“What’s your name, boy? Look at me! I’ll say it once more, and that’s it!”
Saturday night. Years ago. Driving home from a four-day workweek, needing to unwind. The Cold Beer Tavern, corner bar, small town USA.
“Truth boy, look at me! Well, God bless America!” Dark eyes flashing neon, one of them closing and re-opening periodically, like a slow wink or a slightly nervous tic.
Big skull blares its boisterous incoherent phrases, tries to hold me in its noise. A black hat crowns a black-coated hulk, crowns a brain with substance, maybe, or a field of rubble.
Time for beer… He grabs my empty hand, squeezes, nearly crushes every finger, shouting “Look at me, boy! What’s your name? You live ’round here, or what?” Claims to be an Irishman, an honest giant. Amiable, confident, drunk as hell, the kind of guy you’d buy a drink for– if only to shut him up– if he hadn’t been already cut off from the bar…
He insists that I guess his age. “58,” I say. “48?” It’s hard to think straight in the Cold Beer Tavern, in the twang of country music crashing in from Nashville, Tennessee.
“Hell!” he roars. “I’m almost 82!” I settle an empty bottle and excuse myself for the men’s room, overhearing snippets of wisdom tossed from crowded tables as I pass along…
“I’m on vacation. All I could find was seven dollars, so decided to spend it here in Andover!”
“Before you know it, you find yourself married, with three kids, two mortgages, the car broken down, and your job on the line!”
Time, the harvester, had posted a sign on the bathroom wall: “Don’t throw cigarette butts in the urinal!” under which some wise-ass scrawled, “It’s hard to lite ’em when they’re soggy!”
I connect soberly with a recent dream. That old hand-crusher out there in the crowd is like… “Mr. O’Shaugnessy, the Fabulous Irish Poet from New York!” But O’Shaugnessy from dreams is not the famous poet-herpetologist from London. He’s an imposter, music-maker, mover-shaker, from the suburbs outside Syracuse.
Mr. O’Shaugnessy O’Dreams might lack a three-dimensional character, but he’s got a supplement out there, an uncaged mouth, waiting near my access to another beer…
Retaliate. Interrogate! I launch my own defense: “What’s your name, man? Where you from? You sound like a poet. Got a life-time of O’Shaugnessy? Ever been to Ireland? I’m from Greenwood, close to Rexville– land of the potato farmers, late 1800s… EVER HEAR OF IRISH HILL?”