Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Solstice!

Yay! From now on, the days will only get lighter!

I just wanted to state for the record that I think both the Conine and Gonzalez trades/signings were good. You can come back to this post in October...


Sunday, December 17, 2006


I'll probably be writing more of the story over Christmas break. 10 days off work in a row. Such beauty! Anyway, I got stuck. I tell you, I have no control over what is happening. This story is vastly different than what I envisioned, but I'm kind of intrigued by it now. No, I don't know what's going to happen. Yeah, I know it comes out of my brain, but sometimes it's like I'm not the one writing it. And right now, I'm not the one writing it. No one is. Just a bit o'writer's block. Work's been a bit stressful. I suppose that has something to do with it.

I miss baseball. I just spent an entire evening outside at a party in weather that was more akin to September, not Christmas. It just makes it seem like baseball is closer, but it isn't. Sigh...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Twas a sad little roster

Twas a few weeks before Christmas, when all through Disneyworld
The GM was stirring, but said not a word.
Red stockings were hung in thoughts and in prayers,
In hopes that a hitter soon would be theirs.

The fans were impatient for news of the Reds,
While visions of victory danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had no more stomach for another year's crap.

When out in the papers there arose such a clatter,
I went to the web to see what was the matter.
Away to the Reds page I flew with a hunch,
Clicked open the article and threw up my lunch.

A long time employee of 39 years
Had resigned in disgust at one of his peers
The General Manager, Krivsky's the name
Apparently "listened to no one" he claimed.

With another resignation, so disgruntled and quick,
I knew in a moment K must be a prick.
More rapid than eagles bad moves they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Austin! now Lopez! now Ward and Aurilia!
Sign Bubba! Sign Moeller! and forty-year old relievers!
To the waste bins of baseball! to the list of released!
Now sign away! Sign away! Sign away, beasts!"

As infielders that before had played with the Twins,
Were signed with no hope to contribute to wins.
Catchers were lined in a very long queue,
Though one was traded, so there were two.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard in the news
That two little catchers just wouldn't do.
No, three was a must, and a bad one at that,
Signed by Wayne Krivsky with no kind of bat.

He was dressed all in red, from his head to his foot,
And he looked to contribute, but there was nothing he could.
A bundle of gear he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a has-been, if he'd ever been that.

The roster was loaded with players so weary
And Reds fans all over had no need to be cheery.
As Wayne was determined to play Christmas grinch
The catchers and fielders made it a cinch.

Of course don't forget, relievers aplenty
For Wayne was determined to waste the team's money.
But the piece of the puzzle, that one thing we need
Was to Wayne Krivsky a low priority.

That need was a bat, a righthanded hitter
A batter with pop and an on base percentage!
Someone who could often contribute a run,
Someone who could hit behind Adam Dunn.

And so Barton Jr. retired from work,
And said in the papers Wayne's some kind of jerk.
And then it was Almaraz quitting the team,
After 16 long years, he was ready to scream.

Another farewell should signal a whistle,
Working with Wayne must be like walking through thistle.
And I heard fans exclaim, "of losing we're tired!"
"Wayne Krivsky sux, he deserves to be fired!"

Monday, December 11, 2006

Chapter 12

He had not been close. What was supposed to have been an out for the opposing team had turned out to be a home run. Casey saw Sidney get up from his box a few sections over and knew he had to get out of there. Grabbing Anne’s hand, he darted to the concourse and disappeared into the crowd. They took seats in some empty bleachers in leftfield. He knew they could not go home that night, so they stayed in a hotel, fearful and restless and keeping their eyes on the door. There was no one to turn to, nowhere to hide, and no visible way out of the mess. Sidney was irrational, vengeful, the worst type of person to have a problem with. Casey thought about the movies again, thought about what people like Sidney could do to a nobody like him, and he grew scared. He convinced Anne to come with him to Chicago for a few days until Sidney had time to settle down. It was the weekend, anyway, and she was ready for a break from the sweltering Cincinnati July. In Chicago, they could go to the beach, relax, and pretend their problem did not exist for awhile.

Daniel was more than happy to put them up for a few days. His apartment was much more luxurious than someone who worked for a non-profit should have had, a spacious place with a large wall-length window overlooking the blue of Lake Michigan. He had a full guest bedroom with its own bath for Casey and Anne to stay in, and the kitchen was something out of a magazine. Casey had thought it impressive the first time he visited, but he had not thought about how odd it was for someone like Daniel to live in such a place until he heard Anne comment about its beauty.

Over dinner that night at a pizza restaurant (only in Chicago could they make pizza fancy), Casey decided to tell Daniel the real reason they were in Chitown. Actually, it was the beer that decided for him, but he needed to get it off his chest anyway. As any rational person would react, Daniel did not believe such an incredulous story. Feelings? Magic powers? You’re drunk and making up stories. No, I swear it’s true, isn’t it, Anne? Yes, it is. How else do you think I can afford not to work? I concede that your story about this Sidney character is plausible, even if you have embellished. So you’ve been making your money on gambling? Yeah, I’m ashamed to admit it. Betting on baseball, hmm. Didn’t realize there was much money in that during the regular season. I can help. How? I know people who make their living protecting those who make a living from gambling. Really? Yeah, I can put a couple down in Cincy for you, pay this Sidney character a visit. Oh, that would be great.

Casey and Anne were both able to relax for the rest of the weekend, convinced they would be safe when they returned to Cincinnati. Casey tired of Anne’s complaints about walking the city to see it. She wanted to take buses, was not up to exploration. She wanted to sit on the beach all day, forget the city. But Casey was restless and ready to discover what the city had to offer, so he left Anne on the beach while he traversed the concrete jungle, conquered it. It was just too bad he had to do it alone. She was grouchy at night, too, wanting to spend long hours at dinner instead of going out on the town. She rejected his bid to go see Second City, rejected the blues club he wanted to visit, rejected going up to Wrigleyville for a few beers near the stadium. He found himself rather bored by her.

Fortunately, their time in the city was short. They argued on the way home about petty things like how he spent time to himself and how he had complained when he did not get what he wanted. It wasn’t that he wanted his own way all the time, he said, but that he at least wanted to do some of the things on his list of things to do, but she rejected nearly every one of them. She was controlling, he said, too demanding. He was reckless, she said. The last couple of hours of the trip consisted of angry silence, and Casey slept on the couch that night.

He was still angry when she left for work in the morning and did not want to bring her to the game that night, so he called Nathan, whom he had not spoken with since he quit his job. Nathan’s voice was filled with anger towards Casey but he was so desperate for company at a ballgame that he said he would go to the game. Casey wasted his day doing nothing in particular, playing a few meaningless computer games, doing a crossword puzzle, reading a chapter of a baseball book, taking an aimless walk around downtown…he stopped in front of Marin’s store and stared at the window displays for a long enough time that he could have seemed suspicious to anyone who watched him. For several minutes he debated about entering the store and in the end decided to do so. She was not there. She did not work there anymore. His heart sunk.

