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Camogie

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A coming of age tale about a young Irish teen by Luisa Reyes

“One-two, over-two-three, over-two three.” Whew! It had been a few years since Lindsey had participated in the weekend Irish dance competitions and her muscles were certainly feeling it. So much so, that she found it hard to believe she had an entire drawer full of medals from her back-in-the-day feis days. Although now the medals seemed almost surreal, Lindsey still cherished her first place medal from the very first feis she had competed in. Nothing could replace her excitement at winning the very first Slip Jig she competed in.

Thinking about those Irish dancing days, Lindsey did have to laugh as she recalled how her mother used to be the envy of all the ultra competitive Irish dancers. With her Irish Gaelic recitations, she won the biggest trophy of them all. But now that their feis days were behind them, today Lindsey was simply practicing a little since they were going to the Celtic Festival at the plaza downtown. It was fun getting back into the Irish frame of mind. And judging from how winded she was getting, the exercise was quite beneficial too.

While driving past the downtown plaza and hunting for a parking space, it soon became clear to Lindsey and her mother that the overcast sky was keeping the crowds away. Noticing two well built young men playing some kind of sport in the middle of an almost vacant field, Lindsey considered: “I wonder what that is?” And she felt compelled to ask.

The guys were volleying a ball back and forth with some rather large sticks. And it didn’t quite look like lacrosse, so it really was mystifying. Nonetheless, Lindsey directed her attention back to the road. Letting her bewilderment hang in the air for a moment. Resulting in her mother’s response, “Maybe Irish rugby, but I guess we’ll just have to ask them to be sure.” Her comment made Lindsey smile. That was one quality her mother had instilled in her and her brother since they were little . . . to always ask. And Lindsey found herself welcoming this little token of her childhood.

Spotting one of the handicapped parking spaces, since Lindsey’s mother had severe knee problems, Lindsey parked the car. After which the two of them got out and began leisurely ambling past the booths that were set up around the plaza. They noted that the local Celtic clubs were present en masse, they stopped by the Hibernian Society table, the Welsh society tent, and then the Gaelic club set up. And after making their way past some more booths, Lindsey came upon the two guys they had noticed earlier who were now calmly standing behind a rather makeshift information table underneath an awning, rather than a tent.

“What were y’all playing?” Lindsey promptly asked, heeding her dear mother’s advice.

“Thaht was huhrling. We were just tohssing the bahll bahck and forth.” Responded the handsome, even-featured, dark haired fellow who’d been playing earlier.

“What kind of an accent is that?” Lindsey blurted out before she thought better of it. Her comment left the fellow quite taken aback. For it appeared to be some kind of upper crust boarding school manner of speaking. And one Lindsey hadn’t heard before.

With the dark-haired fellow being rendered speechless, a young blonde girl approached them. In a friendly manner stating “Hurling is a team sport of ancient Gaelic origin. Are you interested?”

“Do girls play, too?” Lindsey asked. She had always been more musically inclined and not really into athletics. However, judging from the looks of things, she had definitely said the wrong thing to the good looking dark-haired guy, so Lindsey felt glad for this change of pace.

“We practice with the guys because we don’t have enough girls. But the girls’ version of the sport is called Camogie,” replied the blonde girl.

“I’ve never seen that before. It does sound interesting” Lindsey replied.

“You should join us on Thursday evening when we practice,” the blonde girl responded. Beaming with excitement now. “We practice on the soccer field, beginning at six.”

Lindsey hesitated since she had never been interested in sports all that much. Although, she had learned to play pitch and catch when she was younger.

“Here are some flyers” the blonde girl quickly stated, sensing her hesitation and wanting to push her away from the precipice of uncertainty to solid ground certainty. Lindsey wondered why she felt so eager for her to join this team. Until it dawned on her that while her figure was still an hourglass figure thank goodness, it definitely was not as trim as it used to be. Slightly hurt by this realization of the damages to her build caused by a sudden onset of hormonal imbalances, Lindsey dismissed her woes and found it hard to resist the blonde girl’s zeal for Camogie.

“I might show up on Thursday” Lindsey half-heartedly responded. And she and her mother mosied on.

“Are you really going to try this Camogie thing?” her mother whispered, once they were at a safe distance from the table.

“I know it isn’t my usual type of thing. But a lot of my Irish dancing friends also played soccer” Lindsey reasoned.

“That’s because they are both similar, all feet and no arms,” answered her mother, still somewhat astonished. Lindsey had to giggle just a little bit.

Continuing their tour of the pretty much rained out festival, Lindsey noticed the two hurlers making their way back to the field. And shortly, the dark haired guy with the accent and his teammate pulled out their large sticks and began volleying back and forth once again. With the shy seeming dark haired guy smiling broadly in her direction. The smile made Lindsey’s curiosity in camogie and hurling rise by the minute.

