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Denny Murphy sat firmly into his spot on the bench-seating that lined the Luas carriage and curled his head towards the glass of the window. He didn’t care that the tram was packed and that there were probably older people and women standing.
Sure it’s hardly my fault, them gobshites all up at once for the eight December? Like there were no other days they could find their way outta the bog? And then all deciding to go home at the same time… muppets
Spendin their every ha’penny on shite from Grafton Street and then them whinging they were smashed come the 26th. Far from fuckin Grafton Street the most of them were reared
The truth was Denny Murphy wasn’t really sure what the date was, he barely even knew what day it was, but he reckoned that it must be the eight. He’d a vague memory of that being the cause of big crowds in the city. Squinting out the carriage window he realised he hadn’t any idea what time it was either. It was dark but then that meant nothing. It was dark a lot in Denny’s world.
Fuckin Christmas, sure it’s all a joke.
He looked at the throng queueing to get on and rolled his eyes.
I mean it’d nearly put ye off having the few pints. Like was it too much to ask to have yer own stool in yer own pub in yer own patch and you there all year round not just home to annoy the shite outta the locals at Christmas with yer tales of Bondi beach and how ye were earning a fortune doing fuck all. Sure go back so. Christblessusandsaveus, I don’t ask fer much.
They were squashing in all around him now. The usual mix of passengers – a smattering of students, commuters and more than a few Red Line regulars who were bellowing across the crowd to each other like they were having a few pints.
“Alrigh Padger, long time no see – are ye still wih yer wan? From the flats? No? Ah jaysus, better off, better off, son”
Back and forward it went. Old friends catching up in mostly unintelligible babble whilst the unconnected onlookers, like the Spanish looking student sitting to his right, stared down at their phones in case eye contact brought unwanted attention from the shouters.
Like I’m a Dub an all meself but them shower are just annoying they’re so loud. Like I’m not loud. Well maybe I am when I’m on the sesh but not now, now I’d like to just have a bit of quiet, it’s been a long couplea daysa gargle, like.
Yes, it had been quite the few days. He picked at the cuff of his jacket as he tried to piece together exactly how long he’d been out. Most of it was a blur. He shrugged.
Ah it was grand but. Like I don’t always go to the early house but Slappo had suggested it when yer man was closing Mannions door behind us at whatever time it was. Sure jaysus the night was but a pup at that stage. What was the rush? It was only a few pints sure. Not that crazy drinking like them young wans were doing these days. All shots and stuff that gave ye wings. Well I’ll tell you now, them wings can be faulty as I stepped over at least two of them on me way up the quays this morning to The Chancery. Legs akimbo and knees all grazed like a chizzler. Sure who did they expect was going to look after them? Least I always found me way home. Might take a few days but I always came home and with me knees in one piece ta very much.
And do you want to know the best bit? It doesn’t matter a shite what time or what day I come home anymore now that the stupid bitch is gone. I can come home, go out, stay in – whatever I like.
It’s only fuckin deadly.
“THE FOUR COURTS – na Ceithre Cuirteanna”
No, Denny Murphy was in no hurry home. The tram could be as packed as it liked. It could even break down. That had happened one day, some poor unfortunate had driven onto the tracks and the ensuing collision had stalled the journey home for quite a while. He wouldn’t care if that happened now. He had a seat, he was on his way home, and there was no one to say anything to him.
Sure that’s all any hardworking man wants? To come home, from a long day, head out for the few pints and not be getting a headache listening to her until he left for work next day? I mean, was it any wonder? Like who blamed him. No one. Slappo even said that: ‘No one, Denny, no one. She can hide down in that fuckin feminazi shelter on Michael’s Road, or whatever the fuck it’s supposed to be, all she likes, attention seeking geebag, sure no one blames you’. He was right too.
He watched the Family Law Court roll past and shoved his two hands deep in his jacket pockets, his body tensing. He didn’t like going past here. Horrible place. Humiliating.
She tried to get me in there, ye know. I said you can fuck off, you and your solicitor. You think I don’t know what goes on in there? Oh I know alright, I know loadsa lads that had fallen for that one, came out them very bloody steps, bawling. Their lives ruined. Men have no rights, ye know. None. It’s all geared for the fuckin women. It’s not right. Well he wasn’t fallin for it, she could just fuck off with herself. Her and her rights.
