Brian O’Dowd was born in Dublin. He lives in Toronto. O’Dowd is a Professor at the University of Toronto. His novel ‘A Wicklow Girl’, was published in 2017. Available on Amazon etc. Publisher: Tellwell, Canada. In 2019 he won the prestigious Prix Galien 2019 Canadian science award, as reported in the Irish Times.

Tell Me

Brian O’Dowd ©

Pep talk

“Look Skeptical Paddy won’t be here, don’t panic better up your game.  New acquisition we’ve librarian ‘Moustache guy’ on loan.”

“Paddy was away on the lash, the missus has him on the wagon.  Now mute as an auld mutt.”

“Interrupter’s salient gossip!  Youse know the drill, I’m not here to be explaining.  Chime in, chatter galore, hectoring okay no banter, hope youse have boned up.  No room for intros they’ll know your mumbling voice.  Not tolerating any old guff, hobby regaling not permitted, no matchbox collections, nor any collectors items or tales of Atlantic birds observed in Spiddal on first day of spring, cannot swallow that.  Surreal, end of day, and binary latest unacceptable words.  We’ve a poet on board so yes occasional rhyming decorations.  Showband era discussion exhausted, ‘Are you cheating me’ their best song.  My snarling face indicates stop.  Don’t bore up the place, looking at you Bluenose.”

“Born in Crumlin.”

“You exist in swanky Dalkey.”

“Looking for far away ayes, I went dancing in Dun Leary. Fortunate being handsome so I married rich.  Now upper crust still hankerings for beans, tinned salmon and slice of cheese.”

“Nick our tapster on standby, monitoring glasses approaching ‘E’.  Nicky taps no slops for lubrications!  Okay tick-tock countdown to recording.  Know your place keep it tight.”

“Shut up out there.”  Shouts Nick.

The show

“Seated together in the snug of this fine establishment for another episode of ‘Tell Me’, I wish to acknowledge lands of Ballsbridge inherited from Neanderthals after their slaughtering, lucky we being more devious and cunning.  As usual toast to Homo Erectus coming before us!”

“Hear hear!” Echoed about.

“Hodgepodge stuff cobbled together from this lame bunch.  Mickey’s grimy hand up.  Go.”

“City has 772 pubs, nary a public toilet, for duration confined to glass of wine no pint, seeing I’m up in Killmenow estate.  Barbaric closing!  If you serve do we not P?  One by the bridge once packed in the evening with men heading home.  Corporation thinks we’re robots, cousin from away in Boston caught porcelain short, traumatized won’t be back in a hurry.  Probably only helps spirits sales.”

“Have we Irish not suffered enough?  Me pockets always once walking full of pennies.”

“Aye, Dublin once famous for it’s quality Victorian jacks, with generous urinals.”

“Second and less important no rest rooms amenities for 20 million penguins on ice frozen for 22 million years.  Why they require enormous fouled icebergs to be breaking away.  I’ll say no more.”

“I admire penguins to make Antarctic home, no chicken-out annual migrations to Florida.  They love that bone chilling cold surrounded with sod all.”

“Only 10 humans have been born on Antarctic.”

“What about if one goes crazy needs to locked up?  Must have that one room jail, like in old Western movies.”

“Buttery guy what you got?”

“Bellfield actually.”

“I meant your distinctly robust slippery complexion.  Moving along.”

“Imagine old biddies that day at Knock in 1879 with cameras!  First movie camera only in 1888, know what I’m saying?”

“Maybe why them class of visions don’t come no more?”

“Creates an interesting scenario say if ET have films.  Imagine seeing them visions, maybe we’d avoided big wars later.  Busy with praying a lot more.”

“Why would ET be in Knock with cameras?”

“Listen they’re that busy studying us, they record everything all global.  We are probably smarter only they have the jump on us.  Till now.”

“Aliens have their own divine visions, they’ll likely not know much about after-life neither.”

“What about the moving statues in Kerry in 1985?”

“Ah sure look it, different ball of wax.”

“Different kettle of fish altogether.”

“Rapid Drumcondra, say you?”

“Never put one obese man in a leaning tower always need two.  Don’t be choosy with beggars, give street folk a break.  Angel investors require ‘sweat equity’.  Who ever invented compound interest is best human, even with Santa.  If the asteroid comes best sleep with alligators to survive, after watch out.  Don’t remember worse then it was.  Dogs sleep a lot as each day has 7 nights.  Order sparkling water be a big shot for once, impress the waiter.  Beware lowly old farts at new job, they’ll not like you and plan to do you harm.  Live life of novelty head to patent office, hardest part of invention keep your yap shut.  Not a fan of American beer, worse their pint is so small.  Don’t bother bats in dark caves, they’re busy developing echo stuff.  Not wasting their lives, it’s their legacy.  Hello!”

