"Patrick's Path" features Pat Flynn from A Trio of Irish Tales' "In the Mists." Pat is 24 now and he's tired of always walking in everyone's wake - following along behind. He wants to find something that he is passionate about; something that he can claim as his very own. He also wouldn't mind catching the eye of Daimhin Finnegan.
By Judith Cullen
Pat tried to loose his frustrations with the stone as it flew from his hand, making a proper splash into the sea about thirty feet away. He looked down, assessing the rocks and shells at his feet and choosing another stone that felt right. Tossing and catching it several times with his sand-gritted palm, he leaned back and let this stone fly with the same emotional propulsion, watching it drop into the serenely lapping waves. The ripples the rocks made in the gentle surf did nothing to reduce Pat’s disquiet. He pondered another stone.
He was sick and tired of always being the one following behind; always being the best friend, the side-kick. It had been this way all of his life. It wasn’t that Pat wanted to be popular. He was an honest soul and well liked, he knew that just as he knew that everyone gets a bit of attention at one time or another. He didn’t want more friends or more glory. Pat didn’t crave the spotlight or the admiration of others; he just wanted to stop feeling like an “also-ran”; like an extra bit of nothing-in-particular hanging around for everyone’s convenience. He wanted to have one thing that was his: something he was good at, a source of pride that was his own.
He kicked his boots into the sand and rocks of the shore. Choosing another stone, he hurled it with all his might. He tried to concentrate all his dissatisfaction into it: the times he’d followed someone else’s lead, done what he was bidden to do, every instant that he’d trailed behind compressed into that one missile. He threw it so hard he spun himself off balance, almost falling. The rock plopped into the water so far away that he couldn’t even hear it break the surface.
|The Sligo Shore
With a deep breath, he resigned from rock throwing, and reluctantly shuffled up the cliff path towards home. It was Saturday and, even though he knew he was not expected to work with his father in the repair shop this day, his Mum would have chores for him to do. Avoiding them because he was in a funk would be just as fruitless as throwing rocks into the sea.
This was another point of embarrassment for him; another way in which he felt left behind. Pat had turned 24 at his last birthday, and he lived at home with his parents. Most of his friends and contemporaries were living on their own, getting married, and making their way in the world as independent adults. Pat didn’t mind that they did, but it just didn’t seem to make sense for him to spend money on rent and all the rest when there was plenty of room in his folk’s house, and he could be useful there. Still, it didn’t stop him from being just a little embarrassed when it came up in conversation.
He’d gone to college in
Galway for a year and a half, but
had come home dissatisfied. He liked
school well enough, but there just wasn’t anything that seemed to fully engage
him. School had become a habit, and he
knew that an advanced education should be about more than that. He’d poked around looking at trade schools,
but there was nothing there to interest him either. So, he stayed with his parents, helped his Da repair bicycles, farm machinery, home
appliances and whatever else needed a handy touch.
The town librarians saw him almost as much, if not more, than his friends at the pub. He read anything he could get his hands on just as he had since he was a little boy learning to read: fiction, non-fiction, history, geology, mythology, politics, poetry, and essays. When his friends and family couldn’t find him at home or at the pub, they usually could find him on a stone wall, in a field, or up a tree engrossed in a book.
“You’ll find your way sooner or later, Patrick,” his Da would say when Pat tried to express his feelings. “You’re a good lad, and certainly smart enough. You just need to find that thing that sparks your imagination more than anything else. Don’t you be worrying your brain about what you think you should be doing: you’ll find it, or it will find you. Be patient, my son.”
Da had a magical way of fixing things, and he was happiest when solving mechanical problems. There was always something to be repaired or improved, and the folks there about had great respect for Micheal Flynn’s skill with his hands. Pat saw how much his father loved making things work, and how people admired him for it. He liked working in the shop, but he couldn’t help but be a little jealous. If only he could find something that he was really good at too, like his father.
“It’s such a help and comfort to have you around the house,” his mother would say. Even though he sometimes wondered what it would be like to live on his own, under his own roof, he could not imagine not being there for his parents and helping around the house that had been home to the Flynns for six generations. He liked the comfort of being with his family. He liked the way they all fit together, each filling certain necessary roles around the house.
“Mum, I just feel like I should be doing something, and I don’t know what it is. I feel like I’m just marking time, but I don’t know for what.”
“My love,” she would say, wrapping one arm around him and taking his hand with hers as she always did, “’should’ is a very highly overrated word. Many’s the lad that’s gotten himself into a world of misery because he did what he thought he should do, instead of what was right. You just wait and see, my Patrick, there’s something that’s meant for you and when the time is right, you’ll know what it is.”
“I wouldn’t mind a clue, a hint, maybe a ‘save the date’ or something. What if I don’t recognize it when it comes? What if I miss it?” His mother just kissed his cheek, smiling at him as she went back to her work. Pat had a hard time believing all these confident assurances, even from the ones he knew loved him most.
One night after supper, Pat moved into the living room after the dishes were done as he
Pat was stunned. His parents rarely went to the pub. If they went, there was usually some special reason: a musician they wanted to hear, or friends visiting. They said nothing about why tonight was different – special perhaps. Da simply handed Pat his coat. It was clear that they expected him to join them. He thought for one moment about rebelling and saying he’d rather stay at home. He had a particularly interesting book linking the folklore and botany of The Burren that he was looking forward to losing himself in tonight. “Ah well,” he thought to himself, “I’m always following along. What harm will it do tonight, especially since Da and Mum have their hearts set on it?” So he put on his jacket, pulled up his collar against the wind and joined them as they walked out the door.##
Check back next week for another installment, and discover how young Pat's life is about to change in a way he never expected it would.
Coming in November!
On Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback
Three modern tales steeped in the lore of an ancient land. A Trio of Irish Tales II will call to your Celtic soul, even if you never thought you had one.