Yes, so this one has got me excited to write, to put it mildly. The Boys of Summer was going to be a one off, until I realised the potential of a trilogy. Basically, there have been three times in my life when I loved my life- when I was 11, when I was 15, and later on, when I moved to Wales, aged 23. And I realised that there was a book in each of them. I’m not sure what to call the trilogy, even though they all touch on similar themes. Possibly something to do with Murder and Romance. Anyway, here’s chapter one in full; much edited since the last time you saw it, and much finished too. I’m already deep into chapter two, so who knows how quickly this one is going to be done. It’s set in the mid 90s, in Limerick, around the scene of local bands and their British/American influence. I hope you love it.
One of the teachers in Ardscoil told us the journey of a thousand miles started with a single step. The journey to Termights on a Friday night in Limerick used to start with trying to get served in Fine Wines, then going down to Poorman’s with your bottle of Bucky. If you couldn’t get served in Fine Wines, you weren’t getting served nowhere else in town. Dunne’s Stores would be closed by then, and Roche’s too. And yer man who worked in the liquor part of Quinnsworth was only an auld bollix.
We didn’t have no trouble anyway. The lad behind the counter when we went in was probably only about nineteen or twenty. He knew we weren’t old enough, but he didn’t give a shit either. He was laughing and skitting with Harta when he slapped the three bottles on the counter. We’d all chipped in for fags too; twenty Benson, cos Ian wouldn’t smoke John Players.
‘Yee’re all eighteen, are ye lads?’ He said in a big, deep grown-up voice, but you could see by his face that he was only codding us. Ian thought he was being serious though, and he got pure shaky altogether.
‘What? I’m twenty, pal.’ He was trying to look pissed off and shocked. We’d seen him do it before, to bouncers. It didn’t work then either. Yer man behind the counter burst out laughing:
‘Paha! Will you go ‘way ou’that, you gowl, you. Twenty? Say eighteen next time, bud. I might believe you…’ Me and Harta nearly shit ourselves. We were home clear, and there was Ian trying to fucking snooker us. I could have given him a slap right there and then.
‘He doesn’t get out much, yeah? Ward Five only let ‘em go home for the weekend,’ says I to Mr Fine Wines, or whatever his name was. I put my arm around Ian’s shoulder to hunt him out the door. I’d been out of the house for ages now, and I’d still no drink in me.
‘Ah shur, God bless us and save us, he’s not the worst,’ said Harta, picking up the bag of booze and the fags.
‘He’s not, no. And shur look at him. Twenty, and a baby face like that. He must be drinking the Oil of Ulay, says ye.’ We all laughed at that, even Ian. Then we got the fuck out of there nice and quick, before yer man’s boss came back. They could always change their minds.
Down the road, I sparked up one of the fags from my old box that I’d bought in the morning, and offered the boys one between them, cos I’d only two left.
‘Nah, I’m grand. I’ll have a smoke off you, though,’ Harta said. Ian didn’t want one at all. He only had a fag when he was drinking.
‘D’you know what’s gonna be rapid, right? Nineteen ninety six…’ The bottles were clinking in the bag Harta had given to me outside the shop. I slowed down a bit, so’s they wouldn’t be pure obvious. You never knew when a Gard was gonna be around.
‘What’s happening in nineteen ninety six? You finally gonna get your hole, is it?’ Harta’d been riding since he was thirteen. That was what he said, anyhow.
‘No, no. Being eighteen, like. Not getting asked for ID no more.’ I was tall, but I couldn’t grow any stubble yet. I got asked all the time in the summer, when it was bright out going into the pub. When it was dark, they just let me through cos of the height of me. I was gonna be sixteen in three months; start of November.
‘We’ll still get asked, like. You’re not gonna look like a man just because you’re eighteen. That’s only two years’ time, Musgrave. You’ll look the same. You’ll still get asked.’ Ian was from the North Circular Road, the posh houses. I knew him from school; that was why he was calling me by my last name. I hated when people did that outside school. Inside school as well, to be honest.
‘Well, yeah, I know that, you gowl. I just mean I’ll have ID.’ The fag was good, probably cos I hadn’t had one in a few hours. I’d forget sometimes that I smoked.
