SNIFF

In Phoenix park, I thought I could share some sympathy with things: with the benches, which people didn't think about until they used them as a place to rest their fat arses; with the bins, whose only fit nourishment was rubbish and fag ends; the trees which dogs pissed up; the bushes which men pissed in; the doxies who were nothing, who were empty until some fat neck johns came to make them airtight.

Fuck the thoughts. It's all part of growing up, Aiden. You've questioned your identity, you've questioned your sexuality, you've questioned your very taste in men and exactly how you like them to fuck your sweet little teenaged arse.

Monday, 2nd September 2002.

"You should be in school."

I looked up and obscured his face with the smoke from the green. When it cleared, he was a stubble, boots, black jacket guy with a rough northside voice to match. I didn't know him.

"Should be more careful where you smoke them things," he said, "You think no one knows joe when they get a whiff of it?"

I flicked the half-done smoke onto the grass. He smirked, humourlessly. Okay, then, he grimaced.

"You're one of Seamus' boys," he said. Pretty fucking sure of yourself.

"What gave you that idea?"

"One can assume things in this city."

"Well, before you assume anything else, I shouldn't be in school because I'm the only kid in Junior Cert actually making a life for himself out here."

"Really."

"Yeah."

"What's the salary?"

"About €1,000 a week."

"So you are one of Seamus' boys."

I shrugged and wished I hadn't thrown my bifter away. "I'm not available right now."

He ignored me. "Do you know where I can find Liam?"

"Liam Monaghan?"

He stood there, arms crossed.

"Ginger Liam, permanent cold?"

He still stood there, arms crossed.

"Well then, mate, I haven't got a fucking clue."

That was when he pulled me up by the front of my shirt. "You'd better stop being such a fucking cute hoor, lad," he spat, "Because you don't know what I can do to you if you don't watch your fucking tongue."

I didn't know, but I knew it would probably be along the lines of battery and torture. It was ridiculous that I had to fight to keep in the piss.

He looked around and carefully let me go. "You're drawing far too much attention," he said.

I laughed in disbelief, shaky and high-pitched.

"Now I'll ask you again, do you know where I can find Liam?"

I gibbered, "He might be in Mountjoy."

"Why would he be in Mountjoy?"

"He's got his flat there."

He patted me on the shoulder, and slowly smiled. "Good lad."

I waited for him to draw the notes out of his coat, but he just relieved my shoulder of the weight of his hand, and started walking to town. I wiped my forehead as I watched him go, not looking back, exhaled for my life and picked up the fag off the grass.

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