Dick Donaghue has worked with many of the Arts Groups in Galway over the past 30 years, mainly, GalwayArtsCenter, Macnas, Galway Theatre Workshop and The Film Resource Center. He has published two children’s books with An Gúm, one of which was featured on RTE television. His play “Explorers” was produced in the Town Hall Studio and many of his short stories and articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines both locally and nationally. His first novel “Dance of the Mocking Birds” was published in 2010 and in 2011 he designed and published a book on his wife, the artist, Marja van Kampen. He is currently editing a book of short stories. He lives in Galway, Ireland.
By Dick Donaghue
“I want to go out Gerry, I want to party.” Kathy pummeled the air with her hands in despair. “I’m fed up sitting doing nothing. I need some excitement.”
He watched her coldly through a haze of smoke.
“This … shaggin’ sitting around is killing me. For Chrissake, Gerry, it’s the longest night of the year. Everyone is out having a good time. And what are we doing? Sitting on our arses, talking rubbish.”
Gerry continued to stare. His tight lips worked slowly from side to side. He chain-lit another cigarette. “You’re the only one saying anything,” he snorted.
“Exactly,” Kathy exploded. “That’s just what I mean. And it’s damn boring.”
Gerry blew a cloud of smoke over her head. A shred of tobacco stuck to his lip. He pushed it off with the tip of his tongue and spat it away. “You can go out if you want to …”
“There’s nobody stopping me, huh? Is that what you mean?” Kathy finished the sentence for him. Instantly she knew it was a mistake. But it was too late. Like a shot he leapt to his feet and, grabbing her by the shoulder, yanked her off the sofa and pushed her into the street.
“Look! Up there,” he hissed. “See that. Big orange moon, right?” He twisted her head upwards. “Two more nights and it’ll be full. Midwinter, my arse. You haven’t a clue what it’s all about. You don’t appreciate these things.” He jerked her head. “And see that big purple cloud. Beautiful. Huh?”
“It’s grey, Gerry. It’s grey.” Tears of frustration welled up in her. He continued to speak as she twisted out of his grasp, “That’s the problem with you Kathy. You see everything as grey.”
The cigarette dangled from his bottom lip with puffs of smoke accentuating each word. “But it’s not. There’s colour everywhere. All you have to do is open your eyes. I’ve tried to – educate you. Make you see what’s around you …”
As he rambled on, her frustration blocked him out. It was as if Gerry had melted before her eyes and was replaced by a smarmy preacher with a demonic glare in his eyes.
What is happening to him? Kathy wondered in anguish. This latest trip of his has me shattered. He sits there, ruminating, day after day, claiming to see colour everywhere. Sitting on his arse smoking his way through his Dole every week! He’d be better off back on the booze. But even that is a big issue with him since he was barred from every pub in town for head-butting anyone who dared to disagree with his crazy theories. And he won’t drink at home. More craziness. Is he too proud to go to the off-license? Or too stupid, maybe? He refuses to discuss it and he won’t let me go either. He’s a demon when he’s drinking but a fool when he isn’t. Now he’s just plain crazy.
The drone of his voice pervaded her thoughts.
“ … grey clouds. Grey sky. Grey friends. Politically grey. Spiritually grey. I’ve tried to show you Kath, but it’s your brain. Your brain is grey. Can you not see that?”
She attempted to push past him but Gerry dug his hands into her shoulders and planted her in front of him. “Listen, Kathy …”
She squirmed. “You’re hurting me.”
He relaxed his grip and she spun away from him. “If it’s grey it’s grey!” She spat the words at him. “I don’t care. You’re stone mad Gerry FitzGerald. I don’t have to see everything the way you bloody-well see it. I just want to go to the pub and have a bit of fun. Meet a few people. Have a few drinks. What’s the harm in that?” She waved her arm at the sky. “It’s not up there for me. Bloody great balls of fluff.” She pointed down the moonlit street towards the bright lights of town. “ That’s where it’s at for me.” Then the tears came. “What the hell am I doing with you, anyway?” she sobbed, “what the hell am I doing …”
“You know right well what you’re doing with me,” Gerry replied scathingly.
Kathy shook her head. “I don’t know. I don’t know anything any more. I just want to meet a few friends. Have the craic. A few drinks.”
“Alcohol’s a bad vibe.”
“Oh, not that again, Gerry.”
He shook his head slowly. “You’ll never learn will you. You want to kill your brain cells, huh? You want to rot your gut with that … swill? Fill yourself up with chemicals? You want to act the eejit. Talk all that rubbish with your bullshitty so-called friends. Not while you’re living in this house, you won’t.”
“Well then maybe …”
“Well then maybe … what?”
“Well then maybe I’ll just go anyway.”
“You’re a big girl now. You can go where you like. But we’ve talked about this and you know what I think.”
“I know what you think Gerry. But what about me and what I think?”
He shooed her with a wave of his hand. “Okay, okay. Go. Go ahead. But you know the consequences.”
“Damn you, Gerry.”
As she stepped away he caught her by the arm. “Kathy, look, you know what I think, right? I’ve just tried to show you. When did I ever try to stand in your way?” He smiled crookedly. “When did I ever stop you from doing anything, huh?”
