The next thing was he had to get the van out of the clampers. He walked out there past the industrial estate and the traffic was all eyes: he felt as if they were all watching him – who’s the latchiko on the hoof?
And of course up top of the situation with the van was the situation with Enya’s father. The father had put word out that the next time he saw Patrick Mullaney he was going to take the head clean out of his shoulders. Patrick had not known that Enya was only fifteen and a half years of age. It wasn’t as if she was small – there was no shortage of the girl. And it was only the one date they’d had. He took her to an Apache Pizza on the by-pass road and they shared a Meat Supreme. She wouldn’t get in the back of the van so he drove her to a Topaz station and they had sex in the handicapped toilet there. To delay climax, he had focused on the toilet cleaning schedule pinned to the wall. It claimed with biro signatures that some buck called Felim had cleaned the toilet at hourly intervals all day until 6pm and a girl called Marnia had done the job at 7pm, 8pm, 9pm. She did in my hole, Patrick thought, looking at the filth of the stall around him. Enya moaned softly meantime and she had been no stranger to such moans was Patrick Mullaney’s belief.
As he walked out to the clampers, he worried less about the father and more that Enya might have a bad memory of their night together. He shook free of the worry by telling himself Enya hadn’t seemed like the remembering kind.
Once he got the van back, and presuming he stayed blindside of Enya’s father, the plan was to spring Tee-J from the juvenile detention unit. Not spring, exactly – that was just Patrick’s dramatic way of telling things to himself. Tee-J was officially due for release – he had served the full six months. Tee-J (who sometimes spelled it T-Jay, who had his head wet Thomas John) was his younger brother. Teedge, Patrick usually called him, to the boy’s annoyance. Teedge had done the six months after robbing an Isuzu Trooper that belonged to a guard’s wife and driving it through three counties. He was followed all the while by the same guard until the guard hit a ditch. Was said that coming out of Elphin the Isuzu had clocked the third highest speed ever recorded in County Roscommon. Fucking legend, Tee-J, in Patrick’s book, and barely seventeen. But there had to be an end to it.
Patrick was himself thirty six, if it’s ages we’re on about. Which should be old enough to know better and which did not make him feel good about the fact that after getting the van out of the clampers and avoiding Enya’s father and springing (so to speak) Tee-J from the juvenile detention unit, he was going to have to call around to Doggie Mannion’s place and offload three hundred and fifty nine DVDs and a wire-cutters. Provided they were still under the boards in the back of the van. It was the only move he could make. Better to turn them over to The Dog – for a euro a pop, if he was lucky – than have them lying around the van. If and when he got the van out of the clampers. He fingered for the fiftieth time the roll of notes in the pocket of his jeans. There was two seventy euro and change to his name and he was well aware that the clampers usually took a three-ton release fee, minimum.
He tried to avoid the eyes of the traffic. Fuckers in pink shirts with big pink heads in their Saabs and the suit jackets all neat behind the drivers’ seats on hangers. He noted that people threw rubbish around like it was going out of fashion, coffee cups, chicken boxes, and this got him down.
An alsation behind a chain-link fence lost the rag as Patrick passed and he eyeballed the dog.
“Kkksssssst!” he said to it.
There were going to be some changes. He was determined that Patrick and Tee-J were on the straight and narrow from this day forward. Yes sir. There would be no more ferreting DVDs out of Enniskillen warehouses, no more county records in Isuzu Troopers, no more messing around in handicapped toilets with Enyas out of transition years. They had been through enough of the rough times.
Now of course more or less everybody was dead. The mother, the father, the two sisters, another brother, uncles, aunts, cousins coming out the wazoo, a rake of buddies – dead dead dead, or at least mostly, and if they weren’t dead, they were in Castlerea prison, or the secure ward at the madhouse (many a Mullaney had bothered the same walls), or gone to England. The droning of the traffic beside him as he reached now the clampers yard was much of a muchness with the droning of his dead’s babble.
In some ways, Patrick felt he was doing well by Tee-J. For a nice stretch there, he had the boy set up with his own bedroom in an executive apartment overlooking the Shannon. A good seven fifty square foot of a job, with French doors out to a balcony, an extractor hood, power-shower, underfloor heating.
