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The Boy from the County Hell “or how shane almost stopped the apocalypse” Copyright© Cian Sean McGee CSM PUBLISHING ‘FREE ART COLLECTION’ Santo André, São Paulo, Brazil 2013 First edition All rights reserved. No part of this bok may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means including photocopying, recording, scanning or digital information storage and retrieval without permission from the author. He’s a nice guy, just ask,

ISBN-13: 978-1484879702 ISBN-10: 1484879708 Cover Design: C. Sean McGee Interior layout: C. Sean McGee Author Foto: Carla Raiter

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This story makes up Volume I in the Rock Book series. This is a story comprised and inspired by working literary covers of the following songs by The Pogues, The Clash, Johnny Cash and Nick Cave: The Boys from the County Hell The Guns of Brixton USA Red Right Hand Fairy Tale of New York Boat Train London Calling When the Man Comes Around Summer in Siam Parts of lyrics of said songs were used in the writing of this book, in describing scenes and in character’s speech, hence it being a literary cover. Please don’t sue me. I don’t make money off these stories. You’ll just be promoting my books. Wait, sue me. Everyone, sue me. Disclaimer: All descriptions of characters are complete fictional representations of the fictional identities presented in media worldwide and no way reflect the attitudes or beliefs of the people who attain these names or identities in real life. It’s a story. So don’t sue me. I was possessed by the devil when writing this novel so I can’t be held responsible for your ill feelings and your hurt pride.

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“Shane” Mrs. MacGowan yelled, between every pounding strike of her fist against his bedroom door. “Get up would ya.” Shane pulled the covers back over his head and squashed a handful of warm blanket against his tingling face, moaning away as he rolled back and forth, fighting the truth in his mind about his aching belly and explosive head; leaving the black stupor of sleep and waking to a despotic hangover; one of aching sobriety. He mumbled something that I don’t think even he understood before he eventually lifted himself with stinging eyes to the light bursting through his window, cursing about the rain that was pelting down outside; lashing against his window and yelling at him to stay inside. Every time he took a breath, he could feel a pressure in his head swelling and receding as if someone had performed some cruel experiment on him, swapping his brain for his lungs. “What’s da time mammy?” he shouted. “It’s early and I’m feckin late and you will be too if you don’t get yer arse up and dressed. Yer man called by da way said he’ll meet you down the pub after one. What time you finish taday?” asked Mrs. MacGowan, leaning her ear against the door. Shane pushed the balls of his hands against his forehead, pressing hard and squashing his eyes in little circles as he quelled the siren in his head, trying to differ its highly wail from the sound of his mother’s nagging. “Ah, around one I tink,” he said. “Convenient. I suppose you’ll be in da pub till late den?” she asked. Shane slid his hands back over his face and peeped his eyes through his spreading fingers, looking towards the door and the picture of a frowning Jesus looking despondingly at him. “I might pop in for a wee chin wag. Just ta see da lads” he said. 9


“Right o. Stay away from yer man, I don’t trust him. You’re doin so grand lately. I’m proud o ya love. Just stay away from da grog and da junk.” she yelled. “Yeah mam,” said Shane, wiping the frustration from his pores. “I’m serious. Tink of Teresa and don’t drink anyting” she yelled. “I’ll do all dat, yep,” he said. “Just make sure. Can you do dat?” “I will ya,” he said. “I left a few pence. Ya can buy yourself some crisps on da way to work. I love ya son.” “Tanks mam. Mammy” he shouted. “You couldn’t lend us a tenner mam, could ya?” The house was silent, only the sound of Shane holding his breath and the light scratching of his girlfriend’s heels against the dining table in the back of his sobering mind. “Mam?” he asked all innocent like. The house was silent. “Mammy,” he said. An engine turned, rattled, spluttered and started. “Ah, bollocks,” he said, lifting himself off the bed. Outside his window, the rain was coming down hard. It was such oppressive weather; as if god were just pleasing himself; pissing all over this poor shitty part of the city and nowhere else, just because he was god and he could be a prick like that. He stood with his hands against the pane, cursing to himself about anything he could remember that didn’t involve drinking. Most of all he cursed his boss; the baldy miser and he cursed the rain cause nothing on earth had the kind of thirst that needed weather like this. He pulled his yellow briefs from their nest in the crack of his bum and farted once or twice as he hobbled out of the bedroom and stumbled towards the kitchen, passing his lovely Teresa sprawled unconscious on the dining table; her knickers around her 10


ankles, a needle dangling like a peacock’s feather from her sinking vein and a length of kettle cord, wrapped around her upper arm. She was a sight indeed, given that she shouldn’t have been there. “What are ya doin on da table? Teresa, can ya here me?” Teresa didn’t respond. “You’re not feckin real,” he said, turning away from her still body. Scratching his bum, Shane held the door open on the fridge and rested his sore body on its old hinges, swinging back and forth and the cold chill dimpled his skinny body. The fridge was empty except for a mushy onion dripping something from it; on the top shelf, to the black banana below. He wasn’t looking for an old, sweating onion or spotted, sick banana, though. He leaned down to the vegetable tray and pulled out a pair of pants that; for some reason last night seemed like a fitting place to leave them. At eight thirty in the morning and with lashing rain and howling wind; looking back, it probably wasn’t the best idea, or then again maybe it was, but he just wasn’t drunk enough yet to truly appreciate it yet. Shane left the house carrying the black, spotted banana in his hand; barely shedding a doling look at the woman spread like a half-finished supper all over the dining table; stopping only briefly to collect the couple of coins his mother had left for him on the table. On the way out, he saw one of his mother’s bags on the floor and rummaged through it, looking for more coins or; if god could pardon a moment from this parody, maybe a few pounds tucked in the nether of that leather abyss somewhere. He shoved his hand around poking his fingers on some sharp things and some sticky things and he wiped whatever both of them had been on the legs of his trousers as he opened the front door. With wind spitting nagging torment on his face, he drudged up the street with his hands buried in his pockets and his eyes squinting as his head hanged low with his chest perched on his chest, trying to 11


will away the rain with his buggering anger. He passed an old man that was sitting on his rump all alone, just hissing and cursing, at nothing really; passersby maybe, a street post, himself, who knows? The old man was furious with a rage tip toing its way onto his tongue and barging forwards with a boxer’s dazzle. As Shane walked past the cursing old man, he was humming a song; not really thinking about anything, in particular, just humming away the spitting rain from his freezing lips. And as he hummed, the old man dropped his defenses, lowered his guard, pardoned his fighting tongue and quieted the screaming child from the pith of his soul. It all happened so fast and so odd that Shane stopped in the pouring rain and turned to the statute old man, not at all concerned about the rain pissing down all over him, the condition he was in or the condition he would be in. He just stopped dead in his tracks and stared strangely at the old man. “Are ye grand?” he asked. The old man, feeling; for the longest time he could remember, no tremor in his soul and no clenching of his hands, held them out, begging and pleading for a few pence, nothing more than what he needed to make good another day. “Do ya ave a penny or two; fifty would be grand?” said the old man. Shane shoved his hand into his pocket, humming away to himself as he pulled out the few coins his mother had left for him. He had exactly fifty pence; enough money to buy a bag of crisps and exactly enough money for this old man to make good another day. “How much ave you got?” asked Shane. “Nutin” responded the old man. “And all ya need is fifty pence?” asked Shane. “To make good today, fifty would be grand,” the old man said. Shane thought for a moment. He had fifty pence to buy 12


some crisps but no doubt he wouldn’t buy any; he needed a tenner for a couple of pints that probably his haunted sobriety would not let him drink. Now the old man he had nothing but all he needed was exactly what Shane had in his hands; fifty pence. “Here you go, twill serve yerself better,” said Shane. “You sure?” asked the old man. “I’m no closer to a tenner with dis fifty pence den I am witout it, but you, you’re fifty pence away from bein happier dan me so I tink it’s only fair, the money stick wit you” said Shane, dropping the coins in the old man’s hands, humming once again. “Fair play to ya lad. May god bless ya, or strike you down quick, whichever serves ya kinder” the old man said, tucking the coins close to his chest and blowing warm air past his prickly beard and over his freezing fingers. “Ah here, it’s fine,” Shane said. “Sure dat’s a nice tune lad. Aint heard nutin like it. What is it? One o yers?” asked the old man. “Yeah, no, it’s nutin. Just a song I forgot. Ya grand dough yeah?” said Shane. “Da fuckin rain is relentless. You’d tink dat yer man up dere was planning sumtin; clearin da table, washin away da shite from da floor. I feel like a fuckin scribble on a feckin etch and sketch, just waitin to be cleaned off da board ya know?” said the old man. “Aye, just wish he’d quit balssin around,” said Shane. “And what about you?” asked the old man. “What you mean?” asked Shane. “You gonna remember dat song or you gonna forget it, for good?” said the old man. “It’s just a song man. I’ve forgotten more of dem den I wrote” said Shane. “If I were you, I’d do one or da udder. Seems like da fence aint tall enough ta keep ya safe. Song like dat could end a war you know. You watch yerself lad” said the the old man, returning to blowing warm air over his cusped hands and spitting blasted rain 13


from the curling whiskers of his beard. “Aye, I will,” said Shane with a curious yet estranged shrinking of his eye before running off; headstrong, into the lashing rain. The rest of the leg was done with a skip and a jump, cursing away with every bound as he ran along the crooked sidewalk, jumping over potholes and diving from the splashes of passing cars until he eventually keeled over himself in the doorway of a dilapidated old building, one whose mortar might just have been stirred with the deploring and despondence of all those unfortunate enough to call this shit hole their home. He still had the banana in his hand and though it looked as crooked as the sidewalk and as evil as Thatcher in an evening gown, he thought only it, could best fight the evil already lurking in his stomach. So he peeled it; like you would an old poster from a mangy alley, and threw the remains on the ground before taking what good he could find, yielding his eyes shut, clasping his nostrils and mashing it once or twice between his teeth, just so it wouldn’t bruise as he tried to swallow the thing whole. And Christ the taste was horrible; nothing a bottle of gin couldn’t fix. “Dere ya are ya tinker. Yer late. Ya got me money?” asked The Landlord. Shane slid his hands into his pockets, but it was just for show. He shook his head a couple of times, keeping his eyes to the floor knowing the old prick would start his ranting and raving at any second, waving his stubby little fingers around and stamping his feet up and down in a huff while his face boiled redder than a baboon’s arse; and he did. “You fuckin promised me. You begged like the little poor cunt that you are and what did I do? The fuckin gentleman I am. I lent you ten fuckin quid on the proviso that you pay me back first ting dis mornin. I shudda known. Jayzus Christ. Yer ya fader’s son ya know. A complete bollocks of a man he was; a right edjit. Ya wanna be successful; like me, ya gotta stop tinking like a feckin rat. Rootin around for dis and dat and den what a ya get ta show for 14


any of it? Fuckin head ache and a black eye. Not a penny in yer fuckin pants. Ya get nutin for today’s work den; you can pay me back the pennies ya owe me. Ya got yer gloves? Might be clearing a couple a floors” said The Landlord, jingling the coins in his pockets. Shane hated him. He was a miserable fat bastard with a penny earned for every missing hair on his head. And he wore the same clothes every day; probably never even took them off. He wouldn’t want to waste the comfort he had saved up all this time on a cheap, cold draft. And he sure as hell didn’t wash them or himself for that matter. He stank like an old urinal cake; a mix of cheap minty cologne and warm piss and larger. And it could have been because he was a lazy fat cunt, sleeping in the same shite day after day or maybe it was just the pong from the sweat of a miser. Whatever it was, he always looked the same, dressed in his brown slacks that rode just above his ankles so that you could see his pasty white legs and those thick bulbous feet prodding into his shiny black loafers. Shiny because the fucker spat on them all day long, wiping them with an old rag that he swore was blessed by the pope; Paul, the good one, not that gobshite bringing the whole blessed institution into disrepute. He would polish in a way that looked more like he was enjoying himself; a bit too much if you ask me. And his pants always sat high on his belly so that the crotch pulled tight around the generous curves of his gigantic arse. And he would wear the same woolen jumper with the green, white and gold and a map of Ireland stamped on both sides, as if whatever mean thing he was about to do were his patriotic duty to Ireland, for the fucking republic. And he tucked his jumper into his pants so that Limerick was floating around somewhere between his hairy belly button and his tiny penis that he assumed was there, hidden somewhere under a fold of skin from his hanging belly. And when The Landlord talked about money and especially how others owed it to him and were no good with it or without it, he would always sway to and fro on the balls of his feet like a 15


rocking horse, shaped like a fat bastard, and he would jingle the collection of pennies in his pockets; the hundreds of them that he kept, so that everywhere he walked he could hear his own impression. And Shane hated him, but he needed work and there was nothing going anywhere. The country was in a state of shite at the moment and choices were slim if you could even scrounge one together. “Ya know the ting about da poor is dat dey got no will power, no desire ta change deir situation. I mean ya look at dis. Dey pay nutin to me to live here, I’m like Santa fuckin Claus and yet the bare fuckin minimum, dey’d rader spend on luxuries like heaters and new jumpers. And I’m da fuckin bad guy cause I have to get all tough. I’m a fuckin pariah I am. No fuckin rewards for me. Just spit and piss and cursin and fuckin tears, dat’s it” The Landlord said, stamping his fat feet onto every step as they wound their way up the staircase, feeling along the wall for the twists and turns for their eyes would do them no good in the absolute dark they found themselves in. “Would ya tink of putting in some new bulbs?” asked Shane. “It’s a fuckin staircase. It goes in two directions; up and fucking down. It’s not tricky. Dey can get demselves a new fuckin whatever as long as dey pay. And not a fucking penny spent before dey pay what dey owe me. Ya let a dog sit on yer lap, it’s gonna bite ya off yer own couch” said The Landlord as they neared the third floor. The hallway was long and the carpet on the floor was torn and pulled up on all sides and the parts that weren’t torn were either damp and sloshy or icky and sticky and it could have been glue or it could have been bubblegum or it could even have been sex that was sticking their shoes to the ground as they made their way to apartment 308. Shane knocked on the door lightly, thinking more about the babies that might be sleeping in one of the rooms and not wanting to invite anyone into this consolidation that needn’t be involved. 16


There was no response at the door and as he lifted his hand to tap again, The Landlord leaned in a beat hard against the splintered frame with his thick fist, yelling as he did. “Wake da fuck up an open da fuckin door. I know yer in dere Seamus. I can here ya breedin away and yer baby fuckin moanin under yer woman’s hand. Now, open the fuckin door or ill ave the Garda down in here in a jiff and toss yer arses out on da street. Seamus!” he screamed, like a donkey being branded; his voice carrying through the hallway and up the staircase to the other floors and the sound of locks clicking and turning then echoed throughout the building. The lock on the door went click and a host of small chains quickly undid and you could tell that Seamus; on the other side of the door, was nervous as all hell cause of the way it took him some time to undo each clanking chain with his knuckles scraping and banging against the door as he fought to undo each one. The door opened slightly and The Landlord did the rest, barging his fat gut into the tiny gap and swinging his fat arse so the door swung and the cowering man fell back onto his own rump on the floor not far behind. The fat bastard pushed right past Shane so that his face scratched against the splintered door frame; grazing his skin to a pinkish tan but hardly spilling a drop of blood. The Landlord stood over Seamus, standing with his trunk like arms folded over his ginormous belly. Still on his rump, Seamus cowered backwards; like a retreating crab, away from the threat to counsel and shield his wife from the ranting of this maniac. “I’m at da end o me tether Seamus. Week after week after week after feckin week, I hear da same ol bollocks. Pullin on me heart strings ta cut yerself a fuckin break. Well, I’m tired of yer fuckin melody. All o ya, every poor cunt in dis buildin. I’m sick to fuckin deat of it all. Where’s my rent, Seamus? Where da fuck is my money?” The Landlord screamed, knocking over a few dirty glasses that were sitting on an upturned crate, covered by a flowered shower curtain. 17