Leaving Nathan’s ticket at Will Call, Casey entered the stadium as soon as the gates opened at Great American Ball Park. Ball Park – ballpark was not two words. It bothered him severely that the insurance company had botched the name of the ballpark. It was a sign of stupidity, of corporate carelessness, of apathy towards quality. At least the name of the company was something bearable for a name, not like Minute Maid Park, Petco Field (reminded Casey of dog food), or U.S. Cellular Field. Value City Arena, where Ohio State plays basketball, is by far the worst name. It makes the team sound cheap. These names show how much corporations have replaced people as the basic element of society. In the past, stadiums were named for people, usually the evil owners, or something mundane like Municipal or County. But now, an entrance to a park screams BUY ME!, sticking wretched corporatism into the heart of nostalgia that baseball brings. Casey thought of the discussions about baseball he had had with older men, who recalled with fondness memories of visiting Griffith Stadium, the Polo Grounds, Crosley Field. Just mentioning those stadiums lit up their eyes and took them back to days of innocence. Imagine sitting at a ballgame on a Sunday afternoon far into the future, when your old bones are tired and you are reflecting on your life as it nears it’s end. Who’s going to say, “Ah, I remember the days at good old AT&T Park…” There is nothing romantic about that. Besides, the parks change their names so often, you won’t even be able to call it anything. Naming rights have stolen the nostalgia from us, taken away some of the joy of our memories before we have even had a chance to create those memories!

For the first time in a long while, Casey wandered the stadium, peering at the field from each level and each side as if he were inspecting it for the first time. He was searching for the love. He was searching for that heart racing feeling he used to get when he looked out at the field, diamond green glistening under a day game sun or glowing under stadium lights. He longed to feel his spirit aroused by the smell of ballpark hotdogs seductively massaging his nose and making him smile. He tried to hear the echoes of crowds past, crowds future, the ghosts of memories that would haunt the stadium until its early destruction. Modern stadiums had shorter lifespans than the memories created in them, as they were no longer revered cathedrals but glass and steel thatched huts destined to be blown down by the corporate wolf at our doors. The boyish enthusiasm he once had in seeing the players take batting practice, even as he entered his thirties, was gone, his spirit unmoved by neither sight nor sound nor any sensation. Was his soul dead? Were the baseball gods punishing him for his transgressions against the game? Would he ever step foot in that cornfield in Iowa, or was that just another meaningless movie to him?

Oh, wretched pain, cursed reality! The sins of the world had swallowed him, he had broken each of the ten commandment in his lifetime, but not with malice. It was the world that had turned on him, not the other way around. He had not chosen to go to war. He had not chosen to meet Sidney. He had not chosen to meet his IRA cousins. Oh, god, that was what Daniel was up to, wasn’t he?

He bought a beer and took his seat, interested in watching people interact with the environment, with each other, and with themselves. He wondered how many of them were mired in serious thoughts or if some of them had no thoughts at all. Were there some who were spiritually aware of what was around them, any who understood the significance of each moment in time, any who cared about more than just eating or finding a mate? He cursed them all, blamed them for their selfishness, their apathy, their wretchedly simple minds and hearts. These were soulless beasts, were they not? Was it possible there were people who existed without souls?

Nathan arrived to interrupt this fit of misanthropy. Casey looked at him and his tray full of food with disgust. Such a contemptible creature, he thought. What a boor. What a waste of breath. Nathan carried two beers, handed one to Casey, an act that immediately disarmed his disdain, though not without a fight. Funny how such little acts of kindness, or a simple apology, could alleviate such tensions and bad feelings one could foster against another human being. Too bad there weren’t more of them.

Nathan was fascinated about the details of Casey’s trip to Ireland, a genuine, fantastic interest only a man who rarely stepped outside of his home and office could generate. He kept saying “neat” and repeatedly wished he “could go on a trip to a place like that.”

“Just go then,” Casey said after losing patience with these incessant wishes.

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It’s just too…far.”

“What kind of excuse is that?”

“Well, it’s just that I don’t have anyone to go with.”

“Go alone. I did.”

“But you have better social skills than I do. I mean, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it. I’d just feel lonely if I went by myself.”

“So what, you’ll continue to wallow in your loneliness in your tiny apartment, shut off from the outside world?”

“At least I know what to expect.” Casey said nothing for a couple of batters, and Nathan responded to the silence with his own anxious version of it. The Reds hit back to back doubles to score a run. Something deep within Casey, perhaps the vestiges of his love of the game, must have stirred when that run crossed the plate to the crowd’s roaring delight.

“Tell you what. I’m going back during the off season to spend a couple of months. Why don’t you come over for a week? I’ll show you around Dublin City.” Nathan’s eyes exploded into flames of happiness, but he could find no words to say. His instinct was to find excuses, but he badly wanted to go, and he did not want Casey to change his mind.

“Ok,” he said, knowing that Casey did not like when he became excited.

“Alright then, there’s something for you to look forward to.” The Reds scored another run, and Casey’s mood lightened a little, until he saw Sidney coming towards him. His first thought was to run, but Sidney’s face was worried, not menacing. Daniel’s people must have gotten to him.

“Hey, can I talk to you for a minute,” he said as he timidly approached the seats.

“Sure. Hey, Nathan, I’ll be right back.” He noticed Nathan’s dejected look. “Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning you.” The two went up to the concourse.

“Hey, look, I just wanted to let you know I’m sorry. I won’t bother you again. I didn’t realize you were with the Republicans.”

With the Republicans? Would he be able to fly on a plane again?

“No hard feelings, huh? See you around,” Casey replied as he tried to sound convincing about being part of a group he wanted no part of. He returned to his seat.

“That was quick,” Nathan said relieved.

“Told you.”

“I’m going to get another beer. You want one?”

“There’s a beer guy coming.”

“Nah, I want something that tastes good.”

“Ok, yeah, sure, I’ll take one.” He felt like he had a servant rather than a friend, not a good feeling during a time when he probably needed the latter. Later, when he was walking home from a rather impressive victory, it occurred to him that he had never told Anne he wanted to go back to Ireland during the off season, that he really had not known himself that he wanted to go. Maybe he would split the winter between Dublin and see Britain, too, or maybe France or Germany or another part of Europe. Sure, why not? Then it occurred to him that he no longer had any money flowing into his bank account, and that he would run out by next spring. Frugality could give him a couple of months more, but he would have to find a job. Perhaps Neil could get him one in Dublin.

Anne was furious when he returned to the apartment. She had not really wanted to go to the game, but since he had gone without her without seeing if she wanted to go, she found herself angry at him once again. They argued again, as they did for the rest of the season. Only the thought of how he had longed for her when they were apart kept him from asking her to move out, that and the fact that she was paying half the rent, which helped to prolong his dwindling savings. Their quarrels were fueled by the August heat and persisted despite the lack of any real issue to argue about. He went to the ballpark to get away from her, not because his love for the game had returned. There was an emptiness where joy had once been, a bitterness that replaced love and contentment, and pessimism wracked his outlook on his once cherished life. Strikes, balls, outs, home runs – what did they matter? Why had he spent so much time on something so frivolous? Why had he considered the game of baseball as poetry, as art? Each beat of his tempestuous heart brought him further from the game, further from Anne, and further from the world. War. Corporatism. Racism. Inequality. Greed. Apathy. Paradise lost.

