6: The Collectors

Everyman.

An old man in a wet month in a cold climate. He sat slumped on a stool at the end of the bar in Grogans.

As many others, now as also then, much the same if not exactly matched, have been sitting slumped alone at the end of the bar in Irish gin palaces since ever streams began to flow. Of whisky, porter, wine. Of a variety of beers. Of absinthe and benedictine and creme de menthe. Streams of all sorts of old peculiar.

So he sat slumped on a stool at the end of the bar in Grogans. Remembering. Times past. Or were they yet to come? Entangled in the structures of his mind, the confusion of his categories of thought, all time, and space, an illusion anyhow. Remembering conversations and all the time mumbling to himself the cracked dry whisper of what he remembered.

Remembering classes and discussions. Lectures and tutorials. Remembering conversations.

“What is truth? said Kenny the intellectual, and would not stay for an answer. Or was it Bates said that. What is art? Surely that was O’Donnell wanting to know something for once worth knowing. Or was that Bacon? And anyway, whoever it was, did he stay for an answer?

“But yes! Yes, it was Ernie Bates, appealing to some matter of factual, which is to say practical, reason, who said, ‘Truth is what power speaks to weakness. It is an aspect of political economy’. I didn’t understand that then and no more do I understand it now. Or is he yet to say it? At some time when I will have more of a grasp of such things? And he said, or is somewhere saying now, or will say, ‘Truth is what is declared to be true by the ruling class of its era.’ That was Ernie. I’m sure it was, or is, or will be.

“So who was it said about how in the sweet by and by, in the Big Rock Candy Mountains, in the days before class, in the undifferentiated human world, truth was undeclared, just simply was; that the true and the real were one. Was that O’Donnell? If it was he was quoting somebody. Brecht probably. And somebody else said something like, ‘In that undifferentiated human world, there had to have been beauty but there could be no art.’

“And then Ernie said, yes I know this now, it was Ernie said, ‘Art is what beauty becomes when it is privatised, compartmentalised, chopped up: when it is subject to differentiation. Once we moved through a world in which truth and the real were one. Once we walked in beauty. Then we were le bonheur de vivre. Matisse has since had to paint that for the bourgeoisie to buy it to possess it, but we were that then, when we walked in beauty. And we are, and we will be, that again. Le bonheur de vivre.’

“That about buying, about possessing, reminds me to remember some whomsoever was talking once about that German fellah, was a friend of Brecht, his theory about the aesthetics of collecting. Walter Benjamin, was the German fellah. And somebody was saying about Anatole France, and him saying about when somebody else said haven’t you a grand library of books and have you read them all, he said ‘No, I fucking haven’t, nowhere near, any more than you use your old Sèvres china every fucking day of the week.’ Anatole France was a collector too.

“Thing is, this guy Walter practically lived to collect. It was his way into the world to discover the beauty of it. First of all books, all sorts and conditions of books. And all this that he was collecting, what he thought about it was that he was liberating all these things from the oppression of having to be useful. Once he had torn them from the globalised world economy by collecting them they were free to simply be and then realise the beauty of themselves through his disinterested delight in them.

“Then he moved on from books to what I suppose he maybe felt was the purer field of quotations. He started collecting quotations, tearing them out of their context and arranging them in his notebooks, presumably freeing them to simply be and be beautiful. But he went on to work towards making a study of German tragedy that would consist of nothing other than an arrangment of his collection of quotations that would support and illuminate each other and I suppose would be viewed, read presumably, and would convey something or other to the viewer, the reader, or whatever. And surely at that point, these things, these thought objects, would be back to being oppressed again, back to having a function imposed on them again, burdened again with having to be useful. You see what I mean, it falls apart there, Walter Benjamin’s world of collecting, his aesthetics of the thing. Or maybe I’m missing the point.

“At any rate I don’t remember anybody back then saying anything more about it than how Walter lived to collect and how he thought by collecting things he was liberating them and giving them a chance at beauty. But the thing is, I do remember that. If I don’t know who I am, at least I remember what I was doing, where I was doing it, and who with. And I’m pretty sure the time of all this is in the past.

“I have recovered structure. Am become a narrative.”

