Dark Night

Dark Night

A Story by JohnL
"

The Irish have a great tradition of music and song. A lad has entered a talent competition in the next village. Two songs intertwine on a rainy night to produce a tender tale of love - - - -.

"

It was a dark night even though it was only half past six.   With rain sticking the hair to his brow and running down his neck Donal knew it was a bad night, but that was just the weather; what did he care?

 

Tonight was his big night.  Tonight he was to sing in the pub.  Tonight was his big chance.  This wasn’t just any singing night, it was O’Leary’s band on first, which made it special before a note had been played.  Sure wasn’t it on an O’Leary Talent Night that Sean Casey was discovered?  And wasn’t it raining that night an’ all?  The spring in his feet grew more urgent as his heart, singing already, tuned itself in for the great debut.

 

The pub in question, Reilly’s Bar was in the next village, a fair step an’ all, and he promised that the first Guinness would be swiftly chased by a Bushmills Black; sure that’d just twiddle the vocals nicely.  The rain came on heavier and he savoured in his mind the smell of the ale and the fug of smoke through which he would get the first glimpse of the stage, - well, the far end of the bar, where fame would at last be his.  He felt the warmth already, felt his mates clapping him on the back and encouraging him to be them three tenors rolled into one.

 

'Oh, please God, be with me: just tonight, just the Cladagh talent night'.  His tongue already tasting the sweetness of the Bushmills after the bitterness of the Guinness, and didn’t he still have two miles to go?

 

Oh! Mat Hannigan had an Aunt

An Uncle too, likewise,

But in this chant,

‘Tis Hannigan’s Aunt

I wish to eulogise.

 

By now his feet were dancing with the rhythm louder this time, more insistent.  Reilly took advantage of the slight pause and started to announce the competition.as he ‘sang in the rain’.  What’d Fred Astaire got that Donal O’Dwyer hasn’t, said Donal O’Dwyer and twittered his feet on the road.

 

Oh! She never could raise her voice.

She never was known to scold,

But when Hannigans Aunt said 'No you can’t,'

Sure you did what you were told - - -.

 

Two miles never passed quicker, and what did it matter if he was a drownded rat, soon he’d afford a motor car, would he not?   Through the murk, he caught a glimmer of flickering light.  Someone had entered what must be ‘Reilly’s’, and sure enough, another hundred yards and he made out the name above the door.

 

'Make an entrance, Go on, you’re a star: Make an entrance!' he heard himself saying aloud.

 

'I will! I will', he replied.

 

Donal paused before the entrance to his future and flung open its door.

 

Light had never seemed brighter, nor warmth more welcoming.  The fug of smoke and steam from drying clothes seemed honeyed in his lungs.  The sound of the fiddles and the concertina brought joy to his ears while the glass in either hand lifted further the spirits that even this wet night had failed to dampen.

 

‘Sure! This is my night alright’, he thought

 

As his eyes became accustomed to the light, he became conscious of his surroundings; the old battered piano against the wall crowned with the cream-black halo of Guinness glasses, the bare light bulb over his head creating beautiful smoke-swirls in space, and Bridget Hanlon standing nearby flashing him a smile.

 

‘Now won’t you just be showing them tonight then Donal,’  she mouthed across the space’.

 

‘Oh and isn’t that the cutest little mouth’, his mind said as his voice came out with, ‘Oh I sure hope so, Bridie’.  At least, he hoped it was that way round!

 

‘Get y’re eyes off, y’ve business tonight, and lay off the Bushmills’

 

Eamon’s voice broke in, unwelcome at his shoulder, breaking the reverie.

 

*            *            *

 

The band struck a chord.  Nothing happened, the hubbub continued.  Another chord, louder this time, more insistent.  Reilly took advantage of the slight pause and started to announce the competition:

 

  

            ‘Alright! Alright!  Will y'se be list’nin’ to what I’m sayin’?  ’Tis contest time again.  Now I want y’all to give these brave folk a fair hearin’, d’y’se understand me?  Sure hasn’t one of our own made it big in Boston?’

 

            A cheer went up as the crowd remembered the success of Sean Casey, who’d sung for the President of the USA, no less.

 

            Donal, enrapt, was barely conscious of Eamon chunnering into his ear:

 

            ‘Look at Reilly’s moustache’, he was saying.

