Michael W. Shurgot retired in 2006 as Professor of Humanities from South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, WA.
He has published three scholarly books on Shakespeare, a memoir, and a novel, Green River Saga. His second novel, Raven Mountain: A Mythic Tale, will be out in early 2023. His website is: www.michaelshurgot.com.
By Michael W. Shurgot
Late on an October afternoon, the autumn sun caressing the few leaves still dancing in a slight breeze on the lovely old trees in their Buffalo neighborhood, Paddy and Mike are sitting together at Murphy’s 300 Club at the corner of North Highgate and Bailey Avenue. Ensconced in their usual spot—a small table underneath a map of Ireland—each is just starting his second pint of Guinness.
Amid casual conversation about family and work and Buffalo politics, suddenly Mike says to Paddy, “Listen Paddy, help me out here. I’m needin’ to get to Smitty’s Restaurant. It’s up on Kensington Avenue, I think, near Eggert Road or thereabouts. I’m supposed to meet Tim O’Grady up there for dinner at six. What’s the best way?”
“Well,” says Paddy, after a hearty draft of his Guinness, “give me a moment on that one. Is it walking you’ll be?”
“’Tis,” responds Mike.
Paddy takes a few more sips, rubs his chin, then, pointing to the front door across the room, says, “Well, Mike, now here’s what I recommend. You go out here and turn left onto Bailey Avenue. You go two blocks, and I think you’ll come to Lisbon Avenue. Turn left, go one block, then right onto probably Suffolk Avenue. Then go two more blocks, or is it three? Well, anyway, you keep going until you hit a stoplight, which I think is at Dartmouth Avenue, and then turn—wait—or go straight? Which is it now? Let me think about this some more.”
“I can’t say I follow that route, Paddy. Seems the long way ’round,” Mike says. He lifts his pint for a hearty swallow, then remarks, “Sure an’ I assumed you’d know the way, Paddy. It’s a long time you’ve lived in the neighborhood.”
“Well,” Paddy responds enthusiastically, “don’t I know that! Now give me just another minute here. Let me think.” He takes another draft, sits for a long moment holding his glass and staring out the nearest window onto Bailey Avenue, and then lays his pint on the table. He then says to Mike, “I got it! Ignore that first set of directions. Here’s what you do. You go out the bar, and instead of turning left, you go right. Go two blocks, then turn right again. That’ll put you on Winspear Avenue. You go two blocks, turn right again, and then you’re on Orleans Avenue. Forget about Suffolk. You go up Orleans for about five blocks, turn left, I think, onto LaSalle Avenue. Well, then you turn left again, and this takes you to Eggert Road, but as to which way you turn there I am, bless me mother, not quite sure.”
Mike takes another swallow of his Guinness. He leans in toward Paddy and, with a hint of exasperation in his voice, asks him, “Could you be giving me some directions you might be sure about? I’d best be goin’ soon now.”
“Ah, now this is becoming complicated,” Paddy agrees. “I see that. So, here’s what I’ll do.” He pulls a paper napkin from its holder on the table and lays it out flat, then takes a pen from his shirt pocket. He takes another sip of his pint, then places the glass on one corner of the napkin to anchor it. He then begins drawing several lines on the napkin, all of them intersecting at various angles, while mumbling over and over “The lights, the lights are shining.”
Mike takes a final swig of his beer while watching Paddy draw. After several minutes he twists his head around to see what exactly Paddy is creating. “What’s that you’re up to now Paddy? I can’t say it looks at all like any map I might have seen.”
“I’m after layin’ out the streets in the neighborhood, so’s I can see how they connect you see. I’ll just put the street names on these lines, and then we’ll be all right here.” After another five minutes, during which Mike frequently checks his watch, Paddy looks up from his scribbling.
“Well now,” he says to Mike, “here’s a third try. Follow my pen here while I trace the route for you on this napkin. Go out the bar, and get right onto Highgate. It’s just right ’round the corner from the pub. Go down Highgate to Suffolk, where those damn kids are always playing football when you’re trying to park your car. Sure that’s where I was meanin’ to send you all along. Go right, but don’t go as far as Dartmouth. There’s no light there. The light is at Shirley Avenue. Turn left. I’m sure it is Shirley Avenue where the light is. Go to Orleans, and turn right. Then you go all the way straight up Orleans to Kensington Avenue, and then you turn, oh for the love of God, is it left or right? Now give me another minute or two on that part.”
Mike leans back in his chair, folds his arms across his chest, and frowns. Paddy puts down his pen, stares at his napkin, sighs deeply, and then slowly drains his pint. He sets his glass firmly on the table, clears his throat, looks calmly at Mike, and asks, “Ah, Michael me lad, could you be startin’ from somewhere else?”