Hollywood has come to Borris-on-Ossary. And it’s all because of mammy.
Might as well start at the beginning, ‘twas the strangest occurrence that happened for donkey’s years. Sometime in June 1997 Vito Provolone drove into town. There I was minding my own business in the shop when these two fellas in sharp suits walk in.
“The boss wants to talk to you.”
They escorted me to this big black sedan and opened the door. I got in the back.
“My name is Vito Provolone. Entrepreneur.”
“Pascal Geraghty. Shopkeeper.”
He took off his sunglasses and looked at me with his lazy eye.
“Is your mother Bridie Geraghty?”
“I want to meet her.”
He handed me a folded newspaper article. I read the headline. ‘Dance Superstar Michael Flatley praises former teacher.’ Vito cupped his hands.
“You know that thing, epiphany, that moment when you suddenly see things differently — well, I saw Riverdance last year on Broadway, I didn’t even want to go, Gina dragged me along… but when I saw that Michael Flatley dancing, I felt so alive… I thought to myself, I want to learn how to friggin’ do that.”
I looked at Vito. Could be tricky. Not only did he carry a bit of weight, as they say, but he seemed to have an unnaturally large crotch. Turnip-sized. A physical abnormality not wholly compatible with vigorous hopping and leaping.
He leaned towards me.
“You know what they call me back in Hoboken? ‘Big Scrotum’. I got a bigger set than anyone in this… uh…”
Sidekick number one intervened. “Solar system, boss.”
“Right, and if I set my mind to do something, I do it. Capisce? ”
“Now, I want your mother, Bridie Geraghty, of Borris-on-Ossary, County Laois, Ireland,” he pointed at the newspaper article, “the greatest Irish dancing teacher of them all, according to Mr. Flatley, to help me dance like Mr. Flatley.”
Think fast Pascal, I thought. Don’t want to be dragging mammy in with this bunch.
“She hasn’t given a class for years. She’s not well. She’s dead. Well, not dead, but not great.”
Clarity, Pascal. Clarity.
“She’s had a stroke, a massive stroke, divil the movement out of her and her so sprightly and all in her heyday. She’ll be teaching no more jigs and reels, I’ll tell you that much.”
Then sidekick number two piped up.
“Let’s see if his story pans out, boss. We’ll go visit the dame.”
Over the decades, I wondered about the point of going to mass every week. Like will I ever benefit in the long run. Or am just wasting my time? While sitting in the back of the big black sedan I realized here was my pay-off. An old neighbour was in a quasi- comatose state in the nearest nursing home. And — thank you God, sorry for ever ever doubting you — her name was also Bridie. Bridie Prendergast.
We parked in the driveway of St. Conleth’s Community Care Centre. Vito struggled to get out of the car and waddled towards the front steps. And he wants to dance like Flatley! Delusions are a thing to behold. But I didn’t have the time to ponder such profound humans truths; I had to enter the building first, mumble introductions and try to find Bridie Prendergast.
“Can I help you gentlemen?”
The nurse at reception hid her slight surprise at my three companions who were standing a few feet behind me. I leaned forward and whispered.
“Some of Bridie Prendergast’s family. From America. Have come over to see her.”
“Room 56, down the corridor to the left. She’s very popular today. In fact, your mother is with her at the moment.”
Sometimes you hear sentences uttered to you in life that stop you dead in your tracks. This was like one of those sentences but with a locomotive running over you at the same time.
Thoughts flooded my cranium. Not necessarily in this order. County Laois is a small place — the nurse knew who I was all along. I never knew mammy was a friend of Bridie Prendergast. It most definitely was a complete waste of time going to mass all these years. What will I do now? And oh yeh, I am a dead man.
Think fast, Pascal. Again.
I turned to Vito.
“They are changing her sheets. We’ll have to wait a bit. Maybe we’ll go outside and sit in the car.”
“How long does it take to change sheets? We can sit here.”
We sat in the waiting area. My eyes were fixed on the corridor. I had an idea.
“Listen, I’ll go in and see if they are finished.”
I hurried to Room 56. Bridie Prendergast was sitting up in bed. Benignly vacant. No sign of mammy.
I ran out. Mammy had just come out of the Ladies. And was passing the waiting area. She noticed Vito. She smiled at him. He smiled back. She was walking out the door. Everything was going to be fine. Then the nurse at reception said —
“Bridie, did you catch your son Pascal inside?”
The strange thing is, Vito was very reasonable about the misunderstandings, the mix-ups — alright — the lies. He stayed about a week in Borris and mammy gave him a few lessons.
“Better than you’d think” was her verdict.
Vito went back to the States, and over the years I sometimes wondered whatever happened him. That was until this morning when I picked up The Laois Nationalist and read a story about a film being made nearby called ‘The Don of The Dance’ about an Irish-dancing champion Mafioso who learned all he knew from a local dance teacher. A padded Christopher Walken plays Vito, the ever radiant Helen Mirren plays mammy but why they had to go pick John C. Reilly to play yours truly I’ll never know – but I suppose that’s Hollywood for you!
Karl MacDermott is an Irish-born comedy writer. He has written many articles for The Irish Times and online publications like Pure Slush and Literary Orphans. He has written two humor fiction novels — The Creative Lower Being and a new novel, Ireland’s Favourite Failure, which is available on Amazon Kindle. He is currently writer-in-residence at his home in Dublin.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We’re lucky to have friends like you.