They wanted a short story. They got a short story. They wanted twee and unthreatening. I gave them twee and unthreatening. They proffered ten grand. Another piece won it.
Careful scribe that I am, I dared not publish a word of it before the winner was announced. I allowed myself fanciful thoughts of some monetary idyll, a trip to New York on the proceeds, but it turns out I didn't mention the product enough.
It may as well do something, so here it is. Be kind or be quiet.
= = =
"Come here," he said. "Come here 'til I talk to you for a minute. I've wise words to impart."
There was no shorthand in my grandfather's language.
"Do you see this seat?" he asked me. I saw the seat.
"I've sat here for 56 years, with my father, your father, your grandmother, even your mother from time to time and I haven't been able to reason a better seat in a better pub in Ireland. Your father had his first pint with me here, where you're sitting, and I was with him whenever he fell off it."
I couldn't imagine my father falling from a chair. He wasn’t a man for toppling
"We've set the world to rights over and over again and he's the better man for it. Remember this: Never worry. Worrying never solved a problem. Tough times always come without a warning and as long as you sit and take a drop with the people that love you, you won't go far wrong.
"You’ll lose jobs, you’ll get them again. You’ll think you’ll have fallen in love, maybe eight or nine times, before you find someone who thinks you’re an eejit and stays with you anyway. You’ll have governments try to take the arse from under you and then they’ll do it again for good measure.
"Those who practice jealousy as a hobby will run you down and never think twice about it, but the simple truth of it is this: Be in good company. The only thing in life that matters is other people, good people, surround yourself with them. Those boys up there…"
He pointed to the three lads, hovering over a single pint and two soft drinks, bought as decoy.
"…those are good boys. Stick with them. Hold no truck with those other boughsies up the road. You’ll be here with your lads long after I’m gone, to keep each other straight."
I was waiting for the 'one more thing.'
"One more thing. Tell Jim you’re getting your grandfather a Powers."
I hadn't spoken a single word to him but that was often the way of it. I just got him his drink, sat back down and hid his words away for later.
Later turned into now, later is fifteen years since that night and fourteen since he died, head bowed at his Irish Times in my grandmother’s bed. I sit with my father at his father’s seat, take in the three half supped pints at the bar, and we raise and tip our spirits "to himself."
"Come on," says my da. "Lads!" he calls the three boys. "This day won’t marry itself. She’ll be pulling up soon."