Thursday, October 1, 2015

PREVIEW: "Patrick's Path" Continues

Falcon Pub, London, UK by SuzyDubot from
Patrick’s Path (Part 3)
By Judith Cullen
© 2015

On Monday morning, Pat was still dreaming about the storyteller when his father began to gather tools, as he did when he was preparing to perform repairs in someone’s home or shop. 
“We need to stop by Reilly’s today.  He’s had some trouble with the taps, and he seems to think we can figure out the mess.  I don’t want to disrupt the pub anymore than I need to.  So I’ll want you along with me so one of us can be below and one above. Nolan can tend to his customers, that way, rather than worry about us.  The man hovers anyway, and I can’t abide hovering when I’m solving a problem.”
Pat was excited, wondering whether he’d get a chance to see the Seanchai again.  But he steeled himself against letting his expectations get too high. They were there to repair things, not to sit about prattling with the guests.  Pat stuffed his work gloves in his coat pocket as he followed his father out the workshop, pausing to turn the hanging “Open” sign to “Out On Repair” as they secured the door.

“I had the distributor out here last week and he said he’d found the problem.  It seemed fixed but then last evening it started spurting and sputtering again.  You can see the terrible mess. There’s something leaking, I think.  For the life of me I can’t figure out where or how.”
Micheal Flynn looked over the collection of buckets and towels on the floor behind the bar, and nodded to Pat to start clearing it out of the way. “Have you a mop and a clean bucket of water I can use, Nolan?”
“Certainly, let me get that for you now.”
When he returned, Mr. Flynn tactfully guided the Publican to the other end of the room with assurances that he would do his best and he needed no assistance other than his son’s.  Pat was mopping away the mess and placing the buckets handily in case they needed them in a hurry.  He spread out the heavy canvas drop cloth that his Da took with them to use for such jobs.
“Well, now Pat,” his father murmured quietly, “let us hope that keeps him busy so we can figure out what is not as it should be here.”  With that he lay on the cloth, his head pushed in under the bar between the canisters and kegs, which Pat adjusted to accommodate him.
Pub Bar Tap by Alex Borland
For the next half hour Pat pulled tap handles, as instructed, and moved things out of the way as his father made a methodical progress through the under-workings of the bar.  The occasional explosion of stout or porter had Pat wielding the mop so that they were not working in a soggy mess.
“Ah!  That’ll be the culprit” his Da exclaimed, pulling out a crumpled and creased length of hose that was dribbling liquid out of both ends.  “I’m not surprised they didn’t find this before. It is pretty deep in here and bloody hard to get to.  I think we’ve a good, clean length of this in the kit.” He handed the dripping, useless hose to Pat. “Cut me the length plus four fingers, bring two new clamps and the proper tape, there’s a lad.” Micheal ducked back under and began cleaning and prepping the area for the new hose, checking for any other blockages with surgical precision.
As Pat knelt over their kit, looking for the hose and the hardware, he felt a shudder run through him as if a breeze had come in through an open window, and looked up to find a pair of grey eyes resting upon him.  It was Declan, the Seanchai.
He smiled, “Making yourself useful, are you lad?”
Pat stammered his reply, “My Da is fixing the taps, sir.  I was needed to help.”
“Working side by side with your Pa is a time honored tradition, son, and a blessing.  Don’t let me keep you from your work.”
The Seanchai helped himself to coffee, ambling over to a table by the window, snagging a newspaper on his way, and settling himself down comfortably.  By the time Pat had returned to the bar, a plate of food had appeared in front of Declan and he was tucking leisurely into what was either a very late breakfast or a slightly early luncheon.
Micheal finished the repairs and he and Pat tested the taps to see that they were now working as they should.  Nolan Reilly came over, eager to see for himself the success of the replacement.
“Micheal Flynn, I think it is true what they say that you can fix anything with only a wish and a fair wind,” Nolan enthused.
“No such thing, Nolan.  It just takes time and patience, like everything worth mastering. The bill will not be too large and I’ll have it for you by days end. Let me know right away if there are any more problems.”
“Can I interest you in some refreshment, then,” the Publican offered, “Almost lunch time you know and it would be on the house, no expectations at all.”
“That is kind of you, but I’ve plenty of things awaiting my attention back at the shop. I’m afraid I’ll pass this time.  I’ll not speak for Pat though. He might enjoy a change of pace and I’ll not need him for a few hours.”
Declan took a quick sip of his coffee and spoke up, “I know I’d be pleased for a bit of good company, Pat. If you’d be so kind as to join me, I’d be grateful.”
Nolan put a strong hand on Pat’s shoulder, “What do you say to that, young Patrick?  Will you keep my brother company so he won’t be forced to endure my blatherskite with his meal?”
Pat couldn’t help but think that he was being herded like a fractious sheep but, since everyone seemed determined, he surrendered to his fondest wish: the opportunity to spend time in the company of the Seanchai.
