Plot Synopsis: A young screenwriter at work in Ireland in 1953 discovers that his ever-reliable regular taxicab driver has become dangerous and impaired when behind the wheel. Nick, the village driver, escorts the young writer from Dublin to the Irish countryside and the estate of the young screenwriter’s director. Nick then waits at the local pub until the writer is ready to be driven back to the city. There is never a problem, until the first night of Lent. . . .
Critique: Any “essential” list of Bradbury short stories must include an Irish tale (as well as a Mexico story, a Mars story, and a Green Town story, for that matter). The problem is, of course, which Irish story? I choose this one for two simple reasons. First, Bradbury takes the lyrical quality of his voice and drenches it in a poetic and authentic Irish brogue.
Nick, now. See his easy hands loving the wheel in a slow clocklike turning as soft and silent as winter constellations snow down the sky. Listen to his mist-breathing voice all night-quiet as he charms the road, his foot a tenderly benevolent pat on the whispering accelerator, never a mile under thirty, never two miles over. Nick, Nick and his steady boat gentling a mild sweet lake where all Time slumbers. Look, compare. And bind such a man to you with summer grasses, gift him with silver, shake his hand warmly at each journey’s end
“Good night, Nick,” I said at the hotel. “See you tomorrow.”
“God willing,” whispered Nick
And he drove softly away.
The second reason I have selected this story for “The Essential Bradbury” list is that this is the first Irish story Bradbury wrote. It is his first creation, fresh-removed and newly-minted from his own actual experiences of living in Dublin in the autumn of 1953 and the winter of 1954, writing the screenplay for Moby Dick for film director John Huston. From a biographical standpoint, it is fascinating to read a work of short fiction that is, ostensibly, memoir. And with “The First Night of Lent,” Bradbury had discovered a trove of material that would continue to yield rich story, culminating in the publication of the 1992 semi-autobiographical novel, Green Shadow, White Whale, a minor-class
The Beginning of the Irish Stories: As Ray recalled, one night after he had returned from Ireland, he was in bed and a voice spoke to him
Ray responded, “Who is it?”
And the voice said, “It’s Nick, the cab driver who drove you back and forth from Dublin to Kilcock 80 or 90 times. Do you remember that, Ray? Do you?”
And Ray said, “Yes?”
And the voice said, “Would you mind puttin’ it down?”
So Ray Bradbury started writing his Irish stories, beginning with “The First Night of Lent.”
Historical Aside: A fascinating New York Times article on John Huston’s Georgian Irish Manor, ran June 12, 2012. Check it out here.
This is the very house where, in 1953, Nick the cab driver picked Bradbury up late at night, to drive him back to Dublin. This is the very house where Ray say with John Huston, late into the Irish night, as Huston went over Ray’s adaptation of Moby Dick.
#24 “THE SOUND OF SUMMER RUNNING”
Where to Find It: Dandelion Wine, The Stories of Ray Bradbury