Dudley’s writers group April 10, 2017 – Prompt derived randomly!!! Random book chosen by Aingeal Rose – My Story as Told by Water by David James Duncan –
Random page 72 from Charles
Random line chosen by Joanna # 12
Alexa set timer to 47 minutes
They’ll float too.
Once in grade school, Jack Wilhelmy and I were playing on the swinging bar with Jimmy Hingston during recess when Jimmy fell with an uncontrolled flapping about of his arms and legs onto the dirt. As Jimmy was getting up and brushing himself off, Jack said, “Don’t worry! You can throw an Irishman into the sea.”
As I was trying to parse that obscure statement into a meaningful thought, our games were interrupted by the school bell and we all headed back to our classrooms. I worked on that ethnic slur in my sixth-grade brain for the next hour. Was this German kid just making fun of our Irish friend because of his hilarious airborne antics, or was it something more profound about Irishmen?
My father’s mother was born a Rowley from Rooney and was pure Irish, so I am a quarter Irish. Was a quarter of me being threatened with being thrown into the sea? What would I do if I were thrown into the sea? Would the sharks instantly eat me up, because of my Irishness, or was the statement a comment on the resiliency of Irishmen and no matter what happened to them they would cope with it with a characteristic comic aplomb?
My ten-year old brain was confused and now seventy-two years later that unforgettable statement still confuses me. Even Google failed me. Google usually comes up with millions of answers in an instant, but in this case it hadn’t a relevant clue. “Will Irishmen float better than other people? Or what?”
I had that idea in my mind when out in San Francisco Bay in my kayak during a heavy storm, searching for Sir Francis Drake’s buried treasure. The waves were so high that when in a trough I couldn’t see over them to the horizon and when on top there was a dangerously stiff wind. Would I cope with a capsizing? If Irishmen could be thrown into the sea and float, would it be enough to buoy up my English mitochondrial heritage and my doughty Dutch ancestry too, both of which had some extensive nautical experience? I’m probably okay there, but my German ancestors made a quick voyage as paying passengers so probably that would lead to my sinking if thrown into the sea. I can’t imagine anyone saying you can throw a German into the sea. Well, I suppose some other people can.
They’ll probably float okay, but it’s only part of all my heritage. I have some distant Dutch Astor relatives that went down on the Titanic and some from my German side, too. They were totally unknown to each other. Some of them being of the very richest class and the others were either steerage or servants. But, no matter, the ice-cold Atlantic water swallowed them all.
Neither of these two groups of my ancestors were Irish. Perhaps, it they had had a little Irish in them, like I do, they would have floated too. If Jack was right, “You can throw an Irishman into the sea.”