Seamus had always loved Ireland. He’d never lived anywhere else and never seen anything beyond that blue ocean, except on TV and in pictures. And he’d always thought the other places looked boring and lifeless. Not like the green hills that were his home, the hills and pubs and everything in between. As the years went there wasn’t much love left in his old, weary heart. And that mostly went to the fellas on the pub and the Guinness in his hand. Sometimes, not often, it went to his children. But they had their own lives to live, they didn’t fancy Ireland as he did and rarely came to visit him. He was lonely, Seamus, and he knew it. He wasn’t really that old but most of the time he felt like a hundred years. The bones in his body creaked and he didn’t have to search thoroughly to find strands of gray hair among the coal black. He was still pretty fit which was a good thing since it was not unusual to see him in the middle of a pub brawl.
He didn’t have any siblings but his mother was still up and about, she lived in Bantry whereas he lived in Dublin. Only 16 she had been when she had him. His father, Seamus found out at thirteen, had been American and seven years older than his mother. Seamus didn’t like his father. In fact, he believed to hate him. How could he have any sort of warm feeling for a man who, when he found out he’d made a 16 year old girl with child, ran? Like a scared, little rabbit. Seamus despised his father but Aislinn had still done a good job, raising and caring for the boy on her own. And he had grown up to be a good man, a responsible man, a good father and he’d been happy, until his wife decided to divorce him and run of with some American. Americans were bastards, all of them.
This is only a small part of his story.
It was a late summer night when Seamus stumbled out of the pub. Half his drink ended up on the pavement. The other half he drank. The glass shattered when it also met the pavement. His head was spinning and he could barely stand straight and he stopped for a moment, deep in thought. He could barely remember his own name so how was he supposed to remember the way home? He decided to go left and along the road he went. It wasn’t long before he saw his small house. He walked inside, up the stairs, to his bedroom, laid down on the bed and fell asleep.
When he woke up the sun was shining brightly. And as he cursed himself for forgetting to pull down the blinds he noticed there were no blinds. No blinds, no window, no ceiling over his head, no pillow under his head, no walls. The sun stood high up on the sky. Under him was not his soft bed but a park bench. He was in the public park and not at home in his bed. He sighed and sat up. His head felt like someone had just used it to play basketball and he felt stiff all over.
“I could’ve skipped a few drinks.” He mumbled to himself.
“Hi. Mommy says I can’t talk to strangers but you don’t look very strange, can I talk to you?”
Seamus jumped of surprise. He had not seen the little girl standing before him and she almost gave him a heart attack. She was dressed in pink from head to toe. She had long blond hair and blue eyes, he guessed that she was about 6 years old.
“My name is Alianne but you can call me Ally. Why do you talk so funny?”
“Because.” Seamus said grumpily, he could clearly hear the girl’s British accent. He had a headache and he didn’t like British people.
“What’s your name? Why are you sleeping on a bench?”
“So many questions, and I am not sleepin’.” His headache was getting worse. All he wanted to do was lie in his bed at home and take a nap.
“I’m hungry. Do you have anything to eat?” The girl called Ally continued.
“I don’t. Now go mind ye own business.”
Seamus stood up and walked slowly back to the pub. The lass has reminded him of breakfast. The pub was mostly empty except for two people sitting at the bar and one small family at a nearby table. He sat down at the bar.
“Back already? Did ya sleep good? Or was it uncomfortable?” Brian said with a big grin on his face.
“Keep ya mouth shut, you bloody bastard. And give me somethin’ for this headache.”
Brian who was not only a bartender at the pub but also the one owner, poured whiskey in a glass and gave it to Seamus. He took a big gulp and as soon as he did it he regretted it.
“What kind of shit is this you’ve given me?!”
“That is a new Scottish brand it is. Not to your fancy, huh? ”
“Give me somethin’ real. Somethin’ Irish! Or I’ll throw the next in your ugly face. ” Seamus demanded.
Brian chuckled softly and poured some of his finest Irish whiskey in another glass. It was also his most expensive but a man wants what he wants, and Brian didn’t pour it with a bad conscience either because knew with most certainty that Seamus had funds to pay for it.
“Ahh, this is what I am talkin’ about. This is really somethin’. ” Seamus took another gulp and enjoyed his drink.
“What are you talking about? What is ‘something’?”
Seamus jumped of surprise a second time that morning when he heard the same voice as before. Unfortunately he held the glass in his hand and the whiskey spilled over, he didn’t manage to keep it all from reaching his clothes.
“Damnú air! Go hIfreann leat! Go mbeire an diabhal leis thú!” He yelled and received disapproving faces from the parents at the nearby table.
“Quiet, Seamus. There are children around.” Brian said to Seamus then he turned to Ally, “Don’t mind Seamus here. He is a bit cranky. What’s your name? And what may a fine lady like you be doin’ in a place like mine?”
“My name is Alianne. I’m hungry. Do you have any free peanuts, maybe?”
Ally melted Brian’s heart right away.
“Aye, we do. But I’ll see if we can find something more satisfying in the kitchen.”
Brian yelled in a langue Ally could not understand in the direction of the kitchen. A few minutes later a woman came out with a plate.
“Pancakes! Oh, you’re so kind, Mr.” Ally said.
Brian smiled, “Brian, just Brian, and it’s my pleasure, lass.”
A half hour later, Seamus left the pub a little less grumpy and with a full stomach. Not soon after him came Ally, her pink dress flowing in the light breeze.
“Why be you followin’ me all the time? Your mother and father, where might they be when you’re walking alone?” Seamus tried not sound annoyed, although he was. He failed miserably but luckily she did not seem to notice.
“I don’t know where they are. I turned around they were gone.” For the first time Ally sounded anything but happy and careless. She sounded sad. “But I’m not walking alone, I’m walking with you.” Her face brightened.