‘I’ve ID now though.’ Ian shrugged. He was dressed pure muppety. Long sleeve black t-shirt with Nirvana on it; green combats, and red Converse All Stars. None of us had a jacket. Your jacket always got robbed in Termights, cos no one wanted to pay for the cloakroom.
‘Yeah, he means real ID, man. Not a fecking Railcard that says you’re twenty.’ Harta had a baby face too, but he’d long hair and he was a busker around town, so all the bouncers and the barmen knew him to salute. It was pure handy sometimes, for the rest of us.
There was no one down Poorman’s, but it was early anyway, only about half seven. Still bright, even if there was no sun up there. There’d be people along later, and we’d be going to Quin’s anyway.
‘Why’s it called Poorman’s Kilkee?’ Ian sat down on the grass, checking it for wet first.
‘You serious?’ Harta opened one of the bottles of Bucky. I didn’t know if we were all having one each, or if we were just going to pass it around.
‘What? Yeah. Why’s it called that? We’re not even near Kilkee…’ Ian shrugged at him, then looked at me.
‘Jesus Christ. Fucking posh people. Ye don’t know nothing about yeer history, do ye?’ I looked at Ian again. He wasn’t even messing. He really didn’t know.
‘Fucking upper classes. String ‘em all up, I say.’ Harta took a swig and passed it over to me.
‘Fuck off, will you. My dad’s only an accountant, for fuck’s sake. We’re not upper class.’ He looked pissed off, but it was funny anyway. I liked having Harta with me, cos we could gang up on the rich lads, for the sneer.
‘ONLY an accountant, eh? You know what my Da does, shur?’ says I, taking a slug off the Buckfast, and making a vinegar face. It was rotten, as usual.
‘Well, no. I just-’
‘- he makes hips. In a factory out the Dublin Road. Plastic hips, for auld biddies.’ He did as well. When they done a party for all the fellas who’d been there ten years, they gave them all a glass paperweight thing, with a hip inside in the glass. Mam put it on the mantelpiece in the front room.
‘Hips?’ Ian grabbed the bottle off me and wiped the top, like I had a disease or something. He probably washed his hands every time he had a piss, that youngfella.
‘Fucking hips, shur. Hips for the Queen Mother, and little black fellas in Africa who’s stepped on a landmine,’ said Harta, sparking up one of the fags from the new box. He took the first one out and didn’t do a lucky. I hated when people didn’t do a lucky. I could turn one of them upside down when he handed it over to me, but it wouldn’t be the first one, so there’d be no luck in that.
‘What does your dad do then?’ Ian was actually wearing a normal T-shirt, over another long sleeved one, now that I was looking at him properly. I could see the ‘Pearl Jam’ down the side of his arm, in red, kind of faded away from being in the wash.
‘My Da? I don’t know, pal. He walked out when I was three. Left my Ma to bring up four kids on her own. Wasn’t easy either, you know. Sometimes we didn’t have no dinner. Sometimes she had to… well, let’s just say that she didn’t always make her money in a nice way, Ian. So, you mightn’t be upper class, like. And your Da might ONLY be an accountant, and he might only drive a Beamer, and you might only live in some swanky fucking semi-detached up the North Circular, but you’re lucky. You know what I mean? You’re luckier than me, pal. Fucking appreciate it…’ He had the saddest look on his face that I’d ever seen on anyone’s face. The bottle was back with me, and I took a pure long gulp, feeling the rank in the back of my throat; like cough bottle mixed with piss.
‘Jesus, man. I’m… sorry. I didn’t know. I’m… I’m sorry.’ Ian’s face was trying to match Harta’s for sadness. I wanted a fag.
‘S’all right, pal. Was a long time ago. I’m over it. I even… some days I even think I forgive him. He’s still me Da, like. Blood is thicker than water, sham.’ He shrugged and took the bottle off me again. It was almost empty. I spotted a little smile in the corner of his mouth, and then it was gone. I’d had enough.
‘Will you go ‘way ou’that you fucking gowlawalla.’ I punched him full force in the arm, and he nearly fell over onto the grass.
