Story for the New Year: A Good Year -- Part 2
“It was a hard day werkin’,” Breigh sighed, leaning back and pulling the brim of his hat down over his eyes, “but it was sure worth the doin’.” He exhaled, and a fulmination of smoke rushed forth from between his lips. “Got out all the orders for the holiday, fed the kingdom, sure made some folk happy. Aye,” exhaling all the complacence he felt, “sure was a good day.”
“It was,” said Cabhrin, in a rather incredulous tone.
“Sure was. I got cinnamon buns at the end of it.” Here was a pleased nod. “After all that meat we had at the tavern, I didn’t think I had room left in me to breathe. It’s my own fault. Shouldna passed the bakery on our way home. Mifeadh had the door open. Shoulda known she’d still be in, bakin’ till the last minute.”
“You didn’t have to go in.”
“Aye, I had to go in,” Breigh asserted. “Once I smell the cinnamon braids Mifeadh hangs in the window-- Chune, shise sin,” with a nod and a firm pout, “I got no choice but to eat what she’s makin’.” He patted his stomach. “Those cinnamon braids were good though. Aye, I’ll feel it all th’morra. That too was worth the doin’, a meal like what we had.” He inhaled, and a stream of smoke issued forth, seeping out from where the brim of his hat touched his chest. “A man don’t need much more than this.”
“Yer happy with just bein’ at the dairy and bein’ home?” Cabhrin asked, remarking his brother charily.
Sensing that the question was meant more as a reflection of Cabhrin’s own unhappiness and palliate his own fears, Breigh shifted in his seat and lifted his hat from his eyes. “Sure, I’m happy,” said he, in a cheerful hue, plucking his pipe from the corner of his mouth. “What’s there to be unhappy about? Love what I do, love bein’ at the dairy, love bein’ at home, love sittin’ here with you,” here was a glance at Cabhrin, “love visitin’ town and seein’ folks I know, love visitin’ Ma and our fam’ly at the farm.” He shrugged. “Nothin’ to be unhappy about, Cabh. Aye, sure I’m a bit tired at the end o’ the day, and I might be a mite lonely in the evenin’s when no one but me’s around, but that don’t mean I’m unhappy. A man don’t got reason to be unhappy if he’s thankful for what he gets. If he gets up every day, does what he can, shares what he got--” he emptied his pipe, “—ain’t no reason to be unhappy.”
“You been doin’ this a long time, Breigh, bein’ master at the dairy, workin’ long days. You don’t think you’d like doin’ somethin’ else?”
Breigh’s lips wreathed in a half grin, and he humphed and raised a brow. “Do you want somethin’ else, Cabh?”
“No,” said Cabhrin doubtingly and somewhat self-conscious, “I just thought it might be a bit o’ the same round here for you all the time.”
“I like the same,” Cabhrin proclaimed, slipping his pipe into his breast pocket. “Sure don’t have much,” glancing back at his small and simple home, “but don’t need much. I work hard, I enjoy myself goin’ round the market and to the tavern, love a good meal, like hearing a good story, enjoy the craic, like havin’ my pipe of an evenin’.” He raised his arms behind his head and stretched his legs. “Got nothin’ to complain about, Cabh. Sure, I might like a family of my own some day, but I’m in no rush o’ that. It happens if it does. For now, I’m happy, and ain’t no word o’ a lie in it.”
It was said with such finality, such unpretending and ingenuous assurance, that Cabhrin was silenced. Breigh’s quiet tenacity, his constancy, his amiableness, his goodwill and general compassion toward everyone in his conversancy had always astounded one who could no more bear the bustle of a town than he could the brume and bombilation of a full house. How Breigh, someone who confined himself in the dairy for many hours a day, and who was naturally disposed to enjoy an evening’s quietude, had never any grievances to lay at anyone’s door was a triumph of will that Cabhrin never thought himself equal to practice. Breigh had more than reason enough to disclaim, and yet he owned himself happy: being away from his family on the holidays, being in constant motion from the time of his entering the dairy until his leaving it as being the one whose opinion was always sought after, whose attention was always needed, and yet his equanimity suffered no material damage from constant attention. Cabhrin gaped at his brother, amazed that he could find anything like forbearance in his grand repertoire of feeling, and he sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know how you do it, Breigh.”
