Read The All of It: A Novel Online
Authors: Jeannette Haien
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Literary, #Brothers and Sisters, #Confession, #Family Life
|The All of It: A Novel|
|Tags:||Brothers and Sisters, Confession, Family Life, Fiction, Literary, General|
Soaked by a miserable rain, Father Declan de Lowry swats midges and unsuccessfully casts for salmon while mulling the deathbed confession of a parishioner from the tiny Irish village of Roonatellin. The good priest is frantic to know why Kevin Dennehy refused to the end to marry Enda, who lived as his wife for decades with none suspecting their sin. When pressed, Kevin would only say, "there's some explanations that get you nowhere." That leaves it to Enda, an Irish Scheherazade, to breathlessly tell Father "the all of it," a wild, eyebrow-raising tale that meanders like sheep on the narrow roads. Her enthusiasm and Jeannette Haien's musical, evocative phrasing sweep this winning, humorous novel along.
Within this brief, artfully woven novel are two stories. Kevin and Enda have escaped from their mad father and found refuge in a tiny Irish village, where they live as man and wife. Fifty years later, Kevin's death impels Enda to confess to Father Declan, a world-weary priest who finds his escape in salmon fishing. The moral commitment of the couple, and their devotion to freedom and the natural life, remain in the priest's mind as he struggles through the intricacies of netting a salmon. Haien, an American pianist, entirely captures both the essence of life in the rural west of Ireland and the many shadings of the conflict between official morality and the private compromises we must make to live out our lives. A compact, lyrical gem; one wishes it were longer. Highly recommended. Shelley Cox, Special Collections, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.
THOMAS DUNN, THE head ghillie at the Castle, wasn’t telling…
“IF ’TWERE ME, Father, given the conditions and all, I’d…
AFTER TWENTY-FIVE casts and strip-ins and not a sign of…
“EXPLAIN, KEVIN, explain! Confess!”
THE NEXT DAY, sinking fast—he would die but a few…
ENDA HAD PLED, “You’ll see to it, Father? have the…
DENNEHY (Roonatellin, County Mayo) September 22, 1982 at the age…
AT NOONTIME THE quiet rain that had persisted throughout the…
AT HALF-ONE, HE rested his rod in the thorny tangle…
ONCE, IN THE afternoon, as he was working the bottom…
FIVE O’CLOCK: ONLY half an hour left before half-five, half-five…
NOTHING EXAGGERATES A sense of lonely solitude so much as…
Ireland, stretches of a salmon-river which run through privately owned land are divided by the owner into sections, called “beats.” Beats are let (rented) by the owner, by the day, to an angler. The angler is called the “rod.” A “ghillie” (or “gillie”) is a servant who attends the rod.
A “yirrol” is a year-old ewe.
head ghillie at the Castle, wasn’t telling Father Declan anything he didn’t already know: the river too high and wild from all the rains, and the salmon, therefore, not moving, just lying on the bottom, not showing themselves at all, and the midges terrible, and only the two days left to the season so of course all but the least desirable of the river-beats, number Four, was let already; “and Frank and Peter’ll be ghillieing for the Americans stayin’ at the Castle, Father, so I’ll have to give you Seamus O’Conner and he’s hardly worth the pay and that on top of the twenty pounds for the beat and you know yourself, Father, how beat Four is after a rainfall such as we’ve been having, the piers awash and the banks slippery as
grease. If you’d given me a bit more notice, if I’d but known you had it in your mind to come for the day, I’d have—”
The long-distance connection was weak; that, and Thomas’s nattering on and on, discouraging, all but took the last of Father Declan’s heart. Still, he’d do it. “I know all you’re telling me, Thomas,” he bawled into the mouthpiece of the parish-house phone, “I know. But I’ll take beat Four and Seamus O’Conner with it, though I don’t need him.”
“It’s the rule, Father, the hard and fast rule—a ghillie for every rod—not up to me, you know, but the Castle’s.”
“I know. So I’ll be there at ten sharp in the morning, Thomas.”
“If I’d but known, Father,” Thomas began again, then started his coughing. “There’s not a fish moving—”
“At ten then in the morning, Thomas.”
“They’re not moving, Father, I’m telling you. The water’s too dirty and deep, they’re just lyin’ on the bottom, it’ll not be worth it to you, the trip, gas and all, and no hope of a kill—”
“I’ll not blame you, Thomas.”
“So you’ll be here tomorrow then, Father?”
“It’ll be good to see you, but I wouldn’t want you to have your hopes up—”
“Don’t worry about my hopes, Thomas.”
“But as the day goes on, Father, if you change your mind about coming, just ring me back. I won’t hold you to the cost of the beat.”
“Thomas, listen: I’ll not change my mind, and I’ve a funeral Mass at eleven. That’s an hour from now, if you’ve your watch on, so I can’t go on talking now.”
“Of course, Father.”
“So goodbye, Thomas.”
F ’TWERE ME
, Father, given the conditions and all, I’d start off with a Hairy Mary, not that Stoat’s Tail you’re tyin’ on.”
Father Declan—Father Declan de Loughry in full—didn’t honour the boy with a look, only the words, “But you’re not me, Seamus O’Conner, are you now. And you’re how old?”
