Features

Megabucks at Breads and Bits

... when the eaves dropper is caught red-handed at the popular
little Irish tea shop.

by Joe Sullivan

                                
The Breads and Bits of Ireland is catering to its early afternoon crowd which
consists of late-lunch customers like Joe Rattigan and others who have
dropped in for a pot of tea and possibly, a scone. Although the Breads and
Bits owners had built their business on the delicious authenticity of their
baked goods, the tea drinkers at the table nearby Joe were here today for
conversation as well as refreshment. Breads and Bits was a wonderful place
to sit down, throw back your winter coat, undo your scarf and have a nice,
easy talk with your friends.

The conversationalists today were  exclusively ladies who were there to
enjoy themselves by carefully devoting their attention to news whether  
good or bad. A group of them, about seven or eight, were seated on either
side of the signature piece of the shop, a very long, sturdy table that  
accommodates fourteen people, or even more in a pinch. It’s a communal
table, that is to say the sittees are not always from the same group  but
occasionally, from a number of groups each with its own business or at the
very least its own conversation, all of which goes on at the same time. Like
the other much smaller tables situated around it, the big table is covered
with a bright oilcloth  cover that carries a design of apples, grapes, pears,
and other fruits with the name of each printed under it in a wiggly little
script. In all, the elements combine into a bubbly, cheery atmosphere that
move customers to describe Breads and Bits as, “a nice little place.”

All by himself.

The only other customer present in the shop is Joe Rattigan.  He is sitting
at one of the a small tables quietly eating his lunch and perusing a tabloid
“The Irish Emigrant” which some benefactor has left, or more likely
forgotten since it cost a dollar. Although written in Boston it describes
politics, news and sports that occur in Ireland as though they were taking
place in the next town. He views it in curiosity more than nostalgia making
him realize how far removed he is from the Irish culture that he regards as
his own.

He has been located across from other ladies on other visits and, as before,
only casually notices them. On most occasions their conversation takes
place without him actually hearing it. What usually registers is the tone that
their voices combine to make, it has the sound of a relaxed happiness and
it floats above and around them. The ladies sitting across from him today
are made up of two groups, one he guesses to be in their seventies and
other in their late forties, suggesting mothers and daughters. On other
occasions like this one, it’s only once in a while the content of their
conversation will break through to him, but it’s only momentary and he‘ll
soon drift back into his own thoughts. Pretty soon he will finish his lunch,  
put on his scarf and jacket, and while tugging on his cap, nod over to them
pleasantly as he walks by to be on his way. Today is different. Today he
notices, he is listening.

They say the magic word.

The reason their conversation has broken through, he speculates, is
because of the subject; money. When it comes to money he figures his
attention must be on some version of automatic pilot. He glances over to
see the elder of the group holding up her hands in a sweeping gesture.
“My Gawd’”, she says, “ovah three hunndrit and eighty millyinn! Can ya
believe it? It’s suppose tuh’ be the biggest one evvuh.”
“I diddin’ heah nutthin’ about it,” comments one of the other older ladies, “
You’d think I’dda known sumthin so I couldda boughtta’ ticket or sumthin.  
Place I play my numbah down the White Hen always has a little sign shows
the jackpot on it. I wouldda’ defunally seen it. For sure, I wouldda’ bought
a ticket.”

“No, no.” another voice counters, “you’d ah hadda buy a ticket like in New
Hampshuuh if ya wannid’ tah play. They call it Powih Boll,  whole buncha’
states get together soes the jackpot will really be innawmuss.
“Not in it! Fah God Sake! Does it evvuh change? A huge jackpot, ann’ we
can’t even play! Probly Romney done that, or sumthin’.”

A quieter voice says, “Did you see that it took them days before they knew
who the winners were?”
“Oh shewwih, that always happins nowwah days. Gotta go get a bunch a
lawyers so they don’t take the whole thing out from undah ya’ ann leave
ya’ with nuthinn‘.”
“You said winners?” a voice farther down the table asks, “Were there more
than one?”
“ All over the tee vee this mornin’s news. Six a’ thum, wurkin in a meat
packin’ plant out west somewheres. All in it together, so they’re gonna be
splittin’ it up.”

“Well at least workinn’ people gut it, “ someone says.
“They’re not working people any moewuh.!” someone else says producing a
burst of giggles.

Conscientious to the bone.

“No, a couple of them even said they were goin back inna’ work that night
uthuhwise the bossis wouldinn’ have cutters to do the work. Like the
bossis ’ud do the same fuh them, ho, ho, ho. Minnit they diddin’ need
them, those cutters ‘ud be gone. If it was me I wouddin’ be spendinn’ no
time feelin’ sorry fawh thum. I’d be spendinn’ my millyins.”

“What would you do with all that money Agnes?” came the teasing question
from the group.
“Do with it! Yah’ heah that knockin’ on my doeah? That’s my kids, they’d
have it spent before the ink on the check was dry.. Foh shewih’ I wouddin’
have to worry about how I’d spend it, I’d have plenny ah suggestyins!”

“Ma, you told me before if you ever won the first thing you’d do is go
blond.” The remark from a younger voice produces a torrent of giggling
laughter.
“ Yah, I would if I had anything’ left aftuh you and your sistuhs got through
with me!” Even more laughter. The session has turned into a full time tease
on somebody’s mother who is more than holding her own.

The eavesdropper uncovered.

Joe Rattigan tries without success to conceal a huge grin as he is gathering
his things to leave. The grin, of course, is a dead giveaway that he has
been eavesdropping. Mother picks up on it immediately. Picking up his
clunky cell phone from the table while he is shrugging his way into his
coat, he notices that she is looking over at him.
“Oh look who’s been listenin’ to us the howull’ time!” she says accusingly
causing a torrent of merry laughter from the group who is now enjoying  
Joe’s mild embarrassment. “Didja’ learn anything?” she asks teasingly.

“Think so,” Joe said with a sheepish smile as he moves toward the door.
Then holding up his cellphone to the group, he says, “You’ll have to excuse
me, I  gotta call my lawyer.”

August 7, 2015              


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