Donal Mahoney: The Deli on Granville

Patsy Foley Was Roly-Poly in 1947

 

It may have been the devil himself who prompted the kids in my schoolyard back in 1947 to chant “Patsy Foley’s roly-poly from eating too much ravioli.”

At first, no one could remember who started the chant. Patsy, a sweet and ample child, was in the third grade. As happenstance would have it, I was in that same third grade, infamous already as the only boy wearing spectacles in our class. After I got the glasses, I had three schoolyard fights in three days to prove to Larry Moore, Billy Gallagher and Fred Ham that I hadn’t changed a bit. You would think I would have forgotten their names by now. Not a chance. I didn’t like being messed with in third grade.

Since the chant would often begin and gather volume during recess, the nuns who ran the school eventually heard it and did their best to put a stop to it. This was a time when nuns, God bless them, were empowered by parents to swat the butts of little miscreants if any of them interrupted the educational process. Despite their voluminous habits, the nuns were adept at administering discipline, let me tell you, as my butt, on more than one occasion, could attest.

Now, 65 years later, when the chant pops into my mind, I begin to wonder what prompted me to say it. Early on, I certainly loved to hear the sound of words bouncing off each other–as if words were pool balls scattered by a cue. Later on I would use words to earn a living. They were the only tools I was any good with.

As I remember it now, the chant started one day after a school practice in church involving Gregorian chant. Some of the other kids later alleged that they had heard me, of all people, on the way back to class, chanting “Patsy Foley’s roly-poly from eating too much ravioli.”

I probably had some idea of the problem my chant might cause. But I loved the sound of it too much to stop.

If Dick Clark had been on American Bandstand back in 1947, he might have said the chant had “a nice beat” to it, but kids weren’t dancing much in 1947. World War II had just ended and school was a serious matter. Even kids who didn’t like books usually tried their best.

Since I was only in third grade, one might think that I might have had some emotional or mental problem that caused me to chant that phrase over and over. That could be. If a child did something like that today, he or she might be examined for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Maybe I had something like that. But in my mind the reason I chanted about Patsy Foley is that I liked the sound. It didn’t hurt that my father was always saying things at home that had a bit of a turn to them. I remember how I used to enjoy the cadence of what he said and repeating it when he wasn’t around. He used words differently than other fathers in the neighborhood and he delivered them in a melodic Irish brogue.

My mother, who was bereft of verbal rhythm, would sometimes ask my father a serious question when he was fresh home from a hard day’s work, climbing alley poles as an electrician. Usually her question would pertain to some family matter that she had been fretting about all day. And my father, sitting on a chair in our little kitchen while stripping off his gear, might say in response, “And what would Mary Supple say to that?”

It’s a shame that over the years my mother, sister and I never found out who Mary Supple was because her name was frequently invoked. Nor did we ever find out who John Godley was, either, even though my father would sometimes substitute John Godley for Mary Supple in that same response. He never said these things in anger, although he did have a terrific temper. He could erupt at any time and you didn’t want to get in the way of the lava.

At other times, when my father was asked a question by my mother at an inconvenient time, he might look her in the eye and say, “Ten thousand Swedes ran through the weeds chased by one Norwegian,” a line that did not originate with him but was one that he repeated with a special flair. The words certainly sounded good to me, whatever they meant. We didn’t know any Swedes or Norwegians and had no idea if there might be some conflict going on between them. True, World War II had just ended but we didn’t think the Swedes and Norwegians had been actively involved.

Sometimes my mother on a Sunday morning would ask my father if he was going to get dressed for church. He might have been taking a sip of his fifth cup of tea at the time. He wouldn’t get angry but he sometimes would lean back and sonorously intone one of the many Burma Shave billboard slogans that dotted highways in that era: “Whiskers tough old Adam had ’em. Does your husband have whiskers like Adam, Madam?” I liked the sound of that slogan as well. Today, it still pops into my mind during arid moments. And as my wife will attest, she has heard it frequently over the years.

