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Donal Mahoney: New Short Fiction

Donal Mahoney: New Short Fiction

Doing Laundry on a Farm in the Fifties

 

Grandma Gretchen’s in her rocker and she has something to say.

She tells a visitor, a young man from the city, if he plans to write a book about life on a farm in the Fifties, he likely has a lot to learn. She knows about that life because she was there. She says he needs to know about the little things as well as the big things if the book is going to be accurate.

For example, she says for him to understand that culture, he needs to know how laundry was done back then. This was before electric washers and dryers became popular. And he needs to understand why some farm wives today still use a ringer washer to do their laundry, usually on a Monday if the weather is nice.

The visitor agrees. So as he and Grandma sip strong coffee and nibble on scones from yesterday, Grandma starts to rock faster and begins a long tutorial.

The young man begins to feel he’s back in law school and should be taking notes but he had no reason to bring a notebook. He thought he was just visiting an older lady still living in her old farmhouse, a widow cared for by her adult children.

Colors and whites, Grandma explains, are always washed separately. Undies are washed separately as well. Sheets and towels are washed by themselves as are the men’s clothes.

“Men’s clothes are the filthiest thing on laundry day on any farm,” Grandma says, “especially the overalls.

“Believe me, young man, overalls are always washed alone. It’s a task no farm wife enjoys.”

In good weather, she says the whites are the first to be hung out to dry.

The clothesline is strung between two trees or from a tree to a hook on the house. As long as the line is not under where birds might perch, everything’s okay.

“Between two trees is prettier,” she says, “and a clothesline should look pretty.”

Warming to her task, Grandma goes on to explain that clothespins join all of the wash together except for bras which are hung by a single strap.

“A good wind and bras will kick,” she says, “like the Rockettes.”

The young man wonders how she knows about the Rockettes. He was told that Grandma’s sole exposure to the media over the years has been a Gospel music station on an old RCA console radio stationed not far from her rocking chair.

She goes on to point out that if it starts to rain and the clothes are nearly dry, the farm wife dashes out and rushes the clothes into the house.

“Even if he’s in the house at the time, her husband isn’t any help,” she says. “On a farm men have their tasks and women have theirs.”

Grandma admits she’s heard that some younger men today may help out in ways they would never have done back in the Fifties. That’s a big surprise, she says, if it’s true.

Then she mentions something the young man had been told by one of her daughters: Grandma and her husband, Carl, had seven kids. Carl took care of the farm and Grandma took care of the kids.

“Seven kids are a lot of work,” she says, “but Carl had 20 cows to milk every morning and 100 hogs to slop and eggs to gather in the hen house. I’d rather take care of Carl and seven kids.”

Grandma finishes her tutorial by telling the visitor that although she wishes him well, she doesn’t know how a man from the city can write a book about farm life in the Fifties.

“You weren’t there,” she tells him with all the kindness and wonder she can muster.

He tells her all he can do is try and maybe with her help something good will come of it.

She tells him he better let her read what he writes before it’s printed. She says she just got new bifocals.

The young man says she will be the first to read it.

And then he reaches for another day-old scone.

 

 

Donal Mahoney

 

Copyright© 2017 by Donal Mahoney. All Rights Reserved.

____

Donal Mahoney lives in St, Louis, Missouri. He has had work published in various publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his work can be found at  https://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html
 
 

 

The Letter

The Letter

Response to a Letter Recently Received

Fiction by Donal Mahoney

 

Dear Margaret,

Your life as explained in your letter recently received is very difficult to read. It’s been 40 years since we last saw each other or talked. Most of your problems I knew nothing about. Bits and pieces I somehow became aware of over the years. One of your brothers or sisters may have mentioned something they had heard at Christmas or on Father’s Day, but they were as much in the dark as I was. We didn’t know where you were.

The cancer, of course, runs on my side of the family since it was colonic cancer that killed my mother at age 59. Years ago, long before you indicate that you were diagnosed with cancer, I tried, through one or more of your siblings, to get the word out to all the children of their need for colonoscopies on a regular basis. I am now due for another colonoscopy. I have one every two years. So far, the cancer has skipped me and, as you indicate, it has struck you. Your aunt has shown no signs of cancer either so perhaps it is going to skip our generation. It isn’t fair, I know.

I don’t know how to comment specifically on all the problems you mention in your letter. I know I hurt your feelings (and more) at a time of great difficulty in your life and mine. I have no excuse to offer other than I reacted to a set of circumstances at the time that I found intolerable and in so doing hurt many people, most importantly you and the other children. They seem to have recovered, to the degree that anyone can, and lead what appear to be normal lives. They have children and seem to be happily married.

The old snapshot you sent of me was taken in 1969 while I was staying as a guest at a seminary in Illinois, shortly after your mother asked me to move out. I was working at the newspaper at the time but was fired after I lost my ability to speak to my co-workers. I was able to write and edit but I was sufficiently in shock over the break-up that I could not talk. It took awhile to find another job.

