Gráinne Daly scribbles poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction.
Winner of the UCD Maeve Binchy Award 2019, she has been published in numerous publications.
Take me home to…
By Gráinne Daly
A young Garda stood on the corner at Gill’s, freshly minted from Templemore. He hadn’t been long on the streets, much less in Dublin’s North Inner City. Smiling and saying hello to passers-by, he looked happy in his uniform with the shoes well-polished and a fine crease ironed in the trousers. His older colleague stood in the centre of the road. A well fed man of greying years; he had a prawn coloured face used to sunshine or whiskey or both. Groups of fans moved left and right to clear the width of him. There wasn’t as much as a nod out of him as he stared in the direction of Fitzgibbon Street: a veteran of match days at Croke Park.
Joe had slept the whole way over on the bus from Swinford and was in good shape for a few scoops by the time he arrived at Gill’s. The first two went down easy and by then the boys from Dublin had arrived, and sure at that stage there was no point in counting any further. Not that they were actually boys from Dublin–God no! They were all good Mayo lads living and working up above. Two of the boys from home had come and camped on couches last night. Sick as a plane to Lourdes the both of them.
“Late one boys?” Joe asked when he spotted the green faces coming towards them.
“Ah shtop, it was five and I getting home. Don’t remember a thing.”
Mike was famous for losing the memory with a few scoops on.
“And yourself?” Joe looked at Tommy who was trying to get the barman’s attention.
“Who says I went home? he said, and a big grin on his face.”
A collective cheer went up from the boys and they moved in closer, ready for an interrogation that went along the lines and of: Were ya bauld?… Ya dog ya…Where’d ya meet her?… Is she coming in today?…Has she any friends? With each question, Tommy’s grin only got wider. But sure everyone knew his form. He can only take so much drink and then he falls asleep: a bit like giving Calpol to a baby. Following a long mouthful of his pint, he turned to the lads and with a glint in his eyes told them that she was on her way in. With her friend.
Sups of pints.
Then the questions resumed. All concerned with What’s the friend like?
“A ride of a thing,” said Tommy.
The next round of pints was promptly ordered. All eyes focused on the direction of the door in spite of the many lumps of jerseyed men blocking the view. Whenever the two rides of things arrived, the lads wanted to spot them first. Until someone mentioned the referee and pandemonium ensued.
“That same bollox robbed us in Salthill last year,” said Mick.
“And three years ago in the semi-final. There was no way that was a free on Rock. No fucking way was it man. Robbed so we were.” Joe was pointing as he said it, at nobody in particular.
“You’re right, only a wanker so he is, and him related to the Ard Stiúrthoir. Sure no wonder he’s getting the big games.”
They nodded in unison, taking aggressive mouthfuls of pints. Gerry Flynn was indeed the son in law of the GAA Ard Stiúrthoir. Sure weren’t they from the same club in Westmeath? Another round was called for, the watches were examined and then all eyes went Tommy’s direction.
“She’s not coming lad, Fat Damo said, his forehead corrugated with furrows. Could you not ring her like?” He even sounded worried.
Fat Damo hadn’t seen any action since the days of school discos, so friends of mate’s conquests were his province of hope.
“Arragh, she’ll be here. I saw her tickets sure.” Tommy wasn’t about to admit defeat just yet.
“Is that all she showed you? Joe couldn’t help himself, upper or lower Tommy?”
They all laughed loud.
“Or both?” chimed Fat Damo.
Laughter went even louder still. Tommy remained calm and took another sup of the pint.
The roars and cheers continued and they clapped him on the back. There was so much jostling and with the place so jammers they hadn’t noticed two tall blondes make their way beside them. It was only after one of the lads shouted something about the view from her box, that Tommy coughed and straightened up.
“Howaya Michelle, howaya doin’?” He said to one of the smiling ladies who had appeared beside him.
“All good yah. This is Doireann, you met her last night but I’m not sure you’ll remember. You were flying it by then.”
“Howaya Doireann,” he coughed, his face reddening.
The lads stood silent, nursing their pints and their notions. For a minute, all thoughts of the match were suspended. For a minute, there were just two women in the world. But the minute’s silence lapsed and Fat Damo dove right in.
“Howaye girls, can I get ye a drink?”
“Sound yah, two bottles of Coors, cheers.”
“And did ye have a good night last night girls?” Joe asked.
“Ah you know yourself, mental one in Coppers like. As you do.”
“Where are ye from yourselves? Joe was eyeballing the head off Doireann, and she eyeballing him back.”
“Crossmolina,” she answered, “I didn’t get your name sorry.”
“It’s Joe. Joe Cunniffe. I’m from Swinford myself.”
“Not so bad,” she said, flashing a red lipsticked smile at him.