I think it’s pretty easy to see, then, why I, as a third-grader, instead of concentrating on multiplication and division, preferred to chant “Patsy Foley’s roly-poly from eating too much ravioli.” I am glad, however, that the nuns took it upon themselves to discipline me and did not call my parents instead. After all, my father was paying tuition to send me to that fine school to get a good education. He did not send me there to engage in tom-foolery, a pursuit that he, of course, would have known nothing about even if his legacy among relatives said otherwise.

Besides, in my mind, no nun, no matter how mountainous she may have been, was a match for my father. He had been a boxer after he had emigrated to America from Ireland, a relocation occasioned by the British army after they had imprisoned him as a young man for activities in the Irish Republican Army. My mother said he loved boxing and had won eight straight matches before “some big black guy” broke his nose. After that, he never boxed again, she said, because he “didn’t want to lose his good looks.” He was a handsome man indeed, despite a nose that looked as though at any moment it might call geese to fly lower.

Years later, some neighbor ladies at a block party made some nice comments to my mother about my father’s appearance. When she came home, she told my sister what they had said and forewarned her that “handsome is as handsome does.” In many ways, that’s quite true, even though that line didn’t originate with my mother. Come to think of it, though, I like the sound of that line as well and might have chanted it more than once had I heard it in third grade.

 

 

The Deli On Granville

 

I lived in the attic back then,
and late those evenings I had to study
and couldn’t afford to go drinking
I’d run down to the deli and buy

bagels and smoked lox.
I’d watch the lame son
wrap each item in white paper
while his father, coughing at the register,

pointed to the cans on the wall
and screamed, “Serve yourself! Serve yourself!”
I’d grab a tin of baked beans and he’d smile.
Now, years later, I return to the deli

and find that it’s closed.
The sign on the door confirms
what everyone else already knows:
There has been a death in the family.

 

— by Donal Mahoney

 

Copyright© 2013, by Donal Mahoney. All Rights Reserved.

 

Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an edi­tor for The Chicago Sun-​​Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. He has had poetry and fic­tion pub­lished in var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html

 

 

Donal Mahoney: Paddy Murphy’s Wake

Paddy Murphy’s Wake

 

The priest had been there earlier and the rosary was said and relatives and friends in single file were offering condolences. “Sorry for your troubles,” one by one they said, bending over Maggie Murphy, the widow silent in her rocker, a foot or so from Paddy, resplendent in his casket, the two of them much closer now than they had ever been.

A silent guest of honor, Paddy now had nothing more to say, waked in aspic, if you will, in front of his gothic fireplace.

The moon was full this starless night and the hour was getting late and still the widow hadn’t wept. Her eyes were swept Saharas and the mourners wanted tears. They had fields to plow come morning and they needed sleep, but the custom in County Kerry was that no one leaves a wake until the widow weeps.

Fair Maggie could have married any man in Kerry, according to her mother, who almost every day reminded her of that.

“Maggie,” she would say, “you should have married Mickey. His limp was not that bad,” but Maggie wouldn’t listen. Instead, she married Paddy, “that pestilence out walking,” as her mother often called him even on a Sunday but only after Mass.

Maggie married Paddy the day he scored the only goal the year that Kerry took the trophy back from Galway. That goal was no small thing for Ireland, Paddy would remind us all in pubs, night after night, year after year, until one of us would gag and buy him another drink.

That goal, he’d shout, was something historians in Ireland would one day note, even if they hadn’t yet, and every time he’d mention it, which was almost daily, Maggie’s mother would remind her daughter once again that she should have married Mickey and had a better life.

The final time her mother praised poor Mickey, a screaming match ensued, so loud it woke the rooster the very day her mother, feverish in bed, gurgled like a frog and died.

This evening, though, as the wake wore on, the mourners grew more weary waiting for the tears the widow hadn’t shed. Restless in his folding chair, Mickey put his bottle down and rose to give the eulogy he had needed days to memorize.