It took a lot longer, however, to recover from finding out that your mother had fallen in love with a priest. Doctors didn’t know much about post-partum depression back in the Sixties and she seemed normal to me. But with five kids around the house, and the oldest six, there wasn’t much time for diagnosing one another’s illnesses. Keeping up with the kids was the big job.

I met the priest eventually, and he said that he had himself transferred to another Church when he found out how she felt about him. He pulled out a stack of her old letters wrapped in a rubber band. They had not been opened, and he said that he had not been in touch with her after his transfer. He said he thought about going to her wake but figured that would just add to the gossip, decades old as it might be. I believe him, Margaret. He knew nothing about the depression and, I suspect, simply tried to counsel her. In the process she responded overwhelmingly to his kindness. A priest is not a psychologist or psychiatrist so detecting something that subtle would have been tougher for him than it would have been for me. No one talked about post-partum depression back then. Parents have bad days. I had no idea how bad off she was.

I feel very sad hearing about your difficulties. And I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to support you as a father when they began. But from a distance, I’ve thought of you often. I have prayed for you and your siblings every day since returning to the Church a few years back and will continue to do so.

I retired in 2005 and returned to the practice of Catholicism in January, 2008. I remarried eventually and my wife converted to Catholicism a few years later as did her mother shortly before she died. They both converted without any prompting from me. In fact, I hadn’t been to Mass in 40 years. I wasn’t angry with the Church and I still believed in God and the Church, but all the carousing I did after breaking up with your mother and before I remarried stifled what little spirituality I might have had. Coming back to the Church has changed me, though, for the better along with retirement. But I’m still far from perfect.

I’d be happy to hear from you at any time, and I’d try my best to respond in a way that would cause you no pain. If I have said anything here that causes you pain, or if I do so in the future, blame it on my ignorance about specific situations in your life and the cumulative toll life has taken on both of us.

Feel free to ask any questions or to air past grievances and I’ll do my best to provide an honest answer. If you ever feel like coming to visit, just let me know. There’s plenty of room in the house in case you have a husband and/or children.

Much love,

Dad

 

Copyright©2016, by Donal Mahoney. All Rights Reserved.

——————
Donal Mahoney, a product of Chicago, lives in exile now in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and Commonweal. Some of his online work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=

 

Foundations

Foundations

We have new poetry, fiction and a screenplay this month at Spinozablue. Donal Mahoney brings us the first two, while Charles Tarlton brings us the last.

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Speaking of film, Martin Scorcese pens a wonderful essay in the latest New York Review of Books, entitled The Persisting Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema.”

A short excerpt:

“Or consider the famous Stargate sequence from Stanley Kubrick’s monumental 2001: A Space Odyssey. Narrative, abstraction, speed, movement, stillness, life, death—they’re all up there. Again we find ourselves back at that mystical urge—to explore, to create movement, to go faster and faster, and maybe find some kind of peace at the heart of it, a state of pure being.

But the cinema we’re talking about here—Edison, the Lumière brothers, Méliès, Porter, all the way through Griffith and on to Kubrick—that’s really almost gone. It’s been overwhelmed by moving images coming at us all the time and absolutely everywhere, even faster than the visions coming at the astronaut in the Kubrick picture. And we have no choice but to treat all these moving images coming at us as a language. We need to be able to understand what we’re seeing and find the tools to sort it all out.

We certainly agree now that verbal literacy is necessary. But a couple of thousand years ago, Socrates actually disagreed. His argument was almost identical to the arguments of people today who object to the Internet, who think that it’s a sorry replacement for real research in a library. In the dialogue with Phaedrus, Socrates worries that writing and reading will actually lead to the student not truly knowing—that once people stop memorizing and start writing and reading, they’re in danger of cultivating the mere appearance of wisdom rather than the real thing.”

 

I just finished rereading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, the first book in the trilogy. I had forgotten how concise and spare it was, how Asimov never wastes a single word. It’s something I aspire to in my own work, the latest being a first attempt at a Sci Fi novel. Spareness and brevity not for the sake of it, not to be a part of some minimalist school, but to capture the moment quickly, lyrically, muscularly and then move on.

In Foundation, Asimov utilizes a theme that seems almost universal — something that fits quite well when your book deals with galactic empires. Death and reformation. The dissolution and rebirth of empires fascinates, and it can be done going backward in time or forward. The idea of succession to a crown, or to a vision — scientific, ethical, religious — is tremendously appealing. Adhering to a dream that has its roots generations or centuries or even thousands of years before provokes the imagination and adds a wide array of colors to life and our musings. To live for something, especially when that something persists through time, across the ages, adds an intensity and complexity that resonates and provides the ground for successful art. It’s perhaps the closest we get to a sense of immortality, and may be the chief reason for the appeal of such book series as The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire).

Logically enough, to match the persistence of the story across time and space, we have a series of many books, or dozens of television episodes based on those books, so the reader and the viewer stay with the characters, themes and visions across their own sense of time, albeit compressed. It is a wonder of the human mind that we can make sense of this, this radical distortion of time and space, and desire more of it.