Everyman, an old man in a wet month in a cold climate, sat slumped on a stool at the end of the bar in Grogans. Drinking when not drooling, mumbling to himself, then chuckling, remembering The Peacock. Sitting in Grogans, remembering the Peacock. Becoming a narrative.

Everyman, this bland bard. Of arms and the men he sings. Sings the wrath of Tommy Marsh. Sings the craft of Jimmy Clarke. Sitting in Grogans, remembering the Peacock. Remembering Tim Richards. Hearing Tim Richards’ phone ring…

Tim Richards had a friend, Emmet, in London. He had lived in Father Mathew Square in Dublin before emigrating at the end of the 2nd World War. His first man child of three, Emmet junior, was born in 1947. He was a disappointment to his father from the first day that he laid eyes on him, a mewling bundle of pinkish flesh, to the last when he came upon him standing bollock-naked in front of a wardrobe mirror with a pair of black knickers over his head.

“You know me Tim,” Emmet crackled over the phone, “I’m not going to lose too much sleep over a cross dressing son...”

“But sure didn’t I do it meself after escaping out of Wakefield nick,” Richards laughed.

“Yes. That particularity seems to be endemic in republicanism, wasn’t even the long fella Dev at it…but this wayward son of mine, Tim, has started fucking house breaking. He’s not long out of Pentonville, his second stretch there.” (Hopeless tone)

“I’m sorry to hear that Emmet but a bit of drumming is not the worst…I mean he’s not knocking the bejaysus out of old age pensioners and grabbing their pittance or putting women on the game or something…”

“Well that’s a change,” Richards laughed. “I mean its usually them as robs us.”

“So much so that I heard a workmate say recently how we can’t afford the rich anymore.”

“I like it Emmet. But go on about the son.”

“Well that’s the fucking odd thing in one way but when I explain it to you its not really.”

“What?”

“Well you see he only steals underwear; fancy, expensive, silk knickers. Are you still there?”

“Yes. I’m just lighting a cigarette with one hand and setting fire to my eyebrows with another…knickers be jaysus! He’d have been a loser in my day. The young wans didn’t wear any. Couldn’t afford them. But I didn’t know the rich wore any either.”

Emmet laughed. “Well wear them or not they seem to have them by the drawer full and now Junior is on remand in Mountjoy.”

“Fuck’s sake.”

“Yeah, yeh see on one of his sojourns in Pentonville he began reading Ulysses.”

“That’s a plus Emmet if I ever heard one.”

“You’d think so but that was when he really started to go fucking spare.” (Angrily)

“Fucking spare!”

“That’s it. You know he was in Dublin with his cousins some school holidays but he never expressed any particular interest in the place. I mean he was brought up in London listening to the Stones and the Kinks and that (Ruefully)…then out of nowhere, he began asking me all about the Dublin kips; (Pause) Montgomery Street, Corporation Street, Railway Street, Foley Street, Macklenburg Street, Bever Street, Mabbot Street and what the fuck. Sure as you know Tim I never lived around there and they were all gone anyway before I left.” (Bitterly)

“Well gone except in song thanks to that party pooper Frank Duff,” agreed Richards.

“Yeah, he told me all about it. How they went in on the 12th of March 1925, in the middle of Lent…”

“Ah yes. Lent! Penance! Flagellation and the mortifying of the flesh. Loadsa the mortifying.”

“The damning of the flesh egged on by a preaching priest, an army of Catholic vigilantes and patriots backed up by culchie cops marching behind the Legion of Mary under the banner of the Holy Mother of God. They beat and arrested the whores who protested, they fucking did, (Angrily) and the others knelt on their streets and watched their benign conquerors, the back-up brigade of Legion ladies, as they rosaried about pinning holy pictures on the brothel doors. And Gogarty wrote not long before the Hay Hotel itself became redundant;

‘Fresh Nellie’s gone and Mrs. Mack,
May Oblong’s gone and Number Five
Where you could get so good a back
And drinks were so superlative.
Of all their nights, oh man alive!
There is not left an oyster shell
Where greens are gone and grays will thrive
There’s only left the Hay Hotel.’ (Lyrically)

“He told you all that?”

