When Maggie Foley, aged 74, looked out her window on Monday morning, she saw two dogs in the street. One was a small, white terrier and the other a black Labrador. The smaller dog was attempting to ride the arse off the larger one. It didn’t seem to matter that the terrier’s genital area was about at the level of the Labrador’s ankles. The little horn-dog was pumping away like there was no tomorrow as the Labrador stood patiently with a long-suffering look upon its hairy face. Although Maggie’s eyesight was not what it once was, much like her ability to reason, she did notice that the terrier was female and her companion male.
As she relayed this story to me at the butcher’s, later that day, as I was buying a pound of mince, I began to wonder if the terrier would have benefited from a strap-on. I thought it a fair question, one that danced around aimlessly in my distracted mind as I worked out the mechanics of it. I was inclined to ask Maggie’s opinion on the matter but decided against it at the last minute as she had by then quite a heavy bundle of sausages in her right hand.
Dermot McNab, the butcher, is a jolly old fella, especially when drunk. He’s popular in the town, with a reputation for being generous. When Maggie’s husband died five years ago, Dermot gave her about a month’s worth of meat to tide her over. As it happened, he didn’t know that she was a vegetarian at the time. Maggie felt bad about it and decided to give up her herbivore lifestyle. She’s known today as the most voracious carnivore in our town and goes through sausages the way a vicar goes through someone else’s dirty underwear.
Sometimes it seems as if most of the population here is either really old, or a dog. The pensioners dominate the landscape during the daytime. Teenagers only seem to emerge from their stuffy rooms after nightfall. Those in between are either working or trying to avoid the oldies. I probably should give the second option a go but find that old people are fairly interesting and pretty slow at running if trouble should break out. I’m going to be OK.
I met Áine as I was leaving the butchers. She looked glorious as usual. It’s the first time I saw her since the mix-up over having sex with 72-year-old Mary. I didn’t but Mary told everyone I did. I think she (Áine) might have gotten over the incident but perhaps that horrific image has lodged in her mind and refuses to leave. It haunts me. Today she was wearing a sexy summery dress that showed off her legs. Damn but they are shapely. To be clear, this is Áine I’m referring to. Mary’s legs resemble two net carrier bags stuffed full of rough, blue-veined balloons covered in orange varnish.
I stopped to say hello and was rewarded with a small smile and a question, ‘No Mary today then?’ as she breezed past me. Women are like elephants in that they tend not to forget, but are more dangerous. Áine did glance back cheekily as she headed for her place of work. I might give her a bit longer before trying again. Dermot McNab was looking at me and laughing with his big red face and his meat cleaver dripping with gore. I have my suspicions about anyone that happy. Just look at the Dalai Lama. He’s always smiling but I reckon that conceals his true feelings. I bet he’s a fecking nightmare if someone leaves the toilet seat up.
The local supermarket is owned by the McKeever family. They’ve been in food retail since before the Flood. Suzy McKeever isn’t old, exactly, but she has a mind that’s lived for a very long time. When she looks at you, your insides tend to go squirmy and move fearfully towards your arse. She’s more effective than a clergyman at making you feel guilty for things you haven’t done, yet. She’s also known as one of the most violent people in the county.
Suzy married into the McKeever clan. She now runs it. As I meekly present my onions and peppers, she glares at me silently. She’s reading my mind. I try to blank it all out, but all I can think of is the damn terrier standing on a small stool decorated with tassels.
‘What’s your problem, boy?’, she asks. ‘Boy’ is the normal title she gives me even though I’m thirty-three. I get off lightly as she calls Father McArdle ‘Screechy’ due to the way his voice rises to a high pitch when he gets excited, which is usually because Suzy calls him Screechy.
‘No problem here, Suzy, no problem at all,’ I reply as I grope for a few mushrooms. She’s not convinced. I can tell.
‘You’re keeping something from me you little bastard’.
This is new. As bad as Suzy gets, she’s not usually this profane with customers this early in the conversation. I’m wondering if she’s confused me with someone else. It’s not unusual to enter the shop and see Suzy beating the sorry head off her husband, Mal. She might employ a cucumber or banana or occasionally a turnip in her frantic efforts to instil her way of thinking into Mal’s damp cranium. Potential customers turn right around and leave, coming back after she’s vented her anger or the priest’s been called to intervene. There’s no sign of Mal today and I’m beginning to sweat.
‘Why are you looking at me like that?’ she asks as I stare at her terrified. She’s reaching for a cabbage as Mal walks in and catches it full on.
‘There you are again, you slimy weasel dog shit. I never should have married you. Never. I should have listened to my mother and married Ben Craddock the builder. He had prospects. He has a villa in the south of Spain and drinks margaritas. You get over here you donkey’s ass stain. I’ve been in this shop for ages whilst you’ve been tinkering with your grubby privates in the bathroom you smelly overflow.’