‘What? Jaysus fucking Christ, Jonno.’ Harta was holding in the giggles, biting on his tongue to keep a straight face. Ian looked mystified altogether.
‘What the fuck?’
‘Him, the bollix. His Da didn’t go nowhere. He’s the manager of Costello’s out in Raheen. And this prick here hasn’t no brothers or sisters. You ever been round his house? Amiga 500, Atari ST, Super Nintendo, hi-fi stereo. Spoilt little bastard, he is.’ It was true. His mam and dad gave him everything, and he still called them cunts once they walked out of the room.
‘Aw fuck, Harta. You prick, you. I thought he was serious and everything, lads. I was mortified.’ Ian leaned over to get the Bensons, and I chucked them into his hand. Harta was laughing his bollocks off. He’d a big dirty grin on his puss, with the fag hanging out the side, so he looked like one of them auld fellas who did the gurning over in England.
‘Yeah, and anyway; Ian’s Da doesn’t drive a Beamer, either.’ I fiddled in the side pocket of my combats for a chewing gum, to get the taste of rank out of my mouth.
‘Exactly. It’s a Merc,’ Ian said, winking. He had the fag all awkward in his fingers, like he wasn’t used to it.
‘Upper class bastard,’ said Harta, taking the cork off the second bottle.
We were talking about music later, when Bríd and Ciara came along. Ciara was sort of a ride, sometimes. She’d a bit of a spotty face, but she was pretty as well. Massive chest on her too, and she wasn’t fat. Bríd was rapid looking from the neck down. Face was a bit funny looking, but you could get over that. Bit of liquor in you and you’d hardly notice. I just didn’t like her hair, it was too curly. They were both sound out though.
‘All right, men? What’s the craic?’ I looked over at Ciara when she spoke, and tried not to look at her chest. Or not to get caught doing it.
‘Morning, fuckers,’ said Bríd. She had a skirt on, and trousers under it. I didn’t understand girls at all sometimes.
‘All right, ladies? What you been up to, shur? Down the docks, selling your wares?’ Harta was draining the last of bottle number two. I was already pretty pissed, and most of it hadn’t hit me yet, in fairness.
‘Yep. Your Mam said to say hi,’ Bríd said, quick as anything.
‘Nice one,’ I said. Ian wasn’t saying anything. He looked a bit spaced out.
‘What ye drinking? Ooh, the fancy stuff, eh?’ Ciara slid in between me and Harta, putting her hand on my leg for a second, then taking it off. I got a bit of a funny feeling from it, but not quite the horn.
‘Only the best for us, Ceer. Hand distilled by the monks of Buckfast Abbey. 1996 too, a good year. No, wait. That’s next year, isn’t it? Wine from the future, lads. They’re spoiling us, they are. ’ Harta opened the third bottle and offered it straight to her, like the gent he was.
‘Do you distil wine then? Or do you brew it?’ Ian had snapped out of his daze, probably because Poorman’s was suddenly full of tits. He hadn’t been part of our slightly langered rant about the Stone Roses and Pink Floyd. He hadn’t missed much, in fairness.
‘You stamp on it. You stamp on the grapes, with your bare feet. And that’s the sell by date, you mong, Harta. No Future Wine for you.’ Bríd sat herself down on the other side, next to Ian. She and him lived near each other, Ciara lived up in Kileely, near me. She didn’t look like she did though. She was like me, or my pal Richie. She didn’t quite fit in. She was born in England too, which was worse.
‘Does Buckfast have grapes in it? I didn’t think their budget would stretch to it.’ Ciara gave the neck of the bottle a sniff, and crinkled up her nose.
‘Course it does. Grapes, water, sugar…’ Harta was pretending to read ingredients off the back, but there was no ingredients on the back of wine.
‘… speed, heroin, ecstasy…’ Bríd had done something weird to her hair. It was straighter than usual. It wasn’t bad looking at all.
‘I saw a fella punch a condom machine off a wall one night in Tropics, after drinking Bucky. It was fucking mental. I remember the bouncers coming in looking for him. They ended up kicking the door of the cubicle in, and they found him sitting on the toilet, just wearing his jocks, hugging the fucking thing like it was a teddy bear.’ I sparked up another fag. I’d only just put one out, but drink made me an animal for the cigarettes.
