بخش 04

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بخش 04

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I was all jiggy and sparky again all I could think of was Over the Waves Over the Waves that was where it all began. Your man was still going Free Staters, he says, I’d give them two in the head apiece. There’s the place you want he says, stabbing at it with his stick, down at the far end there. Its a bit of a walk but sure you have your health it’ll not knock a flitter out of you. I nearly knocked him over the railings into the sea I was so excited. I walked up and down past the houses I don’t know how many times. I’d look in the window and then look away again. I went in behind a parked car and tried to scrape off some of the dried stew on my jacket. It wouldn’t come off so I had to go at it with a piece of broken lollystick. I thought to myself: That’s a good one because I think it was a lollystick me and Joe were hacking at the ice with that day. I think it was. I’m nearly sure it was. All you could see was brass pots and big plants big rubber plants and pictures of horses or yachts hanging in the shadows but it didn’t matter the houses were still in a sulk and they weren’t going to come out of it no matter what you did. Look at us, they said. You won’t get better houses than us and look not a sinner comes to stay. I’ll tell you what I’ll do houses I said. I’ll click my Time Lord fingers and then what? Streams of children running round the place shouting look at me look at me sliding down the banisters and everything! Click and away off with the chairoplanes in the carnival and the whirligigs of the carousel wrapping up the town like a present in bright musical ribbons. Sea! I’d cry, big foamy breakers roaring in to crash against the sea wall. Delighted shrieks all along the strand. Boats by the dozen way out on the horizon. Trips around the lighthouse roll up! Oh yes you did Punch. Oh no I didn’t. Oh yes you did Punch! Oh no I didn’t youse bunch of cheeky little bastards!

Bacon and eggs frying and the smells floating out through the open windows. Women with veins hobbling along this is the best holiday we ever had. Yes indeed thanks to Francie Brady – the Time Lord. That would be good magic. I rang the doorbell, I sprang at it for I knew if I didn’t I’d still be walking up and down when the summer really came round. No I’m sorry, its number twenty-seven not number seventeen. Oops sorry I said I don’t know what made me say it that like that oops sorry it was like Toots or Little Mo out of the Beano, I don’t know how many houses I called to after that ten or eleven or twelve or thirteen maybe but I shouldn’t have called to any for if I had looked right the first time I’d have seen it was there all along. There was a nameplate with an anchor and a painted sailor man, and just over the door Over the Waves Rooms Available. I nearly ran away but I didn’t I tidied myself up and coughed and scraped off the flysplats and the stew as best I could and then the door opens and there she was. I knew she’d look like that, a chain on her glasses and all.

There was no holding her once she got started oh she says its nothing now to what it used to be. In the old days I had twenty or thirty people at a time staying in this house and I says ah you probably wouldn’t remember them all then but no she says that’s where you’re wrong old and all as I am, I never forget a face. I have a great memory for faces there’s not one person stood in this house but I remember. Then she goes way back right to the very beginning of the old days. But the best year we ever had she says was the Eucharistic Congress, glory be I didn’t think there was that amount of people to be found in the country, the crowds that used to land on that railway platform. Then of course after the war we had a lot over from England. And do you know what it is, not one of them would ever give you a bit of bother, paid their bills on time, never any fuss. Its not everyone’s like that, I can tell you!

Are you all right for tea there, she says. I said: I am indeed.

Ah you’ll have another drop she says. All right so I said.

I’ve had my share of important visitors too in my day, oh yes. Did you ever hear of Josef Locke? She pursed her lips and looked at me. I had never heard of him in my life but I stared over the rim of the cup and went: Josef Locke?

Yes!, she said. Three times he stayed here.

He sang for me and all she says, inside in the parlour. Oh what a wonderful evening that was. We had a schoolmaster used to come every year from Derry, Master McEniff, he played the piano. The melodies of Tom Moore. Do you know Tom Moore she says?

I knew Tom Moore that worked in the chickenhouse but I knew that wasn’t who she was talking about. But I could still say I knew him. I do, I says.

It was an evening I’ll treasure as long as I live she says.

Then she was away off again, some actor that used to stay and say poems and recitations. The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God, she says. Yes, I said, and The Cremation of Sam McGee!

I remembered that from the night of Alo’s party.

Correct! she says, all delighted and passing me the biscuits.

Yes, she says. I always had lots of guests from the entertainment world, always did.

I was sitting on the edge of the chair waiting for a chance to get the bit in about da singing for her. I forgot all about my tea waiting for it. Then she says to me what you want to see young man is my collection of photographs. I have photographs of nearly everyone that ever passed a night under this roof. I don’t know how many photographs she had, maybe a thousand. All these lads with faded brown faces and wide trousers. Sitting beside haystacks with girls. Shading their eyes staring off out to sea. Picnics too. I kept going through them and through them but I still couldn’t find any of ma and da.

Oh that’s such and such she’d say he stayed here for a whole month. He was a judge from Dublin, she was a relative of such and such, all this. But still no da. When we had gone through them all she shuffles them and looks up: Now what did you say your father’s name was again?

Brady I said.

Brady then she says again, there was a Lucius Brady he was a musician he played the piano and a very good singer he was too as I recall what was the name of the song you said your dad sang again?

I dreamt that I dwelt in Marble Halls, I says.

Hmm, she says, of course I know the song but I can’t say it rings a bell. He sang it, I said, he told me. You left the key under the mat for them! Mm? she says all surprised then. Oh no I’d never do that! I’d never do that! I don’t know how many times she said that.

No matter she says then, wait till we see. She went through a few more Bradys, I had to keep saying all the time: No, that’s not him.

What did you say his full name was again?, she says. Bernard Brady I said and she said it after me a few times shaking her head and it was only after I said Benny that her jaw dropped and she looked at me all different. From where did you say, she says, and when I told her she starts gathering up the photographs and humming and hawing. I says: He never stopped talking about the days here and the beautiful things and all that but all of a sudden she didn’t want to talk about it any more she says I’d be as well gather up all these bits and pieces God knows I don’t know where to start with this work. I said but what about da and that, you said.

But then she says oh I don’t know, my memory’s not what it used to be. She tried to make a laugh out of it. Old age is catching up on me she says ha ha. She was putting all the photographs back into the boxes and the album now and I said why will you not tell me, you said you’d tell me. She just shook her head. Please tell me I said I have to hear it I have to hear it no she said let me go. All I wanted to hear was something about them lying there listening to the sea outside the window but it didn’t matter I didn’t hear it anyway. When I said to her go on tell me you said you would she said: Get your hands off me do you hear me! What can I tell you about a man who behaved the way he did in front of his wife. No better than a pig, the way he disgraced himself here. Any man who’d insult a priest the way he did. Poor Father McGivney who wouldn’t hurt a fly coming here for over twenty years! God knows he works hard enough in the orphanage in Belfast without having to endure abuse the like of what that man gave him! God help the poor woman, she mustn’t have seen him sober a day in their whole honeymoon!

