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RORY DUFFY

 

 

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Rory Duffy

Rory Duffy lives in Athlone. He has had work published in several journals including Crannog, The Stony Thursday Book and Penduline Press. He was highly commended in Over the Edge in 2015. In 2016 Rory was 3rd in the PJ O'Connor Awards and was also short listed for the Frances MacManus Award. In 2017 Rory was nominated for a ZeBBie Award by the Irish Writers Guild for his radio play Paulo in the Underworld. Rory was also highly commended in the Seán Ó'Faoláin Award in 2017. Currently his favourite bird is the common swift (Apus Apus) but this may change.

 

 

 

 

One Last Chance at the Night

Highly Commended in the 2017 Séan Ó Faoláin Competition

 

 

 

Mackers had lost the sour look that had been on his face earlier. He was on pint number four. He was about to change and I couldn't wait. This was the time that I enjoyed Mackers’ company most. His burning wit and sarky commentary was like some sort of thick sauce drooling down the sides of the night, coating it in viscous, crimson craic.

            Tony on the other hand was somewhere else on the personality change scale. He had gone beyond his happy point and was somewhere between completely fucked and about to get aggressive.

            "Eddie fucking Jordan," he roared, his face the colour of a baboons arse.

            "Eddie Fuck Face Jordan!"

            "Every time I switch on that fucking TV, his little pointy beard is staring out at me like some sort of fucking advert for razors, never mind the wanky glasses and," he barked, staggering slightly.

            "I'll tell ye one thing boys, I've had enough of it. I've had enough of this shite that's everywhere these days!"

            With that he slammed his pint down onto the Formica topped table and loped towards the skinny old back door of the pub.

            Tony Farrell was not happy. Me and Mackers could tell that he was not happy. Even Maureen up at the far end of the bar could tell he wasn't happy and she hadn't been sober in three weeks. Now Tony was stomping around in his best shoes in front of the telly and letting us all know that he wasn't the full bunny.

            His wobbly frame trundled over to the back door; he grabbed the brass handle, stepped back and then just stopped. His bulbous bream lips opened and he took in a deep gulp of air, like a man going into a sunken hull to save an injured comrade. Then, without exhaling, he turned on his heels and skittled straight back towards the TV. His big white-pudding fingers wrapped themselves around his pint glass and he swung it up to his bearded lips. He tipped the remaining black liquid into the hole that lurked in among the wiry grey hair, before drawing the wrist of his other hand across his lips.

            "Now lads," he roared, "let's see what the fuck is on the other side, haugh?"

            Ten minutes later he had passed out on Sadie's black mini-skirted knees, the smell of puke wafting off him and making her grimace through the plum lipstick. At closing time myself and Mackers helped old Lynch fold him up and carry him outside. We shovelled him into the back of the old Volkswagen Beetle and watched as it thrummed a cloud of blue smoke off up the road to drop him and Sadie outside the gate of her Mother's little terraced house.

            On the way home Mackers stopped outside the bookies window and said he was thinking of leaving, of going to England, getting out of what he called, "this shitty, dull, arse of a town." He said it with his teeth clenched. I knew he meant it. I knew he'd do it too; he always did things that no one else would dream of doing. Like the time he jumped from the high part of the railway bridge into the rolling brown belly of the river, popping up, a long three seconds later, middle finger first. I knew I could never leave. Not with the way things were at home.

            "Before they close the whole fucking UK down to any foreigners," he barked.

            I said my two sisters were married over there so it couldn't be that bad, Nottingham or some place that sounded like it was in King Arthur or Robin Hood.

            "They're even going to stop us Paddys from going over," he said, lighting another fag, "Even us Paddys! And we built the fucking place!"

            His eyebrows pointed downwards in the pulsing orange glow of each long toke. Then, after a brief silence under the chill of the staring full moon, he blew out a big blue tube of smoke and started to move again.

            "The Grill," he said, jangling a pocket full of change.

            "Lead on Lord Paddy of Kilburn," I replied.

            We headed for the Golden Grill, for what Mackers called "soakage."

            "Oh Jaysus, I'd rather a portion of Fat Jimmy's curried cheese chips than a ride off yer one of the Mahons!" he grunted as we trundled along the humpy footpath.

            "Better than a five pounder out of the Dinny River on a green drake!" he belched, as we straggled through the drizzly orange street lamp glow.

