Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.
From Suzanne Strempek Shea
Tony Sedgwick MFA ’20 wrote “The Bean” during the 2019 Summer Writing Seminar on this prompt:
Write about a welcome or parting that is particularly memorable to you.
When Tony had to miss the final night’s event due to travel plans, guest faculty member Mia Gallagher accepted the invitation to read this energetic, well-populated and well-caffeinated piece.
by Tony Sedgwick
Class starts at 10:15 a.m. in that Gaelic-sounding place where nuns once lived; there must have been a lot of them! It’s 10:05, so a 10-minute walk, 30 seconds to pop into that yellow place for a cup of coffee, find the room in a New-York minute and, Bob’s Your Uncle, I’ll be right there at the start of class.
The roundabout is nuts. Irish drivers don’t seem to understand the business of stopping for pedestrians in the cross walk. Summer crowds saunter, linger, gawk in shop front windows. I prance impatiently behind them. Finally, I see my chance and shoot on through, up the narrow sidewalk, prepare to cross the street, look right, correct myself, look left. What the hell? I look both ways, bolt across and see it there—the Bean in Dingle. I knew it was something cute like that.
I hurry in, then come to a complete stop. There are two people waiting, bovine-like, to order cups of coffee. Behind the counter, four young people loiter comfortably wearing black T-shirts and an air of peace.
As I shuffle forward, Person One makes her order, then steps around the corner where she is supposed to wait. Next up is a middle-aged fellow in a green sweater, paunchy, balding, clearly on vacation.
“Um…let’s see,” he ponders the menu tranquilly. “I’ll have one of those, and that one, and that one.” A stubby finger vaguely points out each chosen pastry.
“Um…” the gent repeats, and then again, “Um….”
“What’s that one over there?” he asks.
“No, that one.”
“Oh, this one”
“Yes, that one,” confirms the gent. Then, blissfully unaware of anyone else in the store, he asks, “What is that?”
No! No! I scream in silence.
“It’s a scone.”
“Oh” says the happy gent, “what kind of scone?”
“I’m not sure,” says the young man behind the counter. He scratches his head and turns toward the fellow next to him, “do you know what kind of scone that is?”
“Fruit. That’s a fruit scone,” says his mate.
“A fruit scone,” repeats the young fellow.
If this guy asks what kind of fruit, I may have to kill him.
“No,” the nice gent says pensively, “maybe I’ll have a roll.”
“Just a roll?’
“No, I’ll have that, and that, and that, and a roll,” his says, pleasure radiating across his face.
At last it’s my turn. I step to the counter trying to control the fearsome beating of my heart.
“I’ll have a cappuccino. How much is that?” I ask.
“Yes, please, just a cappuccino in a to-go cup.”
Mirabile dictum! Will wonders never cease! He does not repeat my order.
“That’ll be 3 euro 80.”
“Thanks” I say and step around the corner, fidgeting, to wait.
The barista is a beautiful young woman with eyes so blue, so lovely, so tranquil that a less caffeinated swain might fall into their limpid pools. I glance nervously to see if she is making my cup of coffee.
Then another woman steps up and asks her, “Are you Julie?’
“Why, yes. I am,” replies the pretty-eyed barista.
“I am…” She could be the f***ing Queen of Sheba for all I care. Just make my damn cup of coffee!
“How lovely to meet you,” says the barista.
Can this be really happening?
Her hands slow down, each coffee-making movement an accompaniment to their leisurely conversation. How can two people who have just met have so much to talk about? I watch her stir, stiiiir, stiiiiiiiir, slow, slow, slow, each round a careful dream of perfect circularity, each motion a movement of infinite care. All the while, she smiles the smile of the Giaconda, sweet and impenetrable, as she continues the inconsequential nattering with her new-found best friend.
The minutes pass. It doesn’t matter any longer. Class has started. Maybe it has even ended. I am in Dingle and this is the Bean.
I am at peace.
About the Writer
Tony Sedgwick was born in Spain and grew up in Europe and South America. After a career in international law, he returned to his family’s ranch in southern Arizona, about 10 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border. His work with the people of the borderlands served as his inspiration to obtain an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Bay Path University. His thesis, which he is currently revising in hopes of publication, is a personal vision of the evolution of that border from a gateway to a wall.
Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact email@example.com for full information.
We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.