A week after the police arrested Father Sass in the Paradise Motel outside Port Hope for fiddling minors, my father drove us to the city to meet Father Joe at the train station.
—Be nice to the man, give him the benefit of the doubt, our father said.
—Can we hit Burger King on the way home? my brother asked.
—Do you think the bookstore will be open? I asked to no response.

Going to the city was an event, all our info came by mail or mouth. It took my father three years to pay off the encyclopedias, which I thought we’d never read but devoured in a few months and panted like dogs at the barbecue for those annual updates.

Father Joe got off the train like a snowstorm. Laughter all bellows raising the station roof-beams, vestment a dance in the wind, handshake more an arm wrench I-got-you-now-more-than-hello-nice-to-meet-you, you’d have to be dead not to like this guy. Father Joe was life. Kissing babies, steering one-liners to exact targets, putting others first–Jesus who’d a thought it possible to bubble over with all that genuine curiosity and enjoy showing interest?
—Do you play hockey? Who’s the hot shot around here? Do I spy a Pub on that corner?
All before we’d loaded his few bags in the boot.

My Father, Father Joe, my Brother, and I around a table, 4 black pints, and 4 cheeseburgers.
—So Sass was a wicked Uncle Ernie? Father Joe asked, spreading relish.
—Even worse, a glutton and a bore. Pass the vinegar, would you? said my Father.
—There’s an elephant in the loo and I don’t know what to do, my brother said.
—Lead him to the center of the room, I said, passing the condiments.
—Boys, no Tom Foolery now, my Father said.
Father Joe squired ketchup. Guzzled his pint, attacked his plate, barely returned for air.
—Never trust a fat priest, boys.
He waved for another pint and opened his huge mouth for round two. My brother stuck two fingers up my underarm and I fell out of the booth, used laughter to cover the fall.

On the drive home, my brother and Father Joe were asleep in the backseat. Cornrows autumn high, at a gravel crossroad, a station wagon was wedged under a John Deer Harvester. My father rolled down the window for the cop, the ambulance driver, then the farmer. They all told him there was nothing more anyone could do.

9 Comments

  1. Roberta Beary

    Whoa! One of those stories that stays with me long after the first couple of reads.

    The ending is layered and for me is a keeper, that sense of loss and finality.

    I’d love this as a first line: “Father Joe got off the train like a snowstorm.”

    The title, Three Pints, hints at the initiation rites that are to come.

    Well done, David!

  2. Robert Vaughan

    Hi DO’C… what a scene you’ve created here- so much life! And the white space is vast also- both in the back story of Father Sass, but also in that fantastic end scene at the gravel crossroad. Love the stylized — to indicate dialogue (no tags!) Also, the exuberance of Father Joe in contrast to the constraint and gravity of the Dad. Love the rituals of male lives- first shared pub drinks, reminded me of the first time Dad says –it’s okay to smoke with me, but don’t tell Mom!!!
    All of the gravitas that goes into keeping the “maleness” in men.
    And yet… Father Sass- ‘fiddling minors.’ And yet… ‘There’s an elephant in the loo, and I don’t know what to do.’ (brilliant!)
    Woah. This one needs to be submitted, son!

  3. Koss Just Koss

    Great pack of story, David. Love the way you organized the wonderful dialogue (much better than quotation marks–wish this could be in a style guide). Love the contrast of fathers, flawless dialogue, and surprise ending. How you managed to make all of this work–and in such a short space. Great work.

  4. Benjamin Niespodziany

    That final paragraph reads like its own prose poem! Really great, and works as a standalone. “Cornrows autumn high” is masterful. The quotes are all so off-kilter and quirky and strange that I’d like to see how it looks without any assigned names attached to the lines. Just a rundown of quotes and lines, and the reader has to guess who is saying what, like a bunch of people talking at once. Might add to the (good) wooziness of this read.

  5. Meg Tuite

    David!
    Your use of language is masterful and fast-paced beauty of characters, the dialogue brings me to Flann O’Brien. Hilarious and serious shit and those words: ‘fiddling minors’ and the entire last 4 paragraphs! DAMN LOVE LOVE! Wouldn’t change a thing. And such an Irish tweek to it all the way through! DEEP LOVE!

  6. Len Kuntz

    DOC.

    This is a marvel and it really shows your command of voice, structure and cadence. That you just casually threw this out–fiddling minors–and moved on was brilliant. It was a marsala stew of great characters, description, dialogue, and mishaps, delivered with a knockout final paragraph.

  7. Ryan Griffith

    David, there is great energy to the language here—such a strong engine moving the story forward. I love the way you pack so much information into this piece. Really strong work!

  8. Lisa Alletson

    Wow! Such loaded characters in this a space. The dialogue and action kept me riveted. I love the switch to a smooth tone in that final paragraph, and the calm delivery of violence.

  9. Chelsea Stickle

    I love this interaction:” —There’s an elephant in the loo and I don’t know what to do, my brother said.
    —Lead him to the center of the room, I said, passing the condiments.”
    Kids are wonderful for meaningful nonsense.

    Great final line: “They all told him there was nothing more anyone could do.”

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