“SMITHFIELD – Márgadh na Feirme”
Unfortunately more people got on than got off. And then, as the Luas rolled forward someone fell against him and he turned from the window in annoyance thinking it would be yet another teenage girl with her stomach on show, or worse still, a young lad in jeans that only came to his crotch and no socks. But it wasn’t, well it was a young woman but not the kind he was expecting. She was dressed well, in jeans and a kind of fancy puffa jacket and had a little lad with her. He was in a Spiderman costume with blonde curls spilling out the back of a red Santa hat. He looked at the girl again and at second glance she didn’t seem as young. Her hair was tied back in a pony tail but though her skin was good, her eyes looked old, empty and tired. The last time he’d seen eyes as dark and empty was when he’d bumped into Maisie Dempsey’s young lad down at the bookies. He’d been like a walking corpse and Denny knew straight away that it was more than the drink.
Fuckin desperate stuff, ye think drink is bad… Try having a young lad lashing that shite into his arm… poor fuckin Maisie, now there was a woman with real problems and not a squeak outta her.
“MUSEUM – Árd Mhúsaem”
The Luas lurched to a stop shaking him out of his thoughts once again. But he knew no one would be getting on or off here. Denny Murphy considered this stop a complete waste of time. He’d heard the exhibit for the 1916 celebrations was good but he refused to go, even thought it was free and all.
More fuckin tourists and culchies and bandwagon bastards. Thee same shower squawkin on about honourin the rebels wouldn’t piss on any of the Shinners if they were on fire and dem the only gobshites doin any kind of work for the people payin their wages. They were the only crowd he’d go to about anything anyway. The rest of them didn’t give a flyin fuck. Givin out about people like him on the scratcher and doin a few nixers. Sure how else was he meant to survive? It wasn’t people like him brought down the country… but they forgot about that handy enough once the whole mess was cleared up.
“HEUSTON- Stáisiun Heuston”
The entire carriage seemed to heave a sigh of relief with the anticipation that a mass exodus was imminent.
Back to fuckin Kildare with them, the Lilly White bastards.
That the Kildare Football fans were known as the Lillywhites was the sum total of everything Denny knew about GAA. Well, that and that the lads from Kerry were to be feared as a loss to them could ruin the chance of a good session.
It was enough.
To the despair of the packed carriage not a lot of people got out at the train station. This probably meant that the rest were there until the next big stop at the Red Cow park and ride. It didn’t bother Denny though, he’d be long gone before then.
The girl with the spiderman-child was still there. Her knee was now crushed against his, her heel dug into the floor to keep her balance, the little boy wedged against her other leg. He presumed she must be heading to the Red Cow stop as he had decided she wasn’t a Dub even though she hadn’t spoken a word since he’d noticed her.
“JAMES- Ospideál Naomh Séamas”
Denny shivered. He wasn’t mad on this stop either.
Ospideal me hole, I’m telling ye, that place is a dump, nothing short of it. Ye wouldn’t even call it a dump. Like you wouldn’t send a dog in the door. I’ll never forget the night I spent there with Slappo an him after crackin his head off da ground outside Morrissons. Treated like dirt the pair of us were. Like scum. It’s a fuckin bad state of affairs when you’d spent more time with a pair of heavies in high viz jackets than with a fuckin doctor. I’m telling ye, ye wouldn’t even send a dog you didn’t like into that hole. A pure dump.
The Spanish looking student got up to get out and like a shot the little Spiderman boy stepped over his mother’s leg and squeezed up beside Denny, kneeling on the seat to look out the window. His Mother reached out, trying to stretch to him through the crowd.
“Jamie! Jamie, say excuse me to the man.”
Denny looked away not really sure if he was the man she meant. He also realised he’d been wrong, she wasn’t a culchie afterall. Definitely a Dub. Southside, but not posh, just ordinary. A good part of Tallaght maybe or Rathfarnham.
He didn’t mind the young lad up beside him anyway, he wasn’t doing any harm. He was just looking out the window, at all the lights and the other trams passing, his little mouth hanging open.
“It’s his first time on the Luas,” she spoke again, definitely to him this time. She seemed embarrassed as she continued, “We went in to see the lights.”
Again, he didn’t answer. The fact that she’d spoken to him had taken him by surprise and by the time he realised he should say something it was too late. But more than that, he was starting to feel a bit funny with the little lad so close.