“Folks,” he said, “if all of us would holler down to Paddy now, I’m sure he’d holler back. Despite the flames and all that smoke, he’d tell us all once more that Kerry winning over Galway is all that ever mattered. We’ll always have cold Paddy over there to thank for that. Ireland never had a better man. St. Patrick himself, I know, would vouch for that.”

The Widow Murphy hadn’t moved all evening, but after hearing Mickey speak, she began to rock with fury as she raised a purple fist, shook it to the heavens and then began to hum her favorite dirge. The mourners all joined in and hummed along until midnight struck on the mantel clock and then, as if released by God Himself, the mourners rose, one by one, from folding chairs and paraded out beneath the moon, freed by a hurricane of the Widow Murphy’s tears.

 

Donal Mahoney

 

Copyright © 2013, by Donal Mahoney. All Rights Reserved.

 

Charles Tarlton: The New Hire

THE NEW HIRE

 

This would be Hampton Davie’s third academic job in as many hard years since he’d got his Ph.D. in poetry at Winston. He started out prestigiously enough, teaching the introduction to American poetry and a seminar on Wallace Stevens at Bisby University, but that had not worked out. He’d quickly got another position, a little farther down the rankings, at Rolling Rock, but that, too, had dissolved in his hands. Now, he was at Button College, determined to hold on.
 
He had always loved the campus at Winston, with its old period stone buildings and the ivy on the walls. Even Bisby had evolved through various architectural trends, colonial with columns in one part, Victorian towers in another. Button was a different story. A new community college, the buildings were all the same – square, flat, stucco, and efficient.
   
The custodian had shown him his office that was on the fifth floor of what he had at first thought was a parking garage. He had come in over the weekend to unpack the few books he now travelled with and to arrange the gray metal and plastic furniture to look as much like a professor’s office as he could.
 
Standing there now, in the middle of the windowless room, just before his first Monday class, he swallowed down a bilious reflex and looked at his lecture notes in their tidy manila folder.
   
As he put the file in his briefcase, he thought back to that horrible morning in the big lecture hall at Bisby. He watched himself walk out onto the stage where a simple lectern with a microphone faced the audience of 300 chattering undergraduates. He opened the folder and stared at the first page of notes; they blurred, he adjusted his glasses, and looked up over the notes at the sea (literally a sea, he remembered, despite the cliché) of faces.
   
“Anne Bradstreet,” he read, leaning forward to get his mouth closer to the microphone, “was the first poet to be published in North America.”
 
The chatter in the auditorium continued, and he realized the microphone was not turned on. He clicked the little switch and heard a loud hiss, then a horn sound, and, finally, a bang that reverberated around the hall. Everyone looked up at him.
 
He leaned forward to repeat his opener, but he got only as far as the word “first,” when his teeth and tongue and lips failed him. He strained, but all that would come out was a rough stutter – f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f – and then nothing, as his breath ran out. He swallowed and took a breath and tried again, leaning into the microphone.
   
“Anne Bradstreet,” he said, “was the f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f,” and nothing more.
   
As he thought back now, he wondered whether someone hadn’t turned the brightest of the stage lights directly on him. The students were silent and tense (he could feel them ravenously tugging at his shirt, pulling his hair). He leaned toward the microphone again, rigid and desperate, but his mouth and throat would not even form the breathy stutter.
 
Silence fell to the floor and oozed away from him as if he had wet himself, but then a twitter of laughter started in one corner and spread throughout the hall. He waited for what felt like a long time but was really only a few humiliating seconds, and then he picked up his folder, kept his eyes in front, and walked off into the wings.
   
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Donal Mahoney: Behind the Barn With Carol Ann

Behind the Barn with Carol Ann
 
 
Back in 1957, kissing Carol Ann behind the barn in the middle of a windswept field of Goldenrod with a sudden deer watching was something special, let me tell you. Back then, bobby sox and big barrettes and ponytails were everywhere.
 
