© The Gannet
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(there are some words and phrases in italics. I have not used ** to indicate them as I think this can upset the flow of the script. Hope you enjoy the read.)
Taking Holy Orders
“Strike on here.” The placards gave the grim message and the union man issued instructions to the strikers. I’d been working or rather employed by an insurance company since leaving school. After two years of doing as little as possible other than going on the beer and figuring out schemes to try and pay my debts, I found myself doing even less, thanks to a majority of the workers who decided we should go on strike.
Basically I hadn’t a clue what the issues were, but on the advice of a much older father-like colleague who had a strong tendency towards the Left, I voted for all out strike. All my mates did the same but colleagues with families to support were none too pleased with the next generation. They were livid when they found themselves out on the street.
May ’72 and a few months from my 20th birthday.
It was magic. For doing a few hours picket duty, the union paid us. Not very much, but for the majority who were still living at home with our parents, it was money for nothing.
To fill the week, I phoned the cousin in Killarney. Con owned one of the biggest and busiest pubs in the town.
“Any chance of a bit of work Con? We’re on strike up here.”
“Not a bother, come on away down and we’ll find something for you.”
The Da was from Killarney and school holidays had been spent roaming the streets of the famous resort, so it was great to be heading back. Hopefully I'd meet up with some of the old buddies.
But before leaving, there was a party to go to. Deirdre Flynn was having her twenty-first birthday party that Saturday. They were farmers and lived in the outback miles away from normal people, but by all accounts they were loaded. Rumour had it that their house was like a mansion and a great night was guaranteed.
The party started around nine. My crew arrived in Frank Murphy's wreck of a Cortina around midnight having made numerous pit stops en route. Frank had only had six pints as he was driving. The place was massive. A long tree-lined driveway led to a courtyard where a giant door waited at the top of six limestone steps.
"Jeez," says Frank lighting up another fag, "it's like going into a church".
Inside there were grannies, aunts, uncles and loads of old codgers and relations to contend with. We saw no sign of the free drink. I went for a piss.
The jacks was massive. The piss pot and basin were on one side with pot plants and mirrors all over the place. An old brass lamp provided light. Way over on the other side stood the biggest bath I'd ever seen. A huge cast iron thing with four carved legs. It must have been about four feet deep. “You'd need a ladder to get in and outta that for the weekly wash." A classy wooden rail stood alongside adorned with brilliantly white towels.
I came up with a plan.
On finishing my widdle and putting Himself back inside, I gently unlocked the bathroom door. Sprinting over to the bath, I grabbed a pile of the towels, hopped in and pulled all the towels up over me and waited.
It was a short wait.
I recognised Hillary and Karen's voices as they came in. (Why is it women always go in pairs?). Hillary from Accounts had featured in many of my dreams. Beautiful with a great pair of legs and an even greater pair on top. Karen wasn't bad looking either. In truth, at that time I'd have loved to spend a night with anyone of the opposite sex.
With the towels over me, I couldn't hear what they were jabbering about but I did pick up the gentle sound of one of them doing a little wee.
It was time for action.
An eerie "Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Hmmmmmmmmmmm" came from the depths of the bath as Lazarus rose, totally shrouded in towels. The girls' screams could be heard in the next parish. I hadn't quite finished my Resurrection when the rescue party arrived. It would be a bit of an understatement to say that I had miscalculated on this one. I was about to step from the bath when I got a wallop across the puss from a giant of a farmer. He had a mad head of foxy hair and a mouth of teeth that would earn any orthodontist a fortune. There was blood flowing all over the place and it was all mine.
I let out a roar equal to the girl's screams and the cavalry arrived post haste to rescue me. The bathroom resembled a battle scene as the lovely white towels turned into polka dot red. My already large nose got bigger and bigger.
People became quite unreasonable after the melee calmed down and we were asked to leave. Yep. Thrown out before the grub arrived or a drink was swallowed.
I headed to Killarney with a gigantic hangover the following morning.
Those who have never worked behind a bar have missed out on part of their education. It had to be the drink but it was amazing how quickly customers launched into the most personal and confidential conversations as if the barman was invisible.
People were totally oblivious to the fact that the barman could and in this case, definitely was listening to what was going on.
Sometimes things would get a bit heated over politics or sport but I always kept an ear opened to hear the juicy bits about “domestics”. I was amazed to learn that so many guys were milking outside the bucket, so to speak.