“Sure it’s all up on his bedroom walls. In indelible marker ink on embossed wall paper that Oscar Wilde would have fucking died for.”

(They both laugh)

“All the whore’s names, Tim, and the rhymes. Florry Talbot, Piano Mary, Mrs. Lawless, Eliza Mack who is alleged to have been visited by the Prince of Wales, Julia Hooligan, Big Bella Cohen from who Mr Bloom gets who-began-it, Biddy the Clap, Cunty Kate and the lascivious Becky Cooper:

‘Italy’s maids are fair to see
And France’s maids are willing
But less expensive ‘tis to me:
Becky’s for a shilling.’

And,

‘O, there goes Mrs Mack;
She keeps a house of imprudence,
She keeps an old back parlour
For us poxy medical students.’ (Jolly voice)

“Very stylish Emmet.”

“Sure there’s others that I can’t recall. He used to drive us mad at the dinner table reciting them. And then he became fixed on Martha Fleishmann the lame woman who Joyce walked behind on his way home to his flat in Zurich, and she and perhaps her limp electrified him with lust.”

“The horny bastard,” Richards laughed.

“Yeah. She was Swiss, kept by an engineer. she lived around the corner from Joyce. He used to watch her from his window, wrote to her and prevailed upon her.”

“I wouldn’t have known that.”

“Well Junior’s contention was that Joyce was knocking the arse off her behind Nora’s back after Candlemas Day, the 2nd of February 1919.”

“So what?”

“Exactly. But Junior claims that Joyce told a friend that he was with her only once when he explored the hottest and coldest parts of a woman’s body. You see Tim that put it into his crazy head that Joyce was a liar and that the young woman Bloom sees on Sandymount Strand and her seeing a long Roman candle going up over the trees up, up, and, in the tense hush, they were all breathless with excitement (Faltering) as it went higher and higher and she had to lean back more and more to look up after it, high, high, almost out of sight, and her face was suffused with a divine, an entrancing blush from straining back (Pause) and he could see her other things too, nainsook knickers, the fabric that caresses the skin, better than those other pettiwith, the green, four and eleven, on account of being white and she let him and she saw that he saw and then it went so high it went out of sight a moment and she was trembling (Dreamily) in every limb from being bent so far back he had a full view high up above her knee no-one ever not even on the swing or wading and she wasn’t ashamed and he wasn’t either to look in that immodest way like that (Pause) because he couldn’t resist the sight of the wondrous revealment half offered like those skirtdancers behaving so immodest before gentlemen looking and he kept on looking, looking. She would fain have cried to him chokingly, held out her snowy slender arms to him to come, to feel his lips laid on her white brow the cry of a young girl’s love, a little strangled cry, wrung from her, that cry that has rung through the ages. (Long pause) And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely! O so sweet, sweet soft Martha Fleishmann…”

“Did Joyce name her?”

“No. No. The son put her in to that Joyce passage himself. (Irritably) It’s Junior’s note I’m reading.”

“But sure so what Emmet? Sure that’s all harmless nonsense!”

“I wish to God it was Tim.(Gloomily) I wish it was but because of that he was arrested last week coming out of a house in Sandymount with a briefcase full of knickers.”

“Holy fuck!”

“Yes. He believes Fleishmann’s knickers are in some house in Sandymount and that if he finds them they’ll match the white nainsook knickers that Joyce claimed that Gerty MacDowell, who was from the kips, and didn’t live in one of the Sandymount houses, was wearing that evening. That’s why I phoned, Tim. (Anxious tone) I mean he won’t get any proper psychiatric attention listening to the fucking lags in the Joy telling him that Joyce is a knacker living in a caravan on some Galway roundabout. The medical contact I have here, I’m told was quite successful in treating a fellow who for some years had believed that he was the bones of Saint Therese of Lisieux!”

“Be the Jaysus he must be shit hot so, but what d’yuh want me to do?”