Like many farmers, Carol Ann’s father had a console radio in the living room, and every Saturday night the family would gather ‘round with bowls of ice cream and listen to The Grand Ole Opry. It was beamed “all the way” from Nashville I was told more than once since I was from Chicago and sometimes wore a tie so how could I know.
 
On my first visit, I asked Carol Ann if the Grand Ole Opry was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of country music and she said not to say that to her father. She suggested I just tap my foot to the music and let him watch me. Otherwise, I’d best be quiet and say “Yup,” “Nope” or “Maybe” if asked any questions which she didn’t think would happen. No need to say much more, she said, and after a few visits, I understood why.
 
Over time, I learned to tap my foot pretty good to the music because when I’d come to visit, her father would insist I have a bowl of ice cream with the family. I liked the ice cream but not so much the Grand Ole Opry. I’d been weaned on Sinatra in the city. Big difference, let me tell you.
 
But back in 1957 kissing Carol Ann behind the barn was something special since we couldn’t do much more until I found employment. Only then, her father said, could we get married. I found no jobs in town, however, for a bespectacled man with degrees in English.
 
Still, I always found the weekend drives from Chicago worth the gas my Rambler drank because kissing Carol Ann brought a bit of heaven down behind that barn, especially on summer nights when fireflies were the only stars we saw when our eyes popped open. It was like the Fourth of July with tiny sparklers twinkling everywhere.
 
Now, 55 years later, Carol Ann sometimes mentions fireflies at dusk as we dance behind the cows to coax them into the barn for the night. I’m still not too good with cows despite my John Deere cap, plaid shirt and overalls which proves, she says, that all that kissing behind the barn in 1957 took the boy out of the city but not the city out of the boy.
 
“Hee Haw” is all I ever say in response because I know why I’m there. It’s to keep tapping the cows on the rump till we get them back in the barn so we can go back in the house and start with a kiss and later on come back downstairs for two big bowls of ice cream.

 

 
Donal Mahoney

 

Copyright ©2013, by Donal Mahoney. All Rights Reserved.

—————————
Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. He has had poetry and fiction published in various publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html

 

 

Donal Mahoney: It’s Almost Sunday Morning

      It’s Almost Sunday Morning

         In the summer of 1956, any Saturday at midnight, especially when the moon was out and the stars were bright, you would be able to see Grandma Groth sitting on her front-porch swing waiting for her son, Clarence, a bachelor at 53, to make it home from the Blind Man’s Pub. He would have spent another evening quaffing steins of Heineken’s.

         Many times that summer before I went away to college, I’d be strolling home at midnight from another pub, just steps behind staggering Clarence. But unlike Clarence, I’d be sober so I’d always let him walk ahead of me and I’d listen to him hum “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” Sometimes, very quietly, I’d join in. I don’t think he ever heard me.

         However, on the last Saturday night that Clarence and I came down the street in our odd tandem, I didn’t see Grandma on her swing even though the stars were out and the moon was full. For some odd reason, on this particular night, she wasn’t waiting to berate him.

         So far so good, I thought, for Clarence. He won’t have to listen to Grandma give him hell. But then, not far from his house, and without warning, he toppled into Mrs. Murphy’s hedge. It was like watching a sack of flour fall, in slow motion, off a truck.

         When I finally got him up, I managed to maneuver Clarence slowly down the sidewalk toward his house. He didn’t make a sound but it wasn’t easy moving a man that big who was essentially asleep on his feet.

         Somehow I got him through his back door only to encounter Grandma, a wraith in a hazy nightgown, standing in the hallway, screaming. She began thrashing Clarence with her broom, pausing only for a moment to tell me,

         “Go home to your mother now so you won’t be late for Mass. It’s almost Sunday morning!”

         After that, she resumed thrashing Clarence. He never made a sound, just took the blows across his back, head bowed, without moving. But Clarence was a man who said very little even when he was sober.

