The Irish sagas speak of the god Lugh, but we have no pictures of him from antiquity. He had to do with the brightness of the sky, though he is not necessarily a sun god. He possessed a famous spear and was called Long Arm, but he was also skilled in many arts, including healing. His holiday Lughnasadh, was celebrated at the start of the harvest season, around August 1, and remains one of the four key Gaelic festivals.
15. Bachelor Farmers
Tabitha made her way up Columbia Street, past James and Laura’s apartment building, toward Pier 6 and Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the farmer’s market was held. She’d received an unexpected call from James, saying that he and Laura had to go to Philadelphia over the weekend to see Laura’s parents. “Would you mind terribly picking up four pounds of turtle beans from the Gardens of Lugh stand?” he asked. “I’ve got to have some fresh beans for the lads and lasses, and the market is only open on Sundays.” The “lads and lasses” were the pupils in the cooking classes James taught for underprivileged youth, under the auspices of Cissy’s philanthropic foundation, Sunnier Futures.
“Gardens of Loo?” she asked. “Sounds unsanitary.”
“No, no,” he said, laughing. “L-u-g-h. The Celtic god.”
She agreed to pick up the beans, supposing that the owner must be one of James’ Irish friends. But the name Lugh careened around in her head. It was an important name. Why?
“You’re the dog’s ballocks, Tabitha!” he exclaimed, sounding relieved, and added, “That’s a compliment, by the way. Be sure to ask for Rory; he’ll have them on hand for me. Just leave them in Laura’s office when you go to work on Monday.”
Searching among the stands full of late summer squash, tomatoes, and corn (and trying her best to avoid the artisanal ice cream booths), she came at length to a sign which read “Gardens of Lugh Organic Farm, Sturluson and Lafferty, Proprietors.” Both owners appeared to be present, a tall blond man and a smaller, dark one. They were strapping male specimens, outfitted in heavy twill work pants and black T-shirts with the company logo, which looked like a spear with vines on it.
“Hi,” she said, smiling at the dark one. He had a generous stubble on his cheeks, subtly tinged with gray, and an oval face with a strong chin. “I’m Tabitha, and I’m here to pick up some turtle beans for James Whelan. Four pounds, he said.”
“Yes, of course,” he answered readily, in a soft accent which reminded her of James’. “I’ve got them right here.” He pointed to a stack of cellophane-wrapped packages, full of shiny black beans. She couldn’t quite tell what color his eyes were. Brown, or gold, or mossy green?
“Are you Rory?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s me,” he said, and gesturing to his partner, “and this is Snorri. Pleased to meet you.”
“Rory and Snorri?” She tried not to laugh, but a slight movement of her lips betrayed her.
“This is why one of us needs to change his name,” said Snorri. He was blue-eyed and clean-shaven, with the long-faced, dour look of a Swede. “Now, I’ve always said it ought to be Rory who changes his,” he continued. “Because Rory means ‘red haired king,’ and he is isn’t.”
“He’s got a point,” said Rory, his eyes holding hers. “Why, from birth I’ve had hair black as a crow’s wing, and I’m not in the least kingly. Whereas Snorri’s name fits him perfectly. When he sleeps, he’s reminiscent of a big-block V-8 with a bad muffler.”
“The name Snorri has nothing to do with snoring,” said the fair man, offended. “The original Snorri wrote the Heimskringla. Not to mention the Prose Edda.”
“Icelandic sagas, right?” asked Tabitha. “All about the Nordic gods and kings?”
“James has sent us a very intelligent woman,” observed Snorri.
“Ah, but does she know the Irish sagas? Finn MacCool and his Fianna? The Cattle Raid of Cooley?” asked Rory appraisingly.
“I know a good deal about early medieval saints’ lives,” she told Rory, “but I’m afraid my acquaintance with Irish sagas is limited.”
“You’ve plenty to learn then,” said Rory, fixing her with a look that suggested he would have liked to administer a lesson or two, at close quarters. “Here you are. That’ll be twenty dollars.” He had a lovely voice, sweet and low, like a tenor sax.
She handed over the money and deposited the four pounds of beans in her shopping bag, then wandered over to a stand which sold artisanal pickles. The fortyish woman behind the counter wore a brightly colored caftan and several strings of African trade beads. Her dark hair was tied with a long strip of cloth which barely contained her exuberant curls. “I see you’ve met the bachelor farmers,” she observed. “Rory and Snorri.” She pronounced their names with a certain zest.
“They’re very good-looking,” said Tabitha. “Are they straight men who like to tease each other, or gay men who like to flirt with women?”
“They’re hetero,” said the woman. “Just look at them.” She pointed in the direction of the Lugh’s Garden stand, where Rory and Snorri, taking advantage of a lull in the traffic, were arm-wrestling. Beer being off-limits in the confines of the park, each of the two grunting, grimacing antagonists held in his free hand a bottle of Bruce Cost Fresh Ginger Ale. “But they guard their virtue well. At least, I’ve never been able to bring one of them home with me. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Pickle?” she asked, holding out a sample dish of kosher dills spiked with chilis.
Copyright 2016 by Linnet Moss
Notes: As soon as I heard the name “Snorri Sturluson,” I knew I would never forget it. It’s the name of an Icelandic historian and poet, born in the 12th century. My pair of bachelor farmers, Rory and Snorri, represent the mingling of Scandinavian and Celtic culture in Ireland.
As for Lugh’s Garden, it’s where Cúchulainn’s destined bride Emer lives (see Chapter 10: Comeliest of Men). I couldn’t resist a little joke about Lugh’s fertile spear.