Then what did she do she said I’m sorry but I was in the hall when she said it it didn’t matter now anyway I just closed the front door softly with a click. I went on ahead up the street who did I meet then only the manager. Oh he says did you find the place you were looking for. I did indeed I says and I gave him the thumbs up have a good stay in Bundoran he says I will indeed I called after him the wind was blowing I went into a shop and bought some fags I went down to the beach and smoked a few the sea was dirty and grey like a dishcloth there was a few boats I think there was three I smoked another fag some of the fags I just smoked half of them the others I smoked them all. I counted how many I had left in the packet. One two three I had three left. I went up the town there was a few people about they were going about their business there was a woman shopping and a council man in waders over a manhole and convent girls outside a cafe I bought a comb my hair was getting all tangled up. But the thing was that beside the shop where I bought the comb there was another shop I must have missed it on the way down it was a music shop. There was a dog hanging over the door, staring into a trumpet, trying to find his master’s voice. I’m in here get me out Fido says the master. How says Fido. How do I know says the master just do it will you my best little pet dog? In the window anything you wanted. To do with music that is. A silver saxophone you could have that. Trumpets. Stacks of records and a redcheeked woman with her hair flowing and a half-knitted scarf of notes curving out of her mouth. She wanted everyone to sing along. I would. I’d sing along. I went in and who’s behind the counter only the music man humming to himself and writing out notes on a music manuscript like da used to before he stayed out in the Tower all the time. The music man looked like a telegraph operator click click message for the marshal in Abilene and all this, with a big gold watch strung across his waistcoat. I said to him: I know something about you.

Oh he says and what might that be?

You know every tune in the world I says. I’ll bet you know every one.

Not them all he says with a smile but a fair few, I’d say I know a fair few. I walked around. Gramophones, how many, twenty maybe. All kinds. Big trumpets, little trumpets. Any kind you want. Then what did I hear only this gurgling and when I look over what’s that old music man doing only pouring himself tea. Want some? he says. A spot of tea, he says. He had some good sayings that music man. His sayings made me so happy I wanted to cry. But then what! Out of nowhere comes these cakes, would you believe it butterfly buns! fu k me, I says, how did you know? He just smiled and said there you are and the tea looping and gurgling into the cups say when he says. I still don’t know how he knew but it didn’t matter I was away off filling him in on ma and da and the potatoes and salt and the song and saying the rosary on the rocks and everything. So he played the trumpet he says, your father. Yes I says and I told him some of the tunes. Well if he could handle that solo he says about one of the songs he certainly knew how to play a trumpet! He sure did I says licking the cream off my fingers. Outside the town had turned into glass the colour of dawnlight. There were tinkling mobiles in the shape of music notes hanging from the ceiling tinkle tinkle pling was all you could hear. Stacks of records, one by one I went through them but you had to be careful they could fall to pieces in your hands. Watch it Francie! I said and laughed: Don’t worry, I will!

John McCormack I knew him. Da conducted in the air when he came on, cut big swathes of air with his index fingers. I laughed again. Then I saw it and when I did I nearly fainted, I don’t know why I’d seen it plenty of times before. My legs went into legs of sawdust. Trot trot goes the sadeyed ass pulling the cart and away off into the misty green mountains and the blue clouds of far away. And right over the picture there in big black letters EMERALD GEMS OF IRELAND. I flicked through the pages over and over reading all the names and when I went to pay the music man I dropped the coins all over the place then I went into the whole story about Philip and Joe and everything it was like a cavalry charge of words coming out of my mouth I didn’t know where they were all coming from. You’d think you were finished then over the hill would come a whole pile more yee haa wait till you hear this bit too. And all the way through he listened to everything I was saying and you could tell by his eyes that he wasn’t really thinking I wish this Francie Brady would shut up about Joe Purcell or anything like that I knew he really wanted to hear it. For then he says the best thing of all. But of course there’s a far better book than that available now. There it is behind you. A much better book. It was called A TREASURY OF IRISH MELODIES. There was no ass and cart on the front of it just an old woman in a shawl standing at a half-door staring at the sun going down behind the mountains. So this is better than the other book, I says. Oh yes says the music man, much better. I want to buy it! I says, all excited and what did I do only drop more coins all over the floor. The music man thought that was a good laugh. He had no intention of selling it to me. He was giving it to me. Its not every day I meet someone whose father could play the trumpet like yours, he says. Isn’t it enough that you like the songs? Then he went away off humming a new tune to himself and parcelled it up for me. I just stared at the music man when he was handing it to me. Just wait till Joe sees this! I said. But he didn’t get excited. If they started hammering on the window shouting the aliens are eating all the children in the town what would he do? He’d say: Right so. I’ll be with you in a minute. I’ll just lock up the shop first. He was the best man I ever met that old music man I kept looking at the book over and over and trying to see Joe’s face as I handed it to him I wasn’t sure which road to take for the school I went the wrong way a few times what do you think of this book I said to them its good they said yes I said, its for Joe Purcell, Emerald Gems is nothing compared to this one.

The black road twisted in and out of the curly countryside like a ribbon at the end of it was Joe’s school and what was he going to say then: For fu k’s sake Francie, you’ve done it again! Hey Joe! I’d shout. Saddle up! We’re riding out! Yee-haa!

I was getting as bad as ma. Whiz this way then whiz the other way. I’ll do this no I’ll do that. The whiz again. I know – I’ll think some more about Joe and the old days. But then, more laughing. Big whorly clouds made of ink powder riding the sky and the music book stuck in my back pocket. Then the school rising up out of the fields with all its yellow windows gleaming – another house of a hundred windows. But this time it was different, behind one of them windows was Joe and when I thought that I leaped so high I could have headed the moon like a football. Francie Brady plays for the town he’s forty yards out he’s thirty yards out twenty ten yards out its a long ball and the goalie’s missed it and yes Francie Brady has scored a goal for the town Francie has scored a goal the moon is at the back of the net!

I had been tramping for over an hour before I seen it and then soon as I turn the corner what happens. Out go the lights. Phut!, every last one. Hey – what the hell do you think you’re at up there, turning off them lights? Leave them on! How am I supposed to find Joe Purcell! Hey! Did you not hear me!

Then all of a sudden I thought: This is something to do with Mrs Nugent. She’s heard about me going to see Joe and she has some plan up her sleeve. She’s told the priests to switch off all the lights so they can lie in wait for me and when I’m finished running round the place like an eejit looking for him, she’ll appear out of the shadows standing there with them, smiling: So you couldn’t find him could you not? That’s a pity Francis isn’t it and then I knew that would be the end I’d never find him then. But then I started breaking my arse laughing it was such a stupid idea. Oh no, I said, this is one thing that Mrs Nugent isn’t going to spoil!

I’d thought some things but that was the daftest yet.

