Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The next big thing

It was quiet in the pub, the Mullaney brothers at one table and a couple of guys from the bank in Carrick at another, and Jimmy Byrne at the bar, nursing a pint. I wiped non-existent spills from the counter top and tuned in and out of the conversations, as you do. Joe Mullaney was holding forth at the corner table, a bit loud maybe. I might have to stop serving him soon, but I’ll see what develops. I need every sale, these days. The recession might be over in the city, but the boom times haven’t returned around here. I wished he’d be a bit quieter though, we could do with less of his mouthing.

‘I made a fucking fortune on them’ he said, ‘bought them at five grand apiece and they’re worth four times that much now. I’m telling you, dogs are the way to go, lads.’

One of the bank boys wasn’t going to let it go, bragging rights were at stake.
‘I bought dogs too, Labradors. Got ten of them off the receivers down the midlands the year of the crash, twenty cent on the euro, I’d have my money back on them now if I just let two of them go, but I’m holding out for a bit more. I reckon if you buy Labradors you’ll always make money.’
Joe was defensive. ‘Fuck them Labradors, fuckin Jack Russells are always the best bet, even in bad times. They mightn’t be as classy, but they’ll sell quick if you have to cash in a few. Aye, the Jack Russell is your best investment, great for a pension or if you’re looking for safe returns.’

The other bank guy was getting a bit drunk too, he wasn’t to be outdone.
‘I always bought Poodles, or Bichon Frise, myself. Always liked the foreign stuff.’
The older Mullaney brother, the one who used to work in England, seemed to come alive at the mention of the exotics.
‘Spare me that foreign shite, too many people got burnt on foreign dogs during the last boom, they were stuck with Bernese Mountain dogs and stuff like that, they couldn’t get rid of them when the crash came. I agree with the brother, the Jack Russell is way better. You might pay a bit more, but your money is safe.’

The first banker called for two more drinks; those lads won’t demean themselves by coming up to the counter. I poured the wine and delivered it to their table, collecting a few empties while I was out on the floor. He paid me and carried on with the debate.
‘Anyway, whatever breed you like, dogs are the best investment out there, and always will be. Other gimmicks might come and go, but your canine is the one we’ll always lend on.’

I slid a fresh pint along to Jimmy Byrne and he swallowed the last of the one he had been minding. I wiped the bar and I saw that glint in his eye. I spoke quietly to him.
‘Let it go, Jimmy, don’t start anything, now.’
Sometimes I think I might as well be talking to that toilet door over there, for all the heed anyone takes of me. Jimmy took a long swallow of the fresh pint and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
‘Ye’re all wrong. Dogs is history.’
There was a rumble of dissent from the tables. The banker with the penchant for poodles spoke out.
‘Don’t mind us, we’re only investment professionals. And what, pray, do you consider to be the next big thing, so to speak?’
Jimmy didn’t turn around, he addressed his remarks to the mirror behind the bar.
‘Chairs?’ The banker couldn’t conceal the sneer in his tone. Chairs, well that’s novel, anyway.’
‘Aye, chairs. They were never as cheap, and you can get them for less than it costs to make them, so it stands to reason, like. Chairs are the future, lads, remember when you look back and kick yourself for missing the boom, remember where you heard it first. Chairs, put your money in chairs.’
He sat back and let the argument rage for a while. After a bit Joe Mullaney looked up an addressed his remarks towards the stool at the counter.
‘So, are you saying you bought chairs?’
‘Aye, I did, surely. Five hundred of them, and I’ll buy more too.’
Joe was incredulous.
‘Five hundred chairs, and what are you going to do with them while you’re waiting for the price to rise, or fall off a fuckin cliff, more likely?
Jimmy gave a wink in my direction. I wiggled a finger to warn him not to start a row in my pub; I didn’t like that look in his eye. He spoke to the mirror again.

‘What’ll I do with them? Well, nothing at all. I think I’ll just wait for the price to rise. In the meantime, well, I think I’ll just sit on them.’

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Looking at heaven through a paper telescope

The first thing I learned in school was that teachers don’t like it when you tell them they have it wrong, but that’s another story. I remember stuff, you see.

I remember a blue-sky day that summer and a cow swaying her way along the road, then lifting her tail to waggle a zig-zag stream of green scutter on the melty tar. My father slammed on the brakes to avoid the enemy fire.

‘They should have brake lights, so we know to keep back.’
Mammy laughed and the cow suddenly turned right into a farmyard. I could hear the hiss-slap of the milking machine through the open window of the old Morris Minor.
‘And indicators’, she said. ‘Cows should have indicators.’
I tried to imagine tock-tock blinkety lights on a cow as I stared from my spot in the middle of the back seat. I said that maybe it would work better if they had those yellow sticks like the ones on our car that jump out when my father clicks the thing to show that he is turning up our lane. He shoved my mother that way he does when he’s being funny.
‘It’s the bulls that have the indicators, did you never notice?’
She went red, for some reason.
‘Shush’ she said, ‘little ears.’
She was always saying that, but I looked at the back of his head and his ears were the same. They were a bit big, maybe, if anything. I remember he said once that it was so his hat wouldn’t fall over his eyes and he’d go blind. That would be bad, surely; he might crash.

I remember the day with the cow, and the cake on my birthday with the five candles and then all the talk about my brother coming, but I didn’t have a brother. When I asked where he was she called Daddy ‘little ears’ again.
I remember all the men coming to the house and Mammy going away. They said my brother was there too but I didn’t see him; he must have gone away with her. I thought it was all the men that made her go.
After that I remember going to the big place with the coloured windows and my father crying and saying that the missed her terribly, but Father Kelly with the white dress said that she is here with us, so you wouldn’t know who to believe.

I went to school then and it was great, lots of play stuff and loads of boys for football. We had to make something out of the sheets of coloured paper and glue so I made a big, long telescope to see heaven so I could wave to Mammy. The teacher looked at it and asked me what it was so I told him.
‘Master Joyce’, he said, ‘I’m afraid that’s about as useful as lights on a cow.’

I think that sometimes teachers don’t know as much as people think they know.