Peter Orner

That was her name. Her only name. She was the bartender at a place called the Drinking Fountain on Washington Street in Jamaica Plain. She spat and she swore. She was fierce Irish, somebody said. Which meant, somebody else said, that she sent money to the IRA. Shaughnessy with her cropped hair bouncing on her shoulders. You'd have been crazy not to want her amid the shouts and the incessant blam of the TV. She wore lots of gold. Around her neck, from her ears, on her fingers. She wasn't married, at least not at the moment. She wore overalls with the top part unbuttoned so that straps flapped against her ass. Above, a tank top. To come and see her like that on cold Boston nights—
      "I'm always here," she once said in answer to nobody's question. "Always."
      That was comforting. She was God-like in that way. When you weren't at the Drinking Fountain, you could always conjure the image of her and feel all right for a while.
      Shaughnessy's where now? With the bar gone?
      They tore down that block for a bank eight years ago.
      Christ, I wanted her. Who wouldn't have wanted her? The kind of trash she talked, the way she swooped up the bottles with her fingers like a pick shovel. She'd roam the length of the bar—Hamm's Beer sign above her head, the river rolling, rolling—
      Shaughnessy. She was small and quick and guys would lean over when she was on the other end of the bar to get a glimpse of her ass. And she'd shake it knowing it. And she'd flit from one sloth to another, like an over-generous bee pollinating cut flowers left by a grave.



I think Shaughnessy came from overhearing someone once say of a woman, "oh, well, you know, she's fierce Irish." I loved the way that sounded, and I think as I was thinking about the phrase this character just just came alive, you know what I mean? There she was angry, beautiful, wearing unbuttoned overalls.