Behind the house was our backyard. Our yard was bordered by another yard, one that belonged to the Butler’s on Forbes Street. I loved going to the Butler’s. Not just because we had fun but because the house held another fascination for me. It was the house my father grew up in. Cool, right. I would try to image him as a little boy, running through the house, playing and raising hell.
Jim was one of ten kids, and the youngest boy. From all accounts, he was a handfull! He loved telling stories and was a very charming and engaging storyteller (loads of blarney in him, that’s for sure). One of his favorite stories to tell was the story of Joan of Arc. Or, more precisely, how he and a few of his siblings decided to re-enact the story of Joan of Arc. Not the whole story, mind you. Only the part where Joan was burned at the stake.
He enlisted the youngest of the Mulvey clan – Chrissy (or Lovey as she was called) to play the part of Joan. With “Joan” secured to a post in the basement… Oh, did I not to tell you that they would be re-enacting the burning of Joan of Arc inside, my bad.
So we have “Joan”, secured to the post, patiently waiting while they build the base for the fire. Before lighting the fire they post a sentry outside the basement door, in the hallway off the kitchen. I think it may have been Clare.
Clare, when asked what she was doing, replied “nothing”. Paul, recently back from the Army, didn’t really believe Clare. He moves her aside, descends the basement stairs, and ascertains that he has a situation on his hands.
He finds: a small fire being fed by a crazy-eyed Joe, “Joan”, still tied to the post, yelling to make the fire bigger, and Jimmy running around the basement yelling “insults” at “Joan”.
Paul trying to douse the fire before it reaches “Joan”, is being thwarted by a crazy-eyed Joe who keeps tossing scraps of paper and debris on the fire. Nearby “Joan”, still tied to the post, continues to yell that the fire isn’t big enough and that Paul should mind his business and leave them alone. Jimmy continues to run, screaming, around the basement, adding to the chaos.
Paul finally succeeds in dousing the fire, unties “Joan”, and cleans up the mess. He calmly walks up two flights of stairs to his room, packs his recently unpacked bags, and leaves. According to Dad, the family didn’t hear from him for two years.
And that my friends, is the story of Joan of Arc, Mulvey Style. A story told expressively by Jim Mulvey, ringleader, and retold by me, his daughter. There was nothing historically accurate about the re-enactment, but you must admit, it’s a hellava good story. As I’m typing this, I can hear his booming voice, I can see the laughter in his eyes, I can see the boy he must have been — raising hell and having a great time.
It’s times like now that I miss him most. I miss his wit and his charm but I think I miss his laugh most of all.