ANTHONY SCHIOPPO QUESTIONED why, if Ireland was so grand, what could have happened to land the cantankerous Donal Moloney in Lindera, Pennsylvania. Donal’s answer? It started with potatoes.
“Along comes the blight,” Donal said. “An jus’ like that–”
He snapped his fingers.
“–no more potatoes. No more potatoes? No more food.”
He took a long drag on his cigarette. “No more food? No more Irish.”
He spoke of skeletons, millions of them, gone the way of all flesh. Though all Donal knew was what he’d been told, having been, as an infant, smuggled out of the country in the arms of his grandmother. What he’d been told, that along with what he saw in his mother’s distant stare.
“…twas like she never made it out,” Donal muttered softly, caught in the glimmer of the cheap, cut-glass ashtray, as if he himself was peering across the sea. “Like she was still stuck back in Kilkeel. Like she never grew up. Ever a child. Always scared to death we’d be thrown off the farm. As if we was even on a farm anymore. Afraid she was catchin’ the cholera or the typhus. Afraid of dyin’. Afraid of livin’.”