The Manchester Review
Trevor Byrne
Nothing at the Top
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          —Should’ve put a few quid on ourselves so, says Aidan. —Made a few quid while we were fuckin up our lives.
          Tommy closes his eyes and slips the gun into his jacket pocket. It seems to be getting heavier and hotter.
          Marlo’s orders were to shoot Stephen Burke dead in his father’s pub. Make a statement he said; no one messes with Marlo. And of course, it was a punishment as well; Tommy and Aidan were paying for their mate Ed Walsh’s mistake.
          —What are the chances? says Aidan again. He looks round the kitchen, as though the answer might be there, tacked to the wall amongst the peeling wallpaper and the Jimi and Che posters.
          —It was just luck, says Tommy.
          It was true, that was all it was, luck. That’s the way things happened. You made your plans and if you were lucky they worked out, your sister’s baby was OK, the girl you were into was into you, you made it to university and university made you in return. It was just luck that they’d stumbled into Stephen Burke’s surprise birthday party, and luck that Burke had busted Ed Walsh in the first place with a load of Marlo’s cocaine, costing Marlo a small fortune and landing Ed with twelve years in prison. A fluke, an accident.
          Tommy has no illusions, he knows exactly what he is; he’s small time, a pushed-around pusher halfway to becoming an addict. You have to be honest with yourself. He’s supposed to be Sinead’s baby’s godfather. He hopes everything’s all right. Sinead said that she’d call the baby Thomas if it was a boy, after him, or Eileen if it’s a girl, after their mother. He thinks about texting her but he knows Aidan won’t approve.
          He wants a drink. It works for comedowns and it’ll work for this, drink your way back.
          Aidan reaches into his pocket and takes out a packet of cigarettes and a box of matches. He’s smiling again, the mad jack-in-the-box. He’s always been this way, full of bluster and bonhomie one minute and then muttering about spies and turncoats and pricks with eyes on his bird the next.
          —Actually, speakin of odds, says Aidan, nodding. —I put a fifty quid bet on this mornin, for AC Milan to win and Ronaldinho to score their first goal. Got deadly odds. And what happens? Ronaldinho gets injured and Milan get hammered three one. Against bleedin Livorno.
          Tommy knows that in a week or two, when the rent is due, Aidan will be short. Tommy watches him, his hand on the gun in his pocket, feeling its angles, its heat.
          —Who the fuck are Livorno? he says.
          —Exactly, says Aidan, shaking his head. —No one. Fuckin nobodies.