“We’re fartin’ through silk here, Teedge.”
“You ain’t tellin’ no lies, Patch.”
He was in the other of the two bedrooms. He’d lie plumb in the middle of the bed and lay out his limbs as though he was doing a starjump. It was a golden period in their lives even if it wasn’t their own apartment, technically speaking. He had gained access to it by the balcony. They had found a woman’s swimsuit on the balcony. It would have been from the summer previous and it had been forgotton and the freshwater she must have swam in had dried the river slime into it and had left it stiff. That blasted Shannon must have been crawling with the dirt altogether, was Patrick’s feeling. He was concerned also, for a reason he could not name, at the way Tee-J handled the swimsuit and was fascinated by it and the way the boy kept taking it back out of the pedal bin.
All of the apartments at the complex were empty that season and they had a prize November there. They had watched box-sets of DVDs and eaten pizza every night and they kept the heating on full blast. Of course it couldn’t last and the Ukrainians had shown up with tyre irons soon enough. What class of a security operation is it that sends fellas around to you with tyre irons and they babbling their gobbledy-gook and big ignorant pusses on them? That was what Patrick Mullaney wanted to know. Tee-J was all for going toe-to-toe with the Ukrainians, no better man, but Patrick knew there was no odds in that and there you had it – they were living out of the white Hitachi.
They drove it to quiet places all the winter through. Was the time they drove it out past Boyle and into the hills and came up past the forestry land and along to Keash – there were caves up there. Caves, if you don’t mind. They parked the Hitachi and climbed up and they had a good look around the caves. They thought about it. A sign put up for tourists told them that a high king of Connaught had been raised and cared for in the caves by she-wolves.
“Blow job off one a them and you’d know all about it,” said Tee-J.
“A low class remark,” said Patrick.
An unspoken fear he had was that Tee-J would at some point kill. They read that hunter-gatherers of olden times had used the caves for shelter when they were on expedition.
“Are we huntin’ and gatherin’?” said Tee-J.
“Are we what,” said Patrick.
Caves was a crazy notion so they ended up doing time at a crustie camp outside Manorhamilton. The crusties had a crop of magic mushrooms not long dried and they were decent enough about handing them out. Of course that got hairy quick when Tee-J started having apparitions of the dead mother in back of the Hitachi. Who was the last bitch on the planet you wanted to see coming back. So that was enough with the mushrooms. Next thing Patrick took a wrong signal off one of the crustie women and dropped a hand that shouldn’t have been dropped. That ended up in a row involving a crowbar and a fella with dreadlocks from Gloucester and a three-legged pitbull.
Good luck, Manorhamilton.
They went east as far as Longford and did some work for a retard farmer there. Poor buck had that shaking disease and couldn’t hammer fence posts no more. Three days was as long as the brothers had lasted at the fence posts themselves.
“What are we, blacks?” said Tee-J.
There was no rent allowance being given if you hadn’t an address to claim it out of. The woman at the social said there was a caravan park in Sligo was taking temporaries all the year round if they were stuck.
“Do we look like tinkers to you?” said Patrick Mullaney.
Inside in a coffee shop in Carrick one morning he had been struck by the solidity of its walls. When you were sleeping in lay-bys, in the Hitachi, and if a good wind got up at all, the walls gave and returned like a melodeon. Patrick found himself patting the coffee shop walls and thinking: Jesus but that’s solid out. Wasn’t long after Tee-J took the notion of flaking off with the guard’s wife’s Isuzu Trooper.
Of course the buck in the kiosk at the clampers had a face on him like a dose of cancer.
“Bout a white Hitachi,” said Patrick.
“I’d say tis.”
“Twas taken in illegal.”
“I’d say twas.”
“I was only gone into the doctor’s with my daughter. She has spina bifida. I have the handicapped sticker alright but it’s lost. I had to carry her home in my arms.”
“Three hundred even.”
“The van isn’t worth that.”
“Not my problem, son.”
“I don’t have three hundred.”
“Not my problem. Your problem.”
