days youre the pigeon, and some days youre the statue
John F Bissett Jr
It was a warm evening in august. There was never a lot happening
Liffey Quay bar but today was Thursday, and Thursday was pay-day. To normal
men this would be seen as a good thing but to Dan O'Neill it was just
another opportunity to complain. He sat at the bar alone and spoke
constantly, although who he was speaking to was not so clear. The barman
shrugged or shook his head in agreement after every few sentences, it was
clear that he had no interest in what he was being told. But then thats
what bars were for, a place to go where people can mouth off about the
irrelevancies of daily living. The door was opened and a shaft of light
shone in to the darkened bar lifting the minuscule dust into the air. An
ageing priest entered wiping the perspiration of his forehead with a white
rag. O'Neill glanced at him and paused what he was saying momentarily as the
priest made his way across the floor to the bar, before carrying on.
"As I was saying, those hoors up in the accounts office are trying to get
one over on me, the last time I went up to the manager to complain, he gave
me some nonsense about standardised tax rates, and we cant change the system
to suit you. I swear, I think that place is a front for something else".
The priest didnt have to order the barman already knew what drink he wanted
and was pouring it when the priest remarked.
"Dont be worrying young man, the lord said that the rich have nothing and
the poor need nothing"
"Yeah, and if you eat nothing you'll die". Replied O'Neill
"Well I never heard him say that now".
"Believe me he said it".
With this there was another pause and a long silence. O'Neill rooted in his
pockets for his cigarettes. When he slid one out and lit it up the priest
"That sign says No Smoking"
"No it doesnt, it says thank you for not smoking, since I am smoking I
won't be expecting anyone to thank me."
"Thats a fierce temper you have young man, in my time you took what you
were given and didnt complain about it".
"Yeah well were not slaves anymore" remarked O'Neill cheekily.
"I'm not sure if I agree with you there. To look at you people these days
you'd think the slave trade was never abolished, more people are enslaved to
more things than you can shake a stick at. Second mortgages, new cars,
alcohol, Drugs, Nicotine. Too much money thats what it is, you have the
price of everything, yet you know the value of absolutely nothing".
"You mentioned drugs there father, now thats a problem that has to be coped
with. You know what id like to do. Id like to knock down all the churches in
Dublin and build Clinics for all the junkies. All the free Visceptone and
Methadone they want. You see father the answer to the whole drugs problem is
not less drugs, its more drugs. The more you give them the better the
chances of them overdosing. Problem solved".
"Thats no solution" remarked the priest.
"Yeah well if your not the solution then your part of the problem".
There followed an awkward silence. It was obvious that there was no talking
sense to this man the priest thought. He wondered why this young man was so
upset. But there were a few things about this man that seemed obvious. There
is a certain breed of person who if they were given the choice of sitting on
two chairs, one comfortable and one uncomfortable, they would pick the
uncomfortable chair just so they could have the opportunity to complain
about how uncomfortable they were. O'Neill was one such man. He had always
believed that he was capable of great things but that there was always
someone out there trying to make sure that he did not get his dues. Teachers
lawyers doctors, bank managers, and today it was the accountants in his
place of work.
"What has you so upset" asked the priest.
"Ive got two spoilt children and a nagging bitch of a wife, and I'm working
to keep them in the style that they're accustomed to. I work in a building
full of half wits who have nothing better to do all day than make life
difficult for me. And to make things worse they dont even pay me the money
"There's only four kinds of people. Those who see things happen, those who
make things happen, those who never now what's happening and those to whom
things happen to. Which one are you?".
"I dont know and I dont care" replied O'Neill.
"About two weeks ago I went down to the local school and I went in to see
the principal on official business. He was tied up in some staff meeting, so
I crossed the hall and went into a class room. It was were the kids go who
are on detention, and I was asked to stand in and supervise the class while
the vice principal went to the bathroom. I was speaking to a lad in the
front row. He was doing his English homework. And I asked him what was the
difference between ignorance and indifference, and do you know what he told
"What?" asked O'Neill.
"I dont know and I dont care". Replied the priest.
It took some time for O'Neill to catch on, and he only did so when the
barman started laughing at him. The barman then poured the priest another
The priest raised his glass and said
"This ones for the pope".
"This ones for the church collection more like" remarked O'Neill cheekily.
And as he said this the barman bit his lip trying to hold in the laughter
and turned his back to fidget with the glasses. The priest remained unmoved
by the remark, indeed he looked like the kind of man who would remain
indifferent to anything this person would say to him. He Drank half the
glass before putting it down and replying.
"Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was an non-conforming
swallow who decided not to fly south for winter.
However, soon the weather turned so cold that he reluctantly started to fly
south. In a short time frost began to develop on his wings. That frost
turned to ice and he fell to the earth in a farmyard, almost frozen. A cow
passed by and crapped on the little fellow. The Swallow thought it was the
end. But, the manure was warm and it defrosted his wings. Warm and happy,
able to breathe, he started to sing. Just then a large cat came by, heard
him chirping and singing, decided to investigate.
The cat cleaned away the manure, found the chirping bird and promptly ate
Now the moral of this story is
Everyone who shits on you is not necessarily your enemy.
Everyone who digs you out of the shit is not necessarily your friend.
And, if you are happy and warm in a pile of shit, then keep your big mouth
The barman laughed, O'Neill sulked, the priest finished his drink, and went
walking back out the door, which he had entered fifteen minutes before.
Copyright © 1999 John F
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