Skip to main content



But Come Ye Back: A Novel in Stories

Chapter One

Cemetery Sunday

On the moving day itself, everything went beautifully, straight on from the moment Mary woke to a sliver of bright July sunlight under the hotel-room drapes with the idea that this whole undertaking was courageous. The extravagance of the thought tickled her, and she grinned, listening to Lyle's steady breathing, but why not? The last time she and Lyle had carried labeled cardboard boxes upstairs and stacked them in uncurtained rooms, their boys had been small, and they'd been moving from near Boston to near Cleveland, and she'd believed then she'd never move house again. And yet here they were, Lyle at sixty-five and she at sixty, having sold that house and posted their belongings across the ocean to start, again, a new home, in Galway, the town of her childhood.

She and Lyle had been back in Galway only two days, just long enough to get adjusted to the time difference, but they'd been over last summer to choose a house, and she'd written and telephoned, and her sister, Róisín, had given advice, and everything was arranged. All those belongings (the best bed linens and table linens and crockery, the photo albums and special Christmas ornaments, the childhood presents and homemade cards from the boys, and -- in the bottom of a box marked MARY --- WINTER, with a few things that had been her mother's -- the old necktie box containing her own plait, cut off when she left Ireland thirty-four years ago to marry Lyle), all those cherished things she needed to make a home, sat in boxes in a storage locker, to be brought in by Róisín's grandson Barty in his truck. Róisín's husband, Michael Carey, would go with him and oversee; since his heart attack last year, he wasn't allowed to lift, and Barty, with his earrings and all, wasn't a boy to send without supervision, Róisín herself said. The furniture Mary and Lyle had chosen last summer was to be delivered this same morning, and Lyle would supervise all that unloading and setting up. Mary and Róisín would direct the boxes and keep tea coming.

Mary took the sunshine as a blessing on this brave new life, and she let nothing in the day shake her from it. When the men from Tom Dempsey's Furniture were late arriving, she said, "Why, now we'll have the chance to dust the moldings before the rooms are filled with things," and when Lyle grumbled, she sent him off to the shop two streets over for the newspaper and bread and tea. "By the time you're back, they'll have your chair in the sitting room," she said, and they did. They were fine lads, too, cheery and strong, and it did her heart good to hear their young voices in the new house (though Lyle went on grumbling as he told them where to put the things they unloaded -- "Seems like they'd know the difference between a kitchen table and a coffee table without being told," he said) (and she said back, laughing, "Ah, they do, but they're not so sure an American would agree!").

She thought Lyle was heroic, too, coming away with her to a foreign country where he knew nobody. She'd seldom thought of returning until after their boys were off on their own, but then, when Lyle retired, and more and more of their friends moved away to Florida or back wherever they'd come from, the rare thought had become a wish. Back here, she and Róisín would go about together: they'd talk of their parents and the world as it had been when they were Mary and Róisín Curtin, girls together; they'd share their worries about their grown children. The sea would be near, and butter would have a taste to it, and she'd understand the weather; she'd get to know her brothers' wives, and her brothers, who had still been boys when she left. Lyle had no close family left in America; his father had been from Mayo (though he'd died before Lyle knew him, and Lyle had never made any great claim to Irishness, that foolishness of so many Americans about green beer and claddagh rings). She'd had no family at her wedding and had lived almost forty years far from home for his sake, and she wanted to grow old among her own people and be buried among them in a grave with flowers planted on it and curbing all around.

When she'd finally brought up the subject of moving, she'd been ready to say all that, but it hadn't been necessary. She'd just said she wanted to be near her sister and her brothers, and he had nodded -- they'd been eating chicken, she remembered -- and said he'd look into it. A week later he'd said it looked like a plan, and for all that he'd explained to her the economic advantages (this fine two-bedroom, semidetached house had cost less than a new condo in Ohio, to say nothing of the moderate climate and the savings on heat, the reasonable approach to health care), she took it as an act of love.

So none of the grumbling he did that moving day touched her at all, and none of the small difficulties made any real bother either. If the box spring rubbed off a patch of paint in the upstairs corridor as the lads turned it at the top of the stairs, take it for a sign: she'd not been so very fond of that grayish white color, and once they were settled in, Lyle might enjoy a project of painting it something brighter. A bit of summer rain never hurt anyone, and if Barty tracked dirt on the carpet bringing in the damp boxes from the truck ...

But Come Ye Back: A Novel in Stories
by by Beth Lordan

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060530375
  • ISBN-13: 9780060530372