When Eisenhower told the Duchess to fuck off, you could have heard a pin drop. Or, to put it another way, a pin pulled—yanked, if you understand me, from a hand grenade—one of thousands hoarded like little pineapples (I had never seen a pineapple) in the armoury (spelt armory) down by the piggery, across from the cess pit and adjacent to a compost heap the size of Belmore Mountain. In fact the General’s actual words were Fuck off, lady. Three five star, four letter words because lady was an insult too: he didn’t mean Duchess, he meant broad, as in dame, by which he didn’t mean Dame. Of course Ike didn’t know the Duchess from Adam but she was adamant all the same. How dare you chop down my trees, says she. Who do you think you are, says she, Queen Bess no less? Stripping Hibernia bare to build her pirate Armadillo? There was a time, my Yankee friend, when a red squirrel could have travelled the breadth of this land without once tippy-toe-ing through the bluebells below. And so, me Texan bucko (say buckaroo perhaps), you will not, war nor no war, denude my forestry. So be off with you, Generalissimo and your lumberjack GIs. Scoot! And that’s the very moment, unrecorded by historians, when the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, looked up and said what he said. The whole word. Fuck off, lady, or Go fuck yourself, lady, or words to that effect. Of course, I wasn’t there to hear it because the likes of me wouldn’t have been let near the Duchess or the grounds of her fine estate. So, no, I never saw the General stepping through the laurel and hardy perennials as he plotted those final moves on Europe. But I did, mind you, see him later when I was over at Celtic Park with the 8th Infantry, just sitting there with the guys, me up on the front of a jeep eating a banana and listening to the guys talking about all the food they would eat when they finally got back to Boston or Brooklyn or Memphis, Tennessee. Food was just about all they ever talked about. At least around me. That and the weather, which they hated. Anyway, that’s when I saw Eisenhower. The Supreme Commander, already fed and watered at the Royal Hotel, over in Celtic Park with a lot on his mind. Eisenhower. Eisenhauer. A hewer of iron from Denison, Texas away off to Portora to tramp across the playing fields and see how the men were shaping up. There were swallows chasing flies across the grass, so this would have been April or May. And then, just weeks later, one morning in July, in what was supposed to be the utmost secrecy, but with the whole town turning out to say goodbye, the Yanks all left for Utah Beach, Hürtgenwald, Ludwigslust and Wöbbelin.
John Kelly's From Out of the City was shortlisted for Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2014. Other novels include The Little Hammer (Cape) and Sophisticated Boom Boom (Cape). His stories have been published in The Stinging Fly, Winter Papers, Dubliners 100 (Tramp) and Silver Threads of Hope (New Island). Poetry has featured in The Irish Press, The Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, The Irish Review, Winter Papers, the Oxford Magazine and several anthologies. A radio play The Pipes was broadcast on RTE.