‘Janey Mack! And how do you know he was drinking Buckfast?’ Ciara had bloody gorgeous looking eyes, all the same. They were sort of purple, although when I told my Ma that, she said no one has purple eyes.
‘Oh, I dunno if he was. I just assumed.’ I shrugged, blowing the smoke out over my lips. Everyone cracked up. I didn’t think it had been that funny a story. Ciara turned to me.
‘Hmmmm. How are you anyway, gorgeous?’ Her hand was on my leg again; this time she left it longer.
‘I’m grand. How’s you? Still single?’ Me and her had shifted once or twice before, when we were both pissed. I’d never really thought about having her as a girlfriend. I didn’t think she’d want it anyway, no matter how flirty she was with me.
‘Me? When am I not? No one’s going to tie me down, Jon. Well, not unless I ask them nicely.’ She gave me a wink, and I started to think that maybe it was going to be another one of those nights between us. I wouldn’t have minded it at all.
‘What’s going on with the music anyway, Jon?’ Bríd had a naggin of Southern Comfort, about a quarter of it was gone already.
‘Ah, s’complicated, like.’ It wasn’t that complicated, I just didn’t want to get into a big story.
‘You doing Battle of the Bands?’ Ciara robbed a fag out of the box. She probably had her own, but a free one tasted better.
‘What, in the Glentworth?’ I’d heard something about that one when we’d played up in the Pike Inn. Yer man who ran the bar showed us the poster.
‘No, no. In the George.’ Bríd didn’t smoke at all. She’d awful asthma.
‘The George? Do they do gigs in the George now? Who’s playing this week, sham; 2 Unlimited?’ Harta was a gas man.
‘No, you handicap. Not up in Tropics. Downstairs.’ Ciara was well able for him.
‘Downstairs in the hotel bar?’ I grabbed the bottle back off him, before he drank the lot of it. He’d had most of the three bottles himself. No wonder he wanted us to share around. Bad form.
‘No, no. Downstairs downstairs. In the Glory Hole.’ Bríd rolled her eyes at him. I could see up her skirt from where I was sitting, but all I got to see was her trousers, in fairness.
‘Oh right, yeah. Jaysus, where’ll they fit the stage in there? I’ll hop the back of my forehead off the ceiling when I’m singing. And they’ll have to cut a hole in the roof for Niall.’ Our bass player was even taller than me. He used to play rugby for Garryowen until his broke his neck coming down from a line-out. He’d probably be out later, in Quin’s.
‘I dunno, but it looks good anyway. Better than the one in the Glentworth. Original bands only, like. No Fat Tuesday this time.’ We’d gone to see a Battle of the Bands a few months ago, to watch The DT’s, who were the lads I used to do a bit of roadie-ing for, before our band got together properly. T’was a fucking joke. The band who won were good at playing, but they didn’t have none of their own songs. All covers. Wasn’t fair at all. The lads were raging.
‘Fat Tuesday can suck my mickey, sham. They’re only a bunch of steamers.’ Harta hadn’t been there on the night, but he knew them from doing gigs around town.
‘I thought they were good, like. But they shouldn’t have been in the competition… they were always gonna win with that crowd.’ Ian hadn’t said anything in ages. I’d forgotten he was there.
‘Yep. Playing Summer of 69 to fucking langered people. Always a crowd pleaser.’ Harta had a little tin on his lap, full of skins and dried up baccy.
‘Have ye hash is it?’ I wouldn’t have minded a smoke; take a break from the boozing for a bit.
‘Will you g’way, I’ve only a nodge left.’
‘Ah, go on. Make a one-skinner, you stinge, you. Share the wealth.’ I couldn’t see nothing in the tin besides papers, but he usually had a bit of gear on him.
‘Fuck off, will you. I haven’t had a daycent puff in ages.’ His face was all cross, like a baby with wind.
‘You were smoking one when we met you a few hours ago, you gowl!’