Pat was cutting himself a slice of bread and breaking off a hunk from the generous wedge of cheese when Declan folded the newspaper up and set it aside.  The old gentleman’s eyes kindly followed the young man as he took a few hungry bites and a drink from his pint.
“I think, lad, that there’s a question you’d like to ask of me.  I think it has been smoldering in you since the other night.  Please, be my guest and ask anything you wish.”
That stopped Pat cold.  How had the man known what he himself had barely been able to understand?  Something had changed inside Pat when he heard the story. He was excited and afraid all at the same time.  He wasn’t sure he could dare reveal the truth in his heart.
“Don’t be timid, Pat.  I know the look in your eyes.  I have seen it before, though only a very few times.”
Pat still hesitated, the thoughts and words backing up inside of him, ready to burst forth if he
Ploughman's Lunch from the Temple Bar Pub in Dublin
gave them the slightest crack for escape.
“Young Patrick Flynn, who was but a wee babe when I decided to give up being a pipe fitter and chart a new course with my life.  Little Pat who got stuck in the rocks on the strand not a year after I left this place to travel all around Ireland in my new profession.  I know that look because I had that look myself once.”
Pat’s words cascaded out in a flood, “How did you remember all those things in the story, all the little details? What is the trick of sharing lessons without preaching them?  Where did you learn to transport everyone the way you did? I have never experienced such intoxicating magic in all my life!”
“Ah then,” the Declan replied, “you see the truth of it; the complex beauty of a tale told honestly and truly.  It is conjury that needs no incantation or potion, no assistance from the sidhe.  What is required to begin is a decent set of eyes, a strong and agile voice, and ears that both hear and listen.  Beyond that, everything you need is here,” he touched Pat’s forehead, “and most of all in here,” he touched Pat’s chest right above his heart.  “With these, you can create enchantment, tempt people to think, lure them into reflection, and even into change.  Words are powerful things, Patrick Flynn.  Would you become a wizard of words? Would you dedicate yourself to what is true and good in the world, regardless of what is popular or fashionable?”
Pat looked at the man stunned.  He could hardly believe what was being asked of him.
“Would you wish to become a Seanchai, Patrick Flynn?”
Pat’s answer flew to his mouth from his heart, while his brain wrestled with the sense of it.  His heart won the battle.
“Yes, sir!  Yes, I truly would, if only I could.”
“If only you could, lad?  Why do you say that?”
“Because I am no great talker, sir.  I don’t know how to gain people’s attention and hold it.  I know lots of stories, lots of history, lots of details, but…”
“Now that’s your head talking, Pat.  It’s a good head to be sure, but I think your heart knows the truth of this: you have it in you to be a good storyteller, even a great one.  Are you willing to take all those things you’ve been absorbing from books and from observing people…”
Pat sat up immediately to object.
“Yes, lad!  I saw you the other night.  I watched how you observed the sights, sounds, smells of the room and captured them.  I saw how you noted the others in the audience even while you yourself were wrapped up in the story.  I’ve no doubt you have the skills of observation needed to be a seanchai; a good storyteller must have the capacity to be within and without the story at the same time. The question is are you willing to step outside of what’s comfortable and learn?”
“If I only thought I really could.”
“Then it’s settled.  I have a mind to trespass on my brother’s hospitality for a month or so. Don’t look so shocked, Pat, I’ll make it well worth his while with the stories I’ll share.  In the mean time, you and I shall work together and launch your training.  The learning we begin here will last your entire life, so I hope you’re prepared to buckle down for a long journey. It will take hard work, and right at this moment it cannot deprive your Da of your help in the shop nor your chores at home. You’ll have to labor to learn in addition to all those responsibilities.”
Declan read Pat’s fleeting look of pain and uncertainty.
“Don’t you worry, son.  I’ll have a wee chat with your folks.  We’ll tell them this is just a sharing of some mutual interests.  I’ve known the Flynn family for a lot of years, and many a fine teller of tales has come from their ranks. By the time you are ready, my lad, they’ll be behind you and proud as you’d ever want them to be.”
“Then I’ll do it!” Pat declared, “I’ll follow your instructions, do whatever you ask of me for as long as we can.” He was trembling with excitement, his heart was filled with joy and his head was staggered by the possibilities.  This is what he had been looking for: something that made him feel like an exploding skyrocket.  Something that would use all of him, everything he knew and everything he was, brought together in a new and wonderful way.  Something that felt like it was his own.
“If you are ready then, Patrick Flynn, we shall begin.  Your first lesson, and it is the most important thing for a storyteller to master, lad, is the art of listening.”
Pat leaned into the table, propped his head on his hands, and opened his brain to Declan’s words, just about as happy as he had ever been in his life.
Check back next week for another installment, as young Patrick explores what it means to tell a story. 
You can read Part 1 of "Patrick's Path" HERE
You can read Part 2 of "Patrick's Path" HERE

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