The only reason why Paddy talked to me at all was because I quoted from Ulysses: The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea! I shouted as I shucked oysters for the dinner rush. We worked in the kitchen at The Lobster Claw, I was prep and he was a pearl diver; always hovering about the steel dishwasher, face steaming red and a halo of grime over his head. We’d chop and stir and scrub and spray and drink nips throughout the night––Paddy was another drunk from Dublin, just like the rest of us. Course, I was just a local drunk and he was an import. Paddy thought all Americans were illiterate and he was right for the most part but I did manage to putdown the first chapter of Ulysses the winter before, forced inside by the frozen sea.
He bought a Monte Carlo off the fry cook––a sweet ride, but it stank of wet dog and bait and after work, we’d drive down to the beach, get piss drunk and fall into the sea like drunken seagulls diving for food. Next morning, we’d check the oyster beds or go quahogging near the shore, dragging rusty rakes through gray water. The thing about Joyce, he’d say, standing still in the shallow water, is there’s a lot of padding and a ton of beauty, but none of the bullshit.
On weekends, we’d drive down the main strip in Hyannis, harass the local girls in their checkered tights with fishermen for fathers. They could spout off random rock songs, singing high, squeaky soulless melodies into the night as Paddy and I poured Guinness down their throats. I ended up with Rita—a pudgy, punk rocker who smoked cloves and worked on the Island Queen and Paddy got Genna because Paddy always got the posh ones. It’s my education, lad, he’d say, I’m a patron of the arts. Genna was from a gated community in a nearby village where the boys held Lacrosse sticks and the girls wore just a dab of pink lipstick and she was off to Smith that fall and Paddy always tried to impress her with his lyrical tongue. Oh Paddy, she’d coo, Say the Pope put petrol in his paddy wagon. He’d humor her and put on his heaviest lilt and she’d kiss him deliriously.
Then we’d be down at the beach again real late, stripping off our clothes to play statue; running around naked and drunk and someone would yell stop and you’d freeze. Paddy loved this game, except when the cops came and we’d hide under the wall, naked and shivering as they shined their flashlights round the beach. We’d pass out, then wake up in the salty morning air, the girls sleeping nearby on dewy towels. Paddy would stretch out, black hair all awry, the sun hitting his rosy nose and he’d sing to the horizon: By the sea, by the wonderful sea, you and me––and he’d dive straight into the calm water, swim so far out I’d lose sight of him.