A Reading Life Special Event
"Finito" by Eddie Stack A Short Story
Irish Short Story Month Year III
March 1 to March 31
In an act of supreme generosity Eddie Stack has sent me 22 short stories to post for Irish Short Story Month. I offer him my great thanks for this. I intend to share all of these short stories with my readers. He is a master story teller with a deep understanding of Ireland.
Press comments on his work
Press comments on his work
Praise for Eddie Stack’s writing
"Mr. Stack's fiction is versatile and engaging...a vivid, compassionate, authentic voice...securing (him) a place in the celebrated tradition of his country's storytelling.”
New York Times Book Review
“This second collection of short stories by Eddie Stack has a wonderful sense of unreality, of weirdness among Irish characters and of downright fun.”
“Eddie Stack’s stories jet back and forth across the Atlantic, contrasting small town Ireland and big city US. Every time they land, the author seems to test the borderline of what might and might not be possible in downtown bars, crumbling dance halls and drizzly farms. The result is a remarkably consistent collection of short stories.
Ian Wild, Southword
Horace Steiner’s therapy room was warm and smelled musty, with a faint whiff of heating oil. His patient, Larry Ryan, lay on the couch sobbing and Dr. Horace let him be, inhaled deeply and gazed out the window that overlooked High Street. He frowned blankly at the shoe shop on the opposite side and wondered what fantasies and troubles his next patient, Mary Kelly, would bring. After Mary’s session, he’d have lunch in the Cuckoo’s Nest on the quays. Today was Friday and they’d have crab cakes on the menu. He’d have those, French fries, tossed salad and a glass of wine. Maybe two glasses of wine.
Horace was past retiring age, but reluctant to give up his practice. There were a number of reasons for this. First, he didn’t know what he would do with his spare time, he hadn’t any hobbies or interests; once he did — stamp collecting, bird watching, a spot of polo when he was younger, golf every so often. But he’d lost interest in all of that stuff now. Second, he dreaded being at home all day with his wife, his third wife, Mary Lou. He sighed and wondered if he needed therapy himself: three wives in thirty years, not a record by a long shot. Larry King had eight, or was it nine? Could he manage a fourth wife? Mary Kelly flickered through his mind and he flexed his shoulders. No, not Mary Kelly, not another Mary.
Larry moaned and stammered an incoherent sentence. Horace turned his head away from the window, and exhaled quietly.
“That’s the saddest story I’ve ever heard in my entire career. She took you for 200k, shot your dog and ran off with your mother’s hairdresser. That’s awful, really awful.”
Larry wailed and curled into the fetal position.
“Horrible,” Horace said, “really horrible, no wonder you’re in such a state.”
He left his chair and went to the cluttered desk in the corner and searched for something. Pills. He took up this bottle and that, read labels, cast them aside. Picked up another, discarded it, then another. Finally he found the correct container, Zibrax. He put two pills in a glass and filled it with water from the cooler. The water fizzed and turned green. Horace shuffled to the couch and said, “Here, this will help you.”
Larry took the medicine and Horace advised him to lay still, inhale deeply and watch his breath. Horace put a tape into his boom box and played new age flute music, then lit a stick of incense.
Back in his chair, the shrink glanced around the therapy room. It was in a mess but he hadn’t the interest to tidy it. If he were charging top dollar for consultations, he’d hire a cleaner. But the Irish wouldn’t pay top dollar for therapy. The Irish didn’t understand they had to pay someone to listen to them and try and unravel their messes and tangles. They confused him, and he could never figure if they were really telling him how things actually were with them, or if they were making it all up. Like Mary Kelly, for instance. Was she really having an affair with a priest? And did they really go to Amsterdam every month to S&M parties? He didn’t know what to believe. The Irish had very fertile imaginations.
Larry was moaning again, the medicine wasn’t doing the job. Horace glanced at him, pathetic clothes hanger in a crumpled suit. Larry was an engineer, worked in an office across town. Sad story, if one could believe him. Now he was bawling and stammering nonsensically.
“Take it easy,” Horace said quietly, “take it easy Larry.”
The phone on the desk rang and Larry powered down. The answering machine clicked in: Horace’s wife Mary Lou cried ‘Don’t forget to get milk’. Larry sobbed again and Horace moved near him.
“Ok Larry, ok…now, here’s what I want you to do…I want you to raise your left leg off the couch, as high as you can. And then, with as much force as you can muster up, slam it on the couch and shout ‘I’m angry and upset but I’m ok.’ Do that five times with the left leg and then do it with the right leg.”
Larry did what he was told and Horace returned to his chair and stared out the window. He wondered if Larry’s girlfriend really shot the dog. Shot the critter with Larry’s duck hunting gun. Freud would say she was shooting Larry by proxy. Of course Freud also said the Irish were the only race in the world that couldn’t be psychoanalyzed. Admittedly Freud was wrong about a number of things, but maybe he was on target about the Irish. And then it struck Horace that if he retired, he might write a book about his years giving therapy to the Irish. There was plenty of material. Subversive ballerinas, Buddhist butchers, film star typists, lesbian nuns and gay jockeys. If he had known Ireland was so weird, he’d never have left America. He should have researched the move more thoroughly. The countryside enchanted him and he was in love with Mary Lou back then and everything looked rosy, even the grey Burren hills. They came over for a tryst weekend from New York and fell in love with the place. His mind rambled back to that weekend, arriving in Shannon, driving up the coast, smoked salmon in Lisdoonvarna and an afternoon shag on the deserted beach at Bishop’s Quarter.
He forgot about his patient until Larry kicked the wall with a thunderous bang that jolted Horace. Larry was in a frenzy, legs and arms flaying and thumping. Horace was taken aback. Larry jumped off the couch and attacked a filing cabinet.
“Whoa!!” Horace shouted, “Whoa, Larry…take it easy man…calm down!”
But Larry was ‘out there,’ tearing around the room, battering furniture,
“I’m angry and fed-up and fucked-up and nobody gives a shit and you just take my fuckin’ money and buy milk for your fuckin’ wife…”
“It’s ok, Larry…it’s ok.”
“It’s not fuckin’ ok!!”
Larry lifted the couch with the ease of a circus strongman and flung it at Horace. It clipped he analyst fell on the floor with a scream. The phone rang again and Larry picked it up. It was Mary Lou with another reminder about the milk.
“There will be no milk today,” Larry panted, “because the cow jumped over the moon and I’m fucked if I’m goin’ to run after her…I’ve done enough running in my life…I’ve had it…finito.”
The door banged and Larry rattled down the stairs.
“Finito,” moaned Horace, “I’ve had it too. I’ve had it with the Irish…Freud was right…they’re too much for us, too much. They’ll kill us before we cure them…”