Galway or Bust
The O’Neal’s new-to-them car bobbed wearily through the countryside outside of Dublin. Brendan watched the pretty scenery crawl by his window since the beater his dad rented could barely outrun a slow lawn mower or a fast sloth.
Brendan leaned on his arm rest and chewed on his fingernail. “Where are we going, Dad?”
“Galway,” replied Oscar. He merrily drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, an old habit that he had since before his band broke up in college.
“Why Galway?” Lizzie asked loudly from the back seat, headphones firmly in place.
Oscar smiled. “That’s supposed to be where it all began.” The static-filled signal on the AM radio crackled to life and Oscar was quick to turn the volume dial up. “Alright! Sing with me. Danny boy, Danny boy, the tides, the tides are calling.” Noticing that he was alone in song he looked at his kids.
“Are you listening? Darn iPods.”
Smoke poured out from the exhaust pipe leaving a nice trail behind the O’Neals as they putted down the country roads. Brendan absently studied an Irish road map, Lizzie slumbered in the backseat, and Oscar peered through his reading glasses, which were balanced precariously on the end of his nose, at a printed sheet of directions he got from the internet while he drove.
“When we get there, Brendan, we need to head straight up to the room and get settled in.”
Brendan nodded. “Is this a hotel?”
Oscar raised a brow to consider the comparison. “It’s more like a bed and breakfast. We may have the whole thing to ourselves, though. I don’t think this is a peak travel season.”
Oscar handed the printout of the directions over to Brendan and he saw that it was folded and stapled. He flipped it to the front page and saw several images that Oscar had printed off of the hotel. Galway looked kind of cool. It didn’t seem like an isolated farm town or anything like that, so perhaps the trip could be okay. There were a few pictures of a castle and something that resembled civilization.
Galway was just like the pictures had promised, but to Brendan, the place looked a whole lot smaller. They found the bed and breakfast right away. It was a modest three-story home on the end of a narrow cobble-stone street. A sign above the porch read “Gordy’s Home” and beneath the sign rocking in their chairs sat an elderly couple.
Oscar pulled the car to a stop in front of the place. The car threw out a loud Bang and a puff of exhaust. Luckily no one was around or Brendan would have been really embarrassed. He looked at the old guy in his blue jeans and white buttoned down shirt and the old lady with her flower patterned dress and hair up in a bun and heaved out a short breath.
“Gordy, you think?”
Oscar opened his door and said, “Probably. Stay here and I’ll make sure.” He got out and approached the old couple.
Brendan looked back at his sister. She was slumped against the window with a small line of slobber stringing out of the corner of her mouth.
“Wake up, Liz. We’re here.”
Lizzie sort of woke up. “Huh? Here?” She rubbed her eyes and saw that her dad was coming back to the car.
“Is that Gordy?” asked Brendan.
“Sure is and he told me to park around back.” Oscar walked around to the trunk. “Pop the hatch for me, will ya?”
Brendan leaned over and complied. He opened his own door and got out to stretch his legs. Lizzie emerged from the backseat, iPod humming.
“Lizzie, help your old dad with the bags while Brendan parks the car.”
Brendan cracked his neck to relieve some tension in his shoulders and walked over to the driver seat. “How do I get to the back?”
Oscar handed a bag to Lizzie, who promptly put it on the ground and shuffled her songs. “Gordy said that there was some alley just down the street. Turn right there get to the end of the buildings and turn right again. You’ll see Gordy’s lot from there.”
Oscar cleared the trunk and then closed it. He and Lizzie began lugging the luggage to the front door. Gordy almost got up to help.
Brendan drove very slowly down the street passing many home-style buildings all housing varying businesses. There was a restaurant, a clothing shop (with the coolest styles no doubt), a souvenir shop, a bookstore, a pub, and a gas station.
“Food, clothes, junk, books. Oh a bar…whoa! Look at that guy,” Brendan said aloud to an empty car.
A fifty-something guy was stumbling around on the sidewalk with a woman under his arm. They were talking loudly, but Brendan wasn’t in earshot at the time. The man stopped walking and broke into an Irish jig. As he drove a little further, Brendan caught a snippet of their conversation.
“Look at me,” slurred the man. “I’m dancing a jig!”
The woman frowned and crossed her arms. “Would you cut that out? You’re not even Irish.”
The man paused in mid-jig and looked her square in the eye. “Well, I should have been.” The guy jumped back into his jig, dancing circles around the woman. Brendan drove on.
“Ah, the alley,” declared Brendan. He turned the car and half-blocked the sidewalk. He stopped well short of the alley’s entrance and stared at the ultra narrow path between the buildings. “How am I supposed to fit down there?”
The man and the woman stumbled in front of Brendan’s car and paused. The guy looked at the alley and then back at Brendan’s car. After taking a few looks back and forth, the man hollered out, “I wouldn’t even try that and I’m three sheets to the wind.”
The woman grabbed the guy by the arm and drug him down the sidewalk. Brendan waited for them to get out to the way before sticking his head out of the window to reexamine the problem.