“Thursday evenings” the girl had said.

“I have a feeling I’ll be there” Lindsey thought to herself. And despite the overcast sky up ahead, Lindsey felt the sun shining in her heart.

When Thursday evening arrived, Lindsey poured some eyes drops into her computer weary eyes and eagerly shut down her computer at work. She quickly changed into her tennis shoes and athletic wear in the car on her way to the soccer field. The day had been a nice and sunny one, but it was starting to wane slightly as the evening hour approached. Lindsey was feeling very excited about this new Camogie venture of hers, but also just a bit apprehensive as to what she was getting herself into.

Quickly spotting the blonde girl from the festival as she parked her car, Lindsey jumped out of her vehicle and introduced herself.

“I’m so glad you came,” the blond girl, genuinely. “My name is Samantha, Sam for short.” And Lindsey gave her her name in return. Sam introduced her to the rest of the players. There was a red–headed guy, aptly named Sean. A muscular guy named Jonathan who had been the other guy playing at the festival, a self-proclaimed heavy drinker named Julian, and the dark-headed guy from the festival, named Carter Warren the third. There were two other girls there, one named Jessica who boasted of her strong legs. And another named Meg, who had been a softball player in college and still had the quasi manly movements to match.

They wasted no time in rushing to the field and beginning their practicing. With Lindsey tried to run whichever way seemed to be the direction called for. While she had no complaints about how they had greeted her, Lindsey soon learned this type of athletic competition was a whole new level she had never experienced before. She was well acquainted with the petty competitiveness of the Irish dancing world. With several girls having jumped in front of her to keep the judges from noticing her well formed dance steps over the years. But, this, this was aggressive and entirely focused on the sport. Lindsey had never played so competitively before, but she bravely kept on playing as Meg accidentally slammed into her arm. And Julian promised her a drink afterwards for stomping on her foot and knocking her down.

Lindsey realized, that while it wasn’t an unpleasant activity, it wasn’t her passion. She was just about ready to walk off the field when . . . wham! Carter Warren accidentally threw the ball right at her head. She was wearing a helmet, thank goodness. But, still, the power behind it left Lindsey a bit shaken.

“Ahre you ohkay?” Carter quickly asked. With his boarding school accent still firmly in place.

“Yes, but I think I’ll go home and rest now, if you don’t mind,” Lindsey responded.

“Not until after I buy you that drink I promised,” Julian yelled from farther away.

“Okay, then, but I’ll sit down and rest up until then,” Lindsey laughed in reply. All she felt like having was a cup of hot chocolate to ease her impending headache as she eagerly walked off of this field laden with heavy competition.

Moving away from where they were practicing and taking her seat on the ground, Lindsey started thinking about how even if she hadn’t been hit so roughly on the head, she had had enough. She loved dancing and singing, but athletics just hadn’t ever been her heart’s desire. Perhaps her mother’s incredulity at her seeking out this Camogie venture wasn’t misplaced after all. Lindsey let out a sigh. Looking over the field she could see Carter Warren III showing off his athletic prowess and looking handsomer than ever. But, even that, she realized wasn’t enough for her to continue with this newly discovered athleticism.

Lost in her thoughts, Lindsey started humming some of the Irish tunes she had learned over the years. After competing in the dance portion of the Irish feises, she had delved into the Irish song portion, even placing in them most of the time. So she knew several melodies. She started humming “The Black Velvet Band” and then transitioned into the more challenging “The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls”. Then bursting out into full song with “Oh Danny Boy” before realizing that she was singing loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Don’t stop” Carter Warren III said as Lindsey hesitated when she noticed they had all quit practicing and were staring at her in amazement. She was possessed of a beautiful lyric soprano voice that often elicited admiration when she sang, but Lindsey still found herself surprised at their reaction. As she went up in the end, rather than down as the “come to me” conclusion is often sung. She saw Carter’s eyes well up with tears.

“That’s beautiful!” they all said in unison when she finished. Even tucking their sticks in their arms as they made sure to clap for her. Lindsey felt so very happy. This was more true to herself. And she even let out a giggle as Carter Warren III said “Sorry, Julian, I’m buying tonight.”

The End.

 

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Luisa Kay Reyes has had pieces featured in “The Raven Chronicles”, “Fire In Machines”, “The Windmill”, “Halcyon Days”, “Fellowship of the King”, “Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine”, the “Route – 7 – Review”, “The Foliate Oak”, “The Eastern Iowa Review”, and other literary magazines. Her piece, “Thank You”, is the winner of the April 2017 memoir contest of “The Dead Mule School Of Southern Literature”. And her Christmas poem was a first place winner in the 16th Annual Stark County District Library Poetry Contest. Additionally, her essay “My Border Crossing” received a Pushcart Prize nomination from the Port Yonder Press.
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