The world swirled around in the bottom of a glass or a bottle. Late nights, stumbling home, fighting, rage, the headaches, the heartaches, days blending together, staying in bed, September’s song playing on, third place, empty October, damn Yankees, help me get out of this Hell. Have to find that field. Need break. Hope you enjoyed your journey, and thank you for flying Aer Lingus.

He left her there, left her in his apartment wondering how much more she could take, thinking the break would do them well, perhaps mend the holes in their hearts, mend the holes in their lives. She let him go, continued on with her life knowing that he would return in a couple of months. She would be there waiting for him at the airport like she had when he touched down the last time, and things would be good again, perfect again, contentment would reign, spring would renew them and their world.

It was good to be with family again, he thought as he ate a bite of Eva’s cooking in the modest house in the Dublin suburbs. Could I be happy with a life like this? Do they ever go through what I’ve just been through? He had picked up some new video games for Neil Jr., who had grown several inches in the last year. It happens so fast, you know. You do not notice time when you are young. A day is long enough, a year is an eternity. But the death of childhood, of innocence, winds the clock too tight, makes it rush forward, spinning without regard for those who cannot keep up or those who need to stop and catch a breath. This boy was a startling reminder of the vertigo caused by time, how time was the true dictator of men, how in an infinitely small measure of it, time can come to an end, and it does for all of us. Men were fools, tricked into believing that just yesterday something had happened that had actually occurred years ago. Reentering Dublin was like waking up one morning in the city – he felt like no time had gone by – but a half a year had passed, a whole baseball season, from its innocent birth in the warm southern states to its glorious (or vainglorious, in the case of the Yankees) death in the midst of autumn’s cool nights. He would not have known had he not seen the boy. He would have pretended that he was keeping up with the pace of life. Maybe it was the wonder of seeing how grateful the boy was for the gifts or the innocence he saw in his eyes, but Casey remembered how much he had cherished ever sip of air he had been blessed with, every glimmer of sunshine, every beat of his fragile heart. Something resembling joy began to rise in him, but it was gone by the time he returned to the hotel he was staying in, replaced with that same bitterness that had brought him here in the first place.

He spent more time at Neil’s house than he had during the previous winter. Eva was teaching him how to cook, although at first, Casey wondered if bland old Irish cuisine were the best place to start. In keeping with Irish stereotypes, a potato dish was served with every meal. Eva, however, had a knack for spices. Her father had been an officer in the British Royal Air Force and had been stationed in India for two years during World War II, absorbing the ways of the Indians and bringing home exotic spices. Ah, war makes the world go round…

Neil called everything she made “curry.” Casey did, too, until he learned that there was no such spice as curry, that a “curry” was actually a blend of spices and there were many different types of curry. Just like people, Casey thought. The yellow curries used turmeric, a spice that stained everything it touched. Cumin was another common ingredient – it smelled like wildflowers sprinkled with pepper to him. There was garlic, lots of garlic, and ginger, fenugreek, and anise. She used nutmeg and mace, both derivatives of the same narcotic. A rainbow of dried peppers went into every dish, reds, yellows, greens, blacks, sitting in mounds like an artist’s palette, each distinct flavor melting into one big pot, not segregating themselves, not fighting, but blending together to create one intoxicating taste and an incredible aroma that took over the house.

During the second week in January, as the Western world was recovering from weeks of holiday insanity and trying to find its way back to normal, Casey decided to visit Padraig in Belfast. Padraig seemed odd on the phone but insisted it was not a bad time and that Casey would be welcomed to visit, so he caught the train to return to the city of a dying conflict, as he viewed it, not quite dead, heart still beating, but laying on its death bed on a legislative table in Stormont. What a strange name to house a legislative body carved in peace – ironic, even.

After sleeping peacefully on his first night there, he woke to an unseasonably clear, warm sky, something familiar, a September kind of blue, ready to spend the day snapping photos of people who were beginning to get used to peace. There was some resistance to his photography, some frowning, some refusal to be photographed, fear-worn faces, anxiety and worry in some of the older eyes, but in the youth, he found something different. It had been ten years since the peace agreement, enough time for children who had not known the violence to play with each other in streets and parks. He did not see the same broken hatred, the same ideological drive, the same pain and weariness. No, he saw hope. He heard them laugh and saw those laughs in their eyes. He saw kids with Celtic jerseys playing kids with Rangers jerseys, some on the same team.

As he watched some of these kids in a park in the city, the despair that he had been carrying seemed to dissolve into the hope that he witnessed in them, and a small flame, something like faith in the future, crept up within him. Maybe someday we could truly have peace, he thought. Probably not in his lifetime, or any time during the next generation, but the hope made it all worthwhile, didn’t it? All of those efforts towards peace, the endless talks, the occasional arguments, the billions of dollars spent trying to stop conflict, the peacekeeping forces, the compromises, the treaties…It was worth it to try, because as long as there were people in the world who wanted peace, there was hope. He looked around him and saw the world with a clarity he had never before experienced. It was like watching a film, looking at a set consisting of office buildings, restaurants, cafés, pubs, cars neatly aligned on the sides of the streets, birds singing in trees, people walking with somewhere or nowhere to go. He focused on a restaurant/pub called The Dove, a place that seemed to be full of people, probably both Protestants and Catholics, given the name. He picked up his camera and took aim at the place, put his finger on the button, and pressed down.

His camera captured a fiery storm of brick and glass and wood raining down from the blue sky. The peace had been breached.

The camera snapped photo after photo of this act of war, broken bodies, oceans of blood, every ounce of bitter fear, floodgates of damned up pain, of tragic memories, of hatred, wrath, vengeance. In between photos, he covered bodies with table cloths, held the hands of the wounded, tied tourniquets, put pressure on wounds, cried with people, for people, his tears leaving trails on his ash-stained face. He pulled as many people out of the building as he could, grateful for his Army experience and those countless hours of combat lifesaver courses. Still, he snapped. He captured images of broken wine glasses still hanging from above the bar, a cracked and blackened Guinness mirror mounted on a wall, a broken light fixture above a splintered table, mounds of lunch strewn across those who had been enjoying it. He could not refrain from counting. There – a table of four. There – two, another four. Four, three, a person who had died alone, a table with bodies too disfigured to count how many, four, three, two, twenty-five, thirty…Could not count anymore, police had arrived, paramedics, the investigation team, years of experience, out of practice, years of vacation come to an end. Casey kneeled beside a woman whose leg had been severed just below the knew. He had tied a tourniquet for her. He held her hand as paramedics made their way through the rubble to her. More ambulances arrived, more sirens rang out over the city. The woman’s fear succumbed to shock as she disappeared behind the ambulance doors. Casey found a man about his age with a gushing abdominal wound. He put pressure on it, slowed the bleeding until another batch of ambulances arrived. With them came the vultures known to the apathetic as the media.

