The weather in Ireland can be as changeable as a three-year-old’s favourite colour. We can get four seasons in a day and it plays havoc with the wardrobe. Summer is an especially crazy time. Chilly in the morning, then warm to the point of t-shirts and shorts. It might rain then with torrential determination before hailstones smash down on your tortured pink head.
This might explain why there is an elderly couple wandering down the main street in swimwear looking like they’d been dropped in the Arctic. The old woman’s unfortunate nipples resemble the starter button on a bulldozer whilst the man appears to have no genitals. Speedos don’t look good on old men.
James McGrath, clothes retailer extraordinaire, is watching them with a hawk’s eyes. When outsiders come to town, James thinks only of the next sale. As he approaches the pair, who have clearly been too optimistic about the day’s sunshine, he smiles greedily and suggests they might like to visit his shop for ‘bargains galore’. The female with the sagging pointers is in no mood to dilly dally. She vents her frustrations at getting soaked by swinging a large handbag, catching James around the ear. He goes down screaming that he’s been murdered. The drowned couple continue on with serious intent to the hotel. No one else pays any heed to what has happened. It’s that kind of town.
I’ve decided that today I’m going to do my entire shop as I’m really getting into the plot of my latest book. One day to buy all I need for the week and then back to the table for a push on the writing. My publisher is shouting loudly about deadlines, but then, she doesn’t live in this place, where last night I was casually told of how a gay male couple dressed as scarecrows fell out in a local restaurant and proceeded to punch the heads off one other. Apparently there was straw everywhere and a carrot landed in Johnnie Murtagh’s pasta as he was trying to impress his latest squeeze. Johnnie’s wife was sitting at the table next to him with her boyfriend and laughed so hard her eyelashes fell off.
You would be forgiven for wondering why I continue to live here. I refer you to what just happened. Where else would you get it? OK, it’s not relevant to the books, but still, it’s entertainment and it’s free. I heard that there was an exhibition in the community centre two weeks ago. It was showcasing local arts and crafts. There was a terrible furore (good word that, not used near enough) as Margaret Sweeney presented her oil painting of a nude. The figure in question was none other than Johnnie Murtagh and questions were raised as to the accuracy of the depiction.
Seán, who owns the café and who is also Áine’s father, told me that Johnnie was shown with a dangler on him that would give a racehorse an inferiority complex. He reckoned that Margaret may have been coerced into exaggerating the dimensions of his appendage by Johnnie’s repeated provision of the orgasm. Talking with Seán about sexual matters always makes me uncomfortable. It’s as if I’m being unfaithful to his daughter, which is strange as she and I haven’t ever been out together. I live in hope. Áine’s out of town for a while, destination unknown, so I’m able to concentrate on my writing.
If every town has its village idiot, then there must be places in Ireland minus theirs as this one has stolen a few extra. George Black is one such personage. He spits when he speaks to you. If you had shampoo you could wash your hair with what comes out of his gob during a two-minute conversation. Ann Cox, the primary school teacher, once put up her umbrella as he began. He wasn’t impressed but kept talking anyway as Ann peeked out from behind her shield.
But although villages have idiots, towns sometimes have studs or, in the case of this one, Johnnie Murtagh. He’s in his late fifties with unkempt grey chest hair which protrudes out of his flashy shirts. Johnnies takes good care of himself and is a living legend here. I suspect he was responsible for creating most of the fantastical stories about himself, almost all of which revolve around his sexual prowess. Luckily for Johnnie, there’s a plethora of divorced and otherwise single women who are vulnerable to his practised charms.
Sometimes they fight over him. About five years ago, as I was walking through the park, I witnessed two such demented females tugging furiously on each other’s hair. One was from outside the town, Estonia I believe, and the other was Sally Darcy, a married mother of six children with a husband addicted to Tomb Raider (the video game, not the movie). They alternated vicious insults with trying to rip the scalp off their competition as Johnnie casually looked on from the sidelines. It ended when the Estonian lady’s hairpiece eventually came off and Johnnie declared Sally the winner ‘on this occasion’. Strangely though, they all went off together, Johnnie in the middle with a prurient glint in his eye.
Seán was telling me the other day that Áine was once approached by Johnnie with a view to being ‘gently serviced’, as he put it. He was confidently informed that if he didn’t leave the vicinity immediately, he would be tasting shoe leather for a week as the fair maiden threatened to stick her shoe up his ass. What Áine didn’t realise was that talk like that only turns Johnnie on.
