” Frank asked

“Of course, I’d love to be there…what do you mean we’re playing who’s we?” Benny asked.

“Rathcoole of course. Well I’ll get one of the lads to pick you up.”

Chapter 6

 

Frank organized a lift to take Benny to the studio. That was a long day but it was fantastic to play with the Chieftains.

They headed for a hotel nearby for a few beers and sandwiches at the end of the day. Paul helped Benny maneuver through the chairs and tables. As they waited for their drinks three attractive girls came up to the bar.

“Well girls it’s good to be alive and I’m feeling generous, would you like to join us for a drink.” Benny asked them. One of the girls looked the two lads up and down and without saying a word turned her back on them.

“Excuse me” Benny said and the girl turned around to look at him with a very condescending expression on her face.

“You stuck up bitch it’s not as if I asked you would you like a ride. I’m not sure if I like you that much.” He said.

“I wouldn’t be associated with anyone like you.” She answered.

“Hay, just because you wear something designed by Feliciano doesn’t make you any better than me.” Benny said. The girls turned away and sat at a table.

“I didn’t know you knew anything about clothes designers? Is there something you’re not telling me?” Paul asked.

“I don’t know anything about designers” Benny answered.

“Then who the fuck is Feliciano?” Paul asked.

“Jose Feliciano a blind guitar player, you’d want to be blind to put those fucking colour’s together” Benny said loud enough that the girls heard him. He raised his glass, but Sheila one of the pipers nearby nearly choked after hearing Benny.

“I see you haven’t lost your touch, still getting people to choke on their drinks.” Frank said as he joined the lads at the bar.

“We’re just going to have one here then head up to Ranelagh, finish off in Birchalls.” He said. That was another good session.

 

The years rolled past, Benny kept himself busy teaching drums three nights a week and at weekend’s he would join some friends in the Blue Light, he would even sit in on the drums at couple of sessions. “Benny we’re going down to Kilkenny for the week, will you join us?” Mark asked when the lads had taken a break.

“Love to. Ah, while your havin a smoke is it ok if Sean borrows a guitar”. Benny asked.

“Yes, help yourself.” Answered Mark then he went up to the bar.

“Right young man show them how talented you are, because when your sixteen they might let you play full time” Benny gave Sean a little nudge.

“Why do I have to wait four years? Sure Michel Jackson started around my age” Sean asked.

“Well for one thing you don’t have four other talented brothers. Now get up there and play” Benny sat at the drums, then counted in.

That sunny summer of 96, as Benny sat in the grounds of Kilkenny castle just listening to the pipe bands play, it brought back the memories of the competitions he had played in. He could still feel the tension in the air. He looked at the worried faces of the young players thinking would they be good enough, hoping not to let the band down, the nerves building up as their time came to play.

“How did I survive that?” Benny said to himself. Then he saw some familiar faces coming towards him.

“How’s it going?” Benny asked as Frank, John and Catherine were right beside him. For a few seconds they just looked at him.

“Shit; Benny when did you grow that? I didn’t recognize you for a minute.” Said John.

“The beard looks good.” Catherine said and she reached over to rub his face.

“Good to see you.” Frank said and shook hands with him.

After a few minutes, Frank asked. “Have you seen Dave since he came back? He is playing with us.” “I heard he’d come home but I haven’t seen him yet, we seem to keep missing each other.” Benny answered

“Well he is here today. I’ll tell you what, meet us in the pub across the road we are going in for a few before we head home and you can surprise him. We won’t tell him we‘ve seen you” Frank said then they went back to get ready, their turn was coming up soon.

Benny pushed open the door of the bar with one hand his other had his walking stick, he made his way to the lads at the counter

“How is it going?” He asked when he reached them.

“Benny how the fuck are you doing?” asked John.

“Jesus Christ, you’ve changed.” Dave said in a loud voice.

“Yea; got rid of the robe and the fucking crown of thorns but my dancing days are over.” Benny answered. Dave gave him a hug

“You blasphemous bastard, it’s good to see you, it’s been a long time.” He said.

“Only nine years, seven months, two weeks, five days and eighteen hours but who the fuck is counting.” Benny replied.

“Has it been that long?” Dave asked looking a bit surprised at Benny.

“Who the fuck knows? I’ve just always wanted to say that. I just never got the chance till now. And now you can buy me a drink, a nice cold lager thanks” said Benny.

“Hi, Benny do you want to come in and sit here” asked Sheila.

“No thanks, I still need a bit of wood at my back for support.” Benny answered with a grin on his face.  Benny and a couple of the lads were standing at the bar when a big tick culchie came in and in a loud voice said to the barman.

“I see there’s hah lot of skirt in here today Tom” He winked at the lads, still in their kilts.

“Well lads what’s the crack?” he asked with another wink.

“That would be the part of a woman that gets the brazilin.” Benny answered. This time John managed to swallow the mouth full of beer before bursting out laughing.

The culchie continued.

“Jesus I don’t think you would get many Brazilians around here?” He said sounding confused. Everyone tried not to laugh. The barman put the pint in front of the culchie

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that Pat. There are a few girls blushing over there, you might be closer to a brazilin than you think” he said. This time the bar burst into hysterics

The year’s rushed by, then Benny got news Frank was in hospital.

“This is my turn to help Frank” Benny thought to himself, but when he saw Frank, weak, pale, and sounding like it was a struggle just to breath he realized he was helpless. He tried to sound encouraging each time he visited but there seemed to be no improvement. After everything Frank had done for him through the years Benny couldn’t give anything back. Frank had always been like a farther figure to him, when he was down Frank managed to picked him up, when he was struggling Frank encouraged him, when he was feeling sorry for himself, Frank gave him a kick in the arse and told him to get up and do something, and now when Frank needed help there was nothing Benny could do, but pray.

Benny sat in the church his head down hiding the tears as they dripped on to his coat. The church was full, even in this small town Frank made a big impression. The priest spoke fondly of Frank, and then the band gathered on the altar. A quiet count in, then the drums burst into life then the pipes joined in.  An already packed church seemed to fill even more, as if the music opened the gates of heaven and all the souls and angles came to listen. This time the band played for a man they loved and the emotion could be felt in the music they made. It seemed to surround the church in a vale of wonder. This was a sound that could not be repeated, this was played with passion for a man that inspired and encouraged these young men and women to find the talent they had hidden inside, a talent Frank could see in each one of them. For such a sad occasion the music was very up lifting, it made you feel you were a part of something special, you felt like you were being raised up, a wonderful feeling of love but at the same time a sad feeling. Frank was no longer with us he was needed by God to complete His pipe band so we had to continue on without him. Frank had giving us everything he could, now it was our time to stand alone

This was Frank’s legacy he had given the lads ability to develop their talent, he had molded them so they were able to work as one, and they had shown their appreciation by producing this magic in the church. As they played Benny couldn’t stop the tears, they had lost a legend, a friend, a teacher, but still the band played on.

 

THE END

By Joe Keogh


© Copyright 2018 JoeKeogh. All rights reserved.

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