“I don’t know how you do it,” was all Breigh’s answer, his shoulders slumping, his head propped as he lay further recumbent. “Bein’ on that ship for weeks without a lick o’ dry land, no smell o’ grass, no view o’ the hills. Sure must be beautiful at night out there, sittin’ on the water, the brine comin’ up from the water, the mist risin’ off the barm, nothin’ for miles but the stars and the sound o’ the sea lappin’ against the hull. Aye,” with a smile, “that’s a fine piece, but I sure don’t know how you do it durin’ the wintertime. I’m so used to bein’ indoors in all seasons, I think if I stayed on the deck o’ a ship s’much as you do durin’ the warmer months, I’d melt something terrible. How you manage it in the winters is beyond me, Cabh. The waters freezin’ over, the wind cuttin’ through you like blades o’ ice. Sure, there are some days ‘specially in wintertime, when I don’t see the sun much, bein’ inside sun-up sun-down, but I’m with the cows and the goats, I’m with everyone who werks hard for me, and we’re always tryin’ somethin’ different, makin’ new cheeses and new types o’ butter, we’re always doin’ something new—we’re real proud of what we do, and there’s a fulfillment in that.”
Cabhrin tapped his foot, and his eyes darted about. “And you feel fulfilled, just doin’ that?”
Breigh lifted his hat from his eyes, raising the brim with his thumb, and peered at his brother with firm sagacity. “I’m not just doin’ anythin’, Cabh. We’re feedin’ the kingdom. Might seem uninterestin’ to a grand explorer like yerself--” here was a wink, “--but it’s necessary. We’re providin’ a service, and at the Royal Dairy, we’re makin’ everythin’ that gets sent to the castle, and if that’s not important or excitin’, to be filfillin’ the order o’ the Majesty, I don’t know what is. Might not be sailin’ round the world, hangin’ from the riggin’ with the wind in my face, but aye, I’m a dairyman, and I’m fulfilled just doin’ that.”
A pang struck Cabhrin at his heart. He could never have meant to undermine his brother’s profession or question his powers of discerning the pride of personal accomplishment, but that Breigh’s vocation in life should be to milk cows and tend goats, to handle bricks of butter, mold cheeses, and cultivate cultures was so unlike anything Cabhrin enjoyed that he wondered at his brother’s not wanting something more to enliven the few hours he spent away from the dairy. His work was imperative to the kingdom, and he was irreplaceable as a foreman; Glaoustre’s economy depended on everything the royal dairy produced, their goods traveling many more miles than even Cabhrin had done, the products from the royal dairy being sent all over the continents, as far as Lucentia—of course Breigh’s work was important, but it could not be his only ambition; there must be something more that would tempt him away from his presses and molds. He played no instrument, cultivated no pastimes beyond talking to his neighbours, trouting in the lake, and walking about town. Reading and smoking where the only two diversions that held anything like a glamour over his leisure hours. There must be something wanting, and though Breigh spoke of visiting family as being his chief enjoyment, he could not find their own family so interesting as to be all. He had said he wished for his own family, but he did so with such indifference that Cabhrin began to wonder at his brother’s professions, and after a short pause, he asked, “And what about marryin’ and babes and that?”
Breigh’s lips pursed in a smile. “Aye, I want ‘em, Cabh, a girl and babes, but when they come. I ain’t in no rush.” He rested his feet on the end of his chair and watched the fire, the roguish glint in his eye dancing glimmerously about. “I think you want me to have wee-uns more than I want to have wee-uns myself.”
Cabhrin turned aside and grew nervous. “Well,” he hemmed, scratching at the back of his neck. “It’s just that I think ye’d be a good da and all…”
“Ah, g’on with that,” said Breigh, with a blush. “Yer startin’ to sound like Ma.”
Cabhrin’s brows furrowed. “She’s never asked you for grandchildren.”
“No,” Breigh laughed, “but that don’t mean she don’t want ‘em. When she talks about her grandchildren, she got that glimmer in her eye. I know she wants more. All Mas do, and I ain’t blamin’ her for it, but since I can’t grow ‘em, she’s gonn have to wait.” He reached over and gave his brother’s shoulder a hearty pat. “And so are you, Cabh. And no word of ‘how you been waitin’ some number o’ years, how many more years you gonna make me wait,’ and all the rest of it. They come when they come, and not a moment sooner.”
Cabhrin’s shoulder’s withered, and his spirits diminished.
“You want ‘em any faster, you’ll have to have ‘em yerself or ask the Gods what the hold up is on my end, but when Aoidhe sends me my Chune,” said Breigh, in a tender hue, “ye’ll be the first one I’m tellin’, Cabh. I promise.”
Cabhrin turned aside and humphed. “You said that a while ago.”
“Aye, and I’m sayin’ it again now.”
“There ain’t nobody new in the dairy for you? There’s gotta be one with all the girls what go in and out that place.”
Breigh chuffed and waved his hand dismissively at his brother. “Yer soundin’ like the ojin’s in town. They gotta make a song and dance outta it, makin’ a production over exchangin’ pleasantries and goin’ outta their way to disguise how they wanna ask me to meet their granddaughters.” He paused, and then added, with a smile, “Or their grandsons.”
Cabhrin fleered, and the brothers exchanged a look before Breigh pulled the brim of his hat farther down over his eyes, concealing a grin betraying all the complacence he felt.