I went round the back and nearly walked into a big bin full of brock you’d think with me being King of The Brock I’d have been able to see that! I was in behind the kitchens. Grr says a dog.

fu k up I said but I managed to get past him all right. I could hear the toilets hissing. Hiss hiss, we can see you Francie. I kept checking the book to see that I still had it in my back pocket. Where did I end up only in a room full of football boots and the smell of sweaty oxters. Curse of fu k on this and I had to start again. Dant-a-dan! Along the wall. Don’t move! Six soldiers out of nowhere cocking rifles, up against the wall so we have you at last Mr Brady! No, none of that, only snoring priests and bogmen but where were they? Not in here nothing only an empty bed and a cupboard full of medicine bottles. I think I’ll have a look at these I said and shovelled a few coloured pills into my hand out of a little brown bottle. Gulp down the hatch they went. I wonder what they were. I don’t know. Whee, I thought I heard someone shouting from the other end of the corridor you take a left then the next right Francie and you’ll find him no problem. I turned round to thank him whoever it was but there was no one there. Then the pill said: Oh that was just me Francie. Pill, I said, you bastard! Now now Francie said the pill for that I’ll just have to turn your feet to sponge. Squish squeesh along the tiles. What’s this the biggest bell in the world sitting under the stairs. I said: Mrs Nugent if you’re in behind that bell you had better come out. I know you’re in there Mrs Nugent you can’t fool me.

Then I started laughing I couldn’t stop myself. It wasn’t an ordinary laugh either it was a bogman laugh the way they laugh at nothing with snots coming out of their noses still laughing long after the joke is over. I says I know what I’ll do I’ll give this bell a whack and see what happens. I’d say it’d make enough noise to waken every boarding school bogman in the world even the ones who are completely deaf. Ready steady – fu k off! If I did that they’d be down on me like a ton of bricks and maybe give Joe the boot into the bargain. Oh no you don’t pill you’ll not make a cod of old Francie that easy. Pill, I said – have manners!

I was in a right state now with all this laughing I couldn’t stop. Hmm I says I wonder what tricks Joe gets up to in this place. Sliding down the knotted sheets out of the dormitory and away off to midnight feasts in the boatshed I’ll be bound! I say Purcell you bounder! You are a perfect cad! For fu k’s sake! I wonder is there any secret passageways I said. Fall against the knob of a banister next thing aaaaaaaaaaah! and away off down a black corridor full of cobwebs and the skeletons of dead bogmen boys.

Up the stairs I went what’s this, a wooden door creak creak Our Lord Jesus appearing out of nowhere in the dark, hanging on the cross – hello yes what can I do for you? I’m looking for Joe Purcell Jesus. Straight on up to the top of the stairs. Right so Jesus thank you.

What’s all this I said, a hundred sleeping bogmen! But not for long. Wait till they seen me and Joe in action!

Da-dan!

Flick – on goes the light blazes away and them all gone chinky-eyed and pulling the clothes round them: What’s goin’ on who’s puttin’ on the lights? I nearly said: why its me – Algernon Carruthers of course!

When I thought that I doubled up again and all I could see was them staring at me. They were all saying to the perfect who is he you do something about it its your job and all this but he wasn’t going to do anything he had the blankets pulled up the same as the rest of them.

I thumped my thigh with the rolled up music book: Joe! Where are you Joe Boy? I’m here! saddle up! We’re ridin’ out!

I shouted it for all I was worth and then I shouted it again in case he didn’t hear me. As soon as I said that all the things I had ever worried about floated away like silk scarves in the breeze and I knew all I had to do now was wait for Joe and we were off and this time we’d be gone for good. It made me feel so good I shouted again: Joe. Yamma yamma yamma! Yamma yamma yamma!

Then I said: Yee haa! Take ‘em to Missouri men!

We’ll ride out to the mountains Joe and there we can track for days. We can listen to the coyotes in the night. The coyotes baying at the moon because it makes them feel good they howl out anything they ever worried about. Then I did it. A-woo! A-woo! I closed my eyes and cried out across the prairie.

Then I looked up and who’s coming the priest. It was Father Fox not because his real name was Fox but because he had a long snout and a hmm I wonder how could I trick this fellow face? Hello Father Fox I said, I’m looking for Joe Purcell. You’re what! he says and I could see that Father Fox he wasn’t such a nice old fox at all his face went all dark and his eyes didn’t say I wonder how could I trick this fellow any more they said one more word out of you my friend and I’ll take this collar off and I’ll floor you by Christ I will and don’t think for one second that I wouldn’t. Father Fox I’m surprised at you! Don’t say such things!

That’s what Algernon Carruthers would have said. But I didn’t say it.

I just said I’m looking for Joe can you help me please?

What did Fox say half to himself and half to the bogmen I can not believe it I just can not believe it! He shook his head and when the bogmen seen him doing that they did it too. I could hear doors banging and all this commotion and running on the stairs. Then two more priests came in and who had they with them only Joe Purcell.

Joe! I shouted. fu k!

I knew I shouldn’t have shouted that, but I did. Fox made a wind at me but I ducked. He tried again but that was no use either I sidestepped it he was only making a cod of himself. All I had to do now was walk right over to Joe and that’s what I would have done only for what happened then who was standing right behind him only Philip Nugent. He was taller now a bit tougher looking but it was him all right with the hair hanging down in his eyes. He was staring at me in a way he never did before straight at me. As soon as I seen him everything started to go wrong because he wasn’t supposed to be there. All the things I was going to say I couldn’t remember what they were now then the priest brought Joe over and the way he looked at me my stomach turned over it wasn’t Joe. Philip was still standing over by the door with his arms folded. I knew when it was all over what he would be telling them. That I had wanted to be one of them and had turned my back on my own mother. He’d laugh then and say: Imagine him thinking he could be one of us!

Joe said to me: What do you want?

No he didn’t. He said: What do you want?

It was no use me trying to say I wanted us to ride out Joe I wanted us to talk about the old days and what we’d do if we won a hundred million trillion dollars maybe go tracking in the mountains I don’t know Joe, it was no use me saying that for I knew it wouldn’t come out right so I said nothing I just stood there looking at him.

He asked me again: What do you want me for? Are you deaf or something?

Then he said: Do you hear me. What do you want me for?

I never thought Joe would ask that I never thought he would have to ask that but he did didn’t he and when I heard him say it that was when I started to feel myself draining away and I couldn’t stop it the more I tried the worse it got I could have floated to the ceiling like a fag paper please Joe come with me that was all I wanted to say dumb people have holes in the pit of their stomachs and that’s the way I was now the dumbest person in the whole world who had no words left for anything at all. All I had now was one thing and that was the music book. It had got all twisted up with sweat marks all over it I says don’t worry Francie its going to be all right I smoothed it out a bit and handed it to him some way or other I dropped it and the next thing the priest came in between us and says: Look this has gone far enough! Is this fellow a friend of yours or is he not Purcell?

I looked at Joe please Joe I was saying but he wasn’t looking at me he was just saying I’m tired I want to get back to my bed its three in the morning.

Then Joe just shook his head and said: No.

