Uncle Egan

Month 2 of 12 Transient Visitors Teaser Tale by David O’Boyle
Illustration by Maximer Ruiz

He wasn’t our Uncle Egan. Our Uncle Egan owned a lumber yard in Delaware. This man, dubbed by my brother as ‘The Clone of County Kerry: the happiest accordion player in all of Ireland’, simply looked exactly like him. ‘The Clone’ entered conversation whenever my brother got to talking about his travel adventures. As of late, these were occurring often. Yet now that he had the travel bug, he was intent on spreading it.

 “You’re turning into one of Darwin’s finches,” he told me. “Let’s get you off Long Island for once.”  

We turned a corner onto main street. I nearly walked into a sidewalk sign that said, “The Kengeldings, live every day this week after lunch.”

The Kengeldings? The name sounded familiar. I looked above the sidewalk sign to see the name of the establishment doing the advertising.  

Cathal’s pub in Kenmare.

My brother smiled. He knew the second that my mind made the connection. Cathal’s Pub in Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland —the last known Clone sighting.

We entered Cathal’s without another word.  

Inside, the pub was well-decorated and dignified. Culture covered the wall like lacquer. While I found us a seat on some cushioned wrap-around benches behind the bar, my brother hunted for beers.

“You see who it is, right? I don’t fucking believe it,” my brother said, smiling from ear to ear and spilling the heads of Guinness onto his hands. He made me cheers and chug before I could corroborate the sighting, but I knew.

There he was, in all his glory, hiked up on a stool in the corner of the bar between two string players, red-faced and belly-laughing, grinning with a set of European chompers that were as big as the accordion keys strewn across his chest.  

Not hundreds, but thousands of times, had the Clone played each of these tunes. Yet as soon as the audience heard enough notes to recognize the song, his eyes glowed like the antique lamps illuminating the windowsills. While it was true that the strings dominated the ensemble, making it hard to hear the intricacies of the other instruments, what you couldn’t hear from the Clone’s accordion, you felt. The man had such focus, such mastery of the present moment, true contentedness. The Clone was no accordion player. He was a fucking zenmaster.  

Their set ended before our pint, okay our second pint, was done. By then the Kengeldings were packed up and gone, leaving us unacquainted with the happiest accordion player in all of Ireland. “We’ll have an audience with him another time this week. They play here every day,” my brother said, sensing my disappointment.

 Problem was, each time we came back to Cathal’s that week, the Kengeldings did not include the Clone. We could have asked the band or the bartender what happened to him. But if I’m being honest, it was just funnier to believe he got fired.

As luck would have it, such beliefs were challenged a block away from Cathal’s. Sitting at an outdoor café off main, with his squeezebox case at his feet, was none other than the legend himself. I know, it sounds crazy at first, maybe even a little like destiny. Spend some time in Kenmare and you’ll think differently, however. It isn’t a big place. Even after a few days there, the same faces start to reappear over and over again.   

“When are you back at Cathal’s?” I yelled over the mini-fence that divided the sidewalk from café property.

 “Pardon?” the woman sitting with him said. She had on a wedding band. So did the Clone.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to compliment your husband on his accordion playing,” I said.  

“Don’t boost his ego higher than it is,” she said.

The Clone interjected with a smile. “I’m Charles. This is Justine. Care to join?”

Neither of them had Irish accents. 

“Is that why you only play instrumentals?” I asked. “Because you have no brogue?”

He looked confused.

“The band, at Cathal’s,” I said to clarify.  

“He’s not in any band. He just takes advantage of Irish kindness and plays with whoever lets him sit up there for a few songs.  The Kengeldings are simply too nice to say no,” Justine said.

“But what about last year? He played with the Kengeldings last year at this time,” I said. 

Justine’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. I provided context to ease her anxiety. “My brother here watched him play at Cathal’s last year. He told me all about it.”

Justine smiled. “We’re retired. We come to Kenmare every May. Probably crossed paths.”

They were nothing but tourists. American fucking tourists.

“Nobody is as cheerful as you in America. That’s why we figured you were local. Where you from in the states?” I asked.           

“Long Island.”  

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