Seamus had panic in his eyes, but he held his family firm. “I tried,” Seamus said. “Honestly I did. It’s tuff out dere. Dere’s no work at all. All dese immigrants are comin now and dey all got tickets for dis and dat and diplomas and shite I’ve never heard of. And dey work for fuckin nutin” he wept, sweeping his arms in a considerate protective net, behind his back and around his wife and wheezing daughter. “Aye tis true. Dey come in deir fuckin droves. Pilin in on feckin row boats and canoes. Got a few here, in da buildin. Don’t trust em for da life o me. All dat bowin and odd prayin and deir fuckin garb; Christ, it’s some strange get up. But you know what? Dese stinky fuckers might work for peanuts it’s true, takin Irish jobs, but each and every one of em, dey all pay deir fuckin rent” said The Landlord standing like a crooked cop. Behind Seamus, a small girl was shaking, whimpering and wheezing. She was clinging to her father’s broad arm with one hand and catching phlegm with the other. Beside her, Seamus’ wife did much the same. Clinging to her husband’s cradle with one hand whilst gently rubbing the middle of her daughter’s back with the other, trying to calm her down and help clear her diseased lungs. “Tings are not good. Siobhan, sure she’s getting worse. I had to beg da udder week just ta get enough money for da bus; ta get her to da hospital” said Seamus. “What’s wrong wit her?” asked Shane concerned. “We tink maybe she got da pneumonia. It’s de apartment. Da draft and da damp air, dey’re fuckin right serious. Made her sick in her lungs. She’s been like dis for monts now” said Seamus. Well, den fuckin leave” said The Landlord leaning down to his face in mocking glory then kicking the upturned crate; the only furniture on the apartment, so that it flipped along the floor and smacked against the feet of the little girl, who screamed in a way that sounded like air being squashed out of a rubber ball. The Landlord walked over to the only window in the apartment and though it was stubborn and seemingly inoperable, he dug his elbows in, huffed and heaved, and pushed it up so that the 18


freezing rain blew inwards past his face and onto the shivering family cowering on the floor behind him. “Dis’ll do ta get rid o yer stink. Ungrateful cunts. Ya bitch and fuckin moan about da state of a horse’s teeth and ya won’t even trow a penny’s wort a hay ta feed his fuckin belly. Yer out, now” The Landlord said, taking the heap of clothes and possessions from the floor and throwing them out of the window with photos of the girl; on the day she was born, being taken up by the wind and scattered about and then trampled upon somewhere far and very unfortunate. “For fuck’s sake man, it’s dey’re fuckin clodes. Have ya not an inch of decency in ya?” said Shane in disbelief, rushing over to The Landlord and trying to pull the last jumper from his hands before the fat bastard threw it out the window with the rest of their things. “Yer fuckin mad, man. Da wee one’s sick as all hell an yer trowin em out in da rain. In dis, fuckin rain” pleaded Shane. “Leave it, lad. It’ll only make it worse” said Seamus. “Ya wanna know how ta make money Shane? Ya ave ta be fuckin tuff like I said. Dis is a blessin for em. Deir girl won’t be getting sick no more from dis shitty apartment, dat right?” That Landlord said looking over to a bemused and defeated Seamus; thankful in his silent musings for Shane being here in his eviction, to avoid what could have been like all of the others; a violent persecution. “What’s tuff about trowin a wee girl on da streets?” said Shane. “Ya tink it’s easy? Go on den, do it. Ya want yer mammy’s debt cleared yeah? Trow out dese cunts, now” he screamed, taking Shane by the collar and shaking him like an old Polaroid. Shane thought for a second about his poor mother and how hard she worked just so she could do all of the things she had to do, right; only to end up enslaved to this greedy fat miser and of course, Shane’s own occasional mistakes which were the hangover she wore because of her son’s love affair with oblivion and the taxes he paid to get himself there. “You’re a horrible cunt and pretty soon yer gonna get what 19


ya deserve,” said Shane, passing The Landlord and looking him dead in the eye. The Landlord just smiled, rubbing his fat belly with one open palm whilst the other picked and scratched at the creepy crawlies, creeping about in his underpants. “I’m Sorry,” said Shane, his words as honest as the tears from the father’s eyes, knowing he couldn’t defend his family. Shane helped Seamus onto his feet and helped him to collect his wife and his sick child, whose wheezing only worsened when she got to her feet. There was nothing left in the apartment, nothing of theirs to take with them. Everything was saturated, sodden and scattered on the street below. Shane walked with them, holding the sick girl in his arms as Seamus; walking just behind, fought to console his delirious wife. “What are we supposed to do?” asked Seamus. “I wish I could tell ya. I’m real sorry, I am” said Shane. “It’s not yer fault lad. It’s him, it’s Ireland, it’s da world, it’s all of it. The roof is comin off a da whole ting. I can feel it in me bones. What god would put a tug like him charge o anyting unless dat god is a complete prick himself ?” said Seamus. The rain was pelting down and aside from the cold and the wet, the weather brought with it a howling wind that screamed in their ears and blew them off of their concentration. Seamus was shouting something, but Shane couldn’t hear a word on account of the wind, licking the inside of his ear. Instead, he hunched his shoulders up to his ears, buried his hands in his pockets and made a host of funny faces, trying to cheer up the sick girl who was clinging with fright to her mother’s hand. Shane took off his jacket and wrapped it around the girl’s shoulders then walked off by himself as the rain pelted down on his head, looking for nothing but a roof and a pint; though neither would shelter him from the horror of his sobriety. “Like yer fader” yelled The Landlord. “Not a lick o meat on yer balls.” Shane ignored the fat bastard’s rant, thinking he should have 20


done this sooner, walking away from things that didn’t at all matter. The wind was deadly, digging right into his bones, but he kept his chin tucked to his chest, using his brow as a kind of shield to keep the rain from stinging his eyes as it shot down from the heavens like a trillion tiny darts from the drunken, conspicuous hand of god. When he reached the pub, he had an almighty thirst and he burst through the doors as if he were about to strip it of its license and maybe that was his intention; to make lunch of its debris and drink of its sorrow and cleanse this pub of every last mil of larger; as Jesus took the blame and guilt, he too would take the cruel stomach and sore head of mankind. “Shane,” said the barman, tipping his hat as Shane walked into the still smoky room. It was early morning, but the pub was filled with young and old, sitting around tables by themselves, arguing with their reflections in their half empty glasses, cursing about this and that; filling their stomachs and building their poetic reserves. “Lads,” said Shane to the room. Glasses rose slightly; as much as their hands would let. “Tis some rain,” said an old man, obviously. All the other men nodded in silent chorus. Shane looked at his shirt and pants. His hair was flat against his face, running a waterfall from the top of his head down to his soaking shoes where inside, his stinking feet splished and splashed and squished and squashed their way through a hole in his saturated socks. “I’ll ave a pint,” said Shane to The Barman. “Have you any money?” said the barman. “Oh come on, one drink, I’ve had a right fuck of a day. C’mon, just one pint” said Shane. “If you had a penny for every time you asked me that, I’d probably serve you by the end of that day,” said The Barman. “You won’t give me one free pint?” said Shane. “Like fuck I will,” said The Barman. 21


“Well then can you lend me ten pounds?” asked Shane. “What? You fuckin mad?” said The Barman. “C’mon, I’ll buy ya a drink,” said Shane smartly. “Feck off ya edjit,” said The Barman. “Bollocks,” said Shane, sitting down by himself on a rickety stool and flipping a coaster between his fingers; trying to spin it on its end and managing to lose himself in its every turn, biding his time before the inevitable passing of hands over numbers and the shaking of hands over tables. “Some fellas were looking for you earlier Shane. Weren’t Garda. Looked pretty official, though. They had badges and all that, fancy coats and odd looking hats. One fella had some terrific looking shades on” said The Barman. “What did dey want?” asked Shane. “They were asking about some song. They were acting all secret like. They wanted to know if I heard it” said The Barman. ‘What did ya tell em?” asked Shane. “The truth. They all sound the feckin same, lots of shoutin and cursin and the like. Hardly the lord’s music” said The Barman. “And what is da lord’s music den?” asked Shane. “Bono. He has the world on his shoulders” said The Barman. “Yeah, by sticking his head up its fucking arse. Jaysus. Sure I hope dat twat lives for a fuckin hundred centuries. I hope he never dies. God help us when he does and you all make a fuckin saint out of him. Ya do realize dat he is to music what Father Brendan Smyth was to da fuckin church” said Shane. “Watch your mouth boy. Bono is a good man. You look at the good he does in Africa. The place is shining and they’re celebrating Easter now because of him. And what have you done? Inspired a nation of youth to drink till they’re green, piss in their pants and wake up stoned somewhere that they can’t remember for the life of them how the hell they even got there.” “I’m savin da fuckin world.” 22


“By doing what? Shouting, cursing, shaming your mother?” “Now ya see dat dere,” said Shane pointing to the television. “Dat’s music. Nick fuckin Cave. Kinda music ya could rob a bank or make a baby to.” “Sounds like the devils music.” “Would you give us one pint of the black stuff ?” asked Shane. “No,” said The Barman. “Well, you got all dat residue and spill in the tray down da bottom. Can I drink dat? I got a mean fuckin tirst” said Shane. “Jaysus. Have you got no feckin shame?” said The Barman. “Gave it all to mammy apparently,” said Shane. “I can’t serve you, Shane. I’d be crossing your own words. It’s for the best. Look at you. You’re working now.” “Yeah for a complete cunt.” “That’s life, Shane. You can’t just mix all your dreams with whiskey and gin. Look what happens. Look what happened. You’re doing great now Shane. We’re all proud of ya.” “Just one pint man. What bad could happen?” “You’re sure? It’s a feckin shame it is.” “It’s just one pint.” “Here you are,” said The Barman, handing Shane a glass over the counter knowing too well, whatever curse was in his mind would not let him touch a drop. He held the glass to his eyes and watched the colour slowly turn darker and darker, losing himself in the spill of white that rolled down the length of the rim and onto his index finger. He watched the Guinness change its colour like a father would watch his first child learning to crawl and though the average man might want to hurry the process and tuck the child’s knees under its belly and speed it along, Shane enjoyed nothing more than wetting his appetite on watching nature, making perfect, a wonderful thing that man had started. “Dese fellas,” said Shane, licking his upper lip. “Dey say anyting else?” 23


“Not to me. But yer man, they gave him a speaking to.” “Who?” “Yer man.” “Damian?” “No, yer man.” “Not that gobshite Sean? Writer my feckin arse. Bad grammar, horrible fuckin punctuation. Ya know he’s a writer and he’s never even read a fuckin book in his life? Never been to university eider? Did pretty shite at school as well from what I heard.” “Look who’s talking and no, not him, yer man, the insect. What do you call him? Caterpillar, mosquito?” “Spider?” “That’s the one. They had him down at the table there for a wee bit.” “Yer sure about dat?” said Shane. “Have you ever known me to fib?” said The Barman. “Roight,” said Shane, burying his face into his Guinness and stopping just before the lovely aroma could wisp against the fine hairs of his nose. And as he wished he could just drink that flaming first pint, the comfortable dark in the pub was broken as the doors burst open and a small, stubby frame stood like a miniature statue in the morning light with his face invisible but his grunting and unsavoury odour, unmistakable. “Pint o larger and a packet o crisps,” said The Landlord, slapping his legs to brush off the rain that collected on him like flies to an open sore. He sat himself on a stool at the bar, tapping his thick fingers away on the wooden ends, completely out of time and devoid of any rhythm whatsoever; his beat sounding like a room full of defibrillating hearts. “Jaysus it’s some rain out dere. Any craic?” he said. The Barman looked at him. His hands said I’m busy and his eyes said fuck off. He stopped wiping the counter and poured the man a larger and handed him a packet of crisps; taking his greasy 24


folded note and throwing a pile of coins down on the table before him. “Ya fucked up here man. Larger and crisps, dat’s tree pounds twenty two. I gave ya four pounds. Dere’s only seventy five pence here. Tree pence short. Where’s me tree pence?’ shouted The Landlord. The Barman sifted through the coins, counting them out in his mind while his eyes still had a ‘fuck off ’ kind of allure about them. “Don’t give me dat fuckin look. Tree pence is tree pence. It’s tree pence next to the tree pence beside it and to da tree pence beside dat. It fuckin adds up. Before ya know it ya got a hundred, a thousand and a fuckin million. To you, tree pence is nutin. You round it back to nutin. To me, tree pence is everytin. So where da fuck is my million fuckin pounds ya greedy cunt?” he shouted, spitting crisps at The Barman as he did. Unfazed, bemused and unbothered, The Barman reached into his till and pulled out three coins and swung them in the direction of the angry Landlord; huffing and puffing whilst munching down on his crisps, giving the wanted impressions that just maybe, he was breaking bones up in his teeth and he would do just that, were it that anyone should test him. “What happened to you?” asked The Barman, noticing some scratches and an open cut on the back of The Landlord’s hand. “Fuckin kid bit me. Ungrateful little fuckers. Gave er, a good punch dough. And da mudder. Dey’re not teachin any fuckin respect dese days. Da kids are fuckin wild and da parents, lazy and no good” said The Landlord. The Barman turned away, gave Shane an appreciating look and then went through a door behind the bar, somewhere out the back to look for something of which, what that was, he could not remember and might need some time to do so. The old and young men sitting by themselves at tables scattered around the dark room all cradled their fingers around their glasses and imagined things in their minds. Some thought about 25


football, other thought about Jesus and others imagined Mary, the girl at the supermarket with the massive knockers; jogging on the spot. Shane stepped up from the table and took a long breath before exhaling calmly, lifting his glass to his lips then imagining a stream of Guinness rolling over his tongue and down his throat as if it were an embrace from his own mother and he pushed his chair in neatly and quietly and walked over to where The Landlord sat; licking the salt off of his fingers. And before the fat bastard could turn, Shane clenched his pint in his hand and smashed it against The Landlord’s face, cutting open his right eye and the ripping open his cheek like a fresh tomato, blood and Guinness spilling over his clothes and onto the floor. The Landlord fell back off his stool and onto the floor and Shane jumped on top of him with the broken glass in his hand and he stabbed and he struck and he slashed and he cut; digging the glass into The Landlord’s face, ripping his lips in half and tearing open his nose and stabbing at his eyes until part of one of them went flying over his shoulder and rested against an old man’s foot as in his mind, the old man imagined Mary; with the massive knockers, doing star jumps on the spot. Though it looked like he was screaming, not a sound escaped his mouth. Shane tore at his face and neck and ears and arms and chest with the broken glass until there was no glass left in his hands and then he started to punch and bite and he stood up and clung to the counter with one hand whilst stomping down on the Landlord’s bloody face with his right boot that he pulled high into the air and threw down with the force of every child he had very thrown out on the street and he kicked and he stamped and he beat with his boot until the fat bastard on the floor stopped moving. “Ya’d best be off now lad,” said an old man.

