Snow In Ireland
The dogs saw the ghosts best, so the men never brought them to the cemetery.
See, the men were dead set against seeing ghosts. They (the men) understood the ghosts as an affront; some things were simply so well comprehended among the men that the ghosts were even anachronistically useless. The men had seen ghosts their entire lives. As small boys, the ghost of a nation had perched upon their shoulders, from the voices of now-dead men. Now the anachronism was floundering upon the plotted earth, sleeping fitfully behind gravestones. The men did not need more ghosts. And the dogs wouldn't even know.
And some nights, it would be quite cold at the graveyard. The men would pound their hands together in a muffled way at the stones, and try not to breathe hard. Breathing reminded them of ghosts. The moon would call up the frost carpeting the black bare earth, and that hoar frost would look of faceless ghosts. The men would not see these faceless ghosts. The frost would redden their (the men's) faces. They would leave the graveyard with the melting vapors of the fitful Dead on their faces.
The men came and came, leaving the dogs at home (so they would not know the ghosts). The graveyard said nothing underfoot, nothing but the noise of the trees, and the men would come and come. They would come empty handed too; flowers and flags were made especially for ghosts, as Things and offerings for ghosts. And the men had no wish to let anything rise. They would come only with their rough clipped voices. They would come and shout away the nights, shouting away the voices of Dead men. Who would come from the ground, if they were only called.
And one night it snowed. One of the men, Peyton, younger by some years than the others, lit a cigarette in the snow. The others stared at the young man, Peyton, who was himself staring above the grave of his father.
Peyton felt their eyes.
He moved to douse the cigarette as he saw the others' eyes. Their eyes were lost in the snow. The snow came upon their shoulders, it melted in their hair. Peyton moved to douse his cigarette.
"No. Doesn't matter."
Corey who was the oldest waved his hand dismissively through the snow. Through Peyton's cigarette smoke. Everything was white, and the gravestones were white under the snow. Peyton put his cigarette back to his mouth.
"Did it snow in Ireland?"
Monahan asked Corey suddenly. Corey was the oldest and the only one whom had Come Over, aside from the fathers, who lay under the black earth and the snow.
"What the hell do you think?"
"I want to know."
"Damnit Monahan, yes! I don't remember."
Corey looked ill. Peyton dropped his smoked-out cigarette right beside his father's grave. He ground it out, the dead ash mixing with the black earth.
"If you don't remember, why are you saying yes?"
Monahan demanded of Corey, who looked ill.
"Just because he doesn't remember it snowing doesn't matter any. It snows in Ireland."
Mahon muttered. Mahon had an angry voice.
"I asked him."
Monahan's tone chiseled in the snow. Monahan's eyes were lit and odd, and he looked at his father's tone. It was beaded with snow until the chipped marble looked braided with loose rosary. Corey wiped his face and glared at Mahon. Peyton wished he had another smoke, and thought about the sound dogs made, the small sound they made when the lights were off, and everything looked foreign and far away.
Mahon demanded of Corey.
"How the hell do you know if it snows in Ireland?"
Corey's voice sounded hollow and sharp. He spoke at Mahon's angry eyes.
"Damnit, I was just tying to get him off your back."
Mahon flipped an abrupt gesture to Monahan, who was watching narrowly. The snow fell in Monahan's black hair. He alone of the men had dark hair. Black Irish, he would joke about himself, only it was never a joke. The other men understood that quietly. Monahan had odd eyes; a lit sort of yellow, and capped with the dark of his swarthy face, he hair.
"So. Does it snow?"
Monahan almost coughed out. His cough sounded husky, and from the back of his throat.
Peyton thought that, with his father dead these past four years, whether or not Ireland had snow or earthquakes or even goddamned volcanoes mattered nothing at all. But still-to hell-it mattered. It mattered so much. Peyton supposed that was why Monahan was asking about the snow. And Corey had been the only one to see. Whether or not he remembered was small issue, it seemed in Corey's ill eyes there was that ring of reaching truth the others never could have. Corey's father had been the first to die.
"I never remember snow."
Corey said in a thick and odd voice. It sounded ill.
"Why the hell do you care?"
Mahon demanded at Monahan, whose odd eyes were trained on Corey. Monahan didn't say anything to Mahon. Peyton thought of how dogs were when they knew you were about to leave them. How they made those small sad sounds. How sometimes you got the feeling a house filled with ghosts when you were gone. Peyton shook the snow from his coat. The dogs could sense the ghosts, smell them almost. They never took the dogs to the graveyard.
"Why the hell do you care?"
Mahon repeated, his voice tremulous and rising. Mahon was very often angry. He also drank more than the others. His father had been like that; but so had all of the fathers. All the fathers and their drinking. Something more around the eyes, another small pearly ghost, shifting above the bare earth, the snow.
Monahan coughed quietly,
"I don't care at all."
Corey glared at the ground as Monahan coughed his ambivalence at his father's tomb, not at Mahon.
Peyton thought that is must have always been like this, because there were always Dead and, so far, there were always Living to come back. Peyton thought it always had to be like this because there were always Fathers to leave home, and there were always Sons to come back to places they had never been; or had been, and forgotten.
The snow fell silently. It melted in Monahan's dark hair, it fell past Corey's gaunt ill eyes, and Mahon's frozen angry face. Peyton shook the snow from his jacket again. He had been coming these past four years, and the others had been coming, and they always would come. They would leave the dogs at home, and come, face down to the bare earth and the hoary ghosts that rose at the moon, the dammed moon which grinned and grinned, and grinned over Ireland too. That was something Monahan did not have to ask Corey. They all knew.
"I'm going hunting tomorrow."
Corey said and wiped his face.
"My father never said anything about snow."
"Neither did mine. What the hell does it matter?"
Mahon curled his lips angrily.
"It doesn't matter. I'll go hunting."
Monahan told Corey. Corey nodded and Peyton knew in the end they would all go hunting, go with the dogs into the deep woods, which would be ethereal and quiet with snow, and Peyton looked at the sky to find the grinning moon. He couldn't see it, only the rosary snow, clouding his eyes.
"I'm going home. Tomorrow then."
Mahon said stiffly. His eyes were dry, desiccated nearly with a drowning want for the drink, and Mahon turned to go, casting a look at his father's stone. Peyton had not meant to say anything, but before Mahon was out of ear shot, Peyton said,
"My father told me dogs could smell the snow, before it came."
Mahon looked side-long at Peyton. Corey gave an ill sort of smile, and the snow fell past his gaunt, ill eyes. Monahan actually laughed. His laugh sounded like coughing. Peyton suddenly thought that they had been coming here a very long time. A very long time.
Monahan asked through his laughing. Mahon cursed low, his dry eyes hooding over, and he cursed again, low.
"Yah. I guess."
Corey agreed, and started off after Mahon.
"But it doesn't matter,"
Monahan said as he started walking too.
"Not at all."
Then he winked quickly at Peyton with his odd yellow eyes, and he coughed a real cough, a real cough from the back of his throat. Black Irish, Peyton thought. He watched Monahan's parting back, then thought he should go too, and it would be a long time coming, and one day they would be buried in the earth, and there would be nothing to remember about them, because they were the Sons, and they were the men brought up for all the remembering.
Peyton stared at the grave of his father, thanking the Sweet Mother Mary that he was not a dog, and that he couldn't smell snow or ghosts.