 

But Donal was oblivious to the cream froth threatening to drown Reilly if he breathed in through his nose.  What he had noticed was that Bridie Hanlon was all of a yard closer.

 

Dimly upon his ears descended the ‘electric drill’ sound of Patrick Loughran’s voice, opening the proceedings.  Patrick always opened, and rumour had it that he was paid a retainer by the other contestants to make them sound sweet by comparison.  He was the living proof that ‘Hope springs eternal’, etc.  Ripples of subdued laughter spread, mixed with half-hearted applause as the ‘Rose of Tralee' ground to its painful conclusion.

 

Donal counted the floorboards between Bridie and himself. Yes! Yes! She’s one and a half boards closer was his joyful calculation.

 

 

The lower order acts were going through and as the time went by, the quality rose.  Donal’s feet tapped a little less light-heartedly as the standard improved.  He didn’t worry too much about the instruments; they got picked up by the bands but rarely won.  It was voices that the scouts were after, and voices won the contests.

 

            Another two boards, but he noticed it more in his subconscious.  The nerves were taking over.  As 'The sun’s descent over Galway Bay' was being melodiously described by an unknown baritone far too good for comfort, Donal felt the first tentacle of self doubt wrap itself round his throat.

 

            Sure, it’s just a frog, he thought to himself and he cleared it with a cough.

 

            ‘Y’d better have another Bushmills’, said Eammon.

 

            ‘An’ let’s have the Guinness t'chase it’ shouted Donal at his departing back.

 

            When Eammon returned, Donal noted that the Bushmills was not Black Label and the Guinness was a half.

 

            ‘Aw thanks’ said his voice as his heart said, ‘Tight b*****d’.

 

            He glanced down to count the boards and perhaps settle his nerves, only to look into a bright pair of eyes as Bridie looked up at him with - - .  Well perhaps conjecture was a little premature. But wait’ll I’ve won the contest!  His imagination was running riot, and why not?

 

            Already, he was in Boston, the 'Nightingale of the Immigrant Community', strolling along Newberry St with Mrs Bridget O’Dwyer there on his arm, and sure, wasn’t that a poster of him looking down at them.

 

            - - - - - from the next village, Kinreagh’s very own,  Donal O’DWYER!

 

Reilly’s voice rose to a crescendo as Donal made the fastest ever trip from Boston to Cladagh.  He dived toward the 'Stage', which consisted of six upturned plastic beer crates, and fell sprawling.

 

            ‘Sure,  ’t’will get me the sympathy vote’, the Guinness and whiskey said for him.

 

            Some one must have heard his muttered remark because he mounted the crates to raucous cheers and not a little laughter.  His hand went up to acknowledge the adulation but his eyes sought out those of Bridie, who was smiling gently her soft Irish smile.

 

            Suddenly, he made a decision.  Hannigan’s aunt could go to hell.

 

            Waving aside the band who were already tapping out the rhythm ready to start, he broke into the haunting strains of  'Lagan Love'

 

            ‘Where Lagan stream sings lullaby,

            There blows a lily fair:

            The twilight gleam is in her eye,

            The night is on her hair, - - - -‘

 

            He really had a fine voice: a lyrical, lilting tenor, which skipped hauntingly through the accidentals and chromatics of the unaccompanied love song.

 

            ‘And like a lovesick Lenanshee *

            She hath my heart in thrall;

            Nor life I owe, nor liberty,

            For love is Lord of all.’

 

            The voice had soared the length of the bar; this was not the music the crowd wanted and some restlessness had crept in.  Bridie however was transfixed.  Donal was dimly aware of inserting the chromatic that, had he been singing accompanied, the pianist would have entered at this point, but he made do with a hummed scale before launching into the final, wonderful verse.

 

            ‘And often when the beetle’s horn

            Hath lulled the eve’ to sleep,

            I steal unto her shieling lorn,

            And through the dooring peep.

            There on the cricket’s singing stone

            She spares the bog-wood fire,

            And hums in sweet, sad undertone

            The song of heart’s desire.’

 

            The two lovers, for that’s what they now were in spirit, gazed at each other, neither seeing nor hearing the feebleness of the applause.  Neither would they have cared if they had.  They walked out into the night oblivious of the victory cheers from the Drumgarton contingent celebrating the victory of  'Galway Bay' by their baritone.

 

            ‘Bloody fool!  Bloody damn’ fool,' shouted Eammon into his Guinness.  Hadn’t he had a side bet, lost the lot and bought the idiot a drink into the bargain?