26


It was no summer’s day that’s for sure. The wind felt like a freezing cold battle axe swiping against his body and the rain was making a torrent and a waterfall of every wee bump in the road and along the path that took him around the city and past the schoolyard where a lonely looking bully sat by himself on top of a massive yellow slide and as the rain splashed down on the pudgy angry boy, he sat there like a boiling kettle; warmer than Frenchman’s affection as he steamed and curdled, probably thinking about the dad he hadn’t seen since he was ripe enough to be moulded into an impressionable thug. Shane couldn’t remember too much of his school days, just that he’d once been that lad sitting on top of the slide, unsure why it was he was so damn angry, wanting to make rain and fire with his clenched fists and his curling tongue. Maybe it’s unfair to assume that the young buy on the slide fit some tired cliché. Maybe that’s just poor story telling. And if we had more time I’d go into it but Shane’s up ahead, past the school and nearing the old church; now I say old church when, in fact, it’s really just a repossessed council crack house. It sounds nicer saying old church, kind of rolls off the tongue, more homely than the alternative really. “Fadder, any craic?” said Shane, having a bit of fun. “Mornin son. You look a bit worse for wear. Ya right are ya? Ya wanna come in for a bit, get out o da rain?” said The Priest. “Tanks anyway fadder. It’s barely a drizzle. So how are tings?” “Good, very good.” “Ya look busy,” Shane said, seeing scores of addled men, women and dogs walking in circles chasing an air of hope, their withered souls, or that thing they forgot. “I do like a challenge. Tis da lord who said, if you build it, dey will come” said The Priest. 27


“I believe dat was Field of Dreams but da metaphor, it’s still grand.” “Honestly, I tink it would be easier to build around a playground. Seriously. Dese lads, dere’s no hope. And da one’s dat do open deir eyes, when dey do, dey look mad as fuck. Sure if dey found Jesus’ ashes I’m sure he’d be straight in deir pipes. Start young. Get em when dey can’t tink for demselves. Dat’s de key” said The Priest. “Dere’s a great deal of wrong in what ya just said fadder and I know ya mean well. Yer not using dat in yer mass are ya? I’d leave out da whole schoolyard ting. Could be taken out a context ya know?” said Shane. “I don’t, no.” “I’d best be off,” said Shane. The Priest; with a concerned look in his eye, rested his two hands on Shane’s soaking shoulders. “Dey want da song, Shane.” “Who, what song?” “Da one in yer head. Da one ya sang last night at da pub. Dey know and dey want it and dey’re coming after ya Shane.” “Who, who da fuck is after me?” “Da police; not Garda, da English, MI-5 I tink, showed me deir badges an all. Not just dem dough, dere were some American lads too and anudder man. Not like da udders.” “Not da fuckin tax department?” The Priest looked nervously over his shoulder. “It’s da devil himself. He’s ere, takin names.” “Sounds serious,” said Shane. As The Priest whispered in his ear, behind them, the junkies stirred and dispersed like a school of fish, frightened by a skipping stone. “Shane, dis is important. Ya have ta remember what I tell ya, ok?” “I will, yeah,” said Shane. “I’m not jokin around here, dis is serious. De song, can ya 28


remember it? Any of it? Dis is important Shane.” “Everyone keeps harpin about dis feckin song. What da fuck happened last night?” “Dat’s not important now Shane. Ya have to remember dat song. Ya can’t forget it and tell someone, ya have to tell someone. Yer in danger lad. Everyone ya know. Da fate o da world; it’s in yer feckin hands. God help us all” said The Priest, hardly believing this truth any more than the toothless punk before him. “Are you sound fadder? Yer soundin a bit like meself ” said Shane. “Listen to me. It’s important dat you remember dis. Ta save us all, ta save the world; you must drink. And the junk too, ya keep da needle close to yer veins, ya hear me, lad. Da fate o da world is in yer hands.” “Jaysus. Is dat yer approach now? What are ya, Professor Xavier? Ya got a crack house full a super heroes back dere?” “Listen to me Shane. A trumpet will sound; tree times. Before da tird, ya have ta….” The Priest fell to his knees clutching at his throat as if there were something clasping his neck and digging its grip tighter, closing the door to his lungs. His face turned bright red as his nails dug into his skin. Shane jumped behind him and slapped him on the back, thinking he was probably choking on a peanut or an oddly shaped crisp. While he slapped away at the old man’s back; and as he looked around for someone more fitting to do the job, he caught the eye of a mysterious stranger, standing amidst the flurry of scuttling junkies inside the church. The Priest went from bright red to an odd whitish blue colour and he fell from Shane’s hands, slipping straight through his lame fingers and slumping on the ground like a heavy, old priest shaped bag of sand. His body thumped on the ground but all Shane could hear was the whisperings of the dark stranger inching towards him from inside the church; its face hidden behind a veil of seclusion as a 29


long black cloak covered its entire body making the void of its appearance. He felt like a tiny star, catching sight of a black hole creeping up from some parallel reality; as if maybe he shouldn’t have seen it and that maybe it were a trick of his eye or maybe that trick was less of a delusion as he would better himself to think and more of an unraveling. His mind was awash with the sound of an ocean slapping against a rocky cove; massive waves pounding against his conscious shore and as the sea receded, the hiss of the ocean spilled up into the air and inside of that unnerving sound came a warning. “Come and see,” it said in a horrible hiss. And he saw. “Fuck dis,” said Shane, backing away from the dead priest and almost tripping as he stepped back off the curb onto the road; the dark figure still walking towards him, its voice still hissing in his mind. He turned and ran, disappearing into the lashing rain with the wind howling his name. He ran down the street, past the row of hair dressers with the old ladies who preferred the term hair dresser and thought the title hair stylist was just being too precocious and whoring; best left for ‘those’ types of girls, the ones with glitter round their eyes and large silver buckles on the tips of their shoes. The old ladies waved and blew kisses as he ran past the windows and open doors. His eyes were shut and he was running on automatic as he once did on many an eve, stumbling home from the pub or a dumpster, wherever he had managed to wake and find himself. And with a Clydesdale’s sight, he passed every row of hair dressing ladies and so focused was he that he didn’t see how in the reflection of every window and in the glass on every door, the shadowy dark figure was being swept along behind him.

30


It wasn’t until he had reached the stairwell that he took more than a second to measure the weight of every breath that he hadn’t taken and he stood there; hunched over himself, fighting to fit that breath into his lungs and slow his heart before it exploded out of his chest. “Mammy, are ya dere?” he shouted. There was no reply. His chest was pounding so heavy. He’d never make a light thief. Not with these lungs and not if one of the conditions were surprise. He wheezed as loud as the sick young girl and between every exhaled breath, he cursed and moaned feeling a cruel burn in his lungs and in his chest. When he gathered his breath, he stripped down to his yellow briefs and his soggy socks walking around the apartment pulling the cloth that tucked up into his bum back around the sides of his cheeks. And he stepped up onto his toes as he rolled out machine gun rhythmic gusts of wind; farting away as he pranced around the apartment like a pasty white ballerina. “Mammy?” he shouted. He expected to see her, here in the kitchen or smoking away on the lounge watching Eastenders re-runs. He’d often see her and his love; Teresa, sipping tea and arguing about this and that; his mother calling her a junky whore and Teresa, taking offense to the word junky; preferring the term, sobriety impaired. There was nothing he could ever really do except wait for them both to tire out and eventually nod off, nursing their cups of tea like a newborn baby with no danger at all of a single drop spilling to the floor. It drove him mad how they drove one another mad and he loved them both. He could never choose between one and the other. Humming away to himself, he walked out onto the balcony and watched the rain lashing down upon the city’s seedy underbelly 31


below. He loved his veranda. Ever since he was a boy he was always asking his mother, first, when they could live up some stairs and then; when they finally found some decent council flats when they could have a veranda. All he ever wanted was like what all the other lads had; somewhere outside that he could decorate with a nice chair, maybe a table and a wee pot plant; nothing too big, maybe a fern or something. From this height, he could see many things. Below him was Industrial Avenue, named at first for the hundreds of factories that once lined the avenue for kilometers during the good days but which now were all abandoned and boarded up; places of dark seclusion and lurid detail. Now, as a labour of love, it become the factory of fallacious folly with the entire avenue; stretching from here to there, becoming the parade of dealers and junkies, the drunks, the pimps, the whores and it looked like a marvelous production line of filth and abhorrence with the dimly lit street being the conveyor that carried the box like cars along at crawling speed, their windows down, their drivers all looking with scented perversion at the pouting red lips, the licking tongues, the lifting skirts, the wiggling bums and stopping, only when; from the cheapest and dirtiest of the whores, they found what might just be the cleanest one. Shane used to enjoy watching the cars pulling up to each whore and he imagined what types of things they might be saying to one another aside from, of course, how much and can my mother watch? He imagined them debating philosophical precedence and that each whore were presenting their model for understanding the nature and interplay of the conscious and sub conscious minds and sometimes they just made fish sounds to each other and held their hands to their cheeks so that they moved like a fish’s gills. When he was younger, though, he imagined that they were all just being somebody’s mother. That each car would come along with a father behind the wheel and a sad boy sitting in the back 32


seat and only the right type of mother would smile at the right type of boy and when she did, the car would stop completely and she would get in and they would travel back to their house where the mother would ask the father about all the things that had happened in his day and while he talked away, she would blow kisses to her son that was hanging like a monkey from the door frame and just dying for his two minutes alone with her. And when dad was done, he would show her that thing he did earlier on today with his friends. Now, though, as a man himself, he preferred just to watch down below at the cars and the whores and guess to himself what disease each one might be carrying. Normally he could see Teresa from where he was before everything went sour of course. She always worked below the veranda so she could shout out things to him and get him to throw down smokes whenever she ran out. A lot of the time he would just throw three or four smokes and the wind would pick them up and carry them off somewhere far. He tried once to sticky tape the smokes to a small rock so that they would carry better to where she was. He ended up misjudging quite a bit, put a bit too much grunt into it. The rock carried further than he had hoped, hitting some poor hooker on the head while she was polishing some young bloke; almost bit his thing off completely. He never really threw anything heavier than a fountain pen after that. But it was always his favourite place to be. It was where he met Teresa to begin with. From this height, he could see perfectly down her gaping cleavage and would hang over the edge, almost fall straight over the rails every time she bounced up and down on her feet to brave the freezing cold and with her, her ginormous breasts would wobble away like two giant jelly mountains. The ďŹ rst words they had shared were a few brief insults; she for his lingering and he for her whoring, though the latter it seemed; in the end, he had very little argument with. 33


But from the first time he heard the words cheap lousy drunk, he knew off the bat that she’d past his stellar demeanour and found the true poet inside, the part he only really kept for his mother and when she said those words he thought to himself; “well if she knows me that well den we should stop all dis carryin on.” The first kiss they shared was on his mother’s couch, staring out through the grimy sliding door at the rain pelting down outside, no doubt making slurry of all the debauchery taking residence below. Back then, Teresa was a fickler with time and at that time, she should have been down in that slurry getting her knees grazed for a pound or two. But she was up in the villa playing Sociable Suzy to a young lad with funny teeth and a nefarious veneer. Shane paid her a pound that night; borrowed the money off his own mother and he dabbed on small splotches of Betadine onto her knees and picked out tiny bits of loose gravel with his long yellow fingernails. They kissed staring out into the rain and it was almost a tragedy conspired by love with Shane losing a wobbling tooth and Teresa almost choking as it got caught on its way down the back of her throat. But they were in love, from the first insult to the first kiss. Not even Shakespeare himself would have the dramatic sensibility to etch to life a story like theirs. Maybe he would, but he’d surely leave out the heroin and the blow jobs. There wasn’t only one good thing in Shane’s life and that one other had been his staple for as long as he could apologise. His mother had helped him to tie his shoelaces when he was a boy and again as a man when all his training came undone. She picked him out of the snow and poured boiling water on his frozen sores, thawing him out night after drunken night, always ensuring he was up bright and early every morning in the best state she could induce him to be. She was the Jupiter in his solar system, taking the fair brunt of all of his mistakes and all of the vengeful plotting by the world abound because not matter how tall he got, no matter how filthy 34


his mouth became, no matter how much he cursed, no matter how many whores he brought home, no matter how many beers he drank, no matter how many fights he lost, no matter how many of her own dreams he cost her; no matter what he did, in the past or even what matter may come, he was her son and she always saw him as her baby, albeit a giant, gangly, toothless, cursin, whore loving, drunken baby. Mrs. MacGowan didn’t take well to Teresa. She didn’t like how this foul mouthed, chain smoking prostitute had worked her way onto her two-seater; between her and her son, and commenced the stealing of his spark. She saw Teresa as a black hole; a dark, soul sucking force that turned like a warped old vinyl through a paper sleeve world, looking for someone or something to feed her starving lecherous soul and the longer he stayed with her and the more his skin scraped against hers, Mrs. MacGowan could see how the love she brought out of him was reverting him to nothing like the death of a star and that the love she gave; at the cusp of her heart, was like the junk they shoveled into their veins; it made them both older and more worse for wear. But Shane loved Teresa and he loved his mother and it grieved him something horrible when he had to sing along as they played out of tune, acting as if it could all be ok; that they would learn some way and somehow, to just get along and there was no reason why punk and country couldn’t share the same light. And both of them should have been here, sitting on the couch, sipping sugared tea, one cursing the other and the other cursing back but neither bothering to take themselves outside of the crossfire. Shane stood against the railing of the veranda, staring over the edge, looking for his mammy down below, but he couldn’t see her anywhere so he shouted out to the other girls. “Oi” he shouted. Nobody looked. “How much?” he shouted again and heads turned, looking 35


up to the veranda; some with insulted scorn, others with negotiating eyes. “Don’t be a prick Shane” yelled one of the women. “Is dat Nicole?” “Yeah, so what?” “Dijya dye yer roots? Da top o yer head looks different.” “Feck off Shane. I did yeah. Does it look good, natural like? Do ya like it?” asked Nicole. “Kinda looks like a bird shat peroxide on yer head. Looks great. Listen Nicole, ave ya seen me mammy?” shouted Shane. “Not since yesterday, no,” said Nicole. “Did she pass by today, sellin? What about da udder girls? Ave dey seen er?” he shouted. “I’ll check” Nicole shouted back. She tapped on the head of her colleague that was bobbing away beside her. The woman; Stacy, was none too impressed. “What is it? I’m workin here” she said. “It’s Shane. He’s lookin for Mrs. MacGowan. Ya seen er?” “Yeah, she was ere earlier on” “Well, can ya tell yer man. Ya know more dan me.” “Yeah, Shane. She was ere earlier on. Came down tryna bum a smoke. Had some nice red as well. Doesn’t come off on yer man’s tings ider” she shouted, up towards the veranda. “What time? Do ya know where she went?” Shane shouted back. “I wouldn’t know ta tell ya the troot. She was talkin to some lads in overcoats. Looked all serious and dat” said Stacy. “Were dey Garda?” shouted Shane. “Not police no. FBI maybe. Dey had dat whole X-Files type a ting goin on, ya know what I mean? And dere was a man, askin about you dis mornin too. Handsome lookin fella. You done sometin wrong Shane?” “I can’t remember,” he said. “Yer man was asking about a song. Asked me to hum a few bars. I tought dat was code for sucking his dick. He got a bit 36


offended I tink. Poofter. Yer man looked pretty serious dough. Are ya alright fella, yer all soft” she said, looking up at the client who had an awkward look on his face while the conversing woman worked her two pound magic with her hands. “Ah tis a bit strange,” said the man shyly. “Hold on a sec Shane,” Tracy said before turning back to her client. “Ya don’t like it? Are ya gay? Cause further down the street ya know…” “No it’s not dat,” said the man. “You know. Yer talkin away to yer man up dere and well, it’s a bit strange.” “Would ya prefer I didn’t talk to him?” she asked. “It’d be grand yeah,” said the man. “Sorry Shane. Lad ere is gun shy. Be wit ya in two shakes; more or less” she shouted out. Shane looked around the floor beside him. There was some squashed cigarette butts, their ends blackened and burned, smoked right to the filter and beside them were five green bottles, sitting on the floor and he wished to Christ, he wished to Christ that he had fifteen more. Shane reached for the phone inside his pocket. His eyes were blurry and his head was light. It was hard to concentrate with only one pint in his system. How other men survived on mere diet and exercise was sheer amazement alone. He dialed the number for Spider and the phone didn’t ring, it went straight to voicemail. “Spider, it’s Shane. Fucking weird mornin man. Ya wouldn’t fuckin believe it. Ya, remember da landlord? Yeah, I tink I might ave fucked up dere man. Do ya know anyting about DNA? Ah, fuck it. Listen, a lot o weird shit today and some people are askin about me, about some song. I don’t know what da fuck we got up to last night man, but dere’s a lot a strange shite goin on. Fuckin priest died in me hands. Fuckin FBI or MI-5 is houndin everyone I know about a fuckin song I wrote and now me mammy, she’s gone. Listen, man, you couldn’t lend us ten pounds could ya? I’ll buy ya a drink. Come oe man, don’t be a fucking…” 37


A long beep cut him off and then phone cut out. “Bollocks,” he said, redialing the number. As he did, there was a knock at the door. Nobody he ever knew knocked on doors. If they knew where he lived then he knew who they were and if they were here for his company, they were accustomed to walking right on in, whoever they were. Shane lifted himself off the seat and scuttled back inside. It was freezing cold out on the veranda and inside the flat but still for some reason he was undressed and walking around in yellow briefs, coloured that way not by the factory but by laziness and a weak bladder. He picked his underwear out of his bum as he peeped through the eye of the door. There were two men on the side of the door, both dressed in cream overcoats, brimmed hats and one was wearing terrific looking black shades; like every cliché he had ever imagined. One of the men lifted his hand and knocked on the door again. “Mr. Shane MacGowan. We know you’re in there. Please come to the door. We’d like to ask you a few questions.” Shane froze. His heart was beating a million miles an hour. His head said nothing but his legs said run. But where to? He was many stories up and only two ways down. One was over the veranda and hoping a hooker or two might break his fall if the fall alone didn’t break his legs. The other way was through the front door and down the flight of stairs and when he got out onto the streets, well there would be no catching him from there. The man knocked again. “We’re not here to hurt you, Shane. We just want to help you. We’re your friends Shane. Open the door” said The Man with Terrific Shades. “No,” said Shane. “Don’t be silly Shane. We can protect you.” “What da fuck are ye on about?” “You’re in danger Shane and we can help you. Just open the door and let us in.” 38


