The old man sat alone in the pub. On the table in front was a pint of Irish ale. The sleeve of his tattered jacket, dirty as the whole of it, bore the symbol of an army long defeated on the battlefield, yet not in the heart of a true Irishman. Or so he retold himself. His eyes were glassy as they carefully examined the war of twenty-two and twenty-three.
“Will ye be hav’n another pint, old fella?” ask younger man dressed in the casuals of modern barman. Then he stood and waited for a reply. He stood a while longer…waiting for a reply.
The ancient shoulders squared. His head snapped to attention like a soldier called for special assignment. “Maybe one for the boys, and then I’ll be head’n me back to joint them.” He looked and sounded sad.
“Ma name is Andrew” the boy nearly whispered, “I notice your boys are left on quite a while back. Can ya share with me just how you aim to catch on up to them?”
“Good ones, all of them. They stood proud, you know!”
“I never had the chance to meet them, sir. Ma shift is nearly done, will ya tell me who they were?”
“Well, lad, their names are gone from me, just as they left this life long ago. But prouder men of Erin ya might like never to have found. Loyal to their native land and lore were they. Alright indeed lad, alright indeed.”
“Were they your sons?”
“Yea, they were sons and more. They were friends. Men of valor amongst them all. Died fere Ireland they did. Not to hoist the Union jack, but to bleed beneath honor of the Orange and Green.”
A quiet settled for a few moments, as those nearby set their mugs at rest.
“Tell me, lad. What colors would ya lay your life down fere?” It was asked with resolution, firmness, and dignity without judgmental challenge. The room fell fully quiet. Among those whose attention rested on the boy were men surely twice his age, yet still only half a lifetime spent during the old man’s years.
The young man blushed. He was a college student studying accounting. He had never considered himself one to be counted upon, but rather one who would simply count. In a moment of brief self-introspection Andrew again spoke softly “It’s never given me no thought or care. I mean ya no disrespect, sir, but that be how she really in ma head. It never gave me no thought.”
“Ah, me young lad, don’t let it be unnerving to ya. Most of yer admirers in here have never gave her thought as well.” There was a discernible shiver in the crowd. “Give a good thought to me question, lad. Give it a good thought. Ya deserve to know what ya value, whatever she may be.” With that the old man downed his last swallow of ale and left the pub.
The next morning at the pub Andrew skimmed the local news. There on page four was a short article, accompanied by a picture. The headline read “Final Captain of The Irish Civil War Found Deceased”. Pictured below was a young man in a clean sharp battle dress jacket. Beside that picture was another of the same man lying beside a stone that bore his name and date of birth. He wore the same jacket, but it was worn and dirty. On his chest, held firmly in a death grip, were the delicately folded Orange and Green. No ribbons, no medals, no insignia of rank, just a tattered jacket and an aged yet pristine flag.
Three evenings later the boy began to write. By midnight more sheets were in the trash than remained on pad. But Andrew’s eye gleamed brighter than when he started. He knew he was getting close. As the morning rays of sunlight cast early shadows across the ground he walked toward a clothing store, with his written conscience resolutely in his trouser pocket.
By the time his shopping was done the shadows were at their shortest and the sun at her highest. Andrew stood at the foot of a mound of dirt, headed by carved stone. On the stone a death date had been chiseled more brightly than all the rest.
“I have an answer, sir” said Andrew, as softly as he ever spoke, but yet with a depth of conviction meant to come from an older, wiser, more hardened man. He shifted in his new jacket. In his hands he held the Orange and the Green, folded according to national custom. Resting on the flag was his hand-written statement.
“I lay my life before my maker, for the blessing of life and liberty.
Together they are indivisible. Life and liberty are one complete sentence.
Life begins with birth; it ends with liberty.
Ireland, Land of Abundance, grants abundance of life and a greater abundance of liberty.
The Orange (liberty) and Green (life) in a field of pure white represent a dedicated nation.
I lay my life beneath the Orange and Green, because without them abundance turns to shallow.
Erin Go Bragh.”
This article is a poor attempt at writing “in Irish”. I conform to the notion that there are two nationalities: Irishmen, and those that want to be. Many readers may believe this article is about Ireland, about nationality, or simply a short tale. Do not be derailed!
This article is about life and liberty…and what they really mean. Reread…between the lines.