“If the wind changes that face will stick on you.”
“If you’re going to be abusive you can leave the way you came.”
“I want to speak to the manager.”
“Hello good evening and welcome. Three hundred and you’re on the road.”
“Ye’re licensed by the council, ye are? Council know this the way ye’re treating fathers of spina bifada children?”
“Much have you on you?”
So it was that when he was hauling into the juvenile detention unit he didn’t even have the price of a bottle of coke for Tee-J. The better news was that there was three quarters of a tank of petrol and the DVDs were still under the boards. Imagine, he thought, if you did have a child with spina bifida? He was sobbing uncontrollably by the time he parked the Hitachi in the visitors car park.
Wiped the tears away as he crossed the car park and the summer sky was white and massive and it made him feel headachey, out of sorts, clairvoyant.
Patrick Mullaney could tell you this much for nothing: there wasn’t anything good coming.
Tee-J was waiting in the reception area with some class of a supervisor, a glorified swing-key except the swing-keys wore baby blue polo shirts in this place and smiled all the time. There were rapist young fellas playing pitch ’n’ putt in these places.
Tee-J wouldn’t even make eye contact with his one remaining brother.
Tee-J turned to the polo shirt as Patrick approached and he said:
“You can tell this cunt to go sling his huke.”
“Ah Teedge …”
Tee-J had outpaced the guard till the guard hit the ditch and he wound up sitting on the bonnet of the Isuzu Trooper in Strandhill and looking out over the sea smoking a fag like he was off a film. Of course the guards knew full well who it was they’d been chasing – Mullaneys in this neck of the country were in no need of identikit mock-ups. Patrick had had a bad feeling about Tee-J around that time. The daft child had a black-moon look about the eyes and Patrick reckoned if the Teedge wasn’t held safe behind bars, he was going to be toes up on a slab with the hair parted wrong. So he turned his own brother in and that felt so like it was off a film he almost heard the music strike up on the soundtrack.
The polo shirt was all in a flutter – loving it – as he tried to bring the brothers together. Patrick wondered if they weren’t all half steamers working in these places.
“Teedge, it was for your own good, like!”
“Thomas John your brother is absolutely right!”
Tee-J had the lip out and was on the dramatic side.
“I ain’t got no brud no more,” he said.
“Teedge get out into the fuckin’ van, would ya?”
He hadn’t much choice, Tee-J, except if he was going to walk the dual carriageway, and by and by he slugged along out to the car park beside Patrick, with the polo shirt waving at them, all emotional, from the doorway. Tee-J didn’t talk for a good ten minutes in the van but Mullaneys wouldn’t by their nature be able to keep the silent treatment going for long.
“Tell me about it, Teedge.”
True that Patrick was near enough to fully grey at thirty six – that ran in Mullaneys as well – and in the six months of his brother’s detention it was greyer he was after getting. He wouldn’t have been a bad-looking lad, he felt himself, if it wasn’t for the weak chin. The chin gave him an unreliable look he was told once by a priest. Thanks very much, he said to the priest.
“What way was it inside, Teedge?”
A sullen shrug from Tee-J.
“Heard they had a head doctor at you and all?”
A raising of the eyebrows from Tee-J.
“What’d he say?”
“That I’m mad as a box of frogs. You can drop me off in Boyle.”
“Fuck off, Teedge. You money?”
“Do I look as if I have money?”
“Doggie Mannion’s we’ve to hit so.”
“Ah fuckin’ hell Patcho!”
Tee-J got a good sulk on then. Tee-J was being all seventeen as he sat there in the passenger seat of the Hitachi. Herds of fuckwads roamed the earth, was Tee-J’s opinion. He reached for the dash-mounted MP3 system and he played a bit of Slayer to blank them out. Patrick drummed his fingertips on the wheel to the white-noise squall. He gave the Hitachi a nice bit of pep and Tee-J smiled despite himself. He was a kid still really. He had no patience whatsoever and after half a song’s worth of Slayer, he was belting away at the search function and putting on Carcass. The MP3 system was worth more than the van, not that it was paid for.
“Gettin’ the nosebleed again,” said Tee-J. “You watchin’?”
