That’s the thing about this city—you can meet the strangest people who’ll tell you the strangest stories…
“To Seamus!” all the Irish diaspora who were drinking their heavy, dark Guinness stouts and green tinted beers on Saint Patrick’s Day at The Blarney Stone Pub, located somewhere in the West 30s neighborhood within the concrete-canyons of New York City, loudly toasted. “To Seamus O’Malley and his sorry Saint Patrick's Day snake bitten arse!” another patron of the pub proclaimed and which elicited gales of laughter from the other Gaelic guzzlers packed wall-to-wall inside The Blarney Stone.
“To me sorry Saint Patrick's Day snake bitten arse!” O’Malley chimed in as he raised his pint of green lager toward the crowd.
“Seamus, tell us the tale again, lad. Tell us again how ye managed to get ye arse bit on Saint Patrick's Day in a manky Irish airport, nonetheless,” demanded the heavyset, handlebar mustachioed barkeep.
Drawing a long sip from a cool glass of beer held firmly in hand before recanting the now legendary saga that he’d retold time and time again on Saint Patrick's Day for the last dozen or so years since his arrival in America, O’Malley prepared himself for what had now become an annual ritual. America, which could hardly be called the New World any longer, was where he and his wife, Maggie, now called home. What began as a sip ended as a gulp as he drained the last of the bitter green draft from the vessel in which it had, mere moments before, been filled up to the brim. Clearing his throat and then pausing for several seconds in order to create a dramatic effect, Seamus O’Malley launched into the retelling.
“Well, lads, as ye all know, way back somewhere about the 4th or 5th-century, our country’s patron saint, Saint Patrick, came into, then passed out of this world. ‘Tis believed he had been born in what was then known as Roman Britain and that while a teenager was kidnapped by Irish raiders and carried off as a slave to our beloved Emerald Isle. ‘Twas there he worked for six years or thereabout, as a Sheppard, and ‘twas during that time he found, or some say was found by, God. God told Patrick to run away to the coast, as a ship would be awaiting him and take the sheepish lad back home, and whereupon his return, in gratitude, he entered the priesthood.
“Now according to the Declaration, which others have said was written by none other than Saint Patrick himself, the young priest returned to Ireland so as to convert our pagan Paddy arses to Christianity. ‘Twas there that he and his converted went head-to-head against the druids, driving them from power. Over the years the tale itself was converted into an Eire allegory of how he drove “the snakes” from our island, albeit the fact that a viper of any kind had never been known to actually inhabit that region of the world.”
“Get to the good part about how one bit your Hibernian arse, already!” some fellow drinker implored.
By this time the barkeep had set another pint of lager before O’Malley as he continued. “One of the first lines of employment I undertook, as I was wee a bit of a chancer in those days, and prior to arriving in this country, was working security at Dublin Airport in North County Dublin, near Swords which was slightly outside The Pale.” And in response to a mention of those locations murmurs of several ex-patriots could be heard roiling throughout the over-packed saloon in an affirmation of nostalgic recognition.
“Aye, I worked for a spell in one of the two terminals there. Anyway, what I’m about to tell ye all ended up being, as it were, me last day on that job, which coincidentally occurred on Saint Patrick's Day. I’d gotten a call through me walkie-talkie thingamabob to head down to the baggage sorting area office and investigate a mysterious situation. There, one of the baggage handlers, some Indonesian bloke, had already set a large canvas suitcase on a table, and the first thing I noticed is it appeared as if something was moving about and writhing within. So I asked the handler what the bloody hell was that and was told that was what I was sent there to find out.
“Well, I don’t know what I expected, other than to do what I was told, so I put on me latex gloves then slowly unzipped it open. Now before I even had that suit bag all the way open this large green snake’s head slithers out, takes an angry gander me way, and hisses at me like some noisy, broken radiator spitting out steam in the middle of winter. Now it was still early on in the day so I was as sober as a judge. But I imagined if I’d a’ had a few in me already and was fully fluthered I’d a’ stood me ground and stared him down. But that not being the case I turned about to get away as fast as I could from the viper. A’ fore I got more than a step away from it I felt a sharp pain in one of me buttocks at first, ‘twas the right one if yous need to know, and then something like some kinda heavy weight was thrashing about off me arse cheek. He’d a’ sunk his fangs into it, then was a’ holding on to it for dear life, and the bugger wasn’t about to let go.
“Me? I thought I was a’ dying so was a’ screaming at the top of me lungs for help when that baggage handler grabbed that cold-blooded creature by its head, squeezing the sides until it opened its jaws and let go of me rear. Still holding the beast’s head with one hand the handler grabbed its tail with his other, calmly walked it over to a recently emptied dumpster, and tossed the serpent into it, then said, ‘Don’t worry, mate, it’s just a lil ol’ green tree python. She not poisonous—they even make nice pets if you like that kind of company’. Crikey, little?—that constrictor was at least two meters long—it turns out the ‘he’ was a ‘she’ about to lay a clutch of her eggs and give birth to more little eejit monsters of her kind. What a holy show!
“So anyway, one of the DUB airport managers takes me in his car to the nearest hospital, telling me all along the drive to try not to get any of me blood on his upholstery, where they examine me gluteus maximus, clean the wound, bandage me up, and then give me some tetanus shots and a few aspirins for good measure. On the ride back to DUB the manager tells me as long as I sign some form absolving and indemnifying the airport and the entire city of Dublin from any responsibility they’ll give me a very generous severance package and I needn’t return to work there ever again. Blimey, it ‘twas over a year’s full pay and some other goodies, so how could I say no? The Devil be damned, I took that money to get Maggie and me over here to the USA.”
At that point, everyone in the pub raised their glasses as they chanted, “USA, USA, USA…”
Once things had quieted down again one of the barmaids working at The Blarney Stone, who he believed was named Siobhan, approached him to ask, “If ye don’t mind me asking, do ye know whatever happened to that poor mama snake?”
“Aye, lass, I do indeed. I heard that that baggage handler fished it from the dumpster at the end of his shift and took it home along with him.”
“Now why would he do that? Did he keep it as a pet, did he?”
“Pet? Well no, lass, I heard he cut off the head, cooked it up, and served it up along with some fava beans and a fine Chianti for a family dinner that night. Someone even told me once, though they may have been slagging me, that in some countries snake meat is a delicacy. But what do I know? I’m not some kinda fecking herpetologist, am I, darling?”
The barmaid stared back at him in wide-eyed horror as she backed slowly and silently away. O’Malley was pretty sure if she’d been a snake, like that green tree python, she’d a’ either sunk her fangs into his neck or constricted her body around his to squeeze the life out of him. But he really didn’t know for sure, now did he now? What Seamus did know was as sure as he’d be surely attending Sunday mass with his Maggie this weekend, is that for the remainder of that Saint Patrick's Day night, Siobhan the barmaid did not meet his gaze again and completely ignored Seamus O’Malley every time he tried in vain to catch her eye and order another round. So boyo, what must a knackered, thirsty chap do in order to get ossified here in the New World on the tail end of the Feast of Saint Patrick, he wondered to himself?