            When we got to the chipper it was packed. There were big callous-handed country lads, wolfing at quarter pounders, sauce exploding onto their square chins. Small kittens of girls from the estates were picking at chips and giggling, their tiny frames swaying to a beat. Mackers just slid along the counter, past the Johnson twins in their matching miniskirts and up to the part where the till perched, it's fluorescent green numbers blinking at us. Mackers nodded at Big Jimmy and said "the usual." Jimmy wiped his sweaty forehead and mouthed, "No bother."

            The owner of the grill manned the metal money machine like some kind of over-weight Second World War tail gunner, his fingers teetering over the buttons ready to strike, to pull the trigger. He could see the enemy's eyes and was firing off numbers at them like tracer rounds into the night.  Seven thirty four, Ping, at Marty O'Meara and his stilettoed terrace-girleen, Chantelle Stephens. Five seventy six, clang, at Paddy Dooley, on his own again, Sheila gone off in a huff over something he let slip out as the alcohol slipped in.

             Mackers elbowed the little shelf to the back wall and slid his arse across the ripped leatherette surface of the stool. He gave himself a quick look in the mirrored wall. I slid in next to him.

            "Four forty! Take it or fuckin leave it," Jimmy barked from behind the counter as the small fella of the Cassidys with the funny eye grumbled over the price.

            "I don't give a shite whether you pay me for it or not. I'll give it the next fella," he added, his abrupt tone making yer man's funny eye seem worse.

            "Here Justyna, put that order back under the warmer, this fella thinks they're too expensive, and he after spending the last four hours peggin twenties in at Barney fuckin Moran below in The Dell. Next?

            Mackers leaned over towards the till and handed Cassidy a two euro coin the way Jimmy couldn't see him. Cassidy paid the ransom on his food, tucked the steaming brown paper bag under his arm, half smiled at Mackers then scuttled out on his spindly robins’ legs. We watched him scamper across the road. We could see him pass under the meat factory light before disappearing down the lane between Dennigan's and the empty two Euro shop.

            "Poor sick little bastard," Jimmy said as he saw us watching Cassidy going home.

            "Sure what other way would he be," Mackers coughed back at Jimmy, "what other way would he be."

            We got garlic chips and cheese and a can of coke each and sat up at the far end wall with the big mirror. I could see Mackers looking at the twins and then back at his scar in the mirror.

            "Jesus, what I wouldn't give," he said to his reflection, "what I wouldn't give." I didn't know if he meant to get off with one of the dinky kittens or to get rid of the scar.

            Twenty minutes later the place was empty and Jimmy told us to get the fuck out. He said it was time for God fearing people to get to bed.

            "Ye should try it sometime," he wheezed, as he emptied the coins into a worn grey money bag. We just laughed and slid out through the steamed-up glass door, Mackers drawing big boobs in the misty pallet.

            We crossed the bridge to the other side of town and the rain nearly stopped. As we moved out from the last working street light we saw the guards were cruising down from the terraces, the squad car slithering along Collins Terrace, past the broken-swing playground, the lights lamping and scoping the lanes.

            "Looking for some poor drunk bastard to give them an excuse to get back to the station," Mackers said. The car crept up to us and slowed.

            "Well lads. Did ye decide to get back over your own side for the night?" Gerry Dignam barked out the window of the car, the big Guardey voice bouncing around the doorways of Leinster street.

            "Home is where the heart is," Mackers shouted back at the car as it slithered past us and back across the bridge, "Home is where the heart is."

            Two minutes later and Mackers proceeded to fling the last of his tray of cheesy chips over Mrs. Hartigan's wall where it landed with a plop on top of her daughters new Mini Cooper like a giant, cheesy garlic bird shit.

            "Snooty stuck up bitch she is too," he bellowed into the night, wiggling his arse and dancing up the white line of the road, "Snooty stuck up bitch!"

            His words bounced around the back walls of the terrace before they dissolved up into the night sky, unseen, unheard, unconsumed. The white line pointed us home and we made our way up the hill past the grey lace curtains of Saint Teresa's Terrace and the sleeping mongrels of the Villas.

            After a slap on the back and an oh fuck, where's my key moment, Mackers let himself in the front door of his house and turned to salute me before stumbling off into the grey light of the hallway, forgetting to close the door. I waited a moment thinking he would come back and close it but he didn't so I trundled up the short path to the flaking door and grabbed the knob to close it. That was when I heard it. Then I knew for certain he'd go. I pulled the door gently and it closed with a slight click. I turned and headed for my bed as quick as I could, my chips curdling with the beer in my stomach, the alcohol vacating my veins, turning me dry and hollow.