‘Exactly. C’mere and I show you. Look. See? See that? Not even half a one-skinner in that. Fuck off with ye.’ He showed us a tiny bit of Squidgy Black, between his thumb and his finger. He was right, there was fuck all there. Still though.
‘Shurrup and make the fucking joint, will you? Or give it here and I’ll do it. Stop acting the maggot.’ There’d be enough for me and him in it.
‘Acting the maggot? Who are you, me Da?’
‘I am, yeah. Your Mam wanted to wait until you were eighteen to tell you, but like, I think the time is right. Now gimme that nodge here, and go out and play with the traffic.’ My Da used to say that one to me all the time when I was small.
‘My Ma wouldn’t give you the steam off her piss.’
‘Yeah, yeah. Less of the yap yap yap and more of the roll roll roll.’ The rest of them were in stitches listening to the two of us. They knew it wasn’t for real. Me and Harta’d never had a real argument in our lives.
‘What’s the story with the George though? All originals, no covers?’ Ian hadn’t had hardly any of the Bucky all night. He had the bottle now though; we probably weren’t getting that back.
‘Ah, I think you can do a mix. But you have to do one or two originals.’ Ciara wasn’t in a band herself, but she played a bit of guitar, and she was always at gigs.
‘One or two? How many songs do we get to do?’ Normally you got two songs and that was it, cos there’d be loads of groups in it.
‘I think you get to do two, then come off and do another two later. It’s for Paddy Expo, so it’s big. Late bar and everything. Stop serving at half one; kicking out at two.’
‘Fucking hell, out at two? God, I love culture.’ The expo had been on every summer for a few years. We’d not been together the year before, but The DT’s had done a few shows that I’d been to.
‘Yep. Hang on, who’s this? Scobes?’ Ciara nodded over to the other side of Poorman’s; three lads with plastic bags of booze were sitting down. Two on the grass, one on the bench. Poorman’s was only small. A little half circle of grass, hanging out over the river. Limerick Boat Club was across the water from us, and the old swing bridge bit of Sarsfield’s on the right of us. It didn’t work anymore, but in the old days, Da said that it used to open up to let the tall ships through. You didn’t get any ships that far down the river anymore; they stayed up at the docks- past St Michael’s.
‘Waahs, is it? Dirty fucking knackers? Diddycoy picnic?’ Harta was licking the gummy bits of the little joint. I’d smelt him burning the hash. We were allowed to say things like ‘knacker’ and ‘scobe’, cos we were from there. Well, Harto wasn’t really from there, he just sounded like he was. When one of the boys from Castletroy or the North Circular said it though, we pretended to be pissed off. Just to wind them up.
‘Nah, they look sound.’ Bríd had to turn around to get a good look. Ian was lost in his Bucky.
‘You won’t be saying that when they’re over here, raping the heart out of you.’
‘Dominic Hartigan! Don’t be so vulgar, please. There are ladies present.’ It was funny when anyone called Harta by his real name. He really didn’t look like a Dominic.
‘Are there? Where? Where?’ He looked around, all dramatic, ignoring the girls.
‘Right here, bitch. You’re looking at ‘em.’ Bríd was taking it slow with the naggin. Good idea, cos neat liquor would get you leathered altogether.
‘If you’re a lady, I’m a hat.’ Harta never seemed to get wrecked. He just got to ‘pissed’ very quickly, and stayed like that all night.
‘You’re a hat?’ Ciara raised her eyebrow at him. I noticed the purple eyes again. They were something else.
‘Yep. And I’ll eat my uncle’s monkey. Shut up. Don’t judge me!’ He lit the twisty end of the one-skinner with one of the Swan matches we’d got in Fine Wines. It was pure thin; would only be a few drags off it.
‘Righto. Anyway, Jon- if I were you I’d try and get into that thing. I think ye could win it.’
‘Yeah? You know anyone else in it? Tank Boy? Deliverance? The DT’s?’ I didn’t really want to be in a competition with Eric and the lads. Not until we were good enough to beat them. I’d no idea when that would be though.
‘You worried about Eric’s lot?’ said Bríd. Eric was the guitarist from The DT’s. He was the singer too. Bríd had been shifting him for a while, but they didn’t get serious.