News vans arrived in droves, complicating matters, blocking ambulances until they were threatened with arrest. Predictably, the Americans were first, but they only won by a nose. A paramedic came over to take the bleeding man away. “Thanks, mate,” he said to Casey. “Your help means everything.” Casey nodded, then moved to the next guy, who had a foot long piece of wood lodged in his chest. There was no way he was going to make it, but Casey did not want him to die alone. “Tell my wife…Martin Brady…please.” As Casey held the man’s – Martin’s – hand with tears of rage streaming down his face, he looked up at the sky and realized where he had seen that blue before – a beautiful September day in 2001, New York City, the day the world went mad.

A policeman came up to Casey and tried to make him leave, but the paramedic who had thanked him yelled, “It’s ok, he knows what he’s doing, and we need him.” Another batch of ambulances arrived, so many ambulances. Had Belfast no end to its ambulance supply? As he held the hand of a now unconscious Martin, he grabbed his camera with his free hand and continued to snap photos as respectfully as he could. The comfortable world had to see what war was like. America had to see it. They had to learn it was not a sporting event to wave flags and paste ribbons and wear the colors on sleeves.

When the last of the living had been taken away, Casey, weary from the stress of battle, quit the scene to a darkness he thought he had left behind in the wretched deserts of Babylon. The wounds of the world were gaping open. He slung his weapon around his neck – his lens – and returned to his hotel room defeated. Before attempting sleep that night, a feat he knew would be impossible, he got online and sent his photos to every major news outlet in the world.

In the morning, he had a new career. He also felt he had a new black mark on his soul: war profiteering.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Chapter 11

For a couple of months after his return, while baseball players were tanning themselves in the Sunshine and Cactus States, he felt life was perfect, the happiest he had ever been in his life. He agonized over the time he and Anne were apart while she was away at work, and he toyed with the idea of telling her to quit, but his money was rapidly running out, and he felt more secure having her income. She had moved in with him, and they settled into domestic life quite easily. But he could not bring himself to ask her to marry him.

Everything in his life was warming up, like he had rebooted his hard drive or something. Sidney started to hang around again, flowers began to bloom, and the red caps came out, replacing their fleecy winter counterparts. The gray often gave way to a few sparkles of sunshine, and birds spontaneously generated from tree branches and power lines. The world was reborn, and then, the holy day arrived – the defending World Series Champs floated down Cincinnati streets in the Findlay Market Parade clutching that holy grail of a trophy. Oh, it was positively magical! Baseball had risen again!

Casey did not sit in Sidney’s boxes during the coveted day or for many days after it – he had purchased his own season tickets so he could sit with Anne. The incessant phone calls during the games were quite annoying, but he had only to look at his rejuvenated bank account to wash the annoyance away. Anne was irritated with the phone calls, too, but she knew what they were for and learned to live with them. The world was nearly perfect that spring – even the Middle east seemed weary of violence – but then, something terrible happened. He got a prediction wrong.

Sidney was furious and accused Casey of doing it on purpose. His screaming sent shivers of fear up Casey’s spine. He did not tell Anne, but she saw Sidney’s anger and Casey’s agitation and knew something was up. The tension mounted instead of receding, and Casey’s feelings became less reliable. He lost more money. Sidney could hardly look at him without fuming. There were fights with Anne, too. Even the Reds seemed to make him miserable, playing poorly and dropping to a distant third place by mid June. The stress of it all was taking the enjoyment out of the game, and one particularly clichéd stormy day, Casey realized the true horror of the situation. He had lost his love for the game.

It had probably begun the previous season when he realized that A.J. was a jackass and that many of the players were elitist superficial assholes. Then there was his reduced enthusiasm for what should have been heart attack inducing excitement during the World Series. And he did not follow the winter transactions as devoted fans should. But it just kept getting worse.

One night around 2am, a thunderous, dangerous knock landed on his door. A groggy, confused Casey stumbled to answer it while a worried Anne stayed in bed. Looking through the peephole, he saw a red faced Sidney standing there, and against his better judgment, he opened it. Two large men in black barged in and pushed Casey onto his couch, while Sidney followed them in.

“What the hell is this about?” Casey asked.

“Oh, I think you know,” Sidney responded.

“That I’ve been getting things wrong? I can’t help it.”

“Cut the bullshit, Casey. Who are you working for?”


“You’re obviously involved in some operation to SCREW me!”

“Why would I do that? I thought we were friends.”

“Oh, don’t play that game with me. Do I look like an idiot? You think I don’t notice you buy your own seats, you’re ok for two months, and then you suddenly start to make me lose my money?”

“No, Sidney, I’m serious. I don’t know why I’ve been getting things wrong.”


Sidney, I swear I’m not doing it on purpose.”

The two men, who looked like bears with the heads of dogs, stepped toward Casey.

“Listen to me. I’m gonna give you another chance ‘cause we’re friends, right? But you screw me again, I’m going to make sure you’re screwed in a much more painful way. You got that?”

“Uh, yeah, Sidney.”

Sidney said no more, did not even look at Casey again as he left the apartment. Anne came running out from the bedroom.

“What’s that all about, Casey?” she asked anxiously.

“I’ve been getting the predictions wrong, babe, and Sidney’s been losing money. He just threatened me.”

“Oh, god, Case, that isn’t good at all. I’ve heard rumors about what Sidney has done to people.”

“But what can I do? I can’t help that I’m getting the predictions wrong. The feelings are wrong. I mean, it feels the same as it used to, but it’s not the correct outcome. And now Sidney thinks I’m using another bookie. Why would I do that? And how do I convince him I’m not?”

“Case, this is so fucked up. I mean, the whole thing was so weird in the first place, but now…”

“Let’s just go to sleep now and deal with it in the morning.” He did not sleep until after she had gone to work, and that sleep did not last long. He begrudgedly got out of bed, dressed, and went to Vivatma’s café for some coffee, but he realized he just was not in the mood for Vivatma’s unending enthusiasm. Casey cut him off in mid-sentence as he was talking about A.J.’s home run the previous night, telling him he could have his tickets for the game that night and that he would drop them off later in the day. The encounter put him in a foul mood that the day’s sunshine could not cheer. He called Anne to tell her they were not going to the game that night and he had given the tickets away. She did not mind but worried about him, for Michael had told her awful things about Sidney. If she had been religious, she would have prayed.

When she got home that evening, Casey was nowhere to be found. She tried his phone but got voicemail. She did not start to worry until the clock struck nine. He had not gone off without at least telling her he would be out late since they had gotten back together, and with the early morning visit, the anxiety was nearly more than she could bear. She rung him several more times throughout the evening, each time more frantic than the last. It was not until around eleven when he called.

“Where are you? I’ve been worried sick about you!”

“Relax, I just needed to get away for a few days.”

“Get away? A few days? Without telling me? Where are you?” she said as anger began to rise into her mind.

“I’m on a train to Chicago. I’m going to visit a cousin I’ve never met. Neil gave me his address.”

Chicago?” The anger had taken over. “How can you just up and leave for Chicago without telling me?”

“I’m telling you now. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a few days.”

“Stay as long as you want,” she replied as she hung up the phone. This was not at all like Casey, and this was not something she liked or could get used to.