“Okay!  Stop now!  Enough.”

“Begob, I’ll need a copy of that load engraved on a briquette.”

“Okay Deadwood Prof.”

“Because I make wicker furniture?”

“That too.”

“Hobby talking out on a perilous twig.  Ban him and the dusty mule he rode in on!”

“Humans have flexible power of DNA in the locker, that advantage took planet life from bacteria, plants to T Rex then to us with no bother.  DNA styling has not stopped yet, will be there support for us adapting to space environments.  Lots of low hanging fruits available out there, one large asteroid loaded with precious metals.  We’ll harness the solar system and reign supreme.  Pioneer satellites have reached interstellar space, Proxima B, half decent planet nearby, although Pioneers not headed that direction.”

“Wicker is furniture?  Uncomfortable bunch of twisted twigs.”

“Fire away Trusty boy.”

“If Ann Boleyn bumps up with husband Henry in Heaven does she bow?”

“On whose planet will he be in Heaven?”

“Royal connections not necessarily severed becoming RIP.  Could be still VIP.  Second thing I know for sure that apple in the Garden of Eden was no Granny Smith.”

“Reformed Once Boring guy.  Go.”

“Females manufacture every penis in creation, let’s get that straight.  Their egg 10 million times volume of one spermatoza.  Creating life not easy it’s hard, Ma fast asleep as sperm and egg negotiate.  Nine month rental, need 26 billion baby cells, at 12 weeks all organs kitted in.  How?  Each sac race 300 million spermatozoa, my athlete Dad used steroids, I hit that egg so hard.  It was spinning.”

“You have to hand it to them, nine months gets it done.  Even lazy ones on the nose.”

“We are Y men, another bargaining tool at the table.  Making Y every day, we’ve life’s continuation in our keeping, so not all boys or all girls.”

“Y chromosome sperm swim faster, 105 boys born for 100 girls, as Y is lighter than X.”

“We are the packaging, see an Apollo rocket weighs equivalent of 400 elephants once delivered in space only one trunk left carrying lunar lads.”

“Lot of engineering required for mating, like constructing the Chunnel hoping both ends meet at some point.”

“Got hooked up young, wife from farming stock, well she knew what goes where.”

“Okay Nutbar, grains of salt available.”

“No mummies found in the pyramids, King’s Chamber sarcophagus found empty.  By Occam’s razor pyramids worked as designed, Pharaohs mummies fully transported to the stars.  Perfection.”

“My spectacled friend we joined in philosophies and pints, never set eyes here to fore.  That is some real hokum as now presented.”

“Second.  How old are the Giza pyramids?  No written signs nothing on the walls. In the roof of the King’s chamber a ‘builder’ scribbled KHUFU, dated ~5000 years ago.  Piece of wood in a tunnel dating age 4000 years BC, give or take.”

“Nutbar making sense!”

“Random Noise.  Go.”

“Want my tissue bits stuck in amber, I’ll be back hustling in a million years.”

“Glutton for punishment, I’d most fear repeating the Leaving Cert.”

“My original results will be on file up in the clouds.”

“Bury your exam certificate in a field dig up when cloned.”

“He’ll remember?”

“Write in a book.”

“Would you receive your immortal soul?”

“See a Pandora’s box, best leave sleeping logs die.”

“Be prepared for thousands of new Royal generations clogging history books.”

“Second. The Nobel prize is not awarded posthumously, if cloned are you then eligible?”

“Important question, right enough.”

“Elegant Boaster to rescue.  Go.”

“Two quickies.  Ate Armadillo in Trinidad not like chicken!  On my palate more Anteatery.  A player broke NFL record of 63 yards with no toes on his kicking foot.”

“Amazing feat.”

“With shoe on a different foot, rugby has a 70 yard penalty kick!  Love those Green shirt rugby lads doing well for the island.  Talent diluted with GAA, soccer, rugby, needing ‘off shore’ grandkids, be better than locals otherwise we look like fools.”

“Handball, tennis and bowls, Irish men play with balls not pucks, that’s how we roll.”

“Okay Too Young Prof.  Go.”

“Being bright is no guarantee to attract motts.  Figured I had it all until dancing, great leveler like earthquakes in San Fran.  With dumb glasses, deaf with earwax, skinny bod.  Big awaking realized girls have lofty expectations.  Ends with me walking home alone on canal’s towpath.  Maybe not alone in the Cosmos, but I’m alone on this planet.  Laid like an albino giraffe.”