“Like fuck. Where’s me mammy?” he said. “I don’t know where they are, but we know who took them. We can help you get them back Shane. But you have to let us in” said The Man in Terrific Shades. “Alright, give us a second,” said Shane, scouring through some draws, ripping them out and throwing them on the floor, scattering his mother’s underwear about the room looking for something in particular. “When dey knock on yer front door, how you gonna come, wit yer hands on yer head or on da trigger of a gun” he sang to himself. The door knocked again, this time firmer, angrier and with its forced opening more imminent. “Open the door Shane” yelled The Man inn Terrific Shades. One of his neighbours popped her head out of her door. “What’s all dis feck racket. Would ya wisht up?” A single shot echoed through the flats and silenced the old lady. Her body fell to the floor, her head sticking out on the welcome mat and the door, wedged above her shoulders. Shane rummaged faster and he found them. “Open the door, Shane.” “What did ya doo to Mrs. McClafferty? You shoot her?” “We don’t want to have to hurt anyone else. Just open the door and nobody gets hurt.” “So if I stay in here, you’ll keep shootin me, neighbours. Dat’s yer plan? Fucking marvelous. Ya can start wit da gobshite ta da left and work yer way down. Tell ya what, ya clear da first floor and we’ll talk” said Shane. “Kick it down,” said The Man in Terrific Shades to his friend. A black shoe smashed against the door and burst open and rain flooded in, driven by a manic gust of wind and standing in the hallway, dressed on in his yellow stained underwear and pointing both barrels towards the open door, was Shane; a crooked smile etched on his face and war, twitching at his fingertips. “Fuck you bastards” he screamed, firing away, the fire from the ends of the barrels warming up his naked body as bullets roared 39


towards the door, cutting the men down, bursting through their jackets and into their bodies, throwing them back and over the railings towards the pavement below. Shane fired maybe a hundred shots. It was ridiculous. The gun only held eight, but he didn’t believe it and so he fired more and more, spitting and cursing and laughing and firing some more. The man with the black shoes was hit maybe fifty times in his chest and he flew backwards over the railing and twisted his arms like a human windmill through the air, trying to grip at an invisible handle as he fell downwards and smacked his head on the ground below. The other one; The Man with the Terrific Shades, took just as many bullets in his chest and though he had a weapon of his own, pointing in his hands, he had not a single inch of a second to put it to use. He went flying over the railing too but managed; on his way, to have the belt of his coat catch on a small satellite dish that was hanging from one of the railings below. “Dis is fuckin mad,” Shane said reaching for his phone again. He dialed Spiders number and this time the phone rang. He could hear at first the sound in his ears of the phone ringing out. Then, he could hear the echo a phone ringing, somewhere off out of his sight. It was muffled, but he could hear it. He stepped out of the flat and looked over the edge of the railing, down to the man in black shoes who was lying still on the ground below. And the sound of the phone ringing was coming from the receiver in his ear and from the pocket of the man down below. “Fuck dis,” he said out loud. Shane ran. “Fuck da pants,” he thought, arguing with wasting more time. He ran straight out of the flat and down the stairs and when he got to the street, he did just as he had mentioned earlier. He ran and there was no way in hell they were going to catch him. He ran through some winding alleyways, jumping over the bonnets of cars, skipping over fences and darting through back doors of people’s houses before bursting out the front doors with their owner’s waving rolled newspapers after him. He ran as fast 40


as he could, still in his underwear and carrying two pistols in his hands; running for the life of him. He ran and when he did; in his reflection, he carried with him a dark ominous figure, as if his shadow were another man, taking refuge in his flight. Shane ran around every bend, down every street and waited for no safe clearing around every corner. Whoever was on his trail would stop at nothing until they had him in their lurches and he would fight till the death to ensure that didn’t happen and he’d set his body on fire and curse his own ashes to be sure that whoever they were, they could never carry him away. Shane ran until he could run no more. The rain was pelting down on him and the wind was chipping away at his spirit and as he keeled over himself with his lungs on fire and his pistols perched dangerously on the caps of his knees, he heard behind him, the stepping of casual and meaningful feet. “You can run Shane, but we’ll always find you. You should come with us before anything happens to your mother” said The Man in Terrific Shades; his cream overcoat torn to pieces by the shredding of bullets, but there he stood, completely unimpaired, unspoiled and unbroken and he didn’t even seem very cross. Shane couldn’t get a word out. His chest was burning more with every great heave and he fought for every syllable that he was thinking, but he had not the fight to speak them. “Look behind you Shane. There’s nowhere to run” said The Man in Terrific Shades. Shane lifted his head and he was surrounded. There were cars speeding in from all corners and all fronts with their sirens blazing and gallant officers leaning out of the windows, slapping the rear door like a horse’s behind, waving their pistols in the air and shouting orders towards the toothless punk, standing in his underwear. There were so many orders being spoken that it just sounded like moaning and groaning and gnashing of teeth like a young child, discoursing their dissent with an open mouth before every gulp and swallow. 41


“Put da guns down Shane and put yer hands on yer head, slowly like” spoke Officer Ryan. The blue lights were flickering madly and the only thing Shane could think was “I wish this rain would stop pouring down on me.” “Come with us,” said The Man in Terrific Shades. Shane stood with his head bowed to the ground; his eyes watching the side of the road where a tiny rock was wedged against the curb and the water that was rushing past burst upwards into the air and looked like a small stationary wave and all the leaves that were coursing down the running stream burst up with the mini wave and flew high into the air before splashing back down into the foamy bottom and carrying on down the road. Some of the leaves, though; the small ones, carried on in the air, pushed along by the gale wind and pelting rain and were taken somewhere far from the flashing blue lights, the gnashing orders and the cool cats in cream coats. This morning was all about a song. A song he couldn’t remember and so he ran through his mind; while his fingers tickled the two triggers, every tune he had ever hummed or ever imagined himself humming but at this moment, there was only one line running through his head. And he sang it loud into the pelting rain and coughing wind. “When the law break in, how you gonna go? Shot down on the pavement or waiting in death row?” He lifted his arms, swiveled his body, raised the guns, widened his eyes, showed his gritting teeth, dug in his feet, squeezed on the trigger and then a beanbag; shot from a nearby gun, smacked him dead in the face and knocked him off his feet and the guns, out of his hands. “Hands on yer head Shane” shouted Officer Ryan. “Just say yes and I can take you from this,” said The Man in Terrific Shades. His head was pounding. He was freezing cold. His fingers were numb and his buttocks were bruised. Naked; except for a pair 42


of yellow stained briefs, Shane rolled over by the curb and rested his head on the small rock inside the torrent of water. He imagined he was a light as one of the leaves and the water would just spit him up into the air and the freezing wind would pick him up in her motherly arms and carry him to his bed so he could try and sleep this one off like he had all of the others.

43


The morning was only getting worse and worse. It felt like someone had parked an elephant’s arse on his face and when he tried to move, he could feel every pained muscle in his face screaming out for him to stop. “Ya look like shite. What’re ya in for?” said the old man in the corner. Shane squeezed the sleep from his eyes like a mangy old orange. “Where am I?” he asked. “Disneyland,” said The Old Man. “Yer jokin?” “Nah, I’m just taking the mickey,” said The Old Man laughing to himself. “Ya ever had one o dose days?” said Shane. “What, where ya kill yer boss and get chased down by a hundred cops and you’ve not even da time ta cover yer bare arse? Would ya believe me if I said I have?” said The Old Man. Shane lifted himself up so that he could see the small cage surrounding him, its iron bars rusted but bolted shut, the cream walls dirtied by drunken hands and the stone beds, no less comfortable than sleeping on one’s feet. “Twas a woman wasn’t it? Tis always a woman” said The Old Man. “Aye. I tink. Tink I woke up inside a feckin Bond movie” said Shane. “I met a woman once. She was quite a woman. I’ll never forget er.” “What was er name?” “Oh, that I couldn’t tell ya” “I thought ya’d never forget er?” “Ah, a name, ya call wit yer tongue, dis lady, da love o my life, 44


da keeper o my soul, I only called out ta her wit me heart. Her name was da yearnin I felt in me blood and da desperation in me fingertips da moment she left me touch. Her name was da shiver dat crept up me spine when da echo of er voice sneaked up on me and danced about in me ears and in me head” said The Old Man, pulling on the end of his beard. “Well, what did udder people call er?” “I’d never know. Even if dey were shoutin in my ear. I’d never hear dem cause dey’d never be dere. She was da only ting dat existed. Da only sight and sound dat ever seemed real. She was da summer sun dat warmed ye up and da rainy day dat kept ya in bed, warm under da covers. She was da care and consideration dat comes out o every tragedy. She was deadly” The Old Man said. “What happened to her?” asked Shane. “We spent what felt like da whole me life talkin and muckin around and drinkin and runnin and dancin and fuckin and makin a god awful mess everywhere we’d go and I told er I did, that I never wanted er ta ever leave, dat I wanted dat night to continue forever. But in da mornin, she was gone. She left me drunk, in New Orleans” said The Old Man. “She packed up and left?” asked Shane. “She fuckin overdosed. I woke up and she’d fecked off, like dat, just a cold and still version of er. Her fire was gone. She went away and she took me heart wit er. And I wished ta fuck, it was made o stone” The Old Man said. “Dat’s my story,” said Shane. “And ya wouldn’t ave told it any different,” said The Old Man. “Well ya have ta find dem before it’s too late,” said The Old Man. “How? I’m in here and I don’t know who took em.” “I can help ya.” “Everyone keeps sayin dat. What do you want outta dis?” “Ta be on da right side. Dat’s all. I want to find myself on da right path when da end comes for me. Yer man, he’s already started 45


takin names you know and he’s deciding who ta free and who ta blame. Fuckin prick.” The Old Man stood up and hobbled towards Shane, his right foot catching on the ends of his beard that twisted and curled from his horse long face down to his dirty toenails. “What da fuck is dat?” said Shane looking at The Old Man’s hands. The Old Man took from inside his thick beard a small see though vial in one hand and a shiny needle in the other. “Dis is yer sword,” he said. “Nah yer right man. Dat aint gonna help me here. I need ta keep me head clear” said Shane. “And what makes ya tink sobriety is not an illness?” “I don’t wanna go ta dat place, need ta focus and save me mammy. Got some bad memories wit da junk. Yer right man.” “Dis is just da vehicle. Da place never changes.” “Yer right man, seriously. Sobriety is where I lay me head now. It’s a town, it’s me home.” “Kid, don’t you know? It’s the same, wherever you go” said The Old Man, kneeling before Shane and filling the needle with a clear fluid. He flicked on the needle and pushed a tiny bit up and out so that it splashed against the round of Shane’s knee and tickled every nerve in his body. “Dis will show ya what ya need ta see and nutin more. Ya have nutin to fear lad from a sword in yer hand” said The Old Man, looking Shane in the eye as he blindly took his arm with his left hand just under the elbow and pressed the cold needle into his vein with his right, sliding the cold steel into his vein until the clear fluid turned a bright red and as Shane closed his eyes, The Old Man pushed down on the plunger and cast Shane thoughts outside of the jailhouse walls. His mind’s eye burst with a definitive brightness; a blinding white light. And as he squinted through the blur, he could see the outline of figure, walking down a long winding path as all poetic 46


paths seemed to be, holding the reigns to a beautiful white horse. And the figure had; following behind it, a carriage that was carried along by itself and it creaked and croaked as its big wooden wheels turned over the bumpy tracks, the loose rocks and the shifting sand. Shane stepped into the light and then through it until the brightness gave way to an expanse of courtly colour and splendid scents. Well, he wasn’t in fuckin Dublin that was for sure. He stood hiding behind a tree, one whose trunk could have hidden a thousand of himself. The strange figure walking a beautiful white horse was whistling a tune, something he didn’t know yet something that felt so familiar, like how a baby must feel when it discovers its own voice and he wanted; like the screaming child, to sing out the tune from the bottom of his belly past the top of his lungs and out onto the dusty trail through the line of shaking leaves. He fought the temptation and instead stayed still and spying, peaking around the sides of a mammoth tree, ignoring the strange figure and seeing past his beautiful white horse and finding himself instead drawn to the insides of the large wooden carriage that pulled along slowly behind stranger and his horse with not a rope between them to pull it along. Yet on it went, its wheels creaking and turning and its momentum, never waning as if the air of strangeness alone, were the inertia pulling it along. As the strange figure, its beautiful white horse and the moving carriage edged along the winding dusty track, Shane followed, creeping step by step through thick leaves and brush, holding his breath every time he lifted his foot from the bristly brush and every time he broke apart the leaves to lay another back down. Shane crept slowly up behind the carriage wondering to himself, what in god’s name he was doing. He grabbed onto the back of the carriage and lifted himself up as the giant wheels turned and the massive cogs cranked, pulled along by some magnificent specter. And inside the carriage; hidden in the darkness of the 47


canopy, Shane pulled back three blankets that uncovered three stones with each of them named as trophies for three graves; his own, his mother’s and his lover’s. “What da fuck is dis,” he said out loud. The carriage stopped. The horse neighed. The patter of footsteps fell deafly silent. “Bollocks,” said Shane again. The horse huffed and puffed a sigh of discord and from beside it; and coming towards, was the sound of shuffling feet, returning from whence they came, back towards the waiting carriage. He heard his heart screaming out to him and threatening to burst out from his chest and run up along the winding path away from his ignorant body and it sounded like a fantastic idea, if only he could convince his legs to do the same. “Come and see” hissed the voice travelling beside the carriage. There was nowhere to run. The sides of the canopy started to bend and warp as the strange figure ran its long fingernails against the sides and the sound of its scraping hands was like grinding gears in the inside of his mind. There was nowhere to run. There was nowhere to run. Shane lay down next to the stones and pulled the blanket over his body so that its pungent fibres worked their way up his nose and down his throat. He fought to still his heart and heavy his lungs and he did well; slowing his fearful pacing breath, until he turned his head and saw himself lying stiller than he; like a board, with his eyes and mouth sewn shut and his hands pressed against his chest where a run of stitches, covered the mark where his heart had been torn out from his chest. “Come and see” hissed the voice, now standing at the rear of the carriage, its hands gripping the rail and pulling up from the dusty track to just before the very place where Shane was hiding. He could hear its breath sounding out like the hum of an 48


idling motor. He held his own and played dead. “Come and see” hissed the strange figure again. Under the blanket, Shane reached around with his hands, his fingers working like tentacles to feel and find anything that he could use or fashion as a weapon. He slid his hand around slowly and gently, careful not to scratch the wooden floor and bump the blanket keeping time in his favour. His hand slipped into the pockets of the dead man beside him; into his own pockets and he took from them a small vial different to the one he had taken before. He clenched his hand around the tiny bottle and dragged it slowly towards his face, twisting the lid between the bends in his fingers until it slipped off and rolled down the length of his body. Shane rested the vial against his lips and let the whiskey roll onto his tongue. “Come and see” hissed the voice again.