As Mal cautiously walks over she tosses the cabbage but he’s fast and, with years of practice, manages to catch it and deftly place it on the nearest shelf, on top of the tomatoes. I reason that now’s a good time to exit. I can always come back for the veg. As Suzy is getting into her psycho-stride, I head quickly for the door. As the overhead bell rings I glance around and the now demented shopkeeper has spotted me making a break for it. I get through the door as a cabbage hits just above my head. There’s never a dull minute in this place.
Across the street Father McArdle is looking over. I expect Mal called him early. Dermot McNab hands him a hard hat and appears to bless him. The priest is not amused.
It’s well known that this town has a higher proportion of head-the-balls than any other in Ireland. It’s something to do with its location on the coast. Every bin lid in Ireland seems to want to live here. There are grown men walking around dressed as Napoleon, Ben Hur, Genghis Khan and Elizabeth Taylor. The women that choose such an alternative lifestyle tend to opt for fantasy or sci-fi or Elizabeth Bennett. I’ve chatted with Wonder Woman, Mati Hari and Mother Teresa all in the space of two hours. To be honest, I think the Mother Teresa one really was a nun but they all look alike so who knows. I was polite enough but she was farting loudly in the DIY shop as she browsed the chisel section so I can’t be sure about her. She’s still around but I’ve noticed she rarely ventures into crowded premises.
On one memorable Christmas morning, the town watched as Sherlock Holmes and the Easter Bunny raced one and other in a sprint down the main street. I understand it was a point of pride as Holmes had made fun of the Bunny’s figure. To be fair, Holmes got her ass kicked in that one. In any event, it all makes for a bit of a change as no two days are ever the same here. But it can sometimes get a bit too intense.
The shouting from McKeever’s shop is dangerously high now, with Fr McArdle’s screeching voice in the middle of it. A few bystanders have dared to move closer to hear Suzy’s verbal creativity.
‘What’s an Ethiopian dingle-berry?’ Sarah McQueen asks me. As I search for an appropriate answer, Conor Burns tells her it’s a type of jam. I’m not sure that’s a good idea as Sarah might well ask for it the next time she’s in McKeever’s. I’m about to correct Conor when Áine speaks suddenly from beside me.
‘What did you do to start it this time?’ She looks at me with a bemused look on her perfect face. ‘The last time, you told Suzy she had lovely melons and Mal ended up in the hospital.’
My face goes slightly red at the memory.
‘I don’t always do well under pressure’, I stammer, as Áine gives one of those little laughs that has me thinking about the terrier. She’s standing close enough that I can smell her citrusy perfume. It makes my mouth water and I have to swallow. God but she’s gorgeous and I’m hungry.
‘About the other day in the cafe’ she begins. ‘My dad says I owe you an apology.’
‘It’s OK,’ I offer meekly, delighted with this turn of events as some tomatoes hit the window of McKeever’s.
‘And Screechy isn’t going to be able to save your scrawny puke hole from getting my size nine up it sideways you floppy parrot’s cock’ I hear from inside. It’s very distracting and that’s the last thing I want with Áine so close to me and in a good mood.
As she looks at me with an intense and seriously sexy gaze, my guts clench a little. Then, just as she’s about to speak, Maggie Foley appears and pipes up, ‘You’re right about the strap-on’, she says to me, ‘I asked your girlfriend, Mary, about it and she told me she had one that she used on you last Wednesday night. The terrier probably should get one.’
I stood transfixed as Áine’s face crumpled. Shit, I couldn’t believe I had said that out loud, about the stupid strap-on. I could have sworn that I was only thinking it. Feckin’ clairvoyance, that’s what it is. Maggie has powers. As I turned to Áine to explain, I got as far as ‘it’s not what you think’ when my dream girl called me a typical male pervert pig in a very loud voice, much to the delight of Conor Burns and Sarah McQueen. As Áine stormed off, Maggie asked if everything was alright. She hadn’t a clue and was nervously fidgeting with her sausages.
From inside McKeever’s Suzy was now screaming that Mal was a ‘stinkin’ male pervert pig suckling on the teat of a good woman.’ As her melons began to hit the glass, both Mal and Fr McArdle came racing out, the priest’s helmet covered in a fruity residue. Everyone scattered with the exception of poor Maggie who was still wondering what was happening. As I dragged the town’s most innocent carnivore away from what could be her imminent demise, I looked over and saw Áine standing at the corner looking over at me. Her face was filled with disappointment, again, as she turned away and disappeared from my view.
But something caught my eye then. Just a little further down the street were two dogs. One was a little terrier and the other a Labrador. The larger dog was bent over the smaller one and giving it a tremendous seeing to. Sometimes the Universe has a strangely wicked sense of humour. I wish it would feck off.
Here is Day 1 of this unfortunate Irishman’s Diary:
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