and the sins of our fathers

[a lagniappe of the work in progress, A Republic of Books, more of which may be found elsewhere on this ethereal site]

 

 

 

**

Act 3: Scene 4

 

Skinny dipping in the Glenmacnass

 

Duggin’s Bar. Peter Duggin is behind the bar on a quiet Wednesday night. Doreen is on a break. Michael enters and sits at center left.

 

DUGGIN

What’s the latest screw, Michael?

 

MICHAEL

My income taxes.

 

DUGGIN

I didn’t think you had much of that to deal with.

 

MICHAEL

No. But I haven’t kept the proper records, it seems. I keep everything. Every receipt goes in a box. But so much of it’s electronic now. Hard to remember what something was that I paid two dollars and fifty-eight cents for three years ago. A bottle of Windex or packet of condoms.

 

DUGGIN

No problem there. We know you didn’t buy any condoms.

 

MICHAEL

Right. How about yourself?

 

DUGGIN

(Duggin lets Michael quaff the top two inches of ale in silence before he answers).

I’ve got to be going back to Wicklow. My father’s in a bad way.

 

MICHAEL

Sorry to hear it.

 

DUGGIN

He wants to die at home, but the house is falling down around him and it’s likely to fall down first.

 

MICHAEL

How old is he now?

 

DUGGIN

Eighty-four.

 

MICHAEL

Your mother has passed?

 

DUGGIN

No. Yeah. She’s just passed along to Dublin to live with her sister. She wants him to sell the house to a developer and use the money to come to America so she can give Doreen a little hell. Better I go back to Wicklow and try to reason with my father. It may be my last chance. Though I’ve never been able to reason with him before.

 

MICHAEL

A man’s home is his castle.

 

DUGGIN

I grew up there. It’s no castle. The sills were rotted so bad that when I was a boy I had a fight with my brother and—mind, the two of us didn’t weight more than a hundred pounds together—we took a section of a wall outside with us.

 

MICHAEL

Why does he want to keep it? No place else to go?

 

DUGGIN

That would be the elder care facility for him. He would rather go up to the top of Mullach Cliabhain and drown himself in the water there.

 

MICHAEL

What do you think you’ll do, then, bring him here?

 

DUGGIN

Nah. I’ll hire a fellow to fix the roof and work on the sills. Dad won’t budge until he’s cold through and through. He told my mother recently that he’d move if she would go up and swim naked with him in the Glenmacnass like they did sixty years ago. But she told him no good came of that then and she wouldn’t do it again.

 

MICHAEL

Sounds like something worth doing again—or at least once before you die.

 

DUGGIN

I tried it myself once. The water is that cold. You’d need another body to get you warm again.

 

MICHAEL

And she won’t live in the house?

 

DUGGIN

She hasn’t in ten or twelve years.

 

MICHAEL

Because of the roof?

 

DUGGIN

No. Because she didn’t want him poking her in the night anymore.

 

MICHAEL

(Michael drinks a few inches of ale before answering)

Your house is pretty small. Doreen’s mother, Estelle, has already got the guest room. Where would your mother live if she came here?

 

DUGGIN

Her knees are no good. I’d have to get rid of all that crap in the garage and finish that out so she could be on the ground.

 

MICHAEL

Sounds like a project.

 

DUGGIN

A lighter one if you’d come and take all of the books away that you talked us into buying through the years.

 

[Doreen returns and listens in]

 

MICHAEL

I don’t have the money for it, Peter. I’d have to pay you later.

 

DUGGIN

That’ll be fine. If you can. If you can’t, take’m away anyway

 

MICHAEL

I’ll send Jack over to box it up. When’s best?

 

DUGGIN

Sunday. When we’re closed.

 

MICHAEL

I’ll tell Jack. He’s laying low right now.

 

DUGGIN

How’se that? Is he sick?

 

MICHAEL

He’s keeping shy of the Feds.

 

DUGGIN

Is he illegal?

 

MICHAEL

No. Just off the grid, a little.

 

DUGGIN

I know that feeling. I lived that way for ten years before I got Doreen to married me.

 

DOREEN

He used to be cuter

 

MICHAEL

That was before I took her for a swim in the Glenmacnass.

 

DOREEN

He bet me I wouldn’t go in. Look what I won!

(She spreads her had out over the bar)

 

MICHAEL

I think you told me that you were doing roofing back then. So why don’t you do your dad’s?

 

DUGGIN

He’d just tell me I did it wrong.

 

MICHAEL

Yeah. I can see that.

 

DOREEN

What is all this shit then with you? They’ve nothing better to do?

 

DUGGIN

(Shaking his head)

I married her for her tongue.

 

(Doreen slaps at him)

 

MICHAEL

No. I don’t think so. I’m just the existential threat, so to speak. The books are the problem. The authorities have to find a way to get rid of the books. The educational system doesn’t teach the citizen to read anyway. Just scan. And not to think. Certainly not to reason. But still, that’s only a start. As things break down, some of those abused might see that the answers are right there in the old volumes. They’ll have to rid themselves of the troublesome books. And me, I’m just the superfluous man now.

 

DUGGIN

‘Superfluous’ Wonderful word! That’s the memoir of your Mr. Nock, isn’t it. The Memoirs of a Superfluous Man? You got me to read that twenty years ago.

 

MICHAEL

Take it out of the garage and read it again before they’re all gone. It’ll help you with your father and your mother too.

 

DUGGIN

But it’s such a little book.

 

MICHAEL

You have a mother and father to look after. It’s just a little problem.”