He had just reached the checkout when he began to fall, the contents of his shopping basket scattering over the shop floor. “Is there a doctor or nurse in the shop?“ said the quick thinking checkout girl over the intercom, before rushing to his aid. Almost immediately a group of shoppers had gathered around him as he lay on the floor, some offering suggestions, others just curious. “I’m a doctor, does anyone know who he is?“ said the tall gentleman as he pushed his way to the victim.

“Well, I know him to see“ said the checkout girl.

“Has anyone called an ambulance? “ the doctor asked, as he placed the man in the recovery position and began his examination.

“Yes “replied the checkout girl, “I called the emergency number.”

When he finished his examination he checked the man’s pocket for any sort of identification and to see if he was carrying any card that would indicate that he was prone to seizures. In his inside pocket he found an envelope.

“According to this, his name is John O Shaughnessy with an address on the Old town road. Anybody know him? ” he said, to no one in particular.

“Dear God” said Hugh O’Mahony, the owner of the store, who had just arrived on the scene “That’s Johnny O’Shaughnessy!”

“Has he family?” said the doctor.

“Well, yes and no” said Hugh “He has just one brother, Timmy.”

“Well you had better contact him now” said the doctor “this man is in a bad state, looks like he has had a stroke.”

Just then, both the ambulance and the local Garda arrived. As they were preparing to put the patient into the ambulance Hugh was glad to see that the Garda, even though he looked very young, had taken control of the situation.

“Has anyone contacted his family?” said the Garda as he finished taking a statement from the checkout girl, having introduced himself as Garda Michael Murphy.

“I was about to” said Hugh

“And who might you be?” said the Garda.

“I’m the owner of the shop “Hugh replied and this gentleman here is the doctor who just happened to be in the shop. Can I suggest that you finish taking statements in my office? It will give us a bit of privacy and the shoppers can do their shopping.”

When they had closed the door of his office the doctor introduced himself as Frank Desmond, who had retired from practice in Dublin and had recently moved in to his new house on the outskirts of the town.

“Well“said Hugh “to be honest with you, I’m not sure how to handle this.”

“What do you mean?“ said Garda Murphy.

“It’s a long and sad story” began Hugh ”Johnny and Timmy were the only children in the family and they were inseparable as they grew up - you never saw one without the other. But when their mother died, Johnny, being the eldest and the one who would inherit the farm, had to give school to help out the father.”

“But what about Timmy?” said Garda Murphy “surely he helped out!”

“Timmy never shirked his share of the work. However, he realised that he needed to look after his future and on completing his secondary school studies, he went to University in Dublin. Now Johnny had no problem with that, but when Timmy left, Claire Morgan, a local girl who had been friendly with both brothers for a number of years, also headed to university in Dublin. Up to then, during school holidays you would see Johnny, Timmy, Claire and her cousin Sally, from Dublin, going everywhere together.”

“Was there romance between them?” asked Frank Desmond.

“No, it didn’t appear that way to us” replied Hugh “they were just a group happy teenagers enjoying life together during their school holidays. Normally there would be anything up to nine or ten in the group but the core group would always be Johnny, Timmy, Claire and Sally. However, it later turned out that Johnny had a serious notion on Claire and assumed that the notion was mutual. However he never expressed his feelings to her and was waiting for ‘the right time’ to do so.”

“So, in the meantime “said Garda Murphy “Timmy and Claire both arrive in Dublin, both attending the university and they found romance? “

“Exactly, but neither of them told Johnny what was happening - they didn’t want to hurt his feelings. It wasn’t until about a year later, when their father passed away suddenly that the truth came out” explained Hugh. ”Timmy and Claire had arrived for the funeral and one of the neighbours, innocently,  asked Johnny what he was going to do now that Timmy and Claire were obviously going to get married. That was when the penny dropped and all hell broke loose. Johnny physically threw Timmy out the front door of the house and warned him never to set foot in the house ever again. That was over ten years ago and they have never spoken to each other since.“

“That’s a shame but typically Irish” said Frank.

“Then, about five years ago,” continued Hugh “ their only uncle, a bachelor, died and left his little hardware shop in the town to Timmy who returned from Dublin to run it and has since developed it into a fine shop. When that happened Johnny started attending church in the neighbouring village in order to avoid meeting Timmy.”

“Has anyone tried to get them back together?” asked the doctor.  “From time to time some well-meaning neighbours have tried, but, living by himself and constantly dwelling on the hurt and betrayal that he felt, nothing seemed to soften his resolve. As for Timmy and Claire, well both of them tried and tried to resolve the impasse and never gave up.”

“That’s a very sad state of affairs” said the Frank “but something has to be done now as this man will be out of action for some time. He may even be permanently paralysed for all I know. So who is going to look after the farm now?”

“I suppose I had better call down to see Timmy. It will then be up to him to come up with a plan” said Garda Murphy.

When Timmy saw the Garda entering his shop, he knew there was trouble afoot.

“Timmy O’Shaughnessy is it? - I’m Garda Michael Murphy. I’m the new Garda in town. Unfortunately I have a bit of bad news for you. Your brother Johnny has collapsed up in Mahoney’s shop in the last hour or so. He has been taken by ambulance to hospital.”

“Dear God” said Timmy,” when did it happen and how bad is he?”

“I can’t say” said Garda Murphy “but according to the doctor who attended him, it didn’t look good.”