         After that sad night in 1956, I never saw Clarence again, either marching to work in the morning, his lunch pail gallantly swinging, or staggering home at midnight from the Blind Man’s Pub.

         But many a midnight after that, years later, I’d be coming home from the other pub and I’d see Grandma reigning on her front porch swing, broom in hand, waiting. Maybe Clarence was coming, I thought. But if he was, I never saw him.

         I remember coming home from college every summer and asking the neighbors if they had seen Clarence. Not a sign of him, they said. But on a Saturday night when the moon was out, they’d still see Grandma, on her swing, waiting.

         Now, so many decades later, as I stroll home at midnight, after an evening at the Blind Man’s Pub, I can see the moon is as big as it was the last night I saw Clarence.

         Suddenly I realize I’m older now than Clarence was the night he disappeared. And even though Grandma’s been dead for many years, I can see her in the starlight. She’s sitting regally on that swing, broom in hand, waiting. So for old time’s sake, I give her a big wave, hoping to hear her say, just one more time,

         “Go home to your mother now so you won’t be late for Mass. It’s almost Sunday morning!”
        
        
        
— by Donal Mahoney

Copyright© 2013, by Donal Mahoney. All Rights Reserved.

—————————
Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. He has had poetry and fiction published in various publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html

  

 

 

Donal Mahoney: Mike Fitzgibbons and His Morning Paper

Mike Fitzgibbons and His Morning Paper

 

For 35 years, Mike Fitzgibbons had never missed a day driving off at 4 a.m. to buy the newspaper at his local convenience store. Snow, sleet, hail or rain couldn’t stop him. There was only one paper being published in St. Louis at the time but Mike was addicted to newspapers. He had spent his early years reading four papers a day in Chicago–two in the morning and two in the evening. He worked for one of them and enjoyed every minute of it. However, an opportunity to earn more money as an editor for a defense contractor required his large family’s relocation to St. Louis. Mike needed more money to feed a wife and seven children.

“Words are words,” Mike said at the time. “Being paid more money to arrange words for someone else seems like the right thing to do.”

Writing and editing were the two things in life Mike could do well enough to draw a salary. It broke his heart to retire many years later at the age of 68 but it seemed like the best thing to do. His doctor had told him he might have early Alzheimer’s disease and that he should prepare for the future since the disease would only grow worse. Mike never told his wife or any of the children about the problem. His wife was the excitable type, and all of the children had grown up and moved away, many of them back to Chicago where all of them had been born. Each of them had acquired a college degree or two and had found a good job. Most of them were married. Mike and his wife now had 12 grandchildren and were looking forward to more.

“You can never have too many heirs,” he told his wife one time. “Whatever we leave, it will give them something to argue about after we’re gone. They won’t forget us.”

After the doctor had mentioned the strong possibility that he had Alzheimer’s disease, Mike decided to have the daily paper delivered to the house instead of driving to the store every morning to buy one. And on most days that seemed like a good decision. But not on the infrequent days when the deliveryman soared by Mike’s house without tossing a paper on the lawn.

The first time it happened Mike called the circulation department and received a credit on his bill. He did the same thing the second time, managing to keep his temper under control. But the third time occurred on the morning after the Super Bowl. For Mike this was the last straw. Three times he told the kind old lady in the circulation department to tell the driver Mike was from Chicago originally and in that fine city errors of this magnitude did not go unanswered. A credit on Mike’s bill, while necessary, would not suffice.

When his wife Dolly got up, he asked her, “How the hell can I check the stats on the game without my newspaper?” She was only half awake. Mike was a very early riser and Dolly, according to Mike, was a “sack hound.”

A kind woman, Dolly had always tried to be helpful throughout the many years of their marriage, so Mike understood why she eventually suggested he drive to the QuikTrip and buy a paper. Then he could read about the game and check the stats, she said.