“There’s no way.”
“You can make it, you chicken,” taunted a Irish-accented voice from the left.
“You must be crazy,” Brendan responded and looked over to the owner of the voice. She was beautiful, like an angel. Was that harp music? He shook it off and tried to play it a little cooler. “Have you been in that pub, too? There’s no way I can make it through there.”
The girl chuckled and then walked over and opened the door. “Slide over, chicken. Let a woman show you how it’s done.” She shoved Brendan into the passenger seat, slammed the door shut, popped the clutch, and jammed on the accelerator.
Brendan braced himself against the dash and the door, and watched as the walls of the buildings that lined the alley went streaking by like they were going into light speed. The mirrors were no more than a half-inch from scrapping along the walls! Brendan cringed and gritted his teeth as they shot out of the alley and whipped a hard right. They peeled out and drifted until the tires gripped the surface of the road. They blazed a path down the road until they reached Gordy’s lot and the girl pulled a sharp left. The car began to spin out of control until it came to rest in between a pair of rusted out trucks.
“Now that was some fun,” laughed the girl. “I’m Dorian, by the way. You got a name of your own, or should I keep calling you chicken?”
Brendan peeled his hands free of their grips and looked at the angel who drove like the devil. “My name’s Brendan.”
“Oh, a Yank, eh?” She sized him up for a moment. “It’s nice to meet you, Brendan.” She threw her door open and stepped out. She started to strut away.
Brendan jumped out of the passenger side and shouted, “Wait up.” He hustled over to where she was standing. “Wait. Where are you going?”
Dorian playfully swiped a lock of auburn hair out of her face, only to allow it to fall back down again. She smiled and bite her lower lip, clearly showing some sort of interest in Brendan. “I must be off for home, Brendan the Yank. It’s getting late and a lady can’t be too careful.”
“Something tells me that you can handle yourself. Like that driving! That was amazing! Where did you learn to drive like that?”
Dorian smiled a little broader. “I’ve got a confession. That was my first time behind the wheel.” She reveled in Brendan’s shocked look. “It sure was fun though.”
He continued to stare and his mouth opened up without his control.
“With your mouth open like that you remind me of my Uncle Colym after a late night.” Dorian glanced into the darkening sky. “I’ve really got to be moving on now.”
As she began to walk away, Brendan called after her. “When can I see you again?”
She stopped and glanced back over her shoulder, melting Brendan where he stood. She treated him with one last dazzling smile before disappearing into the shadows.
“Hey, Gordy,” Brendan said, entering through the front porch. “And Mrs. Gordy,” he added, spying the elderly lady smoking an ancient pipe.
He took the stairs two at a time, the vision of her smile fresh in his mind. He went all the way to the third floor and came to a door that said “Suite.” He knocked and Lizzie snapped her gum as she let him into the living space.
He took stock of what the living conditions were going to be like for the foreseeable future and his disposition slumped. It was a very small suite, if that’s what it could be called. He was standing in the living room in which an old worn out couch was the center piece. A small kitchenette was near the window that overlooked the lot. The piece de résistance was the sweet twenty-seven inch picture tube television sitting on a wobbly end table. Was this the Hilton?
“This is it? This is the great place you rented?” Brendan asked Oscar who was taking in Galway from the window.
“Yup.” The scientist exhaled a breathe of satisfaction. “Isn’t it great? A little piece of Ireland. You know?”
Brendan and Lizzie exchanged looks. “It’s a little smaller that I expected.”
“And there are only two bedrooms,” added Lizzie.
Brendan turned back to his father. “Yeah, how about the sleeping arrangements?”
Lizzie walked over and put a hand on his shoulder. “Brendan, it’s the comfy couch for you, bub.” She followed that bit of good news with a hearty, aggravating laugh.
“What?” Brendan said incredulously. “Who decided that?”
“We did when you were out there flirting with that girl. As if you had a chance.” Lizzie grinned a demon’s smile and popped her gum a couple of times.
Oscar stepped in before Brendan could respond. “Well, you are going to get to drive the car a lot, so I had to give Lizzie something.”
“Besides,” Lizzie said. “I called dibs.”
“You can’t do that!”
Lizzie skipped to her bedroom door, very pleased with herself and said, “Can and did.” She shut the door behind her leaving Brendan smoldering.
“Dad, come on now. You don’t think I can sleep on that couch, do you?”
Oscar nodded his understanding. “Son, you don’t have to sleep on that couch.”
Relief swept over Brendan. “Thank you.”
“I mean, the floor looks pretty comfortable too. Good night, son.” Oscar stepped into his own room and closed the door.
Brendan couldn’t believe his terrible luck. He flopped back into the couch to test it’s comfort level. The thin upholstery barely hid the springs beneath and when he moved a couple of sharp ends stabbed at his back. One spring tore through and flew across the room.“Great,” huffed Brendan. “Let’s see what’s on.” He found the remote in the cracks of the cushions and pressed the On button. The TV sputtered like the rental car and then popped. Smoke came out of somewhere in the back. All Brendan could do was sigh.