He raised a palm to feel for the bleed and it had come sure enough. He looked at the smear on his palm and licked it. Patrick was as always disgusted by this.
“You wouldn’t get it in a fuckin’ kennel,” he said.
Tee-J reached for a Kleenex and wadded it and tamped it to his nostrils and he programmed the MP3 by genre, death metal on random play, and something good and fuzzy by Decimator kicked in.
“Doctor said I got wet-brain thinkin’,” said Tee-J. “Said I’d be as well staying clear of the juice.”
They listened to songs about war and leather and blood-encrusted animal pelts. Tee-J had a face on him like a kebab whatever shite he’d been eating at the unit. Patrick had read up about nutrition for adolescents in a leaflet he found in the waiting room of the clinic when he was in about the chest pains. The doctor said the chest pains were caused by stress and petrol station coffee and signed him up to a yoga class in Rooskey. He only went the once but it was good now all the same. The woman instructor gave them all rubber yoga mats and said when things were getting bad, you found a quiet space, you closed your eyes, and you said, I’m on my mat now and that’s that.
“Do we have to go to Doggie’s, Patch?”
“We have to fuckin’ ate, Teedge. But I know, like. I know.”
Doggie ‘The Dog’ Mannion lived in a holiday home scheme over the far side of the lake. A wee duplex he had bought for himself there. He was out on its patio when the boys arrived in the Hitachi. In a yellow dressing gown and a pair of swimming togs.
“Easy as we go, Patch,” said Tee-J.
There wasn’t much phased the Mullaney brothers, all told, but a visit to Doggie did. The Dog was a large, half-bald, buttery kind of man with terrible nerves. He had the eye-liner on in thick black smudges over a deep-tan foundation like a hoor would wear. He was drinking from a child’s beaker; he raised this now to salute the brothers as they crossed the communal lawn of the scheme. He put a hand inside his togs and tugged at himself briefly and the exertion caused his broad face to colour. He leaned over the patio’s rail to address his visitors.
“When you get a bit of heat at all like the heat we’re after getting today,” he said, “the man below do be swimmin’ in his own melt.”
A laugh was let off that sounded like a chainsaw revving. The Dog had been receiving from the Mullaneys for two years and he paid an insulting tax but he was the only operator in the vicinity who was reliable in terms of cashflow. He led them through to the living room. Bottles of Rachmaninov vodka from Aldi were everywhere and apple juice cartons from the same place – apfelseft, they called it there. Patrick lay down the box of DVDs and found that his heart was beating much too fast.
“We can’t stay long, Dog,” he said.
“D’ya know I’d smoke a hunderd fags for you in a night if I was drinkin’?” said The Dog.
“DVDs for you, Dog?”
“DVDs comin’ out me bollix, Mull. I no more want DVDs than the fuckin’ wall.”
He eyed Tee-J.
“You’re gettin’ big,” he said.
He settled himself on the white plastic garden chair that was the only furniture in the place. He rubbed with the chipped black paint of his fingernails the inside of his thigh and he drank from the beaker.
“Would we say three-fifty, Doggie?”
“Don’t mind your fuckin’ shite-talk!”
His mood had switched instantly, as was the Mannion way, from playful to like he was going to murder you.
“Said don’t mind the auld talk, Mull! Come in here and look at me like scum? Ye want my money but the way ye look at me? Like I’m a piece of fuckin’ shit? All I’m to ye fellas is euro! Ye fuckin bitches! I open my door! I offer ye the full fuckin’ courtesy of my home! I …”
He rose and went out to his patio again. The brothers watched as he swayed out there. He looked over the waters of the lake. Patrick felt the cold dread you’d get always on a visit to The Dog but the breeze changed outside and the anger seemed to melt again: Doggie had been took by gentle thoughts.
“Forgive me,” he said, returning to the room. “I get … upset in meself sometimes. I have too much love in my heart! That’s the only problem with Doggie Mannion! All I want is to spend some time with ye. Would ye not take a little drink with me?”
“I’m off the juice,” said Tee-J. “Head doctor’s orders.”