He was going to see a distant cousin whose address Neil had given him in. Casey had no intention of visiting at the time, but now he needed a destination for his short term escape, and this was all he could think of. The cousin, Daniel, was happy to hear from him when he called to ask if he could visit – apparently Neil had told him about Casey in a recent phone conversation.

Daniel was dry, dull, and rather grateful for the company. He had not lost his Irish accent though he had lived in Chicago for a decade. His job had landed him in the Windy City, and though he longed to go home, he claimed his work was more important. Though he was a fundraiser for a charity organization that helped disadvantaged Irish Catholics get back on their feet, Daniel did not come across as the do gooder type. His coarse language, grubby hands, and rude treatment of those he encountered was more suited to a coal miner or construction worker, someone who had earned his coarseness with the harsh work and physical brutality of his labor.

During his stay, Casey decided to call all of the Jerome Robinsons in the Chicago area. A substantial number of men with the same name existed, and Casey had made it halfway through the list before he hit on some luck. His Jerome Robinson, the one who had written the bad paper about his great uncle, Sergeant Lincoln T. Robinson, lived in city and agreed to meet Casey after he had mentioned the letter.

The two met in a café after Jerome got off work at his bank. (A bank! No wonder he had such poor writing skills!) He was as excited as Casey to talk about this relative, and he jumped up from his chair, knocking it over when Casey held out his hand to shake.

“Sorry, man, it’s just great to get some information about my great uncle. See, I’ve been trying since college to get him a Medal of Honor for his service during World War II.”

“He’s still alive?”

“Nah, he passed away almost twenty years ago. I’m trying to get it awarded to him post, um, post, um…”

“Humously – posthumously.”

“Yeah, that’s it. They didn’t award many of them to us brothers back then.”

“What’d he do?”

“Guy saved like a whole company of men – white men – from the fucking Nazis. Oh, excuse my language.”

“Oh, it’s no problem. I believe they should permanently add the prefix and refer to them as fucking Nazis. It’s more accurate, anyway.”

“Sure is. Anyway, short story is company commander was a complete moron, just go promoted a week earlier after the old company commander got blown up in another battle. Commander led them right into an ambush, gunner got blown up, bullets raining down on them. Great uncle ran to the gun, mowed down a couple platoons of them Nazis. Commander lost his mind. Dude hadn’t even been in the Army a year. He’s lucky they let men like my great uncle fight on the frontlines in 1943. Like a year earlier, us brothers were picking up garbage and fixing trucks instead of fighting. When they opened it up for combat, my great uncle was one of the first to volunteer. He even had to get demoted to private to do the job, ‘cause they didn’t have any slots for him. He didn’t care, though. He just hated them Nazis so much. It started with the ’36 Olympics and Jesse Owens, may the man rest in peace, and when Hitler invaded in ’39 to start the war, my great uncle enlisted immediately. The man was smart, I tell you. He knew the United States would get into that war. Good thing, too, huh?”

“Yeah, it was.”

“Well, see, he learned how to fix supply trucks and got good at it and kept being promoted real fast. He knew every part of the trucks he worked on, called them his babies. He had a good commander, too. Didn’t believe in segregation and was pissed that he wasn’t allowed to use his troops as he wanted. His commander’s name was Major Egan. He was from Ohio, where I’m from and where my great uncle was from…”

“Where in Ohio?”


“Really? Me, too!” Casey exclaimed, excited to have something in common with the sergeant.

“Small world, isn’t it? So being from Cincinnati, my great uncle and the commander had something in common to talk about, and sometimes the commander would call him into his office and they’d share a Jack Daniels and talk about Cincinnati Reds. He loved baseball.”

“Reds baseball is my life! I have season tickets.” No words could describe how much of an understatement that was.

“Yeah? I’m a fan, too. Every time they come to Chicago, I go to see them. They come a lot, too. My great uncle, he played in the Negro Leagues. He was a catcher, mostly back up. He got to back up Josh Gibson on the Pittsburgh Crawfords for two years.” Casey’s eyes lit up at the mention of the great’s name. “But then he came back to Cincinnati to play for the Tigers and he got to start. He was getting pretty good, worked real hard, and wanted to play in the Majors. A lot of Negro Leaguers just enjoyed playing baseball, like Buck O’Neill, but my great uncle wanted more than that, wanted to make things right, and he really started working at it, practiced every day, took care of his body, and right before the war started, he was really good. But then he joined the Army, and by the time Jackie Robinson had broken through, he was thirty years old and knew he had no chance, so he stayed in the Army. At least he got to experience a integration in the Army. He thought it was the greatest day of his life when he joined the 25th.”

“So what happened in Korea?”

“I don’t know anything about Korea. It’s been hard enough finding out the information I know.”

“Where’d you get your information?”

“Well, the baseball stuff came from my grandfather, who was ten years younger. Some of the war stuff, too. The rest came from digging through documents, talking to and meeting relatives of his company and the company he saved. Believe me, it hasn’t been easy.”

“But it was easy for me to find you.”

“From one letter, too. Let me ask you, why did that letter make you interested in my great uncle?”

“I don’t know, really. I felt a connection to him, I guess because of our war experiences. I mean he fought in TWO wars. That’s incredible. I had enough war after one, enough of the Army.”

“Yeah, but he didn’t have many opportunities being a black man in Cincinnati. No offense, but you had a choice to get out. He really didn’t.”

“I understand. So, do you know who Clare is?”

“No idea. That’s why your letter is so intriguing.” Casey pulled the book with the letter from his jacket pocket and handed the letter to Jerome, who read it with enthusiasm.

“Wow, a secret lover. Cool. I’d love to find out who she was,” he said.

“How about we work together on research?”

“It’d be good for me. A guy who could find me based on a letter has to be an asset for the cause.”

They agreed to alert each other to any new information found and left the meeting convinced it was worth it. Casey felt so productive that he decided to go home, much to Daniel’s chagrin. On the train, he realized the one person who would appreciate the new found knowledge was a woman he had not spoken to in half a year. In his humble apartment in Cincinnati, Ohio was a woman he had loved for nearly all of his adult life, who was angry but waiting for him to return home. But as a train carrying him chugged towards that place he called home, he found himself wondering if maybe that place and the woman waiting inside it were not home at all, that home was waiting somewhere else, somewhere close to his humble apartment but in another world. And then, as the lights rushed by the window in glowing streaks and lines, he thought, maybe, just maybe he was right.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chapter 10

An increasing amount of his time had been spent researching Sergeant Lincoln T. Robinson online. Casey discovered a photo of the sergeant with a couple of his fellow soldiers that had been used in a college student’s research paper, a kid named Jerome Robinson who was the great nephew of the sergeant. Unfortunately, the student was no longer at the university, but at least Casey had a lead. A lead to what? What was he looking for?

