• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 05

The Drunk

Michael McGrath was waiting outside the pub when John arrived to open up. He was unwelcome in most places around town because of his habit of slapping the bar and shouting. John poured him a pint.
“I went to Old Head this morning Michael,” John said.
“It’s a lovely spot John,” the old man said.
“There was no one on the beach,” John said searching for the TV remote.
“It reminds me of somewhere foreign on a summer day,” Michael said.
Michael looked at the window and followed a shaft of sunlight catching the dust, which fell on the soft wooden boards in the middle of the bar.
“The sun-comprehending glass, and beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows nothing, and is nowhere and is endless,” he said.
John raised his eyebrows.
“High Windows,” Michael said. “Larkin.”
John nodded and turned the volume up.
“He has a poem about the beach as well,” Michael said looking at his pint.
“What?” John was trying to listen to the TV.
“Larkin. That was High Windows, but he has one about the beach. To the Sea, I think it’s called. To the Sea. ‘The small hushed waves repeated fresh collapse up the warm yellow sand, and – ’”
He stopped, drank the last sip of his pint, and slapped his hand on the bar suddenly.
“And John!” he shouted. “A white steamer stuck in the afternoon! Another pint you half-baked bluebottle!”
“Do you know what it is, really with this guy, Micky?” John nodded at the singer on the screen and took the ten Euro note that had appeared on the bar. “It is the key that man sings in, I mean, the key of his life. The tone of it rings true.”
“Love and death,” Michael said.
“He could sing about going for a shit and I’d probably like it,” John said.


The Drunk

The sound of children pouring out of a school for lunch floated in. The men were silent for a while.
“Poetry is not a luxury,” Michael said. “Some black lesbian genius from America said that. During the boom I remember wondering where it had all gone.”
“The bar did well,” John said.
Michael ignored him. “There was a fellow in here one day talking about a chocolate chess board he bought. He got a Yank into bed thanks to that thing. ‘You have the castle, come suck on the king.’ That’s what he said to her.”
John nodded and raised his eyebrows, “Fair play to him,” he said.
“That’s when I thought I was goosed.” Michael stroked his pint. “Surrounded by toy teeth, you know the ones that wind up and chatter? Attached to no one and nothing, gnashing on a phantom bit. And when it snapped, John, it was subprime this subprime that, not their own fucking devilry.”
John thought he saw Michael flick his hair, faintly, like a scorned lover and looked away.