TWENTY MINUTES LATER by Kael

I haven’t put up a short story in a while, and this one is actually one of my favorites. The person who I describe actually exists … and she’s as wonderful as the story describes her to be.

Twenty Minutes Later : by Kael

There is a point, eleven minutes after you leave the Connolly Station, when it becomes obvious that you’re not in Dublin anymore, but it is another nine minutes of a no man’s land of tenements, clothes lines and tiny backyards occupied by day smokers and regret, before Ireland really begins. Where Dublin is a maze of cobblestone paths, curiously wide roads, and countless building cranes lifting steel girders and glass onto countless buildings of a new skyline, Ireland is nothing but a base colored blur seen best at 50 miles per hour. His father used to tell him that whoever created Ireland got three dollars to paint it, used fifty cents to buy the cheapest box of crayons he could find, with the fewest amount of colors, and the spent the other 2.50 to get himself a good pint of German Beer. Not an old Irish saying you’d find on a plaque or anything, but then Sean-Patrick’s father was not an old Irishman. He was, however, an astute observer. Ireland doesn’t get too creative with its color scheme.

Although the land looks flat and non-descript from a distance, anyone riding a train through the countryside will tell you a different story. Not even a thousand drunk Irishmen could have created this much sway and toss on a train without the aid of an uneven landscape. Although the bright emerald green is the first color that will catch your eye, it’s only because there are few colors to dissuade you from it. The colors, however, are so extreme that they seem to be painted and outlined with a thin black pen. A thin black line separates the pristine green of the fields, and the pitch black of the bog turf farms. It runs between the vibrancy of the land and the dark gray sky. It runs around the perfectly square white houses that randomly spring from nowhere, and it cuts between the brown edgings of the latest harvest.

Much has been written about the beauty of Ireland, and much of it is true. Many of those descriptions, however, are scribed by writers who only visit, or have left their homes for less greener pastures. They write of the Ireland as seen from the window of a bed and breakfast in County Cork, the view from an ancient castle, or from their memories of hearth and childhood. They write about the view, but they never describe what it’s like to reach down and feel the grass under their feet, and how it’s not grass at all, but rather, well-watered weeds. They don’t describe that they are wet and slimy. They don’t tell you that they’re hard to pull out, but when they do give way, they come out quickly and get mud and slime all over your clothes. When you look closer at them, they have growing out from them dirty yellow flowers, and dusty gray dandelion globes ready to disseminate and infect the unfortunate allergy warrior. They don’t tell you about the smell of turf burning that fills the air in the early morning, or the sound that the cattle make as they’re herded from field to field. And these things never are written about, or spoken of because there is no romance in dirt or weeds. Because for them, romance is the enchantment in what could be, and not what is.

Sean-Patrick hopped off the empty commuter train at the Edgeworthtown’s Station and was met by his Dad’s cousin, June. When Sean-Patrick first met her last year, his first impression was that she was the archetypal fish out of water, who when caught, remarkably found the water for her gills to breath in the moist Irish air, and survived quite well without the sea of culture and language to swim in. He later realized, however, that she was truly an amphibious creature who found comfort in the conversations about art and politics she would have with him during their monthly lunches in Dublin proper, but also achieved solace in the life of simplicity on her farm. Her feet were just as adapted to the high heels and designer dresses she would wear to a gallery opening, as they were to the flat bottomed boots she would wear to gather the turf needed to heat her stove in the morning. And where she was never afraid of a little mud, or dirt on her clothes while at home, her attire was impeccable and beyond the reproach of any and all of Sean-Patrick’s Dublin friends who were famous for their snobbery and crudeness.

She looked young for her 60 years, but still carried herself with the dignity of someone half her age. There was no occasion too small for her not to dress for. In a town full of farmers and transient workers, she was a model of dignity. Her laugh was infectious, and her willingness to make casual physical contact with everyone she met gave her the unique position in the community of being warm and loving; a presence lacking until she married into the area. A slight touch on somebody’s arm, a pat on someone’s back as she holds the door open for them, or even her famous embraces would provide people with that little comfort in an otherwise stressful day.

She carried herself with dignity even today. When Sean-Patrick got off the train, he noticed that she held a small wad of blue tissues in the palm of her hand and that she reached up to blot the tears in the corners of her eyes before they had a chance to fall. It was a casual movement that looked like nothing more than a small scratch of the eye lid, or dusting a speck of dirt off her face. And for all its deception, it was obvious that June was distressed, tired, sad … and alone. She would usually run up to him, begin to embrace him, and then pause, hold him out from her and comment on how he was as handsome as his father was, but then tossed his hair, and told him to get a hair cut. She would push him away, and then grab him back to give him a warm kiss on the cheek, and a huge hug. Sean-Patrick was both her cousin’s son, and a lovely memory of the boy she grew up with. They both had the same sense of humor, and the same love of the laugh. For all of Sean-Patrick’s faults and flaws, he was a certainly better version of his father, and June loved him all the more for that, because Sean-Patrick was also his father’s son and was designed exactly, by his father, to be the man he became. And today, June needed that man, and she knew it was faith that brought him to Ireland and into her life that year before. She knew it because only that lovely memory could get her through these next few days. Only that memory could swim to the surface of her grief and provide her with at least some comfort after her husband died Tuesday.

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