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Excerpt from Knick Knack Paddy Whack by Ardal O'Hanlon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Knick Knack Paddy Whack

A Novel

by Ardal O'Hanlon

Knick Knack Paddy Whack by Ardal O'Hanlon X
Knick Knack Paddy Whack by Ardal O'Hanlon
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2000, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2001, 256 pages

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She'd been trying to start up a conversation ever since we left the city. Every time she caught my eye she'd smile shyly, a wee dumpy woman in a pink jumper she'd knitted herself, big daisies on the front. It looked like something she'd got off the wall of a children's classroom. A librarian I'd say. An intellectual of some sort anyway. She was reading a Maeve Binchy blockbuster. But unfortunately for me she wasn't buried in it. She'd read a few paragraphs and then look dreamily out of the window or sigh to herself. Before long she-put the book down and started to make those preliminary noises people make before deciding what they're going to say. Composing her thoughts.

'Would you like a sweet, Patrick?'

'No thanks!'

How the fuck did she know my name? I looked down to see if I was still wearing my name tag on my breast pocket but I wasn't. However I was going red, red as a beetroot, a cluster of needles under each armpit.

'How come you know my name?'

'I went to school with your sister Valerie. Deirdre Freeman's my name. Are you sure you won't have one?'

'I will so.' Anything to keep you quiet, I thought to myself. They weren't sweets either, Zubes, they were, cough sweets from a tin that'd make you choke.

'How come Francesca's not with you?' That took me by surprise. She knew all about me and Francesca, where I worked, the guards, Balls, the whole lot. She must have been studying for an exam on me: The Life and Times of Patrick Scully. That's just typical. People you've never met before know everything, well nearly everything. I worked it out in my head that one sweet would get her five minutes of chat and five minutes only but she was far too clever for that. Deirdre Freeman had a big bag of sweets, a sackful between her legs which contained every type of chocolate bar and can of soft drink and enough crisps to power a playground. The Zubes, I suppose, she'd explain to herself were some sort of medicine, not really sweets at all, an antidote to the sweets. Lozenges to reduce the guilt.

'They're for my nieces and nephews,' she said. 'For Hallowe'en,' she added unnecessarily.

It turned out she wasn't a librarian at all but was in the civil service. Worked in the dole office on Thomas Street. In fact she told me she'd seen Plunkett McKenna in there that morning making a claim, the sly pointy-eared little bollocks. If there is one thing I can't stand it's people ripping off the State. She lived about fifteen miles the far side of Castlecock, in Dooshatt, and was engaged to be married. That, I have to say, came as a bit of a surprise. I had put her down as shelf material without a doubt.

'Would you like a fag?'

Fuck sake. She must have known I didn't smoke.

'No thanks, Deirdrel'

'Do you mind if I smoke?'

'No.' I could hardly fuckin' breathe. After a while, she put the fag out and stopped talking too. Wonders will never cease. I thought, good, a bit of peace and quiet. But no, she starts to hum. It was driving me insane. The humming went on until she fell asleep just as we were coming into Slane. By then the chatter on the bus as a whole had quietened down to a murmur but visibility remained low due to the smoke. The Charlie Pride tape was obviously damaged because it sounded as if a monster was singing in slow motion. Nobody noticed the difference. It seemed to me that the majority of passengers were still smoking in their sleep. I looked around to see Balls fast asleep standing up with his head resting against the overhead rack, a fag dangling from his mouth too. It wouldn't have surprised me to find the driver sleeping too. I eventually fell asleep myself, only to wake up about five minutes later to find Deirdre's head in my lap dribbling on to my good trousers. I was mortified in case anybody thought she was my girlfriend. So I lifted her head up in my hands and pushed it against the window. With a bit of luck, her syrupy spittle would glue her to the window-pane.

Copyright © 2000 Ardal O'Hanlon

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