Then he left he said something to Philip on the way out and Philip smiled. I stayed there for a minute I was still twisting the book then the priest said I think its time you were leaving Mr Brady. I said yes, yes Father and they brought me to the gate they said I was lucky they didn’t call the police I said yes it was then I went off into the dark I had left the bike somewhere but I didn’t know where. It didn’t matter anyway I just walked I felt like walking that wasn’t Joe I said I don’t know who that was but it wasn’t Joe, Joe is gone they took him away from me and all I could see was a pair of thin lips saying that’s right we did and there’s nothing you can do that will ever bring him back again isn’t that true Francis Pig you little piggy baby pig and I says yes Mrs Nugent it is.

When I got to the town they were all running round saying the world is going to end. The first thing I seen was Mickey Traynor wheeling a statue of Our Lady up the street in a barrow did you not hear he says the world is going to end it was on the news last night its all over he says oh I know says I I know that all right you don’t have to tell me that!

What do we care he says let them do their worst we have the Blessed Virgin Mary to protect us she spoke to my daughter she says she’s going to come with a sign. For the love of God go along and listen to her young Brady in these times every man must look after his immortal soul!

He got a grip of me by the shoulder and says: Will you do that for me Francie I knew your father.

I know you did I says he was supposed to go up to you about the television but he didn’t that’s why I had to go and watch the octopus in Nugents. Right says Mickey I’d better be making tracks good luck now and off he went with the barrow.

I shouted after him: I don’t suppose you’d be able to fix it now Mickey would you?

He didn’t look round I knew he wouldn’t be able to anyway it was too far gone after the kick da gave it. It was finished, that television. I should have thrown it on the dump by right for what was it doing in the coalhouse only taking up space. I went on up the street and who did I meet only the drunk lad. Come on into the Tower I says but he shook his head. I says what are you talking about and he says did you not hear about Traynor’s daughter? I says I did but what the fu k do I care about Traynor’s daughter come on in and I pulled out a fiver. No he says no I have to go on about my business the priest was down to see me he says I’ve to get into no more trouble. I’ve got into enough trouble through going about with you I have to go on up to see Father Dominic he says he might have a job for me. Excuse me he says pushing past me and away he goes with the raggy coat flapping behind him. Go on you humpy bastard! I shouted after him, you were glad enough of it when it was going!

I went in and bought a packet of fags and something to clean my jacket all they had was shampoo that’ll do I says. When I came out I seen Mrs Connolly going past on the far side of the street with a basin full of flowers. I waved to her but she got all red and stuck down her head and never let on she seen me. A loudspeaker whistled and screeched then a hymn started up. It was called Faith of Our Fathers. I listened for a while but it was only a fu k up of a hymn. I stood outside the home bakery and sang my own. It was about Matt Talbot, my old friend from the Father Tiddly days. This is more like it, I said, this is a real hymn!

I love my planks the best of all

In spite of cold and frost and rain

And I love my cat I give him kipper teas

But most of all I love my chains.

I sang a few more verses all about them saying to him: Do you want us to buy you a drink Matt? fu k off with yourself!

I had a good laugh at that, sitting on the wall and shouting at them going by: Matt Talbot for president!

Then I sang more. I pasted back my hair and sang into a lollystick.

Well its one for the money!

Two for the show!

I sang that one. Then I sang:

When you move in right up close to me

that’s when I get the shakes all over me!

I sang more. I shouted:

Francie Brady on Radio Luxembourg!

Then I got fed up singing fu k this I said, fu king singing. I went into the cafe its you he says what do you want I says sausages rashers beans chips eggs all that. I’m sorry we’re closing sorry but we got to close now. I bought a bag of Tayto crisps and went out to the hide. I tried to clean the jacket up with the shampoo but it was no use I used half the bottle all it did was make it worse then I fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning and went round to the slaughterhouse but it was too early I was waiting for near two hours before Leddy came how long are you here he says a good while Mr Leddy I said. Its near time you’d show your face around here or where in the hell were you! Oh I says I was off rambling. Rambling he says, you’d do well to ramble in your own time Brady I’ve a mind to kick you rambling down that road. Well says I you won’t have to worry for that’s the end of it it’ll be all over now shortly. He pulled on his apron and says they have a half ton of shite round at that hotel you were supposed to collect it and they have my heart scalded now get round there today and fu kingwell see about it. Right so Mr Leddy I said.

Then we started into the killing and we were working right through till dinnertime. Then he wiped his hands on his apron and says I’m away to my dinner take that cart round now. And make sure and tell them tell them you’ll collect on time next week. I will indeed Mr Leddy I says. When he was gone off down the town I took the captive bolt pistol down off the nail where it was hanging and got the butcher’s steel and the knife out of the drawer. There was a bucket of old slops and pig meal or something lying by the door so I just stuck them into that and went away off with the cart whistling. So Traynor’s daughter had been talking to Our Lady again, eh? They were all talk about her going to appear on the Diamond. I heard two old women on about it. We should be very proud says one of them its not every town the Mother Of God comes to visit. Indeed it is not says the other one I wonder missus will there be angels. I wouldn’t know about that now but sure what odds whether there is or not so long as she saves us from the end of the world what do we care? Now you said it missus now you said it. Everywhere you went: Not long now.

I went by Doctor Roche’s house it was all painted up with big blue cardboard letters spread out on the grass: AVE MARIA WELCOME TO OUR TOWN. I was wondering could I mix them up to make THIS IS DOCTOR ROCHE THE BASTARD’S HOUSE, but I counted them and there wasn’t enough letters and anyway they were the wrong ones.

Tell Leddy to collect this brock on time or its the last he’ll get from us says the kitchen man and stands there looking at me like I was stealing something off him. I will indeed I said and started shovelling it into the cart. I shovelled and whistled away and made sure there wasn’t a scrap left so there’d be no more complaining. Then off I went again on my travels. Everybody was all holy now, we’re all in this together people of the town, bogmen taking off their caps to women, looking into prams and everything. This is the holiest town in the world they should have put that up on a banner.

There was a nice altar on the Diamond. There was three angels flying over it just in front of the door of the Ulster Bank.

I never saw the town looking so well. It looked like the brightest, happiest town in the whole world.

I went round the back swinging my meal bucket. I could see the neighbour’s curtain twitching whistle whistle hello there Mr Neighbour its me Francie with my special delivery for Mrs Nugent. Then away she went from the window so I knocked on Mrs Nugent’s door and out she came wearing her blue housecoat. Hello Mrs Nugent I said is Mr Nugent in I have a message for him from Mr Leddy. She went all white and stood there just stuttering I’m sorry she said my husband isn’t here he’s gone to work oh I said that’s all right and with one quick shove I pushed her inside she fell back against something. I twisted the key in the lock behind me. She had a white mask of a face on her and her mouth a small o now you know what its like for dumb people who have holes in their stomachs Mrs Nugent. They try to cry out and they can’t they don’t know how. She stumbled trying to get to the phone or the door and when I smelt the scones and seen Philip’s picture I started to shake and kicked her I don’t know how many times. She groaned and said please I didn’t care if she groaned or said please or what she said. I caught her round the neck and I said: You did two bad things Mrs Nugent. You made me turn my back on my ma and you took Joe away from me. Why did you do that Mrs Nugent? She didn’t answer I didn’t want to hear any answer I smacked her against the wall a few times there was a smear of blood at the corner of her mouth and her hand was reaching out trying to touch me when I cocked the captive bolt. I lifted her off the floor with one hand and shot the bolt right into her head thlok was the sound it made, like a goldfish dropping into a bowl. If you ask anyone how you kill a pig they will tell you cut its throat across but you don’t you do it longways. Then she just lay there with her chin sticking up and I opened her then I stuck my hand in her stomach and wrote PIGS all over the walls of the upstairs room.

