Le Meas, Mo Charaid

One of the Last of the Goods Ones Moves On

One of my teachers passed on Sunday. It was right after breakfast. I stood by the backdoor, looking into the woods, and felt him cross over.

“Calum’s gone.”

Back in the 1990s I studied with two Celtic Teachers, Pahdeval and Da Fischer. They’d taken me as far as they could. Several hundred miles separated them and almost to the day they both told me I had to learn Gaelic – Scots Gaelic – to continue my studies because am Beurlad (Modern English) doesn’t support the concepts I studied with them.

Easy decision. Learn Gaelic. Could they teach me?

Yes, and there was another I had to study with, Calum Crùbach. In Alba Nuadh (Nova Scotia).

That’s a fairly big place. Where, specifically?

Falbh agus fios aige (Go and he’ll know).

Susan and I enrolled in a Gaelic summer school up there, an anniversary present to ourselves. We made lots of friends. One fellow, Malcolm, always seemed to be around. His humor was dry and infectious. He’d tell you a story straightfaced then burst out laughing when you caught on to the joke. He was a bawdy gentleman; courteous, gracious, considerate, always helpful, and would openly stare at a woman’s chest as if nothing else mattered.

It was a wonderful time and, as graduation approached, I had tshirts made up for the class, something to remember each other by.

I wasn’t sure of my Gaelic and he had a thick accent although he wasn’t teaching (he was studying pìob mhòr – traditional bagpiping). I asked him to help with my translations.

Happy to. He came up with a few translations that made advanced students laugh and blush. I asked Malcolm to translate “Don’t know the words, don’t know the language, gonna wing it.”

One teacher, a Scottish School M’arm if ever there was one (she was a Presbyterian minister’s wife and it showed. A lot), read one of the translations and walked away, shaking her head. “That’s not what it says, not at all at all at all.”

Tapadh Leibh, Malcolm (Thank you, Malcolm).

That’s when he corrected me. “Calum.”

Gaelic curses are a riot. Learn them. And be careful. They look a lot like harmless sayings…
…unless you know the people, the culture, the Way of Ocean and Earth.

Calum came from the Outer Isles and a line of Celtic StoryTellers. He had a tale for everything. Teaching stories, thinking stories, growing stories. Lore.

He asked me to help him translate fairy tales into a colinear Gaelic-am Beurlad to keep the language alive. He did it to teach me, more than anything else. To get me use to the rhythms, the meanings. The why of the Celts and Gaels, what cultural anthropologists know as the ceremony versus the ritual.

He taught me the traditions (fios agam) behind Scotch (if you think it’s just for drinking or celebrating, you…have studied differently than I have), the myths and not-myths of the Celts and Gaels. He taught me to sing the waulks, to summon the seas and quiet the earths.

He taught me how to see through the present to the past, into the deep past, and to respect the Old Ones of the Isles for choosing to reveal themselves to me and not to others.

He told me my name.

And he’s moved on.

Stad gu math, a’ Chalium.

Le Meas,

Ritchie&Phyl (A Celebration of Life) Chapter 8 – Montana-Mexican

Remember me now?

“You got dinner plans?”

“No, not really.”

“Good. Follow me. There’s a great Montana-Mex place about twenty miles down I95.”

“El Nina’s?”

“The exact place.”

Half an hour later Cortazar had a margarita the size of a small aquarium in front of her. She caught Phyl looking at the bowl-sized glass. “Don’t worry. This’ll take me all night.”

“Okay.” Phyl sipped from her beer bottle.

“You joined the force. How’d that happen?”

“You happened.”

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Ritchie&Phyl (A Celebration of Life) Chapter 7 – Girlfriends

I know you from somewhere, don’t I?

A guard silently escorted Dr. Cortazar and Phyl through the prison outside to the parking lot. Phyl looked at the sky and drew a deep breath.

“I – ”

“Amazing, isn’t it? You’re in there for what, maybe an hour? Probably less, and you feel it lift from you the minute you’re outside again.”

“I – ”

“Imagine what it’s like for those people inside. Not just the timers. The guards, too. The staff. The staff that can’t be made up from inmates, anyway. They get to see the world after eight hours, no overtime on this job. But the timers. Those put in the Hole. Lifers. They get to see the sun maybe an hour a day. You were in there for a small part of your day. Imagine being in there for years at a time.”

“I – ”

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Ritchie&Phyl (A Celebration of Life) Chapter 6 – The Parole Hearing

Dead or Alive. Preferably Dead. Very Dead. Extremely Dead. Completely forget that “Alive” part, okay?

The wooden chair screeched across the hardwood floor as Phyl pulled it under her. She’d placed her small, black leather purse on the green topped officers’ table in front of her. It looked like a little black island in a puke green sea. The table reminded her of industrial breakroom tables; functional but not inviting. She shifted her purse as she sat, placing it before her but not so far in front as to claim space, not setting a boundary. Her stomach gurgled quietly and she glanced around to see if anyone noticed. No one had.

A guard, the one who met her in the parking lot, absently caught her eye and smiled. He had her move her car to a roped off area next to a construction trailer then escorted her to the parole hearing. He didn’t say much but did chat her up a bit, commenting on her deep blue skirt, cream colored blazer and sky blue blouse, offering that it highlighted her hair and eyes.

She wondered if her outfit was too tight. She didn’t think it was. It was all tailored but not form fitting. She wasn’t wearing her boobshirt. Low, functional heels, not CFMs. Schwab suggested this outfit.

It was okay. She could do this. She exhaled, picked up her purse, opened it, removed a protein bar, closed her purse, giving each act a separate, metered and precise effort.

Porcino was not getting out.

If he got out, she’d risk it all and kill him.

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Ritchie&Phyl (A Celebration of Life) Chapter 5 – Sisters

If you can’t confide in your sister, who can you confide in?

“How’s Ol’ Elevator Butt?”

“We kissed.”

“Oh my god. Where?”

“For christssakes, Sandy. On the lips, of course.”

“You kissed your cat on the lips?”

“Goddamn it, Sandy. No. Ritchie. I kissed Ritchie on the lips.”

“Oh my god, Phyl. Where?”

“I just told you, on the lips.”

“No, I mean where?”

“Burger Bob’s.”

“Is this a joke? Your first date was to a burger joint with screaming kids and yelling parents? Some hot date, sis. Burger Bob’s. Whoa. Did you frolic on the jungle gym when you were through swallowing each other’s tongues?”

“I can’t tell you anything, you know that?”

“Details, Little Sister. I want details.”

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