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Here then it is – my life over in eight seconds.
Its origins lie in a red mist that descends. The devil’s gunpowder. I yield to it. It plays out. Logic collapses. Events overcome me. I lose perspective and take on the world. To make amends.
‘Ass-wipe. I’m going to drown you like a kitten if you don’t back-up pronto.’
‘Oh yeah? I’d like to see that’ he says.
A sparrow can’t be a fighting cock. Yet the boy tries. He pumps his chest only it doesn’t rise. He can’t hide his voice either. It’s a girl’s. Justin Bieber? At his age the sexes are so androgynous. Ill-defined. Anyway, he’s a rake; corpulence hasn’t got him. Yet.
‘You’re asking for it spotty’ I say.
‘No, you are, you old fart.’
Mincing and mimicking, it’s all they know, today’s youth: posturing. My patience is out the window, the song and dance over.
‘Last time – shut the fuck up.’
‘No, you shut the fuck up.’
Warning: do not hold my gaze. It goads; it calls me on. We eye-ball, the boy and I. Great, bring it! You like bricks? Here’s a ton.
Not graveyard dead. Still. When things overheat …. my default setting is murder.
My head, the bridge of his nose, a crowning moment. Nutted. I feel his nose give like snapping a chicken carcass. Now he’s rapt. Blood spurts from his beak like a broken fire-hydrant. Newton doesn’t lie: to every action …
The boy, he’s not slow and though he concedes weight he plays survival. He crouches like a wrestler, stooping yet trying to remain upright in the gooey mess. The mixture at our feet is toxic: orange juice, broken glass and eggs. My legs splay to stay afloat. To steady himself he grabs me with a hand and with the other clubs at my face. I also seek purchase against him, though one of my hands is throttling his windpipe. A lady is caught up in the mix, refereeing. We spin about and she gets in the way. Obstruction! I shove the woman back with a hand, a stray finger poking the wet meniscus of her eye.
We pivot, twist, turn and tango. I think he might have me but, just then, I see him eye an escape. The car park is vast. And empty. It’s an easy out. But to run would define him. Can’t abandon a damsel in distress! So we tussle over the omelette we’re beating.
When he thinks all creative options are dusted, with a jerk I break his hold, throwing us off-balance. It’s a Matrix moment. A left hook follows. I connect cleanly with an eye socket. Not bad. He crumples. He’s down in the omelette.
I go in for more. The kill. It’s already played out in my mind: my foot, his head, my boot superimposed on his face. I hear the crunch. I almost feel his concussion. But that one doesn’t happen. Security is on me. The guy appears from nowhere and puts me on the ground, in the goo. It must be martial arts: one minute up, the next I’m down. All I feel is a jolt in the crook of my knee. Then I genuflect. Then a sharp chop on the neck has me horizontal.
All this action is overlaid against a long acoustic scream from the lady. She can hold a pitch, the big round ‘O’ of her mouth going all operatic.
‘What the fuck!’ security rains down on me.
There’s light in his eyes; the security man’s. It’s colour – fury.
I’m frightened. It’s not so much that he’s in uniform as his squareness. He blocks out the sunlight as he stands over me. To be him you need planning permission. He’s built for bouncing, the real shit-house.
It’s not his language – English. The Mountain’s. That’s not racism speaking – sure, he’s black – it’s just that he doesn’t curse like he’s comfortable with it. Maybe only the Irish curse naturally, where cursing is like pissing spring water.
The weird thing is, when weird things happen, it takes a second to adjust, for your brain to recalibrate. What I’m caught up in is crazy. It’s not befitting a lawyer but more in keeping with the adventures of a tramp sipping whiskey street-side. For some moments my life is in another place, another land. I’m on my back in a dream. Dream-land. That’s it: this too will pass I say to myself. And him: does he eat pork? Is he Al-Qaeda? The Mountain. Then I equilibrate. Rebalance. A dawning: I’m awake. I’m here. It’s real. And the fruit: that’s me.
‘He’s only a boy’ the lady cries.
The bitch spins her head about looking for converts. Their being few others around she goes to give me one. The Mountain intervenes and takes it on the shin.
He hops in pain. She’s taken-aback, the bitch. The Mountain might turn on her. Nobody wants an erupting volcano.
‘Sorry, that was for him’ she says. ‘He’s my son.’
‘Violence isn’t the answer.’
It’s the Mountain rumbling. The munificence.
Shielded behind the Mountain, I scramble to me feet. The boy also rights himself as the bitch – the boy’s mum – cradles his head. After a few seconds he breaks her hold. Too late. Now we know, the Mountain and I, that the boy is mothered.
I consider running. Impossible. My car is parked a few feet away, one of a half-dozen in the vast car park. Instead I become my own lawyer, figuring on an exit strategy, a come-good. I wrench my arm free of the Mountain’s grip.
‘Look, it’s all a misunderstanding. I’ve somewhere to be.’