“That’s not the point, Dolly,” Mike said. “I have a verbal contract with that paper for delivery and they are not keeping their side of the bargain. A credit on my bill is not adequate recompense.” Mike loved the sound of that last sentence as it rolled off his tongue. He always loved the sound of words whether they were floating in the air alone or jailed in a sentence or paragraph.

What made matters worse, Mike told Dolly, is that without his newspaper he would have no way to check on the obituaries of the day. The obituaries were Mike’s favorite part of the paper. Back in his old ethnic neighborhood in Chicago, the obituaries were known as the Irishman’s Racing Form.

Back then, many retired Irish immigrants would spend the day reviewing the obituaries in the city’s four different newspapers. Finding a good obituary primed them for conversation at the local tap after supper. The tap was run by the legendary Rosie McCarthy, a humongous widow who did not suffer any nonsense in her establishment. But she did offer free hard-boiled eggs to customers who ordered at least three foaming steins of Guinness. Eggs were cheap in those days. It was rumored that Rosie had to buy 10 dozen eggs a week just to keep her customers happy.

“Rosie knows how to hard boil an egg, Dolly,” Mike had told his wife many times over the years. And his wife always wondered what secret Rosie could possibly have when it came to boiling eggs.

One reason the obituaries were of such great interest in Mike’s old neighborhood involved the retirees wanting to see if any of their old bosses had finally died. Some of those bosses had been nasty men, so petulant and abrasive they’d have given even a good worker a rash. There was also the possibility that over in Ireland, the Irish Republican Army might finally blow up a bridge with the Queen of England on it. The IRA had been trying to do that for years. Many bridges had been blown to smithereens but not one of them had “Herself” on it.

“The IRA keeps blowing up bridges, Dolly,” Mike would remind his wife. “You would think one of these times they’d get it right. They know what she looks like.”

In addition to reading four newspapers a day as a young man, Mike had had other hobbies during his long and tumultuous life. He had bred rare Australian finches for decades and had won prizes with them at bird shows. However, after his last son had graduated from college and moved away, Mike sold more than 200 finches and 40 cages because he no longer had a son available to clean the cages. Five sons had earned allowances over the years cleaning the cages at least once a week. All of them ended up hating anything with wings. One son had even bought a BB gun and would sit out in the yard all day while Mike was at work. That boy was a pretty good shot. No one knows how many woodpeckers and chickadees he managed to pick  off.

After Mike sold his birds, he took the considerable proceeds and plowed all of the money into rare coins. For the next ten years he collected many rare coins but when he retired he figured he may as well sell them because none of his children had any numismatic interest. Not only that, none of them would have known the value of the coins if Mike died. Some of them were very valuable–the 1943 Irish Florin, for example, in Extra Fine condition would have brought more than $15,000 at the right auction. Mike loved that coin and kept it, along with all the others, in a large safe in the basement. Guarding the safe was a large if somewhat addled and ancient bloodhound. Mike had bought the dog from a fellow bird breeder when it was a pup. The bloodhound wasn’t toothless but he may as well have been. He wouldn’t bite anyone no matter how menacing a robber might be.

“I love that dog, Dolly,” Mike would tell his wife every time she suggested that euthanasia might be the best thing. “That dog, Dolly, is as Catholic as we are and Catholics don’t abort or euthanize anything,” Mike said.

When Mike finally sold all of his coins, he had a great deal of money that he viewed as disposable income. Dolly, however, viewed it as an insurance policy in case Mike died first. Mike had a couple of pensions but he had never made Dolly a co-beneficiary. In fact he convinced her to sign waivers so the payout to him would be larger. Dolly didn’t want to do it but signing was easier than reasoning with Mike. His temper seldom surfaced but when it did, things weren’t good for weeks around the house.

“I get mad once in awhile, Dolly, but I always apologize,” Mike would remind her.

Mike finally decided to put the coin money into guns–big guns–although he had never shot a gun in his life. He refused to go hunting because he saw no sense in killing animals when meat was available at the butcher store. The kids used to joke that maybe deer and pheasant were Catholic, too.