49


The blanket pulled back over his face and he threw his swinging fists at whatever the hell it was. He swung and he punched and he dived off his bunk and found himself soaking wet from a stream of sticky sweat that ran down the length of his back from a recess in fore of his head. And he cursed out into the air. “Settle down Shane, settle down,” said Officer Ryan as four officers pinned down his arms and sat upon his legs, putting some needed restraint on his kicking and punching until Shane eventually tired himself into a dull whimper. “Ya have ta let me out a here,” said Shane. “It’s ok Shane, we just want ta ask a few questions is all,” said Officer Ryan. His mind flashed with dark brooding ambiences splashed with dark reds; the image of a beaten and bloodied body lying on a checkered floor beneath a full pint of Guinness. “A full pint,” he said to himself. “What?” said Officer Ryan. “Yer man. Da Landlord. I swear I didn’t touch a single hair on is head. I didn’t fuckin touch em. Are ya recordin dat?” said Shane. “What landlord Shane? That’s not why you’re here” said Officer Ryan. He felt like a young boy again, standing by the edge of a pool, his hair soaking wet, his toes, wiggling and jiggling with excitement and goose bumps dancing all over his wee body with a heavy set look of disappointment, staring out towards his father who was staring at a clump of snot he had picked from his nose pants and had missed his dive. He felt like that boy. “Shane, dere’s been an accident. It’s yer mammy. We need 50


you to come with us” said Officer Ryan. Shane froze. He already knew the meaning of the words gone unspoken, the little gaps that Officer Ryan took between every syllable; they hid the truth in what he had not the courage to say outright. “She’s dead, I know it,” said Shane. He couldn’t contain himself. His mother was everything and though he grown into a man being the height of a man, the sound of a man and the smell of a man, he had the feel of a young boy who had never stopped being anything but, to his doting mother; she who kissed away the hurt from the middle of his forehead, she who scared away the monsters that hid beneath his bed, she who stood outside his door and hummed until he fell asleep, she who loved him like none would or had ever before. The officers picked Shane up and carried him gently out of the empty cell. They walked along the row of caged rooms and out into the pouring rain. “Here put dese on,” said Officer Ryan, handing Shane a pair of pants and a shirt. Shane dressed himself and he was like that young boy again, complaining every time he put an arm through a sleeve, wanting to just curl up on his bed and wake, only when things were apparently more normal. He sat in the back of the car with an officer on each side of him, an officer driving and Officer Ryan, sitting in the front passenger seat, nursing a shotgun in his lap. The rain was no kinder, beating against all sides of the car and very quickly, the windows in the car fogged and outside became a loud blur. “What da ya want ta know?” asked Shane. “About what?” said Officer Ryan. “Ya said ya had some questions, about what?” “What do you know about da IRA?” Surprise took over his mind like an icy chill. “Da fuckin army? You tink I’m wit dem?” “No, we don’t.” 51


“Dey hurt me, mammy?” “We tink so, yeah” “What da fuck do da IRA want wit me and me, mammy?” “Dere’s a bomb, Shane. And da code ta stop it, it’s in one yer songs” said Officer Ryan. “Why da fuck? Ah fuck it” said Shane giving up. “Dey hid it in yer memories. A place nobody would find it” said Officer Ryan. “And it’s a fuckin song?” Dat’s what all dis carryin on is about?” said Shane. “It’s the greatest song ever written apparently. You should be proud.” “Dere’s a lot o shite I can’t remember. Me mammy, she always said it was for a good reason. Dat Jesus hid me taughts, put a blanket on me mirror ta stop me from scaring da shite out o meself wit da tings dat I done.” “Do you remember how it goes?” asked Officer Ryan. “You workin wit dose men? Da ones in da cream coats?” “What men?” “When ya picked me up, dere were a bunch of men chasin me.” “We found ya by yerself Shane, lying in the fuckin street like a tinker.” “Yer man, in the terrific shades?” “Dere was no one, Shane. Just you.” “What do dey want?” “Who?” “Da IRA. Dere da ones wit da fuckin bomb yeah?” “We tink so. Maybe not. Probably not, no, definitely not den, forget it” “Ya tink so? Forget it? Why da fuck did ya say it den?” “Dere’s a bomb, but we don’t know who made it.” “What da fuck is wit da whole IRA ting den?” “We got a call from London.” “Dat’s where da bomb is?” 52


“Aye. And if we don’t get the code in da next 24 hours. Da world is fucked.” “You tink I’m workin wit dem? You tink I did dis?” Officer Ryan didn’t respond. He just started humming to himself, light and whimsically, but loud enough to draw upon Shane’s ears, as if he wanted him to hear, to join in and to hum along and maybe, if he remembered the words, to sing it out loud; if of course, he was humming the right tune. Shane stared out the window, watching his breath paint against the glass, embossing the image of droplets running down the outside of the window and as his warm breath spread like cancer on a rotting lung, his eyes fell upon some scribbling that someone other than he had done with their greasy fingers; the words ‘come and see’. The car pulled up at the hospital and the officers all got out carrying their pistols in their hands with Officer Ryan still nursing the giant shotgun. They circled Shane as they walked into the building and coursed their way like a last shot through a dying man’s veins, towards the heart of the hospital. “She’s through dere Shane. But just a warnin. It was a pretty rough crash” said Officer Ryan. Shane walked into a white room surrounded by shiny silver beds and he was amazed at how shiny they were. He could see his reflection on a thousand varying angles and in each he saw a breath that was not his own, trailing like a tail behind him. He pulled back the white sheet on one of the two trays sitting covered in the centre of the room. “Dat’s not her,” he said. “Dat’s not me mammy.” He threw back the sheet completely and on the table laid a woman, savagely beaten by the wreckage of a car, but the woman was not his mother. Officer Ryan looked at the honest confusion on Shane’s face and then sternly at his own men, slapping them with his eyes. “Are ya sure Shane? Yer in shock. It’s yer mammy.” Shane looked back and the women lying still on the shiny 53


silver tables were still as strange to him as the events of this day. When he turned back to the door, Officer Ryan was loading shells into his weapon and his eyes were trained on Shane. “Dat’s not me mammy and you’re not a fuckin copper.” The glimmer from the shiny silver tables got caught in every part of his eye and in every part of his eye he saw a stranger’s breath manifesting behind him and he thought of something The Old Man had told him. “Put da needle down Shane,” said Officer Ryan. “Where is she? Where me mammy?” said Shane, holding the needle threateningly to his veins. “Don’t do it. Please, Shane. Listen, it wasn’t my idea. Dey taught, if you believed your mammy was dead, you’d remember da song.” “Who took her?” “Da Musical Madman.” “Where is she?” “She’s in London. He has her wit da bomb man. I’m sorry. It’s for da good o da world. Please Shane, put da needle down” pleaded Officer Ryan. “On junk” Shane Said. “Every ting seems small and insignificant.” “Shane, no” screamed Officer Ryan. Shane pushed the needle into his veins and his eyes flashed as his pupils turned to pinpoints, his blood warmed, his throat shivered and it felt like a hot blanket had been wrapped against his brain. The officers all screamed as their muscles tightened, their bodies contorted and they all shrank to the size of peas and though they kept on shrieking and screaming, they sounded no louder than a disgruntled mouse as Shane stepped over them one and all and picked up their guns and walked out of the hospital with not a penny in his pants and a wretched thirst itching at the inside of his mouth that only a cold pint could scratch.

54


The rain was pelting down and it was the only thing that he could remember, that it hadn’t stopped raining since he opened his eyes this morning. What was the point of it all? It wasn’t like there was much green to water. It just felt like Ireland was the little sink with the shitty faucet that god was too cheap to fix it. That or he just forgot that Ireland was even there. The police car was gone. There was taxi waiting by the entrance, but the strange looking middle eastern man inside scoffed when Shane mumbled his way through saving the world, getting to London and having no change. Shane pleaded to the taxi driver, but he wasn’t listening. There was a football game playing through the radio and it was being spoken in some foreign tongue but still; though he understood not a single word, it sounded so very exciting. Radio could do that. “Ya have to help me, man. I have ta get to London, now.” “Like I said. Hospital to airport, twenty five pounds.” “Come on man. I’ll write ya a song, just for you.” “I don’t like music,” said The Taxi Driver. “Who da fuck doesn’t like music? Dat’s fuckin mad. It’s like sayin ya don’t like sex. I mean, ya may not have it all da time and ya may have wit different kinds, but it’s still grand when ya ave it, right?” “I enjoy sex. I just do not care for music.” “What do you like den?” “Listening to the radio,” said The Taxi Driver. “Are ya gonna help me?” Shane asked. The Taxi Driver shut and locked his door, turned up the radio and went back to his newspaper, turning himself away from Shane. As he turned, Shane could see; in the man’s reflection, a 55


stranger’s breath, trailing out behind him. He turned away for a second and when he turned back, the taxi was gone; as if it had never been there to begin with. The streets were desolate and the only sound came from the horrendous wailing of the stabbing rain pouring from the heavens above and then defeat became his purpose. Through the blurry grey rain and out in the very distance, came the sound of a roaring engine that sounded like a thousand charging horses galloping along the slippery bitumen. The sound drew louder as the car from which it sang grew closer until a shiny silver hearse burst through the thick fog and sped past his sight and careened off down the road swerving along as if inside some great battle were being undertaken for the control of one’s life or the destination of this body bringing car. He had no money and he had no car, he had not a penny in his pants and not a drop of whiskey on his breath. How on earth was he to save the world from evil if he could not even save himself from sobriety? He buried his hands in his loose fitting pants, designed for a man far wider at the hips and longer in the belly than he was and tucked them forwards and upwards in his pockets so as to hold the falling strides from falling down around his ankles. Though it was pouring down unforgivingly and the wind was playing the grand molester, he felt; inside of his skin, fiery and sexy like, humming a dark tune in his mind that he had heard earlier in the pub, walking down the road with the sound of clicking fingers and lighters lighting, smokers smoking and lovers fighting, dancing scantily in his ears. He was not far from the edge of town and there he knew there was a tiny pub, nothing grand, no more than a couple of seats thrown about an old garage, but he knew it existed and there he could find himself the inspiration he needed to figure out how he would get to London. The wind roared louder and as he neared a set of train tracks, just by the edge of town, he saw in the distance, a moment’s respite 56


from this badgering wind and rain. The old tracks were never used, hadn’t been in such a very long time. The grass and the earth and the insects and the spiders had crawled above and around and under them and made them almost invisible to the eye. But as Shane lifted his right foot over them, his leg found itself in a terriďŹ c shake as if he had just dipped his foot into a whirlpool or his head into the swirl of a tornado. He pulled his leg back and the rumbling and the tingling and the pain just washed away and fell off like an old scab. He lifted his foot again and raised it over the grassy mound and again his skin seared and his muscles twitched and it felt like a current were rushing through his body. He pulled his leg back again and then nothing. The pain stopped. The pulling on his muscles and in his skin no longer pulled and it felt less like something invisible were trying to rip his leg off from his body. On the other side of the tracks he could see the road curving and lending its reach to a stalking and looming viaduct that bent and twisted around like a sickly bird, craning its crackling neck to look at ďŹ rst behind and then behind again and then behind again, twisting and turning on itself, bending round and around and around. And its eyes peered off somewhere in the ominous distance; like a vulture spent upon circling prey, waiting for their attention to slip before it could swallow them up. But under its wing and beneath its belly, he could see his respite. Shane stepped his foot upon the grassy mound and his whole body quivered. He then pushed himself through an invisible shield that felt like an electrical wave of caution convincing him to turn back now. He pushed his whole body through until he stood on the grassy mound, his feet rumbling on the shaking metal below the surmounted dirt and the air around his face shook, not as a blowing wind, but as if it were molecules or the salt in a bag of chips that was being shaken up and down before being ripped open and savagely consumed. 57


A viscous wail ripped through his ears and almost tore them off the sides of his face were it not for his quick hands clasping upon them and his knees, helping to lower his body to the floor, curling up like a frightened echidna. The wailing grew louder and louder and louder and his ears were set to explode. At first came the sound of a train’s whistle that pierced through his mind and then; as if eyes swelled, came the sound of children screaming, playful at first and then seemingly raveled in torment as if that thing they cared for where being constantly and endlessly taken from them. And he heard sirens wailing and kettles boiling and bombs exploding and heated cats crying out in horned desperation and the intensity of it all slithered against this skin and pulled at each and every hair upon his arm lifting them up like a puppet’s strings into the dancing molecular air and as they lifted, so too did his arms while his hands, they rested like heavy plates against his straining face. And “stop it” he screamed but it wouldn’t give in, the sound of the torment he kept nestled within; of his mind and his heart, in the pith of his soul, from the sorrow of which he could never let go and all of it surged from his nether to his skin, from the void in his heart came his echo of sin and the bottles he drank and the verses he cursed and the hearts he had broken; like bubbles he burst and they all started moaning and cursing his name and they all said “I love ya and I hate you the same.” “Yer hardly an anchor and I’m barely a man,” he said to his screaming thoughts. It sounded now like the train that he couldn’t see, and for all good logic couldn’t have been there, was rattling along those buried tracks so that his feet were coming up from under him and giving way to his arse. And he looked to his right and then lo and behold came a sight to beseech to bequeath from one’s soul. A lover he kept, of whom left him alone and made of his heart, a fragment of stone. And he looked to his right and he saw her face like a burning 58


sun roaring down the tracks and around her the air seemed to circle and swarm and the molecules that danced and shook in the air all panicked and ran in despotic despair and her love was like a runaway train and there was nothing he could do except to unclasp his hands and throw out his arms and open his heart for his soul to disarm for a weapon it was and for time it had been, a place for his hurt and for every broken and poisoned and forgotten, promised dream. “Yer fuckin jokin,” he said. “Hiya love. Are ya grand?” said Teresa’s Ghost. The air had settled. The rumbling beneath his feet and stopped, having coursed its way through the soles of his shoes, through his tingling nerves, along his fidgety bones and into the cavern of his heart so that as he spoke and as he looked Teresa’s Ghost in the eyes, his heart thumped; like maniac on a bathroom door, threatening to ignite them both in the repression of his passion and undying love. “Yeah, grand” “How’s yer mammy” “Yeah, she’s grand. She’s workin now. Sellin lipstick. Shite work, her boss is a cunt, but da money’s ok, pays da bills ya know.” “But she’s grand yeah?” “Yeah, she’s grand, aside from da kidnappin dough like.” “Aye, heard about dat.” “Are ya mad at me?” “Don’t be daft.” “It’s ok Shane. I’m not sore or nutin. I left you remember.” “Aye, you did. And it fuckin hurt. Ya promised ya wouldn’t leave and ya did.” “We promised a lot o shite, you and I. Remember when we met, on dat cold Christmas Eve? You promised me Broadway was waitin for me.” “What da fuck did I know? I was just a fuckin kid and you, you were so fuckin pretty. Id’ve said anyting, promised anyting.” “Ya did Shane, and I believed ya and look what it did for us.” 59


“I could have been someone.” “Yeah, well so could anyone but I wasn’t wit just anyone was I? I was wit the great Shane MacGowan and look what it did for me.” “Were we dat bad?” “We were da Johnny Cash to Sid and Nancy’s Rick Springfield.” “Fuck.” “Yeah, but I wouldn’t have had it any udder way. I loved ya, Shane. I always did and I don’t blame ya for what happened, not at all. A love like ours, it was always gonna end in tragedy, but da tragedy was not in how I died but what ya did to yer heart” “You did it. Ya left me drunk and all alone, ya turned me heart to fuckin stone.” “Ya did it yerself, Shane. If ya love sometin, ya gotta be brave enough to let it go, ta live witout it, dat’s love.” “Dey took me, mammy.” “I know and ya have ta find her. Ya have ta do a lot o tings, Shane. All dose promises, dey happen today; savin da world, savin da memory of our love and savin me.” “What do you mean?” “Shane, god is taking everyting back. He’s clearin da tables, fillin his pockets. Ya can’t let em do it. If he does, it all ends. Da me dat exists now dat will keep existin, only does so in yer heart. If god clears da table, you won’t exist and I won’t exist. “Why is god doin dis?” “He’s bored. He’s like a fuckin child, grown tired of his wee game. Spiteful little cunt wants ta pack it all up and he can. Dere’s no heaven Shane, outside o god’s imagination. If he stops tinking all o dis, we’re fucked.” “Everyone’s talkin about a fuckin song. I can’t remember it.” “Ya don’t want ta remember it, Shane.” “I want to, I do and I’m fuckin tryin, I am. I swear.” “You remember how ya found me wit da needle in me arm?” “No. I don’t wanna remember that shite. Don’t go dere. 60


Dat’s not how I want ta remember you. Not at all.” “Ya sang a song to me, Shane when ya pulled da needle from me veins and closed me eyes. You were so sad and I’d never seen ya cry before dat. You were dis tough man, dis strong punk; drinkin and fightin and spittin and cursin and dere ya were, weepin and spillin water from yer eyes and ya held me hand Shane, and ya sang ta me. Ya ave ta remember not da song, but da needle in me arm. Tink about da needle, me cold lips, me still eyes and me silent heart and da sound o yers, beatin like a slave drum, den da song will come ta you.” “I can’t. Like, literally, I can’t. I fuckin burned dat memory.” “It’s dere, Shane. Ya just gotta break troo dat stone and find it. Don’t try ta remember da song Shane, remember ha hurt, remember me leavin you, remember our love. You sing dat song ta god like ya did to me, he won’t so bored and omniscient anymore and he’ll leave good enough alone.” “I can’t.” “I love you, Shane,” said Teresa’s Ghost, kissing his cheek before disappearing from his sight. He could feel the rain again in its relentless descent and he stepped over the tracks onto the patch of grass on the other side. The screaming of playful and tormenting voices was no longer present. And though the wind parried in his ear, the air and sky abounding sounded so still and silent compared to where he had just come. He rested for a moment under the viaduct, feeling the wind rushing through but having a lid on the pouring rain. The wind circled in his ears and he could hear again, the constant whispering that had befriended him. “Come and see,” it said cunning and kindly at the tip of his ear. Shane ventured on and as he walked he looked quickly over his shoulder taking a last glance. Wherever he was headed and whatever he would face would have it so he would never ever go back to place that he once called home. 61