“Lost you parents? When? Where?” Seamus felt sorry for the girl and obligated to do something.
Ally didn’t answer. So he took her hand and they walked slowly forward with the warmth of the sun at their backs.
Ally looked around the living room and found it quite pleasant despite the fact that she was only 6 years old and wanted everything to be pink and purple. It was a small living room, in fact the whole house was quite small. It held much antique furniture. And the leather sofa on which Ally was sitting in had a faded brown color and was poorly taken care of. It was surprisingly clean for the home of a drunk. Everything felt old. The TV was of an older model and there was a bookshelf full with books that had been read many times over and over.
From where she was sitting, something caught Ally’s eye. She walked over and removed the book from the shelf. It had a majestic dragon on the cover and Celtic symbols surrounded it. Ally thought it looked really pretty, it was called “Fairytales: From the Green Hills to Beyond” by Seamus O’Donnell. She opened the first page,
To my wonderful children Devyn, Aiden and Cathleen, this is for you. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
Seamus had left her alone for a while and came now back with a glass of lemonade. When he saw Ally holding the book a feeling of great sadness washed over him.
“Who is Sea-mus O’Do-nn-ell?” She pronounced each syllable slowly.
“An old drunk with as much life in him as the carpet under your feet.”
“What is it about?”
“It’s stories and old legends.”
“Can you read it to me?” Ally pleaded.
“I can but I won’t.”
“Please Uncle Shay!”
“No.” Seamus said firmly, but softened his voice, “Maybe another time.”
Seamus put his hand on Ally’s shoulder and squeezed lightly.
It had been a long day. Ally’s memory wasn’t the best and when they finally found her parents hotel, they weren’t there. Seamus and Ally planned to visit their hotel again in the morning though. Now, it was time for sleep.
Seamus woke earlier than usual the next morning, probably because he had not stayed up late drinking. He got dressed quietly to not wake Ally. But when he walked into the living room he saw that she was sitting with the book in her lap, turning the pages and looking at the pictures. He couldn’t help the smile that crept upon his face. He went into the kitchen to make coffee and got an idea.
Fifteen minutes later he set the table with plates of pancakes, bacon and scrambled eggs.
“Ally,” Seamus stood in the doorway to the living room, “I made breakfast. Are you hungry?”
“Oh, yes, Uncle Shay!” Ally said excitedly, her stomach was growling loudly.
They had a great time eating the breakfast. Ally even managed to get a laugh or to from Seamus. Just as they finished and cleared the table there was a knock on the door. Ally walked to the living room to look in the book again and Seamus opened the door. There stood two strangers outside. He could see right away that they were Ally’s parents. The woman’s blond hair and blue eyes were the exact color of Ally’s. Even though Ally’s features mostly resembled her fathers it was more alike her mothers. There was a softness that couldn’t be found on him but very much on her. Although her face was now stained with worry there was still that kindness and softness.
“Hello, we are looking for Mr. O’Donnell.” Ally’s mother said carefully with the same British accent as Ally.
“Aye. That’d be me. You must be the Ally’s parents.”
“Oh! So she is here?” She sounded relieved, “We heard you had been at our hotel looking for us, while we were looking for her ourselves.”
“Do you want to come in?” Seamus felt reluctant to let even more people inside his home. But what could he do?
As soon as they stepped inside Ally’s mother caught sight of Ally in the couch with the big book in her lap. She ran to her daughter, lifted her up in the air and hugged her. There were visible tears in both the mother’s and daughter’s eyes.
“I have been so worried! I am never going to let you out of my sight again.” The mother said her voice breaking. Then she turned to Seamus, “How could I ever thank you for taking care of my little girl.”
“No need to ma’am.”
Unlike her mother Ally’s father didn’t seem particularly relieved. He just seemed annoyed and like he wanted to get the hell out of the place. Seamus couldn’t agree more to see the man leave. The man made him feel uneasy. He had an expensive suit on him, his dark hair was pulled back with a tremendous amount of hair wax, and he looked like a snob. He had a very unpleasant feeling around him. He hadn’t even spoken yet, but Seamus doubted that he would like him better if he did.
Ally’s and her mother’s embrace had stopped and they both walked toward Seamus hand in hand.
“We have not been properly introduced. I’m Anna Williams and my husband over there is Robert Williams.” Anna nodded her head at Robert then held her hand out to Seamus. They shook hands and she continued, “I would love to stay and talk for a bit but our plane home is leaving in an hour. And I must thank you again for finding my girl and making sure she came to no harm.” Anna smiled.
“Tis fine. I’m only glad I could help. Besides it was the other way around, she was the one who found me.”
Ally hugged Seamus with all her heart and said, “I’m going to miss you, Uncle Shay, so much. Thank you for taking care of me.”
He looked at her tear-stained face, squeezed her awkwardly and let her go. He picked up his book from the floor, where it had fallen, the storybook he had written twenty-five years ago. He walked back to Ally and kneeled down so they were the same height.
“I want you to have this from me.”
Seamus would never admit it, to himself or anyone else, but he was sad to see the girl go. And he had felt a strange pain in his chest when he had seen her leave.
Brian stood at the bar. He was chatting with a regular customer and poured a glass of whiskey for himself, his shift ended in fifteen ten minutes. Just as Seamus walked through the door. He walked right to them and sat down. Brian noticed a different look on Seamus face but he couldn’t quite place it. And he was surprised when Seamus took the glass right out of his and drank it all. He didn’t seem to notice it was of the new Scottish brand.
“Give me another one.” Seamus said with a strange tone to his voice.
Brian poured some more into the glass. And when Seamus again drank it up in one big gulp, he knew. He knew it was going to be a bad night.
Sanna Landström 3 June 2013
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