“Can you get me a bailsman Tim, and get Junior over to me here. I’ll pay the bailsman for any estreatment of bail so don’t worry about that.” (Urgent tone)

“Ah the bail won’t be that high Emmet. Sure its only housebreaking. I’d say my lads, Tommy Marsh an the boys will see you alright there.” (Assuring voice)

Marsh could see the last rays of the sun glancing off the tops of the buildings as he entered the Peacock pub. He headed over to where Redican, O’Donnell and Bates were seated. Then he began to almost choke himself in laughter. The three looked askance at him and at one another. Redican was the first to respond.

“Do we all look funny all of a sudden?”

“Or more funny than normal?” added O’Donnell, as pedantic as ever.

Marsh recovered his composure, shrugged and then in between snorts of laughter related the story and the request as he had heard it from Richards. The others also laughed and adopted various expressions of surprise and bewilderment. Then they became serious.

“Trying to prove that Joyce was a liar. He should be told to go and fuck himself,” suggested Bates.

“He should be brought down to what’s left of the kips and given a dose of the clap,” added Marsh.

“And Joyce was sound on the national question,” said Redican.

Marsh raised his eyebrows. “Really. I thought he was just an oul’ west Brit who liked to write about falling snowflakes.”

“Ah no Tommy, from quite early on he considered Redmond a foolish leader and said that he preferred Arthur Griffith’s self-reliance,” O’Donnell replied.

Bates smacked his lips and put the pint glass down. “Oh he was quite well informed so he was. He called Gladstone a hypocrite and said that Home Rule would never be granted, and stuck by it even after the Parliament Law was passed and Home Rule went on the statue book. He forecast partition back in 1907 so he did. Then the Unionists were invited into the Conservative Cabinet during the Great War so called and that was the end of any possibility of Home Rule at all. Partition all the way, it was then. Oh, Joyce was no fucking gobdaw Tommy.”

“So it seems. I must see can I find me copy of Ulysses again and you can show me the saucy bits.”

“He did call for an insurrection Ernie, didn’t he?” asked Redican.

“Oh he did, but he didn’t really expect it, saying that telling those Irish actors to hurry up was hopeless and ‘I for one am certain not to see that curtain rise as I shall have already taken the last tram home’, and anyway he had no faith in the Irish Parliamentary Party which he described as corrupt and said that its representatives had gone from the sons of average citizens to well paid syndics, newspaper owners and managers of commercial houses.”

A tall, well built figure ambled in to the pub. He peered about through his round gold rimmed spectacles. Then he walked to the bar and asked for a pint and a whisky chaser. Clarke glanced at the man whose short brown fringe gave him a boyish appearance. He noticed the Northern twang, appearing almost motionless, a contented expression on his face while allowing the black gold to gently fill the glass. He let the Guinness settle and placed the whisky on the counter.

It was nearly thirty years since Jimmy Clarke and his comrade Sean Donnelly evaded arrest by shooting two RUC men in Dungannon. Although Donnelly collected a bullet in the head and Clarke suffered injuries to his feet, they both, wounded and barefoot, walked for miles in the dark countryside before getting help. After spending days hiding in ditches they were helped across the border by republican Frank Morris.

Soon after Morris was involved in a shoot-out and was captured at an RUC checkpoint on the Donegal border. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment and fifteen strokes of the cat for attempted murder.

As Clarke topped up the pint glass with scientific precision the man walked to the toilets. He nodded to Bates as he passed.

“You know him?” inquired Marsh.

“Sort of. Belfast. He’s a lecturer or professor in Trinity. Name escapes me for the moment.”

O’Donnell raised his eyebrows. “He’s very young.”

“Older then he looks. An expert on Joyce and Beckett and the women, you know, hairy Mac and sucky Molly,” Bates laughed.

“He’d know all about Gerty’s drawers so,” declared Marsh.

“His Gerty would be drawerless,” ventured O’Donnell.

“Well,” explained Bates, “despite him having a Distinction in sex and having it away with the senior Professor’s missus what really got the hackles raised in the hallowed halls is his left wing republicanism.”

“Left wing republicanism!” muttered O’Donnell as he fumbled for his cigarettes.

“Really!” declared Marsh as the lecturer emerged from the toilets. The group watched him as he walked back to the bar counter.

“He looks like he’s after shitting his guts up,” remarked Redican.