I made sure to cover her over good and proper with the brock there was plenty of it they wouldn’t be too pleased if they saw me with Mrs Nugent in the bottom of the cart then I lifted the shafts and off I went on my travels again there was more hymns and streams of people up and down Church Hill with prayerbooks. Who did I meet then only your man with the bicycle and the raincoat thrown over the handlebars. He was all friendly this time he was a happy man Our Lady was coming he said. I haven’t seen you this long time he says are you still collecting the tax? No I said that’s all finished I’m wheeling carts now. You never thought you’d see the day the Mother of God would be coming to this town, eh? he says and looked at me as much as to say it was me arranged the whole thing. No, I did not, I said, its a happy time for the town and no mistake. A happy happy time he says and reached in his pocket to take out his tobacco puff puff what will we talk about now nothing I said the best of luck now I’m away off round to the yard right he says no rest for the wicked that’s right I says no rest for anyone only Mrs Nugent in the bottom of this cart. But he didn’t hear me saying that.

I left down the cart for a minute and went in to buy some fags the women were there over by the sugar only without Mrs Connolly. I got the fags and I says to the women its a pity Mrs Connolly isn’t here I wanted to talk to her about what I said sure I was only codding! I said. What would I go and say the like of that to her for! Me and Mrs Connolly are old friends! Didn’t I get a prize off her for doing a dance! A lovely juicy apple! I lit up a fag and puffed it ha ha they said ah sure don’t be worrying your head Francie they said we all do things we regret don’t we ladies. Yes I said especially Mrs Nugent and laughed through the smoke. Then they said: What? But I said: Oh nothing.

One of them twisted the strap of her handbag round her little finger and said there was no use in people bearing grudges at a special time like this. Now you said it I said, you never spoke a truer word.

Well ladies, I said, I must be off about my business there’s no rest for the wicked indeed there is not Francie said the woman with three heads laughing away like in the old days. I had gone through that fag already and the shop was full of smoke I was puffing it all out that fast so what did I do only light another one. Francie Brady – I smoke one hundred cigarettes a day! Yes its true! Francie Brady says! No, it isn’t. Only when I’m wheeling Mrs Nooge around. I stuck a little finger in the air and pulled on the fag like something out of the pictures. I say ladies – good day, I said and that started them off into the laughing again. Master Algernon Carruthers and his Nugent cart. OK Nooge let’s ride I said, the Francie Brady Deadwood stage is pulling out. The drunk lad went by with another saint in a barrow and ducked down when he seen me.

Stop thief! Come back with that saint! I says and started into the laughing again. Stop that man! He’s going to sell that poor saint for drink! Whistling away on I went my old man’s a dustman he wears a dustman’s hat. I don’t know where all the songs came out of. Well its one for the money. I am a little baby pig I’ll have you all to know. Yes this is the Baby Pig Show broadcasting on Raydeeoh Lux-em-Bourg!

Hello my good man. Fine weather we’re having. What did you order? Two pounds of chump steak?

Or was it a half pound of Mrs Nugent?

Sorry folks, Mrs Nugent’s not for sale! She’s off on her travels with her old pal Francie Brady. I was passing by Mary’s sweetshop so in I went and got a quarter of sweets clove drops. I came in to say hello to my old friend Mary I said will you ever forget them old days Mary! Twenty years in Camden Town! What about that! What do you say we go inside and you can give us a song on the piano!

I lit another fag and went on talking away but Mary said nothing just scooped the sweets into the bag with a silver shovel and then twisted it the way she did spin twist and there it was a little knobbly bag of best clove drops yes indeed. Then she went and sat down by the window again looking out across the square. Look at that Mary! The same old clove drops! I said but she still didn’t say anything just smiled if you could call it a smile. I knew who she was thinking about. She was thinking about Alo that’s who she was thinking about. Don’t worry Mary I said, your troubles are over Mary – Francie Brady the Time Lord is here! But soon as I said it I felt stupid and I tried to think of something completely different to say but I could think of nothing so I just put the sweets in my pocket and went out the bell jingle jingle and the door closing behind me. Mary had the same face as ma used to have sitting staring into the ashes it was funny that face it slowly grew over the other one until one day you looked and the person you knew was gone. And instead there was a half-ghost sitting there who had only one thing to say: All the beautiful things of this world are lies. They count for nothing in the end.

Even if that was true I still went round the lane where the kids were this might be my last chance I said. Sure enough there they were setting toy tea-things on an orange box and clumping around in the enormous shoes. Can I play I said. How can you play if you’re big one of them said, clear off! There was a young lad sailing lollystick rafts out into the middle of a puddle. I said to him: What would you do if you won a hundred million billion trillion dollars?

Without thinking he looked at me and said: I’d buy a million Flash Bars. Well fu k me, I laughed, then off I went again and left him churning up the water with his stick and whistling some tune he was making up as he went along.

Where the hell were you says Leddy when I got back to the slaughterhouse yard. Oh, tricking about I says, well trick about in your own time he says I have to go on up to the shop, you take over here. Right, I said, that suits me, and I left down the barrow beside the Pit of Guts and asked Leddy where he’d put the lime. Clear off Grouse! I shouted and he tore off through the gate with a string of intestines. I got the shovel and slit open the bag of lime there was warm tears in my eyes because I could do nothing for Mary.

I’d say it was a good laugh when Mr Nugent Ready Rubbed came home that evening. Brr that’s a cold one yoo-hoo! I’m home what’s for tea dear? Dear oh dear that wife of mine she’s so busy she hears nothing. The smell of scones and the black and while tiles polished so you could see your face in them. O she’s probably just gone out to the shop for something never mind let’s see what’s on the telly. Here is The News. News. Mm, isn’t it quiet around here since Philip went to boarding school? Mm, isn’t it quiet around here since my Mrs went to heaven he’d soon be saying but he didn’t know that. I wonder what it will be – rashers and eggs maybe or one of her special steak and kidney pies! But poor old Mr Nugent he’d have a long wait before he got one of them again. Ah yes, it was sad. And that is the end of the news. Hmm. Tick tock. I wonder where she could be. I wonder where my wife could be? Hello next door neighbour did you see my wife? No, to tell you the God’s honest truth now I didn’t. Oh dear said Mr Nooge. Tick tick and walking round the kitchen the silence wasn’t so nice now over and over again just where is Mrs Nugent the invisible woman? Tick tock and I don’t care about Maltan Ready Rubbed, where is my wife! Look at that old Mr Nugent and his big red eyes! Maltan Ready Rubbed – Its The Best Boo Hoo Hoo! That wouldn’t look so good on the television. I wonder would she be upstairs? Do you think she might have gone upstairs and fallen asleep next door neighbour? Why yes she could have couldn’t she? Let’s go and investigate shall we? Good idea says Mr Nugent and off they go taking the stairs two at a time but then when they open the door what do they see all over the walls oh no Mr Nugent hardly able to stand and the next door neighbour don’t look don’t look!

