Bio Note: I'm excited about becoming part of the community at Verse-Virtual. I was born in Queens, New York, to parents who were born in County Cork, Ireland but met in the Bronx. I'm now an associate professor and chair of English at St. Mary's College of Maryland. Despite my English degrees, I didn't really do any creative writing between my undergrad years (in the late 80s) and the pandemic, when I had more time to renew old interests and passions. Since then I've been published in ONE ART, The Ekphrastic Review, The Galway Review, and Everyday Fiction.
An Ode to Him, Y'Know!
“Arrah, for God’s sake, why don’t he pick up?,” my father said, thinking I was ignoring my answering machine, which I hadn’t actually had for a couple years. “I’m just busy listening to your voice mail, Dad,” I said out loud to get a laugh out of Jen; I thought Dad probably sounded to her like some shillelagh-wielding ogre, and I didn’t want her getting too nervous—she was about to meet him for the first time. I realized then that I didn’t have to worry, because she was already smiling at his cheerful grumpiness and his brusque West Cork accent. Everybody always was already smiling at his easy charm— from a gene which must have missed me, along with the one for his peat-rich baritone voice. I think if he had heard me try to sing as an adult, he would have said “there are two ways to do a thing: a right way and a wrong way,” and I would have known he meant, as he always did, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, boy, you’re doing that wrong.” But I would have missed, as I almost always did, the soft creasing about his sharp eyes, which silently added, “But it’s alright, boy. You’re alright.” I hardly ever heard that message from him—often as he sent it—until his wake, when I heard it in the stories told by people who got him. Then I thought about his retirement party video. He’d stood like a stout Irish gargoyle in front of the Carlyle Hotel for forty years, picking up bags and saying “good to see you again, sir,” in case he’d seen them before (he never could remember a face.) On the video, a desk clerk rose to read her newly written “Ode to Paddy O’Sullivan.” Another bellman echoed to another bellman, “An ode to him, y’know!” My mother, from Kanturk, would’ve called them “thick Irishmen,” And, being thick, and being a little drunk, and not being guys who talked about odes, they’d laughed. And, being young, and being dumb, I laughed, too; I’d learned about odes, and I knew poets didn’t usually write odes about bellmen. Now, I’d like to be able to give him a call and tell him I want to write my own ode to him. You know. He’d call me an idjit, but I think he’d secretly like it. On an impulse I pick up my Pixel and call our ancient phone number, and, over the Verizon error message, I say, “Arrah, for God’s sake, Dad, why can’t you pick up?”
©2023 Brian O'Sullivan
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