I love to play with Britta. I'll hold her whenever Mum asks me to, I'll change her nappies, I'll burp her. Mum says I'll do a grand job with my own children someday, but that's so far away I don't want to think about it. Besides, all the boys my age are eejits, and I can't think of one I'd like to marry someday. Brian McNamara's nice, but he's dying of consumption and Mum says he won't make it to Confirmation.
The house is so much louder now that there's three children in it. It's always loud. Da's smithy is in the front. The forge hums, the bellows whirl, and there's always the striking of his hammer against his work. But now Britta's crying more often than not, and it's all the louder. Sometimes, if Britta and Tarin are crying all at once and the hammer's ringing and Mum's trying to sing and calm everyone down, I can't hear myself think.
One day, when Britta's about a month old, even Mum's had enough of the noise. She wraps us all in our plaids and sets off, Britta wailing because of the rain, to Nan and Granddad's house. People on the street glance at us--some annoyed, some sympathetic--and a drunken man on the side of the road yells out, "Shut her up!" I want to punch him, but Mum grabs my shoulder and keeps me well away from him.
"It's people like that we pity, Lynder," she says. "You say a prayer when you see one, and thank God that Da isn't like that."
I don't want to pray for the drunken man. I shy away from him, but we're soon past him and on our way through the country fields.
Britta's still crying when we get to Nan and Granddad's house. Mum sighs and sinks onto a kitchen chair. "Just watch them fer half an hour, let me take a walk. She's gettin' colicky."
"Why, she's growin', dear heart," Nan says, taking Britta into her arms. "Or is it just that you don't like the rain? You'll get used to it, dear. You can't live in Limerick without getting used to rain." She kisses Britta's head and bounces her around for a bit, but she never stops crying. So Nan takes a bottle from the cupboard and makes Britta drink from it.
"What's that, Nan?" Tarin asks.
"It's a great help to a harried mum, that's what it is," Nan says. "Now go off and find yer uncles. I'm sure they're up to no good."
Whatever's in the bottle smells like the drunken man we passed on the road. I hope Britta's not going to end up on the side of the road like him. But everyone knows that Nan raised ten children and buried four, and none of them ended up on the side of the road. So I trust her with Britta and leave with Tarin.
The rain picks up, and not even Uncle Micheal, Uncle Stiofan, and Uncle Oisin would be making mischief in this weather. I'm sure they're hiding under a tree or in a shelter somewhere, complaining about the stench of wet sheep. So I take Tarin to find Granddad.
Granddad's a quiet man with a long grey beard and a twinkle in his eyes. Beards are for rich people; Granddad's not supposed to have one. He says that he'll shave when someone older than him tells him to, and since the only man in Limerick older than Granddad is the cobbler on Barrington Lane who doesn't give a fiddler's fart about anyone or their facial hair, Granddad gets to keep his beard.
Granddad smiles when he sees us. He sits on a hill and takes Tarin and me onto his lap, and he tells us stories of Cu Culainn and his wife Emer and fairies and clurichauns and the monsters that live in the bogs. Then Tarin falls asleep, the rain stops, and he takes us back to the house.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.