The Song of Jimmy Doyle

By Raph al Guul

Prologue
I Blue Cars
II High Spirits
III Jimmy
IV Investment Plans
V Dinner
VI Afterparty
VII The Game
Epilogue

I wonder if yet to you it occurred:
A term like ‘winner’ is a funny word
For not all winners ever win the same:
Fortune, happiness, a medal, or fame;
Some may be winners even when they lose
For their loss is the victory they choose;
Lend me your ears so that I may express
A loser’s win with a tale of success;
And the outcome any way you could spin:
Tell me, did Jimmy lose or did he win?

 

After the race through the warm evening sun
They drove down Naas Road – the Germans had won
But the French were favorites of the crowd
And cheers for them particularly loud;
The cars made noise too, each roaring machine –
It was too exhilarating a scene:
All was so loud, so shiny, and so fast,
One could easily forget the differences vast
Between those in cars and those on the street –
The steering wheels and the hardly clothed feet;
But what if those local soles, though weak,
Onto the backseat of a car could sneak?

Charles Ségouin was the one behind the wheel;
He felt as jolly as anyone would feel
When business was good and the future bright
And no end to fair tidings in close sight;
Beside Ségouin in a similar mood
Sat André Rivière feeling just as good
About his and his cousin’s lucky stars
And the success of the French racing cars;
The Hungarian man in the back seat
Was the jolliest lad you’ll ever meet;
His name was Villona and his great mood
Had largely been caused by intake of food;
The fourth person you’ll need to know about
Was an Irishman and the odd one out:
Jimmy Doyle who wanted to make it far
Was half in the crowd and half in that car.

Doyle, a business man of twenty-six years
Was not as experienced as his peers;
Although he had been educated well,
It still remained way too easy to tell
That he did not know too much about life –
And to change just that now was Jimmy’s strife;
Sure, he had hit his entrepreneurial prime
But yet he still lived on his father’s dime;
His old man had been called “the merchant prince,”
A title Doyle had envied ever since;
Though not adversity caused such distress –
Instead it’s Jimmy’s own lack of success
Which was causing a bit of a bother:
Feeling inferior to his father;
Today this flaw he sought to repair
As opportunity was in the air.

Jimmy had met Ségouin a year ago
And he was an excellent man to know:
His sense for business was sharp like a knife
And he had been quite fortunate in life;
He inherited much, made the right calls,
He sold risky stock before major falls,
And his investments came back hundredfold,
Wherever he went, he always struck gold.
Ségouin and Jimmy had become good friends –
Though business was part of it, no pretense;
In fact the main reason they met today
Was not the race, but for Jimmy to pay
Ségouin’s foreign contacts a quick visit
To include him in a deal so exquisite
Only a fool would pass up this chance –
Such was Ségouin’s and Jimmy’s father’s stance;
And so they met the man that afternoon
And though Jimmy’s poor French was not a boon
Everything seemed to go extremely well –
Well, at least as far as Jimmy could tell;
In the end the deal did not sound half-bad:
He’d invest what little money he had
In the French business, which Jimmy did learn
Would soon yield a rather hefty return;
Tomorrow a contract they’d formulate
But tonight it was time to celebrate.

They were invited to Ségouin’s hotel,
But first they had to go home and dress well;
Rich continentals always dined in style
And Jimmy Doyle had not bathed in a while;
He and Villona stopped by Jimmy’s home
To get fully ready: dress, shave and comb;
While they were there preparing for the meal
Jimmy told his parents about the deal;
His father did what he had never done:
He smiled and said: “I am proud of you, son.”
Right then Jimmy thought it was safe to say
In all his life this was the greatest day;
“Let’s get going,” Villona was mumbling
While his stomach was audibly rumbling;
Jimmy could have waited a bit longer
But respected Hungarian hunger
Therefore they soon arrived at the hotel
A locale of brilliant sight, sound, and smell;
They reunited with their friends again –
Ségouin had brought along an Englishman –
Villona’s patience was running thinner
When finally they sat down for dinner;
The food was found absolutely divine
And it was served with some excellent wine;
It was poured generously all around,
Made the meal with conversation abound:
Villona talked of music and the arts,
Rivière explained cars’ mechanical parts,
Ségouin’s old English friend, Routh was his name,
Boasted about winning a betting game,
Jimmy also listened and talked a lot,
Though most of it he quite quickly forgot;
To keep drink and conversation in flow
Their host Ségouin to much trouble did go:
The Irish got into the English’s hair
So Ségouin raised his glass into the air:
“To Humanity!” thus sounded his call –
A reason to drink, which appeased them all