 “Can I get you a drink or what?”

“Yeah okay.  Thanks.”

“What’s your name in anyway?”

“I’m Imelda.”  Chewing gum.

“To impress I’d recite entire periodic table using mnemonics (i.e. Please See Phosphorous Shinning Clearly Astern), and all 50 States plus Puerto Rico.  I was that impressive, while they had ayes only for rugby lads.”

“Even plump front row scrum ones?”

“Girls want boy friends with muscles, later to inherit flabby husbands.”

“Best muscles are in the brain.”

“Poets need a bird named Dawn at day break.”

A city girl for sure.

“Would you be available to dance?”

Slow one with great Percy Sledge,

only wanting back to her mates,

“Me with him you must be joking,

rather kiss me aunt Alice.

The scruffy neck of that fella.”

“High IQ Brief guy.  Go.”

“Dolphin brains 1600 grams, human 1300 grams.”

“Can they do algebra?”

“They’ve schools.”

“Look more like fish, do they drink sea water?”

“Why did they go back to the sea?  After escaping.

“Now no sake only sushi.  Stressful with man-eating sharks as neighbours and no fence when kipping.  I cherish my couch, fridge with beer, TV and wonderful locked door.  Also occasional tasty salty snacks.”

“Load them with porter, I’d watch those tricks with hoops.  Oh look missed again!  Hilarious!”

“We don’t frolic in oceans all day, we construct machinery, bullet trains, taxis and other things.  Homo Sapiens put boots and cars on the moon and landed a yoke on Titan.”

“No opposable thumbs their downfall, flippers are rather limiting.”

“They can’t wear stylish gloves.”

“Scary Recidivist Felon.  Please proceed when ready.”

“Damn DNA testing revealing for nefarious deeds lurking, decades later.  Ready to twist souls like a pretzel, spilling beans like a mafia rat.  Lots of criminals would have stayed on straight and narrow, if they knew about DNA testing getting unleashed.  Do we not have rights to be forgotten, so I pilfered merchandise but those decades ago.  Made a nice bundle.  Let it go now!  Look to the future.  DNA makes it too tough for criminals to ply their trade.  Casanova and Genghis never sleepless.  I’m tossing and turning, worrying about some job from ages back.  Lurking in every discarded cell, tattling those tales often denied. Got this affliction in my cells from my family all the way back now comes to haunt me.  Family and ancestors squealing on me.  Like unfortunates on telly.  ‘You are the father.’  Father is more than DNA.  Rules changed so this is fair play?  I cry foul!  In my time I could have been a bank teller, I’m that good with figures.  No calculator.  Crimes I got away free with and now this?  Tucked up again with more porridge?  Look I was very careful meticulous, skilled with evidence demands of that era, left no finger prints or tire tracks or witness.  Rarely charged.  Now some high falutin gimmickry magic gets me incarcerated doing hard time.  Again that’s fair?  Next they’ll be asking ET for videos from what I’m hearing here.  What about your limitation with statues?  This is my trade, in mid-life it’s that hard to switch.  Altogether I’m a skilled locksmith, sussing likely easy targets, cracking safes.  I’ve overall that stealth and canny knowledge.  Now required to do all that in a hazmat suit?  Where is my profit?  We work on a low margin already.  Most houses have nothing of value, nobody cares about family ‘hair-looms’.  I need something to fence for a long nights work.  It’s stressful being in houses in the dark, hearing snoring all about.  Few beers from the fridge and nothing else.  How does that work?  Leave out some candy for us.  I’m Robin Hood spreading the wealth, lot of folks depending on this industry.  Heading to a barbershop dustbin tonight, get the days hair clippings.  Have a use for them to fix the problem.  Stitch up some other gurriers.”

“Silent panel appears in full agreement.  Putting us straight.”

Maestro query (from mise).

“What convinced we have a creator?”

“Women for definite!”

“Hammered into me at school.”

“When I see the sun in the sky.”

“Wine and women both together, best times.”

“Otherwise Earth all gooey tarry like Titan.”

“Watching bikini Barbara on Courtown’s beach.”

“Radio Caroline on the transistor, ‘Whiter shade of pale’, flagon of cider.”

“Pause as we each mental those visions.”

“Often felt the presence of vigilant Guardian angel.”

“Somehow I have so many working organs.”

“Chose me to be a living soul.  Being alive, good parents all that required miracles.”

“Disco dancing sowed initial doubts.”

