Gordon Ferris is a Dublin writer living in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal for the past thirty-six years. He is a member of the Dublin Writers Forum and has had poetry and short stories published in A New Ulster, The Galway Review, Inspire magazine and poetry in Hidden Channel.
By Gordon Ferris
On the way out the door, have the money in the back pocket. The new wrangler jeans on, purchased personally with my hard-earned money, saved over several weeks. Bought in O Conner’s in Capel Street, one of the few places they are available in Dublin. School finished now, off to celebrate freedom.
A short walk up the street, five doors to be exact, brings me to the Elis household. This is where my compadre Desi Elis resided. We had been best pals now for the previous three years, not a long time really. With me, childhood friends seemed to go their own way once primary school finished, some went to different schools, others just went in opposite directions, some for better some for worse. Some of them thought I was to quiet and not tough enough, others thought I was too rough and a bad influence. If anything, I was just the one who was easily led.
The faint din of music guided me up the path to the Elis bright sky-blue door, a colour that ruined a good mahogany door. Coming from inside, a strange fusion of music, different brass instruments, Piano, acoustic and electric. All playing different tunes, different styles, from the Parlour one playing jazz on a saxophone, another playing god knows what on the electric piano, sounded like scales. From upstairs, came the sound of a saxophone and guitar. Somehow there seemed to be classical music on the piano from inside the front door, in the hall.
To overcome the musical mayhem inside I had to knock hard on the door, I could see a faint figure scurrying through the frosted glass in the door. Opening the door with a genuine good-natured smile, was Mrs Elis. A four foot nine bundle of energy, a face lined with life worn wrinkles,
“Ah me old segosha, how the hell are ya, are ya keeping well, haven’t seen you in an age, is your Mammy keeping well, how’s your da,” all question out there without waiting for an answer.
Ushering me in she called Desi, s name out loud, not realising he was sitting head bent on a piano stool under the stairs at his piano, the only place available to put it with his three older brothers claiming the parlour and bedroom for their practice, the noise from both places being a testament to this. Mrs Elis went on into the living room, leaving both of us on our own offering me tea before she went. Desi declined for me, dismissing his mother without looking at her. This made me feel uncomfortable, I would not dare disrespect my Mother like this. This seemed to be normal in this house. The males were very much the masters in this house, with Mrs Elis running after them nonstop, out to the shops seventy times a day to get thing’s the boys would take a notion for, want something for their dinner, then something different, not in the house for their tea, all normal everyday routine. Degrading as this was, Mrs Elis seemed to thrive on it, her whole life appeared to revolve around her five Men, she could just be about to sit and relax at the end of the day when one of them would want a cup of tea or a clean shirt for going out, or for work the next day, and she would gladly do it, smiling. It gave her great joy to do things for her boys.
“Well are you ready for tonight, this is the big one, should be a good night,” I said, excited at the prospect of letting my hair down and meeting up with my girlfriend.
“I am indeed, and maybe we might get served a few flagons’ of cider in Superguinn.” He replied, rubbing his hands in glee.
Quick run upstairs to go to the Jax and splash on the Brut, down the stairs in three steps, Desi grabbed his denim jacket and out the door with us, Desi shouting, “I’m going out Ma, see ya later “
She comes out running to the door, “have you a coat on ya, that weather could change.”
“I’m all right Ma, go back in will ya, I’m not twelve years old” He said, waving her away. “Sheed do your head in, making a fuss like that.,”
If I spoke to my Ma like that I’d be killed by her, resurrected by me Da and killed again by, then he would lecture me undead body about how one should worship and obey their Mother, always show her respect, no matter what is said, it’s only for your own good, you never answer back, under any circumstances”
At this we were both startled by Mad Max, the dog guarding the top of the street appearing from nowhere, growling menacingly at us with barred teeth. Desi just made a run at him shouting,
“fuck of ya crazy bastard frightened the shite out of me.” At which the dog scarpered away to its hiding place behind a hedge in some garden.
Walking down Cappagh Road now, approaching the Church of the Annunciation. At this crossroads we turned off to the left, past the row of shops and headed down Mellows Road towards Superguinn.
“We could always try the off licence in the Shamrock pub”, I said.
“What about walking on down to the Autobahn pub and trying to get served, doesn’t your brother drink down there, he might get us a few pints. Worth a try anyway, what dee ye think” “
“Not a bad idea, save us having to drink in the field at the back of the Tech, no need to go there anymore”
This is where all the lads went to drink their flagons of cider before they were old enough to get served in pubs. Some of them were a bad bunch and if my parents knew I was anywhere near them, that would be me stuck in the house for the rest of my youth. But at that age you don’t see any danger until it slaps you in the face, the older ones, we emulated and wanted to be like them, and we would copy them, within reason. Those of us who could tell the difference between right and wrong only went so far. One bright spark asked me once in this field what class I had first thing in the morning, like an egit, I told him I had Miss Falcon for Irish in 1A, that was the first class near the main building, at this he finished off his flagon went over to 1A and put the glass bottle through the window, now you have a free class on Monday, you owe me, he said running. Everybody else scarpered in shock. That was Vincent mc Cane, nickname The Mentler, he would later die when he walked in front of a lorry on Berkley Road, off his head on the drink. He went through a life time’s damage from alcohol abuse in ten years, from drinking flagons in a field to drinking wine in alleyways. A tragic, senseless waste of life.