Bates threw his head back and laughed. “Yep. What really threw the cat among the pigeons was when he referred to Redmond as a Britirish political pervert at a historical society debate.”

“I love it!” exclaimed Marsh, giving his thigh a smack…..will I send him up a whisky?”

“No,” advised Bates. “As well as sex he also is a martyr to the drink. Actually I think Miss Reid attends his lectures.”

“The dark Miss Reid gets darker,” mused O’Donnell.

“Well then what are we going to do about knickers head?” Marsh asked.

“We could have another pint and do fuck all,” O’Donnell suggested.

“We could. But we’d let Richards down,” said Redican.

“What about a bailsman?” inquired Bates.

“Ned Munroe,” said O’Donnell, “sure he’s the only householder mad enough to stand by us and known as the turf man from Ardee although he hailed, with buckets of generosity, from Ballyjamesduff.”

"A great man to have an intelligent conversation about Gili with a postbox on Dorset Street near Binn's Bridge when he had a sup on him and about the letter to the debauched Lord Rosse, one of the founders of the Hell Fire Club which he received while lying on his death bed from the rector of St. Ann's urging him to repent while there was still time. Rosse noticing with amusment that the letter began simply ' My Lord ' re-sealed it and addressed it to Lord Kildare well known for his piety and integrity of life and then in the Peacock telling us young gurriers that we never really got it and never would get it because we had'nt got a fucking clue what IT was,” declared Redican.

Miss Reid Crossing At Blackpitts

Miss Reid Crossing At Blackpitts

“Fatser Brasil would get him on a boat once we had a house to keep him away from Sandymount,” Bates advised.

“I have the very place,” O’Donnell snapped, “Ciarán Bourke’s gaff in the Dublin Mountains. I’ll give him a buzz.”

By the following Wednesday Emmet Junior was out of the Joy and ensconced in Bourke’s Tibradden home. Bourke hadn’t really got the full story from O’Donnell. He quizzed Redican and Marsh outside.

“His name is Emmet after Robert Emmet?”

“Yeah. Same as his father, who I believe was active in the forties.”

Bourke who’s long, straight brown hair and beard made him look a bit like an Irish chieftain, gave a low whistle. “Hmmmm must have been tough. I mean most of the branchmen from that period had shot Auxies and Tans as well as Republicans in the Civil War.”

“They were the real thing bejaysus! Some of them were hairy arsed DeValerites and some of them went back to the Squad. Their habeas corpus was the rubber hose if you were lucky. A nasty bunch. I can tell you,” said Redican, clearing his throat. “There’s only one from that period I know that’s still around. A fellow with a look of death beneath a big hat.”

“Really.”

“Yeah. Uses a bicycle believe it or not. Tony fucking something. It might come to me later.”

“Well he won’t be cycling up here,” Bourke laughed.

“Not unless he’s Shea Elliot.” muttered Marsh.

“Exactly. This Emmet…was there something about a housebreaking?”

“Yeah, Simon was fairly hush hush about it. Appears to have been some kind of intelligence operation. He seems to have been arrested while he was gathering some information….” explained Redican.

“Some information?”

“Some important evidence which could link something completely non sensible to something fucking meaningless. Its all over my head Ciarán but you know the egg heads on the Army Council,” he shrugged. “We’re leaving it up to them to unify the contradictional imperatives of what has gone with the interconnectedness possibilities of what is to become…”

Marsh gave his shoulder a twitch and gave Redican a hard look.

“Its not for us to fucking problematise the notions of teleology as if we were gifted fucking seers,” continued Redican. “I mean where he is now is unidentifiable to the branch and where he is going when he is collected by the unknowables is unlocational but I know they, the knowables, know what they’re doing and if they don’t well I’m going to continue driving fellows around the bollocksing Dublin and Wicklow mountains and you’re going to continue playing haunting Irish airs on your tin whistle and you’re probably going to make more money than me,” saying which he laughed, only to underline how true it was.

“I hope you’re right.”

“He could be wrong too, not that it fucking matters. But Simon or some other tosser says that its important to get him out of the country before the branch can break him by putting electrodes on his testicles or maybe humiliating him by making him stand bollock-naked with a pair of frilly knickers over his head,” explained Marsh.