“Then we met at the beach bonfire later.”

This one grabs me awkward,

a long streak of bacon.

“So where are ye from?” I says.

“Ballymacsomething in Leitrim.”

“I like that Larry Cunningham song.”

“Oh yeah.”  Shuffling round.

“Usual Barely Adequate.  Go.”

“Assembling robots compared to gestation chemistry?  Mrs. Clarke at number 53 knocked out 8 barely finished National school.”

“There’s likely different ways of creating life.”

“Not for Mr. Clarke.”

“Manic ET.  Go!”

“I’ve a bunch.  If we see ET coming turn lights off, pass by melt on Venus.  Move Europa into the Goldilocks orbit.”


“Jupiter gravity sling shot with a rope, that giant planet not bothered, giving it a giddy up.  Look how would I know, I’m alive in this present.  Planets and moons all get located somehow.  Obviously.”

“Where there is a will, there is a way.  Obviously.”

“What would we do with a temperate water world Europa?”

“Regular stuff, start again on such a promising ‘planet’.  We’d make oxygen from the water.  Easy.  Make it like home pollute with plastics, send fish and whales.  Also apparently we’ve penguins to spare, to feed the oceans critters.  They’d need a dome keep both poles frozen, then mine loads of minerals.”

“Second.  My main quarrel with ET why not engrave ‘Wash Hands’ across the sky?  At least give us that clue for nothing.  Help a brother stop plagues.”

“All aliens are robots, they do not have bacteria problems.”

“Lastly do you think Ben Franklin knew when flying a kite there’d be electricity bills?  Lucky for him he was not charged.”

“Wild Thing.  Go.”

“Now in space 50 years since sputnik. Who’s first with a moon birth.”

“Likely baby named Neil or Valentina, first female orbited from USSR.”

“You think in the space station they’ve done the wild thing?  Who could resist?”

“621 space lads, 70 women all in prime of life.  Figure those new maths.”

“Best reason for riding the rocket the ~200 mile club.  Shaking it up.”

“Moustache guy.  Go.”

“When Alexandria library burned lots of knowledge lost, an asteroid strike now maybe no more books!  Some University do have cellars with book stacks, lots of journal in alphabetic order, tsunamis would drown that.  At the deepest level books for alchemy, witch trials, 6000 year earth at the horizon is a cliff edge, earth is the center of everything, leech collecting and phrenology.  Precious valuable stuff lost for ever.”

“In 1858, Queen Victoria and President Buchanan had telegraph exchanges America to Ireland.  They declared, ‘triumph more glorious, more useful to mankind than was ever won by conqueror on field of battle.’  Must be not that difficult to construct?”

“Don’t forget lapidary, tanner and milners.  Whatever they are, we’ll need them.”

“Milners make hats for rain or shine.  Better not neglect the complexion even with harsh climates.”

“Olden days everyone had a hat.  Women hats looked like umbrellas.”

“Electron microscope?  Ah sure polish a bit of broken glass.  What can you do?”

“Raid abandoned supermarkets.”

“Pet stores less crowded, less palatable but keeps a belly full.”

“Likely full of feral and rabid hungry animals.”

“King of that world, mycology experts, stag hunters and gang leaders.”

“Moustache guy needs room to improve.  My personal opinion.  Just sayin.”

“Have ‘sure’ in front of every sentence to sound Irish.”

“Only Reptile guy.  Go.”

“Go on old Prof embarrass yourself.”

“Reptilian brain we’ve still got inherited bits from 400 million years we’ve structures found in a reptile’s brain parked top of our spine.”

“My mother was that scared of the snake house at the zoo, but had a pet tortoise in the garden.  Eating lettuce.”

“Why we speak with forked tongue?”

“Are reptiles smart?”

“What is a reptile?”

“I know when I see them.”

“That’s a wrap.”

“If not for Drumcondra we’d be on the rocks.  I’ll be sending youse critical notes.  If no note you’ll not be required ever again.”

Hot Mic after the show

“Talking about wild things, still dating that chick in Wicklow?”

“She’s away holidaying across in Majorca.  Last minute thing, I’d not swing that time available.  Exams.  I explained to her.”

“Solid plan, no worries.”

“Is she booked in a cloistered Monastery over there?  In Espanya.”

“I know what you are saying , we’ve no secrets, she already told me she’d a rich ex-boy friend from Limerick took her to Mustique.  But that’s long over.  For sure!  Really.”

“Puts life in perspex lucky we have you.  Meantime maybe go dancing.”

“Have toast for breakfast.”

“Get used to that library guy canal walk.”