ANYWAY, soon we ended up approaching the Autobahn Pub. How we ended up there without having decided where we were going, is a mystery. Instead of blabbering and jabbering on our journey about trivial stuff. Before we knew it, we were fast approaching the door of the pub, telling each other to walk confidently towards the door, as if we belonged in this environment, pretend we are talking, nothing to fear, as if we belong in here, approaching the two bouncers, expecting to be turned away, we were shocked and amazed when he said, “go on ahead lads.” without even looking at us.
In the door we strode like two gunslingers entering a saloon, the smoky atmosphere immediately got me. Causing me to cough and squint my watering eyes to see. Chris the big brother was over just as we were in the door, ushering both of us with a tight grip to the arms into a corner. He scorned “What are you two dozy bollixes doing in here, if your Ma here’s about this, sh-eel blame me, you know she will” “No she won’t, how will she find out, I won’t tell her, I didn’t know you were here anyway. We heard it was easy to get served here so we thought we’d chance our arms, isn’t that right Desi” I said, nudging him. With Desi replying a lame, “Ah no Chris, sure we had no idea, just taking a chance getting a gargle” “OK, go on in there and I’ll get them for ya “Chris said, pointing to the snug at the front of the bar. Inhabiting the snug an elderly couple probably in their seventies, maybe eighties, maybe late sixties, its sometimes very hard to tell. Both happy smiley people, the woman one of those permanent expressive face that always smile, even when negativity knocks on their door, displaying an edge of sadness to their smile. The man eyed us suspiciously, nodded hello back to us, then went back to talking to the women, ignoring our presence.
Chris returned with two pints of Bass which he unceremoniously planted in front of us. How did I know it was bass, it was from the big red letters on the side of the glass? Chris didn’t hang about long, he warned us to behave ourselves, saying that this was his pub, so not to make a show of him and away he went back to his buddies at the bar.
We sat staring at the two pints of mahogany-coloured liquid, and at each other, I picked up my pint and took as big a gulp, as big as I could take without gagging, I put the glass down with a false smile hiding a grimace, Desi followed suit with a sour puss on him as he put the glass down, his own fault for trying to drink more than me.
I noticed the elderly couple, the man’s arm draped over her shoulder and vanishing down her back, while at the same time looking straight into her eyes whispering things to the women that made her blush. I looked away quick trying not to be noticed looking. From the way Desi looked away quick, started talking about football, I knew he had noticed the same. We couldn’t react or say anything in the close confines of the snug, we just talked keeping straight faces.
Secretly I was thinking, how fabulous it was for a couple of their age, to have those amorous feelings for each other, hoping that I could meet someone who would be willing to stick with me through thick and thin, who could look into my eyes, the way these two do. I kept these thoughts strictly to myself.
Soon the glasses were starting to empty, thoughts of getting more beer entered our heads. Which one of us was going to go up and order the gargle, that was the question. There was a hatch into the snug where the elderly man got up and ordered his two gold labels and glasses of stout, but that would be a bit chancy, the barman being able to clearly see us. So, we decided to go into the bar and chance our arm. We left the company of the two elderly lovers and said good night, to which the women replied see ya boys to us, probably relieved to see the back of us I’d say.
Into the bar we went, being assaulted by a thick cloud of cigarette smoke and noise coming from every direction, the TV blaring Match of the Day, everyone speaking in raised voices, shouting conversations across the bar. To my surprise, Chris appeared from the jax(Toilet). “Are you two still here, why didn’t ya stay in the snug” he said.
I replied that the dirty old man was nearly riding the women in the snug so we got out after a half an hour of being embarrassed. “Desi was just going to go up and get two more gargles.” I added, hoping Chris would offer to get them for us. Chris replied smiling “Hear, I’ll go and get them for ya, but give me the money, I’m not made of cash, or falling for that one, Smart arse” And up to the bar, he went, returning with two pints.
Chris didn’t hang around long. We got a spot just outside the snug where we had our first pint. We had a good view all around, without being in to open a place or drawing the attention of the bar staff. We made ourselves at home watching what was left of the football. I was just about to lift the glass to my mouth and take a slug out of the beer when I spotted the elderly women coming out of the snug, she walked past us smiling, and when she nearly past I nearly choked on my drink with the sight passing me. All I can deduct from the vision before me was, that the dear old lady and her boyfriend must have been having a right canoodling session, the man must have tried dropping the hand, and in the progress left the women with her dress caught inside her black cotton knickers.
Desi was taking a mouthful of beer and nearly spit it out when he noticed what had happened. We both looked and each other and when she was in the loo out of earshot we burst out laughing. Lucky enough we were the only ones who noticed and the poor old woman was saved any blushes, I don’t think she even realised what had happened. When she returned, she was tidied up and smiled hello at us as she passed, not the actions of a woman who had just flashed us. We finished the beer and left to head for St Michaels, a special night to be had there this night for the end of another year with exams being over.