Fergal's memory is highly selective. He cannot recall with any certainty exactly why he spends each winter in Public Alley 438. But this does not prevent him from reciting, with unfailing accuracy, the sequence of villages on the long road to Baleybofey. Fergal is of Europe, yet not in Europe. Across on Boston Common, the early risers perform Tai Chi under a monument that recalls the abolition of slavery. In the Public Garden, the ducks peck forlornly at the ice on the pond. Two ducks, more adventurous than their cousins, venture onto Beacon Street, and the traffic slows to allow the birds to waddle across the road. Fergal makes a stumbling foray from Public Alley 438 to stand on a metal grate on Arlington. Wisps of steam rise from hot underground pipes into the icy air. A brown UPS van hoots loudly at Fergal, ushering the old man away from the grating onto the sidewalk.
The milestones in Fergal's journey to Public Alley 438 are curious. He is a man apart, one who doesn’t fit into the normal crowd of the Boston Irish who crowd into small houses in Southie — the bit of Boston that lies on the wrong side of the John Fitzgerald Expressway.