We face time, head on, in a way unlike any other animal — as far as we know. No other animal faces its own mortality, or perceives the passage of time, which is why no other animal creates art or religion, the two greatest gifts and results of that confrontation. The idea of working toward a greater future, based upon the preservation of something beautiful and brilliant from the past, its extension, its expansion, can make it at least a little easier to cope with the knowledge of our guaranteed demise.

 

Donal Mahoney: The Deli on Granville

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

 

 

Summer’s Eve

Summer’s Eve

June brings us poetry by Neil Ellman and a short story by Donal Mahoney. Summer is around the corner. Will there be dancing in the streets?

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And the Show Went On, by Alan Riding
And the Show Went On, by Alan Riding

Reading a fascinating book about Occupied Paris. Alan Riding’s And the Show Went On. About 110 pages into it. He tells the story of heroism and collaboration in France, the Resistance, the complicit Vichy government, the attempt to flee the horrors of the Third Reich.

For me, World War II was always the last just war. Before it and since that time, wars have been overwhelmingly unnecessary, wars of choice, wars of conquest and the protection of markets. Wars that essentially had no reason for being, other than greed, avarice, the expansion of power or the exploitation of trumped up threats.

World War II was the real thing. Things really did stand in the balance. There really was a world before it and a totally different world after it, if the world had not gotten together to battle the Nazi and Fascist threat.

And how did artists, dancers, musicians, writers and actors react? Alan Riding’s book captures their moment, their dilemma, their choices. Josephine Baker comes away as a hero. Maurice Chevalier, so far, a collaborator and possibly a traitor to his nation. But perhaps the most fascinating and bravest of the men in Riding’s story to this point is the American, Varian Fry, who went to France hoping to rescue at least 200 artists, writers and musicians and ended up saving the lives of more than 2,000.

The rest of the book should delve into the Resistance in more detail, talk about Beckett, Malraux, Camus, Sartre and Beauvoir, among others. But for now, it’s in the second year after the invasion and occupation. Paris is back in business. But it’s never going to be the same.

 

 

Donal Mahoney: Paddy Murphy's Wake

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.

 

May Days and Freedom Walks

May Days and Freedom Walks

Spinozablue welcomes the poetry and fiction of A.J. Huffman and Charles Tarlton, plus new work by returning champions Donal Mahoney and Steve Klepetar.

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The Fiery Trial, by Eric Foner
The Fiery Trial, by Eric Foner

I’m currently reading a fantastic history by Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial.  It’s a biography of Lincoln in a sense, but focuses on his relationship to slavery and its abolition. Two hundred pages in, I’m reminded of just how far we’ve come, and how incredibly, tragically long it took us to get here. I had forgotten, for instance, that Lincoln’s views — which evolved over time — were considered by many to be too radical, while actual radicals and abolitionists considered him far too accommodating on the issue. At least until 1863. Within his own party, he was considered a moderate, and he worked hard to assuage the fears of the South and, later, Unionist slaveholders. He was against slavery, it appears, from the start, but he was also against forcing the South to give up its disgusting, unconscionable institution. He, along with most in the anti-slavery camp, wanted to stop the expansion of slavery, but were against doing much of anything about slavery where it actually existed. They typically supported laws that empowered slaveholders, like the Fugitive Slave Act, and thought the Constitution prevented them from enacting full emancipation of all slaves. Even after the start of the Civil War, Lincoln tried to assure the country that he had no desire to end the South’s way of life, or that of the Unionist slave states. Though this began to change roughly in 1862.

Those who opposed slavery in America were, until the Civil War, a minority. But those who also wanted to grant equal rights, voting rights, and full citizenship to blacks, along with emancipation were a minority within that minority. A sizable portion of the anti-slavery movement pushed for colonization, in fact, and actually wanted America to remain a land dominated by whites. Lincoln supported this for most of his life. He supported the idea of sending blacks to Central or South America, or Liberia in Africa. It’s amazing to think that even this, when coupled with ending the spread of slavery, was considered too radical by so many. But full emancipation, with equal rights, was a bridge too far for most. Eric Foner does an excellent job of showing the difference between radicals and abolitionists and those, like Lincoln and Henry Clay, who pushed for colonization.

Looking back from the perch of 2013, it seems abundantly, patently clear that the abolitionists, who were hated, persecuted, murdered and scorned in the 18th and 19th centuries, were on the right side of history from the start, whereas Lincoln appears behind the times relative to them. Even within the anti-slavery movement, they were easily the only people on the side of the angels. Those who wanted to stop the spread of slavery were, of course, infinitely better on this issue than those who wanted to keep things as they were. But it’s not really a great moral victory, or a revolutionary change in one’s moral compass, to push for an end to the spread of that reprehensible institution, while also advocating for colonization. As The Fiery Trial progresses through Lincoln’s last years, we will see how far he evolves on the subject. Again, the book is excellent.                         

 

Donal Mahoney: Behind the Barn With Carol Ann

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.

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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