Well she doesn’t seem to be in there anyway ha ha perhaps the police might know why don’t we ring up let me do it Mr Nugent. Sweaty fingerprints all over the telephone hello is that Sergeant Sausage I mean is that the police station?

I was whistling away when I looked up and seen Sausage and four or five bogmen police coming across the yard I never seen them before they weren’t from the town. One of them kept looking over the whole time sizing me up trying to catch my eye to tell me by Chrisht you’re for it now boy! but I just went on skinning and whistling. I don’t know what I was whistling I think it was the tune from Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea. Leddy was standing in the doorway wiping his hands with a rag then looking over at me with a chalky old face on him. I heard the sergeant saying: The neighbours seen him going in round the back of the house this morning.

Next thing what does Leddy do only lose the head. Before the sergeant could stop him he had a hold of me and gives me this push I fell back against the fridge door I hope to Christ they give you everything that’s coming to you! I should never have let you darken the door of the place only I let myself be talked into it on account of your poor mother! he says standing there shaking with his fists opening and closing. He tried to push me again but I managed to get a hold of his arm I looked right into his eyes and he knew what I was saying to him, Mr Leddy from the Cutting Up Pigs University you better watch who you’re pushing Bangkok you were never in Bangkok in your life and you better watch what you’re saying about my father plucking my mother or you’ll get the same Nugent got would you like that Pig Leddy – Leddy the Pig Man would you fu kingwell like that!

Then I burst out laughing in his face he was so shocked – looking I thought he was going to say O please Francie I’m sorry I didn’t mean to say all that it was a slip of the tongue.

What could I say? Such a daft place!

Mr Nugent was shivery and everything I knew he couldn’t bear to look at me. Where is she, said Sausage and the bullneck bogmen got a grip of me two on either side. They had me now all right I wasn’t fit to move a muscle. Oh I said, this must be the end of the world. I hope the Blessed Virgin comes along to save me!

Where is she? says Sausage again.

Maltan Ready Rubbed Flake, that’s the one!, I said to Mr Nugent and I got a thump in the ribs. Then they said right turn this place inside out and that’s what they did. They turned it upside down. Those bogmen cops. You could fry a rasher on their necks. How many rashers was that? Four. No – let’s make it two rashers and two eggs instead if you don’t mind!

I wonder is she in behind this half-a-cow? No, she doesn’t appear to be. What about under this septic tank? No, no sign of her. Then they got hysterical. They had to take Mr Nugent away. What have you done with her? I said who and they got worse. They gave me a beating and took me for a drive all round the town. What had they draped across the chickenhouse only THE TOWN WELCOMES OUR LADY. I said to them: She must be going to land on the chickenhouse roof and they stuck the car to the road with a screech of brakes by Christ I’ll tear that blasphemous tongue out of your head with my bare hands says Sausage. But he didn’t, then we were off again where to, the river. Is she out here? Who, I said again. After all that they took me back to the station and gave me the father and mother of a kicking. In the middle of it all what does one of the bullnecks say: Let me have a crack at him and I’ll knock seven different kinds of shite out of him!

That finished me off altogether. I started saying it the way he said it. Seven different kinds of shoite! For fu k’s sake!

The way they do it they put a bar of soap in a sock and I don’t know how many times they gave it to me it leaves no marks. But it still knocks seven different kinds of shite out!

Where is she said Sausage, shaking. Castlebar Sausages – they’re the best! I said. Hear them sizzle in the pan – Sergeant Sausage says!

Then they got fed up and said fu k him into the cell we’ll get it out of him in the morning. I could hear them playing cards. Foive o’trumps! and all this. That’s the besht keeerd you’ve played thish ayvnin’! I stuck my ear to the wall so as I wouldn’t miss any of it. I heard them saying: I wouldn’t turn my back on that treacherous fu ker not for a second!

They kept me in the cell the whole of the next day they were waiting for the detective to come down from Dublin. I could hear them all going by in the street come over here you bastard I shouts to the drunk lad through the bars you owe me two and six the fu ker away off then running like the clappers. Hello Mrs Connolly I shouted look where they have me now! Your man with the bicycle, I shouts over: This is what I get for not paying my pig toll tax! It serves me right!

Ha ha he says and nearly drove the bicycle into a wall. Who appears at the window of the cell then only Mickey Traynor and McCooey the miracle worker. I’m praying for you son, says McCooey. He had Maria Goretti propped up against a couple of haybales on the back of the cart he said she was going to bleed at the apparition. Then he says I hear there’s been bad trouble in the town this past few days. How are you my son, he says, I’m praying for your immortal soul, never fear. Through the bars I could see Goretti gawking up at the sky with her hands joined. Observe her beautiful eyes, McCooey’d say, Observe the beautiful saint’s eyes and then two red red rubies of blood would appear and roll down her white cheeks. Its sad Mr McCooey, I said. What, my son, he said, this vale of tears in which we are all but wanderers searching for home? No, I said, fat old bastards like you wasting all that tomato sauce. O Jesus Mary and Joseph says Mickey and reaches out in case he faints. You’re a bad and wicked and evil man and you broke your mother’s heart didn’t even go to the poor woman’s funeral! I said to him what the fu k would you know about it Traynor what do you know you couldn’t even fix the television could you well what are you talking about! Do you hear me Traynor? fu k you! fu k you and your daughter and The Blessed Virgin! I didn’t mean to say that Traynor made me say it the whole street heard me there they were all looking and crossing themselves oh Jesus Mary and Joseph then in came the bullnecks and the detective they gave me another kicking and says we’re going for a drive after and you’d better start opening your mouth Brady or by Christ you’ll get what’s coming to you. I fell into a sort of sleep then after that and I heard Mrs Connolly and them all saying the rosary for me outside in the square. I looked up and there was Buttsy and Devlin looking in between the bars. You better pray they hang you says Buttsy what we’re going to do to you we’ll string you up like the pig you are. He was all smart but then he starts screeching what have you done to my sister till Devlin had to take him away. I said good riddance and read the Beano I got one of the children to get me in Mary’s shop. General Jumbo he had some army, tiny little robot men he controlled using this wrist panel of buttons made for him by his friend Mr Professor. I used to think: I wouldn’t mind having one of them that controlled all the people in the town. I’d march them all out to the river and click!, stop right at the edge. Then just when they were saying: Phew that was a lucky one we nearly went in there, Hi-yah! I’d press the button – in you go youse bastards aiee! and the whole lot of them into the water.