Some of the guns Mike bought were the kind you would see in action movies. Mike always liked action movies. The more the gore, the happier Mike was. But he had to go to action movies alone because his wife hated gore but she liked musicals. No musicals for Mike, although he would always dig into his pocket to give her the money for admission, complaining occasionally that the cost of seeing musicals kept going up.

“I don’t want to spend good money to see a bunch of people in costumes and wigs singing songs together when Frank Sinatra, all by himself, sings better than any of them.” Sinatra had a good voice, the kids thought, and it probably didn’t hurt that he was Catholic. One of them once suggested to Mike that it might be nice if they played a recording of Sinatra’s “Moonlight in Vermont” at church. Mike didn’t agree or disagree because he thought some sacrilege might be involved.

Mike remembered his gun collection on the day the deliveryman had failed to throw his newspaper on the lawn. He decided that the next morning he would sit out on his front porch at 3 a.m. with a big mug of coffee and the biggest rifle he owned. When the delivery van drove down his street, he planned to walk out to the curb, rifle in hand, to make sure he got his paper and to advise the driver of the inconvenience his mistake of the previous day had caused.

“There’s no way this guy’s a Catholic,” Mike said to himself. “Three times now he has skipped my house with my paper.”  

The next morning things went exactly as planned–at the start. Mike was out on his porch with his rifle and coffee at 3 a.m. when the van came rolling down the street. Mike got up and strolled down the walk toward the van, his rifle resting like a child in his arms. Mike couldn’t have known, however, that the van driver had been robbed several times over the years and that he carried a pistol in case someone decide to rob him again. When he saw Mike coming toward him down the middle of the street carrying a rifle, the driver decided to take no chances. He rolled down the window and put a bullet in Mike’s forehead.

One shot, dead center, was all it took, and Mike, still a big strapping man, fell like a tree.

The next day the story about the death of Mike Fitzgibbons made the front page of his beloved paper and Mike himself was listed in the obituary section. The obit advised that friends of the family could come to the wake at Eagan’s Funeral Home on Friday. It also pointed out that a Solemn High Funeral Mass would be said for Mike on Saturday at St. Aloysius Church, where Mike had been a faithful member and stalwart usher for decades.

Two days after the funeral, a neighbor was shoveling snow for Mike’s widow. He happened to look up and saw the missing newspaper stuck in the branch of one of Mike’s Weeping Willow trees. Mike had an interest in Weeping Willows and had planted a number of them over the years, too many some of the neighbors thought for the size of his property. This was the first time a newspaper had gotten stuck in one of the trees, his wife said. And it would be the last time because she had canceled the subscription to the paper the day Mike died. Like her husband, Dolly was a woman of principle and she thought canceling the paper was the least she could do in his memory. She had never read the damn thing anyway.

 

Donal Mahoney

 

Copyright © 2013, by Donal Mahoney. All Rights Reserved.

 

Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. He has had poetry and fiction published in a variety of print and electronic publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html

 

 

Rosemary Jones: Notes to an Apprentice Sky Mixer

Notes to an Apprentice Sky Mixer

    
This morning, a new portion of sky. A piece of skylight blue that has travelled like a package in a freighter from an indeterminate field of orbit to land on my window sill.

No address. No note attached from the sky mixer responsible. Scrutinize closely for evidence. This piece of sky is an elemental blue, the kind I’ve seen perhaps once or twice before. A rare breed, shunted off from a vaulted dome where it may have nursed a desert town in the middle of the southern hemisphere. At first glance, the arrival appears uncomfortable, self-conscious. Dabs of bluer blush. A tinge of barely recognizable scarlet. No need for that, I say. We’re out of reach of a city, and far fewer faces turn upwards to scan for sky perfection, or sky redemption, deliverance from their ordinary lives, than you’d think. If you’re worried about that.  Adopt a mode of reassurance. Speak firmly, tenderly, as if speaking to yourself. Besides, the inhabitants here are too busy catching lobsters, hunting deer, stalking the woods in bright orange hunting jackets, looking down or across the horizon, anything rather than up. And when they do look up, it’s for rain, for navigation purposes, for good drying days, signs of temperament, bald eagles. Reassure, artlessly, as if you are not.

