Finnbar Howell – Invalid

writerFinnbar Howell is an Irish Physics & Astronomy graduate and a nerd. He is the class rep for the UCD Creative Writing MA. He writes poetry, short stories and is working on a novel. His poetry has previously been published in A New Ulster. He hosts two radio shows on Belfied FM and in his rapidly diminishing free time he does Bujinkan Ninjutsu and Roman Re-enactment.


By Finnbar Howell

Card Invalid: Please try again
“Come on, come on,” I banged on the glass of the ticket machine, hearing the doors of the DART open behind me
Card Invalid: Please try again
            Fuck it, I stuffed my visa card into my pocket, jumped the turnstile and squeezed through the doors just as they began to shut. The train wasn’t too busy, but all of the booths were full but one.
I looked through the little window to the next carriage for ticket inspectors before taking a seat opposite the fat man and pulling The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy out of my coat pocket, wrinkling my nose at an odd smell; something between a gym bag and a nursing home.
I lounged as always, the book held up close to my face –my glasses lay forgotten on the bedside table three hours from here- with my elbow resting on the window frame and my legs up on the seat opposite, beside the fat man. He was bent forwards over some diary or planner, muttering quietly to himself in a continuous monotone.
“No I don’t know an Angela!” He said, his voice slightly too loud for comfortable conversation, his tone accusatory. I looked over the top of my book but his eyes were down on the diary. Curious, I sat up straighter and tried to get a glimpse of what he was looking at. He flicked the pages back and forth, going between May and September.
All of the pages seemed to be blank. For a moment I thought it must new until I noticed that the date on it was from 2007.
Back to muttering, frowning intensely. I looked at his face, keeping my book high. I struggled, as always with fat people, to put an age to him; he could have been thirty five and a heavy drinker or a relatively fresh faced sixty. His nose was wide and slightly crooked, cheeks flabby, eyebrows thick and black over dark hooded eyes. He was clean shaven but he’d missed quite a large patch on his left cheek.
He frowned as he flicked; back and forth, back and forth, from the third of May to the nineteenth of September.
“The only Andy I know is Andy Cooney and he lives in Phibsboro.”
I glanced around the rest of the carriage, possibly hoping to catch some stranger’s eye; perhaps they’d give me a he’s-been-doing-this-for-a-while-now look.
The booth opposite held a teenager in the corner, eyes on his iPad, surrounded by a young family. The woman was in her early twenties, wearing a black skirt that went to her knees, a poofy black jacket with a fluffy lined hood, flat shoes and small hoop earrings. She was talking quietly to the large toddler on her lap, trying to get her to sit still. The guy was pushing thirty, his Adidas runners shone but the rest of his attire was just grubby shapeless black running gear. He was talking to his son beside him, a kid of about five who wouldn’t stop putting his feet up on to the legs of the teenager opposite “Will ya stop will ya? Yer mammy’s going to give you a slap in a minute, put your feet down.”
The kid crossed his arms dramatically “I want to put my feet up, Penny gets to put her feet up.”
The woman leant over towards him “Penny’s a baby, she has to have her feet up, there’s nowhere else for her to sit. Are ya looking forward to that new movie are ya? What’s it called? Suicide Squad?”
The guy gave her a look “What are ya talkin’ about? They can’t watch that.”
“Isn’t it the one with the Joker and Batman? He likes Batman.”
By now my book was resting on my lap. I realised that my people-watching was a bit obvious and sat up again in the seat with my back to the window and put my legs up on my seat.
“Sure I miss them is all! No I won’t keep quiet, what right have they to tell me? I don’t care how they fuckin’ look at me.” The fat man was louder this time and I heard the kid stage whisper to his mammy that the stranger had said the f-word, she whispered back to just ignore him, he was only feeling grumpy.
The fat man almost shouted this time “Do you not see? You’re upsetting the children, would you shut up?”
Junkies, that’s all they are, just a bunch of junkies. Better off without them, better off. I’m not scared to say it. The DART police won’t kick me off for saying what I want so they won’t. Junkies. I hope they die so I do, God forgive me but I hope they die. Better off. And him there, he’s a junkie, and him, and her.”
The murmur of conversation from other booths had died down now, I imagined a collection of heads craning over shoulders to see what was going on. The fat man subsided into silence for a time, then pulled out a pen and started to cross off the dates in the diary in rapid succession, going from the forth of May and flicking forwards furiously, muttering as he did “I’ll kill them all so I will, I’ll kill them all. Better off. I’ll kill them all. You can’t stop me this time.”
The woman lifted the toddler off her lap and stood up “Come on, this is our stop.”
The fat man shuffled across his seat and leaned towards her. I leapt to my feet, dropping my book as I did so, and reached forwards-
He picked up the hat she’d dropped on the seat “Here don’t forget this now, that’d only ruin your day so it would.”
She beamed at him “Ah bless you” She turned to me, now standing blocking the aisle “Are you getting’ off or what?”
“Eh, yeah.” I said. I pressed the button to open the doors and alighted, two stops too early. The doors closed and I realised I’d left my book on the floor in front of the fat man.



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