Villona’s call, which was undisputed,
Declared the meal with success concluded;
They’d eaten enough, but would not refuse
To head somewhere else to get some more booze;
They rose up albeit with drunk rigor –
But their desire for beer was bigger;
And so they roamed the streets from pub to pub
Getting drunker and never shutting up;
After many pints they reached Grafton Street –
And there Rivière’s acquaintance they did meet:
An American named Farley – and he
Invited them all his new yacht to see;
Since to all of them this pleasure seemed rare
They started making their way over there;
Taking train and boat they reached the ship soon
Where Villona started playing a tune
On a piano they found there by chance,
Which tempted Rivière and Farley to dance;
The Shipowner’s beverage stock was sublime,
So everyone was having a great time.

It took not much of Routh’s eloquent aid
Until the pleasant suggestion was made
To play cards – and that for money no less;
The group replied with a euphoric ‘yes’ –
I must say all but Villona, that is,
He lacked the necessary wealth for this;
And so to his piano music’s beats
The other men merrily took their seats;
Already right after the game began
Jimmy noticed his short attention span:
His current drunk state kept his senses lame,
Which was quite unconducive to his game;
He slowed down on the booze to clear his head
And he asked for fruit cordial instead,
But he knew that it would take him a while
During which he would lose a hefty pile –
Until he’d be sober he’d suffer much loss,
But he was still too drunk to give a toss;
So he too kept playing, the foolish bloke
And when Villona returned from a smoke
Jimmy Doyle had bet his whole livelihood
In a way only a drunk madman could;
Senses returned and his sense was restored:
He realized that he could not afford
What he had waged in an outrageous bet –
Did he tomorrow’s investment forget?
The money lying on the table there
Was required for that financial affair;
Jimmy almost suffered a heart attack,
Realizing he had to win it back,
But to add to poor Jimmy’s current woe
He now only had three more hands to go;
As foolish it had been to risk this much,
Only fools relied on Fortuna’s touch
To win it all back at less than a glance:
Jimmy knew he needed three winning hands;
The deck was passed – it was his turn to deal,
So Jimmy used a lame joke to conceal
That he moved two aces right up his sleeve –
The drunks did not notice to his relief;
He then dealt himself the spoils of this theft
And after that he bet all he had left;
Thanks to the aces he then won with ease,
Thus some of his lost money he could seize;
He kept the aces, again went all in
And, thereby securing his second win,
It thus all came down to the final hand:
Win now and proceed tomorrow as planned;
Ségouin whose own game had been going great
Was surprised at his friend’s improving fate;
Nevertheless, all this led to no spite
Since Doyle’s lucky stars brightened Ségouin’s night;
While Routh’s winnings so far had most increased,
Jimmy’s wins had him utterly displeased;
And as a certain suspicion arose
And Routh thus was watching Doyle very close
The latter knew that it would have been thick
To try the third time to pull the same trick,
But he also knew the stakes were too high
On nothing other than chance to rely;
But it was too late, Routh shuffled and dealt –
Jimmy felt like he was about to melt –
But then, just before he succumbed to gloom
He noticed the portholes around the room
And knew if he looked the right direction
He could see all cards in the reflection;
Jimmy looked around and was rather glad
That everyone’s hands were extremely bad;
In that moment Ségouin made a big bluff –
He had the worst hand but he bet enough
To scare everyone but Jimmy away –
Again going all in was his own play;
Ségouin did not call – cutting his losses
Gave Doyle a small fortune in the process;
At game over, no clear victor was crowned
But it had still been fun, everyone found;
It was a good night, great end to a day;
At first morning light they went on their way;
Jimmy Doyle left with a smile on his face
After all that happened after the race.

 

Recall the man who abstained from the game:
A musician, Villona was his name;
He had been watching it all and he saw
The violation of gentlemen’s law;
But he never told any of the men
What he had observed on that evening then;
Perhaps it’s because Ségouin did not care
About money he could easily spare;
Or perhaps Villona just hardly knew
The kind of trust that was between the two;
Or simply because he reckoned it is
Not at all any damn business of his;
Thus what he could never quite comprehend
Was if Jimmy won or lost in the end.

 

 

“The Song of Jimmy Doyle” was originally written as part of Shane Walshe’s creative writing course in late 2014. It is based on James Joyce’s short story “After the Race” and the publication of the revised version a year after its composition comes just in time to be called part of a “Dubliners 101” project that unfortunately never quite got off the ground.

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