Honored to have a new story in Tin Can Literary Review Vol 2 (reprinted below). There's an accompanying interview here: Haunted Waters Press.
In New York City, a lot can happen in fifteen minutes. But here’s a story about fifteen minutes when what should have happened didn’t.
I had this hat, see. A cap, actually. A gray Donegal tweed, kind of a newsboy’s cap I guess you’d call it, made in Ireland, land of the Celtic mystics. Jack Kerouac wore one on the cover of Scattered Poems. Maybe that’s what triggered the dream I had in which I wore one exactly like his. I woke up that morning with a purpose: acquire that hat. But in those years you couldn’t find a decent hat in New York City, you couldn’t find an indecent hat. So I saved up, and borrowed, and borrowed more, and used what I borrowed as collateral to borrow again, until I had enough money to fly to Ireland. I took Aer Lingus to Shannon. The guy seated next to me was Irish. He asked what I planned to do on my visit to his country. I was a bit wary about sharing with anyone that I was visiting their country to get a hat. It seemed at once twee and trivial—twee because the motivation to undertake so costly a journey for something as non-essential as a cap, triggered by a dream, no less, could appear foolishly whimsical, or whimsically foolish, something fucking Donovan might write a song about, and trivial in the sense that the entire sweep of the country’s history, culture, landscape, and people would appear as if it was of little to no interest to me. Joyce, Yeats, Cuchulain, and all I wanted was a cap. But I experienced that want with great urgency. I kept seeing images of Kerouac in his cap—the weathered cheeks, the searching eyes, a supplicant on the byways of spiritual fulfillment, which is how I’d appeared to myself in that dream: a lonesome pilgrim on a soulful mission, but a mission that couldn’t be fulfilled without the proper costume. I had another reason not to share the object of my quest. Given the scarcity of headwear for gentlemen, at least in New York City, I didn’t want to plant an urgent need in anyone else for gray Donegal tweed caps—there might be but a few left, and what if they ran out of my size? So I told my Irish seat-mate that I was visiting his country simply to hitchhike around, have a bit of a look-see, as it were. He said hitchhiking isn’t as easy as you might tink. I said, well, that’s not what I heard. He said, well, begging to differ, but you might, as an alternative, consider the trains. I thanked him for the tip, having neither the intention nor the money to take trains in Ireland or anywhere else for that matter. What else, he wondered, might I have planned? I said I thought I might go up to Belfast. Belfast, he said, why in the world would you visit Belfast? Do you have a side? I said not a side, as such, just an interest, really, a curiosity. He said, well, if I might, let me give you a piece of advice. No one’s interested in being the object of a stranger’s idle curiosity, and if you go up just to gawk at their troubles, they’ll want to know which side you’re on, and they’ll assume you have one because why else even bother entering a war zone, and if you deny having a side they’ll tink you’re a liar or a damn fool, and they’ve already got sufficient numbers of both running around, do you take my meaning? I thought, what am I, on Candid Camera? We hadn’t even reached Nova Scotia and this cocksucker was shooting down my whole trip. I wondered if I could change my seat. I said, take it easy, Paddy. If you want to know the truth, I’m going up to Donegal to get a cap, a gray tweed cap. A cap, he said. That’s about the stupidest ting I’ve ever heard. I said, yeah, I thought so too, but it came to me in a dream, and to me, I told him, dreams have more power than the most perfect equation in quantum physics. So if it’s all the same to you, I said, I’ll go the fuck up to Donegal or any other place I like for whatever goddamn reason. He said, take it easy, sonny, you’re misunderstanding my point. Fuck your point, I told him, and don’t call me sonny. Well, he said, snapping open his Irish Times, and you don’t call me Paddy.
We passed Greenland (I think—we flew at night, I was guestimating), and started curving south toward Shannon. We exchanged not another word, landed, took opposite sides on the luggage carousel, and when my bag came, I took it to the exit and went looking for a place to stick out my thumb. Half an hour went by, then another. A total of three cars, each giving me barely a glance. It seemed like the sonofabitch was right. In another half-hour, it started to drizzle. I thought, I’m not spending my visit to Ireland on the shoulder of the road, if you could call what I was standing on a shoulder, and in the goddamn rain to boot. I needed a hostel, or a train. I crossed the road and stuck out my thumb in the other direction, toward Limerick, which was close by. I’d always liked limericks. There was an old man on Aer Lingus, who acted like I was a dingus ... I got that far in under a minute, began working on the interior couplet, when a blue Volkswagen bug from the early 70s geared down and puttered to a stop. It was spooky to see the driver on the same side as me, watching through the sideview mirror. He wore a gray newsboy cap that looked at first glance a lot like the Kerouac cap. Already things were getting mystical. I reached the driver’s door all breathless, the window came down, and it’s the same sonofabitch from my flight.
He pointed back behind him and said, “You’re going the wrong way, sonny.”
Then he rolled up the window and puttered away.
But that’s not the fifteen minutes when something didn’t happen. That came later. First, I made my visit to Donegal, and I got my Donegal cap. I drank a few pints, spent a few nights in a hostel that smelled like dirty feet, forgot about Belfast, and flew home. The fifteen minutes happened when I took the subway downtown to catch a set of Mose Allison at the Bottom Line. I changed for the local at 14th Street, took a seat on a bench and flipped through a Village Voice. A few minutes later the Broadway #1 appeared, I hopped on, and as soon as the doors closed I realized I’d left my Donegal tweed cap on a bench. One stop down on Christopher, I squeezed through the doors, ran up to the street, crossed to the uptown side, and caught the next train north. A fool’s errand, I know. This was New York City. They’d steal the hat right off your head. Leave it on a bench, well, you’re giving it away. Back at 14th Street I didn’t even run. Why bother, what’s gone is gone. But when I arrived on the downtown platform, there it was, on the bench, sitting neatly on top of a folded copy of the Village Voice, which I’d also forgotten. And alongside the cap sat a fetching young woman with a short bob. She wore Thai fisherman pants, Addidas trainers, and a serape.
“Anyone forgets a cap like this,” she said, “they come back.”
Her name was Terre. She’d recently visited Ireland, too, with her sisters.
“What was the purpose of your trip?” I asked her.
She said, “The health food.”
“The health food?” I said.
“And strawberry apricot pie.”
I skipped the Mose Allison set. We went for tea in a café with a mezzanine window overlooking Greenwich Avenue. But I didn’t look at Greenwich Avenue, even with all the amazingly cool people passing by. I looked at Terre. We fell in love, or at least I did. I stayed glued to her side for close to two months. She looked so soulful playing guitar with my cap on her head, her fringe pinned to her eyebrows. Then she stopped returning my calls. Typically it took women two weeks to see through me, sometimes three. I credit all extra time to the cap, which I hope she still wears.
Getting over Terre wasn’t easy. I spent a lot of time at home behind drawn blinds. If I went out, it was to the Strand where I purchased books I’d add to the stacks of things I’d never read. One day I found a biography of Henry Miller. On the cover he wore a Borsalino fedora.