December 21, 2007

Fictional Friday
Grey weather marred the photographer’s plans. He’d imagined a sunnier day in which to show off the patchwork settees and levees that surfed the Irish landscape. Through the viewfinder it all seemed an acquired taste, and though he knew no one bought a poster except on impulse he took the picture anyway and it was eventually reproduced with seven letters spaced far apart at the bottom as if to magnify a great ominousness:  I R E L A N D.

“I”, “R”, “E” in their order signified. The upright “I”, the righteous one guarding the nation's left flank against the outside world, the one wronged by oppression but not yet humbled. “R”, regal with its outward sashay, the very panache of it, the rounded Celtic upper half with the rooted lower half, rooted as the potato crop, leading to…“E”, the balanced letter, the one of symmetry, of poetry, of ethereal beauty. Three letters – a trinity – such as Patrick explained of the Divine to the converted pagans. Three letters did precede the common Saxon “land”.

He hoped to spark, in the poster, the wonder of it. Then they would explore it for real, a few of them, maybe one percent of the college-age poster-buyers. They would want to see what then was a totem on their dorm wall and no more real than a Tibetan temple or Marilyn Monroe’s naked legs. But if it got under the skin enough, if they could almost smell the peat burning and see the sheep locking horns with the clouds and ranging like king salmon up the green-stream hills… Then they’d go to the ancient sod, the site of their myth, and they’d put their hands in the soil like Thomas would in the side of Christ. And then?

* * *

Patrick McIntyre was a freelance photographer who credited his full stomach to his ancestor’s empty one: in 1847 his great-grandfather Thomas McIntyre traded the misery of the once-sainted isle for the misery of a ‘coffin ship’ and then again for the misery of life in the tenements of the Five Corners in Manhattan. The 'land of milk and honey' came true for his children, and Patrick's parents lived comfortably when he was born. Years later he sampled the products of the old sod, Guinness and Harp, as if his ancestors left something that could be found there.

In the Guinness-mist of an October 2003 day, Patrick read the label that would change his life. A freshly opened can depicted a little thatch hut with the accompanying text "win an Irish pub!".

Fifty words on why he wanted to run an Irish pub. He could do that. Nine months later he found himself in front of Gus, a beefy, squat man whose ancestors had been coming to the pub since 'the battle of the Boyne' and would not allow anything in the pub to be changed or moved. (to be continued)

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