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At the table, with hands squeezing his cheeks, Mr Murphy makes a sandwich of his face. The effect only makes him look more ridiculous as his moustache becomes a tortured grey mouse trying to flee his mouth. And if he isn’t at as his cheeks, he’s obsessively rearranging the items on the table: the salt seller, menu, ashtray, Tabasco sauce and fake candle. He leaves our coffees alone, although mine is actually a latte.
An hour of this compulsive obsessive retard and I’ll do my nut in. But he knows I must stick it out. It’s his gig. If he wants to tell me about his warts and all, I’ll listen. I must jump through hoops and suffer total humiliation as a stranger drives me.
I daydream: his wife, she wasn’t that bad; how’d he land her? Maybe they’re brother and sister. It would explain their son. The inbredness. Before engaging with Mr Murphy I wondered if he was monied – it would nail the marital mismatch and make our meeting only about the principal of my actions. About an apology. Instead he’s a leech on life’s underpants. He thinks he’s hit the jackpot, planning to live off this coffee for years.
We’re back to handbags.
‘I’m meeting you in good faith’ he says. ‘But I can’t speak for what the Gardai will do.’
‘You made a formal complaint?’
‘You’d have done the same if it was your kid.’
I let it slide. The downfall is coming.
The police will interview me within six months. A file will be forwarded. Then the Director of Public Prosecutions will decide whether or not to send the case forward for trial. Recently, I read about the case of a night-club bouncer who did less harm to a drunkard and got a year. Jail is on the cards. I don’t trust judges. They never lived. Ireland has gone mad.
As I endure Mr Murphy, I think, if I get through this, I’m applying to join the Law Reform Commission. I’ll hang my legal career on rewriting the law; change it to accommodate me so that nobody will be charged if, say, in a fight, the force of impact on someone is under 20kg. Call it the Louis Loophole. Mine is a borderline case. My left hook was probably 22kg of force. I see my laws weaknesses; how it mightn’t work. A kick on the shins might be 30kg of force and a slap in the face 18kg.
The slap might kill.
No law is perfect.
‘You married, have kids?’ Mr Murphy asks.
‘Know what it’s like to have your kid beaten up by a man?’
Another rhetorical head-fuck!
‘He’s not that small’ I say.
With these words he hides his pride.
‘Still, shouldn’t get tough on the wrong people. Christ, Barry’s only 16. I mean matching up – squaring up – I’m ok with that.’
And there it is: he eyes me for the first time. Is it an offer? I’d like to call fat-heads bluff. What would he do if I said you and me now? A fight to the death. Ok, he’s taller and has a good seven stone on me. Still, I’m thinking how big I might really be if I stood to my full height. Full of heart. Alas no, not here, not now. Into the black book he and his family will go. A few years down the line and the Murphys will drive off on a family holiday and the car breaks won’t work. You’ll see. Karma? Or me?
Call me karma. Karma Louis.
The waitress tries to pass. Mr Murphy has her arm. It reminds me how the Mountain held me.
‘Is it ok?’ he asks.
Oh, so I’m paying. I don’t know why but I look at my wrist. I don’t even own a watch!
‘Sure’ I say.
‘Same again, please.’
‘What was it?’ the waitress asks.
‘Our brewski? Can’t you smell the coffee?’ he says.
‘Actually, mine’s a latte. Can I have it in a mug, not a glass, please?’
The waitress potters off.
‘I can’t honestly explain it’ I say. ‘It’s like it wasn’t me. Know what I mean? My intentions were good. I was helping your wife. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be sitting here with you now. Ever.’
‘It is what it is.’
The muppet is feeding me lines from a sitcom. Perhaps he dosed up on Judge Judy or is permanently anaesthetised by his favourite soap. Or else, worse still, a man down the pub has his ear. Yeah, that’s it, some know-it-all type, probably a failed lawyer, is advising him. I can hear the begrudgery – Louis, so he’s a flash lawyer is he, then stick it to him. Somewhere an imbecile is coaching him and I’m helpless. Mr Murphy is my jail-keeper; my freedom in his fat grip.
‘What are you saying it is?’ I ask.
‘Assault on a minor.’
‘That’s for the cops to decide.’
‘Sure. But the civil side of things…’
I see his family laid out, dead before my eyes. I do. Really. It’s a knee-jerk visualisation response. Never could control it. I think pictographically. In my lifetime I’ve killed legions. Hey, do fantasies count? Nope. First you got to act on it. To make it real it’s got to happen. Only a question of time. A question of time.
Here’s to then.