The paper was not very well-written, probably received no higher than a C, and Casey was not quite sure what its point was. It was as if the student had just wanted to tell his professor that he had a relative fight in the war. The paper’s title, “Integration of the Army,” seemed promising enough, but aside from providing a brief history of African-Americans in the Armed Forces, one that was missing important information that any well-researched paper should have included, the paper did not do much but mention names of blacks in the Army and their units. “My great uncle, Lincoln T. Robinson, went to Europe in the 93rd Infantry Division in 1942 and won a Purple Heart. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1950 and shipped off to Korea a year later. The Army had been desegregated by President Harry S. Truman in 1948, and Sergeant Robinson was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division after the African American divisions were dissolved.” That was it. Nothing about the travails of being a black man in the United States Army before and at the time of integration. Nothing about the struggles with racism or positive stories about integration. Surely if he could find this kid, he could learn more about his great uncle and maybe find out who Clara was and why her letter had been saved from a garbage can by Holden Caulfield. A google search revealed dozens of Jerome Robinsons in the United States, maybe hundreds. He would have to start at the beginning of the list, calling each one of them until he found the great nephew of the sergeant, even at twenty-five cents a minute from across the ocean.

Three strikes and two disconnected numbers later, he put the list down. Ridiculous, he said. Then he called Marin.

“Hello?” Hearing her voice, he nearly hung up, for the distance he had tried to put between him and his life had been erased with the press of twelve buttons. “Hello? Is this Casey?”

“How’d you know?”

“My phone says ‘call from Ireland,’ and you’re the only one I know who is there.”

“Oh, yeah. Technology.”

“So, how is it?”

“If you had asked me that when I first got here, I would have said beautiful, then fun, then lonely, and now interesting. It’s quite an adventure.”

“Are you homesick at all?”

“I was for a bit, after I’d been here for about three weeks. That lasted a week or two.” He proceeded to tell her about meeting Neil on the first day and then Padraig in Belfast, though he left out the IRA part. He told her about the green, the architecture, the taste of the Guinness, the murkiness of the Liffey, the bay, the North Sea, the palm trees and the mild winter, eating Cincinnati Reds (You’re just making that up. No I’m not.), all of the photos he had taken, his research about Sergeant Robinson, and every non-controversial detail he could recall. She asked many questions, more questions than he could answer, and said she wished she could visit.

“Why can’t you?”

“I really can’t afford the plane ticket right now with the Christmas shopping I had to do.”

“I’ll get it for you. A Christmas present.” The phone pretended to go dead.

“I’d really love that, but…”

“But what?”

“I just don’t know if I could accept such a gift from you.”

“You went to Oakland with me.”

“But it wasn’t a foreign country.”

“If you are concerned about the price of a ticket, you’d be surprised to learn that you can get tickets to Dublin for the same price as tickets to San Francisco. The flight time isn’t much longer, either.”


“Yeah, the United States is that big.”

She really did want to go and could find no good excuse not to.

“When?” she asked.

“Do you have plans for New Year’s?”

“Aside from watching the ball drop and drinking a glass of cheap champagne in some bar with a couple of girlfriends? No.”

It was settled, then. She would join him for New Year’s Even in Dublin; he would not have to spend it alone.

Neil had invited him to Christmas dinner, his first Christmas with family since his mother had died. The holiday had crept up on him – the air seemed too warm for it, and he had not been subjected to months of Christmas junk stuffed onto store shelves. Even though commercialism had invaded the city years ago, there was still some respect for the holiday, a bit of reverence for spirituality, and another excuse to celebrate the joys of life. Despite the downs, there were many joys to celebrate. He had to remind himself of that quite often.

He was not prepared for how much reverence there was for the day. Thinking he would wake up late and have a Christmas brunch somewhere, like he had for the last several years in the States, in between those wretched Christmases he spent in Muslim Iraq, he dressed and left the flat. Memories of those desert Christmases visited him. It was odd to him that the Muslims he met had the utmost respect for Christmas. After all, they did view Christ as a prophet whose followers simply messed up. Maybe it was because they had misspelled the word as “profit.” Nothing was open in the city, and only ghosts roamed those empty streets. Even the Muslim Pakistanis and the Hindi Indians had shut down their delis near his flat. Casey was stuck frying the one egg he had left and eating some leftover take away. He was grateful he had asked for the box, because he had planned on leaving the food on his plate. I should really learn to cook, he thought. Maybe it’d make me go to the store more often.

By the time he was supposed to head over to Neil’s house, he was starving. Unsure of what the custom was in terms of bringing a gift to the host, he brought over the usually infallible bottle of beautiful red wine, a gift that was thoroughly appreciated by them all that night. Neil had a gift for Casey, too, the best gift he had received in a long time, a wall hanging with the O’Hagan family crest, which he hung on his apartment wall as soon as he returned that night.

He had also bought Neil, Jr. the latest video game console and a few games. Both Neil and Eva nearly had tears in their eyes, for such luxuries could never be considered on their meager cab driver’s budget, and an honest cab driver, too, one who did not rip off passengers, not even obnoxious American or German or Japanese tourists. Casey had even had the idea to send a video game to the child every once in awhile, especially on birthdays and holidays. As Neil Jr. was busy with his prize, the three adults were enjoying an aperitif in the dining room.

“Listen, Casey, you didn’t have to go through such trouble,” Neil said to him.


“The video games.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble. I’m happy to have a family member to give such a gift to.”

“But it is such an expensive gift.”

“It’s ok, I’m able to do it.”

“But you don’t even have a job.”

“Ah, but I do. It’s just that I’m on a long break right now.”

“But you told me you were in between…”

“It’s complicated. Don’t worry about it.”

“You don’t know how much this means to me, to us.”

“But I do, Neil. My parents struggled to make ends meet. I never had gifts like that. New clothes for me were discarded clothes for someone else. If I can give a kid something like this, it’s worth it.” And then, Casey realized he had not just gained a family, he had gained a friend for life. It felt wonderful.

Marin arrived a few days later, exhausted and jet lagged. She told him she had not slept on the plane, and he related, so he let her sleep as he filed his photos on his laptop. There were some that made him proud, made him wonder if perhaps some magazine could find some use for them. Maybe that’s how he could get out of Sidney’s racket, make a real living doing something legitimate. It was an art, though; only the bests could earn a living off an art. Those who had no real talent but made money from a field in the arts, those like Britney Spears, Dan Brown, and painters who mass produced their works never lasted. It was the toughest industry in a world that revolved around money. Art was life, soul, and business could never understand that. Yes, photography, he could try it. He could not wait to tell Marin, so he went in to check on her in his bed. She looked so beautiful, so peaceful. He returned to the couch and fell asleep until morning.