He reached a tiny flicker of light that was dancing provocatively with the surrounding darkness. When he neared he could see brisk shadows fleeting past the entrance; little breaks in the light as if hundreds of feet were dancing about, taking their pitchers back to their lovers and toasting to the excess of loveless abandon. The name on top of the bar read ‘Bad Seeds’ and it looked like no place he had ever been and it was this strangeness that beckoned at his curiosity and willed him to turn that rusted handle. The handle screeched like a vulture in mourning, standing over its brother’s carcass; exalting its broken heart whilst sharpening its beak for supper. And the sound came, not from the door, but from the looming and dooming viaduct of whose perch he had just left behind. He could hear hundreds of feet all shuffling about and the sound of music blaring through straining speakers and barmen screaming over the top of drunks, all clambering over one another, feverishly yelling for more. He turned the handle until it clicked, the door swung open and there before him was an empty room; without light, without shuffling, without clambering and without raised voice. There was just a couple of old wooden stools strewn about a dusty concrete floor and a few tables turned on their ends and nothing much else. Shane walked in; out of the storm, and brushed off the water that was collecting on his skin like misery in a drunkard’s poetry. “Can I buy you a drink?” spoke a voice somewhere in the dark. Shane went looking with his eyes, scanning left and right, zooming in and out of the dark and further dark until he found; in the midst of the darkest part of the bar, a tall shadowy figure who, even without a hint of light dressing his skin, still cast an incredible shadow from where his feet tapped against the wooden rest at the bar, to well beyond the bar, somewhere within the expanse of the looming viaduct from back whence he came. “Aye, dat’d be grand, tanks.” 62


A light flickered behind the bar and a man that hadn’t been there before suddenly appeared and he had a dirty glass that was stained in a colour no man could pronounce and he slid the glass across the bar so that it stopped just shy of Shane’s thirsty hands and the flicker died and the man behind the bar went with it. Shane held the glass to his lips and though it smelt like something that would be more suited to greasing an engine mount, it was the closest he had come to a pint all day; a day that had felt so much longer than any he had had in his whole life. He threw the glass back and the liquid ran down his tongue and scolded the back of his throat and set a fire in his belly and when it warmed his blood, there was a small tingle in his eyes before the lights he had seen and the sound and yelling he had heard and the bustling and the shouting and the clambering and the shoving and the fighting and the loving and the dealing and the whoring, they all spun about before his eyes as if they had always been there; men bumping into one another and offering a gentleman’s apology before taking their drinks back to their game of cards and scantily dressed ladies, skirting about the bar, curtsying and giggling and waving their fanned feathers about as they moved from lover to lover. The Tall Handsome Man at the other end of the bar; he whose shadow cast wherever he stood, kicked out a stool from beside him that slid along the floor like the dirty glass had, along the dusty counter until it rested against Shane’s foot. “Pull up a seat Shane,” said The Tall Handsome Man. The Tall Handsome Man tipped his hat and then looked back at his empty glass and poured himself another whiskey. Shane took the stool in his hands but was amazed and his attention was baffled by the sights of which he saw all about him. There were gun wielding card thieves, heisted around a table, chewing straw and sneering over the tops of their losing hands and they all had mistrust as their fervent affection and the same busting maiden courted the desire and good heart of each and every one, walking in a circle about the table, her delicate hand burnishing 63


their worn muscled backs and to each she gave her veracious word that on the winning of one hand, should they clear a whole table, the winning hand they would take would be hers. Beside them; on tables alone by themselves, were drunkards and poets with heartbreak to tell. Shane took his stool and walked slowly over to where The Tall Handsome Man was quietly seated, drinking his long glass of whiskey like it were water on a summer’s day. He looked to his left and noticed a writer busily writing away and he noticed his own name etched upon the paper and he looked at me and then he looked through the book, up at you and he knew we were watching, but what could he do? He was just a character in a story. Shane took a breath. His head was feeling light. The liquor in his belly was fading and the burning lights about him started to wane somewhat and the shouting and heckling became a distorted hiss and slowly started to turn its volume towards silence again. “Quick, drink this,” said The Tall Handsome Man handing Shane another glass of what may or may not have been some kind of a paint stripper. Shane threw the drink back and after his throat and stomach finished their argument and burn, the lights and the sound and the bustle and bargaining all returned to a comfortable tumult. “What is dis? Is dis real?” asked Shane. “You have to keep drinking, to keep it real. Everything you see here around you is entirely real, but you can only see it while your soul is bathing in booze.” The Tall Handsome Man clicked his fingers and the barman brought over a bottle of whiskey and placed it kindly in front of Shane, pouring the first full glass for him. “Cigarette?” asked The Tall Handsome Man. “Ya read me mind,” said Shane. The Tall Handsome Man pulled from his pocket, his red right hand and with it, a single undented cigarette and it didn’t at all seem worrying or peculiar. The Tall Handsome Man’s red right hand drew from a dusty 64


black coat that covered a long mountainous arm that attached to a giant of man who was handsome and striking and tall and aboding and he was such a height that if he were to stretch out his arms, he could embrace the world or maybe even block out the sun. “I’m here to help you, Shane.” Worry met with curiosity and it birthed an odd gurgle in Shane’s voice. “Who are you? You’re not like da udders are ya?” “You mean The Man with the Terrific Shades?” “Yeah, dat’s da one. Who is he? I mean, he’s real isn’t he? I did see em.” “He’s an angel” “A what?” “An angel. A soldier of heaven.” “Yer fuckin me right?” “No Shane I am not. And the only you see him and all of this” he said, moving his head and eyes about the bustling bar, “is by drinking. It gives you powers Shane. Powers that nobody else has.” “Like Batman? Or Stretch Armstrong?” asked Shane. “Yes Shane,” said The Tall Handsome Man, feeding him the confidence he needed. The Tall Handsome Man reached into his pocket and pulled out a stack of green papers and placed it on the table. “What’s dat?” “It’s more than enough money to get you to London.” “Jaysus, dis will buy me a plane,” said Shane counting the money. “It’s important that you remember one thing.” “Da song, I know” “No, the song will come to you if you let it. What I have to tell you will keep you alive long enough for that to happen.” “What is it?” “You must be drunk or anchored to junk.” “Was dat you followin me before?” 65


“You’ve seen me many times. You’ve seen me in your nightmares; you’ve seen me in your dreams.” “You killed da priest?” “No, that wasn’t me. I am not a collector of souls. That was death, the son of god, JC and his path is before yours, taking every hand before you can play them. You must travel faster than he and make peace with your sufferance. As long as you are drunk or on junk, you can see them and you can stop; all of them. And you can save us all Shane.” “And why should I trust you? Who are you?” The Tall Handsome Man lifted his red right hand from his dusty black coat and pulled out a set of keys and handed them to Shane. “You’ll need a car when you get to London. There is one waiting for you at the pier.” “Wait a minute. How da fuck do I get to London and what fuckin pier?” “There’s a river that runs beneath the viaduct.” “No dere’s not. I was just fuckin dere.” “There is now,” said The Tall Handsome Man taking a sip of his whiskey. Shane looked out the windows that only moments before had not been there and he saw a set of flashing lights that too had not been there and he heard the sound of a fog horn, howling like a lonely wolf into the night, calling him to its attention. “Are you da devil?” “Would it alarm you if I was?” “Why would da devil want ta save da world?” “Why would god want to give it up?” “Dis is his workin?” “You have a choice Shane; to drink or not to drink. One of which can save your mother, your lover and the world. And the other can save the kingdom of heaven.” “What do ya mean? Me mammy or heaven? What da fuck is happenin?” 66


“This is the apocalypse Shane and you are the catalyst. God has left the order in your hands, or in your forgetful mind and only you and the curse of choice can determine the fate of existence.” “What should I do?” “Take the boat train to London. Find a man called Savage. He’ll take you to the twin graveyards. There, you’ll find the thing you’re looking for.” “Ya look familiar. Do I know ya?” “A man like you has no need of man like me, not of what I can tailor for a man anyway.” “Do ya make coats?” asked Shane. The Tall Handsome Man took from his dark coat and file and from it he pulled a single sheet of paper. “When the song comes to you, use this paper and this ink to write it down.” “Dat’s a fancy lookin file. What is dat” said Shane, leaning his head to his right, reading the names that were scrawled along the tops of each folder. “They are askers of more. Those who waited upon a coming storm. Tiny insignificant pebbles that traded their souls to become stars.” “You’re da fuckin devil himself. Jaysus fuckin Christ, me mammy told that, hold on, is dat Bono’s name?” said Shane is mild amusement and distraction. “He’s in yer file. I fuckin knew it. Talentless git. Had ta be voodoo. Who else ya got dere?” said Shane, poking at the file. “Am I in dere? I’ve done some tings on da grog I can’t remember.” “A man like yourself doesn’t beg for quarters at the crossroads,” said The Tall Handsome Man. “But Bono, he did. Mortgaged his feckin soul. Dat’s brilliant. Feckin hilarious. Explains a lot” said Shane. “Everyone has being saying it all along. Punk will save the world and you will be its Messiah” said The Tall Handsome Man. “What if I can’t remember da song? What den?” “The trumpet will sound and the horsemen will ride in and 67


time will stop.” “Why does god want to kill everyone?” “Cause he can be a prick like that. Here take this, you will need it when your vision fades” said The Tall Handsome Man handing Shane a small bag filled with junk before he vanished and then there was nothing but a spinning stool in an empty room with no lights and bustle, except for the sound of an idling boat and an impatient captain.

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The captain was sounding the ship’s horn and calling the last of the weary souls on aboard. Shane stood in the darkened room and he thought for a second about the woman he loved, the woman who had turned his heart into stone and he couldn’t hold a picture of her face long enough to be able to curse her name and that blasted junk and he looked beside himself and there; sitting on what had been the barman’s counter, was a dusted bottle of aged whiskey and a tiny single serving bottle of gin and beside them; where he had left it, sat a small zip locked bag puffed out like a policeman’s belly, full of junk and beside it, a cold bright needle, his shiny silver sword. He had fought so hard to strike Teresa from his heart and try and claim some kind of a life back, but it had been no use. Since giving up the bottle and clearing his veins, Shane had become a lesser version of himself; unable to feel and unable to write, being useless and unaffecting, being just another pair of broken balls sweating over a grimy penny like every other poor fool in this world; hardly special, hardly miraculous. “Last call” yelled The Captain. Shane left it all on the table; the whiskey, the gin, the needle and the bag of junk. He didn’t want to feel again, not what he had felt before and maybe it wouldn’t be such a horrible thing if god were to clean his plate and scrape all of this shite into the dog’s bowl. He left the bar and walked in the scuttering rain towards the edge of the river that hadn’t been there when he had passed before, but of which was promised by The Tall Handsome Man and which now existed; just as he said, running under the looming and dooming viaduct. And moored by its edge was a smallish boat with its lights glimmering and music blasting from inside its many decks. As he stepped upon the wooden plank that would walk him 69


onto the boat, he was accosted by two uniformed men and he was taken by the scruff of his neck and forced against the railings while one of the uniformed men reached into his pockets and removed his flimsy wallet. “Who do we ave here then? Mr. Shane Pardon my French MacGowan. We got us one of those Pogues here Gavin.” “Oh really, give us a kiss then,” said Gavin, bulging his fat belly into Shane’s skin and bone and forcing his red, sweaty, pimply, bloated face right next to Shane’s hear, breathing like a dog in heat. Perversion and menace being the truncheon he slapped against his open palm. “And what do you want on The Queen’s boat then paddy?” Shane thought for a split second about how to best handle two apparently drunk British guards without resorting to any violence or name calling or any of those fun things that he would never have given a moment’s hesitance into lashing about. But he needed to get to London and they wouldn’t believe him if he had told only half of what he knew, what he had seen and the incredible things that he still had to do. So he played it safe. “Nutin,” said Shane. “Nutin? Do you hear that Gavin? Paddy here is doing nutin. What is it with you Irish and the letter ‘h’. Huh? Hey Gavin, what’s the difference between an Irish wake and an Irish wedding?” “What?” “One less sodden drunk.” Shane kept silent. He wanted to throttle the both of them and knew he could with one lick of his burning venom, but he also knew he had to be smarter than that. The right thing to do according to the book of sobriety was to stand hither and wear the licking, poking, prodding and insult like a runner’s sweaty shirt; stand as still as possible and try not to let the stains rub too homely against one’s skin. “I think this tinker is carrying drugs. Are you on drugs?” Shane’s eyes looked blurred and shaky and to any man it 70


might look like he was at the worn end of some drunken and drug addled spiral, clawing his way through the last fabric of his skin to tear his soul from his blistering feet, but it was neither alcohol nor junk that was doing this to him, it was sobriety and though a heart of stone had turned his veins cold, living without the drink was turning his blood to arid sand. “Spread your legs paddy,” said Gavin, throwing Shane against the railings and driving his fat hand along his leg and up into the nether of his groin, squeezing with the cusp of his hands, in theory looking for something of suspicion, in fact, finding between his fingers, everything he ever wanted. “Can ya hurry dis up, man? I aint got nutin.” “That’s because you’re Irish. You can blame your pig ugly mother and your sheep molesting father for that. As long as your blood is green, you’ll never amount to anything.” “Open up his cavities,” said the uniformed man handing Gavin a small flashlight. Oh, what he would do, when with this nonsense, with it, he found himself through. “He’s clean. Some skids and all. Dirty fucker. No bombs, no drugs” said, Gavin. “Alright, fuck off now paddy,” said the uniformed man, kicking Shane along. He did up his belt, headed for the smoke and found himself stumbling aboard the boat train, heading up the wooden gangway. When he looked behind, the two British officers were gone, as if they hadn’t been there to begin with and he thought to himself, “if dis is da jewel of my fuckin imagination while I’m sober, dreaming up gobshites like dese, I really need a fuckin a drink. Dat or ta start readin a feckin book.” He pushed open a rickety old door as old doors always seemed to be; rotting wood on rusted hinges canting out suspicious sounds into eerily silent rooms. The door squeaked as he turned the handle and it squealed as he pushed it open and the main desk was vast, with space for hundreds of weary souls and 71


around the room there were tables for the playing of poker and other chances of cards and there were tables for drinking and there were tables for dancing and there were tables for loners just wanting to be all alone and there were tables for this and there were tables for that and they were all smothered in thick black dust and had not been sat at for maybe a century or two. Shane looked around expecting an odd occurrence and if he had gambled upon it, he would have counted himself as a winner for there on the largest table in the centre of the room was a tiny figure; an inhospitable looking specter; shaped like a ghastly caricature, breathing and laughing gruffly amidst heavy smoke before and after every drag of its cigar. “Pull up a chair if in deed ya do care or be a rude cunt and just stand dere and stare.” There was nothing normal about sobriety. Shane shook off the initial weight of absurdity and walked over to the table and pulled himself a seat. His legs were sore from the walking and his bones ached from the constant chill of the whoring rain that had irked his every sense since his heavy eyes opened this morning. Before him on the table were five cards and in front of him, still dressed in darkness was a tiny leprechaun called “Seamus. Me names Seamus. And of all da leprechaun’s, I am da most famous. And truth to be told da most handsome of all wit golden hair on me beard, me arse and me balls but where are me manners, I have done talk witout tink, ya look like a man whose in need of a drink?” “I can’t. Not anymore” said Shane. “Surely a sip will not tarnish yer leder, scuff up yer insight or ruffle yer feders? Have a wee drink and have some wee more and da boat will be sailin and divorce from its moor.” “I have to drink, to make the boat sail? What if I say no?” “I know what yer tinking, what’s on in yer head, da ghost yer forgettin and wishin stayed dead. Da one dat ya loved but whose love sent ya blind and afraid ta den feel for she left ya behind and 72


yer not ta blame lad, tis no fault o yers, dat life, is a cunt and love is its curse” sang Seamus the Drunken Leprechaun. “If I was sober dat night, she wouldn’t be dead.” “If true dat is be dat you found yerself sober den true dat it be dat you’d never ave known er for da love dat you had was a sight to behold, it couldn’t be bought and could never be sold and I get what ya say, from where ya do stand; what use is a heart, in half of a man? Listen to me true and listen to me bold, do what I say and do as yer told, drink from da glass and remember her name, cherish her face and pardon da blame for love it will always, take its last breath, with bitter divorce or mourning in death and yer time den together will always seem brief when revel ya do in blame laden grief. Drink ta Teresa and fuck da regret, ya loved er in life, now love er in death” sang Seamus the Drunken Leprechaun. Seamus slid a small shot glass towards Shane and he took it in his shivering clenches and as his fingers touched the tiny stained glass, his cold hand warmed and he felt the tips of his fingers tingle and the thought of another drop of alcohol on his tongue sent a wave of warmth through his freezing veins, making his blood a little less like arid sand. “Ta fait,” said Shane holding the glass in the air before resting it upon his lips. His chair rattled and the lights started to flicker and the room seemed less dark than it was and everything started to rattle and shake and he could see flashes of people moving about as if his blind sight were returning to him and then vanishing every other second and then everything went black again and it was just he and the drunken leprechaun seated at a large dusted table in the middle of darkened room. The leprechaun slid a bottle of whiskey towards Shane and the bottle stopped in the palm of his hands and his fingers cusped around the bottle so naturally, like a mother’s upon her new born child, as if this was what nature had intended all along and he held the bottle to his lips and drank every last drop without pestering the moment for a breath of fresh air. 73