Anyway. Mike envisages a family holiday in Hawaii on me. Strange that, how we have the power to destroy one another: he, to ruin my career and bankrupt me; me, to nuke his family. To think that our paths should never have crossed and now he’s encroaching on my life, crawling up the crack of my ass like colon cancer.
‘Come on man, I’m not a murderer’ I say.
‘It’s a bad break.’
His kids nose or my luck? I don’t ask. Instead I try to take the heat out of the situation.
‘Before all this I used to be nice. You know, it’s not like I’m a monster. At least not on a Frederick West scale.’
‘Still, it happened.’
‘You’re hanging it all on me! You want to take one of my limbs? Go on.’
‘That’s not what anybody is after.’
‘Oh, so I’m not a murderer? Just made to feel like one. So what will satisfy?’
‘Nothing is that messed up you can’t fix it. You’re the lawyer, you tell me.’
‘I’m not fucking Houdini!’
He scowls and looks around expecting opprobrium for the swear word. Fucked if anyone cares.
Beforehand, I decided that no matter how much I might save on the pay-off, I cannot and will not say that his son is a good kid. He’s not. He’s a brat. Maybe it’s envy that stops you siding with me; me a nob becoming a yob.
But if I am going down in flames – in life, in this blog  –then hear this too: I’m all for corporal punishment. Tough love. The world’s a violent place. It’s unrealistic and irresponsible to pretend otherwise. I’m not afraid to call it. Everyday as I sip my (full-fat) latte in a café I realise that someone somewhere died for my tranquillity. For my peace. Know your history! The civilising process has always, always, involved stronger men killing weaker ones, to take what they felt was rightfully theirs. Because of their brawn. Civilisation is built on exploitation.
Anyway, violence did me no harm when I was a kid. I was routinely flogged at school and turned out pretty balanced. One time the headmaster kicked me around the floor like a football for kissing his daughter. I didn’t drug her. She wanted it, she made the move, she was the mature one – even taller than I. She was 11, me only 10.
If only Mr Murphy took a strap to his son he might better understand my point of view. But no, I’m on a wing and there are no conventions. I’m praying to a moron. To Mr Murphy.
‘How can we put this right?’ I ask.
‘Like put Humpty Dumpty back together?’
‘Only it’s your Barry!’
‘Ya, it’s my Barry. What are you thinking?’
He plays dumb; he needn’t bother. Stop dithering; spit it out. We’ve come to the crunch.
‘To make this go away. How much?’ I ask. ‘Look, give me a break, I’m only starting out. My life is supposed to be in front of me. Show some mercy.’
‘Did you show Barry mercy? … So go on.’
He laughs and sits back in his chair, proudly displaying his belly. I can’t show disgust. He shifts awkwardly in his chair. As he inhales he loses two stone, then he raises his hips, thrusts one forward and ropes a finger into the pocket of his jeans. A condom and a mouldy sweet drop into his fat paw.
‘For Barry’ he says. ‘Want a sweet?’
He’s back at his pants. This time he fishes out a piece of paper and tosses it on the table. It’s rolled up like the wrapper of a stick of Wrigley’s gum.
‘Not go far – a thou!’ Mr Murphy says. ‘I’m thinking more like that.’
The price of my freedom is written down. I look at the paper a few seconds too long. Life passes in slow motion. I pick it up, uncurl it, read the numbers, the zeros . I’m going to be sick. I’m galled. I could smash the Tabasco bottle off the table’s edge and thrust the broken glass into his throat and bleed him to death like the pig he is.
One day, I swear, you’re dead.
I take a deep breath. I’m incensed. It’s Barry’s college years, a family holiday to Hawaii with a stop-over at Disneyland rolled into one. There’s maybe even small change for a new double bed and a pagoda in the garden. I must resist. He’s insane. I take a few seconds to consider if the verbal ‘full and final’ settlement back in the car park would stand up in court. Hardly – duress and undue influence. Still. If I don’t sink the civil action and get them onside it will catapult into a criminal trial. I’m screwed.
Although outraged and humiliated, I refuse to be an apologist for his pathetic life. For helping him stand up. To stand tall. It’s sickening that Mr Murphy has the moral high ground; that he thinks he’s on the righteous path . I don’t ask the sloth what he makes on the dole.
‘Look, this should be a small matter’ I say.
‘The consequences, huh! It is what it is.’
Now, where have I heard that before! I press him on the lottery numbers, ask him how he came up with the figures but the more I dig the more fuck-you he becomes. My homicidal rumblings emerge as a loud fuck-you-too burp in his direction. I don’t bother excusing myself. I hold his eye and get back to it.