Kathy’s fists flailed the air. She wished she had the courage to actually hit him. “No, Gerry, you’ve never stopped me from doing anything. But then I’ve never actually done anything. A bit of encouragement wouldn’t have gone astray. Did that ever occur to you?
As her voice rose to a scream curtains jerked open across the street. Silhouettes appeared briefly in windows to confirm it was only the FitzGeralds at it again.
Gerry pulled her towards the house. “C’mon, we’ll talk about this inside.”
“No!” Kathy shrugged her arm from his grip. “You don’t make sense any more. We’re just going ’round in circles.” She pointed at the jerking curtains. “And I don’t give a damn about them either. We’ll shaggin’ well stand out here under your bloody purple cloud and talk about it. And whoever likes can open their mouldy curtains and watch.” She turned, screaming at the houses opposite, “and it’s probably more bloody interesting than what’s on telly … but then I wouldn’t know, would I? That’s another thing I’m not allowed to bloody-well have.”
Gerry lunged at her but this time she evaded him, prancing out into the middle of the road, where she began a manic dance of rage.
Leaning back against the doorway, he watched her through slit eyes, lighting another cigarette. He flicked the match away and moved quickly towards her, attempting to hold her. But it was like trying to embrace a pneumatic drill.
“Stop, Kathy,” he said softly, “C’mon now. Cool down.”
The unfamiliar tenderness in his voice stopped her in mid-dance. She glared at him distrustfully.
“Come on, Kathy. Let’s go back in the house.” He reached out again to hold her. She backed away.
“No, Gerry. Leave me alone.”
“Kath, Kath, please.”
“Go away, Gerry.”
Without a word he took a step back, swung his boot, and kicked the legs from under her.
With a smack her face hit the concrete and blood spurted from her nose. A silent agonized scream tore through her stunned brain. Blood dripped onto the road as she heaved herself on to her knees. Her shoulder ached and her left hip felt as if the skin had been torn off. Behind her the door slammed shut. Then she was on her feet, rushing away, cursing the pain. Damn him!
A woman’s voice called softly from a darkened doorway. “Are you all right, Miss?”
Kathy ignored it. Of course I’m all right. Just a broken nose, ha, bloody ha. Thanks for your concern. Damned if I’ll give the nosy old bag the satisfaction …
She strode on regardless of the stream of blood soaking the front of her blouse.
Suddenly Gerry appeared at her side. “Come on, Kathy. Home.”
She strode on, his footsteps marching in time with hers. “Kath. Home.”
Gerry gripped her arm to slow her down. “Okay,” he said, “we’ll go to the pub if that’s what you want.”
More blood splattered as Kathy shook her head in disbelief. Stopping abruptly she turned to face him. “Don’t be ridiculous Gerry.” Flecks of blood showered the front of his shirt through the spluttered words. He peered down at them in disgust, thumbing his nose, in a steamy silence. She froze, waiting for the blow, but it did not come. Instead his hand dropped and swung loosely at his side.
“Look at the state of you! I thought you wanted to go to the pub?”
Kathy sniffed a few times in an effort to clear her nose. “I still do,” she replied angrily. “Only you can’t.”
“Who says so, huh?” He took out a handkerchief and reached to wipe her face. She stepped away, angrily, thinking. So I’m losing a bit of blood. Well, no big deal. I’m a woman amn’t I! She made no attempt to wipe it away herself.
“First you want to go to the pub and then you don’t. As usual you’re not making any sense, Kathy.”
She attempted to laugh in his face but it came out as a snort. More blood splattered his shirt. He ignored it.
“You’re playing games again, Kath. Here, clean your face.”
She brushed aside the proffered handkerchief as if its very whiteness was a reminder of what he withheld from her. “Go away,” she said, “I don’t care. Just – go – away.”
Gerry cocked his head to one side, as if looking at a bird with a broken wing, wondering whether to take it home to nurse, or stamp on its head to end its misery. He rubbed his nose between thumb and forefinger again, shrugged and, turning abruptly, strode away.
Disgust welled up in her as she watched his belligerent retreat. Lousy swaggering bastard, that’s him all over.
Gerry turned, and seeing her still standing in the same spot, waved her on. “Get moving then,” he called, his jeering echoing down the street. “Go to your pub. See your friends. Fine. But when you come back …” He thumbed his nose at her, sneering.
Kathy strode up the street, malice boiling through her veins. Gerry’s words pursued her. “And when you come home guess who’ll be waiting, huh? No, not your yappy friends. Who’ll be waiting to wipe up your vomit? Not your yappy friends, huh?”
Kathy carried on. But where was there to go? She could never go back. This was the last time. She’d had enough. Enough of his crazy raving. The stupid endless arguments. His fists. His tormenting. In some ways it was worse before his enforced fanatical anti-booze trip. But now he was just plain erratic – Mad.
But where was she to go? She had no friends anymore. He’d seen to that. Her family didn’t want to know her. Gerry had fixed that too. And now she was in no state to go to the pub either. She didn’t know what to do. She decided to keep walking.
To the ends of the earth if necessary. Her stubborn pride taking her through the longest night of the year. Another dismal night in her life.
But she knew she would go back. How many times in the past had his blows sent her scurrying to some bleak refuge? How many hours until her weary legs retraced her tracks to his craziness? Some dark corner of her being needed that mad sick bastard. They needed each other.
But what she could not fathom, in her present befuddled state, was – why?