Friday, August 1, 2008

Looking for Seamus

I wrote this several years ago in an attempt to encapsulate the adventure that asking for directions can be in rural Ireland. It is a conflation of several different episodes and as such represents a writer's liberties taken in pursuit of a "higher truth.".

The picture really has nothing to do with the story. It's a portrait of Sean Pheats Tom, a friend who has since passed to his reward. He never read this tale or even heard it, but he would have recognized it very well. (Sean Pheats Tom-- He was Sean, his father was Padraig, his grandfather was Thomas.)

“Excuse me, sir. Could you point me in the right direction for Killalee?”

“Killalee is it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Umm. Killalee. [pause] Killalee, indeed. [pause] And is it someone in particular you’d be seekin’in Killalee?”

“Yes, I’m looking for Seamus O Hanlon.”

“Seamus O Hanlon. Seamus is it? I know them well, the O Hanlons. [pause] Would it be old Seamus or young Seamus that you’re lookin’ for?”

“Young Seamus, I believe.”

“Ah. [pause] Seamus Og is it? That’s good, as old Seamus has been dead these many years now.”

“I see.”

“The O Hanlons aren’t from Killalee, you see. [pause] They’re Macreemor people. [pause] Have you been there? Macreemor?”

“No. I haven’t.”

“Seamus O Hanlon. [pause] All right, then. [pause] You go up here to a grove on your right. Used to be Biddie Toohey’s orchard. Good apples came from there they did. Not as good as O Reilly’s, but O Reilly’s is a good bit farther on it is. Just past the Biddie’s orchard, you make a left and go on a good bit ‘til you come to St Anthony’s church. Father Mulcahy has just retired and there’s a new priest straight from Maynooth due next week. Go past the cemetery there and take the first or second bohareen to the left. The second I think, but it could be the first. That’ll take you to the cross at the pub. Stop in there if you’ve a mind and look at the horse tack on the wall behind the bar. Grand stuff it is. The big silver-mounted hame belonged to the Malone now dead may God save his soul. Did you know him, the Malone?”

“No. I’m not from around here at all.”

“You’re not, of course. Just past the pub there’s a laneway that goes up the hill. Best to park at the pub and walk as it could be very wet. The O Hanlon place is just over the hill.A little track cuts off to the west halfway up and leads to the old O Connor cottage. But you’re not going there at all. The O Hanlon homeplace is just along a little further and in to the right at the spring.”

“Well, thank you very much. May I tell Seamus the name of the man who directed me to him?”

“You can, of course. I’m Sean Dorgan. 

“Nice to meet you, Sean. And thanks again. I’ll be going along now.”

“But you won't be finding Seamus there at that place at all.”

“No? But I thought…”

“Not at all. That’s the old O Hanlon place. Where Seamus the elder used to live when he was a boy. Not stone on stone will you be finding there now, not a bit of it you will not.”


“It’s where the O Hanlons are from. Where they should be. [pause] Not at Killalee.”

“But it’s Killalee I’m trying to get to, Mr. Dorgan. I understand that Seamus lives there now.”

“Ah, yes. Killalee then. You're standing in it, you are. And that’s Seamus Og’s house just across the road here, and himself there changing a tire on his car.”

1 comment:

Jason Plett said...

Wow, great story, very well written.