“Eighteen last May.”
“And I started fishing for salmon when I was eleven. That makes it fifty-two years now I’ve been deciding which lure to use. If you put those two figures together you’ll have my age, the point being that I know what I’m doing.”
Seamus—he cared not for experience—received
the information with a shrug. He lit another cigarette, his fourth since they’d left the Castle and arrived at the beat. Father Declan restrained himself from commenting on the number of his smokes; he knew Seamus would tell him he lit up against the midges, thick already, swarming in clouds from out of the wet foliage.
Right on cue, Seamus said, “Thomas warned me about the midges. Devils they are!”
Father Declan seized his chance: “They’ve put ridges on your neck already…. And that ear, boy! It’s bleeding….” Then, in his kindest tone: “You’d best go sit in the hut, Seamus, out of the way of them…. No, really now—I’ll not hear otherwise. I’ll call if I need you with the net.”
But the boy protested: “Thomas said I’m to stay beside you.”
“I’ll account to Thomas if need be. You do as I say now.” The words, spoken in a definite way, impressed Seamus as being final, and he sloped off, crashing in his gumboots through the furze and heather, his head bent down against the rain.
The stone hut, fond refuge of generations of anglers and their ghillies, was around the bend in the river, away, out of sight, and out of sight—gone—was exactly all that Father Declan wanted of Seamus O’Conner right at that moment.
He looked at his watch. 10:34. He positioned
himself and shook his rod several times to satisfy himself that its fittings were secure, after which, in the fullness of an angler’s desiring, he made his first cast of the day.
casts and strip-ins and not a sign of a rise (the river might as well be empty of fish, he thought, which it wasn’t, of course, he knew) he changed the Stoat’s Tail for a Silver Doctor. If Seamus hadn’t suggested the Hairy Mary, he’d probably have gone to it next, but he couldn’t do Seamus that favor: were a salmon to take the Hairy Mary, Seamus would glory, and it would be a false glory and bad for him as he had but small knowledge of the intricacies of the sport, his contact with it being that of an observer only (of meagre vigilance, Father Declan judged), and as listener to mouthings about it (after the fact of a kill) by toffs at the Castle bar; but no instinct for it, no sense of its mysteries or feel for the way, in your
spine, you canny to where a salmon is lying, patient, in the river’s dark undercurrents, and how your human patience connects to the creature’s patience, the determination in yourself and the steel of your concentration alike to the fish’s wait and wiliness.
, Seamus knew naught of, nor could it ever be explained to him….
, explain! Confess!”
Only four days ago, Kevin, ill unto death, had revealed to Father Declan that he and Enda, his supposed wife of many years, were, in fact, not married.
Appalled, and in a torment for Kevin’s soul, Father Declan urged upon Kevin that he marry Enda at once. Kevin, though, only waved a weak hand through the air: “It can’t be done, Father. There’s a reason—”
, man? Explain, Kevin! Confess!”
“Ah, Father, you’ve said it yourself from the pulpit, that there’s some explanations as get you nowhere.”
“Try! You must.
But all the strife and urgency was Father Declan’s. Kevin said, “Not now,” and looked away; then back. “There’s a day or two left in me still, Father. There’s time, I mean to say…. The wind—it’s risen, has it?” and to Father Declan’s nod: “Would you be so kind as to bring Enda in now? She’ll take a chill outdoors in the weather.”
He walked through the raw of the clouded afternoon to the back of the house. “Enda?” he called softly.
She answered from just inside the door of the cattle-fold, “Here, Father,” showing herself, shawled; and as he approached: “Kevin, he told you, Father? About us?”—her eyes immense.
“He did…. And you, Enda, you’d best lose no time confessing!” His eyebrows came together. “I’m personally mortified for the two of you. What have you been thinking of all these many years”—Enda’s eyes strayed over the yard—“before God with your sin,” he went on sternly, “and deceiving your neighbors—”
“The question never came up,” she cut in.
“Because you saw to it that it didn’t, did you not, you and Kevin, pretending so well at being Mr. and Mrs. And myself, serving this parish for the past five years, thinking I had your trust, and not a word. Nor Father Francis before me nor the priest before him.
, Enda,” he growled, and
as she still said nothing, only stood straighter, he plied her fiercely with: “And why will Kevin not marry you now?” leaning a little towards her.
“Ah, you went into that with him, did you?” Her eyes narrowed.
“Of course,” he answered sternly, “’Tis my duty.”
“I understand, Father.” Her manner, careful until now, gentled. She made a gesture of appeal. “You mustn’t take it so hard, Father,” she went on softly; “There’s a part you don’t know—”
“So Kevin said,” he interrupted darkly.
“I gave him my word I’d not be the first to speak of it.” She hesitated; then: “Do you feel, Father, as you’ve seen him today, that his time’s coming on fast now?”
“I do.” He opened out his hands to her: “Tell him, Enda, to confess fully when next I come. There’s no sin past God’s forgiveness.”
She nodded vaguely. He thought she was going to say something more, but she didn’t—only brushed his sleeve with her hand, then walked quickly from him into the house.