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O'Gorman's Grocery Store

The bank had taken the shop off him and now it lay an eye sore to the entire village.

By Paul O'Brien
Perhaps in two short months Liam Snr could walk through Rallybaloe with his head held high ones more, with a restored pride, and a smile on his face. O'Gorman's Grocery Store on the Main Street in the little village of Rallybaloe had decimated over the years into quite a sorry, miserable sight. Plastic sheeting and rotting timber covered the spaces in the window frames where glass had once stood. The two wooden doors which constituted the entrance to the premises were also rotting, and the green paint had worn away, showing the faded red of the store's original colour. It had lain vacant now for some eleven years, and showed all the wretched ill-effects. Liam O'Gorman, ex-proprietor, often wondered why someone had not bought the shop in all that length of time, but supposed the inside was as much decayed as the frontal; crumbling walls, leaking roof-beams, infestations of mice and rats, the stench of total neglect.

It was a blight which reflected badly on the beautiful old village. Many residents held the view that it spoiled any chances the place had in the "Tidy Towns Competition"."A proper auld eyesore" was the quote of many and this was very true, for the rest of the buildings on the street, the quaint old houses, dainty shops, the newer, more modern business premises such as the bank, were all kept smart and tidy and clean. Larry O'Gorman hated the fact that the store he had once owned was such an embarrassment to all and sundry, that it caused so much resentment in the community, and often castigated himself for leaving it fall into such disrepair. So much so, that he only ever ventured into the village from his house a mile outside when he needed necessities, and never, ever went to the pub any more. He felt it was his fault, although his sons and neighbours often told him it wasn't so, and as his few remaining close friends from the Main Street told him, nobody blamed him

("Sure, wasn't it the bank that took poor auld Liam's shop from him, and left it fall apart so?" "Disgrace t'was, robbing the poor fellow of his way of life"."T'was the shock of bankruptcy that claimed the wife y'know, tragedy that, what with two young teenage sons and all." "Shaggin' officials, Liam was a good un', should have left him and his alone." "They were so keen to take it off him, you'd think they'd be as eager to do the place up.")

Although they shared some of their father's bitterness and sorrow, Liam Jnr and Sean had not allowed the affair of the store affect their lives. Both attended college and achieved for themselves successful careers; Liam Jnr as an accountant and Sean as a corporate lawyer. Liam Jnr opened his first accountancy firm in Dublin, before relocating himself and his family - wife Joanne, son Greg and daughter Maria - back to his home town where he promptly opened his second firm, which soon thrived, no doubt chiefly because of the amount of goodwill amongst the townsfolk for his father. Meanwhile, Sean remained single, but his career blossomed until soon he was acting as legal advisor to three of Ireland's largest multi-nationals. Of his two sons Liam O'Gorman was incredibly proud; his lack of desire to face the townsfolk meant he had few to boast to about his sons' magnificent successes. They certainly weren't failures, unlike himself, he thought.....

Sean spent a lot of time abroad, but Liam Jnr and his family visited often. One of these visits coincided with a letter Liam Snr received on the second of May 1996. Contained in the letter was notice that Liam's old store had been bought, was about to be redecorated, refurbished (and re-everythinged, to sum it up) and that Liam was invited to the grand opening, which was scheduled for two months time. All of a sudden, it was as if a great burden of stress had been lifted from Liam's shoulders, his son and family celebrated with him; it was great. Perhaps in two short months Liam Snr could walk through Rallybaloe with his head held high once more, with restored pride, and a smile on his face.

Who exactly had bought the shop was unknown, and proved to be a veritable mystery. Not that Liam was unduly worried, as far as he was concerned, O'Gorman's Grocery Store, Main Street, Rallybaloe, was to be revitalised and if it was the devil himself who was re-opening the store, he would not have cared.

He wasn't going to attend the opening, the knowledge that it would be open again was enough, but Liam Jnr came to collect him on the appropriate day and insisted he should go and show his face. With an outward show of reluctance, but with great hidden enthusiasm and excitement, he donned his finest suit and climbed into Liam Jnr's jeep.

A fine sight. An absolutely fine sight. Everything old and rotten had been taken out, and new windows and doors showed off their shine proudly. The panes of glass were gleaming. The freshly painted walls looked warm and friendly. A little wonder. It was a little miracle to behold.

As they approached the front door however, it appeared as if no-body was inside. "Have we come on the wrong day?", Liam Snr inquired, a puzzled look on his face. "I don't think so maybe we're too early. Let's go in and have a look, shall we?". Now Liam Snr was genuinely reluctant and would have left were it not for his own son urging him to go in.

So, with a sigh, Liam Snr pushed through the door and walked inside, closely followed by Liam Jnr, not knowing what to expect.

Suddenly the place erupted. "Surprise!" People popped up from every corner, old faces, new, his other son Sean, all his friends from the past, all the people from the street. Everyone was shaking his hand, patting him on the back, congratulating him. He was totally bewildered, until Liam Jnr pointed to a plaque on the back wall of the store, and then it was all so clear; two inscriptions, short, simple and so sweet.

"To Liam O'Gorman, from his loving sons, an effort to repay a fraction of the affection, knowledge and happiness you imparted to us." The second message read: "Welcome back Liam, you've been sorely missed - the village." Liam's eyes welled up with tears.
  Paul O'Brien, from Cork, is studying Arts in U.C.C.

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