Two new crutches and two double shots of Bushmills Irish Whiskey
enabled Joe Faherty to move from the back seat of Moira Murphy's 1976 Buick
into Eagan's Funeral Home for Tim McGillicuddy's wake. At 87, Joe was in bad
shape, only a tad better than McGillicuddy who looked splendid in a rococo
The way the funeral home had painted McGillicuddy's face, he
looked better than most of the folks who had come to say good-bye. Many of them
were in their eighties. Even Moira, who still had her driver's license, was
creaky at 75.
McGillicuddy was 90 when he fell off his horse out in the
country. Until that moment he hadn't been sick a day in his life. Never drank
and never smoked. Women were his passion. He was calling on a couple until the
day he died.
Few folks knew that McGillicuddy had been expelled from Ireland
by the British in 1920. He was 18. He had been captured at 16 bringing guns to
older IRA rebels who were fighting the British. A few rebels with rifles caused
the British occupiers a lot of problems.
For two years they kept McGillicudy in prison. They finally
agreed to let him go to America. Why not, McGillicuddy thought. Life in America
had to be better than prison.
In the funeral home, however, much to the disgust of Joe
Faherty, the priest had come to the wake early. This meant Joe didn't have time
to grab his crutches and get to the bar next door before the priest started the
rosary. The custom at Irish wakes was that the priest would arrive at 6:30 p.m.
and all the men would have made it to the bar by then. The women would say the
rosary with the priest.
But this was a new priest and there he was in front of the
casket saying 15 decades of the rosary. Not the traditional five, as was the
case at Polish wakes.
Joe figured it would take the priest an hour to finish. Then
he'd ask Moira to take him home. He was too tired to go to the bar. Besides, he
had had more than the two double shots of Bushmills he had mentioned to Moira.
Moira drove Joe home. She waited until he was inside the house.
She wanted to make certain his new crutches wouldn't result in a fall. Joe
waved good-bye to Moira and shut the door but didn't lock it. He had to let the
Although he hated to turn on a light--he lived on Social
Security--he turned on just one because it was as dark inside as it was
outside. He planned to buy some candles.
As soon as Joe turned on the light, he saw McGillicuddy in his
favorite recliner wearing the same fancy suit he had on in the casket.
"What the hell are you doing here," Faherty asked. "Why didn't
you stay where you were. We got through the rosary so why do this. They'll come
here first, considering all the years we've been friends."
McGillicuddy didn't say a word.
"Well," said Faherty, "if you aren't in the mood to talk, I'll
have another Bushmills till you decide to say something. You don't look dead.
In fact, you never looked better."
McGillicuddy maintained his silence.
"It's too bad you don't drink. You could join me in some
Bushmills. It's as good today as it was back in Ireland."
Down deep Faherty didn't know what to do with dead McGillicuddy
in his favorite recliner. How long, he wondered, would McGillicuddy stay. He
wanted to be friendly but there was a limit to his hospitality.
"Let's watch the news on television," Faherty said, turning on
the set. "Maybe they'll explain how I've come to enjoy your company."
"You didn't drive, did you? If you need a lift I'm sure Moira
will come pick you up. After all, you two almost got married. I think she's
still fond of you.
Still, not a word out of McGillicuddy.
"I'm going in the kitchen and call Moira," Joe said. "I'll be
right back. We can talk about which way you're going, up or down, if you know
what I mean."
"The bets were about even on you. I told everyone you'd be in
heaven before they embalmed you. Except for the women, you probably didn't
commit another mortal sin in your life. Of course, you were dead when the
priest gave you the Last Rites. Don't know if they work on a dead person. Let's
hope they do."
Faherty hoisted himself out of the guest chair, got on his
crutches and headed for the kitchen to call Moira. He stumbled a bit on the rug
because he wasn't used to the crutches or all that Bushmills.
"Hello, Moira," Faherty said when she answered the phone. "Could
you drop back here for a minute. I've got an unexpected guest who needs a lift.
I think you'll be happy to see him. I have to go to bed. We've got
McGillicuddy's funeral Mass tomorrow. Wouldn't want to miss that."
Moira said she'd be right over. Faherty, heading back to the
parlor, tripped over his dachshund. The dog had slept through all the commotion
with McGillicuddy. Joe landed with a thud on his forehead. He never moved.
The next day Moira blamed Joe's death on his crutches and indeed
that was part of the problem. No mention was made of the Bushmills, however.
Moira, who had found the body, found the half empty bottle and took it home.
As Joe's driver for three years Moira thought she deserved the
liquor. But she wondered who the guest was that Joe had called about. When she
got to his house, there was only the dachshund snoring next to the body.