Bourke laughed. “I suppose intelligence is important and sought after...”

“Very important. It’s everything,” agreed Marsh, “and remember intelligence is not what you think you know, it’s more about what you don’t know and what you will never fucken know and further, that you will never fucken know that you don’t know.”

“Really?”

“Ah yes. The best intelligence is what is completely unknowable.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Well for instance, years back we had to gather information on the Flying Sprockets.”

“The who?”

“Christle’s gang after the split. They were known as the Flying Sprockets. Christle was FS 1, Mick FS 2, Sutcliffe FS 3 and so on. You didn’t have actual names on your sheet for security reasons.”

“Sounds sensible.”

“Well we used to follow them and report back to GHQ, you know,” he said as he descended into a fit of laughing. Bourke gave him a curious look. He was wondering if he had been drinking before he arrived with Emmet Junior.

“Follow them!” repeated Marsh recovering his composure. "Sure they were all racing cyclists with bikes with loads of gears and Joe using a 56/11 sprocket with an inner chainring ring of 44 teeth and me with me Ma's high Nellie which had a 30 tooth sprocket..."

"You've lost me."

"That's what Joe used to do," laughed Marsh, "especially on the cobblestones and then the other fuckers..."

Bourke laughed.

“And another fellow with an arse like the moon who was in an even lower division,” Marsh continued. “Well intelligence or the lack of it, reports had to be written up so we’d cycle over to the Peacock. That was great sport. Someone would take out a Dublin Street map and write ‘followed FS 3 into such a street’ then someone else would say I know that street ‘there’s only fucken warehouses on it’ and someone else would say, ‘so fucken what? And write FS 3 knocked on the door of number 27. A red door. A black haired woman opened it. You know as in the Stone’s song I see your red door and I want to spray it black…”

“Paint it black,” corrected Redican, “sure the Flemmings wouldn’t allow paint rollers or spray guns…”

“Whatever,” agreed Marsh, “so I waited an hour but he didn’t come out so I suspect he might have climbed out over the back wall or else he’s giving the black haired woman how’s yer father or something’…or, I followed FS 1 into a church. I went in but could see no one. When I was looking behind the altar I heard a commotion down the church. It was FS 1 Joe boy himself who sprang out of a confession box and out the door with him as if he had seen the devil with the cloven foot and a few fucken oulwans waiting to go in to tell the priest all their delicate thoughts almost getting contractions with the fright. When I got to the street he was nowhere to be seen.”

The Marsh Bike

The Marsh Bike

"But those reports wouldn’t be of any use to anyone,” Bourke protested as he stroked his mature, brown beard.

“Not quite Ciarán. They would be read, filed and indexed and then placed carefully in folders marked ‘Top Secret’ and left around in some safe houses. See what I’m coming to?”

“Not really.”

“Ah. Informers. Spies. All over the fucken kip. All known. It’s the one rule. You never stay in a safe house.” said Marsh in a triumphant tone. He lit a cigarette. “Ah yes. Rats creeping around the rooms pretending to be from the Corporation or the gas company when they are sneaking a peep into one of the folders that’s strategically placed on a mantelpiece leaning against a statue of the Child of Prague, picking out an address or two to pass back to the Slug or Pah Wah…see what I mean? That’s unknowable intelligence!”

Bourke shook his head and laughed.

“The wizened Galvin is the only republican I know who wasn’t arrested in a safe house, isn’t that right?”

“That’s right, the big fat woman on Lullybank who was a friend of Markievicz, Galvin hid under her in the bed…”

“Yeah. She was a great woman. Huge. Had an arse like an atom bomb,” Marsh confirmed.

“A grass got one of these addresses from an intelligence report once,” said Redican. “By pure accident it happened to be the home address of a motor cycle cop in Donnycarney. From that point he was, unknown to himself, under special branch surveillance; mail being opened and phone tapped for six months.”

“Sure they had the branch driven crazy, raiding houses whose only occupant was an elderly Protestant woman or a retired senior civil servant; causing shouting matches up in the Castle, profane language,” Marsh laughed. “And then there’s negligent misstatement intelligence. That’s NMI for short.”