 

            The following Monday and Tuesday I had to go up to my Uncle Matty's house to help him throw a load of turf into his dead-spider shed. I nearly died with the pain in my back after the days work and spent Wednesday in bed. Thursday I called for Mackers in the afternoon but there was no reply so I went into town and put a few Euros on a horse my uncle told me he heard a whisper about. Maureen was in the bookies, she was half cut, eating chocolate digestives and giving out about the guards. Big Angus put her out, saying she was disturbing the regulars. She told him she was a regular. He said she was a nut-job. Then she told him to fuck off back to Scotland and spat a brown milky blob onto the front window where it just hung onto the glass like some sort of dying octopus. She stood outside shouting so Angus just turned up the volume on the big TV. My horse came in second and I made fifty on the deal. I left by the back door the way I wouldn't see Maureen.

            There was no reply from Mackers phone on Thursday afternoon but I reckoned he had no charge so I went home and made dinner for my father. I made chops, fresh vegetables, gravy and a glass of orange juice. He said it was deadly altogether and was just like it used to be before. Then I just watched the Arsenal match before going to bed.

            On Friday afternoon I called into Mackers house and his father answered the door. He was a wiry man with two days beard growth and a food stained, over washed t-shirt on.

            "No, he's not here," he barked at me through a mask of blue smoke.

            "The fucker is gone to Liverpool since Monday. I have no address for him either."

            Then he pointed a leathery, cigaretted finger at me and said,

            "If he texts you, tell him I want the hundred he took from my pocket back or I'll go over there and take it back! The little bollox!" With that he slammed the door.

            Later that night, after I'd helped dad to bed, I was out the back of Lynches in the smoking area trying to lose the rest of my winnings. Several clusters of half dressed hen party cluckers were knotted up in under the orange hats of the patio heaters. They were watching yer man O'Reilly, and he blasting tunes out of a computer and a microphone. Tony was complaining to me about O'Reilly, saying that having a whole fuckin band inside in a little black box was cheating!

            "Sure he's doing drummers and base players an all out of work. It's a fuckin disgrace so it is!"

            It was a late bar on account of the bank holiday weekend and Tony had been drinking since finishing work. He still smelled of raw meat but the fags were doing a good job of covering it up. He was rocking around on the heels of his good shoes and slapping fellas on the back that he hadn't seen in years. Lads home from England or the States; fellas with permanent jobs and cars. Tony got me a pint and came and stood next to me, eying a plump Rhode Island Red.

            "Oh Jesus, would you look at the one with the fishnets on!" he blasted into my ear.

            "I'd say she's one of them ones from Athlone or Galway, ya know, real flyers!" I nodded.

            We bopped along to The Saw Doctors, AC/DC and the Scissor Sisters, one hand in a pocket the other wrapped around a glass. We drank and smoked and watched the night yawn at us from the noocky little corner under the back stairs, by the disabled toilet. Near closing time Tony changed. He started to cry. He just seemed to collapse emotionally for no apparent reason. It was like watching one of those tower blocks getting blown up in slow motion on the telly. We were talking about the gearbox on the mark one ford escort when his words just started to quiver and rattle. His eyes just began to fill up under the twinkly light of last winters unreachable Christmas decorations. I brought him into the quiet of the TV room where no one would see him. He told me that Sadie had dumped him. She told him she'd had enough and was going to move to Galway. She was even thinking of going to night classes, maybe even college. He had offered to go with her, to give up the meat factory job and go looking at something else. She said she didn't want him to follow her and if he did she'd get her brother, PJ, the bouncer in Dublin, to come down and adjust his face for him. I didn't know what to say so I just told him what Mackers used to say when a woman refused a dance or told him to go fuck himself.

            "Oh, let her off. Sure there's plenty more fish in the sea!"

            At closing time the hens dribbled out the back gate and clucked up onto Donovan's bus to go off to a club somewhere. Me and Tony smoked a cigarette under the ticking patio heaters while old Lynch picked the last broken glasses from the cooling tables. Tony found a burst inflatable penis and a pair of pink glittery oversized glasses on one of the tables. He slid the glasses over his bulbous jowls and hooked them around his squat ears. He looked at himself in the reflection of the old Paddy Power mirror behind the far end of the bar.

            "Here Duffy," he exclaimed, staggering slightly, "Look, I'm just like yer man, Eddie fuckin Jordan."

            "You're the spit of him," I said, "the fuckin spit."

            We screwed our cigarette butts into the concrete under gritty soles, zipped up our coats and headed for the Golden Grill, for chips, a coke and one last chance at the night.

 

©2017 Rory Duffy

 

 

Author Links

 

'Two Good Drills': story by Rory Duffy in Penduline

Listen to 'Paulo in the Underworld' by Rory Duffy

 

 

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