'Bangers, five for fifty. Get your bangers, sparklers and stinkbombs. Five for fifty, the bangers, love!'
A crowd of oul' toothless women hawking in harmony. Selling contraband fireworks from deep inside their knickers for Bonfire Night.
The rain was bucketing down at this stage. Some chance of those bangers going off, love, I thought to myself. Damp squibs. It was torrential altogether. McKenna and myself were standing in the doorway of some art gallery not saying a word. Hands in the pockets, fingering a couple of rings, my rucksack on the ground. He only had a plastic VG bag. That was all he had to his name, no coat or nothing, no family, no friends. Soaked to the skin, shivering, sleeves of his jumper pulled down over his hands. There were about twenty others waiting for the last bus to Castlecock. Some of them looked vaguely familiar, to be avoided like the plague.
I had a few days off for Hallowe'en so I decided to go home. As a matter of fact, from now on I'll be going home every weekend because I fuckin' hate Dublin. It can be a very unfriendly place, so it can. A couple of weeks ago, I was coming out of a chip shop with a bag of chips and this fella comes along and karate kicks the chips out of my hand for absolutely no reason, and then he says to me 'Are you startin'?' and I says to him, 'No, I'm not startin'!' and off he went.
Francesca, my girlfriend, was on her way to her mother's below in Wicklow for a few days. Her mother wasn't at all well and depended on Francesca. Personally, I think she should have been in a home. However, the old lady ran a pub in this wee village there on her own ever since the father died. As far as I know he had been his own best customer for years but Francesca never talks about him. She just says 'oh him' and throws her eyes up to Heaven. The pub had been for sale this good while but unfortunately there were no takers. And I'm not surprised either because to be perfectly frank it's a kip. I was down there myself on New Year's Eve when the mother was away visiting her sister in England. I went down to help Francesca behind the bar. Balls came too and between us we drank the place dry. Jaysus, it was deadly crack. By the way, in case you're wondering about her name, Francesca has no Italian blood in her whatsoever or indeed no exotic connections although she does look sort of Oriental. Her surname is Kelly and she was called after a great horse in the sixties. I think that's one of the reasons why she won't talk about her father. She hasn't forgiven him for that. There's a faded photo of that horse crossing the finishing line at the Curragh hanging above the bar to this very day. And I'll tell you one thing, old man Kelly must have won a lot of money on 'Francesca', that's all I can say, enough to buy the pub anyway.
We've being going out with each other on and off for just over a year now but lately we haven't been getting on too well. In fact, we had a fierce argument during the week. She was annoying me so much, I could have killed her. I mean, don't get me wrong, I do love her, I do, even though she's tiny and uncooperative. She's very cute altogether. I have never seen facial skin as silky and pure as Francesca's, not even on a baby or a china doll or a bowl of Angel Delight touched up by a child's spoon. I could safely say that she'd have absolutely no need whatsoever for Nivea Cream or any of those top-class lotions. I'm not saying she's the best-looking girl in the whole world but she certainly has the smoothest, most unsullied face. No spots, no moles, no broken veins, no colour, no make-up, no warts, no hair, not so much as a trace of down, not a blemish apart from the tiny indentations on either side of her nose where her glasses rest. It is a lovely wee face framed by straight black hair parted in the middle a bit like Sabrina's from Charlie's Angels. But I've had enough of her. I can't explain it, it's just, I don't know.
Copyright © 2000 Ardal O'Hanlon
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