“I never heard of that,” Bourke announced looking from Redican to Marsh.

“Ah, yeah. I came across a good case of that earlier this year. I was in this pub on the docks with Frank O’Donnell and Jimmy Farrell. My IO was there…”

“IO?”

“Yeah. Intelligence officer. He was there with a few friends. The three of us were in our own company. Then the door bursts open and these other republican ne’er-do-wells are on the fucken premises. One is holding the door closed. He has a revolver. Another fellow has a hatchet. ‘Good morning all and friends,’ the fellow with the hatchet shouts out as he goes for the IO with the chopper. The IO dives under a seat and the friend gets a clatter of the hatchet for being a busybody because he inquires what the fucken problem is. His other two companions get a few fucken smacks as does the IO under the seat. In fact the axe man gives the IO an extra belt for making him manoeuvre his body into an awkward position so’s to get at him because of the fucken way he had tightly kinda scrounched himself under the seat,” he laughed, “as the barman whose trembling hands fail his attempts to light a cigarette, offers in a thin voice, ‘Have a brandy on the house lads’ but the fellow with the gun spurns his offer telling him to shut the fuck up if he doesn’t want a round up the hole.”

“Jesus!”

“The attackers then head off with themselves out the door,” continued Marsh. “The IO and his friends, who have blood all fucken over them, peep out and seeing the attackers a reasonable distance down the quays, they head off before the cops arrive.

“We have nearly full pints in front of us but I shout, right! out before the harriers arrive. Farrell grabs his pint and mine and runs out onto the quays. He tries to drink both pints as he’s trudging behind us and after he threw both glasses into the Liffey he was pretending that he was preventing the branch getting fingerprints off the glasses. Frank said that if he had three hands he would have taken his as well.”

“That must have been some spectacle all the same,” Bourke laughed.

“Yeah, an’ it was a Sunday morning an’ fucken people coming out of Mass full of goodness and sanctifying grace. About a month later I saw the IO’s report in a safe house. It said how the fellow with the hatchet and the guy with the gun came in and walked up to the IO who faced them down. According to this he told the axe-man to get lost and then he faced the gunman an’ said ‘use it or I’ll shove it up yer fucken arse’. And the two of them left. Well, that’s negligent misstatement intelligence for you."

“Language can also be part of intelligence and perception,” explained Redican.

“I agree.”

“Bloody sure. Ever notice now that in some school history books the words ‘Revolutionary’ or ‘Revolutionaries’ are applied to the likes of George Washington, a fellah as ran a scalp market, a fucking slave owner who only freed his slaves in his Will after he was brown bread not to mention his bunch of Indian killing comrades. And the French Revolutionaries. That’s okay because in my mind they were real revolutionaries. But then our revolutionaries, Pearse and company are referred to as mere rebels, or part of the physical force tradition as if we are apologising for fighting for our independence. What has to be asked is what are we apologising for and to who and who in this country, is asking us to apologise and why. That’s my final bit Ciarán,” announced Redican.

“An excellent point that needs investigation,” agreed Bourke.

“Well thanks for looking after Emmet Junior for us Ciarán. Anyway he’ll be gone by Friday,” said Redican.

“That’s fine. Jeannie and meself will be off in the morning so he’ll have the place to himself until he leaves.”

“I’ll make sure he leaves it spotless.”

There was a good session in the Peacock on the Friday after Fatser Brasil got Emmet Junior away on a boat.

On the following Monday O’Donnell was sitting at the Peacock bar with Casey when Redican burst in. “Wait ‘til Bourke catches up with you.”

“Me??? What’s the matter?”

“That fucker…knickers-head cleaned out his house.”

“Isn’t it only knickers he steals?”

“Knickers me fuck. He even took his favourite tin whistle, the one he plays ‘The Longford Collector’ on.”

O’Donnell was incredulous. “What!? Well, fuck Richards. I think its time to get back to the Featherbeds.”

“The Featherbeds,” mumbled some scruffy old man sat slumped on a stool at the end of the bar in Grogans. The sound of him echoing faintly into some undefined but certainly distant faraway. The fragrance of him sloping off to merely a lingering presence. All memory of him faded already, utterly gone.

Everyman.