I see him now as he struts down the street gazing lasciviously at any of the fairer sex who stray within a hound’s gowl off him. He’s owner of the dry cleaners, inherited from his father, also a ladies’ man. It’s no surprise that any items that go missing from a customer’s order regularly find their way onto the body of Johnnie’s latest gal. His wife, Sarah, doesn’t mind as she’s as bad as he is. They seem to be in competition to see who can shag the most people in town. God knows what their home life must be like. Mal McKeever, the grocer, reckons they get through about three jars of Vaseline a week but has no idea what they do with it all. I suggested they’re perhaps taking the squeaks out of their hinges. Mal isn’t so sure.
Johnnie comes up to me and inquires after my health. I’m polite, as circumstances dictate. He then asks if I’ve seen ‘that juicy young daughter of Seán’s, the one with the pert backside’. I decline to respond to that but do tell him about the almost naked couple who walked down the street earlier. I tell him they’re staying in the hotel and that the woman has an erotic butterfly tattoo on her right breast, although I don’t know exactly what an erotic butterfly would look like. Johnnie doesn’t seem to care. It’s well known he has a thing for tattoos. I heard Margaret’s painting showed a formidable bull on his shoulder blade. Johnnie is, therefore, as all good bulls are, instinctively intrigued by any female who enters what he sees as his territory, and considers them all to be ‘fair game’. It’s a wonder he doesn’t take his mickey out and pee over them all just to warn off the competition. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was dropping turds on street corners.
Yes, I might have embellished the truth a little to Johnnie about the drowned woman. Yes, I might have told him that she likes to talk dirty and was doing so with her husband. Yes, I might have told him that she has a flirty eye and was giving James McGrath the once over (Johnnie is disgusted at this last titbit as he deems himself inestimably superior to McGrath).
“That lad hasn’t had a root since Cavan won the All-Ireland”, he exclaimed.
“Well maybe she was after a new rig-out”, I told him.
“Into the hotel, you said?”, he ventured.
“Aye”, I replied, “you might catch a look at her if you move quick for they’ve only just gone in. She’s soaked and her clothes are plastered to her body. It left little to the imagination”.
With that, Johnnie was off and moving mighty fast for a man with a reputed repetitive groin strain.
I headed into the supermarket, as Suzy McKeever was under house arrest for her assault on the local priest a few days back. She’s been barred from interacting with the public until she gets counselling. Her husband, Mal, is still sporting fresh bruises though. They’ll make major headlines one of these days. As I’m deciding whether or not I want medium or mature cheddar, I hear the screaming from outside. I rush to the doorway to see a red-faced Johnnie Murtagh sprinting down the main street as the soaked and bedraggled woman chases him waving her vicious-looking handbag.
“I’ll give you butterfly, you evil-smelling pervert”. She might have been referring to the dry-cleaning chemicals that Johnnie often stinks of.
“Touch my boob, you inbred, painted gobshite. I’ll tear you a new anus” she screamed as she hurtled along catching up to her prey.
Johnnie had tears and a look of terror in his eyes as he ran past me. He managed to avoid James McGrath, who was still leaning against his shop window, and cut deftly down Tone Street heading for the beach. The angry woman was not so fortunate and barrelled into the not-yet-recovered clothes retailer who had stepped forward to look curiously at Johnnie. They collided and both went down hard. As both lay on the pavement, James was in too much shock to roar in pain. The woman looked up at James’ window from her prone position and asked,
“Is there a sale on that dress?”
James was never a man to waste an opportunity and quickly replied that he would do her a deal and of course he had a lovely jacket to go with it. They both got tenderly to their feet, the lady’s pendulous breasts gently swinging in her bikini top as she limped side by side with James into his shop.
I looked past them and spotted Johnnie Murtagh peeking cautiously around the corner to see if the coast was clear before moving swiftly off in the direction of his business, his face still red. I felt pretty good after that. Maybe I do need to think about leaving here. As Johnnie got to the end of the street and the junction with the Shore Road, he stopped suddenly and I could hear him screaming from where I was some distance away. He checked his shoe and cursed expertly again and again. He had stepped in a turd. Why would I leave? Áine’s back in a day or two. Gotta make a shape.
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