A lot of the regulars were commercial travellers who left home on a Monday and stayed away 'til Friday living out of suitcases, but the majority of them seemed to be bonking someone in every town they stayed in. This, to me, with zero experience of the opposite sex, was quite shocking.
Bullshit. I was jealous.
People quite quickly come to trust their barman. One took on the role of confessor when casual acquaintances poured out their woes after a few drinks. It was always interesting to watch how the younger couples were getting on. So many came in holding hands only to leave with just a hint of there being a few steps between them. You didn't have to hear a word, the body language told so much.
I worked the early shift in the public bar, ten thirty opening 'til five in the evening. It was a quiet time. Music was provided by a new record player. Unfortunately all the LP records other than the Greatest Hits of Charlie Pride were either scratched or cracked. So Charlie got played to death. I loved the work. Come five, I'd help myself to one or two pints, grab a bit of food, and head into the main lounge where all the action was.
Irish music was played every night for the hordes of American tourists who flocked to the place. It held about a thousand. The musicians Dick, Bill, Christy and Tom were all locals and mighty *craic. They were forever playing practical jokes on the rest of the bar crew.
One evening in my second week, having had an extra pint or two, I made my way into the singing lounge around eightish. Dressed in black cords, black shirt, black shoes and socks, I felt kinda cool heading in. The jet black hair was long enough and the Buddy Holly black glasses completed the picture. I was ready for action … whatever that was.
The band was beating out The Wild Rover when I made my entry. Dick spotted me and quick as a flash, stopped playing.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” starts Dick, “a special welcome this evening to Father O'Leary who has returned from The Missions.”
The Yanks all stood up and started clapping. I gave a quick look round to see where this padre was before the penny dropped. Despite being only nineteen, I was now, according to Dick and the rest of the crew, the returned missionary.
“Great to meet you Father, come on over and join us,” said this bear of a Yank.
What was I to do? I followed him to his table next to where the lads were playing. The applause died down and the band started up again.
Frank Rafferty made the introductions to the extended Rafferty family from Chicago, including his rather attractive daughter Laura.
“Will you have a beer Father?”
It would have been bad manners to refuse. “I'll have a pint please." I then gave them some terrible rubbish about the last two years in Nigeria and how difficult and lonely Missionary life can be. Accepting the offer of a second pint, I invented more stories to keep them going.
"The food can be terrible," I waffled on. "Have to eat snakes and monkeys and crocodiles." The Yanks believed every word. God help the World, I thought.
Every now and then, I threw a glance up at the band. They were still in hysterics.
Things started to go a little off course after about the sixth pint when the returned missionary started to get a bit too friendly with the daughter. Granted, It would be expected that I longed for a bit of company and relaxation but I think my host was getting a bit worried about my vows of celibacy when I started rubbing Laura's knee. Thankfully I was rescued by Bill, from the band, who hauled me away on some pretext of having to introduce me to some friends of his.
I crashed out shortly afterwards and didn't or couldn't surface the next morning. I got a terrible slagging for days. We did a few re-runs over the following weeks but without the element of surprise and shock, the buzz was never the same as my first night as a priest.
My confidence buoyed up somewhat, I was more convinced than ever that I’d break my duck with the opposite sex. Convinced but still oh so shy and nervous. The missionary went into retirement. There was no doubting that my chances of “pulling” were slim to sweet feck all if my opening line was to tell the truth.
"Yes dear. I work in insurance but I’m on strike at present and nearly always broke."
Time to come up with another plan. I chanced being an airline pilot one night but that was a bad move as my glasses were about as thick as the bottom of a Coke bottle. Studying for my finals in astrophysics led to a few decent conversations but mostly with the ugly ones who wore braces.
This “hunting” wasn't easy. There were dozens of other hunters out there. All fine, young, healthy, Catholic single males, well most of them single, all on the lookout. Things were desperate and worse was to follow. Word had come through that negotiations were under way and the strike would soon be over.
And then from nowhere I struck gold. After standing for ages one night, I sat next to an elderly couple and a young lady who I presumed was their daughter. She looked about thirty and way too old but also way too big. Her perfume smelled really sensual though. She had a pretty face and lovely eyes but obviously had eyes for burgers, ice-cream, doughnuts and the like. Knowing that this was not for me, I was relaxed and we got chatting. She was accompanying her mum and dad on a tour of Europe. She worked as a research assistant for their local Congressman. I gave them some bullshit about being on a few days' leave from my job with the Irish Tourist Board. Well, why not? If I could pass as a priest, this would be a doddle. The parents, Madge and Hank, were lovely people.