She woke him unintentionally by the sounds of her movement, as he was used to silence in the morning, had silent neighbors, or maybe no neighbors; he had never seen any. He pretended to sleep as he watched her through barely opened eyes, watched her move into the kitchen, try to find the coffee, find the filters which for some reason he kept separate from the coffee. He watched her as she closed each cupboard, each drawer, with careful motions, slowly pushing them, considerate, gentle. He could hardly wait to talk to her, to take her around Dublin, but he was enjoying watching her. He could not help but sport a slight smile on his face. She looked at him at that moment and knew he was awake, watching her, happy. She was happy, too. Content at least. She smiled at him and said nothing, wanting to ix him breakfast, but when she opened the empty refrigerator, she realized that would be impossible. She vowed to take him to the grocery, laughed out loud at his bachelor kitchen, rejoiced really, because that empty fridge told her that no woman had been here, at least, not one he had seen more than once or twice. She reveled in the fact she was watching him, tried not to look at him save for an occasional glance out of the corner of her eye. He saw these glances, knew she was watching, felt content. Where could he bring her today, what could he show her? They had wandered through San Francisco, she liked adventure, liked to explore what most people ignored, what they could not see, what quotidian ritual had numbed them to. He would show her what it meant to live in this city, reveal its life and its soul to her. Fro now, though, he was enjoying this early morning game. Both of the knew she would end it, as it was easier to get someone out of bed than to get out of bed. And she did, rousing him from his pretend slumber with a Sleeping Beauty kiss. He pretended to be annoyed, pretended to fight a wake up, and realized he had missed her, had actually missed her when he had thought he had erased her.

He took her to breakfasts to relieve himself from her incessant nagging about his empty refrigerator. And because he was hungry. And because he could not wait to take her out in the city. Over breakfast he listened to the details of her flight, her boredom in Cincinnati, and the winter storm that had threaten her trip. She, too, appreciated the mild climate and laughed at how 45 degrees as the New Year rang in could be considered so cold to the people who lived through it. As they were enjoying each other’s company, his favorite song came on, Until the End of the World, Judas speaking to Jesus, blasphemy in the old world. Was there a more reviled figure in Western history? Perhaps Hitler. At least Judas felt remorse. Money it was. Money killed the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, a few silver pieces, a betrayal of the prophet for profit. Was this not the real lesson in the Christian story?

They walked the streets of Dublin City, more than friends, not quite lovers, or maybe lovers, but not quite lovebirds. Their relationship was too complicated for that. Coincidence had seen to that. Treacherous coincidence, wasn’t it? She took it all in, nearly ordering a Guinness for brunch just for the thrill of it, but she did not want to dull her brain, did not want to let her guard down against Mr. O’Hagan, who had captured her heart but whose heart would not let her in. His devotion or pain or whatever it was to Anne had helped her get over Michael, for she knew she had never felt such devotion to him. Or maybe she just had the luxury of more time to get over him.

Dublin was beautiful in its own way. It did not have a beautiful blue sea to compliment its coasts, only an ugly, canned pea sea too far from its center, too far from anything but the suburbs. It had mountains, but they were unattainable, far from the city for those without cars. But the city had life, a life that had persevered through turmoil, abuse, poverty, disease, even the torture of starvation by a government and its wealthy lackeys who hated its people. That spirit of life was everywhere, in every brick, every cobblestone, every mind that had the good fortune to traverse its streets. Casey looked at Marin, such beauty, but it was her appreciation of these things that he liked most about her.

It was like the first day he had come to Dublin, only better, because he was not alone, he was with someone he cared about, someone he could share the cracks in the sidewalk with, someone who could appreciate the warmer air without saying, “Oh, it’s much warmer here, isn’t it?” He took her through the streets, across the shopping of Grafton Street, past the winter flowers of St. Stephen’s Green, into old churches like St. Anne’s Church. Anne. And St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a church named for the saint who had brought Catholicism to Ireland and had been taken over by Protestants. How ironic.

She commented on the mountains, calling them “her mountains,” as if they had captured her soul. They walked towards them for awhile, though the distance never seemed to diminish. He let her chase those green hills because he understood those hills, understood that they represented a sort of freedom, where beauty ruled over governments and life was appreciated. Casey referred to them as her mountains for the rest of her trip and the rest of his stay in Ireland.
The streets of Dublin City were alive throughout the last day of the year – Dublin sensed a party and was fully prepared to enjoy itself as it entered a new year of existence. The two of them were indecisive in their evening’s plans. A club? A bar? A restaurant? Back home, they called this night “amateur drunk night,” and usually Casey avoided crowded places on New Year’s Eve. Dublin did not seem to have any amateur drunks.

They settled on all three – a couple of pints early, dinner at whatever place had a table, a club if they could get into a decent one. They figured if they got there early enough, they would be ok. Casey enjoyed the early arrival – it avoided lines, covers, and entering a crowded place sober. Crowds he did not like and liked less as he grew older. Arriving early got a table or a stool where he could sit throughout the night, refuge from those suffocating, shifting, standing crowds. Beers and dinner accomplished, they entered a club sometime just before nine. They were not the only ones there, but they could still hold a conversation without shouting at each other.

“It’s funny,” she said as they sipped a couple of martinis, a drink neither of them usually ordered, but this being a special occasion, they decided on something different. Casey thought it would be funny to order it ‘shaken, not stirred,’ but the bartender was not amused.


“How people look at the New Year as a time to start over. I mean, we’re all so flawed that we have to set aside a day every year to try to rectify all of the mistakes we’ve made throughout the year.”

“I’ve always just viewed it as a celebration of life.”

“Come on, you’ve never made a New Year’s resolution? You’ve never said to yourself ‘this year will be better?’ You’ve never joined a gym in January, went on a diet, filed a box of papers, cleaned a house, all with the intention of making things better, making things right again?”

“Yeah, I guess, but the flaws aren’t a negative thing; they’re simply another part of life to celebrate.”

She smiled at him and picked an olive from her glass, taking out the pimento and placing it on a napkin before nibbling on the olive.

“If I didn’t think you were the most real person I know, that you aren’t a fake, I’d tell you you were full of shit.”

“Why, you don’t believe me?”

“I know what you’ve been through and what you think of people. Your dislike of them stems from their insular notions of living, their apathy, the fact that they take life for granted. You can’t celebrate their flaws, you despise them.”

“Maybe you’re right.” He sighed and stared into his drink, a little depressed but satisfied that she knew him so well. “Cheers,” he said as he raised his glass in defeat.

Half a martini later, his mood swung back into contentment. They cheered the night, cheered Ireland, took some champagne as the clock neared midnight, found disquieted passion as the new year rang in, danced the night away, and woke up late with headaches they did not mind.

After spending two days wandering around, Casey suggested they take a trip to see some of Ireland, so they hopped a train and headed to Galway on Ireland’s west coast, a city that happily touched the Atlantic Ocean, where globalization and commercialism were still lingering behind, lurking in the shadows but not in total control. It was a beautiful day, especially for January, and as they walked along the Atlantic, sun shining upon the yellow and green and pink Celtic town, a far cry from the red brick and concrete of the city whose name means “black pool,” Casey had a fleeting notion that he might be falling for her. She was a wandering soul, too, she understood things that average people did not, saw the little things in life as bigger things.

The people of Galway seemed carefree and less confined by definitions of urban cool. Casey and Marin spent the day shopping, talking as long with each shopper and shopkeeper that they could. Marin had just purchased a beautiful Aran sweater when she suddenly wondered why her store could not stock such fine winter wear, why it was so difficult back home in Cincinnati to walk into a store and purchase a decent sweater that had not been mass produced in some sweatshop in China or some other godforsaken authoritarian state. An idea was taking shape in her mind, but its formation was interrupted by the shopkeeper.