The next time Sausage came in on his own turning the cap round on his lap looking at me with these sad eyes why does there have to be so many sad things in the world Francie I’m an old man I’m not able for this any more. When I seen them eyes, I said to myself, poor old Sausage its not fair. All right Sausage I said I’ll show you where she is thanks Francie he said, I knew you would. Its gone on long enough. There’s been enough unhappiness and misery. There has indeed sergeant I said.

The new detective was in the front of the car, Fabian of the Yard I called him after the fellow in the pictures, and I was hemmed in between two of the bullnecks in the back.

Sausage was all proud now that things had worked out and he hadn’t made a cod of himself in front of Fabian. It’ll be all over shortly now Francie he says you’re doing the right thing. I know Sergeant I said. When we turned into the lane he drove slowly to avoid the children what were they at now selling comics on a table it was a comic sale. They stood there looking after us I seen tassels pointing look Brendy its him!

We stopped at the chickenhouse and Fabian says you two men stay out here at the front just in case you can’t be too careful. Right they said and me and the sergeant and him and the other two went inside. The fan was humming away and it made me sad. The chicks were still scrabbling away who are all these coming with Francie?

We waded through the piles of woodchips as we went along and I said to them it isn’t far its just down here at the back. Fabian wasn’t sure of where he was going it was so dark and when he walked into the light hanging in front of his face it went swinging back and forth painting the big shadows on the walls and the ceilings. I think the chicks must have known what was going to happen for they started burbling and getting excited. I said fu k who put that there and made on to trip and fall down. Watch yourself says Sausage its very dark and when Fabian came over to help me up I had the chain in my hand it had been lying there under the pallets where it always was. I swung it once and Fabian cried out but that was all I needed I tore into the back room and bolted the door. I didn’t waste any time I threw the chain there and flung open the window and got out then ran like fu k.

I don’t know where all the policemen came from but they were combing the country for me high up and low down. I could see them moving out across the fields and shouting to each other: Any luck? and Have you searched the other side of the woods yet?

It was a good laugh listening to all this I could see everything from inside the hide and old Sausage would he have kicked kicked himself stupid if he knew that he was standing right beside me twice.

They brought more police in you could hear them poking about night noon and morning and the sniffer dogs wuff wuff on the bank of the river time was running out for the deadly Francie Brady! Oh no it wasn’t it was running out for fed-up Fabian and his men for all they had found was a dead cat in the ditch and you could hardly take that back to Scotland Yard. Well done Detective Fabian! You didn’t catch Brady but you did catch this – a maggot-ridden old moggy! Congratulations!

In the end they said he has to be in the river so out the frogmen police went and dragged it there was reporters and Buttsy and Devlin and half the town all waiting to see me coming up covered in weeds and dirt but all they got this time was an iron bedstead and half a mattress. They came back a few times after that poking bits of sticks in bushes and muttering to themselves ah fu k this he’s gone then they just slowly drifted away and then there was only me and the river hiss hiss. Hey fish! I said, youse are lucky youse didn’t tell youse bastards! then out I went onto the main road there wasn’t a sinner to be seen so off I went towards the town whistle whistle I was back in action. There was an old farmer humming away to himself and his bike lying up against the ditch. Tick tick tick and off I went and soon as I turned the corner wheee freewheeling away down the hill round the lane by the back of the houses in I went da-dan! I’m home! What’s this ma used to say? I’ve so much tidying to do I don’t know where to start. I rubbed my brow and stood there with my hands on my hips. I just don’t know! Such a smell there was in the place! Not only had Grouse Armstrong been in but every dirty mongrel in the town. Everywhere you looked there was dog poo! In the corners, smeared on the walls. I gathered up as much of it as I could and put it all in a big pile in the middle of the kitchen. Well, I said, at least that’s a start! Now – what about those mouldy old books! I lifted up one of them. What’s this? The Glory That was Greece! To Benny 1949.

I turned a few of the pages and it all broke up in bits in my hands. I threw them all on the pile one after the other. There was a heap of clothes lying in the corner. A handful of earwigs fell out of the pocket of da’s Al Capone coat. There was skirts and odd shoes and all sorts of things. I threw them all on. Then I went out to the scullery and got plates and knives and any other things that were lying around. I wiped my hands. Dear oh dear this is hard work I said. And I haven’t even touched the upstairs yet! I didn’t bother going through the drawers I just turned them upside down. There was letters and calendars and bills and stuff like that. Then I went upstairs and got the bedclothes and anything that was left in the wardrobes. What about us? said the pictures on the walls. Oops, I said, silly me! I nearly went and forgot all about you didn’t I?

There was one of da pressing the mouthpiece to his lips. On you go, I says. Then the Sacred Heart with his two fingers up and the thorny heart burning outside his chest. Do you remember all the prayers we used to say in the old days Francie? He says. Oh now Sacred Heart I says, will I ever forget them? May the curse of Christ light upon you this night you rotten cunting bitch – do you remember that one?

I do, He says, raising His eyes to heaven, then off he goes what about this I says John F. Kennedy the man himself. What about me says Pope John the twenty third do I have to be dumped to? I’m sorry Holy Father I have to or else I’ll get into trouble with the rest so on you go it’ll not be long now. I had a hard job carrying the telly over I wanted it on the top but I managed it. The guts was still hanging out of it, wires and bulbs all over the place. The records were still under the stairs but I only wanted one I threw the rest away. I plugged in the the gramophone it was working as good as ever then I carried it out to the scullery and put it near the sink. Right says I, now we’re in business.

I got the paraffin from the coalhouse and threw it round everywhere but mostly on the pile. Spin spin goes your head with the smell of it here we go I says and then what happens.

No matches! No fu king matches! Oh for fu k’s sake! I said.

When I got out into the street I couldn’t believe it what’s going on now I says. It was like the bit in Gone with the Wind where they burn the city. Fellows with halves of legs and some with none at all only a bit of a stump. Traynor’s daughter was bucking away on the Diamond between two nuns, with her mouth all suds. The drunk lad was directing traffic with a new tie on him. This way to the Mother of God, my friends! They were far too busy waiting for her to be bothered about me running round for matches. I went into the shop thank you very much Mary I says its goodbye now I’m afraid but she didn’t say anything she just sat there.

When I got back to the house I locked all the doors and then I lit a couple of matches. Soon as they fell on the heap up she went whumph!

I put on the record then I went in and lay down on the kitchen floor I closed my eyes and it was just like ma singing away like she used to.

In that fair city where I did dwell

A butcher boy I knew right well

He courted me my life away

But now with me he will not stay

I wish I wish I wish in vain

I wish I was a maid again

But a maid again I ne’er will be

Till cherries grow on an ivy tree.

He went upstairs and the door he broke

He found her hanging from a rope

He took a knife and he cut her down

And in her pocket these words he found

Oh make my grave large wide and deep

Put a marble stone at my head and feet

And in the middle a turtle dove

That the world may know I died for love.

I was crying because we were together now. Oh ma I said the whole house is burning up on us then a fist made of smoke hit me a smack in the mouth its over says ma its all over now.

