St. Paddy’s Day (Chapter Sixteen)

ST. PADDY’S DAY

by

The Major

To view the previous chapter, click here.

Of course, pursuant to the local tradition, the rain changed over to snow for St. Patrick’s Day.  By 9:15 that morning the Irish Center was already packed.  People had arrived, set their coats on their chairs at the tables and promptly gotten up to make the rounds to chat with friends and neighbors they had not seen since the day before.  After all, a lot had happened in Coysville over the past 24 hours.  At 9:30, the brunchers had to be gaveled back to their seats.

Billy Fagin was the current president of the key club.  He was a jovial individual with ruddy cheeks whose body type tended toward fat.  He played the ‘jolly fellow’ type to the hilt.  Additionally, this morning he looked as though he had had a few jars before breakfast to steady his nerves.

“Let’s get underway with this affair,” he said with a big smile.  “First, I’d like to introduce you to some important local personages,” he said with flourishes to his left and right.  Billy then proceeded to introduce the men and women who shared the dais with him at the head of the room.

Billy next went through some lesser awards for various achievements.  Dr. Pat was seated at a large circular table nearby.  Also seated there were Mick O’Reilly, Rich Strong, Tim Finnerty, Bobby Culligan and Wayne Piachecki.  At an adjoining table sat Nancy Flinn and her husband, Ray.  There were also several long-time patients of Dr. Pat’s seated there.

“Which brings us to the main event – why you’re all here,” said Billy Fagin in dramatic fashion.  “The naming of our Man of the Year.”  He paused, realizing his gaffe.  “I should say ‘Person’ of the Year.  Old habits die hard.  You know how it is,” and he winked at the crowd.  This drew titters from the audience.  There was no denying it; Billy had a way with the masses.  “And now, without further eloquence, I call upon Mr. Rory Ridge to come up and make the appropriate introduction.”

There was a smattering of applause.  Rory came to the podium while stopping to shake hands and nodding greetings to old retainers interspersed through the crowd.  “I’ve done this introduction every year now for the past eleven years,” he began evenly.

“I had prepared my remarks well in advance for this year’s introduction.  This year’s selection was by the widest margin in memory.”  Balloting had been done of Key Club members a few weeks earlier.  “However, the events of the past couple of days have rendered all of my canned remarks irrelevant.  To be honest with you, I’m sort of stumped at the moment.”

“That’s a first!” came a heavy brogue from the back of the room.  It had to be Brendan Dougherty.

“Noted,” continued Rory.  “For this reason, I am relinquishing my introduction this year to someone who has requested to say a few words about our recipient, Dr. Pat.”

The room burst into applause.  Although no one doubted the result, it electrified the brunchers to hear it formally said.  Dr. Pat looked at Mick, expecting him to get up.  Mick smiled broadly and clapped Pat on the back.  But, he made no move to get up.

It took Dr. Pat a moment to recognize the large, hulking form of David Caughlin making his way to the front of the room.

At the podium, David looked down shyly before beginning.  “I’ve never done this sort of thing before.  But, after to speaking to my wife Sharon, we realized that we wanted to do something.  By the way, Sharon is doing great.  She spent a great night at Pinkman, and the doctors are talking about releasing her in a few days if she continues to do well.”

Another, larger burst of applause.  Many cheers resounding from the back of the room.

Heartened by the crowd’s response, David continued: “If Sharon could be here, she certainly would.”  Another smaller round of clapping.  “She and I owe so much to Dr. Pat.  He was a rock throughout this crisis.  He was at her bedside every night, even though the other doctors at Pinkman had taken over.  But, that’s overlooking the fact that he came to see Sharon the first night after he had been extremely ill himself.  Last night, after becoming a victim to the same criminal who assaulted my wife, Dr. Pat faithfully made the trip to Marlborough, and was at Sharon’s side during the first hours of her consciousness.”  He paused for effect.

“What more can you ask for from a physician, a community member, a friend?  Dr. Pat is tops in all three categories.  This is something that you Key Club members had already recognized.  But, a crisis like ours brought it all into focus.”

More applause.  Sustained this time.  David went on: “Now, there are many other people in this room who could list Dr. Pat’s various contributions to the community over the past several years.  I know vaguely that he’s been a big part of our clinic, and put in countless hours on several worthwhile causes.  But, the one thing I can testify to is the size of this man’s heart.  It’s for this reason that he is Coysville’s – not just the Key Club’s – Person of the Year.  Come on up here, Dr. Pat.  They’ve got a plaque for you.”

The room came to its feet, applauding wildly.  “Get up, you slug,” Mick whispered in his ear.  Dr. Pat rose from his chair and walked slowly to the podium.  He turned to the crowd, and the clapping increased.  A small smile creased his lower face.

When the applause had died down, Dr. Pat spoke.  “Good morning, my name is Chandavishnu Patel, and I come from a small village in India called Karikal on the coast of the Bay of Bengal.  Growing up there, I never, in a million years, pictured coming to America and becoming part of a community such as Coysville, let alone being recognized as an exemplary citizen.  But, here I am today, wondering how this has happened.”

Dr. Pat continued.  “I arrived in this town 16 years ago.  From the start, you opened your arms to me.  My skin is a different color than most of your skins.  Yet, you trusted me with the care of your bodies and health.  My accent is strange to your ears.  Yet, you listened to me and sought my advice.  Many of you even laughed at my corny jokes.”  At this, Dr. Pat looked warmly over at the table of his cronies from Whiskey Dick’s.

He was about to begin when the clapping started again.  He spoke over the applause: “Please, please.  I owe you as a community so much.  But, this morning I owe you, above all else, the truth.  I must tell you what happened a week ago.  Please listen to me, and you will understand at the end why I cannot accept your award.”

Gasps from the crowd.  A few scattered “No’s.”  Dr. Pat waited for this reaction to die down.  “It all started with last week’s luncheon.  There were rumors being spread about my nomination.  Afterward something happened in the parking lot of this very building.”

Then Dr. Patel told the stunned crowd the whole truth.

Coming soon in Chapter Seventeen: The Conclusion of St. Paddy’s Day.

— The Major

©2001 The Major

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