Almost every morning, as Lyle was getting ready to take the dog for a walk along the bay, his wife would ask, “Are ye down the prom, then?” They had met and married thirty years before, in Vermont, when she was Mary Curtin and he’d thought her a happy combination of exotic and domestic. At sixty, after their life in the States, she still called herself a Galway girl; at sixty-seven, after two years of retirement in Galway, Lyle still considered a prom a high school dance, not two miles of sidewalk beside the water.

So he would say, “We’re going to walk along the bay,” and hope she’d leave it at that. When they had first come to Ireland, the exchange had had a bit of a joke to it, but he felt it now as unwelcome pressure. He had no intention of taking up Irish idioms — he’d have felt foolish saying “half-five” instead of five-thirty, “Tuesday week” instead of next Tuesday, “ye” for you. “Toilet” instead of bathroom was unthinkable. He called things by their real names — “pubs” bars, “shops” stores, “chips” French fries, and “gardai” police.

“The Man with the Lapdog.” — Beth Lordan, The Atlantic, Pen/O. Henry Prize 2000

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