“Have you two visited the islands?” she said in an accent so thick Marin thought she had asked something about seeing through her eyelids.

“What islands?” Casey asked.

“The Aran Islands – Inishmore and the like.” Marin still did not understand a word, so Casey had to be her interpreter.

“No, where are they?” he asked.

“Oh, just across the water – you can take a ferry.” Ojusacrostawhathereyukantaykafury.

“What’s there?”

“Some beautiful Celtic ruins, old forts, mysterious stone formations. You simply must see them!”

“Do you want to go?” Casey asked Marin.

“Um, sure,” she said, not really knowing what she had agreed to see.

“You’ll have to catch the morning ferry, the last one’s just gone.”

“But it’s only one o’clock.”

“It’s winter, dear. It gets dark early.”

“Ok, we’ll go first thing in the morning. We have no plans.”

“Aw, in’t that a blessing? You two newlyweds?” That Marin understood. They both laughed a bit uneasily. The woman lowered her voice, smiled, and said, “Ack, it’s ok, this is the twenty-first century, isn’t it?”

As the two of them were leaving the store, Marin said, “How odd. I felt for a minute like I had returned to the 1950s. Or I was somewhere in backasswards Alabama or some other part of the South.”

“Hey, we’re lucky. She could have been some judgmental old hag full of hot air lectures and vituperating quotes from scripture about sin and how we’re going to Hell.”


“Let’s get some lunch.”

“But we just ate.”

“Two hours ago. Come on, I’m hungry. I want some fish and chips. It has to be fresh here, being by the ocean and all.”

“And Dublin’s not?”

“Just come on,” he said, playfully tapping her on the arm with his loose fist.

“I guess I could eat a little.”

After finding a little stand where they wrapped the fish and chips in newspaper and eating their treasures while sitting on a beach at Galway Bay, they wandered around until winter’s early darkness had completely engulfed the city. They took refuge in the light of a pub, where they were delighted to find the whole place break into pub songs and dance a few impromptu jigs, just like the movies. What a night, Casey thought as they were going to bed that night.

The sky gifted them with another brilliant sun the next morning, and they caught a 10:30 ferry to the islands, wandering across the bare limestone ground, startled by the strangeness of the land and marveling at the 400 foot cliffs towering over the Atlantic Ocean below. Gulls as small as ants flew beneath them as they explored an ancient fort on the edge of the island, which seemed more like the edge of the world.

“Oh, look, over there,” Casey said. “It’s the Cliffs of Moher. You think this is high? They’re twice this. You can lean out over them and the winds hold you up.”

“Shut up. That makes me queasy.” He noticed she had not gotten close to the edge. “I don’t trust my legs to get too close. They just buckle.”

“You don’t like to stare down 400 feet to certain death?” he teased.

“Don’t say it like that. I’m serious.”

“Aren’t you enjoying your time here?”

“Oh, yes, I just don’t want to get too close.” He took a step closer.

“Am I too close?” he asked as a grin slowly faded from his face. Am I too close? Or is it she who is too close? “Hey, do you want to go back now?”

“To Galway?”

“To Dublin.”

“Is that what you want?”

“Kind of. Yes. Yes, I do.”

“Well, we can go then. I only have a couple of more days here, anyway, then it’s back to the real world for me.” She knew what had just transpired, that he had closed his heart to her again. Her suspicion was confirmed by his silence on the way back to Dublin, when he stuck his nose in a book to try to close out the entire world.

“Do you mind if I just stay in tonight?” he asked as he turned the key to his flat. “You can go out if you want.”

“No, I don’t want to go out alone. I don’t care, do whatever you want. I’ll just read or something.” He disappeared into the bedroom and shut the door. It pissed her off, so she grabbed a book and left, determined to find some pub to read it in. This was Dublin, after all. Books were respected, writers were gods, and you weren’t viewed as weird for reading.

As she was looking for a place to stop in, passing several places full of men and looking too uncomfortable for a woman alone, she remembered the idea that had come to her in the Galway shop: opening her own clothing store in Cincinnati where she could stock such items as Aran sweaters.

“It’s a stupid idea,” she said aloud.

“What is?” a familiar voice said behind her.

“Are you following me?” she asked angrily as she turned to confront the voice.

“I’m sorry,” Casey replied. “I was rude, I’m sorry.”

“Well, go home. I’ll be fine on my own,” she said as she tried to remain angry with him.

“Are you sure?” he asked. She noticed that the concern in his voice was genuine. Still, he would never open up to her, why should she pursue this relationship any further.


“Ok, then. See you later.”

“Yeah,” she whimpered before turning to walk away. Don’t look back, don’t look back, don’t look back…but she did look back, and Casey had walked away, walked a whole block away, but he was still within sight.

“Casey!” she screamed, embarrassed by how loud she had to yell. Several people around her looked. “Wait!” He walked several more steps before stopping and turning around, but he did not advance towards her. She hesitated before walking towards him. “Dinner?” she asked when she was close enough not to shout.

“Sure.” It was not a very comfortable dinner, and the distance between them over her last days there put the fun and closeness they had shared upon her arrival into the backs of their minds. He did not even go to the airport with her to see her off.

A.J. arrived a week later, but Casey had already sunk to new depths of his misery. A.J. stayed in a hotel and was out quite late most of the week, but they managed to spend enough time together to make it feel like A.J. was visiting Casey more than just the city of Dublin. Casey took him to the pub with the Mets fan bartender, who was thrilled by the presence of the superstar and spent the whole time telling A.J. how Major League Baseball should send more scouts to Ireland. The Irish appreciate good sport, he said and invited them to a hurling match a couple of nights later, an invitation the two of them eagerly accepted and enjoyed. A.J. was especially interested in the violence of the sport, the part of the game least appealing to Casey. A.J. enjoyed it so much he said he wanted to start a hurling league in Cincinnati.

“Uh, do you know what country Cincinnati is in?” Casey asked sarcastically. “It’s a country where proposals to make high school soccer player wear helmets are seriously considered. Hurling is probably already illegal in the Nanny States of America.”

“Bollix!” the bartender said in amazement. “You gotta be fucking joking.”

“Nope, unfortunately, he’s right,” A.J. replied.

“So, ready for the season?” Casey asked him on the way back from the match.

“Fuck no. I could use another three or four months off. I certainly could spend more time partying here. I love this city, man!”

But you obviously don’t love baseball, you overpaid dick, Casey found himself thinking before forcefully shoving the thought from his mind.

Casey made the trip to Belfast one more time before saying goodbye to Ireland, at least for the duration of a baseball season. He found it difficult to say goodbye to Neil but promised he would return as soon as he could, and he meant it.

A late February rain was coating the Midwest with ice as his plane touched down at Cincinnati Very Good. He desperately wanted to feel Home Sweet Home but felt only drear instead as he looked out the tiny plane window at the gray misery outside, a picture that immediately filled him with a sense of dread bordering on despair. Until he found Anne standing outside the security gate waiting for him. Maybe I am home, he thought as the two of them embraced.