Shane slapped the empty bottle back on the table. His throat and his belly were on fire; like in the bar by the looming and dooming viaduct but this time it was a fire that no amount of blame or remorse could quench and it was enough for the darkened room to explode with light as around him, hundreds of revelers all danced about in swinging arms; singing and chanting and fighting and drinking and some of them cursing and some of them kissing and the noise it exploded right into his ear and as long as he stayed drunk, it would not disappear. “Never a day had ever been sad if, in ever a day, a drink had been had” sang Seamus. Seated beside him at the table were members of the crew. There was the angry chef who was of Middle Eastern descent; a prick of a man to the mean he was meaner, with a prickly white beard and a prickly demeanour. Beside him another soul slaved to the boat with the most beautiful dragon, tattooed on his throat and his eyes were conniving, they read of each man, the fear in his eyes and the strength in his hand and another who swept up the shite from the floors, who mopped up the blood and who rusted the doors and he played for companions, he loved it to bits, but he played like a joker and he lost all his chips and then he returned from whence that he came, never to have a companion again. And beside him the last to make up the game, one that the dead had branded insane, a madman of monsters, a ghoul to the ghosts, the ship’s own captain, the iniquitous host. “What should we drink to?” yelled the captain. “To the passage of time.” “To fate and existence.” “To reason and rhyme and ta man and ta flesh and ta spirit and soul and ta all dat hath made, existence a whole and ta dis man right here, a devilish rogue, let it be known dat our saviour was a drunk and a punk and a Pogue” sang Seamus the Drunken Leprechaun. “Here, here” they all cheered, smashing their glasses against one another; drinking, gulping and returning their eyes to their cards. 74


Shane lost the first hand and he lost the coat he had stolen and he lost the watch that he didn’t know was tucked away inside the interior pocket though he won against seemingly impossible odds in the next three hands and took the spirit’s money and he left the table with the players; all of them ghosts, yelling and cursing and accusing whoever would listen of cheating and lying and they would dissipate from the table and then from nowhere, another ghoul would emanate with its eyes on its cards and its hands shifting the whiskey before it and the other at the latch of its gun. Shane stumbled about the boat with a bottle of tequila in his hands, having already polished the whiskey and the gin. His eyes were swaying in such a way that he could hardly tell if it was his mind or the boat that was listing horrendously and with every sway of his mind to the right, he corrected with illiterate detention to the left swaying this way and that, banging against tables and fumbling and mumbling some pathetic apologies. He tripped over a small matted dog and knocked into a young man sitting by himself on a stool, his neck red from where his belt had once embraced him out of the living and aboard this ghastly vessel. “Any craic?” Shane said to the young lad. The boy, whose eyes were as hollow as his heart, looked up from his book and smiled. “What are readin?” asked Shane. “It’s my story. Everyone has one. Everyone here anyway. Where is yours?’ asked the boy. “I don’t belong ere. I’m passin troo. Hitchin a ride on deat’s tail. What’s it about?” “Coffee and sugar,” said the boy with the red mark on his neck and eyes more hollow than the charity of his heart. “Coffee and sugar? Sounds shite. Now if it was called Pint and a Fag, maybe. No wonder ya, ya know, ya did dat ting” said Shane making choking sounds and drawing his finger along his neck, pointing out the boy’s suicide like an inconsiderate drunken prick. 75


The boy returned to his book and read over words that when he had lived them, he had let them slip by and he read the words his lover had said over and over and he wondered; “what wrong could exist in a man’s head, to have ever imagined and written such a tragedy as this?” Shane took a long swig of the tequila and his mind blurred in and out of violent tendencies and he felt that, to fight the sickness that was preparing a revolt from his belly, he might either have to find somewhere quiet to aid in its lodging or; in the fight against the inevitable hurling and promising to never drink like that again, to find a man or a gang of men so as to exchange insult, then exchange swinging fists and he could knock the sickness out of his bleeding knuckles. The noise about him was escalating to a god awful roar and the hundreds of singing songs all hummed in different keys all twisted and turned in his mind and made a flushing toilet of his thoughts and he stumbled his way through the dance floor and past a group of ghouls all sitting round a table playing ‘chance’ and he barraged past a gun slinging cowboy called Stagger Lee and old Stagger looked at Shane’s swagger and offered him a reprieve knowing he’d do more harm to himself if he let the poor fuck be. Shane beat against a white door with his fist, slurring something that I can’t spell and you wouldn’t come close to pronouncing but he yelled it in his slurred speech thinking of it as elegant and being angered when not even a nod or a wink or a polite response came back in his waiting direction so he banged more and he kicked and he cursed and he spat and versed about all of the things that he’d do if opened that fucking door and managed to get through and then he vomited, all over the handle and fell back down against the wall with his knees pressed against his ears, drowning out the sounds of drunken revelry and the rude of cursing of some bastard next door making impolite passings at a couple of Pakistani students that had died a long time ago at this fucker’s hands and now; on this boat, they had to hear his racial snobbery for the entirety of their ghostly lives. 76


He looked between his legs and there was a copy of the Daily News scrunched up on the floor, but he could read some of the letters on the front page and he tried to guess what the words could have been and there was a picture of a bomb and beside it, what the journalists called The Musical Madman, the terrorist responsible for all of this nonsense. Shane threw his hands to the floor and he threw whatever was in his stomach all along the carpet and it ran down with the listing boat towards the dance floor where ghastly ghouls were singing and dancing and a captain had left his game of cards and was on the speaker shouting; “Welcome to London.” And the doors were banging and the ghastly ghouls were disembarking and in a second the lights all went spontaneously dead and there was not a sound playing from the halls or from the floors except for the sound of a drunken Pogue, spitting out the last drops of bile before he picked himself up and staggered down the gangway and found himself in London and there; in what should have been a balmy night, he saw fire in the sky and planes circling about and men in helicopters dangling from open doors, cables attached to their backs while their eyes, glued to the scopes on their rifles that shunted against their shoulders and they all wore royal bandanas and they used adjectives like dreadful and verbs like shan’t and in between sips of tea, they shot at this and they shot at that, at a mother and child, at a priest where he sat for the end it was coming and none were prepared, for the terrors of man when he’s terribly scared. Shane reached into his pockets and pulled out a set of keys and before him, in the car park, sat an old Reliant Robin. He unlocked the door and squeezed in then turned the key, but the engine wouldn’t turn, just the tap, tap, tap of a dying battery and he stepped on the pedal but was only making it worse and the battery died and the Pogue he did curse. “Ah bollocks” he said, unsqueezing himself from the seat, putting it in neutral and pushing it out of the car park and onto 77


the road, ignoring the screams and plight of men, women and children all running about with their backs on fire and their anthems of ‘help me’ all going unheard. He found a hill. The car rolled. He jumped in. The car started and the engine turned. The lights flickered on. And London burned. “Take a left up ere, or I’ll glass ya,” said a voice in the backseat.

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“Who are ya?” shouted Shane. “Shut up and watch the road. Left” he screamed. “And watch out for the….” The tiny three wheeled car dodged and weaved and the metal hinges grazed against the ground showering sparks behind them like the vapour trail of a comet’s tail. “Jaysus was dat was a tink it was?” “Yeah. Feckin tour groups. Even in da height o London Burnin, some fuckin edjit yank or half Australian, half Irish, half Brazilian” he said, looking up at the author, “wants to skip along wit deir bollocksing cameras. Dere’s a lot o shootin goin on round dis place. Royal guards gone fuckin nuts, shootin everyone on site. Ya can’t miss em dough in dose stupid hats. Like watchin, a whole bunch of fedder dusters runnin about wit serious arms. It’s serious and all, but still looks fuckin funny.” Shane kept his hands gripped to the wheel. All around him, the London he once knew was like he had always imagined it being but never thought that it ever would. There was something majestic and homely about a raging inferno. The city and the night glowed in a way that he had never seen. Beautiful oranges, bright mesmerizing yellows and scorching reds all shimmied and swirled about the night and the tips of each flame would stretch out and lick the corners of folded newspapers swept up by the cyclonic winds and each flame would birth a thousand more and there was nothing violent about the dance of colour or the crackle of the night sky for there was none so violent as the savage unleashed in the back of the car, barking his command into Shane’s ear; lefts and rights and gos and stops and look out for that itty bitty kitty and hit that crippled cunt, go on and mow em down and Shane focused, his sickness waned and sweated from his burning pores as necessity called his drunken mind into formulated 79


action and he swerved this way and that and he dodged the itty bitty kitty and he mowed down the crippled old man, not because he was drunk on disorder but because the crippled old man was only such because his legs were trapped under a burning beam that had made a cripple of him and in the second of their insight, there could have been nothing kinder for them to do. “Where we goin?” asked Shane. “Up ahead. Not far now. Everyting’s fucked ere man. Me base, me team, da fuckin city. Dis is da last fuckin stand, for da world, here in London and it’s all gone ta shite.” “Dis is all because o dat bomb? Who did it? Da Garda, da police, MI-5 and dat, dey’re all sayin IRA. Is it troo?” yelled Shane, swerving around every obstacle strewn about the road; bunkered bodies piled one upon the other, burning tyres and burnt out Beatle shells left and right. “Beatlemania. Dey were da first, fuckin fell apart.” “Beatlemania? Like screaming girls and shite?” “A day ago, a message spread across the land, from London out unto da faraway towns. Dey declared war.” “Da terrorist?” “No, dis was after. It was someone else, but dey came from all over the country in deir Bealtes, rattling inta town, chanting and cursin and sayin, all dey needed was love. Dere were fuckin hundreds o tousands of dem, like flowered fuckin rats scourin troo da city, treatening to hug each and every feckin one; da plod, da tugs, da grannies and even da junkies.” “What happened?” “Dey went, mental man. Dey got ta da bomb yeah, but dey couldn’t disarm it. Dey tried every Beatle song on Eart, but nutin happened, just kept tickin away. Dat’s when everyting went haywire. Hippies went nuts, started shootin each udder and den targetin everyone dey’re supposed to be fuckin savin.” “But why da Beatles?” “No idea man. Yer man, Ringo, he denied all links wit em. He fecked off real quick wit a talkin train. MI-5 caught up wit the 80


train around Wales. Dey tortured da poor fucker. He said nutin at first. He was a tough cunt but dose coppers, dey rusted his nuts and he squealed. Said yer man Ringo had fecked off for good in his little yellow sub.” “Yer fuckin me? A yellow submarine?” “Gets worse. Yer man Ringo, was an alien, not human at all man. Da only one who knew was dat shuntin train, Thomas.” “Knew what?” “Atlantis man, it’s fuckin real. And yer man Ringo, he was like a fish man or an alien fish man or sumtin but he tried to warn us about all dis for years. Wasn’t till John, Paul and George were so fuckin high dey let him write an album and he warned us. He tried ta invite us, but we didn’t listen. We ignored him. And den, dey all started dying, all of dem. Dere was Hendrix, Joplin, fuckin John man and den George.” “Dat was all Ringo, killed em all?” “Are ya fuckin mad? Ringo? No, not him but around him dere was a madman planning all o dis. But Ringo he tried ta tell us about Atlantis, ta hint at da reality dat when we were high, maybe we could have seen what ta him was normal; ya know, for a fish man, or an alien fish man or sumtin. A place, under da sea.” “Da octopus’ garden?” “In da shade man.” “Well clip my balls and call me Bono. Fuck me. And is dere any chance, anymore? Ta get dere?” asked Shane, steering wildly, but in his mind, the world moving and burning about him in terrific slow motion for a great truth was now slapping him still. “Yer man Thomas; da tank engine, he told MI-5 dat yer man Ringo, he had space aboard his yellow submarine for da entire population of eart. It was like da tardis or sumtin.” “What happened?” “Punk happened man and den Celine Dion and well, now, you now da shite we’re in.” “What about Paul, where is he in all dis? Wit dis Beatlemania and shite and Ringo and all dat.” 81


“Nobody’s seen him, man.” “Weird. Him and Bono, usually like cats ya know. Lyin around, doin fuck all, soaking up the limelight.” “Man, Bono and Paul, dey’re nowhere ta be seen. Da focus is all on Ringo.” “Ringo fuckin Star.” “Ringo fuckin Star is right man. We didn’t see it. Nobody did nobody took em seriously. He was a fuckin genius, a spiritual Adonis, didn’t overdo it like da udders did; he was real subtle like a fuckin god amongst men. Ya know it was all in da name too. Dat’s what yer man Tomas said before he died.” “What did he mean?” “No one knows. Mi-5, dey took his name like an anagram or sumtin den started jumbling da letters round. Dat’s when dey came pointin dey’re fingers at me.” “Yer Savage yeah? IRA?” “Yeah man.” “But what did the words spell?” “Dey jumbled da letters and got da words Roast Ring which they tought meant da bomb and London on fire, da centre o da world ya know; da ring o fire, da roast ring. Den dey got de word Oar String. Made no sense at first but when dey looked at da bomb, dey realized dey needed a song and da lyrics and tune and chord o maybe some song about boats. Dey sang everyting; from yer man Ringo’s songs about yellow submarines to even Enya, hummin sail away, sail away, sail away. But nutin. Dey don’t know what it means. Physicists were called in and dey’re breaking up da fabric of old Ringo songs, tryin to find what dey call da danicin string at the entre of everyting. Den dey found da words Sing Taror. Made no sense too but dey taught maybe he meant da Torah or sumtin like dat so dey got all dese Ortodox lads and started singin da Torah in da key of yellow submarine. Fuckin nutin. Den dey found two words dat pointed ta me. IRA Strong. We had MI-5, FBI, fuckin Spice Girls, everyone all bangin down our doors. Dey took down all me men, Shot em and dey’re families.” 82


“Is dis IRA?” “I might be a fuckin lunatic, but I’m not an idiot. Blow up da world? How da fuck am I gonna watch football? Jaysus. Want a fuckin republic sure, but not at da cost o football, Jaysus no. A free Ireland man, and Celtics shiting all over Rangers. No, dis bomb aint ours. Dis Musical Madman dey call em. Nobody knows who da fuck he is. Honestly, hadn’t heard from you in a few years. No songs, no trouble, no nutin. To be honest, we taught it might ave been you. Where da fuck you been?” “Sober.” “Ah fuck man, I’m sorry ta hear dat, dat’s not fair man. Jaysus, are you ok? Is dere anyting I can do?” “Ya couldn’t lend me a tenner could ya? I’ll buy ya a drink” said Shane. “Ya don’t need money man. All da pubs are in ruin man. I got what you need here. A fuckin arsenal.” “Fuckin hate dose cunts. United we fuckin stand man.” “Bad choice o words. Arse and all, fuck dat man. I got drugs and booze, all types.” Savage reached into a bag seated beside him and pulled out sheets of papers and pills and bags of assorted brown powders and white powders and yellow powders and pipes and needles and spoons and lighters and bottles of this and bottles of that and he threw them all forwards onto the front passenger seat. “Are you ready to save da world?”