‘This is just so fantastical, so far off the Richter scale. It’s crazy. You know, before your family showed up I almost believed in society. I contributed.’
‘Then you kicked the shit out of Barry.’
‘He provoked me in case you forget.’
‘Have it your way then.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Face the music!’
Consequences, consequences: the chain of life. And if this is the earth going around I want to get off.
Breathe, Louis, breathe.
We’ll get him later. I promise. My shoulders are talking: the angel to the devil. Cool it. Fake it. Hold tight a little longer. Stroke his ego.
‘Can we not be professional about this?’ I ask.
‘Sure. Your freedom ends where Barry’s nose begins! This buys you peace.’
He’s nodding at the piece of paper on the table. It’s the most coached line I’ve ever heard. A law student or underemployed second-rate lawyer is his friend. My balls are in a sling. It’s pay up or die.
‘This is blackmail.’
‘No, this is a result of your actions.’
‘And all because you think I’m good for it. My crime is that I’ve tried to make something of my life and as a result have more to lose. The irony of being more fucked for trying.’
What would he know? He has no intelligent problems. Really. This is it. His only move. The only ray of light. Really. Meanwhile I’m being punished for being a go-getter, for getting up off my ass. For not growing fat. Really.
He knows what I’m saying. His is a family filled with inconsequential lives masquerading as being noble. The Murphys have no scruples. They’ll bring anyone down to stay afloat. Parasites. If there is a God why does he allow such folk live? Why doesn’t he extinguish his kind; remove the chaff? And do I not get a discount for bleeding Barry of some of his innocence? Perhaps I read like a fascist but I’m not . I read The Guardian. I’m fair. I front up. Just deserts and all that. Ok, there’s a little of this too: violence is a virtue. And anyway, remember, nobody pities me for my life being mugged by a shower of losers. It’s the honest hard workers who always get clobbered; the innocent always guilty.
‘Is there room to negotiate? Instalments? I haven’t that kind of money.’
‘I need to think about it.’
‘Don’t take long.’
‘Why? What do you mean?’
As the meeting ends the world has revolved full circle. I don’t know which side is up. My entire life has changed. The salt seller, Tabasco, menu, ashtray and candle are back in their original formation. The work-shy Murphy’s go home and pray to me for a money miracle.
The next day I pull up alongside Mr Murphy at the scene of the crime in Dublin. I don’t turn off the engine or get out. I’m sickened and in a complete daze the way my life has unravelled. I wind down my window and toss three fat brown envelopes through his car window.
‘Give me the signed agreement’ I say. ‘No need to count it.’
‘Still, best be safe.’
I’m waiting as Mr Murphy licks his fingers a dozen times to count the dough. He hands me the signed settlement agreement and we’re done.
‘Here’s to sorting things. I hope things work out for you’ he says.
He thinks he’s doing an act of kindness. He forgets the price tag.
‘Enjoy Coronation Street!’ I say.
It’s daylight buggery. Is it even Catholic? Whatever. I’m unrepentant. I don’t say goodbye. I’m already burning rubber out of the car park. I’ll never shop there again. It’s another one for the black book.
Pardon me, but, fuck him. Fuck his wife. Fuck the cunts that bore them. Fuck their sprog. Fuck the Mountain. Fuck society. Fuck justice. Fuck the system. Fuck the spongers.
I don’t order this outburst; this invective. Out it plops all on its own like a ready made turd: the person I’m pretending not to be. I’m screaming this diatribe over some classic old song on the radio. It’s Wham: ‘If you’re going to do it, do it right’.
But that’s not all.
I turn up the radio and accelerate through a red light.
I’m allowed; I’ve paid my dues.
And there’s more.
My enemies are my saving grace. They give me a target beyond myself.
There will be a day of reckoning.
A hand was designed to make a fist.
 I’m left-handed so I offer him the limb I can do most without.
 Clearly I’m down with self-incrimination. Hate to leave ambiguity. It’s not like I’m pleading the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution which states: “…no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” Death to fence-sitters I say.
 Due to a confidentiality agreement I can’t reveal the quantum. Believe me, I’d love to tell you how much the stinking asshole screwed me for.
 This incident is the impetus for writing this blog. Therapy. Inadvertently the blog shows the danger of peace-loving fence-sitters who, in their apathy and indecision, ruin lives. Ps. Fuck vegetarians.
 At worst maybe I’m a fat-Nazi, a fattist. Ok, and an arrogant prick. You think the humiliation will do me good? Right? Wrong. This confession is penance enough. It’s like writing a school detention essay.
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