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His visage popping out the top of that sleeping bag. Whatche have der? Little beardy head on him. Thick fucking eyebrows. Thick fuck. Couldn’t have just accordioned that neck of his back into the sleeping bag and stayed quiet. It’s nothing. Doesn’t look like nothing. It’s bleedin nothing, ri. Touchy one you are pal. I said leave it out alri. Stupid fuck.
The man sat on a low, redbrick wall beside a bus stop. On the quays with the sun low in the sky and the river blinding. Old carpet shops and charity places. A kid leant against the stop with a gear bag hanging off his shoulder. He looked up at the kid through the railings of dirty hair that fell over his face. “D’ye play football do ye?” The kid glanced down and gave a closed-mouth smile. He looked away and attached his gaze to a pair of ants that were making a break for the road. “Used play meself, y’know? Remember we won 5-0 against St. Michaels in the cup and I scored a header. Great goal.” He dipped his head towards an invisible ball to recreate the moment. “Yeah I was handy enough in me day. So, d’ye play yerself? He looked at the kid again and the kid just hitched his bag higher on his shoulder and said nothing. The bus came after a while and the kid got on and the man stood and watched it go down the quays towards town.
Stay away from there. Meeting people. Fuckers seeing you and the looks. Sitting on the bridge, the looks. Would make you want to jump off the thing. That bloke with his bird. Him having none of it. She’s there hanging off him. C’mon back. We give him something. Thanks very much love. She was a nice one. Fuck it anyway. A drink.
Oh, I’d love a drink. Harrigan’s Bar and the pint bottle. Oh, the pint bottle. Where was Harrigan’s again? Tommy would have known. Don’t think about him. Don’t think about him and don’t think about the watch. That fucking watch. And the stupid pen from the graduation. Two things he managed to hold on to. The watch and the pen. The pen was gone after a couple of days. But he had to keep that watch. His old man’s watch. When he was on the way out. There ye go now son. Take that son. What time is it there? Time for you to buy a-Watch out for the ones who like to kick ye. Or piss on ye. Bastards.
He walked away from town towards Smithfield. Where was Harrigan’s? A man and woman rose out of the ground in front of him as if from nowhere. “Scuse me, do yiz know Harrigan’s? Harrigan’s Bar. Do yiz know where it is?” They hesitated. The evolutionary pause. Is he going to kill us? Must live on. “No, sorry.” They looked away, tried to get around the man. “Do yiz like music?” The words shot out from between his teeth. “Good music, y’know? Like Pink Floyd.” He strummed an air guitar to show what he meant. The couple exhaled, laughed. Safe from harm. “Yeah everyone knows them.” “There’s no one around like them anymore. Syd Barrett and all. Yiz know about him? Went a bit crazy did Syd. Some guitarist though. Drugs and that. Terrible.” The couple looked at each other. “But yiz don’t know where Harrigan’s is? They do the pint bottle. Can’t beat it. The aulfella used drink them down in Waterford. The way he went on about them. Like you’d find one in a church, sitting there on a velvet cushion, raised high on a plinth. Light falling from the stained-glass windows. Aul lads and priests together, kneeling round in worship. They’d be there saying the rosary and chanting PINT BOTTLE, PINT BOTTLE, PINT BOTTLE, until they levitated off the ground. There was always one cheeky cunt who tried to grab it and fly out the window.”
Supposed to be asleep. Nice doorway and all. Out of the way. No cunts. Those fucking fingers round me watch. What’re you doing? Whatche mean nothing you stupid fuck. I fucking warned ye about that watch. Didn’t I warn ye.
The couple were gone. Thoughts of pint bottles and alcoholic, airborne priests. Is it even called Harrigan’s? Live music on Sunday afternoon’s. Punters a bit fuzzy from the night before. And the night before that. The night before that if things were particularly good/bad. Go in and sit down. The music would make you want to cry. Happy to be involved in a bit of culture. This is what they’ve always done, all the great men. Can’t control them. Forces of nature. There’s precedent there. Traversing gaslit, lamplit streets. Pepper canister concrete caves. Engaging in highbrow high stool activities. Time honoured. My old man and your old man and his old man. No stopping them.
He stepped off the path and a car smacked into him. The man lay on the road, a few inches from the path. He tried to roll over. Something was wrong with his leg – it wasn’t where it should have been. He didn’t look down. The car had stopped beside the man and driver got out. “What the fuck do you think you’re at? I could have had me fucking kids in the car!” The man squinted down at his leg. It stuck out at a right angle. He noticed, too, that his arm was bent away from his body. He closed his eyes and whispered something inaudible. “What the fuck are you saying?” The man lifted a finger, gestured to the driver to come closer. The driver knelt down and the man spoke softly-broken into his ear, “I look like a fucking St. Brigid’s cross.” The driver stood up, looked at the man with some mixture of disgust and guilt. He got back in his car and drove off.
That fucking watch. Never join up with anybody. Tommy was a sound cunt as well. Why didn’t he just keep his hands off it? And I left him like that. With his face like that. And I went and lied to that young one from the Simon Community. Nah love, haven’t seen him for a good while now. Nah, nah, sorry, nope, not me, no, no.
The man got onto his front and began to pull himself towards the opposite side of the road. Up onto the path. He was ripped and tattered and bits of his soul were leaking out through holes in the backs of his legs. Dirt collected in the cuts on his palms like ash in a glass of summer fruits. Up ahead, there were lads under lights. He dragged his body to their feet and rolled onto his back. The men were smoking outside a pub and they looked down at him in his concrete bed, said nothing. They flicked their smokes away and turned back into Harrigan’s Bar. The man lay on the ground with his hair a bloody pillow beneath his head.