I was trying my best to ignore McKenna when a well-organised shower of tramps swooped down among us and started pestering us for money. The dirty bastards. Most of the bystanders escaped by back-backing into the gallery behind them. It was probably the first time in their lives they ever saw a painting, the fucking culchies. I stood my ground and stared straight ahead like a guard outside the courthouse during a terrorist trial. My father was in the guards before he died. So I know what I'm talking about. I applied, myself, for Templemore last year but they said I was too small, a quarter of an inch too small. Some friends of the oul' fella were going to see what they could do, apart from stretching me, but I haven't heard anything in a while. In the meantime, I left home and moved to Dublin, and last December I got a job as a security man in a jewellery shop. I've been there ever since. I'm plainclothes.
Anyway these winos were trying to wind me up with threats and abuse but they were only wasting their time. It was just as well for them that Geoghegan wasn't here or, God forbid, Shovels. They'd have put manners on them. McKenna of course the little cowardly cunt ended up giving them a pound.
Just then a pair of guards on the beat came into view. The tramps scampered, the street-traders pushing prams scampered, half of Dublin scampered as if they all had something to hide. And you can be sure most of them did too, the ignorant fuckin' Jackeen cunts. Every last one of them. They'd rob you blind, poke the eye out of your head, take the shirt off your back, blow their noses in it, and then probably rape you in a van. And they think they're fuckin' hilarious, 'how's your snowballs?' and that type of thing. I fuckin' scampered too, just in case, into the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery behind me. The staff in there, most of them as old and motionless as the exhibits themselves, in their wee green blazers, must have thought there was a sudden but short-lived upsurge in interest in portraits of poncey squires in breeches. I'd like to take this opportunity to assure them that there wasn't.
Bangers went off as darkness collapsed like dodgy scaffolding over the rush hour. Loud cracks everywhere, like pistol shots on TV. Thousands of people, heads down, hurrying on the wet footpath towards the bank holiday weekend, half anticipating a bomb. I wouldn't have been surprised if one of the sellers exploded like a Calamity Jane or whatever you call those rockets - Catherine wheels I think it is. I wouldn't care either, the oul' disease-ridden hags. There'd be a drop in crime levels on the morning of the funeral if her bastard offspring took time off to mourn.
Eventually O'Reilly turned up carrying a step-ladder but by then the next bus had arrived and I was on it and the bus was full. You weren't allowed to keep seats and O'Reilly was furious.
'Why didn't you keep me a seat, Scully, you cunt ya?' If there is one thing I hate it's people talking loudly on a bus. The whole bus craning for a gawk. The woman beside me was very embarrassed, very.
'Fuck off, wouldya?' I hissed, 'I was waiting for over three-quarters of an hour.'
'It's not my fault I'm late. I had to go back to the flat to pick up this. I was supposed to bring it home months ago.'
He had borrowed the step-ladder from his father a good while ago so as he could paint the flat, well our room anyway. It had been extremely drab and stained with damp and fungus and the evidence of a food fight. But what did the bastard do to make up for that? Only paint it black, I swear to God, ceiling and all. There was no window in the room so Balls sketched a window-frame in the same silver paint he'd recently done his bicycle with and filled in the four imaginary panes with yet more black paint. 'Sure we're only ever here at night,' he explained. We had no heat either. There was an old superser all right that had no gas tank within. The only heater in the whole house was hollow that is to say except for a few blankets that Balls had left inside it. And whenever anyone called around and said, 'I'm fuckin' freezin' hi!' Balls would open the back of the superser as if to turn it on and throw a smelly blanket at the visitor. He thought that was hilarious, he was an awful messer. One night when we were all shivering like mice, he painted orange flames on to a sheet of paper and placed it in the fireplace. And I know it's a stupid thing to say but we did actually feel a bit warmer.
Copyright © 2000 Ardal O'Hanlon
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