That’s what you think! says the voice and when I look up who is it.

Oh for fu k’s sake! I said – Sausage!

Ah Francie what were you at for the love of God! he says, twisting the cap in his hands.

Fabian was behind him with the one eye closed giving me a dirty look lets see you try to escape now!

Every time I woke up there was a different bullneck standing by the bed.

I was in in a bad state, there was no doubt about it. I looked in the mirror.

What’s this? I says.

All you could see was bandages, it was like the Invisible Man. Aiee! I says. Come on now says the nurse come on! or I’ll have to send for the orderly.

After a while they gave me a set of crutches I was hobbling around on them when this bogman in a dressing gown says to me: What happened to you? Your face is all burn-ted!

I told him the whole story about the orphanage going up in the middle of the night and all the children getting out except one poor little boy. I couldn’t stand the screams I said we could all see him standing at the upstairs window help me help me!

So you went back in to get him? he says with the lip hanging.

I just shrugged no no tell me tell me he says so I told him about me and the little lad jumping from the top floor and all that. When I was finished he had tears in his eyes. He was so mad to give me a cigarette that he dropped a scatter of them on the floor. He could hardly steady his hand to light the fag for me. Puff puff through the bandages all you could see was the fag and the two eyes looking out. That bogman, he couldn’t get giving me enough fags. And what else? he’d say then with his mouth open.

Then one day in comes Fabian walking like John Wayne and I could see by the way he looked at me he meant business. OK you sonuvabitch move we’re ridin’ out right you be now Mr Fabian sorr!

SO OFF WENT ME AND SAUSAGE AND FABIAN OF THE YARD. I could see Sausage as white as a ghost in the front, in case I’d make a cod of him again but I wouldn’t for I knew that was what pokerarse Fabian wanted, to be able to show off and give out to Sausage. Leddy had the place all locked up but the manure heap was still warm from the morning kill. Here we are I said and Sausage says: Right, dig!, and hands me the graip. How can I dig sergeant with these hands and I lifted up my swaddled stumps.

He was nearly going to say: There’s nothing wrong with them hands you’re only making it up but then he saw Fabian staring at him with his well what are you waiting for you country bumpkin face on him so he spat on his hands and starts digging with the graip. I was sorry now I had gone near her with the lime I was afraid if she was gone they wouldn’t believe me and the whole thing would start all over again come on Francie and we know and all this. But there was no need to worry for after a while I knew by the sarge that he had hit something and sure enough when he pulled out the graip there stuck on the end of it was part of a leg and Mrs Nugent’s furry boot hanging. Fabian wasn’t so smart then. Oh Christ!, he says, bwoagh! and gets sick all over his foot.

Gammy Leg the court man thought he was all it limping up and down tell me this tell me that I’ll tell you fu k all I said. Oh! was all you could hear in the gallery what did I care I didn’t care let them say it. But after Sausage told me that if I ever said that again I’d be in real serious trouble all right then I said. So when he said did you do this did you do that I said yes I did. And I would have kept on saying it only he started on about the money. Comes right up to me there in the box: It was a cold-blooded, premeditated, and deliberate crime – one that had been cunningly planned and thought over, and above all, it was a murder perpetrated for the meanest and most contemptible of motives – for the purpose of robbery and plunder! I had a good mind to hit make a go at him soon as he said it but I could see Sausage glaring at me no don’t Francie so I just said what would you know about it Gammy Leg you don’t know what you’re talking about I never robbed a thing off the Nugents the only thing I ever took was Philip’s comics and I was going to give them back I swear you can ask Joe. Sausage showed me papers Brutal pig killing – sensation in court!

There was a drawing of me standing there and underneath Francis Brady is a pig.

fu k this I says even the papers are at it now but there was another bit I didn’t see; Francis Brady is a pig butcher in a local abattoir.

I said to Sausage: Will they hang me? I hope they hang me.

He looked at me and says: I’m sorry Francie but there’s no more hanging. No more hanging? I says. For fu k’s sake! What’s this country coming to!

But Sausage was right, there was no more hanging and a few weeks after that there we were all off again me and the sergeant in the back phut phut away off down the road to another house of a hundred windows. But this time there was no ho’ho h’hee they’ll put manners on you here or any of that stuff, we just talked about ma and da and the old times in the town and when we said goodbye on the steps he said to me there’s a lot of sad things in this world Francie and this is one of them.

Goodbye sergeant I said, right says Fabian and the bullnecks then they were gone off down the avenue in the patrol car and that was the last I seen of my old friend Sergeant Sausage.

They took my clothes the pair of fu kers nearly tore them off me come on come on they says. Then they gave me this white thing it tied at the back. What’s this I says Emergency Ward Ten?

One of them gives me a dig in the ribs and says you needn’t think you’ll get away with that kind of lip here its not old women you’re up against now Brady.

I know I says then I managed to get away from him: You don’t fool me! I shouted. You’re trying to trick me! You’re going to put me into a mental hospital!

He got a bit red under the eyes and I could see him clenching the fist. Then I laughed: Its all right I said, its only a joke, for fu k’s sake!

That was all a long time ago. Twenty or thirty or forty years ago, I don’t know. I was on my own for a long time I did nothing only read the Beano and look out at the grass. Then they said to me; There’s no sense in you being stuck up in that wing all on your own. I don’t think you’re going to take the humane killer to any of our patients are you?

Humane killer! I don’t think Mrs Nugent would be too pleased to hear you calling it that, doc, I said. Oh now now he says that’s all over you must forget all about that next week your solitary finishes how about that hmm? I felt like laughing in his face: How can your solitary finish? That’s the best laugh yet.

But I didn’t. I just said that’s great and the next week he introduced me to all these bogmen making baskets and fat teddybears. Is there anything you want, says the doc. Yes, I said, the Beano Annual and a trumpet. There you are he says the next day. So now I have a trumpet and if you could see me I look just like da going round the place in my Al Capone coat. Sometimes they have sing songs in the hall and they ask me for a song. Go on!, they say, you’re a powerful musicianor! You’re the boy can sing then off I go and before long they’re all at it, that’s the stuff! The Butcher Boy by cripes!

You’re all enjoying yourselves says the doctor yes I says, doing the bogman tango. Out with the backside, up with the nose.

One of them comes up to me one day I was hacking at the ice on the big puddle behind the kitchens and says what’s going on here or what do you be at with this ice? I’m thinking what I’m going to do with the million billion trillion dollars I’m going to win, I says. So you’re going to win a million billion trillion? he says. That’s right, I said. Then he leans into me and whispers: Well if you’ll take my advice you’ll tell none of the bastards in here. They’ll only fill you full of lies and let you down.

Oho! I says, don’t you worry nobody’s letting me down again!

Nor me either! he says, now you said it!

Then he said give me a bit of that stick there like a good man and the two of us started hacking away together beneath the orange sky. He told me what he was going to do when he won his money then I said it was time to go tracking in the mountains, so off we went, counting our footprints in the snow, him with his bony arse clicking and me with the tears streaming down my face.

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