Emerald Germs of Ireland


These few words are written so that we might understand why Pat McNab, the main character in this book, behaved in the way he did. What they definitely are not is an attempt to excuse him, for Pat is guilty and everybody knows it, but at least, with a bit of luck, they will go some way toward explaining why he grew up with the reputation of being a complete “loo-la” and a “headbin of the highest order” as Timmy Sullivan, the proprietor of Sullivan’s Select Bar, described him one night. You see, for as far back as he could remember, Pat had always wanted to be in a “pop” or “show” band but his mother wouldn’t countenance it. Almost losing her mind, in fact, if it was even so much as mentioned! “Band!” she would snap, glowering at her son. “I’ll give you band! Think you’re going to end up like that other lug, do you, that father of yours, disporting himself in his great big captain’s uniform for every trollop and painted hussy that went walking the road, and ne’er so much as a copper sent home to buy a crust of bread! Band! Pshaw! Get down on your knees this very instant and scrub them tiles before I put this brush across your back and don’t think for a second I wouldn’t!”

Which Pat did not doubt in the slightest, for many’s the time he’d had to endure her doing just that, and for offenses far less serious than bringing his father up in the conversation. He had left them not too long after Pat reached his ninth birthday, and all that was heard tell of him subsequently was that he was seen in Dublin with two girls in flowery dresses, one dangling on each arm. After that, all that had to be said was D—, never mind his whole name, and she would “freak,” as Honky McCool might put it, throwing jugs, plates, and anything else that might be to hand, calling him the most outlandish names. Names unrepeatable in any civilized company. One day, Pat, without thinking, had the misfortune to muse aloud, “I wonder will Daddy ever come back?”—without hardly realizing he had spoken at all—his mother, before he knew it, pounding him across the head with a plastic basin, crying, “I warned you! I told you not to say it!” after which he was more than careful about what he pondered aloud—and “then some”—as the Americans say. But then, to make matters worse, other days you’d come across her sitting in the dark clutching his father’s photograph and wiping her eyes as she sobbed, “I wish he’d come home, our daddy.” An eventuality which, sad to say, was never to come to pass. There were rumors that he got hit in the chest by a stray shell and died right there on the spot. But then there were the other rumors that he’d deserted and ran away to hide in Belgium with a woman, so it’s very difficult to say.

In any case, it doesn’t matter, for what we are primarily concerned with here is Pat, his mother, and this band business, as she called it. The band that never was, of course, for what with his mother’s persistently unhelpful attitude how could it ever have possibly been—when, literally, you weren’t permitted to open your mouth about it. Just as Pat daren’t open his mouth to his mother about most things, for somehow no matter what you said to Mammy (as he had always called her, for as far back as he could remember) she always seemed to take it up as you saying: “Well then! That’s the end of our relationship, I guess! I’ll be off to live my own life! Toodle-oo!” Even if it was in reality about a million miles from what was truly in fact going on in your mind! And which became very exasperating for Pat, as I’m sure you can imagine, the simplest declaration, such as, “Well—I think I’ll just pop down to Sullivan’s for a bottle of stout—I’ve a bit of a thirst on!” being greeted with a foul glare and the words “Oh, have you now! A bit of a thirst on, eh? Well—go on, then! Go on then with your thirst, Pat McNab! But don’t think I’ll care if you never darken the door again as long as you live!”

Sometimes she might even start to cry, until in the end it would get so bad that Pat