‘No, no’ says the mum. ‘I want the Gardai.’
‘Let’s cool it’ the Mountain says.
‘He’s right. Let’s not get carried away’ I agree.
‘Carried away’ the mum says. ‘You’re the only one who got carried away. You maniac!’
‘Hang on. I was helping you. I shouldn’t have bothered.’
‘Helping! Some help. Smashing my groceries and beating up my son.’
‘Mum, he didn’t beat me up’ the boy adds.
‘See. Your boy even said it. It was just a mistake.’
‘No. You, mister, you made mistake’ the Mountain says.
The Mountain thinks he must intervene to show his strength. I slacken up. Minimum wage and he gets this. His staff uniform is ironed, with neat crease lines down his shirt, so I can’t tell if he’ll go for cash. You never can tell where you’ll find the honest poor ones. I try to give him an out by justifying.
‘I was helping her as her spotty son wouldn’t’ I say. ‘He was too busy stealing sweets and peeping at porno mags.’
‘What in God’s name are you talking about?’
It’s the mum at it again, being anti-me. The Mountain holds up a hand, cutting her short. Silence. Then.
‘You hurt him.’
The Mountain points a finger, first at the boy, then me. We all look at the drip. He’s sulking behind his mum. His bloody nose has started to crust over making him look even more snotty. It looks like a vulture snacked on his face. He pretends to be still up for it but he’s not. His mouth twitches. I think he’s mumbling: come on, come on. He’s daring me. Come on then and stop shitting yourself. Come on out from behind mummy-kins. But no. Instead, he continues baiting me. Come on, come on.
‘Come on, foetus’ I hiss. ‘Acting brave? Bring it!’
It’s a front. He simply talks a good fight. Italian blood? He looks to his mum. She squeezes him tighter.
I consider second dibs but the Mountain lies between us. If I lunge I’ll be repatriated with interest. Anyway his arms are fanned out ready for any commotion. The Mountain thinks there’s some bottle left, some unexpressed agro. He’d be right. Rage isn’t so easily switched off. A gun and I’d clean up.
‘Hey, you kicked the Security guy and he hurt me. My neck and back is fucked.’
I’m making a stew, trying to tie the Mountain to the unfolding fiasco. Pull me down and I’ll pull the world down. Now the Mountain isn’t so sure-footed. Don’t topple the world; play ball is what I’m urging.
‘It’s over’ the Mountain says.
Ah, Mr Security Man, so your job isn’t so secure!
‘I must be off’ I say.
I give a tight smile and spy the hour, making like I have a life. I do. Or, at least, I did.
‘But the groceries. My groceries are destroyed’ the mum says.
Who said telepathy doesn’t work? It’s actually called ‘memetics’: information transfer or pushing thoughts into people’s heads. I just shoved a ton of silage into her ear and now she’s thinking on my wavelength. The scales are right; the quantum of damage lower: down from the thousands to under a hundred euro.
‘Who’s going to pay for this?’
‘The man is’ the Mountain says.
It’s a gem, uniting against me, just what I wanted. And they say money is supposed to sharpen the mind! Instead we’re haggling over tip money. To ones station in life what you deserve. Still, I play my role, acting like its their idea and don’t let on that I’ve rearranged their thinking. I haggle a bit, behaving indignant.
‘Hang on. I was helping a lady in need and get stung for it. I must remember never to help anyone again.’
Bizarrely the Mountain empathises with a sigh. Did I overcook it? I must row back a tad. After all, consideration must be sufficient but need not be adequate. In my head I’ve gone all legal; I’m just talking dumb. To hide the plot. To box it away. Being a lawyer taught me that; all about acting. As for them, peanuts will do.
‘Ok, to settle the matter’ I say. ‘Fully and finally. The end of it. Ok?’
‘Go easy there’ the Mountain says.
I’m fishing out my wallet when he suddenly places a firm hand on mine, restraining me.
‘Hey, relax, it’s my dough not a knife! You want to frisk me?’
‘The cops would. You want that?’
‘Nobody’s cool’ he corrects.
‘You’re right. Sorry.’
The Mountain nods his head, appreciating my non-coolness. Another nod – go ahead. I fish out my wallet and toss two fifties in the pool of broken eggs. In a beat the scut has it in his hands and is cleaning the notes. He thinks he’s done good. I make to leave but the Mountain has me by the arm again. His memory jogs. He remembers some protocol; has his job to consider.
‘Must take contact details’
Has he learned English by rote or is he one of the truly integrated? On a different day I’d encourage him to try out for politics. Duds do well there.
Sean O’Shenanigans I’m thinking of being; only he’s wise to it.
‘Driving licence’ he says.
‘Not got it on me.’
‘That your car?’
He’s thinking on his feet, pointing to a sports car.
‘The one you came in on. I’ll have your keys if you can’t remember who you are.’
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