It was the smell. The fuckin smell. It had been a while but I remembered it, like. A kind of a mix of piddle-soaked underpants and something sweet, you know like sticky-toffee or summa dat tack they’d get down in Gleesons of a Sunday morning. And sure he never med it through an outing without pissing in himself. He was only small, like.
The bitch took him with her, ye know. The fuckin week before Christmas an all. Selfish fuckin toerag. She’d no right, ye know. No fuckin right. He’d have fought her for him only Slappo said he hadn’t a hope. They’ll twist it all, Den, he said, sure it’ll be all your blempt by the time that lying cow is finished with ye. The birds allus win.
The birds allus win.
“FATIMA – Fatima”
He didn’t feel well at all now. He wondered had the last pint had been bad.
That’s the other thing about fuckin Christmas, they could serve you any ould shite and get away with it. Not only get away with it but charge ye extra for the fuckin privilege.
He shunted himself as far as he could along the seat and once there was sufficient space between him and the child he looked up at the girl.
“Sit down there with yer son, luv.”
She looked at him with a big grateful smile and for a few seconds she looked really pretty. She squeezed into the little gap and put her arm around the young lad to stop him falling back. At one stage her head lowered sideways to rest on his little back and the tired, sad look crept back into her eyes.
Not that I’m feeling the May West meself to be honest, I’d had better ideas in me time than givin up half me fuckin seat and me feeling queasy from a ropey pint.
The Luas rolled along and he started to relax again.
Jesusmaryandholysaintjoseph she smelled grand. Clean. Not rancid with that rotten shite they called perfume that the young ones bought on Henry Street. Fresh. Like the bedclothes used be when she was still living there.
He could feel his eyes shut with the rocking motion of the carriage.
“RIALTO – Rialto”
He opened his eyes and it took him a second to realise his head had fallen sideways onto her shoulder. His face flared with mortification. And then he wondered why she’d let him. Any other time that had happened he’d gotten a shove and been told to go and slobber somewhere else.
Jaysys it was nice but.
He wondered what would have happened if he had met a girl like her instead all those years ago.
Instead of that other yoke? I’da treated her like a princess, that’s what woulda happened. I would’ve ye know. It wasn’t fair. My life coulda been deadly.
He would have loved to have just shut his eyes again, but this was his stop coming up so instead he reached up to the shiny yellow bar and heaved himself up off the bench. He was surprised to see that she stood up too.
“Come on Jamie, time to go home.”
The little lad looked out the window one last time at the lights of the city gliding past.
“Bye Bye New York,” he said, as he put his little hand in hers.
Ah jaysus. The poor little fucker thought he was actually Spiderman.
The memories rose in Denny Murphy’s foggy brain like the damp, insidious mist that crept up the canal of a morning when he used to be on his way to work. He really felt sick now. He needed to get off the Luas and quick. But he let her go out the door in front of him first and watched as she lifted the little lad on one hip. When he eventually got out the door he went to head left over the bridge and home but hesitated, he was curious to see where she went as he could not believe she was a local.
She turned right and started to walk down the side of the track. So he slowly walked after her, trying to keep the orange glow of at least three street lamps between them so that she wouldn’t think he was following her. On they both walked, the little lad’s head slowly dropping onto her shoulder.
When they’d almost reached the bottom of the road, she turned into the gateway of what he remembered used to be the old convent the last time he was down this way. When she reached the gate she paused to look around her.
When she spotted him she didn’t seem to mind, although when she smiled it was definitely a little more warily than she had earlier but then she continued to look from left to right and back again, past Denny down the street and back.
He obviously wasn’t who she was looking out for.
She then turned back to the gate, typed a code into the keypad, and straightening her back, boosted the little lad up on her hip and walked quickly in. He didn’t move until the big metal gate slammed shut behind her. When he heard her footsteps move away at the far side, he swayed slightly forward to read the sign on the pebble-dashed wall.
Had the bould nuns sold the old building for apartments? No better women to make a few bob.
“St. Michael’s House – Mother and Child Protection Services”
He reeled as Slappo’s words came back to him.
“No one, Denny, no one. She can hide down in that fuckin feminazi shelter on Michael’s Road, or whatever the fuck it’s supposed to be, all she likes, the attention seeking little geebag, sure no one blames you.”
And with that Denny Murphy lurched forward and clutching the bar of the metal gate vomited violently down his legs and all over his feet. Vomited and vomited until there was nothing left but a thin meandering stream of green bile, trickling from his silently roaring lips.