There are blues and blues. Dependent upon visibility, but also upon the mood of the mixer: whether wry or sour, song-struck or bad-tempered. The theory goes that as sky mixers we are not authentic artists, that we simply don’t have the palette, that we lack range. It’s not true of course, as you would recognize if you were in my position unseated by this startling morning visitor of elemental blue. Artists limit their palettes. Don’t think they don’t. In fear of being swept off the rocks of their determined artistic selves, in fear of slipping into color waters deeper than their initial band of choices. This is what every artist is told: stick to your voice, do not waver.

But you must waver. Sky mixers know this better than anyone. We mix and mix, struggling to match one shade of the sublime to another. Like Robert Henri and his experimentation, miniature dashes of colored pigment striped on page after page, now archived on what one hopes is long-lasting paper. Look him up: artist verging on sky mixer. Testing ultramarine, lapis, Prussian blue, sky blue. Stained-glass blue. Flighty blue. The patch of sky we see this morning has been tended by an expert, who readied the seams. This desert portion, tinged with a feathery red glow, call it Color of Heaven Number One (in case there are more), fits precisely against the sky to which it is now attached: a piece of Maine sky, Laments of the Sea. Just in time before the deep winter gloom descends. Just in time before we lose remembrances of summer. Look before you: the hand of a sky enhancer. Know that it is a rare and wonderful thing for a patch of sky to be so transplanted. An act of sky mixing from afar. A sorcerer’s touch, as if the sky mixer wields a laser.

And now it drifts. Allow yourself the pleasure of drifting along with it. The edges are perhaps a little rough, invisible like a hidden mending wound, but that is how a sky emits its skyness, by feeling itself through and through all the way into the heart and ache of its color. A blue entity. Blue hopes. Blue seams. True blue. When other sky colors elbow it out, eager to take a turn, this blue won’t sulk, but will simply edge around its territory, waiting for another chance, waiting for me to reassess, re-mix more of this very particular blue. If I can. I don’t live below the Tropic of Capricorn, so to mix it means exploring a new synaptic path, climbing like a goat into arid mountains to reach this perfect pitch of desert afternoon blue and wend it into the sky of northern climes.

Sky mixing as you must be aware by now, is not for the faint-hearted. Be warned. If the blue turns against you, all the blue will run out into your sky mixer’s hands, which will stain forever, while the patch of sky remains empty and forlorn on the studio wall, unable to sustain its saturation of color, a reminder of things that didn’t come to pass.    

                
But there are rewards. If ever that patch of blue is no longer needed on the outer rim, only the sky mixer can finally claim the blue as her own. Only the sky mixer has the right to pin up the little piece of blue in her studio like a window pane, and look deeply, fearlessly inside it.

Sometimes when you least expect it, purity such as this morning’s piece of archetypal blue, breaks through as a reminder that the mixer is the real thing, a real painter, not one who merely dabbles in skies and sky touch-ups. Remember this. Worth every throb of dreariness, every second of juggling a palette of countless, nervously shifting skies, it’s the moment the sky mixer lives for. There is nothing that comes close to this sky knowledge. Like a sky anointment without the gods. Preserve it well.

 

— by Rosemary Jones

 

Copyright ©2013, by Rosemary Jones. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ms. Jones is an Australian living and teaching in the U.S. Among others, her work has appeared in Mad Hatter’s Review, Cezanne’s Carrot, Bent Pin Quarterly, TheSleepers Almanac 5 (Australia), Denver Quarterly, Sonora Review, Gargoyle, and been read on Australian national radio. Her nonfiction has appeared in AlligatorJuniper, Creative Nonfiction and is forthcoming in Brain, Child.