“Thanks Garda” said Timmy “we haven’t spoken to each other for so long …”

“Yes” said the Garda “I heard all of that, But you are the next of kin and unfortunately someone has to do something - and do it now. A farm isn’t something that can wait. If we can help in any way don’t hesitate to call us.”

With that he was gone out the door leaving a very upset and worried Timmy to try and come to terms with the unexpected turn of events.

The first thing he did was to ring the hospital but they were unable to give very much information other than confirm that he was stable and had apparently had a stroke of some sort. They suggested he ring back in about two hours when they would have better information. He then rang Claire, who was visiting friends and broke the news to her.

Being the practical one that she was she said “The first thing you need to do Timmy is close the shop. Then I think you should go out to Johnny’s neighbour, Joe Maguire, and explain the situation to him. He will tell you what you should do. I should be home by the time you get back and we can make a plan then – OK?”

By the time Timmy got home, Claire had the dinner waiting for him on the table.

Over the dinner, Timmy related his conversation with Joe. Firstly, he suggested that they would need to have someone looking after the daily tasks, and rightly assumed that is not going to be them. He had however, a very reliable part- timer who helped him out from time to time and suggested that they hire him immediately and agreed to do organise that for them.  He also agreed to personally supervise him. He had ended by saying that that would take care of the easy part – looking after Johnny would be the hard part.

“Well it’s early days yet and we will just have to wait and see if he survives and if so, what condition he will be in “said Claire.

“Frank has agreed to be our contact with Johnny and the doctor in charge, Doctor Morris, has been made aware of the family circumstances” said Timmy, “now we can only wait and pray.”

Three weeks later Doctor Morris called Timmy and Claire to his office “The good news is that thanks to the swift action of the checkout girl in the shop, we got Johnny in time. He has almost fully recovered but he does have some paralysis on his left side and will need a lot of physio, which we will arrange for him to have as an outpatient. In the meantime he is free to go home but he will need someone to look after him for a good number of weeks. Can you arrange that?”

On the way home in the car Timmy and Claire tossed around all kinds of ideas as to how they would get someone to look after Johnny when he got home.

“Hold on a second” said Claire “I have an idea. Remember my cousin Sally who went nursing in England? Well she came home recently and, as far as I know, she is currently out of work. How about me giving her a call to see if she would be interested? Also, Johnny would probably remember her from the times she used to visit here. As a matter of fact, I always had the feeling that she fancied him but from what we know now, he was only interested in me!”

Two days later Frank brought Sally in to see Johnny. To everyone’s surprise, Johnny warmly welcomed her and well-remembered her from over ten years previously and was delighted to have her as his nurse.

Over the next number of weeks, Sally settled in to the routine of looking after the house and bringing Johnny to his physio appointments and ensuring that he did the daily exercises.

Most nights, after dinner, she would help him with the crosswords in the daily paper at which, despite not finishing school, he had become quite an expert. Other nights they would play a board game, both being very competitive, they would contest each game as if their lives depended on winning.

One night, having finished a game he surprised her by saying” Sally, you are here two months now and you have not once asked me where Timmy is or more important, why he is not here. I must assume you know what happened – what he did to me.”

“Yes I heard all about it but I didn’t want to bring the subject up. I wasn’t sure how you would react.” replied Sally “I am however surprised that you would even think that Timmy ‘stole you’re Claire!’  - She was never yours to steal Johnny,and anyway she would never have been cut out to be a farmer’s wife - you should have known that. Claire fell in love with Timmy and that was it.”

“So you think that what they did is alright?”

“Look Johnny, I know it must have been hard to take, but is it worth carrying that hurt and resentment for ten years? The only one it is really hurting is yourself. So why don’t you let it go and start living?”

Over the next few weeks Sally and Johnny had long and sometimes heated discussions, Sally never let him away with feeling sorry for himself. Eventually their relationship changed from nurse to that of good friends.

One evening Sally said “Why did you never marry, there must have been many a woman out there to tempt you?”

“There is an old saying – once bitten, twice shy –I gave my heart to Claire and look what happened.”

“So, like a coward, you gave up – is that it?” said Sally

“Well for that matter, how is it that you never married?”

“like you, I fell in love many years ago but he only had eyes for someone else and I got tired of waiting for him to notice me.”

Two nights later, as Sally was leaving to go home she noticed that Johnny was quite agitated. “Are you feeling alright Johnny?” she said.

“Well. I –that is I –was wondering if you – that is probably not –but I see there is a good film on in town and I was wondering if – but you probably have something else on. Anyway would you like to come with me?” he eventually spluttered like a love struck teenager.

“Of course I would love to -  I thought you would never ask!”

And that was the start of it.

Later that week Sally said “Johnny I am so happy we got back together but unless we can resolve your differences with Timmy and Claire, it will always be there between us.”

"Let me work on it" said Johnny " what I want to know is, who is the guy you fell in love with and are you still in love with him?. I will have to live with that.

"Well Johnny, I will have to be honest with you - yes - I am still in love with him and always will be because that guy is you - you idiot. Why do you think I spent every holiday I had , coming down here - just for the smell of the place?

It took three more weeks and many an argument before Johnny eventually agreed that he had wasted ten years by feeling sorry for himself.

The following week Claire got a phone call from Sally inviting Timmy and herself to join Johnny and herself for dinner in Johnny’s place!