‘No. Well, yeah. I mean, I dunno. We’re not that ready… we need a proper drummer.’ We’d been using a few different lads. Tony from The DT’s was probably the only drummer in Ardscoil or the Crescent we hadn’t had play with us.
‘Neh. Drummers are fucking easy to find, sham. Just get some bollix with no brain and big arms, who has a shed. A big shed.’ Harta had been playing for years; he’d been in lots of people’s bands, but he did more gigs on his own. They knew him in all the music pubs. He was much older than me. He was going to be eighteen next April.
‘A shed and a Dad who drives a van,’ Bríd said. She was still looking over at the other three, so I had a gawk myself. They didn’t look too scobey. One of them had trackie bottoms on; the other two were in jeans. They all had white tackies, but there was no hoodies or puffa jackets. The heads as well; their heads were normal. Waahs always had pure angry looking heads, even when they were smiling.
‘Which one are you spotting, Bríd?’ Harta passed me the J; it was nearly all gone already.
‘Fuck off, you prick. No, I thought I knew one of them. I mean, I thought one of them was one of Steven’s friends. But he’s not. Don’t think so anyway.’ Steven was her brother. He went to the Crescent Comp. He was sound enough; he just was a bit… Crescent Comp.
‘Steven’s consorting with some low types these days, is he, Bridget?’ Ciara was good at doing a snobby voice; probably because of being born in England.
‘What? Nah, no. Same Steven as ever.’
‘So he’s still a virgin then?’ Harta was eyeing the joint, but there was only an arse of it left. He could fuck off.
‘Jesus, Harta. Did no one ever teach you how to talk to a woman?’ Ciara gave him a thump in the back.
‘Nope. I lets me mickey do the talking, sham.’ He gave her a wink, rubbing himself where she’d hit him.
‘I’m surprised anyone can hear him, the size of him, God help us.’ She rolled her eyes and looked over at Bríd, who sniggered into her hand.
‘Never had any complaints, sham.’ He cupped his crotch and gave it a squeeze.
‘We don’t complain to your face. We talk to our girlfriends about it, later. Talk, laugh, cry, whatever.’ I loved Ciara. She was rapid. Still, what she’d said made me a bit paranoid. She’d seen my langer. Well, she’d at least felt it. My memories weren’t the clearest.
‘Right, are we going?’ Harta hopped up onto his feet. No one else moved.
‘Going where? We just got here?’ Bríd still had a bit of naggin left. I hadn’t seen Ciara drink anything except a few slugs of Bucky.
‘I don’t fucking know. Pub or something. I’ve to have a slash anyway.’ He had a point. The Bucky had gone straight though me.
‘Go over there,’ said Bríd, pointing to the steps going down into the river.
‘What? What do I look like, an animal?’ Harta fixed his hair behind his ears, and it fell straight back down once he’d finished.
‘Jesus no. Animals have a bit of dignity.’ Ciara hand was still on my leg. It’d been there for ages.
‘Excuse me very much, Slattery; I’ve plenty of dignity.’
‘Harta, last week you spilt a naggin of Huzzar in the fridge, and when you saw what you done, you got a bit of bog roll, mopped it all up, and then you fucking ate it.’ I’d nearly been impressed at the time, it was so disgusting. Ciara, Bríd and Ian burst out laughing.
‘Ah Jesus, he didn’t.’ Bríd put her fingers in her mouth and did a mock vomit noise.
‘I did! And I’d do it again, sham. Waste not, want not.’ Big dirty grin on his chops as he said it.
‘You’re a vile creature, Dominic. Go to the toilet will you, before you have another accident. I don’t wanna watch you eat a ball of piss-paper; I dunno about anyone else.’ Ciara took a baby bottle of Power’s out of her inside pocket. I made a face. I couldn’t drink whiskey neat like that. Even a small bit. When he was gone, she said:
‘Quin’s later is it? Termights?’
‘What’s the other choices? We going to a dinner dance in the Two Mile Inn?’ That was where Mam and Dad used to go. I didn’t even know what it was. I used to picture them dancing and eating a leg of chicken at the same time.
‘Well, there’s Saints.’