 

*            *            *

 

            It was still raining and him with a girl to see home. 

 

‘Well, that’s that, I might as well go for broke’, he said and hammered on the door of Casey’s Taxi Company.

 

‘Hey Casey, take us home will yer?’  Casey, grasping at an early fare before the night at Reilly’s broke up, backed out the saloon and they clambered in.

 

It was not long before their lips brushed and Donal at last discovered that there were other things to do with lips than empty glasses and sing.  He left the singing now to his heart.

 

*            *            *

 

Two years later, Mr and Mrs Donal O’Dwyer strolled down Newberry Street in Boston gazing at some of  America’s finest shops and hotels, happy and without a care in the world.  They were on a holiday paid for with the sweat of the brow in a real world not sullied by the vagaries and false urgencies of show business and its attendant pressures.

 

In their happiness, they threw back their heads and skipped along the sidewalk.  Their raised eyes were arrested by a poster with a lived in, haggard, world-weary visage looking out.  Nothing the publicity men and graphic artists had done had put back the joy into the merry, laughing face they had known in Ireland.

 

‘Sure isn’t that Sean Casey?’ she asked.  ‘Will you look at the poor lad?’

 

‘God’, said he, ‘Will ye look at him?  But for you, me *Lenanshee, that might have been me up there.’

 

 

 

********************************************************

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Lenanshee. - - - - - -  Fairy Mistress

 

Due acknowledgement is made to:

 

The late Percy French (1854 - 1920) who wrote both words and music of

'Mat Hannigan's Aunt.'

 

Seosamh MacCathmaoil for the words of 'My Lagan Love', usually sung to the beautiful arrangement of Hamilton Harty.

 

           

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2008 JohnL


Author's Note

JohnL
Your helpfully critical opinions are welcome on all aspects of this story. Thank you.

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Featured Review

The first short story pales in comparisan to this. I love it. I love the phrase " dancing with the rythym louder than this time, more insistent." Its one of those lines of words you can taste on your tongue. The first story you sent me was beatiful but I'm afriad its poetic nature is something I seem to not have and understanding for wether I'm writing or reading. I know undertaking writing this book seems far fetched at this point in my life I'm young, completely over schedualed ( I have a very physical full time job, husband, child and home to care for) and completely under educated seeing how the last grade I finished was the 8th but I've had a constant obsession with this story. I've researched the subject matter for almost two and a half years and I cant seem to let it go no matter how tired or frustrated I get trust me i' ve tried. So I've decided to just get it out of my system. Before I babble on forever I just wanna say again I absolutly love this story.



Mary

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

The first short story pales in comparisan to this. I love it. I love the phrase " dancing with the rythym louder than this time, more insistent." Its one of those lines of words you can taste on your tongue. The first story you sent me was beatiful but I'm afriad its poetic nature is something I seem to not have and understanding for wether I'm writing or reading. I know undertaking writing this book seems far fetched at this point in my life I'm young, completely over schedualed ( I have a very physical full time job, husband, child and home to care for) and completely under educated seeing how the last grade I finished was the 8th but I've had a constant obsession with this story. I've researched the subject matter for almost two and a half years and I cant seem to let it go no matter how tired or frustrated I get trust me i' ve tried. So I've decided to just get it out of my system. Before I babble on forever I just wanna say again I absolutly love this story.



Mary

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

All the raw abandon of the Irish ...and urgency of entertainers ....facing "that moment"
a bit of charm and fun romance tossed in.

a good tale overall
You affected the brogue perfectly...nice ialoging my friend

I will be back for more reads

Man do the Irish ...even "know" that parties end ?

Blessssssss

Posted 13 Years Ago


It gives me the whole in look of a muscian getting ready to perform.A great write and imagery you placed in every sentence.

sara

Posted 13 Years Ago


John L, I can find no fault in your writing. It was a very different read for me, and one I enjoyed very much. You took me there, and I saw the whole thing. Thank you. Sam

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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4 Reviews
Added on May 16, 2008
Last Updated on June 1, 2008

Author

JohnL
JohnL

Wirral Peninsula, United Kingdom



About
I live in England, and love the English countryside, the music of Elgar and Holst which describes it so beautifully and the poetry of John Clare, the 'peasant poet' and Gerard Manley Hopkins, which d.. more..

Writing