Fat Damo arrived back and set the drinks in their hands.
“Cheers,” said Michelle. “What’s your name sorry?”
“Damien John Vaughan,” he rattled off, as though he were answering the pink Garda outside in the street. Unfortunately, he didn’t stop at that, “I’m from Tourmakeady but I’m living in Islandeady because I’m working in Weshtport. You’ve heard Allergan? Well I’m working in in Allergan, in in Weshtport. Decent spot…”
Michelle nodded and went to say something, but the soliloquy continued.
“Anton Diver worked there. I worked with him like. Well not with him, but you know, I’d park near his car. Beautiful Audi it was. And like you’d see him in the canteen at lunchtimes. It’s not like he actually ate there because he had his own nutritionist come in to cook for him, but like, he’d be in for a coffee sometimes and you’d get to see him around. A good skin is Anton. Not that I ever spoke to him. But shtill, you could just tell he’s a decent skin like. And his car is class, as I said.”
The girls looked at each other and knocked back their Coors. Joe turned to one of the lads and muttered something about the team sheet for the game. Of course Anton Diver was starting as captain. Tommy remained silent, flitting between trying to give Michelle the eye and Fat Damo the evils. After an awkward round of looks, Michelle spoke. Yah, it’s a nice set of wheels alright.
“Oh you’ve seen it on Facebook have you?” asked Fat Damo, proud to have managed to get a return conversation from a woman.
“No. Anton’s my boyfriend.”
The colour drained from Fat Damo’s red cheeks.
“Your…?” Tommy’s jaw dropped.
“Yah, going out five years so we are. You’re right Damien, a sound lad is Anton.”
“But..?” Where Fat Damo had been fláithúlach, Tommy was falling short. “Em, but I stayed in your place last night?”
The lads tried to pretend they weren’t there, all staring deep into their pints. The heads went back in unison, and the pints diminished in a few gulps.
“Of course you did Tommy, sure didn’t you give us two tickets if we’d let you sleep on our sofa? Sound out lad. Just met my brother there and he’s thrilled with them. Thanks again.”
Joe looked at Tommy and cursed.
“Tommy, you shtill have my ticket on ya don’t ya?”
He reached into his pocket, pulling out a Supermac’s receipt and a clump of what looked like dog hair.
“Michelle, you’re joking?” His voice was unsteady and his feet were starting to follow suit. He wobbled.
“No lad. Sure you were in no fit state to be left wandering around the city. I was happy to help.”
“What are you here for?” Tommy’s eyes were now bulging.
“You said that your pal would sort Doireann out with a ticket if we dropped in. Fat Damo I think you said his name was?”
For a reason unknown to Tommy, he shielded his crotch, although the damage had already been done. He felt as though he had been kicked low and was struggling for breath. The boys were slipping away out of view as empty glasses were dropped on the bar and heads were shook in disapproval. Fat Damo disappeared and who could blame him? Only Joe remained. He stared at Tommy, willing him to burst out with balloons and declare it all a joke. After what seemed like forever, Joe spoke.
“You were well got ya clown ya.”
“Arragh I know. I’m sorry lad.”
“So will we watch it here or what?” Joe nodded towards the screen, the teams were lining up to meet the President.
“May as well sure. I have a feeling Joe, sthrong like.”
“This is our year.”
“Tommy, you felt lucky last night and look what happened. Shut up before you jinx us altogether.”
At 17:30, a young Garda stood on the corner at Gill’s a fresh looking uniform and a stale look on his young face. He gave conciliatory nods to passers-by wearing green and red. His older colleague stood in the centre of the road looking as though he’d just got the whiff of decaying meat. A couple of lads swayed out of Gill’s pub and over towards the boys in blue.
“Howaye Guard, Joe said, his eyes puffy from the tears. Same old story isn’t it?”
“Howaye lads,” replied the Garda in the deepest of voices.
“You’re one of us,” Joe said.
“Guilty,” said the Garda. “Ballina. The new buck there is Bohola.” He nodded towards his colleague.
“I’m Swinford, Tommy here is Geesala.”
“Diver was usheless, jusht in the way so he was,” said the Garda.
“Usheless altogether, the ‘mount o’ wides was shocking.”
“It didn’t look like they wanted to score.”
“Thrue. We’ll leave you be so, said Joe.”
“Are ye away West?” asked the Garda.
“Well I hope ye get a few on the scoreboard yeerselves lads,” the unsmiling Garda smiled.
“I’ll settle for any board,” said Joe and winked.
With their hands in pockets and the breeze in their faces, the pair sauntered down Dorset Street and off towards Phibsboro direction. There’d be plenty more fish there. The night was young and the tide could turn.