‘Saints? Nah. Full of jocks.’ The first time I’d tried going out to a pub in town, it had been Saints and Scholars, down near the market. We’d got served and everything. I was pissed after two pints, but I couldn’t relax at all. My sister Clodagh used to go in there all the time, and she’d kill me for drinking or smoking, or she’d tell Mam. I’d a pint of Foster’s in my hand under the table, and a glass of Coke in front of me, just in case. I’d keep the fag in the ashtray, and take sneaky puffs of it, looking at the door like a maniac, in case she came in. Then, one night, we couldn’t get served. So we tried Quin’s, and we’d gone there ever since.
‘All right, all right. Just thought you might fancy a change. Doc’s?’
‘Doc’s is worse, Ceer. Never any seats either. I’m not standing outside in the fucking cold with my pint.’ Doc’s had a pub bit and a nightclub bit, in the building where the library was. It was full of jocks too, unless you went on Student Night.
‘Fair enough. I love your top; where’d you get it; Modesty?’
‘Nah, The Edge.’
‘That would’ve been my next guess. What is it?’
‘It’s a cycling top. Belgian, that’s why the black, red and yellow.’ I’d thought it was German when I got it, but the writing was in French.
‘Yeah? It’s nice. I mean it’s a bit tight, but you’re a skinny fucker anyway.’ She sparked up a fag. Silk Cut Blue, so she’d stopped robbing ours.
‘Oi!’ I wasn’t that skinny. I wasn’t a big built bastard either, but I was pretty fit when I used to do rowing. I’d given that up though; too much hassle, and I’d started to love fags and booze a bit too much to be able to train five days a week.
‘I meant it in a good way. I wouldn’t mind being that skinny, trust me.’ She took a swig of her Power’s, and pulled a face cos of the taste.
‘Jesus Ceer, you’re not fat.’ Bríd jumped in, doing the girl thing.
‘Thanks, like. But I am. It’s mostly tits though…so, everybody wins.’ I had to strain not to look at them when she said it. Being a boy was hard work sometimes. Harta was back.
‘Did someone say tits?’ He was still doing up his belt. I looked at him funny. He didn’t seem like the sort of person who’d wear a belt.
‘Nope. We going then?’ Ciara stood up.
‘Oh. We are going now? Did I just take my langer out in public for no good reason?’ Harta slipped his hands under my arms and lifted me up with a grunt.
‘Like you need a reason,’ said Bríd, tossing her empty naggin behind her onto the grass. The three boys across the way looked over at us for a second, then when back to their chat. One of them had a flagon of Linden village; the other two had cans of Carling.
‘What can I say? My mickey is a national treasure, girls. It needs to be exhibited to the public.’
‘Well, if you need anyone to cut it off and put it in a jar, you’ve got my number, right?’ Ciara finished her Power’s and threw it over where Bríd’s bottle had landed.
‘Yep. Got it off the toilet wall in Nessan’s.’ Harta had wanted to go to Ardscoil, but cos he lived in Woodview, they’d said no. Nessan’s was right on his doorstep. He hadn’t minded, cos it was a mixed school. He wasn’t even the best looking fucker I knew, but he was a hound when it came to the girls.
‘It pays to advertise, clearly.’ Ciara linked arms with me as we walked out towards Henry Street.
‘You had to pay? Jaysus, I get my ads for free.’ He’d had a fag in his hands for ages without lighting it.
‘Yeah, they don’t charge for the gay ones.’ I was enjoying this; they were as bad as each other sometimes, and both of them always had to have the last word.
‘Yeah, your Da let me in on that little secret.’
‘My Dad’s dead.’
‘Yeah, the AIDS killed him.’
‘Well, you should have worn a condom.’
‘Couldn’t. It’s against my religion.’
‘Ah right. Is having a shower against your religion too?’
‘Only if I have one with your Dad, and he drops the soap.’
It sort of went on like that for a while, until we got to the pub. They loved each other really, same as I loved the both of them. Ian didn’t say much; he’d had most of the third bottle to himself. Monty on the door of Quin’s was in fine form. He never ID’d us, and we let him take the piss out of us. That was the deal, even if no one ever said it.