“We’ve a rush on, Dog.”
“Ah I know,” said The Dog. “Course my problem is I have no off button. Are ye smellin’ that by the way?”
True enough there was the queerest smell in the place. To Patrick, it was like you’d get in a welder’s yard. Or maybe like a quik-dry foam-filler if you got it on your hands.
“What’s it, Dog?”
“I’m cookin’,” he said.
“Ye’re lookin’ at the cunt,” he said, “who’s going to bring crystal methamphetamine to the county Leitrim. And ye’re the boys’ll help me.”
Patrick had that feeling – that the control of the night was getting away from him.
“Hush, babies, hush,” said The Dog, and with a finger to his lips he led them towards a back room. Stronger the smell got as they came nearer to it.
Not a half hour later the outlaw Mullaneys were headed for town in the Hitachi with two hundred euro to their name from the DVDs and seventy seven rocks of methamphetamine, fresh-cooked, neatly packed in baggies, eleven baggies, seven rocks to the baggie. Tee-J was reading from an internet print-out that Doggie had given them.
“It’ll make a buck massive horny,” he said. “A buck’ll ride for twelve hours flat off a this stuff, Patch!”
Would you not, thought Patrick, get a bit cheesed off with twelve hours worth of riding?
“Says here,” says Tee-J, “a sure way to know a young one who’s been at the meth is that she’ll have fuck knots in her hair. From all the riding.”
“From her head slappin’ up and down off the pillow, like?” said Tee-J. “For twelve hours, Patch!”
It was great to see enthusiasm in the boy no matter what it was that put it there. The plan was they’d try offload some of the stuff in Roxy’s car-park when they got to town. Of course Tee-J was already burning a rock from a Diet Coke can with holes cut in.
“Well I ain’t drinkin’,” he said. “And don’t worry, Patch. I’m definitely not gettin’ into any scraps tonight.”
Of course Patrick knew sure enough what way this was ending up Tee-J-wise. There was poison and rage in the half-eejit and he hadn’t licked them off the ground. There’d be the bust and the bail and the summons. And he could see himself already, stood up in the courthouse, with his white face on, explaining why the brother had failed to appear:
Tee-J gone to England, judge.
But even so the town was laid out below them as they came down the dual carriageway, and it was full of promise.
“And what are you making of it all, Mr McGurk?” said Patrick.
“Arra sure you wouldn’t know which end is the toes,” said Mr McGurk.
Mr McGurk was a plastic leprechaun attached to the dashboard on a spring and he bobbed along comically as the Hitachi sped. How he had ended up being called Mr McGurk neither of them could remember. Both brothers would do Mr McGurk’s voice but Tee-J did it brilliant. He did Mr McGurk as a cranky old farmer who was always giving out. Mr McGurk was six inches of green plastic but entirely alive. He was made alive by their love for each other.
“Horn on me you’d hang your coat off,” said Tee-J.
“If you were told the stuff’d make you fly you’d be feelin’ for wings,” said Patrick.
Tee-J sniffed at the palm of his hand.
“That ridey-lookin’ till girl still workin’ at the Maxol, Patch? Girleen with the dick-stud in her tongue?”
I’m on my mat, thought Patrick Mullaney, and that’s that.
There was nothing good coming. Enya’s father would get a lamp on Patrick Mullaney sure as God made little apples. The guards would take badly to word about the crystal meth that was putting the hearts skaw-ways in the crowd below in Roxy’s. The wire-cutters was still in back of the van, he had forgotten to bring it into Doggie, and it was enough alone to put Patrick Mullaney back in Castlerea jail for a stretch. His teeth were falling out. It was greyer he was after getting. There was the situation with the lack of a roof over their heads and the situation with all the chest pains and all the stress. Tee-J’s odds on staying out of scraps were long. There was only the half-chance ever of finding some peace and rest. People were fly-tipping their rubbish everywhere. Oh and the white Hitachi was set fast to its tracks and the tracks led in one direction only. The Hitachi also was making some fairly severe choking sounds. But Patrick Mullaney reckoned that if he got the exhaust sorted on her at all, she’d be one hundred per cent.