83


While he drove, he drank and he drank with such blind disregard that even Savage, in the backseat and a drunk himself, was astounded at how gracefully this toothless punk abridged his weapon, finishing bottle after bottle of whiskey and gin and vodka and cachaça and Sambuca and Poitin and rum and port and he especially loved the port because it made his breath feel and stink like an old roadside mattress. ‘Pull over ere” said Savage. “This is as far as we go wit a motor. We walk da rest. Da bomb is about four blocks up from here.” “What about da graveyard? Yer man wit da red right hand, he told me dere’d be two graveyards and me mammy was in one.” “What do you tink London is? One big fuckin graveyard man.” “Right,” said Shane, peeping around a corner and drinking from a small bottle of nail polish remover. The pair staged themselves close to the wall so that the buckles and badges sewed onto their pants scraped against the crumbling brickwork. Shane could barely keep one foot in front of the other. He was trying to slide his right foot over his left and creep sideways through the alleys and dark shadows like he had seen in the movies but gravity was playing tricks on him and someone must have had attached an invisible set of water bails to his shoulders because with every step he took, he felt the whole other side of his body being wrench over and his conscious mind, willing him back, felt like a paper cup in a wicked rapid and try as he may, in this state, welloiled and serving his worth, he couldn’t creep up on a coma patient. Shane thought about the boat train he had come off and how boats swayed back and forth and up and down and as he thought about this, he too went with an imaginary swell swaying back and forth, on his heels and to his toes and it looked like at any second he might just keel over and bother no one for the rest of the night. But this, as legend has it, is where Shane MacGowan is naturally beyond reproach. The sound of popping gunfire was ringing out above 84


and around them. The road was splintering from automatic rounds driven, from helicopters above, into the searing London ground and the little pieces of lead would whistle as they ricocheted off of tin cane and chunks of bitumen and the sides of buildings and the thick heads of drunken hooligans, running through the streets waving their shirts in their hands and throwing bottle drenched in gasoline and rocks barbed in wire and yelling and cursing and willing an end to the world and thinking this was just an ordinary riot, the end of an ordinary match, just an ordinary Sunday night and they had no idea that none of this was about football or left or right or up or down or any religious creed, this was all about rock n roll. “Get your hands on your head or I will shoot” sounded out a speakered voice from above. The alley below, where Savage crept and Shane drunkenly swept, was now lit up like early morning as a helicopter hovered above them, shining its flooding light down below. Shane stared down at the ground, mainly because his head felt too heavy to lift, anchored by promise and a heavy sickness. He watched the shadows of the rotor blades spinning through the blinding light and he chose one in particular and followed it as it turned around and around and around and around and the sound of the rotors above him was so fast but their shadows travelled do slow and there must have been some intermitting delay between the two, at least, that’s what his mind was thinking moments before he started to vomit. “Put your hands on your head or I will shoot” commanded the voice from above. “Me arse ya will,” said Savage, pulling a pistol from his pocket, aiming somewhere through the flooding light and emptying up and through the light with the hope of hitting the pilot, the rotors or the commanding voice’s forehead. Instead the first bullet clipped the floodlight and darkness fell like a cold blanket on their burning eyes and the bullets that followed hit the commanding voice square in the chest and his buddy 85


beside him who was busy loading his gun and one bullet clipped the rotor and was the cause of all the black smoke pluming from the rear of the chopper and the last bullet was caught between the pilot’s teeth and Savage would have celebrated, had he not taken a hundred rounds himself. Behind them, at the entrance to the alleyway, came a truculent tribe of clones, all of them wielding sharp stabbing instruments of pain and all singing and cursing under the spill of fire that from above them rained. “Get the fucking Pogue” yelled one of the tribe. They all jeered and squealed like starved pigs, scurrying upon a tiny slither of meat and they ran with their weapons scraping against the walls and cursed “to destruction, to death and to Paul” and they charged down the alley but there was nowhere to run, for a vomiting Pogue and a savage with no gun. Shane vomited. Savage spat out some blood and wiped a red stain across his cheek. The Beatlemaniacs charged onwards and kept with their verse and more of them came every second. At first what had been a small group was now in the hundreds and in the thousands. Shane vomited again. Savage spat more blood. There was a click of a gun. And Beatlemaniacs started dying. A thousand rounds were fired from a hundred guns in the hands of fifty men who had burst from the far end of the alley and stormed forward, creating a shield around Shane as he crawled from the floor and pulled himself onto his knees and took from his pocket a silver flask and pressed it against his lips. The sickness he had been feeling passed like water in an open sink and the sensation now burning through his mind was one of invincibility. He had passed the barrier of mortal man and entered the drunken ravine of the gods. His mind felt light and at ease. There was not a bullet on earth that could graze his concentration. 86


“Hold your fire” yelled one man. The fifty men with a hundred guns holstered their weapons and the silence that followed was surreal. The smoke that lifted from their burning barrels blocked out the flashing reds and glowing oranges of the fiery night sky and everything seemed so calm and tranquil and wasn’t this the way it always was before someone was about to die? Through a thick plume of smoke and dust and spectacular aura stepped an old punk, with all his teeth, in a long overcoat and terrific shades. “Shane, can you hear me? It’s Joe.” Shane said nothing. “It’s almost over. My part, it’s done. You’re here now. If you can hear me, Shane, the rest is up to you.” Where he was, in his mind, no words or thoughts could interfere. This was a place reserved for only the favoured, those few humans who could gather the thoughts, the musings, the colour, the strain, the hurt and the love and the fear and the hate, the pounding fists and the strumming chords and the contemplated humming of the gods and they could take all of this and on Earth, as they did in heaven, they could write a fantastic song. “Ivan” shouted Joe, “arrange your men. I’m taking him through to the bomb. Any sign of trouble…” “It’s all chilled on dis end Mr. Strummer,” said Ivan, tapping at the trigger of his gun. Joe leaned down and closed the eyelids of Savage whose still eyes were as glaring as they were when he took down that chopper and I’m sure he escaped to wherever it might be imagined that dead people go and he was shooting those authoritative pricks some more and some more. Joe took Shane under his wing and they hobbled through the smoke for the last could of blocks and when they came to a clearing they could see, sitting under a fiery sky, the largest bomb every created and beside it, The Musical Madman, responsible for all those ‘Revelations’ styled I told you sos. 87


Well, well, well,” said The Musical Madman. “It’s over,” said Joe. “Of course it is. In two minutes, this will all be over and there’s nothing you can do.” “We have Shane MacGowan.” “Shane MacGowan? Ha. You might as well have brought me, Bono. Shane MacGowan is nothing. He has no power, no gift, nothing, just the echo of his dead whore girlfriend and now his scared bitch of a mother.” Behind The Musical Madman, a small statured figure squirmed under a hood with their hands tied and their mouth gagged. Joe knew it was Shane’s mother. “Let her go,” said Joe. “And spoil the fun of seeing Shane MacGowan cry like a baby. Never” The Musical Madman shouted. The sky above was now roaring and crackling. Not from the firing rounds, the exploding cars or the burning buildings, but from the sound that heaven made when it tore a hole in itself like a breech in a man’s strides, letting cruel and violent things out to bring death to existence and invite the slain innocent blood from whence the cruel hand came. “They’re coming, to judge us all. It’s done. Shane can’t do anything. My weapon is armed and tethered by god. Yours is sober and uninteresting.” “Our weapon. The weapon of mankind. The weapon of hope and salvation. Our weapon; Shane MacGowan, is scuttering drunk” said Joe. The smile that The Musical Madman wore no longer fit his face. “That’s impossible. He can’t drink anymore.” “Shane. It’s time” said Joe. Shane returned from the abode of the gods and his eyes were like two headlights and The Madman like a frightened deer, stopped in his last word and unsure whether to call their bluff or to run, as fast as he could. 88


“There will be no end of the world,” said Shane. “Not tonight.” Shane pushed away from Joe and stepped up the long ramp that lead to the platform behind the bomb where The Musical Madam stood, in front of his microphone, shivering and silent. “Why are ya doin it? Are ya dat sore?” asked Shane. The Musical Madman said nothing. “Ya don’t ave ta speak. I know everyting.” “It wasn’t supposed to end up like this.” “Of course it was. Everyting ends up da way it ends up, but what did ya tink was gonna happen?” “I was supposed to be defeated.” “And ya are being dat.” “Not by you. By The Beatlemaniacs. We would show the world that The Beatles were bigger than Jesus. That we could save the world and I could be their messiah. Beatlemania was supposed to save the day, not… punk.” “Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust” shouted Joe. “So what was supposed to happen. Dey sweep in, put out da fires, disarm da bomb, arrest da terrorist and save da day? Den what? Flower power and crumpets?” “Kind of, yeah.” “It didn’t work. Yer just one Beatle. Ringo, he fecked off quick and da Beatles aint da Beatles witout John and George. Ya couldn’t disarm a newborn, not witout da four of ya. Did ya not fuckin know dat?” “I am the greatest musician in the world.” “Yer not relevant anymore. It’s time ta step down.” “What about you? You shouldn’t be here. You’re sober. Your whore girlfriend died. I watched it. I made it fucking happen. You were supposed to be fucking sober. JC said you would be sober.” “Ya did a deal wit da Lord, wit JC? Ya fuckin cunt. Ya fuckin killed me, Teresa. Yer da fuckin reason I hurt?” screamed Shane, stabbing his accusing finger. “And I’d do it again.” 89


“Tank you. Tank you tonnes” said Shane, throwing his arms around The Musical Madam and hugging him like he would his own long lost father. “What the hell is wrong with you? Get off me you stupid drunk.” “I love ya, man.” “Are you insane? I murdered your whore girlfriend.” “Aye, ya did and because o dat I hurt like never before. Because o you, I realized how much I loved er. Every second of my life felt like a scorchin fuckin drought in my soul, sucking my emotions dry. Me heart is turned to stone. I couldn’t let er out and could let nobody else back in. Fuckin hurt it did, every second of my existence tryin not to remember findin her dere, sprawled out on da table, her knickers by her ankles and dat needle poking out o her arm and dat look on her face, just staring up inta nowhere. Yeah, it fuckin hurt alright but dat’s love man, and it only means sometin when it hurts, when someone takes it away. You taught me dat so tank you and fuck you” said Shane. “You’re supposed to be sober.” “Well I’m fuckin drunk and I’ll apologise for all dis in da mornin but for now it’s all about the troot. Now, Paul, stop being a feckin edjit and let me mammy go and turn off da fuckin bomb.” “It won’t turn off and look around. It’s too late.” Shane looked around. The sky had opened and a hurricane wind was ripping through the air, picking up the fire that danced about and spitting it down like rain upon the people below. “Use your sword Shane” shouted Joe. Paul McCartney took off his mask, no longer hiding behind some revered identity. He looked small and frightened and his eyes were focused on a tiny clear bag, filled with a dirty brown powder. “No, not junk, you can’t do this. It’s too late” screamed Paul McCartney. Shane pressed the cold needle against his vein and his mind slid out of the surreal and into a godlike reality and he heard as it 90


were, as the drug coursed through his veins, the noise of thunder and one of the four beast sang; “come and see” and now, with junk swimming on his mind and with whiskey for blood, he saw and behold, a white horse and upon him, a grand historical figure, come to reap the harvest of mankind. “JC,” said Shane. “It is I.” Paul McCartney was still standing before him, gripping his squirming mother and the bomb was still ticking away counting down the seconds until the end of mankind and Joe Strummer and his Guns of Brixton were still taking arms down below, waiting in apparent tension for an invisible army that had already come to take their souls, an army that only Shane could see. “I have da song,” said Shane. “It doesn’t matter anymore Shane. Father has tired of your droll musings. The time has come. You have a place in heaven if you just lay down your sword.” “Get down off yer horse and yer men, get em ta stop dey’re reapin. I still have time” said Shane. JC stepped down off his horse and the blinding glow that emanated from his majestic steed no longer shielded the look in the idol’s eyes. “Yer fuckin kidding me?” “The only one who knew was our pet; Ringo.” “Roast Ring,” said Shane, understanding everything. “It was in his name.” “And da Ring of Fire?” “We tried to speak to you through our music, but you wouldn’t listen.” “JC, da Lord our saviour, Johnny fuckin Cash. Dat’s grand.” In the background, through the shrieks of banshees and the baying of hell hounds and a hundred million angels singing whilst carrying these beasts on their leashes, Shane could hear, far off in the distance, the sound of pipers piping and the sound like god’s heartbeat of a big kettle drum thumped away somewhere through 91


the crack in the sky and being carried down to where the angels all lined up with their savage beasts, ready to slaughter humanity. Shane put the needle again to his vein, this time with enough junk to make him a god and undo this wretchedness. “Halt” screamed JC. “I have something for you before you die, a moment of pure heaven, before I damn you to hell if you put down the needle.” Shane stopped for a second and saw in his two visions; his drunken and is junked, on one side his mother, bound and then gagged and on the other his lover, climbing off the back of the white horse and walking slowly towards him. “Teresa” he shouted. “Not so fast. I can give you, one second with your lover. I can stop all of this for a moment and you can be with her if you drop the needle now” said JC. “Yer a gamblin man?” asked Shane. “I am,” said JC. “Den gamble wit me, here and in da real world too. We play one hand and I keep me mammy and Teresa and we forget about all dis.” “One hand, I’ll give you your mother and your lover for one second before I and the kingdom of heaven, tear this fucking shit heap apart.” “Deal,” said Shane. “What is your game? Poker?” “Paper, rock, scissors,” said Shane. “What?” “Ya play it wit yer hand and…” “I know what the game is. Wouldn’t you rather pit the fate of your heart on a game with a culture of gamble and loss?” “Never, in da history o man, has a game mattered as much as dis. And I want ta be remembered as da man who saved da world playin paper, rock, scissors.” “Ok,” said JC hesitantly. The two men, one a mortal punk rock messiah, the other, 92


the bad ass of country and the son of god himself, Johnny fucking Cash, stood eye to eye with one hand tied behind their backs and the other shaking like a ten tonne hammer before their faces, beating imaginary nails into idealism’s coffin. “One, two, tree and….” JC went early. Shane stumbled into his hand. “For fuck’s sake. It’s one, two, tree, den go. Not one, two, fuckin go. I taught ya played dis before, Jaysus” “I’m sorry. I did. It was a while ago, though.” “Fuckin amateurs. Ok, again, after tree. One, two, tree.” The two men both threw their hands and a massive bolt of thunder clapped through the ears of mankind and lightning struck through the sky. “Fuckin paper, paper. Ok we go again, after tree” said Shane. The shook their hands again and again and each time, they came up even; rock and rock and then then scissors and scissors and it went like this for what could have been seconds or aeons, but the tension was all getting too much. “One more hand,” said Shane. They shook once more and once more after three they threw their clenched fists forwards and undid their weapon to a shrill of surprise; rock for the drunken punk and paper for heaven’s son. “I won” shouted JC jumping up and down on the spot then running about sticking his middle finger up at all the little children that had gathered by heaven’s gate, then back at Shane who had slipped by him during his celebration and taken the arm of his mother and his lover. “What is this?” “Pride goes before the fall,” said Shane as his mother and his lover both put a needle into each of Shane’s arms and injected his veins with enough junk to induce an omniscient depression, one that only a god could conjure. JC stamped up and down like angered child. “It’s not fair,” he said. “It’s not darn tootin fair.” 93


The angels all looked at one another, wondering whether their command would come or not. The bomb was still sitting on top of the platform and the small red dial still showed ticking numbers, moving back towards zero. The hounds at the ends of their leashes all thirsted for human flesh and the angels themselves were anxious and impatient having waited the entirety of this version of existence, to commit this moral and biblical atrocity. The bomb was armed and set to explode and the angels were ready to arrest and accost every soul but up on the stage, the toothless punk, his mother and Teresa; the woman who had turned his heart to stone, were gone. “Here put dis on,” said Mrs. MacGowan. Shane took the jumper from his mother. “Fuck, ya brought da small one. Don’t you know what clothes even fit me?” “Sorry Shane. Dere was a lot goin on. I taught I did ok, on account o bein kidnapped by Paul McCartney and all. What’s his deal anyway? Doin a pact with yer man JC.” “He wanted his wings,” said Shane. “Fuckin hated dat band,” said Mrs. MacGowan. “Where are we Shane?” asked Teresa. “I dunno but da moon looks all fancy and shite. Purgatory I suppose, Siam maybe” said Shane. “I love ya,” said Teresa. “I love ya too,” said Shane. “Ah wisht up. He’s my son, you’ll never love em like I do. You’ll love anyone for ten quid.” “Mammy, I’d love anyone for ten quid,” said Shane. “You wouldn’t have a tenner would ya? I’ll buy ya a drink.” “Wisht up Shane. Da hear dat?” said Mrs. MacGowan. “Is dat a trumpet?” asked Teresa. “Feck it, it’s too late. Shane, do you remember da song. Sing da feckin song” yelled Mrs. MacGowan. Shane focused and cleared his mind. They had escaped from the evil Paul McCartney and his bloodthirsty master JC and they 94


were sitting in an old pub in New York City and beside them, as he tried to think of the song he had to sing, the boys in the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay and the bells were ringing out for judgment day. “Not dat feckin song. Focus before da trumpets.” But it was too late. The trumpets sounded and Shane was stilled with not a thought pestering his mind. “Where do I know dat from?” he said. “Quick Shane. Sing da song. We’re gonna die. Please, Shane” pleaded Teresa. The trumpet sounded again. “Dat’s it. Bitches Brew” exclaimed Shane. ‘What?” said Mrs. MacGowan. ‘Miles fuckin Davis. Ah, yer kiddin me. If I knew he was gonna play the trumpets, Jaysus.” “Shane, da song.” “I told ya. It’s Bitches Brew. Fucking classic Miles Davis. Ah man, I saw dis on YouTube once, like from ’70. Da shit was fuckin real. Yer man god has got some fuckin taste you know.” “Shane, da song” yelled the whole world. “I will ya, hold on, ah listen, dis is the best bit.”

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Also by C. Sean McGee: A RISING FALL (b00k001) UTOPIAN CIRCUS (b00k011) HEAVEN IS FULL OF ARSEHOLES COFFEE AND SUGAR CHRISTINE

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The boy from the county hell  

The end of the world is nigh and only one man can stop the coming apocalypse. Shane MacGowan has the ultimate weapon; the greatest song ever...

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