They were delighted when I was able to give them a really good insight into Irish politics and history. As my knowledge of both subjects was rather limited, I must confess that I took quite a bit of poetic licence on this one.
We never felt the time slip by until we heard the call for last drinks. Madge and Hank said they'd had enough and wondered how to get back to their hotel.
“Where you guys staying?” I asked.
“The Great Southern” said Cathy, the daughter.
“What a coincidence? That's where I always stay when I come to Killarney. Why don't we all stroll back together?”
Hank decided that we should have a nightcap after the walk. The bar was closed but the night porter would serve drinks. “What will you have?” I blurted out while rummaging in my pockets, knowing that there was only loose change in there. Oh Shit. They all thought that a nice clean martini would be a nice way to finish the evening.
The night porter appeared. Another miracle. Who was it, only Packie Coleman. Packie lived only four doors from my grandfather’s house. We’d played many a game of cowboys and Indians. It had been so long since we'd met and I thought that, given these strange circumstances, he might not recognize me.
There was no need for concern.
“What can I get you sir?”
"Three martinis and a pint please.”
Quick as a flash he comes back with “No problem Mr O', shall I put it on your account?”
“Yes, thank you” and off he went and promptly returned with the bevvies.
I dropped whatever coins I had on his tray as a tip and could see he was wetting himself trying not to laugh. At this stage, I probably had a gallon on board and this last pint flowed down beautifully and conversation came easily. However, as the Yanks had an early start and I had a meeting with the local hoteliers to chair, we said our goodbyes. Handshakes and hugs all round. Then I felt Cathy press something into my hand as the three of them headed to the lift.
Neatly written on the tiny piece of paper that lay in the palm of my trembling hand were the numbers 224. Oh Jeez. Oh Jeez. “What'll I do now?” as I felt a trickle of sweat run down the back of my neck. I'd only ever seen this happen in the movies. “I'll feck off home.” Although trembling all over, I must confess that there was a certain amount of physical reaction in the underpants department. After about five seconds of thought, I made my way speedily past reception and headed for the stairs. Taking the steps three at a time, I was soon taking deep breaths outside room 224.
“Well, here goes”, I thought. “I wonder what happens next?” I tapped on the door and a soft reply came.
“It's open.” I stepped over the threshold. Now, I don't want to spoil things but I think I did mention that Cathy was a little on the big side. Yep. Sure was. She stood before me wearing a skimpy nightie. Before I could see if she was wearing anything else underneath, she had me in a bear hug and was quickly crushing me to death while at the same time trying to remove my tongue from its socket. For a brief second I gave some thought to breaking free and escaping but, by now, the underpants department was up for action.
After the hectic start, she whispered “I can see that you're not very experienced at this but don't worry, Cathy is going to give you a night you'll never forget.”
I felt about a million tiny explosions go off in my head as she started to undress me. Naturally being a gentleman, I helped and had the pants, shirt and traditional vest on the floor in a nanosecond. The socks stayed on. A lot of groping took place but I got a bit concerned that I’d lose the glasses forever in one of the many chasms that made up Cathy's midriff. The sweat was soon pouring as we rolled around the bed. The groping and kissing continued. As it turned out, I was a keen student and a quick learner.
“Take me” she said, “take me, take me there.”
"Jeez, where the feck does she want to go to at this time of night?” but I soon realised what was required and duly took her there.
After all the travelling to get there, I was wrecked. With the nine pints of porter swilling around my stomach and head, I was ready for sleep. I lay back with my heart beating like never before. I was almost gone when she whispered, “For being such a very good boy, Cathy is going to give you a little going away present.”
“Great”, I thought. Maybe a bottle of whiskey they bought in duty free on the way here. Wrong again. My education was to be continued.
Cathy started at my forehead and starting to kiss me slowly. She worked her way down my face and then my neck. (The tell-tale marks were there for days.) As I was blessed with a full chest of black hair, she ran her fingers through it while kissing me all over. She moved down towards my navel. By this time, all signs of fatigue had disappeared and literally every part of my body was rigid with expectation. Himself was standing at full attention.
Slowly she kissed all around my navel and just before moving further down, she whispered “Enjoy” and then, and then, and then …................... and then ...................................... and then .................................
......... to be continued !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*craic = Irish word for fun/enjoyment that has made its way into the English language. Definitely used to describe having a good time when music and/or alcohol are involved.